This project addresses the need for high-quality educational materials and support systems to advance the adoption of cover crops in the subtropics and tropics, and contributes directly to the goals of the Southern Cover Crop Council and SSARE. The SCCC was established in summer of 2016 and finalized in Athens, GA in December 2016 with support from SSARE, and is composed of farmers, service providers, industry representatives, and research and extension faculty from 13 states who aim to increase cover crop use through collaborative education and research efforts throughout the Southern region.
The SCCC board convened in College Station, Texas in 2017 for a three-day meeting. The SCCC decided to develop a comprehensive website with enhanced educational content on cover crop selection and management with input and contributions from other regional cover crop councils, farmers, NRCS, ARS, land-grant university faculty and staff and seed industry representatives. The council decided to develop the following supports for the website:
- Cover Crop Decision Tool to help farmers select the species suitable for their system;
- Cover Crop Management Recommendations that reflect the best practices based on accepted science, policy guidance, and practitioner experiences, and an;
- Experts, Inputs and Services Directory to help farmers get the resources they need in a timely manner.
Collectively, these resources comprise the foundation of the Southeast Cover Crop Guide. The Guide is organized into nine physiographic regions and three farming systems (grazing, row and vegetable) to distinguish practices among climate, soil and system differences.
We will conduct semi-structured interviews in Florida, St. Croix, and Puerto Rico to learn more about our farmers’ cover crop practices, assess their internet use habits, and determine their content needs. We will aggregate and summarize cover crop educational materials relevant to our climate zones into user-friendly materials, and add new peer-reviewed educational content including high-resolution photographs, short videos and fact sheets for the SCCC website.
This educational project builds on previous and current team efforts and experience and outputs will directly reflect farmer and service provider preferences on how and why they will use the SCCC website materials.
Project objectives from proposal:
- Conduct 30 semi-structured interview of farmers and technical service providers in Florida, Puerto Rico, and St. Croix and: document current cover crop practices and perceived barriers to cover crop adoption; and identify priorities and preferences for future educational content as well as electronic format, presentation, and likelihood of use.
- Build an annotated database from a review of 100 publications including journal articles, technical notes, SSARE final reports on cover crop grants, cover crop publications from agencies such as NRCS and ARS, as well as instructional video relevant to the subtropics and tropics that will serve as supporting documentation for cover crop recommendations in our area.
- Publish five new educational products and a library of high-resolution photographs for farmers and service providers based on outcomes of Objectives 1 and 2, and make these available on the SCCC website.
- Implement three workshops in Florida, Puerto Rico and St. Croix in Year 2 to present the content, receive critical feedback, and obtain recommendations for next steps.