Pacific Northwest Cover Crop Decision Aid System

Project Overview

SW22-940
Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2022: $349,697.00
Projected End Date: 09/30/2025
Grant Recipients: University of Idaho; Palouse Conservation District
Region: Western
State: Idaho
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Sanford Eigenbrode
University of Idaho
Co-Investigators:
Dr. Subodh Adhikari
University of Idaho
Ryan Boylan
Palouse Conservation District
Tracy Ericksen
The Eriksens
Garry Esser
Esser Farms
Dr. Douglas Finkelnburg
University of Idaho
Dr. Patrick Hatzenbuehler
University of Idaho
Jodi Johnson-Maynard
University of Idaho
Lucas Sheneman
University of Idaho
Chloe Wardropper
University of Idaho
Frank Wolf
Lester Wolf Farms
Clint Zenner
Zenner Family Farm

Commodities

  • Agronomic: wheat
  • Additional Plants: other

Practices

  • Crop Production: cover crops

    Proposal abstract:

    This collaborative project uses replicated on-farm research trials in combination with online information delivery to support adoption of cover cropping for inland Pacific Northwest (iPNW) dryland cereal-based cropping systems. Globally, cover cropping is a recognized strategy for mitigating soil erosion, loss of fertility and soil acidification, compromised soil health, reliance on synthetic inputs, and decreased biodiversity that jeopardize the sustainability of cropping systems. Despite these advantages, adoption of cover cropping has lagged in the iPNW relative to other regions. This is largely due to uncertainty regarding integrating cover crops into longstanding cereal-based crop rotations and how cover crop species perform for specific agronomic goals. In much of the region, low precipitation presents unique challenges to cover crop establishment and ensuring moisture sufficient for primary cash crops. Ongoing climatic challenges, including reduced summer precipitation and greater frequency of heat stress events, exacerbate these changes. The grower partners for this project (co-PIs and cooperators), all of whom are early adopters of cover cropping in the region, are motivated to diversify their production for the long-term benefits to soil health and resilience to climate variability and the potential to generate novel sources of income for their farms. They have expressed needs for research to help them and others succeed with cover crops in the iPNW, and participated in the design of this project’s three objectives: 1. Compare cover crop mixtures and termination dates for effects on cover crop performance, water infiltration rates, bulk density, nitrogen availability, weed and insect biodiversity and performance of the subsequent cash crop, 2. Compare the effects of treatments in Objective 1 on soil moisture profiles during the season and after different termination dates, 3. Use information from Objectives 1 and 2, existing published literature and data, and grower workshops and interviews to develop a comprehensive online support system for iPNW cover crop management. The system will include tools for deciding on what cover crops to plant and how to manage them, links to cover crop information and a platform for producer discussions and information sharing. The project will be the first of its kind to address key issues challenging cover cropping in iPNW cereal systems by providing key information needed for optimization and adoption. It is a crucial step toward improving soil health and the sustainability of these systems over the long run. This proposal is for a 3-year project, but we have also indicated the intent to carry it on for three additional years with additional funding to be requested in a proposal to WSARE.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    1. Compare cover crop mixtures and termination dates for effects on cover crop performance, water infiltration rates,

    bulk density, nitrogen availability, weed and insect biodiversity and performance of the subsequent cash crop

    2. Compare the effects of treatments in Objective 1 on soil moisture profiles during the season and after different

    termination dates

    3. Use information from Objectives 1 and 2, existing literature and data, and grower workshops and interviews to develop the first comprehensive online support system for inland Pacific Northwest cover crop management

     

    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.