(09/09/16) BATON ROUGE, La. – An LSU AgCenter scientist has received a $992,012 grant to study how cover crops planted in the fallow season affect water quality and soil health.
The funding comes from the Natural Resources Conservation Service Conservation Innovation Grants program. A total of $26.6 million in grants were awarded for 45 projects this year.
Lisa Fultz, an AgCenter soil microbiologist, said the goal of the project is to promote the use of cover crops and develop strategies for growing them that will help reduce sediment loss and prevent nitrogen and phosphorous runoff that is harmful to waterways.
Cover crops help reduce soil erosion and improve nutrient availability. They are typically used in winter ahead of spring row crop planting, although they can also be used in summer for sugarcane operations, Fultz said.
“One of the main goals behind cover crops is to have something in the field as vegetative ground cover during the fallow season to protect the soil,” Fultz said.
Popular cover crops include clovers, radishes, cereal rye and oats, among others. Each type offers different benefits.
“We’re going to be working with four crops – sugarcane, cotton, corn and soybeans – in farm demonstration plots to show some benefits that can come from the use of a variety of cover crops based on what the farmer’s goals are,” Fultz said.
She plans to do detailed assessments of several farmers’ fields to see how cover crops affect water quality, soil health, crop yields, pest populations and weeds. An economic analysis will also be conducted.
Eleven AgCenter researchers and extension agents are participating in the project. In addition to Fultz, participants are soil scientist Magdi Selim, soil fertility specialist Brenda Tubaña, sugarcane specialist Kenneth Gravois, weed scientist Donnie Miller, soybean specialist Ronnie Levy, entomologist David Kerns, corn and cotton specialist Dan Fromme, plant pathologist Trey Price, economist Naveen Adusumilli and pest management specialist Al Orgeron.
Tillage radishes are one of many options that farmers have for cover crops, which can improve soil health. Photo by Olivia McClure/LSU AgCenter
The LSU AgCenter and the LSU College of Agriculture