Cover Crops Bred for Organic Farming

Cover crops such as cereal rye, hairy vetch, and winter pea are essential to the long-term success of organic farming methods. Cover crops suppress weeds, improve soil and water quality, supply nitrogen, and provide nutrients for pollinators and other beneficial organisms. Unlike cash crops, however, cover crops have not been bred for important traits that organic growers need. The varieties available to organic growers are limited, and information about how distinct varieties perform in specific regions is inadequate.

Virginia M. Moore, School of Integrative Plant Science, Plant Breeding and Genetics Section and Soil and Crop Sciences Section, and Matthew R. Ryan, School of Integrative Plant Science, Soil and Crop Sciences Section, are leading a multi-institutional team to breed cover crops for improved weed control, fertility management, and other traits of interest to organic growers, such as early vigor, winter hardiness, and biomass production. Researchers will work with farmers and seed companies, and they will use classical breeding as well as molecular tools and collaborative, grower-centered participatory breeding techniques. This project builds on an established breeding and research network, and it will utilize research and farm sites dispersed across the United States to ensure that results are applicable across multiple regions, scales, and organic cropping systems.

This research will generate new varieties of cover crops for organic growers and will result in improved organic cropping systems. Through outreach and extension programs, this project will provide organic growers with the data they need to select cover crop varieties that are best adapted to their region and cropping system.

NIFA Award Number: 2021-51300-34899

Cornell Researchers

Funding Received

$3 Million spanning 3.5 years

Sponsored by