Increasing Varietal Suitability and Availability of Cowpea and Forage Radish Cover Crop Seed for Northern Climates

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2012: $199,776.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2015
Grant Recipient: Northern Plains Sustainable Agriculture Society
Region: North Central
State: North Dakota
Project Coordinator:
Karri Stroh
Northern Plains Sustainable Agriculture Society

Annual Reports

Information Products


  • Agronomic: peas (field, cowpeas)


  • Crop Production: cover crops, crop rotation
  • Education and Training: farmer to farmer, networking, on-farm/ranch research, workshop
  • Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity
  • Production Systems: organic agriculture
  • Soil Management: organic matter

    Proposal abstract:

    Abstract: Increasing Varietal Suitability and Availability of Cowpea and Forage Radish Cover Crop Seed for Northern Climates. Project Coordinator: Karri Stroh Our objective is to add to the functional agronomic value of forage radish and cowpea cover crops through farmer-led selection for traits of interest and to the economic value of the cover crop seed by providing cultivars with documented performance and suitability to seed production in northern climates. Methods/Approach: Replicated field research on cowpeas will be conducted at Research Extension Centers in North Dakota (ND), South Dakota (SD), and Wisconsin (WI). On-farm evaluation, selection, and evolutionary participatory breeding will be conducted on forage radish on certified organic and low-input farms in ND, SD, and WI. We will evaluate multiple accessions of forage radish and cowpea for cover crop characteristics, grazing potential, and seed production. We will measure resulting cover crop seed yields and test weight. In conjunction with the agronomic research, we will work with seed industry partners to evaluate the market potential and identify market channels for the seed produced. Results will be disseminated through participatory evaluation tours, winter workshops, print and web-based extension bulletins, a refereed publication, producer organizations, and YouTube videos. Outputs include videos, educational publications, postings to the Crop Breeding eExtension Community, participatory evaluation tours; winter workshops; and seed production training; Regionally appropriate, locally produced cowpea and forage radish cover crop seed and seed production contracts. Outcomes: The primary audience of organic, no-till, low-input, sustainable farmers and ranchers will: understand the value of regionally produced cover crop seed; gain seed production and variety improvement knowledge and skills; and understand the cover crop seed market and marketing channels. This project will increase production, seed supply, markets, and utilization, enhancing crop diversity, resilience, profitability, and sustainability.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Short-term outcomes: The primary audience of organic, no-till, low-input, and sustainable
    farmers, ranchers, and seed producers will gain hands-on knowledge of varietal differences and desirable quality traits for forage radish and cowpea cover crops. In addition to farmers, the primary audience also includes seed companies, research agronomists, and plant breeders; all will develop an awareness of the value of participatory farmer/researcher variety evaluation methods and potential gains in varietal suitability. Farmers will learn the value of regionally produced cover crop seed, gain knowledge and skills in seed production and variety evaluation and improvement, and will understand the potential market for seed production sales and contracts for regional cover crop seed production.
    Intermediate outcomes: Farmers, seed producers, seed companies, research agronomists and plant breeders will form collaborative and collegial relationships for participatory variety evaluation and selection; as a result they will benefit from the identification and incorporation of farmer-preferred quality traits in cowpeas and forage radishes. Farmer-preferred traits will result in increased demand and market value of regionally appropriate forage radish and cowpea seed.
    Increased demand will lead to the development of informal farmer-to-farmer seed exchange and seed production contracts between regional seed producers and seed companies of forage radish populations and cowpea seed, fostering the growth of local and regional seed systems.
    Long term outcomes: This project will build towards: 1) socially-inclusive plant-breeding and seed systems; social learning linkages from the grassroots to the regional level and across farming systems; highly responsive feedback loops to augment the plant breeding process;
    2) ecological health and resilience through greater agrobiodiversity and adaptability, and
    biodiversity conservation through use
    3) economic vitality through a) the means to reduce risk and input costs while boosting performance and output, b) a highly motivated, networked, and politically active stakeholder group to advocate for increased funding of public plant breeding
    systems, c) enhanced viability of existing seed companies, and d) the opportunity for growth of formal and informal local and regional seed systems.

    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.