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Filling Soil Health Prescriptions with Targeted Cover Crops 2009

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Project Leader: T. Bjorkman, Department of Horticultural Sciences NYS Agric, Expt. Station, Geneva, NY

Cooperator: J. Mishanec, NYS IPM

Abstract: Sustainable farming requires close attention to soil improvement. This project will let vegetable producers use the new Cornell Soil Health Test (CSHT) to identify what needs improvement, and select cover crops that specifically address those needs. Most of the project will be carried out on grower farms, expanding existing relationships that have been developed around soil health, and responding to growers’ desire to act on the new information they get from the CSHT. Most current cover crop recommendations are too general; we will provide locally appropriate targeted guidance for specific soil management goals.

In 2009, John Mishanec worked with 12 vegetable growers in Eastern NY to use the CSHT and the cover crop decision tool to determine the most suitable cover crop for their situation. Next spring, the growers will plant that cover crop in a split-field trial and evaluate its performance with a subsequent vegetable crop. Many more will see outreach talks and articles.

Farm trials will strengthen recommendations regarding how much each of the ten most common cover crops, and complementary combinations of them, reduce un-aggregated soil, increase aggregate stability, and reduce surface hardness.

This project is led by Thomas Bjorkman of Cornell University and the project team is composed of six Extension educators who will engage growers in four states (NY, PA, MA and VT).