Integrating Cover Crops into Vegetable Production: Extension educator training for Arkansas

Project Overview

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2017: $72,493.00
Projected End Date: 09/30/2019
Grant Recipient: University of Arkansas
Region: Southern
State: Arkansas
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Amanda McWhirt
University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension


Not commodity specific


  • Crop Production: cover crops, crop rotation
  • Education and Training: demonstration, extension
  • Soil Management: soil quality/health


    In order to increase the use of cover crops as a management technique for vegetable production systems in the Mid-South region, growers and Extension personnel must be appropriately educated. This project seeks to provide such education in Arkansas by using University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service (UACES) Horticulture Specialists, a UACES soil health instructor and a NRCS Agronomist in a “train-the-trainer” model to educate UACES County Extension agents, NRCS agents and grower “leaders”. These trainees will then train other agents and growers on cover crop use.  We expect to increase agents’ abilities to make recommendations on the use of cover crops and to subsequently increase grower’s adoption of cover crops. A total of 66 CES and NRCS agents were trained using the developed suite of materials (7 PowerPoint training modules, and 10 videos) and instructed on how to use these resources. In surveys conducted at the end of each training 98% of participants said the training increased their “confidence in answering questions related to cover crops”, tests of their knowledge showed a 25% increase in comprehension on average compared to comprehension prior to the training, and 55% planned to conduct their own cover crop training in the upcoming year using the developed training materials. 

    Project objectives:

    1. At the end of the two year project a minimum of 20 UACES and 20 NRCS agents trained in workshops will be able to answer basic questions with 75% proficiency on cover crop: selection, management and impacts on soil health and IPM. Improved agent knowledge regarding cover crop management will result in increases in cover crop recommendations to their clientele.
    2. In the year following the termination of the project 50% of workshop participants will conduct a training in their local area reaching a minimum of 300 new farmers statewide, who will increase their knowledge and capacity to manage cover crops resulting in increased adoption of cover crops into vegetable production systems in the years following training participation.
    3. A suite of educational materials will be produced and shared with agencies across the Mid-south reaching a minimum of 500 people in the region in the second year who will increase their knowledge of and capacity to implement cover crops into vegetable production systems.
    4. Collaboration with two Arkansas growers who effectively integrate cover crops into their vegetable production systems will highlight their successes to agents and growers in the region which will reinforce knowledge learned in workshops and contribute to increases in cover crop adoption by new growers in the years following the project.
    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.