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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: INTEGRATED AGRICULTURAL SYSTEMS FOR THE NORTHERN GREAT PLAINS

Location: Northern Great Plains Research Laboratory

Title: Cover Crop Chart: An intuitive educational resource for extension professionals

Authors
item LIEBIG, MARK
item JOHNSON, HOLLY
item ARCHER, DAVID
item HENDRICKSON, JOHN
item Nichols, Kristine
item SCHMER, MARTY
item Tanaka, Donald

Submitted to: Journal of Extension
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: May 31, 2013
Publication Date: June 24, 2013
Repository URL: http://handle.nal.usda.gov/10113/58425
Citation: Liebig, M.A., Johnson, H.A., Archer, D.W., Hendrickson, J.R., Nichols, K.A., Schmer, M.R., Tanaka, D.L. 2013. Cover Crop Chart: An intuitive educational resource for extension professionals. Journal of Extension. 51(3):1-5.

Interpretive Summary: Interest in cover crops by farmers and ranchers has increased the need for information on the suitability of a diverse portfolio of crops for different production and management resource goals. To help address this need, staff at the Northern Great Plains Research Laboratory (NGPRL), Mandan, ND, developed an outreach tool called the Cover Crop Chart. Patterned after the periodic table of elements, the chart includes information on 46 crop species that may be planted individually or in cocktail mixtures. Specifics on growth cycle, relative water use, plant architecture, forage quality, pollination characteristics, and nutrient cycling are included for most crop species. The chart was developed in Portable Document Format, requiring only Adobe Reader for use on a personal computer, and can be downloaded for free through the NGPRL website (www.mandan.ars.usda.gov). Using a simple ‘point and click’ format, users can select individual crop species by clicking on the crop name, which will direct them to additional information about the selected crop. Icons within each crop page return the user to the crop selection screen, thereby easily allowing comparisons of different crops. Initial feedback from users highlighted the educational value of the chart, but also identified three suggestions for potential inclusion in updates (i.e., addition of a selection feature based on the benefits of each cover crop, information addressing placement of cover crop species within a cash crop rotation, and a downloadable application for smart phones).

Technical Abstract: Interest in cover crops by agricultural producers has increased the need for information regarding the suitability of crops for addressing different production and natural resource goals. To help address this need, staff at the USDA Agricultural Research Service Northern Great Plains Research Laboratory (NGPRL) developed a decision aid called the Cover Crop Chart (CCC). Visually analogous to the periodic table, the CCC includes information on 46 crop species within a free downloadable Portable Document Format (PDF) file. Cover crop attributes within the CCC are easily accessed through ‘point-and-click’ icons to navigate between crop selection and information pages. Information on growth cycle, relative water use, plant architecture, forage quality, pollination characteristics, and nutrient cycling are included in the CCC for most crop species. Initial input from users highlighted the educational value of the CCC, but also identified three suggestions for potential inclusion in forthcoming versions (i.e., addition of a selection feature based on the benefits of each cover crop, information addressing placement of cover crop species within a cash crop rotation, and a downloadable application for smart phones).

Last Modified: 9/10/2014
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