The ARS research team works closely with John Rhoderick, chief of the Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) Resource Conservation Operations. Together they monitor winter cover crop performance in the Maryland counties east of the Bay, an area known as Maryland's Eastern Shore.
Planting winter cover crops is important to reducing agricultural nutrient losses to the Bay and improving the Bay's health. Maryland has doubled its budget for its cover crop cost-share program to $18 million in 2008-2009. This will provide for more than 387,000 acres of cover crops with no fall fertilization.
Rhoderick and the ARS team are planning to jointly develop an operational cover crop implementation and monitoring tool based on technologies that emerge from their collaboration.
Already, the combined satellite imagery/farmer information approach has improved the operation of the MDA cover crop program. This demonstrates that satellite data can be routinely used to implement and monitor cover crop and other important state conservation programs.
The research is part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Choptank River Watershed Conservation Effects Assessment Project.
Read about cooperative ARS, state and university research in the March 2009 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.
ARS is the principal intramural scientific research agency in USDA.