Demonstration of Utilization of Cover Crops in Wide Row Corn to Improve Soil Health

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2021: $26,576.00
Projected End Date: 01/31/2023
Grant Recipient: Cedar Valley Innovation LLC
Region: North Central
State: Iowa
Project Coordinator:
Bob Recker
Cedar Valley Innovation LLC


  • Agronomic: annual ryegrass, buckwheat, clovers, corn, millet, peas (field, cowpeas), radish (oilseed, daikon, forage), sunflower, triticale, vetches


  • Crop Production: cover crops, cropping systems, crop rotation, intercropping, no-till, pollinator habitat
  • Education and Training: demonstration, on-farm/ranch research
  • Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity
  • Soil Management: soil analysis, soil quality/health

    Proposal summary:

    There are many areas in farms where the soils are degraded due to continuous tillage, exposed bare soil, erosion, etc. This project intends to demonstrate methods and processes to improve soil health while still producing a cash crop of corn and/or soybeans. The corn will be planted in wide rows to allow sunlight to reach the surface where the cover crops, companion crops, or alternate high value crops grow. Previous work by me and others shows nearly equivalent corn yield in wide rows with equivalent field population. This project will have (5) 40 ft wide strips with alternate treatments: 1) "Do Nothing Different" - a baseline of typical current large scale practices, 2) A multi-species cover crop with species selected for maximum soil health improvement in a short time, 3) A simple cover crop species as a typical grower would begin to adopt cover crops, 4) A pollinator and beneficial plants per the STRIPS process dictated by Iowa State University, 5) A high value crop specified by each grower. Results will be shared with the public in field days with soil pits to show differences and improvement in roots and soil texture. 


    An example of a cover crop leveraging added available sunlight.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    1. Plant, document, and measure the above ground growth of a variety of cover crops in wide row corn plots compared to traditional practices. 
    2. Measure the soil health changes with the Haney Soil Health methods due to the 5 alternate treatments of the plots. 
    3. Conduct a late summer field day on at least one of the sites, including a soil pit to demonstrate the below ground impact of the alternate treatments.
    4. Duplicate the treatments, observations, measurements, and public outreach in 2022 as in 2021.
    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.