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Northwest Missouri State University

News Release

June 1, 2012

Northwest agricultural sciences department to host cover crop workshops

The Department of Agricultural Sciences at Northwest Missouri State recently received a grant from the Missouri Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to develop and host cover crop workshops focused on educating local producers and gardeners on the virtues of using cover crops in their traditional production systems.

The workshops will be 8:45 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 10, beginning in Charles Johnson Theater. Onsite registration begins at 8 a.m., although pre-registration is recommended online at or by calling the department at 660.562.1155.

The one-day workshops are free and open to the public. A free lunch also will be provided.

The workshop will consist of guest speakers, including local producers, university experts and NRCS personnel. In addition, attendees will have the opportunity to tour Northwest’s cover crop demonstration plots, which consist of various cover crop species and cover mixtures.

The workshop will be divided into two tracts. The agronomy tract will focus on the use of cover crops in corn, soybean and small grains, and the horticulture tract will focus on the use of cover crops in orchards, vegetables and gardens.

“We have seen a dramatic upswing – some estimate a 400 to 500 percent increase – in the use of cover crops to promote soil quality over the past few years,” said Dr. Jamie Patton, associate professor of agriculture at Northwest. “Cover crops are used to increase soil organic matter contents, porosity and nutrient levels, as well as reduce erosion.”

The use of cover crops is becoming more common, Patton said, after fertilizer and pesticide production steered ag producers away from growing the beneficial crops. Prior to World War II, cover crops were commonly grown during the fall, winter and early spring for use in grazing and to add nitrogen to the soil and help control weed pressures for cash crops.

“Some producers who have regularly used cover crops in their typical crop rotations have experienced the decreased need for commercial fertilizers coupled with increases in corn yield,” Patton said. “To me, that is a win-win situation, particularly as we move toward more sustainable agricultural systems.”

Patton said Northwest’s agricultural sciences department has grown various types of cover crops during the last three years. Last fall, within an area of highly compacted soil north of the Valk Center, the department grew tillage radishes and studied the impact of the roots on improving soil tilth. At the Mozingo Outdoor Education Recreation Area, the department has grown various cereal grains, legumes and winter canola to control erosion, improve soil fertility and provide wildlife habitat near Mozingo Lake.

“While the exploration of varied cover crops adds to Northwest students’ knowledge, the students also are gaining valuable skills by helping to plan and organize the upcoming workshop,” Patton said.

“Many of our students are going into careers where they’ll be responsible for hosting field days or educational events. By integrating our students in all aspects of this workshop, from planning to execution, we’re providing our students experience in the challenges of planning and organizing such events, as well all aspects of budgeting and publicity. Students are getting a good feel of the whole process, and they’re really excited that this isn’t just a class project. It is exciting that there is actually going to be real, tangible product in the end, and that the decisions they make will impact the experience of all the workshop attendees.” 

For more information, please contact:

Mark Hornickel, Communication Manager | 660.562.1704 | Fax: 660.562.1900

Northwest Missouri State University
215 Administration Building | 800 University Drive | Maryville, MO 64468