Seal of Dane County County of Dane
Dane Demo Farms


A unique component of the Dane Demo Farm network is that research is conducted by farmers and for farmers, with the focus of answering questions farmers have when it comes to adoption of various conservation practices. There are projects unique to each demo farm and projects that are replicated across all farms. Cooperating farms and/or their service providers complete all field operations within the project plots, including planting, harvest, tillage, pesticide applications, and manure and fertilizer applications.

Research analysis and edge-of-field monitoring is made possible by a cooperative funding agreement between the USDA-NRCS and Dane County. Additional funds are made available by local Sponsors.

Current Projects

When is the best time to terminate a cover crop to achieve goals (whether the goal is to improve soil health, maximize soil cover, control weeds, increase soil organic matter, improve nutrient cycling, etc.) and what are the tradeoffs?

This project is designed to assess the impacts of different termination timing of rye cover crop in a corn grain, corn silage, and/or soybean rotation.

Sampling includes:

  • Soil health sampling - see Soil Health Comparison Study below for details
  • Nutrient stratification sampling - see Nutrient Stratification Study below for details
  • Nitrates and ammonia after harvest, before and after planting, and pre-sidedress
  • Weed control visual assessment
  • Cover crop coverage assessment

How is the soil health on my farm improving due to management?

This project is designed to compare fields that have had intense management for improved soil health, some soil health management, or fields that are managed in a more typical or traditional way.

Sampling includes:

  • Potentially mineralizable nitrogen
  • Active carbon (POXC)
  • Wet aggregate stability
  • pH (salt and water)
  • % total nitrogen and total carbon
  • Respiration
  • Bulk density
  • Compaction (penetrometer readings at 0-6" and 6-18")
  • Standard soil sample (OM, P, K, pH)

Does adding cover crops into a no-till system reduce or eliminate nutrient stratification in the soil profile? 

This project compares the nutrient stratification in no-till fields with a history of soil health practices, with the nutrient stratification in no-till fields that have little or no history of soil health practices.

Sampling includes:

  • Standard soil samples 0-2" (OM, P, K, pH)
  • Standard soil samples 0-6" (OM, P, K, pH)

Does adding cover crops into a no-till system assist with the incorporation of lime into the soil profile?

This project is designed to compare pH stratification in a no-till system with cover crops (or other soil health improving practices), with and without mechanical lime incorporation.

Sampling includes:

  • Standard soil samples 0-2" (OM, P, K, pH)
  • Standard soil samples 0-6" (OM, P, K, pH)

What is the best placement of nitrogen fertilizer to avoid tie-up by cover crops?

This project is designed to assess manure placement in a strip-till and cover crop system and associated nitrogen tie-up.

Sampling includes:

  • Standard soil samples (OM, P, K, pH)
  • Standard liquid manure samples (solids, N, P, K, S)
  • Nitrates and ammonia after harvest, before and after planting, and pre-sidedress