Many factors affect cover crop performance including climate, soil type and characteristics, residual fertility, and management (such as planting and termination times). By employing multiple on-farm research sites across a wide swath of the U.S., we can begin to understand the ways these factors work individually and together to affect cover crop performance.
We have partnered with farmers across 20 U.S. states to study factors affecting cover crop performance. Teams deploy common research protocols studying the short-term effects of cover crops (ie: soil water infiltration, surface residue decomposition, or weed communities) on farms that currently have cover crops, but may differ in management. By allowing farms to have a range of management practices modelers can study the impact of factors like termination timing or cover crop species in climates across the US, helping build predictive tools for growers in the future.
Data collected include field history and management, real-time field weather and soil data (e.g., air temperature, soil moisture content), cover crop biomass prior to termination, and cash crop yield.
YouTube video demonstrating how the on-farm team collects cash crop yield data.