Adapting Cover Cropping Techniques to Northern...

Adapting Cover Cropping Techniques to Northern Climate Conventional Cropping Systems

Adapting Cover Cropping Techniques to Northern Climate Conventional Cropping Systems

Northeast Minnesota is home to a large beef cow-calf sector, several dairy farms, and an increasing amount of cash grain farming. In each of these types of operations, annual cultivation of corn, soybeans, oats, and barley is common. Annual cultivation of these crops can lead to high rates of nutrient leaching and soil erosion, decreased crop diversity, decreased soil aggregate stability, decreased soil organic matter, and reduced soil biology and overall soil health. The utilization of cover crops has been shown in many cases to alleviate these problems.

With support from an NCR-SARE Farmer Rancher grant, Troy Salzer and Abe Mach conducted cover crop demonstrations on three farms, in three different adjacent counties in Northeast Minnesota. They planted a small grain (oats, barley, or wheat), mechanically harvested it in early August, and immediately planted a cover crop cocktail consisting of peas, forage turnips, and winter rye. The goal was to produce enough forage in the cover crop to be able to get a late fall grazing. 

Over the period of the 2 year study, Salzer and Mach determined that cover crops could be successfully implemented in a northern Minnesota climate in a variety of cropping systems. The project also clarified a list of suggested management techniques to improve the success of implementing cover crops including selecting cold tolerant cover crop seeds, planting as early as possible, addressing soil fertility issues, selecting fields conducive to productive grazing, and utilizing high quality forage. They determined that cover crops could extend the growing season while maintaining soil cover and providing opportunities to improve soil health for both grazing as well as cropping systems. 

The handout shows how Salzer and Mach's cover crops increased forage production and extended the grazing season into the fall, while diversifying crop rotations and adding ground cover for soil and water quality benefits in Northeast Minnesota.

Curious about this project? Watch a video of Salzer and Mach presenting their research findings.

Want more information? See the related SARE grant(s) FNC14-974, Adapting Cover Crops to Northern Climate Conventional Cropping Systems .

Product specs
Year: 2015
Length: 2 Pages
Location: Minnesota | North Central
How to order
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Only available online

This material is based upon work that is supported by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture through the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.

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