Cover Crop Prescribed Burning and Nutrient Profile

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2022: $11,743.00
Projected End Date: 01/15/2024
Grant Recipient: The Cornucopia
Region: North Central
State: Iowa
Project Coordinator:
Ana Timmer
The Cornucopia

Information Products

Practical Farmer's of Iowa presentation (Conference/Presentation Material)


Not commodity specific


  • Crop Production: cover crops, nutrient cycling
  • Natural Resources/Environment: carbon sequestration, soil stabilization
  • Soil Management: green manures, soil analysis

    Proposal summary:

    In order for plants to grow, they need the correct balance of seventeen essential macronutrients and micronutrients. Organic farmers are restricted by what they can and cannot add to the soil. These nutrients can be costly for small scale organic farmers. The Midwest used to be covered in native prairie which naturally burned every few years. Eventually the ash from the burned grass was turned back into the soil as compost. By burning cover crop, we may be able to mimic the natural process of prairie burning including adding nutrients back into the soil through increased decomposition of the cover crop. This process is not only cost effective for farmers since many already plant cover crops, but could also encourage long term soil health. Prairies also burn for weed control. This will be included in the second phase of our project. Some weed seeds when exposed to high heat are unable to germinate. If farmer’s don’t stay on top of weeds one year, then that same ground will be full of weeds the next year. Prescribed burning could help with controlling weedy patches of ground without the use of herbicides and help farmers cut down on labor costs.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    1. Measure the benefits of prescribed burning through various soil tests analyzed by Midwest Laboratory 

    2. Share findings by hosting university food science and agroecology labs

    3. Working with Dr. Jeremy Hummel of Dordt University on more opportunities for agriculture students to conduct senior research projects on this topic such as prescribed burning as a method of weed control

    4. Share findings by giving a presentation at the Practical Farmer’s of Iowa conference 

    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.