Organic No-Till Forage Crop Innovations

Project Overview

Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2021: $29,745.00
Projected End Date: 07/31/2024
Grant Recipient: UVM Extension
Region: Northeast
State: Vermont
Project Leader:
Jeffrey Sanders
University of Vermont Extension


  • Agronomic: corn, other, soybeans
  • Animal Products: meat


  • Animal Production: feed/forage
  • Crop Production: conservation tillage, cover crops, crop rotation
  • Education and Training: demonstration, technical assistance
  • Natural Resources/Environment: soil stabilization
  • Production Systems: organic agriculture
  • Soil Management: soil quality/health

    Proposal abstract:

    We have made substantial progress in Vermont with conventional forage crop producers adopting conservation cropping systems that utilize cover crops and no-till practices to build soil health and protect water quality.  Organic producers, on the other hand, still rely heavily on tillage for weed control in annual crops and terminating perennials and cover crops in their rotations.  This project will demonstrate and assess innovative crop rotations that allow organic forage crop producers to adopt no-till practices and diverse crop (and cover crop) rotations on their farms. We will work with a Vermont beef producer on three fields to implement, track progress and share results as we grow summer annual forage mixtures, corn silage and soybeans with limited or no tillage in conjunction with hay/pasture crops and cover crops.  We will work as a team to track all field operations, assess crop yield and quality, and make adjustments as necessary along the way.  Our project team will include the producer, an Extension Agronomist, the farm’s Nutritionist as well as a consultant with broad experience implementing these rotations on his own farm Indiana and in consultation with other producers across the country.  In addition to tracking progress and results, we will host workshops & field meetings to showcase our project and create a published case study to share with other regional producers and stakeholders, both digital and in print.  We will also use the robust outreach networks of UVM Extension and partnering organizations to share what we learn with farmers and stakeholders.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    1. This project seeks to demonstrate organic no-till (OGNT) forage crop rotations on a working livestock farm in Vermont. Our hope is to not only demonstrate it is possible, something we have not seen yet in an organic forage system, but to also give farmers a reference point for the options they have available to utilize no-till practices in organic systems.
    2. This project seeks to track all facets of the OGNT system. This will include data on field operations and equipment, inputs, yields, forage quality and cost of production.  Because these OGNT crop rotations will be designed to be adaptable for best success, we will also document important decision points along the way.  Why were plans changed, how/why were decisions made, were results as intended?  Having the farm’s Livestock Nutritionist on the project will allow us to also track how these innovate crop rotations fit into his feeding program and impact purchased grain.
    3. This project seeks to share and transfer knowledge to producers, both organic and conventional. This will be accomplished through existing outreach channels that include in-person field days, presentations at conferences and workshops, social media posts, newsletter articles and blog posts, and a published case study.
    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.