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ARS Home » Northeast Area » Beltsville, Maryland (BARC) » Beltsville Agricultural Research Center » Sustainable Agricultural Systems Laboratory » Research » Research Project #443925

Research Project: Catalyzing cover crop advancement as a climate-smart practice through a national variety improvement and seed production program

Location: Sustainable Agricultural Systems Laboratory

Project Number: 8042-21660-005-070-R
Project Type: Reimbursable Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: Apr 1, 2023
End Date: Sep 30, 2027

Cover crop adoption is increasingly rapidly to address climate change and soil conservation. There is a critical need to improve the overall genetics and increase seed yields for the scaling of farmer adoption. The overall objective of this program is to continue and expand the national cover crop breeding team efforts to develop regionally adapted cover crop cultivars. Specifically, improve legume cover crop performance through selection for legume winter hardiness, fast growth rates, and high biomass. The cereal cover crop breeding program will develop high allelopathic potential cultivars. The breeding team of ARS and university scientists will build a network of farmers who will aid in variety selection through participatory germplasm screening, identify select cover crop accessions for seed increases and future improvement, and quantify how climate and soil drive optimal seed production. The extension component will include disseminating knowledge gained from on-farm and on-station cover crop germplasm screenings and management experiments and engage farmers and agricultural professionals through on-farm field days, regional workshops, and webinars.

The collaborative team of ARS and university scientists will coordinate a national breeding program. This national breeding team will expand efforts to include improving cereal cover crop genetics. This target will include increasing allelopathy of cereal rye. Nurseries will be set up in Missouri, Maryland, Washington, Oregon, and Wisconsin. There will be greater focus on insect damage to seed and genetic by environment interactions on seed production, and advanced line testing. Collaborations with seed companies will enable releasing new cultivars during the life of this grant. All of that material will be centralized in the national team database and seeds collected from selected lines will be distributed around the network for further evaluation. ARS will develop a web-based application that enables farmers to rate breeding lines based on their targeted traits.