Innovative Strategies for Cover Crop Termination



Project Overview

Local farmers are leading the nation’s efforts to use “natural climate solutions" to accelerate soil carbon storage. Twenty-five northern New Jersey farmers are taking part in a 1500+ acre on-farm soil health demonstration. Farmers will evaluate cutting-edge agricultural practices (grazing cover crop, planting through green cover crop, and roller crimping cover crop)  while North Jersey RC&D carefully analyzes their records,  soils, and crops to determine the long-term practice efficacy. 

During the spring of 2021 and 2022, farmers will be planting their corn, soybeans, and pumpkins, not in freshly tilled fields, but through 5’ tall grasses that grew over the winter and early spring. These grasses, known as cover crops, capture carbon outside the typical growing season and protect the soil from winter storms. Planting in this way hugely accelerates the potential for carbon sequestration and creates a thick mat of vegetation that protects the soil from extreme weather events. 

This is the largest study in the nation, to date, systematically evaluating the soil health, economic and social impacts of these innovative practices -- and New Jersey farmers are leading the charge! 


What is being studied?

​The study examines three innovative farming practices that increase farm’s resilience and sustainability.  Farmers in the study are planting some of their cropland using more traditional methods -- in bare tilled fields or when the vegetation has all been killed off using herbicide.  They are also trying out some innovative planting methods that use modern farming technology to plant their corn ans soybeans into a lush green fields of over-wintered grasses and clovers.  This method of farming use supports a healthy soil and creates a dense mat of vegetation on the soil surface that protects and norishing the growing crops. 



Specially, farms in the reseach trial have agree to try out one of three innovative practices:

  1. Planting into a living grasses and clovers that are killed after the corn and soybeans are planted

  2. Planting into living grasses and clovers terminated using massive rollers that kill the cover crop through crimping

  3. Planting into a field after the grasses and clovers were grazed by livestock. 


Using a paired study design, these three methods will be compared against conventional termination and planting practices. As the study progresses, farmers will record what they did and what was the impact on cash crops; meanwhile, the staff at North Jersey RC&D will collect soil samples and crop samples to assess the effect the practices had on soil health and farm profitability

Why is this project needed?

Farming the changing.  As the climate becomes more and more unpredictable farmers need to adapt.  Farming in the northeast is particuallualry difficult.  Erossion over the past few hundred years has left the topsoil depleaated.  Farmers ar looking to solutions that will help they manage a more changing climate, build their soil health and soil quality, and reduce their need for costly inplut.  Innovative planting solutions offer a potential solution.  

Many farmers are interested in the practices by they are logically difficut to get started.  Now only do their require costly new equipoment, but are technically a complete departature for how farmers have been planting for hundred os years.  

What will be the outcome?

Research Solution

Understand Economic 

Share with Farmers and Reserarch

Develop New Policies. 



Who are the Partners

How is the Project Funded
The funding is provided through the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) inaugural CIG On-Farm Conservation Innovation Trial – a new feature of the 2018 Farm Bill.  On-Farm Conservation Innovation Trials support more widespread adoption of innovative approaches, practices, and systems on working lands. On-Farm Trials projects feature collaboration between NRCS and partners to implement on-the-ground conservation activities and then evaluate their impact. Incentive payments are provided to producers to offset the risk of implementing innovative approaches.

Learn more about the CIG Conservation Innovation Trials




Quick Facts

  • The USDA-NRCS CIG On-farm Research Trials are a new component of the 2018 Farm Bill. 

  • North Jersey RC&D was awarded over $933,000 to fund the on-farm soil health demonstration. More than half the funding went to New Jersey Farmers to make the equipment upgrades required to implement innovative practices. 

  • Twenty-five farmers, across northern Jersey, are enrolled in the research trial which includes some of the largest and more influential farmers in the state as well as small-scale farmers producing products for the community. 

  • Farmers are trialing new agricultural practices that make farming more sustainable and farmland more resilient on over 1500 acres.

  • Farmers will evaluate cutting-edge agricultural practices (grazing cover crop, planting through green cover crop, and roller crimping cover crop) while North Jersey RC&D carefully analyzes their records,  soils, and crops to determine the long-term practice efficacy.

Who is Involved

Over 1500 acres in Northern New Jersey in Hunterdon, Morris, Warren, Somerset, and Sussex counties. Twenty-five diverse farms are participating in this study, including grain farms, small- and mid-scale vegetable farms, and livestock operations.

Farmers participating in the project are motivated by a desire to improve their soil health and long-term agricultural resilience.  To ensure they are as successful as possible, farmers were provided with access to free technical assistance from leading crop consultants and experts, as well as a budget to purchase the equipment and supplies they need to be successful, including high-end planter attachments, roller crimpers, as well as fence and waterer supplies for grazing.

Through this grant, North Jersey RC&D will give out over $640,000 in incentive payments to farmers


  • Sussex: 4 Farmers

  • Warren:

  • Hunterdon

  • Moris:

  • Somerset:


  • Conventional Grain: 15 Farmer / 

  • Organic Grain: 2 Farmers

  • Conventional Vegetable: 2 Farmers

  • Organic Vegetable: 2 Farmers

  • Beef Production: 3 Farmers

  • Dairy Production: 1 Farmer


  • Roller Crimping

  • "Planting Green"

  • Grazing Cover Crops



Media Collection

The photos in this database are provided for free to educators for use, provided that proper attribution is used.

When using any of these photos or illustrations, whether in presentations, posters, or print materials, please credit, "Bridgett Hilshey, North Jersey RC&D".   
Click on the image or video below to access the higher-resolution download.

Press Event


  • Cory Anthony Booker, U.S. Senator and member of the Senate Agriculture Committee

  • Julie Hawkins, USDA-NRCS New Jersey State Conservationist

  • North Jersey RC&D Staff        

Press conference showcasing natural climate-smart agricultural solutions followed by cover crop roller-crimping and corn planting on-farm demonstration (See example picture below).  


Farm field in Hunterdon County, New Jersey
Singley Park, 425 Woodfern Rd, Hillsborough Township, NJ 08844


 Friday, May 21st at 11:00 AM

Media Advisory

Event Agenda

Press Release

  • YouTube

Event Recording

If you have additional questions about the project, reach out to:

Bridgett Hilshey at (908) 574-5368 or