Farmer field school approach to increasing cover crop adoption in Iowa and Minnesota

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2009: $174,295.73
Projected End Date: 12/31/2012
Grant Recipient: Practical Farmers of Iowa
Region: North Central
State: Minnesota
Project Coordinator:
Sarah Carlson
Practical Farmers of Iowa

Annual Reports

Information Products


  • Agronomic: barley, corn, grass (misc. perennial), hay, oats, rye, spelt, soybeans, wheat
  • Vegetables: carrots, peas (culinary), radishes (culinary), turnips
  • Animals: bovine


  • Animal Production: feed/forage, grazing - rotational, stockpiled forages, winter forage
  • Crop Production: conservation tillage, cover crops, crop rotation, no-till, strip tillage
  • Education and Training: demonstration, extension, farmer to farmer, focus group, networking, on-farm/ranch research, participatory research, workshop
  • Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns
  • Natural Resources/Environment: carbon sequestration
  • Pest Management: allelopathy, chemical control, cultural control, smother crops
  • Production Systems: agroecosystems, organic agriculture, transitioning to organic
  • Soil Management: organic matter, soil analysis, soil quality/health
  • Sustainable Communities: leadership development, sustainability measures

    Proposal abstract:

    Farmer field school approach to increasing cover crop adoption in Iowa and Minnesota. Our project aims to increase adoption of cover crops and support the transition toward more continuous living cover. We will also develop a decision-making tool for farmers to use when choosing a cover crop species. Cover crops are a useful management tool for enhancing the sustainability of annual cropping systems. A wealth of information exists about the benefits, challenges and production recommendations for using cover crops. But even with this knowledge lack of adoption is prevalent. This project will disseminate information to farmers and key participants through farmer field schools with hands on experience and practice with the crop, field days and workshops to tell neighbors about cover crops. We will also incorporate farmers wealth of on-farm knowledge into a decision-making tool which will provide information for farmers in the entire NCR-SARE area. This work will be evaluated through feedback surveys, number of attendees, number of farmer inquiries about cover crops, increased number of acres and increased awareness and knowledge of cover crops by key audience participants. This campaign will give farmers the opportunity to be leaders in disseminating this information to others and relies on a proven method of learning through farmer to farmer networking.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    If we are successful we will see increased acreage of cover crops in annual cropping systems in Iowa and Minnesota. This will improve water quality, soil quality and potentially reduce use of fertilizers over time. In addition farmers will be empowered through this process to convey knowledge they learn or know from conducting on-farm research and demonstration projects. Increased awareness by farmers and resource personal and usage of cover crops will be our measure of success.

    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.