About

Research Center cover crops

This project is funded by a Western Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education grant.
Programs and projects supported by Western SARE are equally open to all people.

Introduction

Cover crops have been shown to increase soil biological diversity, reduce soil erosion, enhance soil fertility, suppress weeds, and may also provide quality forage as a value-added component to conventional production systems. These benefits are attainable in humid and irrigated environments, but there is little information for dryland cropping systems.

Plans

The project team will grow cover crop mixtures during the fallow period on five participating farmers’ fields. Changes in soil moisture, soil erosion, soil fertility, soil biological activity, weed population, and crop yield on ground that was planted to cover crops versus ground not cover-cropped will be monitored.

The project will track the costs and returns associated with planting cover crops and determine which cover cropping strategies produce a net income.

Budget

The approved budget will reimburse participating farmers for the cost of purchasing and planting cover crop seeds that’s not already covered by local USDA-NRCS programs. The farmers are not paid for their land or participation. A majority of the project funds will be spent on laboratory fees to assess changes in soil quality and health due to cover cropping and the costs associated with taking soil and plant samples, traveling to the test sites, and making a myriad of observations and measurements.

Community

Field tours and workshops will be organized annually.  Video will be produced to document the project’s progress in addition to publishing the project’s results, main findings, and events on social media. Success will be measured by how well the project objectives are met, by the interest generated by this project, and by the number of producers who have planted or plan to include cover crops in their farming operation.

Challenges

  • Relatively low moisture
  • Frequent high winds
  • Soils that crust easily

Resources

Free eBook available from SARE

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