National Cover Crop Research Initiative

The Noble Research Institute is pleased to partner with the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research to promote soil health through the development and adoption of new cover crops across the United States. Twain Butler, Ph.D., research agronomist, serves as project manager for this $6.6 million research initiative made possible by a $2.2 million grant from FFAR. The current focus of this project is to identify species with the greatest potential to improve soil health as cover crops.

Species of interest include small grains (wheat, rye, oat and triticale), annual legumes (hairy vetch, winter peas and clovers) and brassicas (turnips, radishes, kale and mustards). At the Noble Research Institute, Xuefeng Ma, Ph.D., assistant professor and small grain breeder, is developing rye, triticale and oat cultivars specifically bred for dual use (both as a cover and for forage). Suresh Bhamidimarri, Ph.D., assistant professor, is developing hairy vetch and crimson clover cultivars.

Field studies are being conducted at five strategic sites: Maryland for the Northeast, North Carolina for the Southeast, Oklahoma for the Southern Plains, Nebraska for the Northern Plains and Missouri for the Midwest. These sites have experience in cover crop evaluation and allow us to effectively screen each species for its effectiveness, its role with other crop mixes, and its range of adaptation.

In addition to traditional field breeding efforts, the Noble Research Institute is developing genomic resources for small grains (Xuefeng Ma) and annual legumes (Suresh Bhamidimarri).

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