Educating Agricultural Professionals and Extension Educators in Developing Sustainable and Resilient Cropping Systems through Integration of Cover Crops

Project Overview

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2012: $59,296.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2014
Region: North Central
State: Iowa
Project Coordinator:
Dr. Ajay Nair
Department of Horticulture, Iowa State University

Annual Reports

Information Products


Not commodity specific


  • Crop Production: cover crops
  • Education and Training: demonstration, display, extension, farmer to farmer, networking, workshop


    Enhancing soil quality and health is critical when building a sustainable cropping system. Cover crops play an important role in improving several soil properties and overall ecological sustainability. There has been an increase in fruit and vegetable growers who utilize cover crops in some form or the other in their cropping systems. With growing demand for sustainably grown produce, growers require information on types of cover crops, their growth stages, management techniques, and potential challenges associated with their use. Growers need extension specialists and agricultural educators with knowledge and skills to assist them in implementing a sustainable farm plan integrating cover crops. This project trained agricultural professionals and extension personnel on concepts and application of cover crops in fruit and vegetable production systems.  The project organized several statewide cover crop training workshops and field days for Commercial Horticulture Field Specialists, County Horticulturists, and members of organizations such as Iowa Department of Agriculture & Land Stewardship, Regional Food Systems Working Group, Iowa Fruit & Vegetable Growers Association and Practical Farmers of Iowa. The project also offered professional development opportunity to extension and industry personnel by organizing trips to two regional fruit & vegetable conferences that include sessions on cover cropping and agricultural sustainability. Evaluation and feedback of program participants indicate knowledge gain and increased interest in sustainable production systems. The project also involved growers and community leaders from the Amish and Mennonite community and educated them on the proper planting, management, and termination techniques of cover crops. Several multimedia videos an extension publication was developed to widen project outreach and impact.

    Project objectives:

    The overall objective of this project was to provide a professional development and educational forum
    on cover crops that help create sustainable fruit and vegetable production systems. The audience for the project included extension personnel from Iowa State University, University of Missouri, Lincoln University, Iowa State University Research & Demonstration Farm superintendents, county extension personnel, government agency staff, leaders of grower organizations, and staff from Natural Resource Conservation Service. Core objectives of the
    project are to:
    • Highlight the importance of cover crops in fruit and vegetable production systems.
    • Provide a platform to share resources, knowledge, and expertise in the area of cover cropping
    in fruit and vegetable production.
    • Promote hands-on learning opportunity to better understand cover cropping practices
    • Connect agricultural educators to professionals in the area of sustainable fruit and vegetable
    • Develop a brief and concise extension bulletin that can be interpreted and used by extension
    staff, agricultural professionals, and the end client (fruit and vegetable growers).
    • As a long term strategy, facilitate integration of cover crops into fruit and vegetable
    production systems to create diverse and resilient cropping systems.

    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.