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Preliminary Results Starting to Emerge from On-Farm Soil Health Demonstration Trial


Photo Credit: Bridgett Hilshey. Farmer Jeff Bowlby no-till, planting green into clover cover crop

North Jersey RC&D’s On Farm Trial, a USDA-NRCS-funded CIG On-Farm Conservation Innovation research project, has wrapped up initial data collection with 25 partner farmers throughout our service region and data analysis has begun. The project was initiated in 2021 and assessed no-till planting paired with three different methods of cover crop termination – grazing down, planting green and roller crimping, in cover cropped fields. Extensive field data was collected by RC&D to assess the impacts of each practice on metrics such as soil health, biomass production, soil temperature and moisture, and yield impact. Participants, who consisted of corn and soybean producers, beef cattle farmers, and vegetable growers, provided extensive feedback on practice implementation, including timing of field activities and type/quantity of inputs over the two-year course of the study. Farmers were represented along the spectrum of cover cropping and no-till practices, with some experienced at one or both and others who were beginners.


RC&D has begun working with researchers to analyze the data. Preliminary results for 2022 indicate that planting green treatment field soils were warmer and dryer in spring as compared to standard burndown fields. Additionally, field sampling showed that treatment fields held moisture through a droughty summer better than control fields. Yields also held steady relative to the control fields, and farmers reported noticing soil textural improvements after just one year, with several indicating “the ground was easier to work.” These are important outcomes for farmers, especially in times of increasingly volatile weather and record increases in fuel and fertilizer costs.


Further economic and social analyses are currently ongoing to determine overall agronomic outcomes. Several farmers are assisting with the creation of a YouTube educational series, more in depth economic analysis, and informational fact sheets. The final research results will be available towards the end of 2023. Stay tuned!


One direct result of this study: NRCS-NJ has added planting green as an available practice scenario in their programs.


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