In summer 2018, the country’s newest cover crop council – the Western Cover Crop Council (WCCC) – was formed. The WCCC was born from a need for farmers and agricultural professionals to have more information on cover crop research and use in the Western Region. Similar to the established Midwest, Southern, and Northeast Cover Crop Councils, the WCCC aims to significantly increase the use of cover crops in western agricultural systems. To achieve this goal, the WCCC needs information on regional rates of cover crop adoption and barriers to adoption. The WCCC also needs to build a strategic network of agricultural professionals conducting cover crop outreach/research and farmers using cover crops.
In addition to being an effective agroecological practice that enhances soil biodiversity, new research is showing that cover cropping also has important implications for human gut health (1). Therefore, an additional focus of this proposal is to engage researchers, health practitioners, and food businesses that seek to create nutrient-dense, microbiologically active foods through regenerative soil health practices, such as cover cropping. This proposal will gather data on cover crop adoption and barriers to adoption by western farmers through focus groups and a survey, use the data collected to inform cover crop outreach and research, build the WCCC network of cover crop-focused agricultural professionals and farmers, use the WCCC network to coordinate outreach and research, foster cover crop business opportunities for farmers, and, ultimately, increase use of cover crops.
*Note: This is a regional application and all citations attached.
Project objectives from proposal:
- Focus groups and a survey of western farmers to identify 1) cover crop adoption rates, 2) factors associated with adoption, 3) barriers to adoption, 4) rates of participation in federal incentive programs, 5) opportunities to promote adoption, and 6) outreach and research gaps (October 2019-April 2020).
- Host four sub-regional meetings to unite the network of cover crop outreach/research efforts throughout the West in the following climatic zones: Intermountain West, Maritime PNW, Inland PNW, and the Southwest. Meeting participants will include agricultural professionals involved in cover crop outreach/research and farmers. Two meetings will be held in Summer 2020 and two in Spring 2021. A fifth meeting will be held remotely via webinar to link Alaska, Hawaii, and the Islands with the WCCC network, paving the way for future in-person conferences. Each meeting will have the following agenda items:
- Share focus group and survey results;
- Present current region-wide and sub-region-specific cover crop research;
- Facilitate discussion among scientists, health practitioners, farmers, and food business leaders on regenerative agriculture as it relates to cover crops and food market opportunities for farmers;
- Facilitate session to create “hot shot” teams tackling emerging themes, barriers, and outreach opportunities in each sub-region;
- Field tour demonstrating local cover cropping practices.
- Build the WCCC presence by advertising the WCCC listserv, developing a quarterly newsletter, and social media platforms (October 2019 to project end date).
- Work directly with the cover crop seed industry to understand their needs and opportunities. One of the sub-regional meetings will specifically focus on the seed industry and connecting the needs of farmers with the industry research (Summer 2020 to project end date).
- Increase cover crop adoption across the Western region (throughout project).