Soil Quality/Health

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Donn Branton

Innovative Assessment Helps Farmers in the Northeast Improve Soil Health

  Improving soil health without understanding the soil's condition is not easy and traditional soil tests, though important management tools, don't provide information on the physical structure or microbial life living in the soil. That is why a multidisciplinary team at Cornell University created a soil health assessment, which measures physical, chemical and biological indicators […]

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.

Overview of Cover Crop Developments Nationwide

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.

Cover Crop Field Tour Recap and Debrief

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.

Farmer Panel on Cover Crops

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.

Managing Soil Health With Cover Crops: Beyond the Basics

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.

Cover Crop Planting Dates and Seeding Rates

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.

download the investing in the next generation of agricultural scientists report in PDF format

Investing in the Next Generation of Agricultural Scientists

Sustainable solutions to today's agricultural challenges arise when scientists, educators and producers work together to test theories in real-world, on-farm situations. For this approach itself to be sustainable, there must be opportunities for the next generation of agricultural scientists to use collaborative, applied research to address the real-world needs of farmers and ranchers. The SARE Graduate Student grant program is one such opportunity—since 2000, the program has supported the work of 600 master's and Ph.D. students.

Cover Crop Cocktails

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.

Establishment Methods for Cover Crops and Cash Crops in Grain Production Systems

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.

Fitting Cover Crops in Vegetable Rotations

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.

Cover Crops as Part of an Overall Nutrient Management System

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.

Evaluating and Improving Cover Crop Performance and Adoption

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.

Cover Crops: Current and Future Directions

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.

Cover Crops for Soil Health Workshop Video

Cover Crops for Soil Health Workshop

All session recordings and slide presentations from this three-day professional development workshop are available online. Hosted by Northeast SARE and Delaware State University in March 2016, this event addressed the latest research on the benefits and successful management of cover crops in grain, vegetable and animal production systems.

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Visualizing Soil Properties

This series of videos illustrating soil processes such erosion, runoff, and infiltration, as well as soil sampling procedures, can be used as a model for demonstrations in a classroom.