Capacity Building for Cover Crop Educators in the Midwest

Project Overview

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2023: $120,000.00
Projected End Date: 09/30/2026
Grant Recipient: Purdue University
Region: North Central
State: Indiana
Project Coordinator:
Anna Morrow
Purdue University


Not commodity specific


  • Crop Production: cover crops

    Proposal abstract:

    The Midwest Cover Crops Council (MCCC) fosters cover crop adoption through educational materials and networking. The target audience for this project is agriculture educators. Specifically, we will target Extension educators, Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) staff, and Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) staff across the North Central Region who are interested in learning more about cover crops. A few activities will be targeted specifically to experts with the goal producing high quality recommendations and materials as well as networking, consensus-building, and learning through shared experience.

    The outcomes for this project include a ten-week cover crop curriculum for educators, forty North Central educators with in-depth knowledge of cover crop management, strong cover crop teams with consensus recommendations in the states of Wisconsin, North Dakota, and South Dakota, strengthened knowledge for approximately 300 educators by webinar, and improved cover crop management resources for the 12 Midwestern states.

    The first activity of this project is to adapt a web-based college course into a cover crop curriculum specific for educators. The course will be piloted twice and evaluated as a long term, self-sustaining cover crop certificate program. The cover crop decision tool will be updated for three states by in-depth discussions with experts and will be made more user friendly which will support educators in reaching new audiences. Specific cover crop management webpages on the MCCC website will be updated with the latest information. MCCC will hold a minimum of six webinars on updated resources as a form of outreach to educators.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    A comprehensive cover crop curriculum including ten recorded lectures partnered with virtual learning sessions will be adapted for educators. Two iterations of a pilot course will utilize this curriculum to determine the demand and effectiveness of the program. The target participants for this pilot course are educators (Extension, NRCS, SWCD) in the North Central Region. Each pilot session will be open to 20 participants for a total of 40 participants over the course of the project.

    MCCC will update the data in three state cover crop decision tools. The outputs of this activity are twofold. The updates to the decision tool itself serve as educational material freely available to farmers, educators, and advisors. The process of updating the material serves as professional development for the cover crop experts of that state. Decision tool update meeting invitations will be extended to cover crop experts across the state 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 40 cover crop specialists across three states. The discussion that takes place in these sessions allows experts to share their experience and deepen knowledge.

    Three MCCC webpages will be revised with specific cover crop management information with direct expert input. This information will be available to the 17,000 MCCC website users and growing. With the increasing interest in cover crops it is critically important that new adopters have a reliable place to learn the recommended management practices for cover crops.

    Six recorded webinars will be held to cover updates to each of three webpages on cover crop management and three webinars will cover updates to each of three state decision tool updates. MCCC will target educators for these webinars, but they will be open to the public. We anticipate 50 people in attendance at each webinar for a total of 300 participants, and the ability of anyone to watch the recordings from the MCCC website.

    The current version of the cover crop decision tool is an excellent resource for educators and farmers to learn about cover crop options. However, there are many small improvements that MCCC would like to implement to make the tool more user friendly. One challenge that educators have with the decision tool is sharing the information with underserved audiences who do not have internet access. Adjusting the layout of the tool in a way that it would print in a useful and aesthetically pleasing way would allow educators to deliver this key information to audiences such as the Amish community. There are also opportunities to communicate “beginner friendly” cover crop species within the tool. These simple recommendations have already been developed with the MCCC cover crop recipe series. The recommendations would only need to be programmed into the tool in a user-friendly way.

    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.