The Economic Analysis of Cover Crops, Soil Health, the role of Livestock and Impact on Moisture

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2014: $22,378.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2015
Region: North Central
State: Nebraska
Project Coordinator:
Mike McDonald
Indigo Ridge Farm

Annual Reports

Information Products


  • Agronomic: barley, canola, corn, flax, millet, oats, rapeseed, rye, safflower, sorghum (milo), soybeans, sunflower, wheat
  • Vegetables: peas (culinary), turnips
  • Animals: bovine


  • Animal Production: grazing - multispecies
  • Crop Production: crop rotation, cover crops, nutrient cycling
  • Education and Training: demonstration, extension, farmer to farmer
  • Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns
  • Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity
  • Production Systems: agroecosystems
  • Soil Management: organic matter, soil analysis, soil quality/health

    Proposal summary:

    The project will measure water usage, soil health indicators and weight gain of cattle in wheat, corn and soybeans that is drilled or interseeded with cocktail, cover crops (CC) v. plots without CC. An economic analysis will be conducted to determine the impact of CC upon each of these aspects.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    • The weight gain of cattle in CC v. grazing in corn-, soybean- or wheat-stubble will be measured pre- and post.
    • The plots at each farmers’ site will have treatment steps and maintain control plots (i.e., grazing v. nongrazing of corn, soybean or wheat; using CC v. not using CC).
    • Basic descriptive statistics will be completed to determine water usage, CC, livestock gains and cash crop yields.
    • Soil testing including water infiltration, soil density and soil organic matter levels will be completed.
      The biomass testing of the CC and cash crops will be completed.
    • The Haney Healthy Soil Tests will be completed pre- and post to provide organic and inorganic levels for N-P-K and CC mixtures.
    • The PLFA (phospholipid fatty acids) will be completed pre- and post-cover crop use (as weather dictates).
    • An economic analysis sheet (i.e., analyzing crop yields in 2015) will be developed.

    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.