Workshops to Promote the Use Cover Crops to Improve Soil Health, Water Quality and Yields


CELINA, Ohio – Growers who want to improve soil health, reduce soil erosion and cut down on nutrient losses may want to consider using cover crops such as oilseed radish, cereal rye, or Austrian winter pea and crimson clover, according to a soil expert with Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.

Jim Hoorman, an Ohio State University Extension educator and an assistant professor studying cover crops and water quality issues, will hold a  workshop, “Using Cover Crops to Improve Soil Health,” on Nov. 14 and Dec.10, 2013 and on Jan. 14, 2014.

OSU Extension is the outreach arm of the college.

The workshop will offer growers an advanced, marathon session on cover crops, with the opportunity to work hands-on with soils and seeds and learn about specific cover crops, such as the fact that legume cover crops protect the soil from erosion but also produce nitrogen for crop production, Hoorman said.

“Starting with soil ecology, we’ll talk about how the soil microbes and plants work together, as well as discuss nutrient recycling of nitrogen and phosphorus, biology of soil compaction, soil structure and the benefit of live roots in the soil to promote soil health,” he said. “The workshop will also cover the economics of using cover crops and how cover crops can counter extreme weather events, store soil moisture and improve water quality.”

The workshop will also focus on the use of cover crops and ECO Farming, or "ecological farming," a method that is growing in popularity among farmers because of its success in improving soil structure, decreasing soil and nutrient losses, and eventually leading to higher yields, Hoorman said.

“ECO Farming includes using long term no-till, continuous living cover and other best management practices as an economically viable, ecologically sound and environmentally sustainable growing practice,” he said. “Cover crops and no-till worked together in a crop rotation to feed the soil microbes, which more efficiently utilize and retain soil nutrients. 

“Soil microbes are like soluble bags of fertilizer, so keeping the soil microbes healthy improves plant production.”

As more farmers learn about it, more of them are incorporating the use of cover crops, with some 5-10 percent of farmers nationwide now using the method, Hoorman said. 

“One of the goals of cover crops is to increase the efficiency of fertilizer inputs while attempting to increase yields and raise better crops,” he said. “Using cover crops with no-till allows the soil to increase its organic matter content. Organic matter is a storehouse for soil nutrients and soil water and buffers soil temperature. Cover crops reduce soil erosion and improve water quality.”

Topics for the daylong workshop include:

  • ECO Farming: Ecological Farming Practices
  • Soil Ecology and Nutrient Recycling
  • Using Cover Crops to Adapt to Extreme Weather
  • Biology of Soil Compaction
  • Soil Demonstrations
  • Economics of Cover Crops
  • Using the Cover Crop Selector Tool
  • Raising Homegrown Nitrogen
  • Using Grasses and Brassica in Your Crop Rotation
  • Open Discussion: Using Cover Crops in a Crop Rotation

The registration cost for each workshop is $30 and includes lunch, handouts, fact sheets and a new Cover Crop Field Guide. The workshops are:

  • Nov. 14 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Mercer County office of OSU Extension, 220 W. Livingston St. in Celina.
  • Dec.10 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Putnam County office of OSU Extension, 1206 E. Second Street, Ottawa.
  • Jan. 14, 2014, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in Erie County, with the location to be determined.

For more information or to register, contact Hoorman at 419-523-6294 or by email at


Tracy Turner
For more information, contact: 

James J. Hoorman