BETTER COVER CROPS TO BE DEVELOPED TO HELP ORGANIC FARMERS
Researchers at a top university in the United States are looking to produce new forms of cover crops to help organic agriculture.
Cornell University has announced that its scientists and their collaborators in other institutions have received $3 million (€2.59 million) to develop cover crops that could be tailored to particular local conditions.
Dr Virginia Moore, an assistant professor in the university’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the project’s principal investigator, said in a statement that “very little” had been invested in “ecosystem service crops” such as cover crops, which are grown to enrich and protect the soil.
“Since the development of scientific plant breeding in the 20th century, most of the investment has been in a few major cash crops like corn and soybeans, and in high-value vegetable and fruit crops,” she said.
As reported recently in Sial Paris Newsroom, there has been widespread concern in the United States about a lack of federal funding for cover crops in the past.
Developing new and improved varieties of cereal rye, crimson clover, winter pea and hairy vetch will be among the priorities of the initiative, which will be carried out in collaboration with organic farmers and seed companies.
Researchers hope to improve weed suppression, winter hardiness, seed yield, and disease and insect resistance.
The grant, which will be used by the university and a variety of partners, has been awarded by the US Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture. It will last for three and a half years.
Often grown in the off season, cover crops offer a variety of benefits, the university said, including improving the quality of water and soil, suppressing weeds, encouraging beneficial insects and fixing nitrogen.