South Dakota State University assistant professor Sandeep Kumar has been selected to lead a $4 million project created by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Kumar, who works in the Department of Agronomy, Horticulture and Plant Science at the university, expects the initiative to increase crop production.
The project is based on the idea that adding a cover crop that livestock can graze on to a rotation plan can improve soil health while protecting the environment. A total of 26 scientists from five schools, including North Dakota State University, University of Wisconsin-Madison, and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln will participate in the initiative.
“The hypothesis is that this system can alter nutrition cycling and improve soil resilience,” said Kumar. “We are putting the cover crop in a three-year rotation, right after small grains, which are harvested in June and July.”
However, this concept is not new to all farmers and project participants. For example, producers in South Dakota who have been using a crop-livestock management system for more than a year will also be participating in the initiative.
At one point, grazing cropland was common, but Kumar says that today, “most farmers are not into this practice.” Through the project, he believes the fall crop will provide nourishment to cattle while binding nitrogen to the soil and reducing water runoff.