Feasibility of Organic Strip-till with Cover Crops

Project Overview

Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2023: $48,002.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2024
Grant Recipient: Minnesota Soil Health Coalition
Region: North Central
State: Minnesota
Project Coordinator:
Mark Gutierrez
Minnesota Soil Health Coalition


  • Agronomic: corn, soybeans


  • Crop Production: conservation tillage, cover crops, intercropping, nutrient cycling
  • Education and Training: on-farm/ranch research
  • Natural Resources/Environment: carbon sequestration

    Proposal abstract:

    The goal of this proposed project is to investigate if there is potential to improve soil health in a manageable and scalable way in organic farming. Specifically, to reduce the amount of tillage while increasing cover crop bio-mass and managing weeds in organic agriculture.  Tillage is one of the major weed management tools in organic agriculture and is detrimental to soil health.  This level of disturbance makes soil more susceptible to erosion by wind or runoff, damages soil structure and biology and requires large amounts of fuel and labor. This study brings together the benefits of strip tillage, living mulch, row mowing, RTK guidance, and cover crop diversity, on a scale adaptable to organic commercial crop farmers. Extending cover crop growth and controlled mulching can improve rainfall absorption and sequester more carbon while reducing labor and fuel requirements.  The farms are located in Belgrade, MN and are representative of organic farms in the upper Midwest.

    This innovative project will use strip till in combination with cover crops and compare mowing, rolling and cultivating between rows for cover crop management.  The project will also determine best cover crop mixes and try new equipment modification ideas.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    • Identify improvements to soil health from these practices
    • Feasibility of mowing cover crops in between rows in a commercial organic system
    • Feasibility of crimping cover crops in between rows in a commercial organic system
    • Feasibility of cultivating cover crops in between rows in a commercial organic system
    • Yield impacts
    • Best practices for managing strip till and cover crops in an organic system
    • Ideal cover crop mixes for strip till and cover crops in an organic farming system
    • Equipment needs and modifications
    • Monitor weed pressure/suppression
    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.