On-Field Trial of Cover Cropping and Johnson-Su Microbial Inoculations

Project Overview

FW22-404
Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2022: $24,760.00
Projected End Date: 10/01/2025
Grant Recipient: Pata Viva Farm Management Inc.
Region: Western
State: New Mexico
Principal Investigator:
Carl Richard
Pata Viva Farm Management Inc.

Commodities

  • Vegetables: cucurbits, peppers, tomatoes

Practices

  • Crop Production: biological inoculants, cover crops
  • Education and Training: on-farm/ranch research

    Proposal summary:

    Testimony from producers in our networks and research presentations by Dr. David Johnson suggest that New Mexico producers can save water, improve soil health, and reduce fertilizer expenses—without sacrificing crop yields—by adopting mixed-species cover cropping and Johnson-Su microbial inoculations. However, the current lack of published field trials leaves this promising combination of approaches as just that: promising.

    To produce reliable evidence that could hasten the adoption of mixed-species cover cropping and Johnson-Su microbial inoculations if their promise is confirmed, we have designed and begun a six-year, on-field trial at Pata Viva farm, using a modified split plot research design. There are three experimental variables--mixed-species cover crops, Johnson-Su microbial inoculations, and fertilizer inputs (progressively decreased over the duration of the study)--and four dependent variables: soil health metrics, plant nutrient data, plant yield data, and water use (controlled and monitored by an automated irrigation system triggered at a threshold soil moisture content). 

    Based on the experiences of other producers in our networks (see letters of support) and the credible but non-peer-reviewed research of Dr. Johnson, we expect the field trial to provide compelling evidence that cover cropping and Johnson-Su microbial inoculations can provide environmental benefits (reduced water use and improved soil health) and save producers money through reduced inputs (water and fertilizer). By publishing the experimental results and by presenting them to producers in the Soil Health Champions network, the Seeding Regenerative Agriculture project, and other groups, we plan to foster the broader adoption of these (potentially) environmentally and economically favorable practices. 

    Project objectives from proposal:

    In lay terms, our research objective is to investigate whether New Mexico producers can save water, improve soil health, and reduce fertilizer expenses—without sacrificing crop yields—by adopting mixed-species cover cropping and Johnson-Su microbial inoculations. 

    Our education objective is to increase awareness of mixed-species cover cropping and Johnson-Su microbial inoculations by sharing the results of our on-field trial through virtual presentations to the New Mexico Soil Health Champions network and through in-person demonstrations through the Seeding Regenerative Agriculture 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.