Partnering to Refine Organic No-Till Production in Wisconsin

Project Overview

Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2016: $29,813.00
Projected End Date: 04/30/2019
Grant Recipient: University of Wisconsin-Madison
Region: North Central
State: Wisconsin
Project Coordinator:
Dr. Erin Silva
University of Wisconsin-Madison


  • Agronomic: corn, rye, soybeans


  • Crop Production: cover crops, no-till
  • Education and Training: demonstration, extension, farmer to farmer, networking, on-farm/ranch research, participatory research
  • Natural Resources/Environment: carbon sequestration
  • Pest Management: weed ecology
  • Production Systems: organic agriculture
  • Soil Management: soil microbiology


    In response to growing market demand, organic farming continues to expand across the US. Organic farmers, however, continue to rely heavily on tillage and cultivation to manage weeds, which can be destructive to soil quality. Through research and outreach partnerships with farmers, this project further refined the organic no-till technique using cover crops in order to enhance soil quality, improve soil biological processes, and maximize weed management potential while minimizing the possibility for soil erosion. With on-farm research and demonstration activities, the experiences gained by the farmers throughout this project will allow others be able to use this technique more effectively through improved management guidelines. The objectives included: 1) through farmer-designed treatments, evaluate crop performance and soil quality of organic reduced tillage systems through the measurements of several key indicators; 2) with on-farm field days, promote these soil-building practices to organic farmers; and 3) co-develop outreach materials with farmers, using lessons learned through "on-the-ground" implementation of this technique on working farms. The farms involved in this project are established organic row crop farms with a strong commitment to soil stewardship, serving to showcase model practices to the target audience of organic farmers through northern IL, WI, MN, and IA.

    Project objectives:

    Our project objectives included:

    1. Evaluate the impact of various fall-seeded cover crop combinations (cereal rye, cold-tolerant field pea, sorghum-sudan grass, and tillage radish), terminated through rolling-crimping or cold temperatures, on weed suppression, yield, and soil quality of no-till organic corn and soybean (Doudlah Farm).
    2. Evaluate the impact of cover crop termination date and cash crop seeding date on the performance of the cereal rye/soybean organic no-till system using the roller-crimper.
    3. Educate farmers across WI, IL, IA, and MN about the technique, through on-farm field days, farmer case studies, written and web-based materials, and video.


    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.