- Vegetables: beans, cabbages, cucurbits, greens (leafy), peas (culinary), sweet corn, tomatoes
- Crop Production: cover crops, crop rotation
- Education and Training: decision support system, extension, networking, on-farm/ranch research
- Production Systems: organic agriculture
- Soil Management: green manures, organic matter, soil analysis, nutrient mineralization, soil microbiology, soil physics, soil quality/health
- Sustainable Communities: sustainability measures
Sustainable farming requires close attention to soil improvement. This project will let vegetable producers use the new Cornell Soil Health Test (CSHT) to identify what needs improvement, and select cover crops that specifically address those needs. Most of the project will be carried out on grower farms, expanding existing relationships that have been developed around soil health, and responding to growers’ desire to act on the new information they get from the CSHT. Most current cover crop recommendations are too general; we will provide locally appropriate targeted guidance for specific soil management goals.
The project will engage 43 vegetable growers in the target region to use the CSHT and our cover crop decision tool to determine the most suitable cover crop for their situation. Thirty of them will plant that cover crop in a split-field trial and evaluate its performance with a subsequent vegetable crop. Many more will see outreach talks and articles.
Research farm trials will strengthen recommendations regarding how much each of the ten most common cover crops, and complementary combinations of them, reduce unaggregated soil, increase aggregate stability, and reduce surface hardness.
The project is led by Thomas Bjorkman, Cornell University, with a project team of six extension educators who will engage growers in four states (NY, PA, MA and VT).
The performance target is that participating growers will, by increasing their soil health through the use of appropriate cover crops, Increase yield by 10% on targeted fields due to better tilth, lower root disease, lower weed pressure and more effective cultivation. Increase the value of their early crops by 10% due to more timely planting and to higher quality. Reduce their applied N fertilizer by 20% due to nitrogen scavenging or fixation by the cover crop. Reduce the cost of mitigation runoff or leaching.
Performance targets from proposal:
By increasing their soil health through the use of appropriate cover crops, participating growers will:
Increase yield by 10% on targeted fields due to better tilth, lower root disease, lower weed pressure and more effective cultivation.
Increase the value of their early crops by 10% due to more timely planting and to higher quality.
Reduce their applied N fertilizer by 20% due to nitrogen scavenging leaching.