Cover Crop Outreach Demonstration and Education for Diverse NY Farms

Project Overview

Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2016: $11,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2017
Grant Recipient: Cayuga County SWCD
Region: Northeast
State: New York
Project Leader:
Doug Kierst
Cayuga County SWCD

Annual Reports


  • Agronomic: corn
  • Vegetables: sweet corn


  • Crop Production: conservation tillage, cover crops, intercropping, no-till, nutrient cycling
  • Education and Training: demonstration, workshop
  • Pest Management: competition, mulches - killed
  • Soil Management: green manures, organic matter, soil quality/health

    Proposal abstract:

    In New York and other colder regions establishing cover crops after the main crop is difficult due to the early onset of winter, this makes the use of alternative seeding methods such as interseeding and looking at whole farm management systems important when trying to fit cover crops into field crop and vegetable systems. For many years growers have used rye grain as a cover crop, it does allow for late fall planting but also limits the expected benefits compared to other species and mixes of cover crops. If cover crops can be fit in earlier the species options (legumes, brassicas, other grasses and broadleaf plants which attract beneficial insects) would be expanded as well as mixtures with those species. The meaningful benefits producers will receive for the timely implementation of cover cropping systems include erosion control, N cycling, weed and disease suppression, enhanced beneficial insects, soil health, resiliency to short drought periods and intense rainfall events (Snapp et al. 2005). ) We will discuss the actual costs of implementing cover crop systems as well as the cost or investment in management which is necessary and how the above short and long-term benefits have an effect on the returns of their cropping systems.     Vegetable growers do have opportunities in many cases after early season crops have been harvested and before late plantings of crops such as late sweet corn and tomatoes to plant a variety of species and mixes. Crop farmers can use interseeding methods which have been used successfully in the last couple years in NY, shorten their silage corn varieties and plant a cover crop or a harvestable crop like Triticale or diversify their rotations to plant cereal crops. Planting cover crops following silage corn or vegetable crops harvested in that time frame is an opportunity but it is still necessary to demonstrate the importance of timely planting and good establishment methods for both timely germination and overall successful stand establishment. There are still significant barriers to the acceptance of cover cropping in this region. Opportunity costs due to foregone income from cash crops can be an important disincentive to the adoption of cover crops that compete in time or space with cash crops (Snapp et al. 2005). Cover crops require more management and there is a need for more education to prevent unnecessary problems. Cover crops can be alternative hosts to insects and disease pests, and mismanagement of cover crops could result in weed problems. There can be problems with carryover of herbicides affecting earlier planted cover crops reducing the stand and their effectiveness as well as the selection of safer herbicide programs which may reduce weed suppression and reduce crop yields. There is also concern with both chemical and mechanical termination of the cover crop impacting proper seedbed preparation, poor kill and other chemical, biological or physical interactions affecting yield. Snapp, S.S., S.M. Swinton, R.L. labarta, D. Mutch, J.R. Black, R.L. Leep, j. Nyiraneza, and K. O’Neil. 2005. Evaluating cover crops for benefits, costs and performance within cropping system niches. Agron. J. 97:322-332.   The Vegetable cover crop field day and outreach at the; Stanton’s Feura Farm in Albany Co., in 2016 The interseeding and post-harvest cover crop field day at the Dave Magos Dairy in Jefferson Co., in 2016, the Soil Health Seminar Center at Empire Farm days in Seneca County in 2016 and 2017 and the support of the New York Organic Farming Association’s (NOFA) Annual Dairy and Field Crop Conference that we are proposing has the potential to reach over 500 growers in NY which would include organic and conventional vegetable, field crop and dairy producers, covering approximately 15,000 – 20,000 acres of production. Beneficiaries would not only include growers, but various university faculty members, cooperative extension specialist, regional and local USDA-NRCS and SWCD personnel, industry professionals including seed, fertilizer and chemical dealers, which will have a multiplier effect when those agency personnel and industry professionals interact with their farmer clients.   There is no doubt the need for more cover cropping information is needed by vegetable, field crop and dairy producers.  A survey conducted last year at the CCE Eastern NY Commercial Vegetable Growers School in which the participants were asked “What did you learn here today that you would like more information on”, returned nearly 90% of the respondents wanting more information on cover crops.  The pattern has also been seen in the average number of growers (150) attending the 3 largest cover crop and soil health specific field meetings during the summer in the last two seasons and several more in the 60 attendee range.  The need for more cover crop and soil health information is evident by the fact that for the last 5 years at the Empire State Producers Expo (New York statewide meeting for vegetable, small and tree fruit growers) the Soil Health and Cover Crops sessions are generally standing room only. There were also multiple other well attended winter meetings on this subject throughout the state.   It has been our experience that hands on field days allowing growers to see a variety of cover crops and establishment techniques which they can fit into their rotations will increase the knowledge and use of cover crops.  

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Project activities

    The objectives of the Stanton’s Feura Farm demonstration project and field day are to:  Seed a variety of cover crop species and mixes into harvested sweet corn starting approximately July 15, 2016 and thereafter into subsequent sweet corn plantings August 1, August 15 and September 1, 2016 (see Appendix 1). There will be a total of about 40 unreplicated plots of approximately 0.1 acres each. Species and mixes will change over the timeframe of the demonstration period and information on stands and predominant species will be recorded.  Plots will be seeded with a 15 foot Great Plains no-till drill and will be no less than 300 feet long.  Seeding rates and timing will be according to recommendations of Paul Salon USDA-NRCS and David Wilson King’s Agriseeds in consultation with Chuck Bornt, Cornell Cooperative Extension and Tim Stanton.   Costs for each cover crop and or mixes will be determined using current seed prices with a need for some extra to prime the planter when necessary.

    The establishment of the covers will be carried out by Chuck Bornt and Nick Stanton. Chuck Bornt and his technician will collect data on % cover using visual estimates and cut biomass of cover crops mixes and weeds 3 quadrats per plot to be used at the event. We will give the performance data of the cover crops describe above and costs of the cover crop mixes and establishment as part of a handout. The benefits of the cover crops in relation to their N fixation, N-recycling, C:N ratio, weed control and other cover crop attributes will be covered during the presentations by Paul Salon and Dave Wilson using research based information with some of the data collected to highlight what they will be seeing in the demonstration..

    The Stanton Farm project will start around 7/15 (looking like due to the season it will be delayed) in any case Kings Agriseeds is planning on subsidizing that portion of the seeding and the labor will be done by Cooperative Extension agent Chuck Bornt and Stantons (for this date) at no cost. There is additional seed being ordered in order to prime the 15 ft Great Plains Drill.  Since there are 4 planting dates and King’s Agriseeds agreed to provide even more extra see at no cost we will revise down the estimate by 50% to $300 (changed in budget). If the seed cost is less than estimated we expect to get reimbursed only for the amount purchased.

    Proposed Educational Outreach Stanton’s Feura Farm:

    The plans for outreach include a large field day for growers to tour the cover crop demonstration plots at the Feura Farm planned for the first week of October, 2016. Cover crop experts including Paul Salon Ph.D., Northeast Soil Health Specialist, USDA-NRCS Soil Health Division at Big Flats Plant Materials Center and Dave Wilson, King's Agriseeds Research Agronomist and Cover Crop Specialists will participate in the workshop by conducting preliminary presentations. The presentations will address the costs, management and benefits of the individual cover crop species and mixes using data collected as well as other research based information. We will discuss how species selection and rates for the mixes were determined. There will then be a visit to the plots for a hands on review of the cover crop demonstration trial and what lessons were learned by seeing the results in the field of the different species, combinations and planting dates.  Our host grower, Tim Stanton and son Nick will also demonstrate their Unverferth Ripper Stripper unit and discuss their reduced tillage and cover crop system for vegetables.  CCE Eastern NY Commercial Horticulture Program will mail and email invitations to over 1,000 vegetable, small fruit and tree fruit growers, university faculty and other agricultural professionals and will request other key extension personnel with responsibilities in crops other than vegetables to also include this meeting announcement with materials they send to their growers.  We will also post the meeting announcement on the ENYCHP website ( Paul Salon will also send out the meeting invitation to other NRCS offices and government list serves and reach out to nearby SWCD offices.  Attendees of this meeting will receive a list of the species of cover crops used as well as a price list of the individual seed costs as well as any pre-mixes.

     Email addresses will be collected during registration and a short (5-6 question) survey that will be developed using Qualtrics and emailed to attendees after the meeting to access what growers learned and what will be adopted as a result of seeing the results of this trial. This similar outreach and survey methodology will be adapted for the other workshops described below for their specific geographic region.

    Project Time Line Feura Farm:

    June 2016 – Order cover crop seed.

    July 10th – Obtain cover crop seed, weigh out, calibrate drill and seed for the first two planting dates (seed donated by Kings Agriseed).

    Aug 5tht - Obtain cover crop seed for rest of planting dates.

    July 15 – September 1, 2016 – no-till cover crops in sweet corn according to Appendix 1.

    July 15 - Oct. 15th - Monitor cover crop progress in different planting dates. Collect unreplicated data on % cover using visual estimates. Cut biomass of cover crops, mixes and weeds.

    August 2016 – Prepare Qualtrics Survey for October grower meeting. Start advertising Cover Crop Field Day Event at Feura Farm.

    Oct 1st - 15th Summarize data and prepare handouts and presentations.

    October 2016 – Host Cover Crop Field Day at Feura Farm. Conduct  Qualtrics survey of attendees and summarize results of both the cover crop demonstration and survey.

    The objectives of the Demonstration and workshop at Dave Magos farm in Jefferson County is to demonstrate interseeding in silage corn using a cover crop mixture of 12 lb/ac of annual ryegrass, 8 lb/ac of red clover and  3 lb/ac of daikon radish.  We will have the opportunity to look at multiple large fields (unreplicated). We will  use the string line transect method to evaluate the  cover crops and do visual estimates of ground cover compared to using a photo graphic application for smart phone ‘Canopeo’. We will discuss the purpose of the individual species and the mix, discuss herbicide issues, management of cover crops in no-till situations. We will  demonstrate and discuss post-harvest cereal grain cover crop establishment techniques using 1) no-till drill, 2) light disk and broadcast 3) no disturbance surface broadcast, timing will also be discussed. At least 0.5 ac of each unreplicated  treatment will be established. The interseeding will be done by Mike Northrup a farmer using his new 12 row ‘interseeding technology’s’ interseeder on his farm on his farm 6.5 miles from the Smithville Fire Hall  where the meeting will be held. The post-harvest seeding treatments will be done on the Dave Magos farm about two miles from the Fire Hall it is also on a collamer silt loam soil.

    For the Magos farm there will be two demonstrations. The June interseeding seed and labor etc. is being done at no cost to the SARE project, the location is changed so we will now bus at no cost to SARE to the farm (Mike Northrup) which owns the interseeder The seed $80 is for cereal rye seed which will be used to demonstrate seeding following corn silage comparing seeding methods: no-till, broadcast with and without disturbance. We will obtain the cover crop seed for that portion of the project after 8/1 and add it to the time line.

    Proposed Educational Outreach Magos Farm:  We will all meet at the firehall in Smithville at  10 am.  We can bus everyone over to the 3 test plots at Magos and then bus everyone over to Northrup’s main farm.  He has fields all around the main farm that have been interseeded.  That main farm is only 6.5 miles from the firehall.  After the field visits we can head back to the firehall to have the speakers talk and do lunch.  We will conduct soil health table top rainfall simulation demonstrations, discuss the Cornell Soil health test anddiscuss data collected from the fields and demos.   Planned speakers include Jeff Miller Cornell Cooperative Extension to discuss herbicide issues, Paul Salon to discuss results of Penn State CIG grant interseeding trials, Amy Langner will be conducting soil health demonstrations and speaking about the Cornell Soil Health Test results on Dave Magos farm. Dave Magos will present on no-till and cover crop management and Mike Northrup on his first years’ experience on his farm using his new interseeder. Educational outreach and promotion will be conducted as described above for the Feura Farm. Cornell Cooperative Extension newsletter reaches 900 people in Jefferson County and 350 people in Lewis County.  The Jefferson Co. SWCD will post the event on their facebook page and website. The FSA will be doing a newsletter in September that they say we can advertise in – that reaches 300 people. 


    Project Time Line: Dave Magos Farm

    May 2016- line up all farms and fields involved and make herbicide and seeding recommendations. Select date 10/28/16 and reserve Smithville Fire Hall.

    June 2016 – obtain cover crop seed and plant interseeding demo (not charged to grant).

    Aug 2016- obtain cover crop seed for the post harvest cereal rye cover crop demo.

    August 2016 – Prepare Qualtrics Survey for October grower meeting. Have planning meeting. Start advertising Cover Crop Field Day Event at Magos Farm.

    Sept 15 – September 20, 2016 – Layout and seed the post-harvest silage corn cereal rye demonstration.

    October 2016 – Collect unreplicated cover crop data, summarize and prepare handouts and presentations. Host Cover Crop Field Day at Magos Farm. Have interseeder and no-till planter on hand for discussion.  Conduct  Qualtrics survey of attendees and summarize results of both the cover crop demonstration and survey.


    The Empire Farm Days (EFD) Project is scheduled for August 9 – 11, following the successful format of 2015. It will be held at the dedicated Soil Health Seminar Center (SHSC) which is the project of the NY State Soil Health Workgroup (NYSSHWG) a partnership between conservation agencies, Cornell, SUNY Ag & Tech’s, farmers, consultants and agribusiness. A planning session has occurred at the Dairy One facility with 16 attendees on 4/28/16 including the EFD show managers and the executive director of the New York Farm Viability Institute. The objective of the project will be to educate farmers as to the multiple benefits of cover cropping with special emphasis also given to soil health. There will be two cover crop demonstrations seeded on site by Kings Agriseeds and Seedway using warm and cool season species of grass, legumes and forbs individually and in mixes. There will be interseeding demonstration plots for review and discussion and an onsite seeding demonstration each day if soil conditions allow. These seeding demonstrations are committed through the seed company’s interactions with EFD management. There will be three days of presentations on cover crops with a focus on day 1 on interseeding, with Matt Ryan from Cornell; day 2 the use of cover crops as forage, Joe Lawrence Cornell Cooperative Extension; and day 3 the management of cover crops in reduced tillage systems, with a special lecture on soil biology and the interaction with tillage and cover crops By Cornell Professor Janice Thies. Each day there will be a guided tour of the two cover crop plots by David Wilson of Kings Agriseeds and Robert Abramson of Seedway. Following the tour each day we will reconvene at the SHSC where there will be a moderated 3 farmer panel each day on the topic focus areas mentioned above. The farmer panelists will be selected from members of the NYSSHWG and farmers who have worked on a cover crop forage project of Quirine Ketterings and a large contract interseeding initiative of Cayuga Ag. Jason Cuddeback NY SARE team member will be heading up recruiting the farmer panelists as he successfully did in 2015. There will be ongoing soil health demonstrations during the day at the center as well as 12 table top exhibits by members of the NYSSHWG with technical information about cover crop programs. This effort is promoted by Empire Farm Days media consultant Kara Dunn who did an outstanding job in 2015 reaching multiple media outlets and all major farm publications. Last year we counted around 175 attendees total for all of the presentations combined and another 300 interacted with people at the soil health exhibits. Lunch will be provided by Kings Agriseeds which uses a card system to obtain contact information. These contacts will be used to obtain survey information as outlined in the Feura Farm project. The only cost to SARE for this effort will be a small stipend, of around $100 for the 9 participating farmers. A similar project and time line will be followed for 2017.

    Project Time Line: Empire Farm Days

    April 2016- Conduct planning meeting, Select theme for each days farmer panelists.

    May -June 2016 – Get commitments for all farmer panelists finalize agenda for promotional campaign.

    August 9, 10, 11, 2016 – Conduct soil health and cover crop workshop including the farmer panels each day, send out the Qualtrics survey to attendees.


    Objectives of the New York Organic Farmer Association (NOFA) Annual Dairy and Field Crop Conference is to educate organic and interested  farmers in the use of cover crops as a forage and utilizing grain and forage production in transitioning to organic farming. The conference is scheduled tentatively for March 16th, 2017 and typically attracts around 200 attendees.  They are considering focusing on cover crop species as an option for forage production.  For example, triticale is an excellent cover crop species and highly versatile forage for grazing, silage, balage, and boot-stage hay. Triticale has been incorporated into successful nutrition plans for dairy and works well in crop rotations both as a cover crop and grain production. NOFA-NY will provide a dedicated workshop for initiating cover crops into the Organic System Plan (OSP).

    Bethany Wallis, Education Director’s role in participation of this grant funding will be to oversee coordination and facilitation of farmer training at NOFA-NY’s Annual Dairy and Field Crop Conference. NOFA-NY will publicize these events via social media in our E-news, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts. We will also distribute brochure and programs for both of the educational events that reaches our 1300+ members.  In addition NOFA-NY will staff the events, and survey event attendees to provide feedback on these outreach activities including farmer satisfaction and anticipated implementation of techniques? By supporting this event by providing speaker funding it will synergies efforts by both SARE and NOFA and help bridge the educational efforts of this grant to both conventional and organic producers.

    Project Time Line: NOFA-NY March 16th 2017 Dairy and Field Crop Conference

    January 2017 – Select specific cover crop topic area and find suitable speaker for NOFA-NY Dairy and Field Crop Conference. Considering the optional use of cover crops as a forage. Promote the event.

    February 2017- Speaker for NOFA-NY’s Annual Dairy and Field Crop Conference.

    March 2017 - Conduct meeting and survey event attendees to provide feedback on these outreach activities including farmer satisfaction and anticipated implementation of techniques for their future crop plans.

    Key Individuals:

    Doug Kierst- Cayuga Co. SWCD PI responsible for budget and reports in collaboration with

    Paul Salon Ph.D- Northeast Soil Health Specialist, USDA-NRCS Soil Health Division at Big Flats Plant Materials Center. 30 years experience cover crop research and education. Project Manager, speaker, coordinator of Empire Farm Days Soil Health Seminar Center.

    Dave Wilson, King's Agriseeds Research Agronomist and sales consultant 25 years. Consult on cover crop mixes and speak at multiple events.

    Charles Bornt- Extension Specialist, CCE Eastern NY Commercial Horticulture Program. Chuck has been a regional vegetable specialist for nearly 20 years and has been educating vegetable growers on reduced tillage systems, cover crops and many other aspects of vegetable production.  He is lead and organizer for the Feura Bush event. He will review cover crop mixes be laying out and planting the cover crop seeds, evaluating the plots with a technician he will develop the Qualtrix survey and leading the promotional and educational effort there.

    Tim Stanton- Stanton’s Feura Bush Farm. Tim and his family have been growing vegetables, hay and more recently tree fruit at this site in Feura Bush for nearly 30 years In Albany Co. NY. Tim has been a pioneer in reduced tillage systems for vegetables and is an industry leader in which many growers respect and learn from.  He reviewed overall plan event and cover crop mixes. He will host the workshop, speak on zone tillage and assist in field preparation.

    Dave Magos- Dairy Farmer in Jefferson Co. he milks about 650 cows.  He farms about 2200 acres.  This is last year:  420 alfalfa. 730 silage, 200 corn grain, 270 alfalfa/grass mix, 330 grass hay, 170 soybean and 50 wheat primarily no-till. Educating himself by attending the National No-till conference. He will be speaking at the workshop and conducting the post-harvest cereal rye seedings.

    Mike Northrup- milks about 100 cows in Jefferson Co.   He farms around 400 acres.   This is last year: 166 acres of corn grain.  88 silage. 70 wheat. 70 alfalfa. He recently bought an interseeder  and will be conducting the interseedings and speaking at the Magos workshop.


    Mike Hunter- Cornell Cooperative Extension he will be giving talk on herbicide carry over and termination of cover crops with herbicides at the Magos workshop.

    Amy Langner- Soil Scientist NRCS approximately 15 years’ experience. She is assisting with organizing the Magos workshop and will be conducting soil health demonstrations and speaking about the Cornell Soil Health test at the Magos workshop.

     Dave Komorowski- NRCS Soil Conservationist, will help plan and implement on the ground activities and coordination with the Jefferson C. SWCD for the Magos workshop.

    Kristine Watkins- Executive Director of the Jefferson Co. SWCD she will assist in planning, promoting and implementation of the Magos workshop.

    Jason Cuddeback- Technician at the Cayuga Co. SWCD and farmer he will be assisting with obtaining farmer panel for Empire Farm Days as he had done last year.

    Bethany Wallis- NOFA Education Director, Bethany earned an Associate’s Degree in Agricultural Business from SUNY Morrisville and a Bachelor’s Degree in Dairy Science from Cornell University. Will assist with planning and implementation of the NOFA annual Dairy and Field Crop Conference.

    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.