Cropping Systems

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Grazing Cover Crops and Advancing Farmer Networks in Wisconsin

Farming can be a community practice; however, farmers are increasingly “siloed” on the farm. As farms get bigger, help becomes scarce. Small towns lose coffee shops and feed mills, the social hub where farmers once shared information. With support from a $39,900 NCR-SARE Partnership grant, Dane County Land Conservation was able to support and create […]

North Dakota Farmers Pursue Soil Stewardship Through Cover Crops

THE CHALLENGE The practice of planting a cover crop holds many opportunities for farmers. Cover crops can build soil health, curb erosion, control weeds, improve water and nutrient management, and increase the bottom line. In North Dakota, they have the potential to reduce soil salinity by using excess water, which is a problem on hundreds […]

Spring-Grazing Cover Crops with Nebraska’s Knuth Farms

When a fourth-generation farm in Mead, Nebraska began to diversify their primarily cash crop operation in 2012, they gave some thought to cover crops and livestock. Knuth Farms didn’t want to buy cattle or become beef producers, but they did want to diversify their income stream, capture some of the soil benefits of cover crops, […]

Illinois Farmer Builds Precision Seeder to Maximize Cover Crop Advantage

Ralph “Junior” Upton is no novice when it comes to no-till and cover crops. His grain farm in the northeast corner of Hamilton county Illinois is 100% no-till with 1,800 acres of corn, beans, and wheat, and approximately 1,200 acres in cover crops. Upton has been farming more than 50 years, and the farm has […]

Incorporating Cover Crops in North Dakota

In a short growing season like North Dakota's, effectively using cover crops can seem like a challenge. Establishing a specific on-farm goal is key to utilizing cover crops successfully. Getting familiar with and then fine-tuning approaches is important to achieve desired outcomes. In this publication, NDSU soil health researchers, Abbey Wick, Caley Gasch, and Marisol Berti provide a starting point.

Iowa Farmers Seek Sustainability with Cover Crops and No-Till

In 2002, a $6,500 SARE grant funded an idea for a new tool at the Rodale Institute in Kutztown, Pennsylvania. The tool was a roller-crimper, a steel drum with blades that was mounted to a tractor and used to roll down cover crops. The idea was that the mat of dead cover crops would act as mulch, which researchers hoped no-till farmers […]

Cover Crop-based Reduced Tillage for Fall Production of Cabbage,Cauliflower and Broccoli Using a Roller-Crimper and No-Till Planting Aid

Cover crops can reduce erosion, improve soil health, slow weeds, enhance nutrient and moisture availability, control pests, and offer other benefits to vegetable producers. After vegetable grower, Thomas Ruggieri, planted cover crops on his farm in rural Clay County, Missouri in 2004, he noticed dramatic improvement in soil fertility and plant health. Ruggieri and Rebecca […]

Economics of Grazing and Haying Cover Crops in North Central Kansas

Grown on an estimated 10 million acres across the country, cover crops are becoming an indispensable part of crop rotations. To maintain this momentum, the development of reliable information at the local level—how to craft a diversified rotation that pays—needs to keep pace with growth in farmers’ interest. That is what motivated Josh Roe to […]

Cover Crop Termination

Farmers use cover crops to slow erosion, improve soil health, enhance water availability, smother weeds, help control pests and diseases, and increase biodiversity on their farms. Although cover crops can be partially grazed or used as forage, they are usually terminated before planting production crops. While row crop producers tend to prefer using herbicides to terminate, most vegetable/horticulture crop producers employ tillage as their primary means of termination. Some organic no-till producers use roller-crimpers to kill the cover crop and leave the mulch on the soil surface to conserve water. NCR-SARE has supported various research projects that have explored the advantages and limits of various cover crop termination strategies.

Utilizing Cover Crops to Increase Productivity, Health and Vigor on Tame Grass Pasture

Donnie Feiring owns and operates Feiring’s Cattle Co. in Beach, ND, a 120-head registered Black Angus cow calf operation. They also run 35 head of commercial yearling heifers. Feiring wanted to improve the health, vigor and productivity of 50 acres of tame grass pasture - tame pastures are cultivated fields planted with introduced (non-native) grass […]

Adapting Cover Crops to Northern Climate Conventional Cropping Systems

Northeast Minnesota is home to a large beef cow-calf sector, several dairy farms, and an increasing amount of cash grain farming. In each of these types of operations, annual cultivation of corn, soybeans, oats, and barley is common.  Annual cultivation of these crops can lead to high rates of nutrient leaching and soil erosion, decreased […]

Evaluating the Roller-Crimper for Cover Crops in Corn and Soybean Terraced Ground

In northwest Missouri, a practice known as terracing is used to prevent ditches. Michael Willis, a beginning farmer in northwest Missouri, says that cover crops can reduce the need for terraces, but terraces still prove to be important to prevent ditch formation during the transitional phase from traditional no-till to no-till with cover crops.  Willis […]

Improving Pasture Quality with Cover Crops in North Dakota

Donnie and Trisha Feiring own and operate Feiring’s Cattle Company in Beach, North Dakota, a 120-head registered Black Angus cow calf operation. They also run 35 head of commercial yearling heifers. Without a lot of machinery on the ranch, the Feirings tend to think outside of the box when it comes to operational concerns. In […]

Scaling Up

Perkins’ Good Earth Farm is a small family farm that operates on 19 acres. They currently grow only one-quarter acre of organic garlic but hope to increase their productivity in this area by 50 percent. Two major challenges in achieving this goal are the cost of additional labor and worker comfort during planting and harvesting. […]