Shifting Local Trends with Cover Crops and Short Season Corn

Project Overview

Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2015: $29,870.00
Projected End Date: 04/30/2017
Grant Recipient: Land Stewardship Project
Region: North Central
State: Minnesota
Project Coordinator:
Robin Moore
Land Stewardship Project

Annual Reports

Information Products


  • Agronomic: annual ryegrass, corn, soybeans, vetches


  • Crop Production: cover crops
  • Education and Training: demonstration, farmer to farmer, networking, workshop
  • Production Systems: integrated crop and livestock systems
  • Soil Management: soil quality/health
  • Sustainable Communities: social networks

    Proposal abstract:

    Fall tillage and standard maturing corn are barriers to cover crops in western and southeastern Minnesota, even when fertilizer costs, forage needs, and changing weather patterns indicate a need for change. Could tillage radishes replace fall tillage of the Shakopee lake-bed region’s heavy clay loam soils? Could short season corn offer a planting window in the Root River watershed for forage- and soil-building cover crop mixes that build resilience in a flood plain? Small scale, on-farm experiments could offer answers by way of localized examples across Minnesota. At least 3 farmers in each region will plant radish mixes, short season corn, and/or forage corn on 5-10 dedicated acres for two growing seasons. Farmer-led monitoring will include soil compaction tests, biological soil tests, yields, milk tank volumes, and recorded farmer observations. Public field days will be held in the second year in collaboration with University of Minnesota Extension to bring the practical and scientific findings of the trials to area landowners and farmers. Cover crop networks in both regions will be developed to provide farmer-to-farmer learning and support as members adjust their cultural farming practices with a growing understanding of the financial and environmental assets of healthy soil.

    Project objectives from proposal:


    • Field test radish/mix as an alternative to fall tillage of heavy soils
    • Field test short season corn as an economically viable option for cover crop establishment.
    • Introduce and reinforce soil health concepts to farmers, landowners, and ag resource staff in both projects
    • Plant crop land to cover crop rotations as local examples of soil building
    • Develop regional Cover Crop Network to support risk-taking farmers
    • Engage farmers in the collection of field data to tell their stories in scientific and anecdotal fashion;
    • Address local resistance to cover crops by engaging influential local farmers.
    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.