Future success of cover crop adoption will depend on demonstrating the economic value and agronomic feasibility to farmers. One of the biggest concerns farmers face when adopting cover crops is a fear of fields not drying out as quickly in the spring for planting. This has been exacerbated by recent weather patterns in Ohio resulting in exceptionally wet spring weather. In fact, in Ohio farmers are experiencing ten fewer days available for field work in April and May since 1995. The potential risk of delayed planting deters farmers from trying to add cover crops into their management practices.
To investigate this concern, we will place soil moisture and temperature sensors in fields with different management practices to measure differences in how the soil dries and warms in the spring. Soil tests to understand soil health benefits will also be conducted. In-field comparisons in random block design will be done where feasible and neighboring field comparisons will be used when not.
To maximize the impact of the research, an educational program will be developed to communicate the results of this study and, in addition, help farmers understand the benefits of cover crops and the options for adding them into their operation.
Project objectives from proposal:
- Quantify the differences in spring soil moisture and temperature between fields under conventional tillage, no-till, and cover crop management using soil sensors.
- Develop educational resources about the implications of various field management techniques for farmers including YouTube video series, factsheets, and Extension curriculum.