Cover Crop Selection and Use in Organic No-Till Farming

2012 Annual Report for LNC09-310

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2009: $155,730.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2013
Region: North Central
State: North Dakota
Project Coordinator:
Dr. Patrick Carr
Montana State University

Cover Crop Selection and Use in Organic No-Till Farming


Presentations were made summarizing results of the project to conventional and organic farmers in Iowa, North Dakota, and Wisconsin. Data from field experiments in those three states and Minnesota were compiled and analyzed statistically. A master’s thesis describing field experiments in Iowa was completed, as was a manuscript describing the field experiments in Wisconsin. Data analyses were done but more time is needed to finish writing additional manuscripts. A 6-mo extension was requested and granted so that manuscripts could be completed and submitted.

Objectives/Performance Targets

  1. Identify crops and cultivars that are suited as cover crops in organic zero-till systems within the north central region.
    Refine methods for managing cover crops in certified organic fields that are viable, effective, and do not involve tillage.
    Determine the impact of organic zero-till farming using cover crops on economics, energy balance, nutrient cycling, pests, and soil quality.
    Coordinate outreach activities with others involved or interested in organic zero-till farming systems.


Results of the project were presented during a summer field day in Iowa. Results of the project also were made to a group of conventional farmers in Wisconsin, and a group of organic farmers in North Dakota. An M.S. thesis focused on field experiments in Iowa was completed and defended successfully. A manuscript summarizing results of the field experiments in Wisconsin was written and submitted for publication in a refereed journal. Data collected from field experiments in Iowa, Minnesota, and North Dakota were analyzed. A manuscript is being written summarizing results of the field experiments in Iowa; an additional manuscript is being written summarizing results of the field experiments in North Dakota. Both manuscripts will be submitted for publication consideration in refereed journals. A fourth manuscript presenting results of multi-state analyses (Minnesota, North Dakota, and Wisconsin) will be written by late-June, 2013, and submitted for publication in a refereed journal.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

Results of this project will document the potential of organic no-till farming in the northern portion of the north central region in peer-reviewed journal articles. These manuscripts are needed since almost nothing exists in the refereed literature on this topic from the region. There is expanding interest in organic no-till farming in the region, and results from this project will be used to guide future research on the topic.


Dr. Erin Silva
Organic Agriculture Specialist
University of Wisconsin
1571 Linden Drive
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Madison, WI 53706
Office Phone: 6088901503
Dr. Kathleen Delate
Professor/Organic Cropping Systems Specialist
Iowa State University
106 Horticulture Hall
Iowa State University
Ames, IA 50011
Office Phone: 5152947069
Dr. Lee Klossner
Research Fellow
University of Minnesota
South West Research and Outreach Center
23669 130th Street
Lamberton, MN 56152
Office Phone: 5077525069
Dr. Paul Porter
University of Minnesota
Dep. Agronomy and Plant Genetics
1991 Upper Buford Circle, Univ. Minnesota
St. Paul, MN 55108
Office Phone: 6126256719