Cover Crops and Forage Grazing Training Program in North Dakota

Progress report for ENC18-165

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2018: $74,855.00
Projected End Date: 09/30/2021
Grant Recipient: North Dakota State University
Region: North Central
State: North Dakota
Project Coordinator:
Dr. Marisol Berti
North Dakota State University
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Project Information

Abstract:

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.

Project Objectives:

OUTCOMES
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.

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand
  • Dr. Miranda Meehan (Educator)
  • Mary Keena (Educator)

Education

Educational approach:

The objectives were met by delivering science-based information about forage utilization and cover crops grazing and soil health through  virtual activities: workshops, podcasts, videos, webinars.

 Due to the Covid-19 pandemic no in person activities were allowed, thus all activities planned were delivered virtually and evaluated through surveys. Funding that originally was for in-person activities was to pay for high quality   webinars  and video making.

Education & Outreach Initiatives

Grazing Cover Crops Workshops and field days
Objective:

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

Description:

 Three workshops, videos, webinars and podcasts were open to farmers, researchers, extension agents, a NRCS, USDA-ARS, non-profit, and others.

 Workshops

  1. Grazing cover crops workshop: A workshop was planned for 23 March 2020 in Dickinson, ND but due to Covid-19 restrictions was cancelled and converted to a webinar series.  Ten different speakers presented  information  related to forages and cover crops for grazing from April 7 to April 21 on zoom.  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 assess the increase in knowledge in each session.  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.

  1. Communication Workshop-Engage in better information exchange (7 December 2020) Virtual
  2. Dakota Innovation Research and Technology (DIRT) Workshop, December 8-9, 2020, Virtual Live-Hosted (Wick, 450 attendees)

The DIRT workshop had a session dedicated to Grazing cover crops  where  videos were shown and the panel was hosted by Mary Keena, Miranda Meehan and Kevin Sedivec.

 

Extension videos

 A total of 49 videos were produced of which  13 videos were related to this PDP program

  1. Wagner, T., D. Forgey, G. Amundson,F. Wick, T. Hammerich. 2021.  On-Farm Discussion: Cover Crops, DIRT Workshop 2020, Extension Education Video, InHouse Productions,  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-aFuRgZJstc
  2. Ostlie, M., J. Ransom, L. Briese, K. Cooper,F. Wick, T. Hammerich. 2021.  Research Discussion: Wide Row Corn, DIRT Workshop 2020, Extension Education Video, InHouse Productions,  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9PVBKWvsJ-Y
  3. Breker, J., C. Walberg, T. Zimmerman, M. Schaefer,F. Wick, T. Hammerich. 2021.  On Farm Tips and Ideas: Wide Row Corn, DIRT Workshop 2020, Extension Education Video, InHouse Productions,  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wpo9_k3jDlk
  4. Breker, J., T. Zimmerman, M. Ostlie, R. Gesch, A.F. Wick.   Wide Row Corn, Intercropping and Relay Cropping. Extension Education Video, InHouse Productions,  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aesu9gqAqsE
  5. Breker, J., F. Wick. 2020.  Wide Row Corn: Twin Row Spacing and Harvestability, DIRT Workshop 2020, Extension Education Video, InHouse Productions, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pE8ZD3fGr2Y&list=PLkmGaTzxww1Gr7WTNoG7mcusYnftOKtxa&index=31
  6. Berti, M., F. Wick. 2020.  Intercropping: Alfalfa and Corn, DIRT Workshop 2020, Extension Education Video, InHouse Productions, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-4twZQopP2I&list=PLkmGaTzxww1Gr7WTNoG7mcusYnftOKtxa&index=27
  7. Berti, M., R. Gesch, M. Ostlie,F. Wick, T. Hammerich. 2021.  Research Discussion: Intercropping and Relay Cropping, DIRT Workshop 2020, Extension Education Video, InHouse Productions, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2ltyr2cHeCs
  8. Meehan, M., F. Wick. 2020.  Livestock and Cover Crops: Grazing Management, DIRT Workshop 2020, Extension Education Video, InHouse Productions, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O_HQPiwJJ4M&list=PLkmGaTzxww1Gr7WTNoG7mcusYnftOKtxa&index=24
  9. Sedevic, K., F. Wick. 2020.  Livestock and Cover Crops winter Cereals for Grazing, DIRT Workshop 2020, Extension Education Video, InHouse Productions, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=raS-DvmeRBg&list=PLkmGaTzxww1Gr7WTNoG7mcusYnftOKtxa&index=22
  10. Wick, A.F., C. Walberg. Wide Row Corn Silage and Grazing, DIRT Workshop 2020, Extension Education Video, InHouse Productions, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uVelWFkuOSI&list=PLkmGaTzxww1Gr7WTNoG7mcusYnftOKtxa&index=17
  11. Meehan, M., A.F. Wick. 2020. Grazing Cover Crops Benefits and Management, DIRT Workshop 2020, Extension Education Video, InHouse Productions, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M16cP9MwC4U&list=PLkmGaTzxww1Gr7WTNoG7mcusYnftOKtxa&index=6
  12. Berti, M., A.F. Wick. 2020. Brassica Cover Crop Selection and Management, DIRT Workshop 2020, Extension Education Video, InHouse Productions, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dti3CkiI88s&list=PLkmGaTzxww1Gr7WTNoG7mcusYnftOKtxa&index=3
  13. Berti, M., A.F. Wick. 2020. Grass Cover Crop Selection and Management, DIRT Workshop 2020, Extension Education Video, InHouse Productions, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R_o6hmVf6H0&list=PLkmGaTzxww1Gr7WTNoG7mcusYnftOKtxa&index=2

 

Soil Sense Podcast

The 2020 and 2021 Soil Sense Podcast series led by Abbey Wick 34 episodes of which six had Grazing cover crops as a topic

  1. DIRT Workshop Roundup: Strip Tillage, Cover Crops, Relay Crops, and Grazing, December 28, 2020
  2. Bale Grazing with Erin (NDSU) and Drew Gaugler (rancher, western ND), December 1, 2020
  3. Grazing Management with Dr. Miranda Meehan (NDSU), October 26,2020
  4. Interseeding Cover Crops, Marisol Berti (NDSU), Yvonne Lawley (University of Manitoba), September 28
  5. The Value of Livestock to Soil Health, Kevin Sedivec (NDSU), April 5, 2020
  6. Farmer Experience with Wide Row Corn with Tyler Zimmerman (farmer, Leonard, ND), Chris Walberg (farmer/rancher, Leonard, ND) and Joe Breker (farmer, Rutland, ND), Feb 15, 2021

 Soil health Webinars, Soil Talk Tuesdays and Soil Health Café Talk:

 Café talks were replaces by weekly webinars. Total of participants in cover crops grazing related topics were  517 .

  1. Getting the Most out of Grazing Cover Crops, January 19, 2021, Virtual, Live-Hosted (Wick, 100 attendees)
  2. Soil Talk Tuesdays: Using Cover Crops Effectively, January 12, 2021, Virtual, Live-Hosted (Wick, 105 attendees)
  3. Soil Health Webinar Series – Grazing. Virtual, May 12, 2020 (75 attendees live; 131 views of recording – 1/22/21; Kalwar, Wick)
  4. Soil Health Café Talk – Prevented Planting, hosts: Abbey Wick, Joe Ikley, Naeem Kalwar, Marisol Berti, June 24, 2020, Virtual (38 people; 2 hours)
  5. Soil Health Café Talk – Prevented Planting, hosts: Abbey Wick, Joe Ikley, Naeem Kalwar, Marisol Berti, June 17, 2020, Virtual (28 people; 2 hours)
  6. Soil Health Café Talk – Prevented Planting, hosts: Abbey Wick, Joe Ikley, Naeem Kalwar, Marisol Berti, June 10, 2020, Virtual (32 people; 2 hours)
  7. Soil Health Café Talk – Prevented Planting, hosts: Abbey Wick, Joe Ikley, Naeem Kalwar, Marisol Berti, June 3, 2020, Virtual (34 people; 2 hours)
  8. Soil Health Café Talk – Prevented Planting, hosts: Abbey Wick, Joe Ikley, Naeem Kalwar, Marisol Berti, May 27, 2020, Virtual (30 people; 2 hours)
  9. Soil Health Webinar Series – Cover Crops. Virtual, May 7, 2020 (75 attendees live; 184 views of recording – 1/22/21; Kalwar, Wick)
  10. How to Select a Cover Crop According to My Cropping Plan, May 7, Marisol Berti (112 views 10/19/20)
  11. Rejuvenating Pastures and Adding Value to Perennial Grass Mixtures, May 12, Kevin Sedivec

 

 

Outcomes and impacts:

Learning outcomes: 

 A detailed analysis of the surveys for the webinars series done in April 7-10, 2020 were.

A total of 203 unique participants attended the webinar series. Attendance numbers show attrition from the first to the last session, while attendance rates (attended/registered) steadily increased. April 9th was the most attended webinar of the series (106 participants).

  1. Increased knowledge of farmers about cover crops grazing management and soil health
  2. lncreased awareness and knowledge on how to use cover crops to animal nutrition and environmental impacts of cover crops grazing
  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.
  4. Selection and use of high yielding cover crops for grazing adapted to North Dakota

EXTENSION EVALUATION AND IMPACT (Jean Haley)

 A survey  was conducted in three states  including all extension activities across projects funded by NIFA, NC-SARE and other sponsors.  Therefore, results are not exclusively product of this PDP project.

In this survey, most respondents (115 – 63% of total) came from North Dakota, followed by Iowa (50 – 27% of total). Minnesota had the fewest respondents (19 – 10% of total). Farmers made up nearly three quarters of the respondents; 42% farm without livestock and 31% farm with livestock (Figure 1).

Ninety-three percent (93%) of grower respondents represent 257,600 acres of farmland across the three participating states. As expected, more acres are leased than owned.

Eighty-two percent (82%) of consultant respondents cover 760,000 acres across the three states. Median acres covered by consultant respondents was 30,000 acres.

It is very important to include consultants in outreach events. While the desired outcome is for growers to adopt practices, consultants have the potential to impact far more acres than individual growers (nearly 3x using these numbers).

Figure 1. Survey , results and respondents by county

In-Person program participation

Nearly all respondents (97%) attended at least one in-person event between 2016 and 2019. This is not a surprise given the sources used for recruiting respondents – mostly mailing lists gathered at Extension and outreach events. The most common events attended were field days – 78% respondents attended at least one field day during the project period. Almost all the growers attended at least one in-person event from 2016 to 2019. Of the in-person events, field days were the most popular with almost three-quarters of the respondents attending (73%).

Like the growers, most consultant respondents attended at least on in-person event between 2016 and 2019. Unlike growers, consultant respondents attended conferences most (82%). The differences between grower and consultant respondents’ in-person event attendance is similar, except for conferences where 26% more consultant respondents attend.

Cover crops Greatest Impacts

These six practices represent the greatest impact on grower respondents since 2016. The greatest of these is evaluating soil health on your fields (35% started after 2016), followed closely by using cover crops to manage weeds, insects, and diseases (34% started after 2016).

More than three quarters of the grower respondents establish a cover crop after harvest of a cash crop (50% prior to 2016 and 28% since 2016).

For complete survey report  (2016-2020) see attached file.2020_CAP_SurveyResults

 

 

Cover crops grazing extension materials, publications, grants
Objective:

To deliver science-based information about how cover crops and forage for grazing for county extension agents and educators

Description:

 

 

Peer-reviewed publications

  1. Johnson, K., H. Kandel, D.P. Samarappuli, and T. Berti*. 2021. Relative maturities and row spacing of soybean affect establishment of interseeded cover crops. Agronomy Submitted
  2. Lukaschewsky, J., D.P. Samarappuli, andT. Berti*. 2021. Intercropping alfalfa into silage maize can be more profitable than maize silage followed by spring-seeded alfalfa. Agronomy Submittted
  3. Johnson, K., H. Kandel, D.P. Samarappuli, and T. Berti*. 2021. Interseeding camelina and rye in soybean with varying maturity provides soil cover without affecting soybean yield. Agronomy 11, 353. https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy11020353
  4. Cecchin, A., Pourhashem, G., R.W. Gesch, A.W. Lenssen, S. Patel, and T. Berti. 2021. The environmental impact of ecological intensification of a cropping system in the U.S. Upper Midwest. Sustainability 13: 1696. https://doi.org/10.3390/su13041696
  5. Cecchin, A., Pourhashem, G., R.W. Gesch, A.W. Lenssen, S. Patel, and T. Berti. 2021. Environmental trade-offs of relay-cropping winter cover crops within maize and soybean. Agric. Systems 189:103062
  6. Wittenberg, A., J.V. Anderson, T. Berti*. 2020. Crop growth and productivity of winter camelina in response to sowing date. Ind. Crops Prod. 158:113036 doi.org/10.1016/j.indcrop.2020.113036
  7. Podder, S., D. Samarappuli, James V. Anderson, and T. Berti*. 2020. Phenotyping a diverse collection of forage sorghum genotypes for chilling tolerance. Agronomy, 10:1074 doi:10.3390/agronomy10081074

Extension publications, Magazines, FactSheets, News releases

  1. Ransom, J., M.T. Berti, G. Endres, D. Franzen, A. Friskop, J. Ikley, H. Kandel and M. Ostlie. Growing Rye as a Cover Crop in North Dakota. Bull A-2021, March 2021, North Dakota State Univ. Extension, Fargo, ND.
  2. Sedivec, K., M. Meehan, E. Gaugler, M. Berti, F. Brummer, P. Nester 2020. Annual Cover Berti, M.T. 2021. Perennial cool-season grasses for hay in the Midwest. Forage Focus March 2021 p. 8. Midwest Forage Association, St. Paul, MN
  3. Meehan, M., M. Keena, M.T. Berti, K. Sedivec, M. Ostlie, and E. Gaugler. 2020. Integration of Crop & Livestock Systems in North Dakota. Beef & Sheep report.
  4. Berti, M.T. and O. Teuber, 2020. Fertilization of full-season forage brassicas for grazing. Forage Focus May 2020, p.7.
  5. Sedivec, K., M. Meehan, E. Gaugler, Berti, F. Brummer, P. Nester 2020. Annual cover crop options for grazing in the northern Plains. Bull. R1759.  North Dakota State University Extension Service.
  6. Franzen, D., D. Wick, J. Ransom, N. Kalwar, and Kandel. Considerations of Cover Crop Choices for Prevent Plant Acres. Crop Pest Report.June 4, No 6: 11-12. https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/cpr/soils/considerations-of-cover-crop-choices-for-prevent-plant-acres-6-04-20
  7. Kandel, H. Cover Crop Planted Into Sunflower. Crop Pest Report. June 18, No 8: 5-6. https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/cpr/plant-science/cover-crops-planted-into-sunflower-06-18-20

Conferences presentations

  1. Berti, M.T. 2021. Does nitrogen in cover crops biomass cycles back to the next crop? 13th Nutrient Management Conference. Minnesota Agricultural Water Resource Center (virtual) 16 February 2021. Invited speaker (242 participants).
  2. Bibby, S., M.T. Berti, A.F. Wick, D.P. Horvath, J.V. Anderson, A. Wittenberg, A. Greenberg, and K. Mozea. 2021. Corn-alfalfa intercropping with different row spacings. American Forage and Grassland Council Conference, Savanah, GA (virtual) 11-12 January 2021
  3. Berti, M.T. 2020 Integrating cover crops into cropping systems for better soil health- What works what doesn’t? Soil Management Summit University of Minnesota. Virtual Conference. 15-16 December 2020. Invited
  4. Berti, M.T. 2020. Diversification of production systems for sustainable production of food and renewable energy while enhancing soil health. II Congreso de Desarrollo Territorial 2020: Promoviendo la Sustentabilidad. Ahuacatlán, Puebla, Mexico, 21-23 October. (Virtual presentation) Invited plenary speaker.
  5. Cecchin, A., M.T. Berti*, and G. Pourhashem, 2020. Evaluating environmental impacts of introducing winter camelina and field pennycress into the current cropping systems in the upper Midwest of the USA. In 28th European Biomass Conference and Exhibition, Marseille, France. 6-9 July 2020 (Virtual).
  6. Cecchin, A., M.T. Berti, and G. Pourhashem. 2020. Assessing environmental benefits of winter cover crops in corn-soybean rotations in the U.S. Upper Midwest. 26th International Sustainable Development Research Society. Budapest, Hungary, 15-17 July 2020. (Virtual)

 Grants

  1. USDA-NACA 09/2020-08/2022. Agronomic and molecular responses of maize and sunflower to competition with cover crops and alfalfa. $ 60,000, PI.
  2. NC-SARE, 10/1/2020-9/30/2022, Training for effective delivery of science-based soil health information – It’s about more than just content, It’s about messaging skills. $89,817, Co-PI
  3. Midwest Forage Association, 5/2020-4/2021.Testing new high quality perennial cool-season forage grasses with improved winter hardiness and persistence, $2000, PI
  4. 4.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
Outcomes and impacts:

Learning outcomes

  1. Learn to identify cover crops plants, seeds, to which family belong to and what ecosystem functions they provide (virtual cover crops ID webinar)
  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 it just was updated in February 2021
  4. How to calculate  carrying capacity and stocking rate
  5. Learn to identify potential toxicity when grazing cover crops

Action Outcomes

Extension bulletins and factsheets with information about cover crops grazing

Cover crops cost calculator  updates March 2021

Educational & Outreach Activities

20 Consultations
1 Curricula, factsheets or educational tools
7 Journal articles
1 Online trainings
7 Published press articles, newsletters
17 Webinars / talks / presentations
3 Workshop field days
17 A total of 49 videos were produced of which 13 videos were related to cover crops grazing, the objective of this PDP program. The 2020 and 2021 Soil Sense Podcast series led by Abbey Wick 34 episodes of which four had Grazing cover crops as a topic

Participation Summary

50 Extension
30 NRCS
30 Researchers
10 Nonprofit
20 Agency
20 Ag service providers (other or unspecified)
500 Farmers/ranchers
5 Others

Learning Outcomes

300 Participants gained or increased knowledge, skills and/or attitudes about sustainable agriculture topics, practices, strategies, approaches
100 Ag professionals intend to use knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness learned

Project Outcomes

4 Grants received that built upon this project
2 New working collaborations
Project outcomes:

 Outcomes:

 This professional development program has trained  approximately 50 NDSU extension county agents/researchers, 30 government employees ( NRCS, ARS, SWC districts), 10  personnel from non-profit (Ducks unlimited, Pheasants Forever, SWCS) and numerous farmers (peer-to-peer education). Increasing knowledge on cover crops  identification, selection, use , forage grazing stocking rate, cover crops calculator.

  Since all activities were moved to webinars, the  number allocation to different  types of participants is an estimated range, since we did not collect this information at registration of webinars of which group they belong to. 

Extension agents 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.

 

 

50 Agricultural service provider participants who used knowledge and skills learned through this project (or incorporated project materials) in their educational activities, services, information products and/or tools for farmers
500 Farmers reached through participant's programs
Recommendations:

 The professional development initiative by NC-SARE is a program with great impact on disseminating information of sustainable practices in agriculture. 

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.