- Crop Production: catch crops, cover crops, crop rotation
- Education and Training: decision support system, networking
- Soil Management: green manures
Problem and Justification: Cover crops are multi-functional tools that that provide numerous ecosystem services and impact on-farm economics, crop productivity, and system resilience to climate change. While there is a long history of cover crop research and extension in the Northeastern U.S., information on cover crop selection and management to maximize the subsequent ecosystem services provided is scattered across institutions. Furthermore, farmers have unique combinations of production goals and constraints and need resources that tailor cover crop selection and management to their needs. A multi-state, multi-institutional organization that links states together, defines knowledge gaps, and informs agricultural professionals is sorely needed.
Solution and Approach: Our proposed solution is to form a Northeast Cover Crops Council (NECCC) and modify existing online decision support tools for use in the Northeast. The NECCC will support and encourage cover crop use in the long-term through outreach activities including an annual conference, and by serving as a central clearinghouse for cover crop resources and tools in the Northeast. The annual conference will allow researchers and agricultural professionals to define knowledge gaps, build networks, coordinate necessary research to address these gaps, and present research results that will assist farmers in choosing/managing cover crops to maximize potential benefits. In the intermediate- and long-term, it is our goal to use data synthesis and meta-analysis to modify several existing cover crop tools and calculators for use in the Northeast. These tools and calculators will be hosted on the NECCC website, or the NECCC website will link to them. For this proposal (i.e. in the short-term), we intend to modify the existing Midwest Cover Crops Council (MCCC) online cover crop decision tool for use in the Northeast. We will first modify the MCCC decision tool for use in each Northeast state, starting with our largest states, NY, PA, and MD. We will expand our efforts to teach additional ag-service providers how to use the tool by hosting train-the-trainer events at field days, workshops, and the annual NECCC meeting. Ultimately, the ag-service providers will 1) use the tool to tailor cover crop selection and management to the farmer’s crop-system needs and constraints, and 2) teach farmers how to use the tool independently to best accomplish their cover crop goals.
Performance targets from proposal:
Performance Target: A total of 270 Northeastern agricultural service providers will learn how to use the NECCC cover crop decision tool. These project beneficiaries will use the tools to make cover crop selection and management recommendations for 3,000 farmers who plant 1.5 million acres of row and vegetable crops.