Published Dec 4, 2020

2020 Virtual Cover Crop Boot Camp

By Practical Farmers of Iowa

PFI plant cover cropsWe recorded the entirety of the 2020 virtual cover crop boot camp. If you weren’t able to make the live event or want to revisit a few of the sessions, check them out below.

If you’re interested in learning more about cover crops, check out the latest PFI cover crop resources, visit our cover crops page and be sure to sign up to receive our cover crop email newsletter, The Practical Cover Cropper.

Digging Into Soil Health 1.0 – Improving Field Fitness With Andrea Basche and Mark Thompson


Whether it’s a wet year or a dry year, cover crops can help with water storage. In this session, Andrea talks through her research looking at cover crops and soil structure, while Mark explains how cover crops improve soil health on his farm.

Dr. Andrea Basche is an Assistant Professor in Cropping Systems at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Department of Agronomy and Horticulture. Her research team is focused on developing and supporting resilient cropping systems for the region and includes a range of projects with expanding the use of cover crops in annual crop systems, soil health management systems and perennial crops such as kernza. She also teaches undergraduate courses in crop management.

Mark Thompson earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Agricultural Studies and Farm Operation from Iowa State University and has been farming since 1983. He currently manages and operates a 900-acre corn, soybean, hay and small grain operation in Humboldt and Webster Counties. He has worked as a professional farm manager at Sunderman Farm Mgt. Co. since 1990. Mark has worked hard over the years to promote soil health and soil conservation.

Suppressing Weeds 1.0 – Initial Adjustments With Ruth McCabe and Rob Stout


Increased weed control is one of the many benefits of cover crops. Here, Ruth discusses the mechanisms for how cover crops suppress weeds while Rob walks through how he uses cover crops in southeast Iowa.

Ruth McCabe has a B.S. in Applied Plant Science from the University of Minnesota and an M.S. in Crop Production and Physiology from Iowa State University. She is a conservation agronomist for Heartland Cooperative in the Middle Cedar Watershed and is a Certified Professional Agronomist and an Iowa CCA. Ruth has focused her research and career on increasing support and visibility for sustainable agriculture in the Midwest.

Rob Stout farms in Washington County, Iowa where he raises corn, soybeans, small grains and pigs. Rob has been using no-till since 1983 and cover crops since 2009 to improve soil health and conservation. Rob evaluates his cover crop practices using on-farm research and is one of the few farms in Iowa to have long-term (10+ years) research plots comparing cover-cropped and non-cover-cropped portions of his fields.

Livestock Lessons 1.0 – Linking the Forage Chain With Nathan Anderson and Meghan Filbert


Make sure your cows work for you (not the other way around)! Meghan and Nathan discuss setting up expectations for grazing cover crops. Need livestock or more crop ground? Meghan talks about an exciting new “matchmaking” option for grazing cover crops.

Meghan Filbert is PFI’s livestock program manager. Her expertise includes livestock integration into cropping systems, adaptive and holistic grazing, cover crop grazing, and meat marketing. Meghan is a beginning farmer in central Iowa where she uses goats and sheep to reclaim Iowa’s native oak savanna ecosystem.

Nathan Anderson and his wife Sarah run Bobolink Prairie Farms in Cherokee County, Iowa where they raise corn, soybeans, small grains, hay and cattle. Nathan and his family started using cover crops in 2012 across their entire farm both for the soil benefits and as forage for livestock. Cover crops are an integral component of the farm’s grazing management.

Digging Into Soil Health 2.0 – Measuring Soil Improvement with Jean Eells, Emily Waring & Morgan Davis


In this session, Emily and Morgan talk biological and physical aspects of soil health in long-term cropping experiments. Jean explains how landowners are an essential part of getting cover crops on the ground and how she works with her tenant.

Emily Waring is a graduate student working for Dr. Matt Helmers in the Ag Water Management Group at Iowa State University. Her research focuses on cover crops and no-till, and their impacts on tile drainage water quality and soil health.

Jean Eells shares farmland with her siblings and has been taking the lead role working with their tenants in getting cover crops on the farm since 2016. She also has facilitated more than 200 meetings with women farmland owners across more than a dozen states and has collected stories of communicating with tenants to get the jobs done!

Suppressing Weeds 2.0 – Long-Term Success with Rick Clark and Gina Nichols


Gina and Rick discuss keeping tabs on your weed seedbank, the benefits of cover cropping long term, and how to maximize weed control from your cover crops in organic, no-till systems (hint: it’s all about biomass).

Gina Nichols is a doctoral student in the department of Agronomy at Iowa State University where she researches the benefits of diversified cropping systems. Much of her recent work has looked at the effects of cover crops on weeds.

Rick Clark and his family farm 7,000 acres in Warren County, Indiana where they raise corn, soybeans, wheat and alfalfa. Rick and his family have been using cover crops for 10 years and are 100% no-till. More recently, Rick has been transitioning the farm to organic. Cover crops are an essential component of his ability to cease using herbicides.

Livestock Lessons 2.0 – Innovative Ways to Graze with Zack Smith and Mary Drewnoski


Hear Mary and Zack talk about taking grazing to the next level. Mary dives into detail about the feed value of different cover crops while Zack introduces stock-cropping, his innovative way to couple crops and livestock.

Zack Smith farms in Winnebago county, Iowa where he has raised corn and soybeans utilizing strip till and cover crops since 2014. Recently, Zack and his business partner, Sheldon Stevermer, have come up with a new innovative system called Stock Cropping that cross leverages livestock and row crops in the same field space to increase farm profitability, soil health, lessen carbon footprint and expand economic opportunities for rural communities.

Dr. Mary Drewnoski is an associate professor in the department of animal science at the University of Nebraska Lincoln. Dr. Drewnoski’s research is centered around integrating crop and livestock systems and a large part of her research program is focused on using cover crop forage for cattle grazing.

This event was funded by the Environmental Protection Agency and is made possible by the following organizations:

Practical Farmers of Iowa, Agribusiness Association of Iowa, Coalition to Support Iowa’s Farmers, Department of Ag and Land Stewardship, Iowa Ag Water Alliance, Iowa Corn Growers, Iowa Learning Farms, Iowa Pork Producers, Iowa Seed Association, Iowa Seed Corn Cover Crop Initiative, Iowa Soybean Association, Iowa State University, NRCS, and Soil Health Partnership.


Contact Lydia English at or call our office at (515) 232-5661