Research in cover crops management practices and soil health benefits has been going on for at least the last five years in North Dakota. However, using cover crops for grazing both as full season or fall grazing is quite new for growers in this area. In our previously funded PDP in cover crops (2015-2017), interest of using cover crops for grazing was a topic at almost every meeting and field day. Cover crops provide opportunities to use cropped land for grazing livestock. Livestock grazing on cover crops can further recycle nutrients back into the soil. It is our goal to bring to extension agents and farmers the knowledge acquired by NDSU researchers in cover crops for grazing. Our proposal has the two main components of a successful educational project: 1) Good and complete local information collected in the field through replicated trials and on-farm experiences, and 2) farmers in North Dakota eager to learn about the wonders of cover crops grazing. Our target audience will be farmers mainly from North Dakota, but not limited to only our state. We propose to train county extension agents, educators, and farmers about cover crops for grazing. We seek an increase in adoption and the integration of cover crops into farm operations. As a result of this project, at least 10 county agents and 80 farmers in North Dakota will learn about cover crops grazing in several activities.
a. Increased knowledge of farmers about cover crops grazing management and soil health
b. lncreased awareness and knowledge on how to use cover crops to animal nutrition and environmental impacts of cover crops grazing
c. lncreased adoption of diversified cropping systems that includes a cover crop for grazing during late fall and winter and improved attitude towards incorporating cover crops into their cropping system.
d. Selection and use of high yielding cover crops for grazing adapted to North Dakota
e. County agents from North Dakota with improved knowledge and skills on cover crops uses and management.
The objectives were met by delivering science-based information about forage utilization and cover crops grazing and soil health through workshops, Café talks, table talks, and material.
Workshops had hands-on activities which included identification of seedlings and seeds of cover crops and to classify them by ecosystem function.
On of the workshop was exclusive for county agents, educator and NRCS personnel. In this workshop information was delivered by Power Points presentations followed by an
activity of classification of cover crops and seeds.
Cover Crops Seed Kits
Our team developed cover crops seeds kits. Each consists of 21 cover crops seeds properly labeled with its common name and Latin name. A list of the cover crops and a copy of the Midwest Cover Crops field guide is included in each kit. The objective of this activity was that county agents can plant their own cover crops to be able to organize hands-on
activities in their counties. The cover crop ID with live plants in Carrington was done online on the webinar in April. Presentation attached. CoverCropIDandCharacteristicsFinal
Education & Outreach Initiatives
To train county extension agents, educators, non-profits and advanced farmers on selection of cover crops for grazing, livestock health synergy, stocking rates and manure management, and grazing opportunities in unproductive areas
Five workshops and three field days were organized. Workshops were open to farmers , researchers, extension agents, a NRCS, USDA-ARS, non-profit, and others. We funded travel of NDSU county extensions agents to attend the activities listed below.
1. Grazing cover crops, 28 January 2019, Grand Forks ND ( 40 attendees)
2. Cover crops for grazing, 4 March 2019, Dickinson , ND (60 attendees)
3. Dakota Innovation and Technology (DIRT) workshop, 9-11 December 2019. Fargo, ND (250 attendees). A special session of cover crops for grazing and several table talks on this topic were included in the DIRT workshop (we had about 30 to 40 participants in the cover crops grazing sessions).
4. In-Service Grazing Cover Crops Workshop, Carrington, ND, 13 January 2020. 50 participants.
5. A fifth workshop was planned for 23 March 2020 in Dickinson, ND but due to Covid-19 restrictions was converted to a webinar series. Ten different speakers presented information related to forages and cover crops for grazing from April 7-21 on zoom (See agenda below). Attendance to the webinars ranged between 36 and 118 participants per session, with a total of 228 unique participants o the webinar series. During the session participants were polled to asses the increase in knowledge in each session ( data summary will be presented in the final report). Participation was 18% farmers with livestock, 3% farmers without livestock, 24% University Extension/Research, 37% government, 5% crop consultants, 6% industry and 4% others. Although the majority of participants were from North Dakota, Minnesota, and South Dakota, we had participants joining the webinars from Iowa, Montana, Illinois, Kansas, Tennessee, Nebraska, Indiana, and Ontario, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba in Canada.
The recordings of the webinars, as well as some of the resources referenced during them can be accessed on the NDSU Extension Livestock Management Cover Crop page: https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/livestockextension/grazing-management-folder/cover-crops
All these workshops offered continuing education units(CEUs). Workshops programs are attached below.
2019 Central Grassland Research Extension Center Annual Field Day, 8 July 2019 (80 participants)
Topics: Patch burn grazing and rotational grazing. How to create pollinator and bird habitat without reducing stocking rate. Demonstrate the use of drones in a ranching operation, including spraying weeds with a drone. Forage spring cereal hay crop varietal trial.Demonstrate rumen evacuations using cannulated cows.
Cover Crops Field Day, September 17, 2019, Fargo, ND (75 attendees). Program on supplementary materials.
Topics: Fall seeding dates of cover crops. Forage-sorghum based grazing mixtures. Cover crops intercropping in soybean and sugarbeet. Nutrient cycling of covers crop to corn. Reduction of soybean cyst nematode with interseeded cover crops.
Cover crops field day, 19 October 2018, Dickinson and Hettinger, ND. (30 participants).
Topics: Cover crops selection demonstration. Cover crops grazing in limited rainfall areas.
Winter meeting/ Café Talks
Three of the 12 winter Café talks were dedicated to cover crops for grazing in 2020 and funded travel to county agents to attend. Two other winter Café talks dedicated to cover crops grazing were conducted in 2019.
Cooperstown – 13 February 2020 – 17 attendees
Wishek – 4 March 2020 – 22 attendees
New Rockford – 5 March 2020 – 26 attendees
Prevented planting Café Talks
In 2019, spring was very wet and many growers could not plant or loss their crops. A great need for information on cover crops grazing was needed so we organized four Café Talks to talk about potential options for cover crops under prevented planting situations. The RMA changed the date for utilizing the cover crops to September 1, 2019, which open a window for many growers to graze their cover crop. These Café talks were held in Casselton, Valley City, Jamestown and Gwinner, ND between June 17-20, 2019.
17 June 2019 – Casselton – 26 participants ; 17 June 2019 – Valley City – 30 participants; 18 June 2019 – Gwinner – 26 participants; 20 June 2019 – Jamestown – 41 participants.
The adoption and impact of the whole program has not yet been evaluated . All activities of the project have been surveyed and a final survey results will be available at the end of the project. Partial workshop surveys are presented.
- Increased knowledge of farmers about cover crops grazing management and soil health
The survey conducted of farmers attending the 2019 DIRT workshop indicated that 40% were considering use of cover crops to manage problematic areas as a result of attending this DIRT workshop. Farmers are already doing most of cover crops practices or considering them. However, 29% of farmers were not considering to graze cover crops. This is not surprising because many farmers in the audience did not have cattle. This workshop was conducted in Fargo, ND.
The greatest impacts among respondents include using cereal rye as a cover crop (26% adoption) and establishing a cover crop after harvest of a cash crop (20% adoption). The greatest potential for future adoption include establishing a cover crop in standing soybean and using a multi-species cover crop mix (51% considering adoption)
The two greatest barriers to adoption of cover crops and soil health practices are cost of appropriate equipment and lack of appropriate equipment (48% and 45% respectively).
Minor barriers of greatest concern include timeliness of field access (56% minor barrier), conflicts with other management plans/objectives (56%), lack of information about cover crops (54%), and lack of confidence in the practices (52%).
2. lncreased awareness and knowledge on how to use cover crops to animal nutrition and environmental impacts of cover crops grazing
Dr. Miranda Meehan and Mary Keena joined this project as collaborators and in their presentations in workshops they discussed these aspects. See webinar presentations link.
3. lncreased adoption of diversified cropping systems that includes a cover crop for grazing during late fall and winter and improved attitude towards incorporating cover crops into their cropping system.
On a scale from none (0) to very high (4), participants gained the greatest knowledge about seed regulations with a change from low (before) to high (after) the workshop. All but one session saw in increase in knowledge; participants already had a high knowledge of federal programs prior to the workshop, and that did not change.
4. Selection and use of high yielding cover crops for grazing adapted to North Dakota
More than half the respondents plan to cover Selecting Mixes for Livestock Forage (60%) and Selecting Cover Crops by Function (54%) in their Extension outreach. The greatest potential for impact are covering the topics of Seed Regulations (43% considering) and Cover Variety vs. Selection (49% considering).
Seed Regulations received the highest percentage of those not planning to cover this (37%). This is an area that needs continued work.
5. County agents from North Dakota with improved knowledge and skills on cover crops uses and management.
At the In-Service workshop in Carrington, ND we had 18 government, 13 University Extension, and 4 other participants. The specific learning outcomes for this workshop were training participants on:
a. Selecting cover crops mixes for livestock forage
b. Cover crop seed regulations
c. Herbicide considerations when selecting cover crops for grazing
d. Selecting cover crops by ecosystem functions
e. Cover crops identification and seed kits
At the end of the workshop all participants were polled (35 out of 50 participants replied the poll). In summary, 77% of participants indicated the training workshop usefulness was high to very high.
Cover crop cost calculator/kits
Two-thirds (66%) of respondents are planning to use the Cover Crop Cost Calculator in their work and/or Extension outreach programming. Fewer are planning to use the Cover Crop Kits & Cover Crop Identification Activity, but nearly half are considering this.
To deliver science-based information about how cover crops and forage for grazing for county extension agents and educators
- Teuber, O., D. Samarappuli, and M.T. Berti. 2020. Nitrogen and sulfur fertilization in kale and swede for grazing. Agronomy 10, 619; doi:10.3390/agronomy10050619
2. Spiess, J. D.A. McGranahan, B. Geaumont, K. Sedivec, M. Lakey, M.T. Berti, T.J. Hovick, R.F. Limb. 2020. Patch-burning buffers forage resources and livestock performance to mitigate drought in the northern Great Plains. Rangeland Ecol. Manag. In Press
Extension publications, Magazines, FactSheets, News releases
- Sedivec, K., M. Meehan, E. Gaugler, M. Berti, F. Brummer, P. Nester 2020. Annual Cover Crop Options for Grazing in the Northern Plains. Bull. R1759. North Dakota State University Extension Service. http://www.ag.ndsu.edu/pubs/ansci/range/r1759.pdf
- Sedivec, K., M. Meehan and J. Block. Grazing/Harvesting Rule Change to Benefit Producers. https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/news/newsreleases/2019/july-8-2019/grazing-harvesting-rule-change-to-benefit-producers/view
Meehan, M. Four Keys for Grazing Cover Crops. Progressive Cattleman. September 2019.
Meehan, M. Tips for Fall Grazing Cover Crops. North Dakota Stockmen. September 2019.
Meehan, M. and K. Sedivec. Keys for Fall Grazing Cover Crops
- Wick, A., M.T. Berti, and L. Briese. 2019. Starting with cover crops in North Dakota. Midwest Cover Crops Council cover crop recipe. Bull MCCC-102. Available at mccc.msu.edu.statesprovince/north-dakota/
- Wick, A., F. Casey, C. Gasch, A. Daigh, D. Ripplinger, B. Nelson, J. Harmon, D. Ritchison, T. DeSutter, A. Chatterjee, 2019 . Soil Health and Agriculture Research Extension (SHARE) Farm, NDSU Soil Health Booklet.
- Berti, M.T. 2019 Full-season cover crops mixtures for grazing. Forage Focus, March 2019. p. 6
- Berti, M.T. and G. Yan. 2019 host & non-host cover crops of soybean cyst nematode. 27 June 2-19. NDSU FactSheet
- Berti, M.T. 2019 Hybrid rye variety trial. Forage Focus, August 2019. p.9
1. Berti, M.T. 2020. Cover crop seed regulations and crop variety v. selection. Cover Crops In-Service, An in-person training for NDSU Extension agents, NRCS, and SCD personnel. Carrington, ND, 13 January 2020.
2. Berti, M.T. 2020. Selecting cover crops by function. An in-person training for NDSU Extension agents, NRCS, and SCD personnel. Carrington, ND, 13 January 2020.
3. Berti, M.T., 2019. Importance of integrating cover crops into cropping systems. First International Cover Crops Conference, Lanzhou, China 20-26 September, 2019.
4. Berti, M.T. and Y. Lawley 2019. High protein forage options and interseeding alfalfa in corn. Dakota Innovation Research and Technology Workshop Fargo, ND, 9-11 December 2019. Invited
5. Berti, M.T. 2018. Where to start with cover crops. 14th Annual Conservation Tillage Conference, Fargo, ND, 18-19 December 2018.
6. Berti, M.T. 2019. Cover crops North Dakota report. Midwest Cover Crops Annual Conference. Springfield, IL. 20-21 February 2019.
7. Berti, M.T. and K. Sedivec. 2019. Cover crops selection and timing. Grazing Cover Crops Workshop, Grand Forks, ND, 28 January 2019.
- USDA-NIFA- 3/2020-02/2024. Managing disturbance for multi-functional rangelands: livestock, plant, and pollinator responses to management strategies that differentially use fire and grazing, $499,242, Harmon, McGranahan, Sedivec, Berti
- USDA-NIFA- ASAFS. 10/2019-9/2021.Alfalfa management practices and their effect on arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) populations- towards improving health, productivity, and sustainability of alfalfa production, $429,011 Berti
- ND Soybean Council. Research and Extension Efforts at the Soil Health and Agriculture Research Extension (SHARE) Farm (year 7), $82,075, Wick, Gasch, Daigh, Berti,
- ND Soybean Council. SHARE Farm North: Expanding Soil Health Building Research and Extension Efforts. $23,622, Wick, Gasch, Daigh, Berti
- ND Wheat Commission. Soil Health and Agriculture Research Extension (SHARE) Farm in Mooreton and Larimore, ND. $80,471 Wick, Gasch, Daigh, Berti,
- NC-SARE. 11-1/2020-12/31/2022 Grazing Management Practices to Enhance Soil Health in the Northern Great Plains. $198,168 Meehan, Sedivec, Keena
1. Learn to identify cover crops plants, seeds, to which family belong to and what ecosystem functions they provide.
2. Steps and information needed to select a good cover crops grazing mixture for early-season , full-season and fall-season grazing.
3. Calculate the seeding rates and cost of mixtures. Cover crop cost calculator was created and will be available in June 2020.
4. How to calculate carrying capacity and stocking rate
5. Learn to identify potential toxicity when grazing cover crops
Extension bulletins and factsheets with information about cover crops grazing
Cover crops calculator
Cover crops seed kits
Educational & Outreach Activities
This professional development program has trained 30 NDSU extension county agents, 30 government employees ( NRCS, ARS, SWC districts), 10 personnel from non-profit (Ducks unlimited, Pheasants Forever, SWCS) and 10 key farmers (peer-to-peer education). Increasing knowledge on cover crops identification, selection, use and forage grazing.
Participants on workshops and training provided by this project have indicated they either plan to use the material to teach farmers or they are considering it.
This project has impacted a greater number of county extension agents, NRCS, Soil Conservation District agents and farmers than originally proposed in the project. Impact will be increase significantly once participants (extension agents) in our activities reach to farmers in their counties and extend the information. Increasing the area with cover crops will increase soil health, reduce soil erosion, and nutrient loading into water resources. In addition to soil health cover crops provide a highly nutritional, cheap source of forage.
The professional development initiative by NC-SARE is a program with great impact on disseminating information of sustainable practices in agriculture.