Grant cycle: 2019-2023
Farmers are increasingly interested in adding cover crops to rotations to improve soil health, break disease cycles, and provide ecosystem services. However, identifying appropriate timing and species for the cooler upper Midwest region is challenging. Farmers must balance cash crop goals and timing with limited availability of labor, land, and equipment. Summer cover crops are an often overlooked and minimally researched option for growers in the upper Midwest. These crops may help optimize soil nitrogen cycling, while also providing additional benefits such as flowering habitat for beneficial insects. Objectives of this project include to: 1) Identify summer cover crop management best suited for growers in our region, 2) Determine nitrogen derived from legume cover crops, including management to maximize fertility provision, 3) Determine attractiveness of summer flowering cover crops to beneficial insects and pollinators in diversified vegetable production systems, and 4) Develop cover crop resources for immigrant and minority farmers. Farmers in the USA are becoming a more diverse population, especially those in vegetable production. Immigrant and minority farmers often face particular challenges of land tenure and soil quality due to legacies of inequity, which exacerbates their struggles with the challenge that all farmers have of managing tradeoffs that balance crop production with ecological sustainability. For this reason, we include these farmers in our project as co-designers and decision-makers. This farmer-driven project investigates the role summer cover crops can play in enhancement of soil nutrients and overall health when grown for short periods of time. This project is generously supported by the NRCS Conservation Innovation Grant ($493,613 plus Non-federal cost-share/match of $493,612), and Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE; $200,000) programs.
Contacts: Adria Fernandez ([email protected]), Madi Moses ([email protected]), Naomy Candelaria ([email protected]), Gabriela Hidrobo ([email protected])