Using citizen science to improve cover crop performance in the Great Lakes region

Collaborators: Etienne Herrick, University of Michigan; Tim Boring, Michigan Agriculture Advancement

Funding: USDA NIFA Predoctoral Fellowship, University of Michigan’s Rackham Program in Public Scholarship

CLICK HERE TO PARTICIPATE

In the Great Lakes region, overwintering cover crops can provide numerous agroecological benefits, such as soil conservation and nutrient cycling, weed and pest control, and climate resilience. However, these benefits largely depend on the successful growth of cover crops, which can be highly variable across farms due to a range of environmental factors and management practices (e.g., soil type, planting strategies) that influence cover crop establishment and growth in distinct conditions. This project will use a citizen science approach to improve understanding of cover crop performance across variable conditions and, in turn, help farmers better achieve the benefits they can provide. Specifically, we will partner with Great Lakes farmers to identify: i) the extent of variation in cover crop growth across the region, and ii) which environmental and management factors best explain this variation.

By sharing information about their farms and management practices in a short online survey, and conducting a brief field sampling protocol to estimate cover crop growth, farmers will serve as key collaborators in a data-driven effort to improve cover crop outcomes. Results from this project will inform context-specific recommendations for optimal cover crop management across different farming conditions. This community-based research links academic and practitioner knowledge to advance food system sustainability and resilience.

We are seeking participants for spring 2022! If you are currently growing overwintering cover crops in the Great Lakes region and would like to participate, please complete this quick survey or contact herricke@umich.edu.