Cover Crop Mixtures for Dairy Farms

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.

The cover crop mixtures tested in 2010-11 included the species cereal rye, triticale, annual ryegrass, forage radish, forage rape, crimson clover, and hairy vetch. We monitored biomass production, nutrient accumulation, and forage quality to evaluate the performance of each mix across the state.

Beginning during the second week of September 2011, and continuing until Oct 7th, replicated small plots of various cover crop mixtures were no-till drilled on nine farms in eight counties.

Cover crop demonstration sites were established in September 2012 on dairy farms across the state of Pennsylvania.