2014 Wisconsin Cover Crops Conference a Huge Success!
March 27, 2014
Kalahari Resorts and Convention Center – The WI Cover Crops Conference, hosted by Michael Fields Ag Institute, NRCS WI, UW-Extension and sponsored by North Central SARE, was a huge success. With over 100 attendees, this conference advanced the spread of knowledge on cover crops in Wisconsin and educated farmers, agency, and non-profit staff on the economic and soil health benefits of cover crops. With over 18 breakout sessions and multiple plenary sessions, there was no shortage of topics for attendees to choose from. From aerial seeding of cover crops to how to use government programs to support cover crops usage, the agenda ran the gamut of information that both beginners and veterans could practically use.
Kicking off the conference, Dale Mutch gave a great presentation on cover crops, providing folks with a broad overview of the subject and taking questions at the end, illustrating his expertise on the subject and enlightening audience members. Dale spoke for 30 minutes as a precursor to the farmer-researcher fishbowl panel and people were clamoring for more of his insight and knowledge on cover crops. He truly was an asset to the body of knowledge presented at the conference and we, at Michael Fields, appreciate him taking the time to come and speak to conference attendees.
The farmer-researcher panel, facilitated by Ryan Stockwell of the National Wildlife Federation, was a hit with participants. The unique dialogue created between practitioners and researchers shed light on many different research topics that farmers want to see addressed and laid the foundation to better lines of communication between farmers and researchers on the needs of Wisconsin farmers who are interested in and currently using cover crops on their operations.
“The Wisconsin Cover Crops conference showed me the number of benefits you receive from cover crops throughout farming, across the board. No matter what type of farming you are doing, the water flitration capability, the nutrient return, and powdery soils that come about are a return on your money. From my experience in using cover crops the earthworm population flourishes; they are the best workers you have in the field and they should be fed well.” — Dan Stokes, No-till farmer, Omro, WI
The breakout sessions ran from 9am – 4pm on the second day of the conference and allowed attendees to pick and choose from five different tracks relating to cover crops usage. Those tracks included cover crop basics, cover crop management, cropping systems specifics, economics and risk management and the multi-functionality of cover crops. Each track offered 3 sessions with cropping system specifics repeating so folks could attend other breakouts without missing out on information relating to their particular operation.
NRCS State Conservationist Jimmy Bramblett wrapped up the conference. He spoke briefly on the importance of the proliferation of cover crops in the state of Wisconsin and thanked participants for coming to learn about how to use cover crops in their operations and how to spread the word on their efficacy in improving soil health and bottom lines. His words succinctly captured the tone of the conference and left attendees with a supportive message around NRCS WI’s commitment to improving soil health in the state. We want to extend the Institute’s thanks to Mr. Bramblett for attending and speaking at the conference.
Participant feedback was great for the conference and Michael Fields staff is exploring what additional initiatives can be developed to further cover crops knowledge and usage in this great state.
Thanks to all of the speakers, staff, partners, sponsors, and most of all, participants who came to this conference. We hope the knowledge that you gained from this conference increases cover crops usage in this great state and improves soil health and profitability for the farmers who implement it.