Honors Thesis Defense- Olivia Carros

Olivia Carros
Environmental Policy and Decision Making
Advisor: Dr. Robin Wilson

Promoting Cover Crop Adoption to Improve Water Quality in Agricultural Landscapes

Nutrient loading and associated algal blooms resulting from agricultural runoff are a pressing environmental concern for the Great Lakes. Cover crops are an important Best Management Practice (BMP) useful for reducing nutrient runoff while providing a wide variety of other on-farm benefits. 22semi-structured interviews were conducted to learn more about the motivations, benefits, and constraints associated with cover crop adoption among different types of farmers. Three distinct groups of farmers were identified within the sample, sharing certain characteristics: enthusiastic (or early) adopters, new (or middle) adopters, and tentative (or late) and non-adopters. Middle and non-adopters lack awareness of the diverse potential benefits of cover crops relative to enthusiastic or early adopters. As a result, emphasizing these benefits may be critical to decreasing skepticism toward cover crops as an effective and economic management tool and promoting futu  re adoption. Demonstration farms are a popular outreach tool used to provide such information about BMPs. Pre- and post-surveys were also conducted at the Blanchard Valley Demonstration Farms to determine the impact of the event on farmer knowledge, beliefs and concerns. Preliminary results indicate that the demonstration farms significantly improved the participants’ confidence in their ability to implement cover crops but had no significant impact farmer knowledge. These results provide evidence that current outreach and communication efforts are having a positive effect, but must continue to focus on concrete examples of long-term economic benefits and diverse on-farm benefits, such as resiliency and livestock opportunities, in order to be effective.