Farmer field school approach to increasing cover crop adoption in Iowa and Minnesota
The project will increase adoption of cover crops and support the transition toward more continuous living cover. 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, and we are developing a new decision-making tool for farmers when choosing a cover crop species. But even with this knowledge lack of adoption is prevalent. This project will not only 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, but 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.
• Complete two farmer-led cover crop listening sessions and two field days to gauge farmer awareness and knowledge level and to disseminate agronomic information on cover crops.
• Conduct 14 on-farm demonstration and research trials on cover crops (7 in IA and 7 in MN).
• Present key agronomic information about cover crops at the PFI Annual Conference and Cooperators’ Meeting and RA’s 3rd Crop Winter Series.
• Develop and disseminate four cover crop stories.
Five farmers presented about cover crops at PFI Annual Conference in January, 2011. (35 attendees)
Iowa State University researcher Matt Liebman discussed key agronomic information about cover crops and crop rotations at PFI Cooperators’ Meeting in February, 2011. (40 attendees)
Held one farmer-led cover crop seminar (titled “Practices for Reducing Nutrient Loss”) as part of the annual 3rd Crop Winter Series in March, 2011. (48 attendees)
Hosted two listening sessions in Iowa (PFI). Total of 110 people attended these events. Farmers heard from farmer leaders using cover crops followed by an hour long discussion about how to incorporate cover crops practically into their farming system.
1. Tuesday, August 30, 2011 Kelly Tobin/Paul Ackley
2. Thursday, October 27, 2011 Jeremy and Steve Gustafson/Ralph Storm
Hosted seven listening sessions in Minnesota (Rural Advantage). Total of over 100 people attended these events.
1. Friday, March 4, 2011 Southern Minnesota Small Grains
2. Monday, March, 2011 South Central Minnesota Corn and Soybean Day
3. Thursday, March 24, 2011 Cover Crop and Forage Workshop
4. Thursday, Jun 23, 2011 Le Sueur County Wheat Day Walk-n-Talk
5. Monday, June 27, 2011 Blue Earth County Wheat Day Walk-n-Talk
6. Thursday, November 10, 2011 Heron Lake Watershed District Cover Crop Field Day
7. Friday, November 18, 2011 GBERBA Joint Policy/Technical Meeting
Hosted three field days in Iowa (PFI). Three farmers presented about cover crops during PFI’s regularly scheduled field days as well as several other events by other groups. A total of 95 people attended these events.
1. Wednesday, June 1, 2011 Rob Stout/George Schaefer
2. Wednesday, July 20, 2011 Dave/Gary Nelson/Arliess Nielsen/Rick Lee
3. Friday, September 30, 2011 Floyd Jansma
Hosted six field days in Minnesota (Rural Advantage). Approximately, total of 85 people attended these events.
1. Saturday, April 2, 2011 Grazing Cover Crops Field Day
2. Friday, April 29, 2011 Rosemount Cover Crop Field Day
3. Monday, May 2, 2011 Easton Cover Crop Field Day
4. Monday, August 22, 2011 Cover Crops and Alfalfa Mulch Walk-n-Talk
5. Monday, October 24, 2011 Carver County Cover Crop Field Day
6. Thursday, October 27, 2011 SWROC Cover Crop Workshop and Field Day
25 cooperators (9 in Minnesota, 16 in Iowa) have started and have been continuing research and demonstration on cover crops
1. 10 cooperators are testing cover crops’ effect on crop yield.
2. One cooperator tested cover crops in a dairy system to provide cover as well as rye and triticale silage following corn silage.
3. Three cooperators are aerial seeding cover crops.
4. Two cooperators used cover crops in horticulture systems using a new species (tillage radish).
1. Two cooperators are examining weed counts comparing cover crop versus no cover.
2. One cooperator is testing cover crops’ effect on crop yield.
3. One cooperator compared irrigated vs. non-irrigated oats cover crops following spring wheat.
4. Three cooperators tested different cover crops mixes.
5. One cooperator tested winter rye seeding rates and late broadcast date.
6. One cooperator is examining the effect of winter rye planting date.
Data has been analyzed and PFI published the following reports:
1. Comparison of Cover Crop Establishment Methods by Sarah Carlson and Amber Anderson
2. Cover Crops Double Duty: Cover and Grain by Sarah Carlson and Amber Anderson
3. Cover Crop Effect on Following Cash Crop Yield by Sarah Carlson
4. Role of Cover Crops in Converting Perennial Pasture to Vegetable Ground by Sally Worley
PFI published the following cover crop items:
Three print publications
1. “Which small grains over-winter the best?” The Practical Farmer (Summer 2011) and Wallace’s Farmer (July 2011);
2. “Cover Crop Investigation” The Practical Farmer (Summer 2011) and Wallace’s Farmer (August 2011)
3. Cover Crop Business Directory was revised in March 2011 and more than 400 copies have been given out.
Three radio spotlights
Public News Service stories (statewide radio coverage):
1. More farmers deciding not to farm naked. May 13, 2011 http://www.publicnewsservice.org/index.php?/content/article/20072-2
2. Report: Iowa Losing Ground to Soil Erosion. April 28, 2011
3. New ISU Research: 3-year Crop Rotation Works Best. September 13, 2011 http://www.publicnewsservice.org/index.php?/content/article/22128-1
Seven internet stories
1. “Cover Crop Business Directory announced” http://practicalfarmers.org/blog/2011/cover-crop-business-directory
2. “Tips for killing cover crops in spring” http://wallacesfarmer.com/story.aspx/tips-for-killing-cover-crops-in-spring-9-48662 Also was posted on the PFI list serve.
3. “June 1 West Chester Field Day” http://practicalfarmers.org/blog/2011/june-1-west-chester-cover-crop-field-day
4. “Cover Crop Field Day Spencer, IA” http://practicalfarmers.org/blog/2011/cover-crop-field-day-spencer-ia
5. “Special Funding for Cover Crops” http://practicalfarmers.org/blog/2011/special-funding-available-for-winter-hardy-cover-crops
6. “Storm Damage is Opportunity for Cover Crops” http://wallacesfarmer.com/story.aspx/storm-damage-is-opportunity-for-cover-crops-9-51424 and on PFI’s Blog
7. “Flying on cover crops this fall?” http://wallacesfarmer.com/story.aspx/flying-on-cover-crops-this-fall-9-53152 This article also went out to all NRCS field offices and was posted on PFI’s list serve.
Rural Advantage published the following cover crop media stories:
Two print publications
1. Newsletter –Minnesota Cover Crop Decision Tool is in Development. University of Minnesota Extension Regional Office, Mankato, Spring 2011. May 21, 2011.
2. Newsletter –Minnesota Cover Crop Decision Tool is in Development. Worthington Regional Office—Regional Report. January, February, March, April 2011. Cottonwood, Jackson, Martin, Murray, Nobles, Pipestone, Rock &amp;amp; Watonwan. University of Minnesota Extension Regional Office-Worthington. http://www.extension.umn.edu/county/Cottonwood/news/JanuaryFebruaryMarchApril2011.pdf
Nine press releases/Email listserves
1. Cover Crop Acres Needed press release, February 18, 2011
2. Third Crop Producer Meeting – Practices for Reducing Nutrient Loss press release, March 15, 2011
3. Cover Crop Acres Needed press release, March 30, 2011
4. Rosemount and Easton Cover Crop Field Days press release, April 18, 2011
5. Cover Crop Acres Needed press release, July 15, 2011
6. 2011 Third Crop Walk-n-Talks – Cover Crops and Alfalfa Mulch Walk-n-Talk to be Held August 22nd press release, August 24, 2011
7. Cover Crop Field Day to be Held in Carver County press release, October 10, 2011
8. Cover Crop Workshop and Field Day at SWROC press release, October 11, 2011
9. Minnesota Cover Crop Decision Tool Goes Live listserve emails, October 24, 2011
Two television spotlights
1. KEYC Channel 12 – Regional Spotlight, April 18, 2011
2. KEYC Channel 12 – Regional Spotlight, October 3, 2011
One radio spotlight
1. KCHK Radio (Carver County Field Day and NCR-SARE project). Listening Area: Unknown, based out of New Prague, Minnesota. October 29, 2011.
Two internet stories
1. Sackett, J. U, Partners Working to Learn More About Cover Crop Use. University of Minnesota Extension, Ag News Wire. May 16. 2011. http://blog.lib.umn.edu/umnext/news/2011/05/u-partners-working-to-learn-more-about-cover-crop-use.php
2. Winter, N. and J. Sackett. Consider Cover Crops for Unplanted Acres. University of Minnesota Extension, Ag News Wire. July 25, 2011. http://blog.lib.umn.edu/umnext/news/2011/07/consider-cover-crops-for-unplanted-acres.php
One meeting and seven conference calls were held to improve cover crop decision tool.
1. Monday, January, 10, 2011 MN Cover Crop Decision Tool Organizational Meeting
2. Thursday, February 3, 2011 Cover Crop Decision Tool Conference Call
3. Wednesday, February 16, 2011 Cover Crop Decision Tool Conference Call
4. Thursday, March 31, 2011 Cover Crop Decision Tool Conference Call
5. Wednesday, April 13, 2011 Cover Crop Decision Tool Conference Call
6. Thursday, April 21, 2011 Cover Crop Decision Tool Conference Call
7. Friday, June 3, 2011 Cover Crop Decision Tool Conference Call
- PFI Newsletter 2
- Role of Cover Crops in Converting Perennial Pasture to Vegetable Ground
- Cover Crops Double Duty Cover and Grain
- Cover Crop Effect on Following Cash Crop Yield
- PFI Newsletter 1
- Comparison of Cover Crop Establishment Methods
- Cover Crop Business Directory 2011
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
Increased Momentum for Cover Crops
In the past year, planting cover crops has emerged as one practical method of many solutions to improve water quality and potentially decrease the size of the Gulf Hypoxic Zone. PFI has been recognized as an important resource and leader in cover crops information. PFI has also provided information to farmers about funding available through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) provided by NRCS. We followed up with pilots that we listed in our Cover Crop Directory to find out how many acres of cover crops they planted in Iowa in the fall 2011. Seven aerial applicators said they planted approximately 19,000 acres. Furthermore, seed houses that sell cover crop seed have said there was a shortage of winter small grains available because of the increased demand for cover crops in Iowa. In the fall of 2011 there was a waiting list at several seed houses for farmers to buy cover crop seed. We need to continue pulling the pieces together to meet this demand and encouraging greater use of the practice.