- Crop Production: cover crops
- Education and Training: decision support system
The professional development process of updating the Midwest Cover Crops Council (MCCC) cover crop decision tool had a multi-level target audience. First, we focused on each of eight state’s cover crop experts for team building while developing the decision tool. A cover crop resource training for educators targeted Extension educators and NRCS field staff. At the conclusion of the project a cover crop decision tool and resources were made available to the public for free.
Project outcomes included development of state core cover crop teams, consensus of state recommendations, uniform cover crop messaging for each state, and increased knowledge of cover crop practices for educators and crop advisors. These learning outcomes contributed to more confident and successful cover crop recommendations and more acres successfully cover cropped. Additional cover crop acres result in better water quality, enhanced soil health, and carbon sequestered.
Project activities included organizing state-wide teams of cover crop professionals to create or update the MCCC cover crop decision tool for their respective state. This team met to discuss information and experiences for the decision tool during one in-person meeting and a series of four to five video conferences.
Multi-state, multi-institution webinars were held to introduce the new tool and cover crop recommendations primarily to Extension educators and NRCS staff. These served to train ag professionals on the use of the tool, as well as publicize the new layout and features of the tool. The tool itself is designed to be a learning tool, encouraging users to change inputs and learn from the immediate outputs.
The goal of the MCCC is to increase continuous living cover across the North Central Region. We firmly believe that cover crop resources and education are needed to achieve this goal. Our philosophy is to help farmers and all types of crop advisors to reach a high level of success for cover crop management. Only when farmers are comfortable with a cover crop system will the number of cover cropped acres grow. Our goal is to reduce the occurrence of cover crop disappointments and unreasonable expectations in order to encourage successful adoption.
The objectives of this professional development project are in support of the wider MCCC organization objectives. This project served as a capacity-building project for cover crop teams in each of 8 states, as well as providing training to the broader ag advisor community, and a free resource available to the public. The first objective of this project was to assemble and strengthen a core team of cover crop experts across the state. These teams worked to revise cover crop recommendations and experiences, which in turn built consensus between partners. This consistent messaging across the state will help to provide farmers more successful and uniform information. The confidence that farmers find in consistent messaging will encourage broader adoption of cover crops.
The second professional development objective of this project was to use the updated decision tool which was built from each state’s consensus recommendations to inform a more general group of ag advisors. Webinars were held to detailing the updates to the cover crop decision tool and the state specific resources referenced within it. These webinars were open to the public, but were specifically targeted to Extension Educators and NCRS staff. The goal of this was to inform outreach professionals who may not have a specialty in cover crops, so that they will be aware of available resources that are customized to their state and growing conditions. Improving the awareness of available resources will help to improve consistent messaging around cover crop and make farmers and advisors more comfortable using and recommending them.