Incorporating Cover Crops and Green Manure in High-Desert Organic and Conventional Farming Systems

2012 Annual Report for SW11-122

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2011: $47,628.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2015
Region: Western
State: Idaho
Principal Investigator:
Lauren Golden
University of Idaho

Incorporating Cover Crops and Green Manure in High-Desert Organic and Conventional Farming Systems


Both conventional and organic growers in southern Idaho express interest in finding affordable soil additives to replace or reduce commercial fertilizer use. The results from three on-farm research trials will be used to identify 1) cover crops suitable for high-desert farming systems, 2) change in soil conditions (N, C, OM) from tested cover crops species and mixtures, and 3) cover crop species that provide dual-purpose with forage quality and yield. This project will evaluate the economic benefits associated with green manure for soil fertility and provide well-needed outreach to growers in the local and regional area.

Objectives/Performance Targets

Objective 1. To increase research-based knowledge on cover cropping systems for soil and weed management in high-desert farming systems.

Objective 2. To compare Nitrogen additions from cover crop species and mixtures grown in high-desert farming systems.

Objective 3. To evaluate the economics of on-farm cover cropping systems by establishing return on investment with green manure integration.

Objective 4. To increase adoption of cover cropping systems for soil fertility management.

Objective 5. To compare forage quality and yield from dual-purpose cover crop species and mixtures.


The PIs and the hired help set up three replicated research sites for high-desert cover crop species in 2012. Data collected in 2012 included soil samples from each replicated plot and cover crop yield and quality data for forage analysis. The soil samples will be analyzed by the lab in 2013. A preliminary look at tested cold-hardy cover crop species survival and data on forage quality and yield were used for ten grower and professional presentations in 2012. Current publications from this Western SARE-funded project include one peer-reviewed proceeding article and two peer-reviewed abstracts. The professional meetings included the 2012 National Association of County Ag Agents Western Conference and the 2012 Idaho Nutrient Management Conference.

PIs held a Cover Crop Field Day at one of the replicated research sites in August 2012. Attendees numbered 20 and included growers and agricultural professionals. The field tour included talks from Hunter, Falen and Moore. Western SARE grant money was used to purchase supplies for the field tour. The UI, ARS, Kimberly R&E Center cover crop site was also toured by producers and agency personnel during an organic field day in July 2012 and included a talk from Falen. In addition, agricultural professionals from the Pacific Northwest toured the UI, ARS, Kimberly R&E Center cover crop site in October 2012.

The cover crop research trials will be repeated in 2013. Soil data will be analyzed and used for future presentations and Extension/scholarly publications.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

The presentations in 2012 focused on optimal cold-hardy cover crop species and mixtures for southern Idaho and cover crops used for forage. Through these presentations, the PIs estimate over 400 growers and agricultural professionals have been reached.

PIs submitted an application to write and publish a University of Idaho Extension Publication titled “A Producers Guide to Cover Crop Selection in Southern Idaho.” If accepted, the expected publication date is summer 2013.


Glenn Shewmaker
Forage Specialist
University of Idaho
3806 N 3600 East
Kimberly, ID 83341-5082
Office Phone: 2084236678
Christi Falen
Extension Educator
University of Idaho Extension
201 South Beverly
Shoshone, ID 83352
Office Phone: 2088862406
Amber Moore
Soil Specialist
University of Idaho
PO Box 1827
Twin Falls, ID 83303
Office Phone: 2087363629