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Sustainable Dairy Cropping at Penn State

Warmer temperatures and longer growing seasons offer Pennsylvania dairy farmers the ability to plant more than one crop in a season.

But increasing frequency of extreme rainfall presents new challenges. Double cropping with winter annuals can increase forage production and help minimize off-farm feed purchases. It also provides protection from soil erosion and helps reduce nutrient losses. Other conservation practices such as no-till, keeping the soil covered with cover crops and perennials, and manure injection can also reduce soil and nutrient losses.

Researchers at the Penn State University are studying sustainable cropping systems for use on dairy farms. A practice such as double cropping with winter annuals or other cover crops keeps the soil covered, making it less susceptible to erosion. When coupled with other conservation practices, the need for fertilizers, pesticides, and fuel can be reduced. Other practices may include no-till, rotations with perennials, and injecting liquid manure. The goal of this research is to make dairy operations in the Northeast more resilient to climate change.

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“We are in the seventh year of a project that is really designed to identify how to help dairy farms in Pennsylvania and the Northeast minimize off-farm inputs such as feed, fertilizers, pesticides, and fuel and have minimal impact on the environment and be more resilient to changes in weather and climate change.”

- Heather Karsten, Associate Professor, Penn State University Plant Sciences Department

[November 2016]

Available resources from this tour:


Ramblewood, PA

Project Status



Pennsylvania State University