Mitigating and preventing flood-related soil quality degradation using cover crop blends

Project Overview

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2012: $14,836.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2013
Grant Recipient: University Of Vermont
Region: Northeast
State: Vermont
Graduate Student:
Faculty Advisor:
Dr. Josef Görres
University Of Vermont

Annual Reports


  • Agronomic: corn


  • Crop Production: cover crops, fallow, tissue analysis
  • Education and Training: on-farm/ranch research
  • Production Systems: organic agriculture
  • Soil Management: soil analysis, soil quality/health

    Proposal abstract:

    Cover crops have been widely utilized to reduce erosion, maintain water quality, manage pests and diseases, cultivate good tilth, and in general improve soil quality. Often, cover crops are grown as mono-crops to accomplish one or several of those goals. However, flooding causes soil quality losses. These include compaction, loss of mycorrhizal infectivity, phosphorus deficiencies, and reduced infiltration rates. Several of these flood-related issues translate into post flood syndrome where crops show deficiencies. The NRCS has recently begun working with cover crop cocktails to address post-flood syndrome in pasture soils. I will trial different cover crops to assess whether cover crop cocktails can alleviate post–flood deficiencies in organic vegetable production systems: Will a single cover crop or blend work better in redressing multiple mechanisms of soil quality degradation caused by flooding? This project aims to assess the ability of winter rye, forage radish, hairy vetch, lupine alone and in a blend to rejuvenate soils after a flood. I will combine physical, chemical and biological indicators to evaluate success of the cover crop.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    1) Demonstrate the ability of cover crops to mitigate fertility and soil health problems associated with flooding.
    • Conduct soil tests before and after flooding
    • Conduct June nitrate test
    • Measure soil physical test before and after
    flooding (infiltration rates, bulk density, and
    organic matter content)

    2) Show impact of yield when using different cover crop varieties and blends.
    • Conduct indicator crop nutrient analysis to
    demonstrate effect of cover crop on crop quality.
    • Measure salable yield of indicator crop.

    3) Assess biomass of cover crops.
    • Take a random 1X1 foot sample of each cover crop
    stand, separating weeds, drying and weighing weed
    and cover crop.

    4) Disseminate information on the value of cover crops on
    flood prone lands.
    • Produce a brochure recommending practices.
    • Hold a field day with a target of reaching 20
    farmers and 5 extension personnel.
    • Present our results, what works and what doesn’t,
    at the Northeast Organic Farming Association’s
    summer 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.