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ARS Home » Midwest Area » Madison, Wisconsin » U.S. Dairy Forage Research Center » Dairy Forage Research » Research » Research Project #440850

Research Project: Evaluating, Educating, and Communicating the Value of Cover Crop in WI Crop Rotations, for Enhanced Productivity, Water, and Soil Quality Protection

Location: Dairy Forage Research

Project Number: 5090-12210-001-038-S
Project Type: Non-Assistance Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: Sep 1, 2021
End Date: Aug 31, 2022

Objective:
Obj. 1 - Coordinate CCROP Project. Obj. 2 - Conduct Field Research on Cover Crops. Obj. 3 - Conduct National Study of Societal Impacts of Cover Crops. Obj. 4 - Outreach on Cover Crops - Cooperator will coordinate and develop outreach in conjunction with CCROP partners.

Approach:
For Objective 1, Cooperator will coordinate monthly project meetings, arrange for speakers, set agendas, and facilitate meetings. Oversee CCROP’s transition from cover crops-focused work to the broader soil health framework. Manage fiscal relationships between cooperator and project partners, overseeing reporting, budget management and communication. For Objective 2, Cooperator will assess 4 warm-season cover crop species in monocultures and mixes for their dual-use potential, evaluating forage production and quality, and weed competition. Evaluate and communicate environmental benefits of mixing cover crop species for enhancing soil health. Document effects of summer cover crops on following cash crop yields and use partial budget analysis to assess impacts on profitability, examining additional costs and returns. Build cover crop research into our alternative crop development program, including optimizing cover crops for industrial hemp, millet, and sorghum systems. Work with partners to expand the number of farmers statewide engaging in citizen science around cover crops, to better understand how cover crops are used, challenges and benefits producers experience and to improve farmer decision-support tools like SnapPlus and SmartScape. For Objective 3, Cooperator will coordinate a national investigation into societal benefits of cover crops and related soil health initiatives, including reduction in flooding, avoiding damage to infrastructure, and improving water quality. Convene interdisciplinary teams to develop discussion papers for participants in national virtual meetings and at the National Soil Health Conference. For Objective 4, Cooperator will teach cover cropping principles (rotation, management, and environmental benefits) as part of the curriculum of a new beginning food-grade grain farmer training program. Develop cover crop species and management information factsheets on Cooperator's webpage as a resource for growers, and will demonstrate project results via webinars and field walks. Present cover cropping principles to K-12 students as a part of farming/gardening workshops for summer school classes, Scouts, and high school agriculture classes. Work with partner farmers among historically underserved communities to identify production strategies using cover crops and related crop diversification approaches. Collaborating farmers will be compensated for their time and effort with stipends. Use farmer networks to disseminate information and experience gained through on- farm research. Work with the appropriate watershed group, whose boundaries have recently expanded and for which outreach on cover crops will play an important role with farmers in that area.