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Cover crop workshop held Dec. 11

Bridgeville Volunteer Fire Company
December 11, 2019

GEORGETOWN, Del., Dec. 18, 2019 – The Sussex Conservation District (SCD) and the Delaware Soil Health Partnership recently held a free cover crop workshop on Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019 at the Bridgeville Volunteer Fire Company.

Nearly 75 agriculturists learned the framework necessary to start thinking about farm management in a holistic way from Steve Groff, owner of Cover Crop Coaching. Panelists, Nathan Hudson, owner of N.R. Hudson Consulting, Inc., James “Jim” Palermo, president of Trap Woods, Inc and Michael Twining, vice-president of sales and marketing at Willard Agri-Service answered questions on how to connect soil health and crop management to achieve production goals.

Groff, an active farmer and cover crop expert, shared his process for implementing cover crops while avoiding costly mistakes. His 10 percent cover crop challenge urged attendees to change their mindset about cover crops and how to adjust if cover crops do not perform on par with expectations.

“Cash cropping knowledge has been distilled over generations while cover crop management is brand new for many, so grasping the proper perspective is essential,” Groff said.

“Cover crop management needs to be thought of in the context of a 10 year plan. He continued, “… [cover crops] are an investment, you are building long term value into your soil.”

The market is shifting toward more sustainable agricultural practices. Buyers and consumers want to purchase from sustainable farms that participate in soil health initiatives. “If you don’t get on the bandwagon your farm will be left behind,” Groff explained.

There are barriers that may prevent many farmers from taking on the challenge of adopting soil health such as a lack of information on how to manage, government programs, peer pressure, rented lands, crop consultants, input suppliers and bankers. Also, many farmers have been taught to control nature with tools and take the, “what am I going to kill today” approach, Groff said.

Groff continued, “in order to be successful you must mimic nature and soils want to be covered with living roots at all times.” However, Groff urges that “you can’t just throw on cover crops and expect miracles. You have to treat cover crops like cash crops and the proper tools are essential for success.”

Panelists, Hudson, Palermo and Twining discussed cover crop selection, establishment, termination, timing, nutrient management, soil health evaluation and how to measure change over time. The panelists mutually agreed that soil health practices can impact nutrient management recommendations, noting that they're spending more time in their customers' fields throughout the season to closely monitor the ever changing nutrient needs of crops.

About the Delaware Soil Health Partnership:

Founded in 2014 through SCD, the Delaware Soil Health Partnership provides workshops and field days throughout the year to help farmers develop farm specific strategies to improve soil health.

About the Sussex Conservation District:

The Sussex Conservation District is dedicated to serving Sussex County by providing technical guidance and financial assistance to enhance, maintain, protect and improve land and water resources. For 75 years SCD has worked with cooperating landowners and managers of private working lands to help them plan and implement effective conservation practices. For more information visit www.sussexconservation.org.

Steve Groff's Cover Crop Management Plan adapted from Seneca Conservation District Cover Crop Plan.

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Steve Groff, left, owner of Cover Crop Coaching, with David Baird, district coordinator at SCD, conversing before the cover crop workshop at the Bridgeville Volunteer Fire Company on Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019.

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Nearly 75 agriculturists attend the cover crop workshop at the Bridgeville Volunteer Fire Company on Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019.

 

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Tabitha Edwards, left, and Emily Palmer of USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Brian Schilling of Southern States, Vernon “Chip” Baker and Guy Phillips, National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD) Soil Health Champions, attend the cover crop workshop at the Bridgeville Volunteer Fire Company on Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019.

 

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Steve Groff, owner of Cover Crop Coaching, presents his 10 percent cover crop challenge during the cover crop workshop at the Bridgeville Volunteer Fire Company on Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019.

 

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Steve Groff, right, owner of Cover Crop Coaching, presents to an attentive audience, from left, Emil Gallo, Bob Collins and Roger Swartzentruber during the cover crop workshop at the Bridgeville Volunteer Fire Company on Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019.

 

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NACD Soil Health Champions from Sussex County, Del. attend the cover crop workshop are, from left, James “Jay” H. Baxter IV of Georgetown, Vernon “Chip” Baker Jr. of Millsboro, Brad Ritter of Nassau, Guy Phillips of Georgetown, Steve Groff, owner of Cover Crop Coaching, and Blaine Hitchens of Laurel at the Bridgeville Volunteer Fire Company on Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019.

 

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Agribusiness panelists answer questions and provide guidance on soil health and crop management to achieve production goals, from left, James “Jim” Palermo, president of Trap Woods, Inc, Michael Twining, vice-president of sales and marketing at Willard Agri-Service, and Nathan Hudson, owner of N.R. Hudson Consulting, Inc.

 

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Steve Groff, owner of Cover Crop Coaching, provided attendees with valuable resources.