Search for Excellence in Sustainable Agriculture Recognition Program

Michael Sindelar
Extension Educator
Nebraska Extension

Arterburn, J.*1, , Basche, A.*2, , Beckman, B.*3, , Burr, C.*4, , Creech, C. F.*5, , Drewnoski, M. E.*6, , Ingram, T.*7, , Jasa, P.*8, , Koehler-Cole, K.*9, , Laborie, E.*10, , Lesoing, G. W.*11, , Maharjan, B.*12, , Melvin, S.*13, , Meyer, T.L.*14, , Mueller, N.*15, , Nygren, A. J.*16, , Parsons, J.*17, , Proctor, C.*18, , Redfearn, D.*19, , Rees, J.*20, , Schick, B.*21, , Stephenson, M. B.*22, , Thompson, L. J.*23, , Volesky, J.*24, , Wilke, K.*25, , Sindelar, M.*26, , Bartels, M.27, , Whitney, T. D.28, , Glewen, K.29, , Pryor, R.30,
1 Extension Educator, Nebraska Extension, Rushville, NE, 69360
2 Assistant Professor, University of Nebraska Lincoln, Lincoln, NE, 68583
3 Extension Educator, Nebraska Extension, Hartington, NE, 68739
4 Extension Educator, Nebraska Extension, North Platte, NE, 69101
5 Assistant Professor, University of Nebraska - Lincoln, Scottsbluff, NE, 69361
6 Associate Professor, Nebraska Extension, Lincoln, NE, 68583
7 Irrigated Cropping Systems Extension Educator, University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension, St Paul, NE, 68873
8 Extension Engineer, UNIVERSITY OF NEBRASKA-LINCOLN, Lincoln, NE, 68583
9 Research Assistant Professor, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Lincoln, NE, 68583
10 Extension Educator, Nebraska Extension, Beaver City, NE, 68926
12 Assistant Professor, University of Nebraska- Lincoln, Scottsbluff, NE, 69361
13 Extension Educator, Nebraska Extension, Central City, NE, 68826
14 Extension Educator, Nebraska Extension, Thedford, NE, 69166
15 Extension Educator, Nebraska Extension, Wilber, NE, 68465
16 Extension Educator, University of Nebraska, Schuyler, NE, 68661
17 Professor, UNIVERSITY OF NEBRASKA-LINCOLN, Lincoln, NE, 68583
18 Extension Educator, UNIVERSITY OF NEBRASKA-LINCOLN EXTENSION, Lincoln, NE, 68583
19 Associate Professor, University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension, Lincoln, NE, 68583
20 Extension Educator, Nebraska Extension, York, NE, 68467
21 Extension Educator, Nebraska Extension, Fullerton, NE, 68638
22 Assistant Professor, University of Nebraska - Lincoln, Scottsbluff, NE, 69361
23 Cropping Systems and Ag Technologies Extension Educator, University of Nebraska Lincoln, Lincoln, NE, 68583
24 Courtesy Professor, University of Nebraska Lincoln, North Platte, NE, 69101
25 Associate Professor, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Scottsbluff, NE, 69361
26 Extension Educator, Nebraska Extension, Clay Center, NE, 68933
27 Extension Educator, Nebraska Extension, David City, NE, 68632
28 Extension Educator, Nebraska Extension, Holdrege, NE, 68949
29 Extension Educator Emeritus, Nebraska Extension, Mead, NE, 68033
30 Extension Educator Emeritus, Nebraska Extension, Wilber, NE, 68465

For the past several years Nebraska Extension has tried to initiate educational programming in the use of cover crops and soil health. Unfortunately, there was limited research-based information about the actual benefits of cover crops, including soil health. Farmers were initially trying cover crops and experimenting with them on their farms without the correct statistical rigor. The past three years Nebraska Extension has focused on educational programs and opportunities to engage farmers to learn about cover crops and determine their potential for use to improve the resilience and sustainability of crop/livestock systems in Nebraska.  Extension Educators from across the state were engaged in educational programs focusing on cover crops and soil health in a multitude of ways. Extension programming included Cover Crop & Soil Health Conferences, Field Days, On-Farm Research Projects, Extension publications and articles through “CropWatch” the University of Nebraska’s primary Crop Newsletter, and social media, particularly in 2020 in response to the pandemic. This program provided the opportunity to partner with farmers, ag business, governmental agencies, i.e. NRCS, SARE, NRDs (Natural Resource Districts, and NGOs, such as the Nebraska Grazing Lands Coalition and the Nature Conservancy.  In 2020 Nebraska Extension’s On-Farm Research Network had 24 cover crop related on-farm research projects, with 17 farmers participating as part of the NRCS Soil Health Initiative’s Demonstration Fields across the state. In the past 3 years the Cover Crop and Soil Health Program has held 13 programs (conferences, field days and workshops) focusing on cover crops and soil health reaching 1634 farmers and advisors. Evaluation results from conferences showed an average value of these programs of $12.04/ac with (n=440). An example of survey results following the 2020 Southeast Nebraska Soil Health Conference having a major grazing of cover crops component showed changes resulting from this educational effort include 63% are likely and very likely to change how cover crops are used in their operation N=46 and 57% are likely and very likely to start grazing cover crops N=42. Comments from conference participants included, “Look forward to this meeting every year as I always learn more.”