National Conference on Cover Crops and Soil Health

National Conference on Cover Crops and Soil Health

National Conference on Cover Crops and Soil Health

National Conference on Cover Crops and Soil Health logo

The National Conference on Cover Crops and Soil Health, held Feb. 17-19, 2014 in Omaha, Neb., brought together 300 agricultural leaders and innovators to explore how we can make American agriculture more sustainable through improved soil health. Attendees represented agricultural industry, the farm community, academia, government, commodity and conservation organizations.

Visit the main conference web page to browse session recordings and slide presentations, or see below the complete list below.

Also, check out the Cover Crop Innovators video series, part of which was developed in conjunction with the conference.

As part of this landmark event, Cover Crops and Soil Health Forums took place Feb. 18 at over 200 Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and Extension offices nationwide. These forums gave farmers and other agricultural professionals the opportunity to send their thoughts to the national conference and engage in local conversations on cover crops and soil health. Forums were attended by an estimated 6,000 people.

General (Plenary) Session Presentations

Day One

  • Conference Welcome and Opening Remarks | Video
    Jim Gulliford, Executive Director, Soil and Water Conservation Society
  • Perspectives on Soil Conservation | Video
    Howard W. Buffett, Trustee, Howard G. Buffett Foundation
  • The Case for Cover Crops (PDF) | Video
    Dr. Rob Myers, Regional Director of Extension Programs, North Central Region SARE
  • The NRCS National Soil Health Campaign (PDF) | Video
    Dr. Wayne Honeycutt, Deputy Chief for Science and Technology, USDA-NRCS
  • The Biology of Soil Health (PDF) | Video
    Dr. Kristine Nichols - Soil Scientist, USDA-ARS, North Dakota
  • Luncheon Keynote Presentation | Video
    Bill Buckner, President, The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation

Day Two

  • EPA Perspective on Cover Crops, Water Quality, and Nutrient Management (PDF) | Video
    Nancy Stoner, Assistant Administrator, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
  • A Unique Soil Health Partnership Effort | Video
    Jerry Steiner, Executive Vice-President for Sustainability, Monsanto (retired)
  • Trends and Yield Results from the SARE/CTIC National Cover Crops Survey (PDF) | Video
    Dr. Rob Myers, Regional Director of Extension Programs, North Central Region SARE

Soil Health Principles

This session covered basic soil health principles necessary to build soil health, such as minimizing soil disturbance, keeping the soil covered at all times, growing a living root year round, and using plant diversity above ground to increase diversity below. It also reviewed soil health testing procedures.

  • Soil Health Planning Principles: Farming into the 21st Century
    Ray Archuleta, Conservation Agronomist, USDA-NRCS
  • Evaluating Soil Health on Your Farm (PDF) | Video
    Dr. Jill Clapperton, Principal Scientist and President, Rhizoterra Inc
  • Soil Testing in Nature's Image: Using Green Chemistry to Evaluate Soil Health (PDF) | Video
    Dr. Rick Haney, Soil Chemist/Microbiologist, USDA-ARS

Innovative Ways to Seed Cover Crops

Farmers have been creative in finding new ways to seed cover crops and testing the relative merits of various seeding approaches. This session featured a panel of farmers talking about their experiences with a variety of approaches to seeding and establishing cover crops.

  • Jamie Scott, Indiana farmer (PDF) | Video
  • Mike Shuter, Indiana farmer (PDF) | Video
  • Curtis Furr, North Carolina farmer (PDF) | Video

Selecting Cover Crops

This session addressed the relative pros and cons of various cover crop species, including the less common cover crops and cover crops suited to grazing use. The Midwest Cover Crops Council selection tool for cover crops was also discussed.

  • Eileen Kladivko, Purdue University (PDF) | Video
  • Keith Berns, Nebraska farmer and Green Cover Seed | Video
  • Gail Fuller, Kansas farmer (PDF) | Video
  • Dave Robison, Legacy Seeds (PDF) | Video

Terminating Cover Crops for Maximum Benefits

Timing of cover crop termination can determine soil nitrogen levels and ease of establishing a following cash crop. Termination approach can also affect the success of weed control in the cash crop system. This session delved into various cover crop termination strategies, including considerations for the use of herbicides, roller crimper and other termination options.

  • Mike Plumer, Illinois Council on Best Management Practices (PDF) | Video
  • Steve Groff, Pennsylvania farmer and Cover Crop Solutions (PDF) | Video
  • Jeff Moyer, Rodale Institute (PDF) | Video

Integrating No-Till or Strip-Till with Cover Crops

Many of the early adopters of cover crops have been no-till farmers who see the benefits of cover crops for reducing soil compaction and complementing erosion control of no-till. Other farmers have started out with conventional tillage but found the adoption of cover crops has caused them to rethink their tillage system. This session addressed how to maximize soil conservation and soil health benefits of cover crops by combining this practice with no-till or strip-till systems.

  • Dwayne Beck, South Dakota State University (PDF) | Video
  • Barry Fisher, USDA-NRCS Indiana (PDF) | Video
  • Roger Wenning, Indiana farmer (PDF) | Video
  • Henry Miller, Michigan farmer (PDF) | Video
  • Steve Berger, Iowa farmer (PDF) | Video

Cover Crops as Part of an Overall Nutrient Management System

The use of cover crops can have a significant impact in reducing nutrient losses from fields and affecting overall nutrient availability in soils. Speakers in this session shared some of the latest research on impacts of cover crops on soil nutrients.

  • Cover Crops for Nutrient Management (PDF) | Video
    Dr. Joel Gruver, Western Illinois University
  • Cover Crops and Manure Management (PDF) | Video
    Dr. Tim Harrigan, Michigan State University
  • Ecosystem Benefits from Cover Crops (PDF) | Video
    Dr. Newell Kitchen, USDA-ARS Missouri
  • Estimating Nitrogen Release from Cover Crops and Determining Supplemental Fertilizer Rates (PDF) | Video
    Nick Andrews, Oregon State University

Environmental Impacts of Cover Crops

Speakers in this session discussed both local and off-site impacts of using cover crops, including some of the latest information on cover crop impacts on water quality, nitrogen loss from fields in tile lines, phosphorous loss and wildlife considerations.

  • Dr. Tom Kaspar, USDA-ARS Iowa (PDF) | Video
  • Dr. Ryan Stockwell, National Wildlife Federation (PDF) | Video
  • Dr. Jim Hoorman, Ohio State University (PDF) | Video
  • Dr. Ken Staver, University of Maryland (PDF) | Video

Grazing Cover Crops and Benefits for Livestock Operations

This session explored the ways that cover crops can be integrated with livestock operations, including as forage for grazing in between cash crop growing seasons.

  • Doug Hanson, Illinois farmer (PDF) | Video
  • Gabe Brown, North Dakota farmer (PDF) | Video
  • Craig Lang, Iowa farmer (PDF) | Video
  • Mike Buis, Ontario farmer (PDF) | Video
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