Adoption of Cover Crops to Build Soil Health in the Northern Plains (Continuation)

Project Overview

Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2017: $29,488.00
Projected End Date: 04/30/2020
Grant Recipient: North Dakota State University
Region: North Central
State: North Dakota
Project Coordinator:

Information Products


  • Agronomic: barley, corn, hay, radish (oilseed, daikon, forage), soybeans, sunflower


  • Crop Production: conservation tillage, cover crops, cropping systems, crop rotation, no-till
  • Education and Training: demonstration, extension, farmer to farmer, mentoring, networking, on-farm/ranch research, technical assistance, workshop
  • Soil Management: earthworms, soil quality/health
  • Sustainable Communities: social capital, social networks

    Proposal abstract:

    Historically, farmers in the northern Great Plains feel that cover crops “do not fit” in rotation because of a short growing season.   After several open winters with rampant soil erosion and a national focus on soil health, the mind-set of farmers in the region is changing and they are more willing to make adjustments to management approaches used on-farm. In 2015, four research/demonstration sites were established throughout eastern North Dakota using a SARE Partnership grant. With the guidance and help of cooperating farmers, we were able to conduct research and host several field days on cover crop establishment after a small grain (where cereal rye was included in the mix), followed by planting soybean into living cereal rye the following year.  A continuation of this project is requested for three reasons: (1) it takes more than two years to detect improvements to soil health, (2) farmers are requesting additional information from these sites on managing erosion using cover crops and applicable measurements of soil health for this region, and (3) there is increasing cover crop interest from farmers and we need to continue to “strike while it’s hot”.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    • Collect regionally-specific data using replicated, field-scale plots on the effectiveness of cover crops for managing soil erosion and building soil health.
    • Identify and utilize effective soil health measurements for the region.
    • Continue to build upon existing extension programming and develop new extension programming related to incorporating cover crops in rotation, specifically for the purpose of conserving soil and building soil health.
    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.