Monitoring Belowground Arthropods Associated with Cover Crops in Great Plain High Tunnel Systems

Project Overview

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2018: $11,999.00
Projected End Date: 02/28/2020
Grant Recipient: Kansas State University
Region: North Central
State: Kansas
Graduate Student:
Faculty Advisor:
Dr. Cary Rivard
Kansas State University


  • Agronomic: barley, buckwheat, millet, rye, sorghum sudangrass, triticale, wheat
  • Vegetables: greens (lettuces), peppers, tomatoes


  • Crop Production: cover crops, cropping systems, crop rotation, fallow, high tunnels or hoop houses, nutrient management
  • Education and Training: extension

    Proposal abstract:

    High tunnels are protected production systems that offer many benefits: disease and pest exclusion, crop season extension, and increase in crop yields and quality. Despite the many benefits high tunnels offer, soils are frequently degraded by intensive production in these systems. This study builds on a current OREI project “A multi-regional approach for sustained soil health in organic high tunnels: nutrient management, economics, and educational programming” that investigates the use of cover crops in high tunnels in regard to agronomic and soils data. We propose to expand this two-year study to include a larger group of cover crop species mixtures in addition to an investigation of belowground arthropods that are involved in high tunnel cover cropping systems. Cover crop plots will be grown in a high tunnel during three growing seasons: over-winter, summer, and fall. Three non-leguminous species will be evaluated with and without hairy vetch (Vicia villosa) or cowepea (Vigna unguiculate). Belowground arthropods (insects and mites) will be isolated using sieve and a lighted berlese funnel system. This work will expand the body of knowledge of high tunnel production and cover cropping by discovering their interplay in affecting belowground arthropod species and abundance.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Learning outcomes

    This research project seeks to develop adaptable cover cropping methods in high tunnels and increase our understanding of the belowground arthropod communities. Learning outcomes include: -

    • Knowledge regarding soil food web community within high tunnel systems
    • Flexible and adaptable cover crop recommendations for growers
    • Interaction between cover crop species mixtures and below ground arthropods
    • Functional high tunnel crop rotations that include cover crops

    Action/Behavioral outcomes

    This research will influence farmer’s soil nutrient management and production planning in high tunnels in the North Central Region and beyond. Specific behavior changes could include:

    • Implementation of season-appropriate cover crops and functional crop rotations in high tunnels
    • Adoption of cover crops in high tunnels that promote soil food web activity
    • Higher adoption of high tunnels to support local food production using practices that promote soil health
    • Extension and other educators provide research-based knowledge to growers that support environmental, social, and economic sustainability
    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.