New tool helps farmers evaluate cover crops on their farm

Partners at the University of Illinois have created a Cover Crop Decision Support Tool designed to help Illinois farmers manage cover crops in their own fields.

Jonathan Coppess with the university’s Department of Ag and Consumer Economics tells Brownfield the tool can simulate cereal rye in any Illinois field based on a virtual map, intended planting dates, weather patterns and other secured customized data.  

“It will visualize output for the estimated biomass to be in the field to give a sense of what will be in the field to manage through. We also have a carbon to nitrogen ratio in it, which indicates how much nitrogen has been taken up by the cover crop and how much of it is locked up in that plant biomass.”

The tool aims to help improve soil health and nutrient loss reduction efforts by helping farmers transition to adopting cover crops.

“Adoption has been slow and we understand that there are costs to it as well as risks and management challenges that go around it, so we looked at the things we could implement to help farmers in the adoption process and management of a cover crop that could speed or help adoption and successful use of this practice.”

Coppess says funding allowed them to release the tool starting with data for cereal rye on Illinois farms, but if more funding is secured, their goal is to expand it for more cover crops across the Midwest. He says they are currently working with Purdue University to possibly modify the tool for Indiana farmers next.

Interview with Jonathan Coppess

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