Cover Crops for Soil Health Workshop
This three-day professional development workshop, hosted by Northeast SARE and Delaware State University in March 2016, addressed the latest research on the benefits and successful management of cover crops in grain, vegetable and animal production systems. All session recordings are available as a YouTube playlist, or browse to individual sessions below.
Welcome and introductions to the Cover Crops for Soil Health workshop were provided by Jason Challendes (Delaware State University), Dean Hively (U.S. Geological Survey) and Steven Mirsky (USDA Agricultural Research Service).
Rob Myers (North Central SARE, University of Missouri) provides a national overview of where cover crops stand, including a review of farmer survey data, new equipment and proposed initiatives.
Matthew Ryan (Cornell University) discusses the necessity of proper establishment timing and seeding rates for maximizing cover crop performance. He explains how knowledge of the interaction between these considerations can provide management flexibility and increase cover cropping success.
Mitch Hunter (Penn State University) discusses the principles of how to assemble different cover crop species into a successful cocktail based on farm management objectives, crop rotation restraints, and which cover crop species traits are complementary.
Steven Mirsky (USDA-ARS), Greg Roth (Penn State University) and Sjoerd Duiker (Penn State University) discuss common establishment methods for cover crops; the importance of matching the right cover crop species with the right methods; and other topics such as no-till versus tillage; optimal timing of cash crop establishment, drills versus planters, planter and drill attachments and set up; cover crop termination; and planting green.
Ron Morse (Virginia Tech, emeritus) shares how to successfully fit cover crops into a vegetable rotation, including establishment methods, matching the right species to the right methods, recommended rotations and cash crop establishment.
Natalie Lounsbury (University of New Hampshire) discusses how to manage cover crops for such ecosystem services as: suppressing weeds, attracting pollinators, cycling nutrients, promoting biological diversity and controlling erosion.
This plenary discussion on current and future directions in cover crops features Greg Roth (Penn State, presenting on behalf of Scott Rushe, Seedway), Ramona Garner (USDA-NRCS Plant Materials Center) and Andrew Smyre (Perdue AgriBusiness). They discuss demand for cover crop seeds, the development of new varieties, and the agribusiness industry's role in supporting cover crops.
In this session, Sjoerd Duiker (Penn State University) discusses the possibility of adoption without government regulation or incentives, and Dean Hively (USGS) reviews the use of remote sensing to map cover crop performance, trends toward increasing wintertime ground cover and watershed-scale performance.
In this session, Steven Mirsky (USDA-ARS) and Heather Darby (University of Vermont) discuss the role of cover crops in integrated fertility management and address cover crops in the context of forages, dairies, perennials and pastures, and rotating pasture to grain.
In this session, leading experts dive deep into the soil-related benefits of cover crops. Ray Weil (University of Maryland) discusses the physical benefits; Michel Cavigelli (USDA-ARS) explains how cover crop management affects soil health; and Stuart Grandy (University of New Hampshire) discusses emerging concepts for harnessing microbes to build organic matter.
Attendees of the Cover Crops for Soil Health workshop have a short discussion reflecting on their tour of the long-term farming systems research project at the USDA Beltsville Agricultural Research Center in Maryland.
Farmers Skip Paul (Rhode Island), Jeff Frey (Pennsylvania) and Perry Lilley (Maine) share their experiences with cover crops, including their motivation for using them, successes and challenges, factors that play into decision making around cover crops, and advice for ag service providers who want to encourage farmer adoption of this vital conservation practice.