- Crop Production: cover crops, no-till
Our project aims to increase adoption of cover crops in northwest Wisconsin by developing a watershed-based, farmer-led field-testing program. The project will take place in sub-watersheds in four northwest Wisconsin counties where there are established farmer-led watershed councils. These councils, directed by farmers with assistance from University of Wisconsin-Extension, Wisconsin Farmers Union and the land conservation departments of Dunn, Pierce, Polk and St. Croix counties, focus on soil health and improved farm performance. Corn and soybean farms, along with several dairies, both conventional and organic, dominate the region. Currently, there are few farmers here utilizing no-till or cover crops and widespread perception that our northern conditions make the practices not viable. This project, developed by the farmer councils, will provide a risk-free way to test these practices and, through field days, newsletter articles, blog entries, and other outreach and education mechanisms, share what they’ve learned with other farmers. The innovation of this project lies in the development of cooperatively designed, farmer-led, locally based research. When farmers can have direct, local research experience with cover crops and measure the impacts on soil health, they may more readily adopt these practices on their own farms and encourage others to do the same. Our project will develop four research fields managed by existing farmer-led watershed councils for local testing of cover crop varieties and seeding methods, as well as side-by-side tillage comparisons. Our goal is that locally-based, farmer-led research and outreach will increase on-farm adoption of these management practices.
Project objectives from proposal:
If the project is successful, we will see increased adoption of cover crops within the active watersheds as well as across northwest Wisconsin. Farmers will see the benefits to soil health, water quality, and farm performance and be inspired to adopt these practices as well as become leaders in promoting cover-crops and no-till. In addition, we hope to develop a model for farmer-led field trials that can be adopted in other regions.