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At the intersection of food, soil, climate, farming and water.

Working to Improve Conservation Planning

In collaboration with the University of Wisconsin’s Great Lakes Bioenergy Center, the Department of Soil Science and UW-Extension, the Institute has launched an effort to improve estimates of soil erosion reduction achieved with cover crop use. We are measuring canopy development and biomass production of several cover crops in multiple cropping systems in on-farm trials and in small plot research. Data is being used to refine the soil erosion estimates in Snap Plus, the most widely used nutrient planning software in Wisconsin. The software estimates erosion and the phosphorus index (a measure of potential phosphorus movement to surface water) based on tillage, crop residue removal and cover crop use. Our hope is that improved estimates will reward farmers for using this soil improving conservation practice.

Canopy development is measured with “Canopeo”, an app developed by Oklahoma State University. It estimates canopy cover by converting pixels to two contrasting colors, white for green material, black for everything else. This easy to use app allows for rapid measurement, enabling collection of more data than use more traditional methods which are very time consuming. We plan on collecting data for the next three years.

Cover crop mix 30 days after planting.                                   Image converted by Canopeo, 83.6% ground cover