Cover Crop Outreach Demonstration and Education for Diverse NY Farms

2016 Annual Report for ONE16-286c

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

Cover Crop Outreach Demonstration and Education for Diverse NY Farms


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). )

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.

Through two on-farm demonstration trials and associated field days, a Soil Health Seminar Center at Empire Farm days in Seneca County in 2016 and 2017 and support for the New York Organic Farming Association’s (NOFA) Annual Dairy and Field Crop Conference, this project will allow over 500 NY growers managing 15,000-20,000 acres to see a variety of cover crops and establishment techniques they can fit into their rotations and increase their knowledge and use of cover crops. We will highlights successful practices and 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.  

Objectives/Performance Targets

The objective of the Stanton’s Feura Farm demonstration and field day is 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. The project 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, and discuss the benefits of the cover crops in relation to their N fixation, N-recycling, C:N ratio, weed control and other cover crop attributes presentations.  

The objective of the Dave Magos farm  demonstration and workshop 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, and 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.

For the Empire Farm Days (EFD) component of this project, scheduled for August 2016 and August 2017, the project will support stipends for 9 cover cropping farmers to participating in panel discussions 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.

This project will also provide a stipend to support a speaker at a dedicated workshop for initiating cover crops into the Organic System Plan (OSP) at the New York Organic Farmer Association (NOFA) Annual Dairy and Field Crop Conference in March 2017.


Project Time Line Feura Farm: Pre-project activities to initiate demonstrations:

June 2016 – Order cover crop seed.

Working with Dave Wilson and Rod Porter from King’s Agriseeds. We ordered the seed any seed obtained for plantings prior to 8/1/16 was donated by King’s Agriseeds. Table 1. Seed Costs per Pound and Acre.

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

We obtained from Rod Porter and Paul Salon suggestions for planter settings for John Deere 750 no-till seeder used for the project for cover crop seeds based on their experience with the size and shape of the seed in relation to common crop and forage species. Attached is the information handed out during the field day which indicates species, hopper used, gate setting and alternative species used for guidance. Table 2. Seeding Rates and No-till Drill Settings

Project activities: Aug 5th – Obtain cover crop seed for rest of planting dates. Received the rest of the seed needed for later plantings

Aug 5 – September 1, 2016 – no-till cover crops into early harvested sweet corn.

A summary of the planting information for the sweet corn and cover crops which included herbicide and fertilizer treatments  and weather information is presented in Appendix 1. Sweet Corn, Cover Crop Planting and Weather Information.

Due to weather related issues the planting dates and  some mixes were modified. The  updated planting plan is attached in Fig 1. 2016 Final Cover Crop Plot Layout Chuck Bornt and Nick Stanton conducted the seedings. Despite the drought the seedings established very well.

Aug 1 – 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.

Evaluations were conducted at the end of the season and will be used for follow up educational outreach in newsletter and for future workshops. Data is still being collated.

August 2016 – Prepare Qualtrics Survey for October grower meeting. Start advertising Cover Crop Field Day Event at Feura Farm. The announcement used to advertise the event is presented in Fig 2. Albany Co. Feura Farm Cover Crop Workshop Announcement.

Oct 1st – 15th Summarize data and prepare handouts and presentations. Handouts used for the workshop were prepared by Chuck Bornt Albany Co. Capital District Regional Vegetable Program and  are included as attachments, Tables 1 – 3. Summary information for all of the species used is presented in Table 3. Summary Information for Time of Planting, Rates, Depth and Uses.

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 workshop included power point presentations by Paul Salon and Dave Wilson and included a wagon tour of the cover crop plots with a tour led by Paul Salon and Dave Wilson. Tim Stanton and son Nick demonstrated their Unverferth Ripper Stripper unit and discuss their reduced tillage and cover crop system for vegetables. Summary Attendee Survey  data is presented in Fig 3. Cover Crop Survey Summarized Results. The workshop had 35 attendees which included: 17 farmers, 5 CCE and 2 NRCS, 3 Agribusness and 8 others.

Project Time Line: Dave Magos Farm

Pre-project activities to initiate demonstrations:

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.

Conducted by Dave Kommoroski, NRCS.

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

Part of a NRCS EQIP project.

Project activities:

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

Seed used was harvested by Dave Magos and charged to grant. 

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

The announcement we used is documented in Fig. 4 Jefferson Co. Soil Health Workshop Announcement 102816 . The survey form attached was not through Qualtrics it was copied from another event and an example is provided in Fig 9 below.


Sept 15 – September 20, 2016 – Layout and seed the post-harvest silage corn cereal rye demonstration.  The post harvest silage corn cereal rye demonstration was layed out in un-replicated plot for demonstration only by Dave Kommorowski and Dave Magos to evaluate the differences in establishment by drilling, surface broadcasting  and cultimulching (slight tillage and cultipacking) and surface broadcast with no soil disturbance. The plots were about 50 by 200 ft.

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 workshop was attended by 61 people which included 15 agency (NRCS and SWCD) and 40 were farmers  and 6 were consultants or others. We conducted table top soil health demonstrations and a soil pit which showed enhanced earthworm activity and deep rooting due to long term no-till and cover crops which was discussed by NRCS Soil Scientist Amy Langner see Fig 5 below.  There were presentations  by John Kemmeren a farmer from Delaware co. who gave a historical perspective of his use of cover crops and no-till on his farm, and presentations by Mike Hunter Jefferson Co. Cornell CCE  on herbicide resistance and managing herbicides in cover crop systems, Shawn Bossard farm manager for SUNY Morrisville gave a presentation on the use of the Dawn Biologic roller crimper attachment to individual planter units and Paul Salon  gave an overview of interseeding research at Cornell and Penn. State. These presentations provided 3.5 CCA credits and 1.0  DEC pesticide credits. 

The cover crop data from the post harvest cereal rye establishment demonstration was collected for biomass by cutting 3 – 2 x 2 ft quadrats from each treatment that were dried and weighed and reported in dry matter pounds per acre. The percent cover was evaluated by tape measure transect counting intersection with cover crop at one foot intervals using 2 – 100ft measurements per plot. We also used photographic measurements using the Canopeo application.  

The seeding was conducted on 9/30/16 and the data was collected on 11/1/16. The broadcast/cultimulched treatment had the highest percent cover  by transect method and Canopeo method   and DM biomass of 82%,  41%  and 420.6 lb/ac, followed by the drilled at 52%, 29% and 245.5 lb/ac and the surface broadcast 31.5%, 12% and 143.9 lb/ac.   By the end of the season the drilled and broadcast/cultimulched treatments had almost 85 % cover.  The data is presented in Table 4. Dave Magos Corn Silage Post Harvest Cereal Rye Demonstration Data and pictures in Fig. 5 Pictures of Magos Post Harvest Cereal Rye Demo.  The interseeding demonstration looked at a field scale planting and  the no-till interseeder was on hand which was discussed and is pictured in Fig. 6 Pictures of Mike Northrup’s Interseeded Cover Crop Mixture . We were able to look at the very successful seeding after silage corn and in a narrow strip of corn that was left standing to somewhat show the difference due to shading that could have been expected from a corn grain harvest.  The red clover was partially stunted under the canopy but was well represented in the mix.  We also included in the packet 2 economic farmer profiles of both of the host farm Dave Magos Fig. 7 Soil Health Profile and Economic Case Study of Dave Magos and farmer presenter John Kemmeren Fig. 8 Soil Health Profile and Economic Case Study of John Kemmeren these were produced independent of this project.  The attendee survey is presented in Fig. 9 Magos On Farm Cover Crop Workshop 2016 evaluation a summary will be provided in the final report.

Project Time Line: Empire Farm Days

Pre-project planning activities:

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

A meeting with all stake holders including the Show Manager for Empire Farm and

days was conducted on 4/29/16 with 16 people in attendance. The themes for each day were selected and volunteers were recruited to obtain farmer panelists.

May -June 2016 – Get commitments for all farmer panelists finalize agenda for promotional campaign. The promotional material was developed in collaboration of Kara Dunn public affairs specialist for Empire Farm

Days, was in the Empire Farm Days program and received a lot of coverage by other media outlets. The promotional material was adhered to and is shown below to document project activities. Questionnaires were provided to farmer panelists  to facilitate there participation in the panel discussion.

Project activities:

August 9, 10, 11, 2016 – Conduct soil health and cover crop workshop including the farmer panels each day, send out the  survey to attendees.  The Empire Farm Days Seminar Center was conducted as planned the promotional material was sent out in a timely manner and the material used in Fig. 10 and 11 below to document the information. There were 11 table top exhibitors and soil health demonstrations including the large rainfall simulator were provided all day. There were cover crop demonstrations that were implemented and tours given by Seedway and King’s Agriseeds. Dave Wilson from King’s Agriseeds and member of the SARE cover crop team led the discussion on their plots each day as part of the program. Adam Robertson from Seedway discussed their cover crop demonstration each day as well.   We had  featured speakers each day to cover: Cover crop interseeding by Matt Ryan from Cornell, Soil Biology by Janice Theis from Cornell and the use of cover crops as forage by Joe Lawrence from Cornell’s Pro-Dairy Program. The SARE grant provided 9 stipends to the farmer panelists for 3 farmers for each day of the event. We had a total of 11 farmer panelists Mark Lott from the host farm of Empire Farm Days was not in the preliminary program and Vaughn Sherman  who was both donated their time. There were 118 attendees in total for all 3 days of farmer panels. This does not include although there may be some overlap of the 112 counted for attending the presentations and the 90 on the cover crop tours. The promotional material for the farmer panels including farmer background information and the topic of each of the panels  is documented in Fig. 10 Empire Farm Days Soil Health Panels 2016. The promotional material documenting the presentations is in Fig. 11 Empire Farm Days Soil Health Seminars 2016. A copy of the survey form used for each of the days is documented  in Fig. 12 Empire Farm Days 2016 Evaluation Form. A summary of this information will be provided in the final report.



Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

The Fuera Farm cover crop attendee survey which is attached as Fig. 3 indicates the following. Of the attendees participating in the survey 54.6 % indicated they cover cropped every year  while 27.3 % indicated they never cover cropped and 18 % said sometimes. Following the workshop their was an increase in desire to cover crop. 91% indicated they would like to cover crop every year and 9 % stated they would like to cover crop every other year. Following the workshop 66.7% indicated they would like to try new cover crop species and 40% indicated they would like to try mixtures, 7% would continue with a single species.  All of the attendees who answered survey indicated they would attend a similar meeting in the future and 87% indicated this workshop would impact their farm operation. We may be able to check with the Albany Co. NRCS and SWCD to see if any attendees applies for a cover crop practice for the next program year.

For the Dave Magos workshop in the survey there is a question as to whether the farmer will implement soil health practices including cover cropping as a result of attending the workshop. We will get a sense of their future intentions. We may also be able to inquire with NRCS and SWCD office in Jefferson county to see if any attendees applied for a cover crop practice through there program.

A similar survey was used for Empire Farm Days to see if farmers are more apt to implement a soil health management practice as a result of attending that program.  Due to the continued success in 2016 the Empire Farm Days is planning on expanding its demonstrations on cover cropping and reduced tillage in 2017 


Paul Salon
NE Region Soil Health Specialist
3266, Rt 352
Corning, New York 14830
Office Phone: 607-562-8404 ext. 103