A Regional Tool for Cover Crop Selection and Guidance for Farmers in the Midwest
Cover crops provide a variety of ecosystem services including erosion protection, soil building, nitrogen sourcing and scavenging, and weed, disease, and pest management. The range of cover crop choices includes grasses, brassicas, and legumes. While cereal rye dominates cover crop establishment, other cover crops are increasingly under consideration to provide specific environmental and agronomic services to cropping systems. Considerable plot- and field-scale research has been performed for numerous cash/cover crop combinations; however farmer access to performance and application information relevant to the Midwest region is limited. To provide farmers guidance for cover crop selection, a matrix tool is being developed for the crop management zones of the Midwest region.
Widespread cover crop adoption and usage by farmers has been hampered in the Great
Lakes and Upper Mississippi River basins, in part, due to the lack of knowledge of cover crop
alternatives, understanding of cover crop agronomic and environmental functions, insight into
economic and agronomic risks, and accessibility to specific cover crop application information.
Considerable local information has been generated by universities, agricultural organizations,
and farmers throughout the region on cover crop performance and application, however this
information resides within multiple organizations and systems, varies in form and format, is
often difficult to locate, and does not lend itself to making cover crop decisions. A system is
required that consolidates local information within the region, provides a common format,
implements a regional database, and supports farmer cover crop decision-making.
Dean Baas(SARE) Coordinator
Dean Baas is the Assistant Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) Coordinator for the state of Michigan located in the Michigan State University (MSU) Kellogg Biological Station Extension Land & Water Program. He directs activities for the Midwest Cover Crops Council where his duties include the promotion of cover crop usage in the Midwest and the development of a selection tool to assist farmers in cover crop decision-making. He coordinates and promotes the SARE programs in Michigan including the professional development, farmer rancher, research and education, and graduate student grant programs through the North Central Region of SARE. He is currently completing a Ph.D. in the Department of Geological Sciences and the Department of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering at Michigan State University. His research is focused on the biogeochemistry of phosphorus sourcing, fate and transport in the Kalamazoo River basin in southwest Michigan. His research supports research, education and extension efforts for the Lake Allegan/Kalamazoo River Phosphorus TMDL. Dean holds a B.S. in Agricultural Engineering from MSU. Prior to returning to MSU for graduate study, he had a 20-year career with the Kellogg Company.