Improving cover crop performance with community science

Project Overview

Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2024: $49,992.00
Projected End Date: 08/31/2026
Grant Recipient: Michigan Agriculture Advancement
Region: North Central
State: Michigan
Project Coordinator:
Dr. Jennifer Blesh
University of Michigan
Dr. Julie Doll
Michigan Agriculture Advancement


No commodities identified


No practices identified

Proposal abstract:

Cover crop adoption is increasing
in the North Central Region (NCR), but many cover crop benefits
depend on successful plant growth, or biomass. Preliminary data
from a community science project conducted in partnership with
100 NCR farmers from 2022-2023 show that cover crop biomass is
highly variable across working farms. This is because a range of
environmental and management factors influence cover crop growth,
and thus their contributions to nutrient cycling, soil health,
and weed suppression. We propose to expand upon this community
science project, with the goal of equipping farmers with the
knowledge and resources to improve cover crop management.
Specifically, we will collaborate with NCR farmers from six Great
Lakes states (MI, OH, IN, IL, WI, MN) to: 1) understand variation
in cover crop biomass across different farming conditions using a
brief field assessment paired with a short management survey; 2)
develop practical recommendations for optimizing cover crop
outcomes based on those findings; and 3) facilitate network
building and knowledge sharing through field days, webinars, and
an interactive ArcGIS Storymap. These activities will be guided
by an advisory committee of farmers from across the region, whose
expertise will enhance the design, implementation, and
application of this work.

Project objectives from proposal:

Our proposal uses an integrated approach, combining community
science, outreach, and education in partnership with farmers
across the NCR to meet the following objectives:

  1. Partner with the NCR farming
    community to identify key drivers of variation in cover crop
    performance across the region.
  2. Develop practical and
    context-specific recommendations for optimizing cover crop
    performance in different growing conditions.
  3. Facilitate learning, network
    building, and data sharing within the agricultural community
    through field days, webinars, an interactive ArcGIS Storymap,
    and infographics portraying innovative practices used on
    participating farms.
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.