Cover Crop Information for Researchers and Farmers

1989 Annual Report for LW89-020

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 1989: $90,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/1991
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $95,256.00
Region: Western
State: California
Principal Investigator:
Robert Bugg
University of California

Cover Crop Information for Researchers and Farmers


Cover crops, green manures and living mulches are the cornerstone of many low-input, sustainable systems, since they can prevent soil erosion, improve soil quality, provide nutrients and influence weeds, insects and other pests. Considerable old and new information exists, but is not well organized. More accessible information, organized across disciplines in a systems approach, would benefit both researchers and farmers.

From a data base of cover crop characteristics, we produced printed fact sheets and a computer program for selecting cover crops based on desired characteristics. We identified farmers that are successfully managing cover crops, and prepared videotapes demonstrating proper management in representative annual and perennial cropping systems. The resulting information was adapted to local needs and provided to farmers through meetings coordinated with our cooperators and Cooperative Extension and agricultural organizations throughout the Western region.


(1) Compile existing information on cover crops, green manures, and living mulches in fruit and nut, vegetable, and field crop systems into an organized (data base) form.

(2) Develop educational materials for cover crop selection and management (fact sheets, computer program, and videotapes).
(3) Disseminate information to researchers and growers.

Annual Progress Report for 1992
(and Final Report)


The Cover Crops Database

The database entries were completed in early September, 1991, and include over 5,000 items gleaned from over 600 separate sources, including journal articles, conference proceedings, standard textbooks, unpublished data, and personal communications from researchers and farmers. The information concerns the management and effects of more than 32 species of plants usable as cover crops. It was available on computer disk (MS-DOS and Macintosh versions) during late 1991, and was also issued in hard copy.

An early version of our cover crops database was used by Dr. Marianne Sarrantonio of Rodale Institute Research Center, Kutztown, Pennsylvania, in developing a world-wide database for Fabaceae.

Cover Crops Fact Sheets and Books

Dr. Bugg is editing a book containing articles by various researchers in California, and profiles of various cover crops condensed from the Cover Crops Database. It is titled: Cover Crops for California Farms, University of California, Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources Publications, Berkeley, California.

The articles are currently in the late phases of copy-editing and final review of copy-edited chapters by authors. The profiles will be added shortly using the recently-completed data base. This book will contain much practical information heretofore never compiled, including new information on California native grasses.

Dr. Bugg is also assisting the USDA Soil Conservation Service in preparing a book on cover crops, and has provided substantial sections to it. It is titled: Cover Crops: Protecting and Improving Basic Resources, USDA Soil Conservation Sevice.

Western Regional Presentations on Cover Crops

Dr. Bugg gave presentations on cover crops at 39 separate venues. Meetings were organized and co-sponsored in Arizona (1), Colorado (1), Montana (1), New Mexico (1), and Oregon (3), as well as in California (32). Four of the meetings specifically targeted Cooperative Extension and Soil Conservation Service personnel; three targeted pest control advisors; one targeted researchers; the remaining 31 presentations were directed principally at farmers. In all instances the aim was to give state-of-the-art information on cover cropping.

Participants totalled 3,045. If we assume that 50% of this audience were attending presentations on cover crops by Dr. Bugg for the first time (a very conservative estimate), we conclude that some 1500 people in the Western Region attended one or more of these SARE(LISA)-cosponsored events.

Other Presentations on Cover Crops

Dr. Bugg gave 21 additional presentations not in direct fulfillment of the grant, but related to the objectives, and including substantial emphasis on cover cropping. There were approximately 1,339 attendees at these additional presentations. Nine of the presentations targeted students, with seven talks directed at University students, and two at elementary. Eight presentations addressed researchers, and three were intended mainly for farmers.


Scripts and field photography have been completed for the videos on cover cropping in annual and perennial farming systems. The videos will provide information on the roles of cover crops in agroecosystems, emphasizing plant materials and management, and the subjects of nutrient, pest, and water management. Remaining to be done are the animated sequences illustrating the legume-rhizobia symbioses and nutrient cycling in cover-cropped farming systems. These sequences will be executed in collaboration with Dr. Marianne Sarrantonio of Rodale Institute Research Center, who is an accomplished professional illustrator. Projected completion date for both videos is February, 1992.

Lay and Limited-Distribution Journals, Proceedings, Etc., Produced in Fulfillment of the Grant

Dr. Bugg has written various articles on cover crops for use by farmers and researchers. Several of his articles were originally developed as handouts for the presentations listed above or published in our program's newsletters. Some of these proved so popular that they have been reprinted in other journals and in proceedings. All of the articles include substantial information on cover crops.


Dr. Bugg, as indicated above, has presented talks at numerous conferences; some of these conferences have led to published proceedings.