Senior Research Scientist and Manager of the Southwest Colorado Research Center Abdelfettah Berrada has been awarded nearly $250,000 from the Western Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program to study how cover crops can enhance the sustainability of dryland farming on the Colorado Plateau. Read more about this grant below:
Research and Education Cooperative Grant: SW15-008, “The Feasibility of Cover Crops in Dryland Cropping Systems in SW Colorado and SE Utah,” Principal Investigator: Abdelfettah Berrada, Colorado; $249,269.
The main goal of this project is to determine how cover crops can enhance the sustainability of dryland farming on the Colorado Plateau. The research will be conducted in southwestern Colorado and southeastern Utah where dryland crop production is practiced at relatively high elevations, soils have low organic matter, and where annual precipitation averages 10 to 16 inches. Cover crops have been shown to increase soil biological diversity, reduce soil erosion, enhance soil fertility, suppress weeds, and may also provide quality forage as a value-added component to conventional production systems. These benefits are attainable in humid and irrigated environments, but there is little information for dryland cropping systems. Additional challenges include relatively low moisture, frequent high winds, and soils that crust easily, which makes it difficult to extrapolate research results from other farming areas. The project team will grow cover crop mixtures during the fallow period on five participating farmers’ fields. Changes in soil moisture, soil erosion, soil fertility, soil biological activity, weed population, and crop yield on ground that was planted to cover crops versus ground not cover cropped will be monitored. The project will track the costs and returns associated with planting cover crops and determine which cover cropping strategies produce a net income. The same mixtures will be tested at Colorado State University’s Southwestern Colorado Research Center in a replicated trial.