Growers and others in the ag sector are invited to attend a free, live broadcast of the National Conference on Cover Crops and Soil Health and discuss how to build soil health, improve yields, curb erosion, manage pests and build resilience in their farming systems. This conference is hosted by Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SARE). On Feb. 18, locations in every state across the country will host Cover Crops and Soil Health Forums, where growers will have the opportunity to learn from one another while exploring local and national perspectives on cover crops.
Facilitated discussions on local issues pertaining to cover crops will follow a live-streamed broadcast of opening sessions from the national conference, including a dialogue with Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack (invited) and Howard G. Buffett, plus a panel discussion with expert farmers. Because the national conference attendance is limited, the local forums represent a way to include farmers, educators and researchers across the country in the emerging conversation about the use and benefits of cover crops.
"This will be a great opportunity for farmers interested in cover crops and soil health to meet up with like-minded individuals from their local area to discuss both local and national issues related to cover crops," said Dr. Rob Myers, conference chairman and regional director of extension programs for SARE's North Central region. "We hope that farmers will come prepared with questions and ideas that they can feed back to USDA about programs and assistance needed for cover crops and soil health."
Attendees of the local forums will also have the opportunity to contribute ideas and comments on cover crops and soil health back to the leadership group at the national conference. These comments will be collected by staff at the local sites as part of the local discussion process.
The Cover Crops and Soil Health Forums will be held Feb. 18 at over 200 Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and Extension offices nationwide, and is being organized in conjunction with the National Conference on Cover Crops and Soil Health in Omaha, Neb. Both the national conference and the local forums are jointly funded by SARE and the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, with planning support from NRCS, the Midwest Cover Crops Council and the Soil and Water Conservation Society. The Omaha conference is invitation-only; the local forums are open to the public.
For more information about the Cover Crops and Soil Health Forums and a list of forum locations, visit www.SARE.org/covercropconference.
North Central SARE funded a national survey of farmers who have grown cover crops, and found that during the 2012 drought, corn and soybean fields that had been cover cropped yielded 9.6 percent to 14.3 percent better than fields that had not been cover cropped. And with an estimated 1.5 million to 2 million acres of cover crops planted in 2012, the practice is increasingly recognized as key to sustainability, productivity and profitability.
Please RSVP to ensure adequate seating and to get specific details about the forum as programs will vary by location. Live streaming from the national conference will begin at forum locations at 9 a.m. Central time, except at Pacific time locations, where the broadcast will begin at 10 a.m. Pacific time.