Planting Green in the Frozen North

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2022: $249,839.00
Projected End Date: 10/31/2025
Grant Recipient: University of Minnesota Twin Cities
Region: North Central
State: Minnesota
Project Coordinator:
Dr. Lindsay Pease
University of Minnesota Twin Cities


  • Agronomic: soybeans


  • Crop Production: conservation tillage, cover crops

    Proposal abstract:

    Farmers in the North Central Region are often conflicted about whether to prioritize either soil health and structure or the short-term yield gained by cultivating a smooth planting surface in the spring. This ‘no-till means no-yield’ mentality remains prominent across the region. However, growers are interested in how cover crops can mitigate production challenges like early season excess soil moisture, field trafficability, and labor shortages, especially evidence from trusted neighbors and advisors. To meet the urgent need for practical guidance from trusted sources, the project “Planting Green in the Frozen North” will work with farmers, local government, and commodity groups to develop viable strategies for planting green (e.g., planting annual cash crops into live cover crops). We have established replicated, production-scale research and demonstration sites of soybeans planted into living cereal rye in the heart of the “Frozen North” (northwest and west central Minnesota) to a) provide specific regional agronomic recommendations and b) quantify the effects of planting green on soil properties, disease incidence, and cash crop nutrient supply. Focusing on the production benefits that early spring cover can provide (e.g., weed suppression, retaining soil nutrients, improved trafficability) can convince farmers to enact meaningful system changes. Successful cover crop integration into current cropping systems will have a broad impact, reducing regional erosion and nutrient losses while supporting more resilient farms and communities. This project has the potential to help others to overcome real and perceived cold-weather obstacles to adopting practices that will address the critical need to reduce soil loss within the “Frozen North” and beyond.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Exploring (1) the appropriate timing for terminating a rye cover crop; (2) soil health benefits of continuous living cover; and (3) incidence of soybean disease, weed and pest pressure will support farmers experimenting with planting green and raise awareness among others. We anticipate that 200+ farmers will learn the benefits and challenges of cold-climate cover cropping through on-farm field days. We will highlight our farmer-cooperators so they can become community leaders in peer-to-peer support networks that aim to increase cover crop acres. Findings will also be shared with 5,000+ people through UMN Extension’s platforms (e.g., websites, social media, newsletters, podcasts).

    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.