An Indiana non-profit focused on agricultural conservation practices will be charged with examining the economic, agronomic and environmental impacts of cover crops in a forthcoming study funded by a USDA Conservation Innovation Grant.
The study, to be prepared by the Conservation Technology Information Center, will also look at the contributions of cover crop practices to pollinator habitat, nutrient cycling, and soil health.
CTIC received $482,000 to complete the study with the help of experienced and novice cover crop users in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and South Dakota.
To examine the opportunities for cover crops, CTIC and partners will:
• Plant at least 1,000 acres of cover crops on farms that have not previously held cover crops;
• Conduct a cost analysis of cover crops in both new and established systems and in different regions of the country;
• Analyze case studies for each state involved;
• Learn how producer experience plays a role in cover crop successes and challenges;
• Estimate the amount of nitrogen secured by cover crops for the following crop;
• Document the pollinators found in project fields; and
• Talk with producers about their choices and decision-making processes.
Karen Scanlon, executive director for CTIC, said that the upcoming project was timely with growing interest in cover crops.
"Cover crops are in the spotlight, and there may be questions on using them effectively for maximum benefit to the producer and farm," Scanlon said. "This project will provide greater insight into the challenges and benefits of cover crops. CTIC and partners hope to help many producers across the Midwest discover cover crop usefulness, such as protecting the soil, improving water quality and more."
Partners in the project include Corn & Soybean Digest and the National Corn Growers Association. Funding partners include Monsanto, Bayer CropScience, Syngenta, The Nature Conservancy, Purdue University, DuPont Pioneer and the CropLife Foundation.