USING COVER CROPS TO FACILITATE THE TRANSITION TO CONTINUOUS NO-TILL

This project, funded by a 2008 Conservation Innovation Grant, promotes the use of cover crops to ease farmers’ transition to use of continuous no-till. Continuous no-till (CNT) has been around long enough that there is little doubt among experts of its many advantages. Despite the proven economic and environmental benefits of CNT, some farmers remain hesitant to fully adopt the system. In 2004, the National Crop Residue Management survey indicated that only 22.6 percent of farmers were no-tilling. Attempting CNT without proper technical knowledge may cause a disastrous first year and taint opinions toward the practice. Potential economic risks and yield losses during the first five years also can cause farmers to resist CNT. However, if farmers can maintain a CNT system for three consecutive years, the risks begin to fade. Incorporating cover crops into a CNT rotation can multiply the environmental and economic benefits. Cover crops provide the same benefits of a CNT system, but by pairing the two practices, the benefits are seen more quickly and the transition years are more productive and less stressful for the transitioning farmer.
 

Funded by

USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service Conservation Innovation Grant

Project Period

2008 – 2011

Project Partners

Midwest Cover Crops Council, Purdue University, Michigan State University, Ohio No-Till Council, The Ohio State University Extension, Indiana Conservation Cropping Systems Initiative

Project Participants

Four Indiana producers and four Ohio producers are transitioning a portion of their fields to continuous no-till, while incorporating cover crops into their rotation. Crop consultants provide technical and social support during the transition. Consultants meet regularly with their partner-farmers, assisting with equipment adjustments, timing, seed selection and other related decisions.

“We know that the first five years of a no-till system can be the most challenging,” says Angie Williams, CTIC Project Director. “Using a cover crop, however, can make that transition easier and reveal the benefits of the system.”

This project also offers educational and social opportunities — workshops, farmer network meetings and online communities — so that participants, partners and other producers in the region can improve their understanding of cover crops and no-till and the associated benefits.


Activities

The project includes the following activities:
  • Host two workshops using the experiences of the transitioning farmers to promote the use of cover crops with continuous no-till.
  • Assist eight farmers in Indiana and Ohio to transition to continuous no-till with the personalized technical support provided by a certified crop consultant
  • Integrate cover crops into the transitioning farmer’s continuous no-till system
  • Form social support networks in Indiana and Ohio for farmers who are transitioning to continuous no-till
  • Develop an online and printed cover crop matrix for the Midwest which aids farmers in choosing the correct cover crop for their location and operation
  • Extensive soil quality testing to show the benefits of cover crops paired with no-till

For More Information

Contact Chad Watts, CTIC Project Director, at Tel: 574.242.0147 or Email: watts@ctic.org.
 

Get Involved

Assist with promotion of the project to generate participation among farmers and recognition of the benefits of cover crops and continuous no-till. Provide financial support for the workshops to demonstrate commitment to conservation and support of cover crops and no-till.