With dozens of cover crop varieties available with a whole host of benefits ideal in a number of cropping systems, choosing the right variety for the farm can be a daunting task.

But farmers interested in cover crops have a daylong educational session on cover-crop management available to them at the Conservation Tillage and Technology Conference.

The conference will be held Feb. 24-25 at the McIntosh Center of Ohio Northern University in Ada.

The cover crops session will be held Feb. 24 from 8:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Farmers attending this session are invited to stay for a cover crop meeting and networking period starting at 6:00 pm.

Randall Reeder, an Ohio State University Extension agricultural engineer, and conference organizer, said that the cover-crops session is an opportunity for growers to learn about the benefits of cover crops, how they can incorporate the right cover crop into their cropping system, and how to manage cover crops efficiently and profitably.

"Our goal is to increase cover crop acreage in Ohio by 5,000 acres," said Reeder.

Cover crops offer a myriad of benefits for field crops, especially in no-till production systems. Theyre excellent sources of nitrogen, have almost a 15:1 carbon-to-nitrogen ratio essential for maintaining soil quality, and produce chemicals (allelochemicals) that are antagonistic to soil-borne diseases and pests.

Cover crops also fit in well with field crops because of their short rotation and winter cover, and many cover crops are killed off by winter weather, eliminating the need to use herbicides for burn-down.

Ohio State University Extension research has found that legume cover crops incorporated into a continuous no-till field crop rotation can produce enough nitrogen to complement, or in some cases, replace corn nitrogen fertilizer applications.

In addition, cover crops improve the soil structure, support microbial diversity, facilitate drainage, reduce soil erosion, reduce nutrient leaching, store carbon, suppress weeds, enhance wildlife and can serve as a forage for livestock.

Speakers from across the Midwest and Canada will cover fourteen topics including research on oilseed radish varieties; tools to choose the best cover crops for the farm; practical cover crops for corn-soybean rotation; earthworms and their ability to build organic matter; survey results of why farmers don't plant cover crops; and using cover crops to improve water quality.

A panel of farmers will show how they incorporate cover crops into their operations.

Speakers include Dave Robison of Cisco Seeds; Dale Mutch and Dean Bass from Michigan State University; Ann Verhalen from Ontario, Canada; Odette Menard from Quebec, Canada; Barry Fisher from NRCS in Indiana; and Glen Arnold, Rafiq Islam, and Jim Hoorman from Ohio State University Extension.

Sponsors include Ohio State University Extension, the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center, Northwest Ohio Soil and Water Conservation Districts, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, USDA Farm Service Agency, and the Ohio No-Till Council.

Early registration is $50 for one day or $75 for both days. At the door, registration is $60 for one day and $85 for both days.

Complete registration and program information will be available after Jan. 1, 2011 at http://ctc.osu.edu.

The Conservation Tillage and Technology Conference is the largest, most comprehensive program of conservation tillage techniques in the Midwest.

About 60 presenters (farmers, industry professionals, and university specialists) from around the country focus on cost-saving, production management topics.

The conference is broken down into tracks covering soil and water; nutrient and manure management; advanced scouting techniques; cover crops; crop management; and planters and precision agriculture.

Elwynn Taylor, Iowa State University agricultural climatologist, will be the speaker for the opening general session at 9:30 a.m. on Feb. 24.

Note that the cover crop session starts at 8:00 a.m., and is concurrent with the general session.

The Conservation Tillage and Technology Conference broke an attendance record in 2010 with 966 farmers, crop consultants and industry representatives attending the event.

Farmers valued the education they received at $13 per acre, roughly a $7 million value. Crop consultants placed a value on their educational experiences at $16 per acre for the land they influence.