Farmer field school approach to increasing cover crop adoption in Iowa and Minnesota

Final Report for LNC09-313

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2009: $174,295.73
Projected End Date: 12/31/2012
Grant Recipient: Practical Farmers of Iowa
Region: North Central
State: Minnesota
Project Coordinator:
Sarah Carlson
Practical Farmers of Iowa
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Project Information

Summary:

The Iowa and Minnesota Farmer Field School project focused on increasing cover crop adoption has now completed all grant deliverables. Our unique strategy, farmer field schools, allowed farmers and key participants to disseminate cover crop information with hands-on experience and practice via the demonstration acres, field days, and workshops to increase the adoption of cover crops in the Iowa and Minnesota landscape.

Introduction:

Research indicates multiple benefits from the use of cover crops with annual cropping systems. These benefits are diverse and help farmers transition to a more sustainable cropping system. The key benefits are:
? Cover crops sustain and improve the natural resource base system on which agriculture depends
? Cover crops significantly reduced nitrate leaching to subsurface drainage.
? Cover crops improve profitability by improving soil health, improve nutrient cycling, reduce soil erosion during critical times and enhance upland water storage.
? Cover crops provide harvest flexibility including soil cover, grazing, biomass, harvest and grain harvest. Cover crops provide important protection for groundwater recharge and source water protection.
This project was initiated because although a wealth of information for cover crops exists, farmers have not adopted cover crops as a management tool on a broad scale due to timing constraints in the fall following harvest, inadequate financial incentives for farmers, and lack of a strategic outreach plan to resource people and farmers. By the end of this project farmers reported significantly better understanding of cover crops plus converted that knowledge into added acres of cover crops in the IA and MN landscapes.

Project Objectives:

Long-term outcomes or systemic changes, which take longer to measure than the duration of this proposed project, would be improved water quality, reduced nitrogen use, and longer crop rotations from the addition of cover crops. Our project was initiated to increase adoption of cover crops which are a useful management tool for enhancing sustainability; reducing negative environmental impacts of annual cropping practices and support transition toward more sustainable perennial based cropping systems. To move toward this long-term outcome several short-term and intermediate outcomes have been accomplished.

Intermediate outcomes included increased practical experience with cover crops, increased and sustained usage of cover crops, and an improved CCDT resulting in increased usage. To measure these outcomes we have worked with several target audience participants to gather baseline information and post-project information. First, because the National Agriculture Statistical Survey or any other census body at the state or federal level does not collect data on cover crop acres in the state of Iowa and Minnesota we estimated acreage in 2009. To estimate acreage we worked with multiple organizations in both Iowa and Minnesota to acquire cover crop acreage. Between winter 2009 and spring 2010 farmers attending or within networks of these organizations were surveyed about their use of cover crops: at farmer meetings such as Pesticide Applicator Training workshops, the offices of Natural Resources Conservation Service [NRCS] and Farm Services Agency [FSA], local Soil and Water Conservation Districts [SWCD], workshops at commodity group meetings and extension. The same survey was given to farmers at the end of the project in fall 2012. Additionally, PFI members and farmers in the RA network received an end of project survey. Survey questions included: number of acres planted to cover crops during the project period; change in use either by adopting the practice, increasing acres planted or trying new species; and finally inquiry about resources used to increase cover crop knowledge to verify use of CCDT. Finally, at the end of the project we surveyed farmers who were in on-farm trials with PFI and RA. They were asked to identify if an increase in cover crop acres had spread to their neighbors within a 10-mile radius around their farm. Cooperators were asked to report how many new acres of cover crops existed each winter of the project in the 10 mile radius around their farm and how many farmers they networked with about using cover crops.

Short-term outcomes from this project was to increase awareness and knowledge of key information about cover crops to our target audience who consisted of but were not limited to: farmers, crop consultants and representatives of NRCS, Iowa and Minnesota Depts of Agriculture, FSA, SWCD, watershed associations, university extension and field agronomists and industry groups like Soybean Association, Corn Growers and water works staff. We provided farmer leaders opportunities to improve teaching and presentation skills. In addition, we increased interaction between resource people like extension or agency representatives and farmers where farmers were in charge of disseminating information to the resource community. These outcomes were measured by number of attendees at field days, type of attendee (i.e. farmer versus resource representative) and evaluation surveys sent via email or mailed to field day attendees and listening session participants.

Sample questions on the evaluation survey included:
• How effectively was the information presented?
• How useful was the information presented?
• What was your knowledge level prior to the meeting? After?
• Are you considering changing any farming practices as a result of the information received at this field day? OR Are you considering encouraging farmers to plant cover crops as a result of the information received?
• Overall, did the field day exceed, fall short, or meet you expectations?

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand
  • Linda Meschke

Research

Materials and methods:

Practical Farmers of Iowa (PFI) and Rural Advantage (RA) launched this project to increase the adoption of cover crops and support the transition toward more continuous living cover in the Iowa and Minnesota landscape. Cover crops are a useful management tool for enhancing the sustainability of annual cropping systems. A wealth of information exists about the benefits, challenges and production recommendations for using cover crops. However, a lack of converting understanding into action was prevalent at the start of this grant. This project not only disseminated information to farmers and key participants through farmer field schools with hands on experience and practice with cover crops, field days and workshops, but also incorporated farmers’ wealth of on-farm knowledge into the Midwest Cover Crop Council’s (MCCC) Cover Crop Decision-making Tool (CCDT). This tool provides information for farmers in the entire NCR-SARE area and is now available for Iowa and Minnesota. PFI and RA staff worked with cover crop working group teams in Iowa and Minnesota to incorporate our state specific information into the MCCC’s tool, which helps farmers choose a cover crop for their farm more precisely. As we are concluding our three-year project, we collected evaluations through feedback surveys, number of attendees, number of farmer inquiries about cover crops, increased number of acres and increased awareness and knowledge of cover crops by key audience participants. This campaign has given farmers the opportunity to be leaders in disseminating this information to others and relies on a proven, unique method of learning through farmer-to-farmer networking.

Research results and discussion:
Increased Momentum for Cover Crops

In the past year, planting cover crops has emerged as one practical method of many solutions to improve water quality and potentially decrease the size of the Gulf Hypoxic Zone. Practical Farmers of Iowa and Rural Advantage have been recognized as important resources and leaders for cover crops information. PFI has also provided information to farmers about funding available through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) provided by NRCS as well as state cost-share. In 2011, PFI worked with county commissioners to pass a resolution to provide cost share to farmers from the State Cost Share fund. In 2012, 117 farmers took advantage of these cost share funds. Seed houses that sell cover crop seed have said there was a shortage of winter small grains available because of the increased demand for cover crops in Iowa in 2012. In the fall of 2012 there was a waiting list at several seed houses for farmers to buy cover crop seed. We need to continue pulling the pieces together to meet this demand and encouraging greater use of the practice. In 2011, we followed up with pilots that we listed in our Cover Crop Directory to find out how many acres of cover crops they planted in Iowa in the fall 2011. Seven aerial applicators said they planted approximately 19,000 acres.

Research conclusions:

We have conducted a cover crops survey in 2010 and in 2012. In 2010, we conducted surveys at three different field days hosted by Iowa State University Extension, Practical Farmers of Iowa, Iowa Soybean Association, The Nature Conservancy and NRCS on July 29, August 19, and September 14, 2010. The total number of respondents was 129. In 2012, we sent the surveys out to those who have attended our cover crops related events (field days, conference sessions, etc.) in the last three years. The total number of respondents was 185.
While the respondents of this anonymous survey were not exactly the same at two different times when we conducted the survey, target respondents are demographically similar, as they all attended the cover crops related events in Iowa and/or in Minnesota during the past three years.
The first question on the survey asked whether they have planted cover crops in the last five years (in 2010) or since 2009 (in 2012). While only 28.9% of the respondents answered yes in 2010, 53.2% of the respondents answered yes to this question in 2012.
The knowledge dissemination on cover crops seems to have occurred as well. In 2010, 33.7% of the respondents agreed or strongly agreed with the statement, “I don’t know enough about cover crops to use them.” In 2012, the number decreased to 10.2%. Similarly, while 26.1% of the respondents agreed or strongly agreed to the sentence, “the extra cost and possible yield reduction prevents my use of cover crops,” that number decreased to 13.2% in 2012.
While the knowledge about cover crops in general has improved, people still seem to be interested in learning more about specific resources for planting cover crops. Positive responses to the statements such as “I would like to learn more about aerial-seeding cover crops,” “I would like to know where to purchase cover crop seed,” I would like to know about local businesses that could plant or spring kill my cover crop” remained high in 2012 at 40% to 68%, which proves that the Cover Crops Business Directory that we created in 2010 remains to be a good information tool to hand out at our future cover crop related events.

Economic Analysis

PFI has published four research reports, titled “Winter Rye Cover Crop Effect on Cash Crop Yields” during this grant period, which discuss the economic impact of planting cover crops by comparing the yields of cash crops. In summary, farmers reported that when properly-managed, cover crops can be added to crop farms with little or no effect on yield of cash crops, whether it be corn, soybeans or corn silage. A full economic analysis was not part of the deliverables of this grant but were

Farmer Adoption

At the end of this project, farmers who had conducted on-farm research projects were surveyed to estimate impact on their immediate neighbors. In Minnesota, three cooperators estimated they shared cover crop results with between 4 and 10 farmer neighbors. Five people estimated 11 to 20, two persons estimated 20, one person estimated 30, two people estimated 50, and finally one person estimated 200. Two people did not provide the estimated number, but they indicated they talked about cover crops with other producers all the time. In terms of the estimated cover crop acres within 10 miles, eight respondents said zero acres, five left the question unanswered, two said they didn’t know, one estimated 15 acres, two estimated 100 acres, and one estimated 250 acres. One person said “usually about 100 acres, but in 2012 there were about 1,000 acres due to the drought/emergency EQIP sign-up” and one responded “about three other farms”, but did not specify the number of acres.
Two of the Iowa cooperators said they talked to between two and eight people. Two people said they discussed cover crops with about 50 people, and four people estimated 20-30. However, one of the four who estimated 20-30 people mentioned that he also spoke about cover crops at some state presentations where about 400 people were in attendance. Another respondent who also estimated 20-30 discussions about cover crops has been interviewed on the local radio frequently. His impact has reached thousands of farmers in his local area. In terms of the number of acres, our 11 respondents estimated the following cover crop acres within 10 miles from their farms respectively: 10, 20, 30, 100, 100, 160, 350, 1,000, 1,000-1,500, 3,000 and 3,500.

Participation Summary

Educational & Outreach Activities

Participation Summary

Education/outreach description:

Summary of activities for the three-year period is as follows:
• Eight farmer-led introductory Cover Crop Listening Sessions to gauge farmer awareness and knowledge level and to disseminate agronomic information on cover crops. [320 participants]
• Three farmer-led breakout sessions on cover crops at the annual PFI Conference [120 participants]
• Three farmer-led breakout sessions on cover crops at the annual PFI Cooperators’ Meeting [60 participants]
• Three farmer-led cover crop seminars as part of the annual 3rd Crop Winter Series hosted by Rural Advantage. [120 participants]
• Forty on-farm demonstration and research trials on cover crops. [40 participants]
• Six field days utilizing research sites. [180 participants]
• Ten cover crop media stories developed and disseminated in Minnesota and Iowa. [50,000 readers]
• Farmer use, evaluation and improvements to the new Cover Crop Decision Tool. [100 evaluations]
*Activities are reported by year below

2010
–Three PFI farmers reported their On-farm Results at PFI Cooperators Meeting in February 2010.

–PFI held four listening sessions:
Thursday, April 22 George Schaefer Grazing Cover Crops
Wednesday, June 2 Mark Pokorny Cover Crop Management 101
Thursday, Aug 19, 2010 Pocahontas County Cover Crop Management 101
Tuesday, Sept 14, 2010 Webster County MRBI field practices 101

–11 PFI farmers presented about cover crops during summer field days as well as several other events by other groups. A total of 789 people attended these events. Tuesday, April 27 ISU Agronomy Farm Cover Crops Research
Friday, June 18 Jeff Klinge Water Quality Issues: Transitioning to Organic Production
Wednesday, June 23 Hickory Grove Watershed farmer meeting
Wednesday, July 7 Montgomery County Water Quality Conservation Day
Tuesday, July 27 Ann Smeltzer Trust “Stewards of our Water”
Saturday, July 31 Mustard Seed Community Farm Cover Crops in Veggie Plots
Saturday, Aug 14, 2010 Iowa State Fair
Thursday, Aug 26, 2010 Palo Alto County Cover Crop Management 101
Friday, Aug 27, 2010 Johnson County Cover Crop Management 101

–RA Hosted four field days in Minnesota
Wednesday, May 12, Lewiston Cover Crop Field Day
Wednesday, May 19, St. James Cover Crop Field Day
Monday, August 23, Cover Crops and Alfalfa Mulch Walk-n-Talk
Thursday, September 23, Le Sueur County Cover Crop Field Day

–PFI and RA Linked Iowa groups and Iowa farmers interested in cover crops to the Midwest Cover Crops Council during Midwest Cover Crops Council meeting held March 2-4 in Ames, Iowa. Three members of Practical Farmers of Iowa (1,000-acre no-till conventional farm, a 600-acre organic grain and livestock operation, and a two-acre vegetable farm) presented on how they use cover crops in their operations.

–27 PFI cooperators have started and have been continuing research and demonstration on cover crops
11 cooperators are testing cover crops’ effect on crop yield
Four cooperators are grazing cover crops
Two cooperators are testing new species of cover crops (tillage radish)
Five cooperators are aerial seeding cover crops
Two cooperators are overseeding cover crops, using our Hagie Highboy
Three cooperators are using cover crops in horticulture systems.

–PFI Conducted cover crops surveys at three different field days hosted by Iowa State University Extension, Practical Farmers of Iowa, Iowa Soybean Association, Nature Conservancy and NRCS on July 29, August 19, and September 14, 2010. The total number of respondents was 129.

–PFI Published five cover crop media stories and developed Cover Crop Business Directory which helps farmers to find seed houses in the Upper Midwest that sell cover crop seed, aerial applicators who can fly on the cover crop in the fall and custom sprayers who could kill the cover crop in the spring.
Carlson, Sarah. 2010. Cover Crops are Fifth. The Practical Farmer vol. 25N1 14-15.
Worley, Sally. 2010. 2009 Research Results. The Practical Farmer vol. 25N2 6-7.
Dietzel, Kevin. 2010. Grazing Cover Crops (Oh My). The Practical Farmer vol. 25N3 14-15.
Carlson, Sarah. 2010. Aerial Seeding Cover Crops. Wallaces Farmer August 2010
Dietzel, Kevin. 2010. Grazing Cover Crops. Wallaces Farmer September 2010
Ogawa, Tomoko. 2010. Cover Crop Business Directory.

–RA Rural Advantage published the following media stories.
One print publication
Newsletter – “Worthington Regional Office – Regional Report – April/May/June/July/August 2010” September 15

Six press releases/Email listserves
Cover Crop Acres Needed press release, April 21
Lewiston and St. James Cover Crop Field Days press release, April 29
Cover Crop Acres Needed press release, July 14
Cover Crop and Alfalfa Mulch Field Day press release, August 9
Le Sueur County Field Day press release, September 8

One Television spotlight
KEYC Channel 12 – Regional Spotlight, April 27

One Radio spotlight
KSUM 1370 AM Ag Country, July 22

One internet story
“BWSR Featured Project – Outreach effort promotes conservation practices that protect and restore water quality”, August

–RA Held 10 listening sessions
March 1, Martin County Corn and Soybean Day (Fairmont, MN)
March 8, Southeast Minnesota Cover Crop Meeting (Rochester, MN) June 23, Wheat Day Walk-n-Talk (Kilkenny, MN)
July 7, On-Farm Field Day: Agronomic Management for Alfalfa-Corn Rotations (Lakefield, MN)
July 27, University of Minnesota Southwest Research and Outreach Center Crop Day (Lamberton, Minnesota)
August 3-5, Farmfest (Morgan, MN)
September 13, Winter Wheat Workshop (Fairmont, MN)
September 14, Cottonwood Conservation Day – An Agricultural and Urban Focus (Windom, MN)
October 4-6, UMN Extension Fall Program Conference (Bloomington, MN)
December 6, UMN and UWI Extension Forage Days (St. Charles, MN)

2011
–Five farmers presented about cover crops at PFI Annual Conference in January, 2011. (35 attendees)

–Iowa State University researcher Matt Liebman discussed key agronomic information about cover crops and crop rotations at PFI Cooperators’ Meeting in February, 2011. (40 attendees)

–Held one farmer-led cover crop seminar (titled “Practices for Reducing Nutrient Loss”) as part of the annual 3rd Crop Winter Series in March, 2011. (48 attendees)

–Hosted two listening sessions in Iowa (PFI). Total of 110 people attended these events. Farmers heard from farmer leaders using cover crops followed by an hour long discussion about how to incorporate cover crops practically into their farming system.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011 Kelly Tobin/Paul Ackley
Thursday, October 27, 2011 Jeremy and Steve Gustafson/Ralph Storm

–Hosted seven listening sessions in Minnesota (Rural Advantage). Total of over 100 people attended these events.

Friday, March 4, 2011 Southern Minnesota Small Grains
Monday, March, 2011 South Central Minnesota Corn and Soybean Day
Thursday, March 24, 2011 Cover Crop and Forage Workshop
Thursday, Jun 23, 2011 Le Sueur County Wheat Day Walk-n-Talk
Monday, June 27, 2011 Blue Earth County Wheat Day Walk-n-Talk
Thursday, November 10, 2011 Heron Lake Watershed District Cover Crop Field Day
Friday, November 18, 2011 GBERBA Joint Policy/Technical Meeting

–Hosted three field days in Iowa (PFI). Three farmers presented about cover crops during PFI’s regularly scheduled field days as well as several other events by other groups. A total of 95 people attended these events.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011 Rob Stout/George Schaefer
Wednesday, July 20, 2011 Dave/Gary Nelson/Arliess Nielsen/Rick Lee
Friday, September 30, 2011 Floyd Jansma

–Hosted six field days in Minnesota (Rural Advantage). Approximately, total of 85 people attended these events.

Saturday, April 2, 2011 Grazing Cover Crops Field Day
Friday, April 29, 2011 Rosemount Cover Crop Field Day
Monday, May 2, 2011 Easton Cover Crop Field Day
Monday, August 22, 2011 Cover Crops and Alfalfa Mulch Walk-n-Talk
Monday, October 24, 2011 Carver County Cover Crop Field Day
Thursday, October 27, 2011 SWROC Cover Crop Workshop and Field Day

–25 cooperators (9 in Minnesota, 16 in Iowa) have started and have been continuing research and demonstration on cover crops

IOWA
10 cooperators are testing cover crops’ effect on crop yield.
One cooperator tested cover crops in a dairy system to provide cover as well as rye and triticale silage following corn silage.
Three cooperators are aerial seeding cover crops.
Two cooperators used cover crops in horticulture systems using a new species (tillage radish).

MINNESOTA
Two cooperators are examining weed counts comparing cover crop versus no cover.
One cooperator is testing cover crops’ effect on crop yield.
One cooperator compared irrigated vs. non-irrigated oats cover crops following spring wheat.
Three cooperators tested different cover crops mixes.
One cooperator tested winter rye seeding rates and late broadcast date.
One cooperator is examining the effect of winter rye planting date.

–Data has been analyzed and PFI published the following reports:
Comparison of Cover Crop Establishment Methods by Sarah Carlson and Amber Anderson
Cover Crops Double Duty: Cover and Grain by Sarah Carlson and Amber Anderson
Cover Crop Effect on Following Cash Crop Yield by Sarah Carlson
Role of Cover Crops in Converting Perennial Pasture to Vegetable Ground by Sally Worley

–PFI published the following cover crop items:
Three print publications
“Which small grains over-winter the best?” The Practical Farmer (Summer 2011) and Wallace’s Farmer (July 2011);
“Cover Crop Investigation” The Practical Farmer (Summer 2011) and Wallace’s Farmer (August 2011)
Cover Crop Business Directory was revised in March 2011 and more than 400 copies have been given out.

Three radio spotlights
Public News Service stories (statewide radio coverage):
More farmers deciding not to farm naked. May 13, 2011 http://www.publicnewsservice.org/index.php?/content/article/20072-2
Report: Iowa Losing Ground to Soil Erosion. April 28, 2011. http://www.publicnewsservice.org/index.php?/content/article/19775-1
New ISU Research: 3-year Crop Rotation Works Best. September 13, 2011 http://www.publicnewsservice.org/index.php?/content/article/22128-1

Seven internet stories
“Cover Crop Business Directory announced”
http://practicalfarmers.org/blog/2011/cover-crop-business-directory
“Tips for killing cover crops in spring”
http://wallacesfarmer.com/story.aspx/tips-for-killing-cover-crops-in-spring-9-48662
Also was posted on the PFI list serve.
“June 1 West Chester Field Day”
http://practicalfarmers.org/blog/2011/june-1-west-chester-cover-crop-field-day
“Cover Crop Field Day Spencer, IA”
http://practicalfarmers.org/blog/2011/cover-crop-field-day-spencer-ia
“Special Funding for Cover Crops”
http://practicalfarmers.org/blog/2011/special-funding-available-for-winter-hardy-cover-crops
“Storm Damage is Opportunity for Cover Crops”
http://farmprogress.com/story-storm-damage-is-opportunity-for-cover-crops-9-51424 and on PFI’s Blog
“Flying on cover crops this fall?”
http://farmprogress.com/story-flying-on-cover-crops-this-fall-9-53152
This article also went out to all NRCS field offices and was posted on PFI’s list serve.

–Rural Advantage published the following cover crop media stories:
Two print publications
Newsletter –Minnesota Cover Crop Decision Tool is in Development. University of Minnesota Extension Regional Office, Mankato, Spring 2011. May 21, 2011.
Newsletter –Minnesota Cover Crop Decision Tool is in Development. Worthington Regional Office—Regional Report. January, February, March, April 2011. Cottonwood, Jackson, Martin, Murray, Nobles, Pipestone, Rock & Watonwan. University of Minnesota Extension Regional Office-Worthington. http://www.extension.umn.edu/county/Cottonwood/news/JanuaryFebruaryMarchApril2011.pdf

Nine press releases/Email listservs
Cover Crop Acres Needed press release, February 18, 2011
Third Crop Producer Meeting – Practices for Reducing Nutrient Loss press release, March 15, 2011
Cover Crop Acres Needed press release, March 30, 2011
Rosemount and Easton Cover Crop Field Days press release, April 18, 2011
Cover Crop Acres Needed press release, July 15, 2011
2011 Third Crop Walk-n-Talks – Cover Crops and Alfalfa Mulch Walk-n-Talk to be Held August 22nd press release, August 24, 2011
Cover Crop Field Day to be Held in Carver County press release, October 10, 2011
Cover Crop Workshop and Field Day at SWROC press release, October 11, 2011
Minnesota Cover Crop Decision Tool Goes Live listserv emails, October 24, 2011

Two television spotlights
KEYC Channel 12 – Regional Spotlight, April 18, 2011
KEYC Channel 12 – Regional Spotlight, October 3, 2011

One radio spotlight
KCHK Radio (Carver County Field Day and NCR-SARE project). Listening Area: Unknown, based out of New Prague, Minnesota. October 29, 2011.

Two internet stories
Sackett, J. U, Partners Working to Learn More About Cover Crop Use. University of Minnesota Extension, Ag News Wire. May 16. 2011. http://blog.lib.umn.edu/umnext/news/2011/05/u-partners-working-to-learn-more-about-cover-crop-use.php
Winter, N. and J. Sackett. Consider Cover Crops for Unplanted Acres. University of Minnesota Extension, Ag News Wire. July 25, 2011.
http://blog.lib.umn.edu/umnext/news/2011/07/consider-cover-crops-for-unplanted-acres.php

One meeting and seven conference calls were held to improve cover crop decision tool.
Monday, January, 10, 2011 MN Cover Crop Decision Tool Organizational Meeting
Thursday, February 3, 2011 Cover Crop Decision Tool Conference Call
Wednesday, February 16, 2011 Cover Crop Decision Tool Conference Call
Thursday, March 31, 2011 Cover Crop Decision Tool Conference Call
Wednesday, April 13, 2011 Cover Crop Decision Tool Conference Call
Thursday, April 21, 2011 Cover Crop Decision Tool Conference Call
Friday, June 3, 2011 Cover Crop Decision Tool Conference Call

2012
–Four farmers and two researchers presented about cover crops at the PFI Annual Conference in January, 2012. (109 attendees total)

–Two farmers presented their on-farm research projects on cover crops in horticulture and field crops production at the PFI Cooperators’ Meeting in February, 2012. After which farmers discussed their opinions in a follow-up listening session. (40 attendees)

–Two farmers presented how they incorporate cover crops in their production systems and farmers’ opinions were shared in a follow-up listening session at the PFI Next Generation Retreat in December, 2012 (50 attendees)

–Held the annual 3rd Crop Producer Meeting in Minnesota on February 6, 2012 – Cover Crops Research and Experiences (45 attendees)

–Hosted six listening sessions in Minnesota (Rural Advantage).
February 7, 2012 Conservation Tillage Conference (Table Talk on Cover Crops) – Fairmont, Minnesota (Approximately 50 attendees)
March 5, 2012 South Central Minnesota Corn and Soybean Day (Presentation on MN CCDT) – Fairmont, Minnesota (43 attendees)
March 15, 2012 Waseca County Farmer Forum (Presentation on cover crops, SARE project, and MN DDCT) – Kilkenny, Minnesota (63 attendees)
July 12, 2012 NRCS state Technical Meeting (Presented on MN CCDT) – St. Cloud, Minnesota
(Approximately 20 attendees)
August 7 to September 12, 2012 Farmfest Booth – Morgan, Minnesota
September 19, 2012 Goodhue County Nutrient Management Field Day (Presented on cover crops, SARE project, MN CCDT – Goodhue, Minnesota

–Hosted 14 field days in Iowa (PFI). Farmers presented about cover crops during four PFI regularly scheduled field days as well as 10 spring and fall cover crop field day series with the Iowa Learning Farms. A total of 563 people attended these events.

March 27, 2012 ILF Cover Crop Days with Joe Kriegel and Mark Pokorny – Malcom, Iowa
March 28, 2012 ILF Cover Crop Days with Jeremy Gustafson – Boone, Iowa
March 29, 2012 ILF Cover Crop Days with Dan Wilson – Sutherland, Iowa
April 3, 2012 ILF Cover Crop Days with Rick Juchems – Nashua, Iowa
April 4, 2012 ILF Cover Crop Days with Steve Nebel – Crawfordsville, Iowa
April 5, 2012 ILF Cover Crop Days with Mark Peterson – Lewis, Iowa
June 20, 2012 No-till and Cover Crops on Loess Soils with Barry Kusel – Manning, Iowa
August 7, 2012 Cover Crops and Flame-Weding in Corn and Soybeans with Mark and Melanie Peterson – Stanton, Iowa
August 21, 2012 Cover Crop Tour: Combatting Compaction with Kelly and Irene Tobin, Nick and Seth Evans, Steve and Mike Stockwell, Paul and Nancy Ackley – Taylor County, Iowa
August 24, 2012 Cedar River Coalition with Sloan Farm- Brandon, Iowa
October 26, 2012 Fall Cover Crops Field Day with Pete Crew – Webb, Iowa
October 30, 2012 Fall Cover Crops Field Day with Bill, Steve, David and Robert McGrew—Emerson, Iowa
October 31, 2012 Fall Cover Crops Field Day with Mike Henning – Winterset, Iowa
November 8, 2012 Fall Cover Crops Field Day with Art Behrens – Carroll, Iowa

–Hosted one field day in Minnesota (Rural Advantage). Total of 10 people attended these events.
April 13, 2012 Red Wing Cover Crop Field Day –Red Wing, Minnesota

–30 cooperators (4 in Minnesota, 26 in Iowa) have started and have been continuing research and demonstration on cover crops

IOWA
Seven cooperators are testing cover crops’ effect on crop yield.
Six cooperators are evaluating establishment of fall cover crops.
One cooperator tested establishing red clover into standing corn and soybeans
Two cooperators are examining crimson clover cover crop affect on corn yield.
Ten cooperators are conducting cover crops variety trial to test 20 different cover crop varieties.

MINNESOTA
One cooperator examined grazing of purple top turnip and dwarf essex rape cover crop mixture.
One cooperator tested legume cover crop after barley harvest.
One cooperator broadcasted rape and turnip into standing corn and tested fall grazing of beef cattle.
One cooperator tested use of cover crops as forage for dairy cattle.

–Data has been analyzed and PFI published the following reports:
Twenty Species Cover Crop Variety Trial Over-seeded into Cash Crops
Winter Rye Cover Crop Effect on Cash Crop Yield: Yr 4
Quick Turnaround Cover Crops for Horticulture

PFI published the following cover crop items:
Four print publications
“PFI Farmers Add Cover Crops without Sacrificing Yield.” The Practical Farmer (Spring 2012)
“Weed Management Strategies” The Practical Farmer (Summer 2012)
Cover Crop Business Directory was revised in July 2012 and more than 400 copies have been given out. (PFI created the Cover Crop Business Directory in 2010 to provide farmers a one-point handout to know where they can find businesses to plant cover crops including aerial applicators, purchase seed and apply custom spraying. Since then we have revised the content periodically and more than 1,500 copies have been given out as of March 2013.)

“Grow Your Own N with Cover Crop.” Wallaces Farmer (December 2012)
http://magissues.farmprogress.com/WAL/WF12Dec12/wal090.pdf

Nine radio spotlights
“First Test of Three-Year Crop Rotation.” Public News Service. April 6, 2012.
http://www.publicnewsservice.org/index.php?/content/article/25768-1
“Cover Crops: Drought & Flood Protection for Iowa Farms.” Public News Service. August 28, 2012.
http://www.publicnewsservice.org/index.php?/content/article/28048-1
“Stanton Farmer Passionate about Cover Crops.” KMA Land. November 8, 2012.
http://www.kmaland.com/08664_Mark_Peterson_Conservation_093156.asp
“Is Drought Proofing the Farm Possible?” Public News Service. November 28, 2012.
http://www.publicnewsservice.org/index.php?/content/article/29485-1
Five other spotlights on the following radio stations: KWMT Fort Dodge, WHO Des Moines, KSOM Atlantic, KCSI Red Oak and KICD Spencer.

Two internet stories
“Cover Crops are Really Growing!” March 28, 2012.
http://practicalfarmers.org/blog/2012/cover-crops-are-really-growing
“Next: Killing Cover Crops.” Wallaces Farmer. March 2012.
http://farmprogress.com/dakota-farmer/library.aspx/next-killing-cover-crops-41/46/1482

–Rural Advantage published the following cover crop media stories:
One print publication
Newspaper article – “Take a Look at Cover Crops.” Conservation Update, Fairmont Photopress January 25, 2012.

Four press releases/Email listservs
Cover Crops to Open 2012 Third Crop Producer Meetings press release, January 23, 2012.
April 13 Cover Crop Field Day, Goodhue County press release, April 3, 2012.
Cover Crop Cost-Share Dollars Available press release, June 18, 2012.
Cover Crop Acres Needed press release, July 14, 2012.

One radio spotlight
AgNews 890 Fargo, ND – Cover Crops and NCR-SARE Cover Crop Project, June 21, 2012.

One internet story
UMN Extension AgNews Wire – “U Research Guides Growers on Cover Crop Selection, Planting Date.” May 14, 2012.
http://blog.lib.umn.edu/umnext/news/2012/05/u-research-guides-growers-on-cover-crop-selection-planting-date.php

Project Outcomes

Recommendations:

Areas needing additional study

Continued study of other cover crop species plus various planting methods is still needed in Minnesota and Iowa. Refining current cover crop recommendations to better suit the Iowa-Minnesota climate and cropping system is still needed. Great progress was made with this grant to improve the practical information available for farmers about cover crops but we still need to continue testing new cover cropping strategies. Specifically research focused on the management of cover crops in corn/soybean systems in MN, including timing of planting and species that work best. In recent years, we have been able to get corn in early, leading to a lot of corn acres harvested before the beans. This may open the door to more adoption of cover crops at these sites following a mid-September corn harvest. In addition, for MN, there needs to be better documentation and promotion of the soil health benefits of cover crops in corn/soy systems. We are seeing widespread adoption of cover crops in the states south of MN. Because of the shorter growing season, and frozen ground in the winter, we need more research on successful methods for this climate. Other topics, which need additional studies, include; residual herbicide affects, retrofitting high-clearance vehicles (economically) for seeding of cover crops, success rates of different cover crops and VNS versus named varieties.

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.