The Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research awarded a $284,436 Seeding Solutions grant to the University of Missouri to provide regionally customized cover crop training to industry farm advisors across the U.S. Cover crops are a variety of plants such as legumes and grasses that can be used to improve soil health and water quality, and limit soil erosion.
The Walton Family Foundation, Missouri Department of Natural Resources, North Carolina State University and American Seed Trade Association collectively provided $284,601 in matching funds for a $569,037 total investment for the Seeding Solutions grant. The grant addresses the need for technical training for industry agronomists and other farm advisors who influence farmers’ management decisions.
Cover crops keep soil covered, provide living roots post-harvest, improve diversity of both plants and soil and minimize soil disturbance. Yet, according to the USDA Agriculture Census of 2017, less than 10% of U.S. cropland used cover crops. To promote cover crop benefits and encourage increased adoption, University of Missouri scientists and collaborators led by Dr. Rob Myers are conducting regionally customized cover crop and soil health training for industry farm advisors. By having consistent training across the industry, farmers receive the best support for soil health management.
“Nutrient-rich soils are essential to growing healthy, flavorful food, and cover crops can help preserve those nutrients,” said FFAR Executive Director Dr. Sally Rockey. “More training on how to effectively use cover crops would increase their use. This grant will improve connectivity between private sector farm advisors and farmers for consistent cover crop management across the board.”
University of Missouri researchers are developing cover crop training modules for senior agronomists with the help of private industry, government agencies and the four regional cover crop councils. These regionally focused trainings are starting with cover crops in the Midwest. The modules are supplemented with train-the-trainer programming to help the agronomists share this knowledge of cover crop use with staff at their companies.
In addition to the direct technical training, the training modules will be available online at no cost to interested organizations. The train-the-trainer model allows organizations to adjust the materials to their needs and make extensive in-house use of these educational resources over time.