Increasing Cropping System Sustainability through the Adoption of Cover Crop and Rotational No-Till Strategies

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2008: $144,815.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2011
Region: Northeast
State: Pennsylvania
Project Leader:
Rita Seidel
Rodale Institute

Annual Reports


  • Agronomic: barley, corn, oats, soybeans, wheat, grass (misc. perennial), hay


  • Animal Production: manure management, feed/forage
  • Crop Production: conservation tillage
  • Education and Training: demonstration, extension, farmer to farmer, on-farm/ranch research
  • Energy: energy conservation/efficiency, energy use
  • Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns, agricultural finance
  • Natural Resources/Environment: carbon sequestration
  • Pest Management: biological control, cultural control, mulches - killed, physical control, mulching - vegetative, weed ecology
  • Production Systems: agroecosystems, organic agriculture
  • Soil Management: green manures, organic matter, soil analysis, composting, nutrient mineralization, soil microbiology, soil chemistry, soil physics, soil quality/health

    Proposal abstract:

    Building on past research, this project will train farmers to integrate cover crops and rotational no-till cropping practices that will save energy and labor while improving soil and water. Farmer participants will learn through a coordinated examination of a long-term (27-year) study in which a series of farmer-ready practices are being assessed. The Rodale Institute is positioned to work with farmers in this living farm-field laboratory as our research and demonstration farm is the only one of its kind in the region where the long-term effects of organic farming methods have accrued over 27 years. Farmers will observe firsthand the effects of transitioning a subset of these mature plots to more sustainable practices. Using a technology transfer approach, farmers will first learn about cover crops and rotational tillage in the long-term trial, and then transfer that knowledge to their own farms by participating in a meta-experiment testing these practices. Each farm involved in this experiment will serve as a replicate set of common treatments. Farmers will gain problem solving skills and educate others in their own social networks. Best management practices based on this research will be disseminated through three field days, conferences, a peer-reviewed manuscript, a technical bulletin, online articles, and peer-to-peer learning.

    Performance targets from proposal:

    As a result of this project, 50 non-organic farmers will incorporate cover crops into their operations to reduce herbicide and fertilizer use, 25 organic farmers will use rolled/crimped cover crops to suppress weeds in no-till planted crops, and 15 extension educators will incorporate project results into educational programs.

    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.