Cover crop adoption is rapidly increasing as is an important agricultural tool in progressing to a more sustainable future. Cover crops reduce nutrient loss and soil erosion while building farmer resiliency for a more variable climate. It is the mission of the Midwest Cover Crops Council (MCCC) to facilitate successful adoption of cover crops in the North Central Region and beyond. Continually expanding the reach and use of MCCC’s suite of freely available cover crop resources by cover crop decision-makers, users and non-users alike is critical to increasing cover crop adoption and use. This proposal will facilitate the growth of the MCCC into broader target audiences through professional development of Extension educators, crop advisors, agri-businesses and NRCS professionals. The MCCC will conduct a minimum of six in-person trainings for farm advisors who may not be confident making cover crop recommendations, four in-person networking events for cover crop experts with follow-up conference calls, and eleven live webinars that will be recorded and posted to the MCCC website for general agricultural stakeholders and the public. This strategy of targeting a diverse audience is the best approach to increasing awareness of available cover crop educational materials and tools. A portion of this project will be used to ensure that MCCC resources such as the cover crop decision tool are kept up-to-date and delivery of resources remain current and relevant. The use of relevant, research-based cover crop information will ultimately lead to increased successful cover crop adoption and improved environmental sustainability.
Project objectives from proposal:
For the national meetings we anticipate 150 participants at each of two trainings. These participants will be educators and government employees that work directly with farmers and whom don’t feel confident giving basic cover crop recommendations. The national conferences that MCCC will target to present cover crop training include National Association of County Agricultural Agents (NACAA), Soil and Water Conservation Society (SWCS), and National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD).
At the state cover crop trainings, MCCC anticipates 50 participants from Extension and government from each of four states (KS, MO, NE, IN) for a total of 200 participants. These trainings again will be marketed toward educators with close contact to farmers who don’t feel confident giving basic cover crop recommendations.
Decision tool update meeting invitations will be extended to cover crop experts including Extension specialists, educators, NRCS, SWCD, seedsmen, and farmers with strong cover crop experience. The number of experts in these meetings is variable by state, but we plan for 12-15 per state. With this estimate we will provide professional development to approximately 55 cover crop specialists across four states.
MCCC anticipates 50 participants in each of eleven webinars, for a goal of 550 connections. The webinars will be marketed toward Extension, government employees, and crop advisors but will be open to farmers and the general public. These webinars will be posted and additional views will be tallied.
The physical products of this project include several resources that will keep the MCCC relevant. The decision tools for Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, and Indiana will be updated with the latest state-wide recommendations for cover crops. The decision tool will also have the capability to link with additional cover crop tools that are currently under development by board members. This interoperability will be tested with these tools. The cover crop pocket field guide will be revised and free copies distributed to the first 50 registrants of the webinar.