Cover Cropping and No-Till Farming

Detailed overview of innovation with sample startups and prominent university research

What it is

Cover cropping involves planting non-cash crops, such as legumes and grasses, to cover the soil and improve its health. No-till farming is a practice that minimizes soil disturbance by planting crops directly into the residue of the previous crop.

Impact on climate action

Cover Cropping and No-Till Farming in regenerative agriculture mitigate climate change by enhancing soil health, increasing carbon sequestration, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. These practices minimize soil disturbance, retain moisture, and promote biodiversity, fostering resilient ecosystems while contributing to sustainable food production and mitigating environmental degradation.


  • Cover Crops: Cover crops are non-cash crops planted to cover the soil and improve its health. They can provide various benefits, including:
    • Soil Erosion Reduction: Cover crops help to hold soil in place and prevent erosion.
    • Weed Suppression: Cover crops can outcompete weeds for resources, reducing the need for herbicides.
    • Soil Fertility Improvement: Cover crops can add organic matter and nutrients to the soil, improving soil fertility.
    • Increased Biodiversity: Cover crops can provide habitat for beneficial insects and wildlife, promoting biodiversity and ecosystem services.
  • No-Till Farming: No-till farming is a practice that minimizes soil disturbance by planting crops directly into the residue of the previous crop. This practice helps to:
    • Protect Soil Health: No-till farming reduces soil erosion and compaction, and helps to maintain soil organic matter content.
    • Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions: No-till farming can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by minimizing soil disturbance and promoting carbon sequestration in the soil.
    • Improve Water Retention: No-till farming can improve soil water retention, reducing the need for irrigation.

TRL : 7-8

Prominent Innovation themes

  • New Cover Crop Varieties: Researchers and companies are developing new cover crop varieties that are optimized for specific agricultural needs and soil types. This includes developing cover crops that are more effective at weed suppression, nitrogen fixation, and soil health improvement.
  • Cover Crop Mixes: Companies like Green Cover Seed offer customized cover crop mixes that are tailored to specific farm goals and soil conditions.
  • Precision Planting and Seeding Technologies: Precision agriculture technologies can be used to plant cover crops and cash crops more efficiently and effectively in no-till systems.
  • Data-Driven Management Platforms: Data analytics platforms can be used to monitor soil health, crop growth, and other factors in cover crop and no-till systems, enabling farmers to optimize management practices.

Other Innovation Subthemes

  • Diversification of Cover Crop Species
  • Advanced Cover Crop Management Techniques
  • Integration of Cover Cropping with Agroforestry
  • Cover Crop Selection for Climate Resilience
  • No-Till Farming Equipment Innovation
  • Cover Crop Genetic Engineering
  • Remote Sensing for Cover Crop Monitoring
  • No-Till Farming in Small-Scale Agriculture
  • Cover Cropping for Soil Remediation
  • Cover Crop Seed Treatment Technologies
  • No-Till Farming and Water Conservation
  • Cover Crop Nutrient Cycling
  • Cover Crop Pest Management Strategies
  • No-Till Farming in Arid Regions
  • Cover Crop Interactions with Soil Microbiome
  • Cover Crop-Based Crop Rotation Systems

Sample Global Startups and Companies

  • CoverCress:
    • Technology Enhancement: CoverCress focuses on developing cover crops specifically for biofuel feedstock production and sustainable agricultural practices. Their proprietary cover crop, also named CoverCress, is a non-food oilseed crop that grows during the fallow period between corn and soybean harvests, providing soil cover, erosion control, and nutrient capture.
    • Uniqueness of the Startup: CoverCress’ cover cropping solution targets the gap in winter cover between corn and soybean harvests, allowing farmers to integrate a third cash crop into their rotation while improving soil health and reducing nutrient runoff. The crop’s oilseed can be used for renewable fuels, providing an additional revenue stream for farmers.
    • End-User Segments Addressing: CoverCress serves farmers and biofuel producers seeking to enhance sustainability and profitability in agriculture. Their cover cropping solution is particularly beneficial for corn and soybean growers in the Midwest United States, where CoverCress can improve soil fertility, reduce erosion, and contribute to renewable energy production.
  • Green Cover Seed:
    • Technology Enhancement: Green Cover Seed specializes in providing diverse cover crop seed mixes and agronomic support for no-till farming systems. Their cover crop blends are tailored to specific soil types, climate conditions, and cropping systems, helping farmers improve soil health, suppress weeds, and enhance crop resilience.
    • Uniqueness of the Startup: Green Cover Seed’s emphasis on diverse cover crop mixes and soil health promotes regenerative agricultural practices, including no-till farming, reduced chemical inputs, and increased biodiversity. Their cover cropping solutions help farmers build soil organic matter, sequester carbon, and improve water infiltration and retention.
    • End-User Segments Addressing: Green Cover Seed serves farmers, ranchers, and landowners seeking to adopt sustainable and regenerative agriculture practices. Their cover crop seed mixes are used in various cropping systems, including row crops, pasture, and specialty crops, to enhance soil health, productivity, and environmental resilience.
  • Indigo Agriculture:
    • Technology Enhancement: Indigo Agriculture offers microbial and digital solutions for improving soil health, crop resilience, and profitability in agriculture. Their microbial seed treatments, including Indigo Cover Crop, enhance nutrient uptake, disease resistance, and stress tolerance in crops, supporting no-till farming and regenerative practices.
    • Uniqueness of the Startup: Indigo Agriculture’s integrated approach to soil health and crop productivity combines microbial innovations, digital agronomy, and marketplace solutions to empower farmers to adopt sustainable and profitable farming practices. Their cover cropping solutions enhance soil fertility, carbon sequestration, and water efficiency, while their digital platform provides data-driven insights and market access.
    • End-User Segments Addressing: Indigo Agriculture serves farmers and agricultural stakeholders seeking to improve sustainability, resilience, and profitability in food and fiber production. Their cover cropping and microbial solutions are used in various cropping systems worldwide to address challenges related to soil degradation, climate variability, and market volatility.

Sample Research At Top-Tier Universities

  • University of California, Davis:
    • Research Focus: UC Davis conducts research on Cover Cropping and No-Till Farming, focusing on sustainable farming practices that improve soil health, water retention, and biodiversity while reducing erosion and greenhouse gas emissions.
    • Uniqueness: Their research involves studying the agronomic benefits and ecological impacts of cover cropping and no-till farming systems in diverse agricultural landscapes, exploring crop rotation strategies, cover crop species selection, and soil management techniques.
    • End-use Applications: Their work has applications in crop production, water conservation, and climate change mitigation. For example, they’re researching cover crop mixtures for enhancing soil fertility and weed suppression, implementing no-till practices to reduce soil disturbance and carbon loss, and assessing the long-term sustainability of conservation agriculture systems.
  • Cornell University:
    • Research Focus: Cornell University is actively involved in research on Cover Cropping and No-Till Farming, exploring innovative approaches for improving soil health, nutrient cycling, and crop resilience in agroecosystems.
    • Uniqueness: Their research involves integrating cover cropping and no-till farming with precision agriculture technologies, such as remote sensing and GPS guidance systems, to optimize resource use efficiency and minimize environmental impact.
    • End-use Applications: Their work finds applications in integrated pest management, carbon sequestration, and rural livelihoods. For instance, they’re researching cover crop-based strategies for pest suppression and disease control, implementing no-till farming practices to enhance soil carbon storage and mitigate climate change, and promoting farmer-led innovation networks for knowledge sharing and capacity building.
  • Wageningen University & Research:
    • Research Focus: Wageningen University & Research is a global leader in agricultural research, including Cover Cropping and No-Till Farming, focusing on sustainable intensification of food production systems.
    • Uniqueness: Their research involves interdisciplinary collaborations between agronomy, ecology, and social science disciplines to develop context-specific cover cropping and no-till farming solutions that meet the needs and challenges of farmers worldwide.
    • End-use Applications: Their work has applications in agroecological intensification, rural development, and ecosystem services provision. For example, they’re researching cover crop-based agroforestry systems for enhancing biodiversity and ecosystem resilience, promoting farmer participatory approaches for co-designing sustainable farming practices, and integrating no-till farming into conservation agriculture programs for smallholder farmers in developing countries.

commercial_img Commercial Implementation

Cover cropping and no-till farming are being increasingly adopted by farmers around the world, leading to improved soil health and reduced erosion.