Improving Cover Crop Management in Florida Row, Vegetable and Organic Citrus Systems

Project Overview

Project Type: On-Farm Research
Funds awarded in 2010: $14,940.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2012
Region: Southern
State: Florida
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Danielle Treadwell
University of Florida


  • Agronomic: corn, cotton, soybeans, wheat
  • Fruits: citrus
  • Vegetables: cabbages


  • Crop Production: conservation tillage
  • Education and Training: demonstration, extension, farmer to farmer, mentoring, on-farm/ranch research
  • Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns
  • Pest Management: botanical pesticides
  • Production Systems: general crop production
  • Soil Management: green manures, organic matter, soil analysis, nutrient mineralization, soil quality/health

    Proposal abstract:

    Florida's 47,000 farms produce more winter vegetables and citrus than any other state. Approximately 15% of farmers contribute to 90% of the acreage and gross annual sales of fruit, vegetable and row crops. In the past decade, a significant investment has been made by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the Department of Environmental Protection's Water Management Districts and the University of Florida to develop Best Management Practices (BMP) management programs that will reduce the amount of nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) entering surface and ground water. Cover cropping is a recommended practice standard for vegetable, row crop and citrus BMPs, however, farmers are requesting research-based recommendations to optimize cover crop benefits. This project builds on previously funded SARE grants in Florida to improve nutrient management and water quality, and expands our knowledge base by examining multiple potential benefits on each farm (weed and nematode suppression, nitrogen contribution, organic matter accumulation), as well as calculating enterprise budgets for cover crop inclusion. Farmers from a vegetable farm, citrus farm and conservation tillage row crop farm are participating in this on-farm trial. Treatments include cover crop species and cultural management variations specific to the production aims of each farm, are randomized and replicated at each location, and repeated over two years.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Our objectives are: (1) to provide farmers and information providers with quantitative data that describes the value of cover crop integration; (2) to offer improvements to the existing cover crop practice standard guidelines in the BMP manual; (3) to foster relationships and communication among our farmer collaborators; and (4) to design and deliver interesting and substantive extension programming for cover crop integration and increase adoption of cover crops within the Florida farm community. Performance targets include: (1) create a communications network of farmers and technical service providers interested in teaching, learning, and discussing cover crops; (2) produce and publish video segments featuring the farmer cooperator’s experience and lesson learned during the project; (3) host at least one on-farm field day; (4) present preliminary and final findings at county, state, and national presentations; and (5) publish findings in several forms of media including video case studies, extension newsletter articles, fact sheets, and peer-reviewed publications.

    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.