Cover Crops: No-Till
Soil health benefits are often enhanced when using cover crops in combination with no-till.
This Rodale Institute fact sheet reviews the use of cover crops and no-till in organic systems, including selection, establishment and mechanical termination of cover crops; crop rotations; and energy and production budgets.
South Dakota farm manager Dan Forgey has improved soil quality and the bottom line by successfully introducing cover crops to his long-term no-till system.
It all began in 2002 with a $6,500 SARE grant and the seed of an idea: a no-till tractor implement that rolls, crimps and kills cover crops, creating a weed suppressing mulch.
Dr. Ray Weil and Natalie Lounsbury have been investigating the possibility of no-till planting early spring vegetables such as spinach and lettuce after a forage radish cover crop without the use of herbicides. They discuss soil moisture, temperature and nutrient status in early spring as well as seedling emergence and yield.
This information sheet captures research by Virginia Tech and the Virginia Association for Biological Farming to develop cover crop-based, reduced-tillage systems for organic vegetable production.
In this webinar by Dr. Mary Barbercheck and Maggie Douglas, learn the basics about key early-season insect and slug pests that can pose problems in conservation tillage systems with high amounts of cover crop residues and how crop management practices can help reduce pest damage. Also, learn about ongoing research into naturally-occurring predators of early season insects and slugs and how best to conserve them.
In this webinar, Hanna Poffenbarger of the University of Maryland and Steven Mirsky of the USDA-ARS Sustainable Agriculture Systems Lab discuss optimizing cover crop mixture composition and manure application to achieve weed suppression and adequate, efficient nitrogen delivery in a cover crop-based no-till corn system.
To help dairy farmers optimize overall forage production and quality, SARE-funded researchers led field trials and demonstrations in three New England states to determine the benefits of cover crops, no-till and shorter-season corn silage varieties.
Maximize soil conservation and soil health benefits of cover crops by combining this practice with no-till or strip-till systems.
While the use of black plastic is allowed within organic agriculture, it is inherently unsustainable as it is a petroleum-based product and difficult to recycle.
This 24-page guide looks beyond plasticulture and evaluates the effects of different mulch systems on soil quality and fertility, weed control, yields and waste production, and profitability for small to mid-size vegetable farms.
In this video, Iowa State University graduate student, Dana Jokela, talks about the research he conducted through an NCR-SARE Graduate Student Grant to compare no tillage, strip tillage, and conventional tillage in the organic production of broccoli and bell pepper to determine their effects on yield, soil health, and cropping system profitability.
Also, visit SARE's database for reports on these research projects:
- Trials and Informing Regional Farmers About Organic Weed Control Methods (2011, New Mexico) and the continuation, Making Roller Crimping a Reality in the Southwest (2013, New Mexico)
- Cover Crop Selection and Use in Organic No-Till Farming (2010, North Dakota)
- A Farmer-Researcher Collaborative Effort to Design No-Till Systems Appropriate for Small-Scale Organic Producers in Alabama and the Deep South (2009, Alabama)
- Transitioning to Sustainable Agriculture Using Continuous No-Till and Cover Crops (2009, Ohio)
- Rolled Down Cover Crop Mulch for Pumpkin and Soybean Production (2009, Pennsylvania)
- Managing Cover Crop and Conservation Tillage Systems to Enhance Vegetable Crop Yields, Economic Returns and Environmental Quality (2004, Oregon)
- Weed Management in Organic Conservation Tillage/No-Tillage (2004, Ohio)
- Multipurpose Brassica Cover Crops for Sustaining Northeast Farmers (2003, Maryland)
- Conservation Tillage Benefits in a Cotton-Centered Crop Rotation System (2001, Arizona)
- No-Till Wheat into Medic vs. Conventional Wheat (1999, Montana)
Dig deeper into cover crops research: SARE has funded hundreds of research and education projects related to cover crops since 1988. This topic room features only a glimpse into SARE's entire portfolio of cover crop research. To discover more, visit SARE's database of projects and conduct full text or advanced keyword searches.