Cover crops can help improve soil quality, save manure nitrogen or fix nitrogen for the following crop, supply rescue forage and can lead to improved ground- and surface water quality. Considering the interest in cover crops by farmers, the general public, and others, the Crop Management Team at Penn State will establish cover crop demonstrations on dairy farms across Pennsylvania in the years 2010 through 2013. We focus on cover crop mixtures because of the way species complement each other to meet producer goals and reduce risks of failure of any particular species. The cover crop demonstrations are funded by a NRCS Conservation Innovation Grant.
Penn State Extension's Crop Management Team and On-Farm Research Program established cover crop demonstration sites at 11 farms throughout Pennsylvania. At each site 9 cover crop monoculture and 8 cover mixtures were planted on two dates - late August and late September.
This report is to allow farmers to see how cover crops grew in our area so that they can compare traditional cover crops with less commonly used types and decide which they might try. In the fall of 2008, agronomy extension educators in south central Pennsylvania planted a series of cover crop demonstration plots on cooperating farms. Rye and spring oats were planted as a standard for comparison. The other cover crops were forage radish, hairy vetch, crimson clover, annual ryegrass, Austrian winter pea and some mixtures comprised of these species.