This training series provides an introduction to the knowledge, skills, and abilities to plan, design, and install Conservation Cover (CPS327). Additional training may be needed.

Practice Specific


Training Type
Online Learning

United States


1. Knowledge of State's Crops and Cropping Systems

Soybean Variety SelectionWhat criteria should you use when selecting a soybean variety? How do the economics pencil out for different soybean maturities in your area? What disease traits should you be on the lookout for? Learn more through a discussion of these questions and trial results with Dr. Seth Naeve, Extension soybean agronomist and Dr. Dean Malvick, Extension plant pathologist.
Corn Hybrid SelectionWhat criteria should you used when selecting a corn hybrid? How do hybrid maturities affect your bottom line? What about hybrid selection and disease resistance?  Watch the recording for answers to these questions and hybrid trial results with Dr. Jeff Coulter, Extension corn agronomist, Tom Hoverstad, Researcher from Southern Research and Outreach Center and Dr. Dean Malvick, Extension plant pathologist.
Soybean crop management in Wisconsin (soybeans, part 1/3)(Time: 12:35) This video discusses components contributing to yield in soybeans including varietal selection, regional climate and fertilization.
Vegetative Growth Stages of Soybeans (soybeans 2/3)(Time: 16:39) This video focuses on the early season growth and development of soybeans
R Stages, Soybean Management in Wisconsin (soybeans 3/3)(Time: 17:42)  This video focuses on the reproductive stages of growth and development of soybeans.
ForagesThis website provides information on variety selection, growing, harvest and storage, planting and pest management for forages in Minnesota.
SugarbeetsThis website provides information on  growing sugarbeets and pest management for sugarbeets Minnesota.
Small GrainsThis website provides information on crop and variety selection, growing, harvest and storage, planting and pest management for small grains in Minnesota.
Corn yield in Wisconsin and the US (Corn, part 1/3)(Time:13:41) Dr. Joe Lauer's presentation about "Corn Growth, Development, and Physiology". This part (1 of 3) focuses on an overview of corn yield in Wisconsin and the US.
Corn growth and development staging systems (Corn, part 2/3)(Time 41:01) Dr. Joe Lauer's presentation about "Corn Growth, Development, and Physiology". This part (2 of 3) focuses on systems used to label stages of corn plant development in Wisconsin and the US.
Yield components of corn (corn, part 3/3)(Time 24:02)  Dr. Joe Lauer's presentation about "Corn Growth, Development, and Physiology". This part (3 of 3) focuses on the components that contribute to yield in corn.


2. Knowledge of Soil Health and Management

It's All About Carbon: Building a Thriving Soil Biological CommunityA supplemental video for the 2021 Soil Health and Sustainability. Dennis Chessman of NRCS gives a presentation on Soil Carbon at the 2018 National No-Tillage Conference.
Mitigating Climate Change Through the Soil Carbon SpongeDiscovery Farms Programs in Wisconsin and Minnesota are excited to bring to you a virtual conference series this winter. Join us as we cover topics like water quality, soil health, climate change, and more!
Soil Health AssessmentA series of fact sheets describing soil physical, chemical and biological properties and how to assess them.  
Understanding Soil Quality Impacts on Soil Functions and Other Resource Concerns(Time: 1:18) Participants learn about nutrient management and healthy soils, and the resulting effects on water quality through a study of mechanisms for increasing soil organic matter, providing habitat for soil microorganisms, and improving soil quality.
Unlock the Secrets in the SoilA series of 41 videos, mostly under five minutes each that discuss various soil health topics and applications of soil health principles.
Core NRCS Conservation Practices for Enhancing Soil Health(Time: 1:10) This webinar focuses on how several core NRCS conservation practices can be used by farmers to improve soil health, linking them to the four soil health planning principles, i.e. minimizing disturbance, maximizing diversity, keeping a living root growing, and maintaining residue cover.
Soil Health(Time: 57:21)  In this session, Dr. Jessica Gutknecht discusses soil health. When you think about the soil beneath your feet, or beneath your tractor, what does it mean for it to be healthy? What does it take for it to be healthy, and what are the results of those efforts? In this talk, we will explore the world below with a brief introduction to soils, how soil structure is built into a healthy soil, and some management options for building a healthy soil. We will also discuss the win-win of soil health for sustainable management and for adaptation to increasingly variable Minnesota weather and climate.
Living Soil Film(Time 1:00:22) Our soils support 95 percent of all food production, and by 2060, our soils will be asked to give us as much food as we have consumed in the last 500 years. They filter our water. They are one of our most cost-effective reservoirs for sequestering carbon. They are our foundation for biodiversity. And they are vibrantly alive, teeming with 10,000 pounds of biological life in every acre. Yet in the last 150 years, we’ve lost half of the basic building block that makes soil productive. The societal and environmental costs of soil loss and degradation in the United States alone are now estimated to be as high as $85 billion every single year. Like any relationship, our living soil needs our tenderness. It’s time we changed everything we thought we knew about soil.


3. Ability to use Current Wind and Water Erosion Prediction Tools

Erosion 101This training module focuses on the types of erosion and the resource concerns associated with erosion.  It orients participants to the types and processes of soil erosion to prepare them to utilize the current soil erosion models - RUSLE2 and WEPS.   
Water Erosion Prediction with RUSLE2This course provides an overview of the Revised Universal Soil Loss Equation (RUSLE), and instructions on how to use the RUSLE2 model to estimate sheet and rill erosion.
Wind Erosion Prediction with WEPSThis course provides an overview of the Wind Erosion Prediction System (WEPS), and instructions on how to use the WEPS model to estimate wind erosion.


4. Knowledge of Tillage Systems used in the State

Ag 101, Session 3:  Tillage Equipment and Planting SystemsTillage Equipment: Basics of tillage equipment. What different equipment is used and different uses & functions; Alt. Planting Systems:   Different types of planting theories and planters; Tying It Together & Grower Hesitations:  How tillage & planting tie together with alternative practices being implemented. How one farming practice change leads to many.
Farming Implements in Action: Impacts on the Soil, Erosion Potential of Tillage Systems, and EconomicsThis webinar goes into the details of the five soil disturbing processes modeled in RUSLE2 (inversion, mixing, mixing with some inversion, lifting/fracturing, and compression). A video of a tillage implement in action for each of the processes is shown and discussed. The effects of the tillage types are demonstrated and discussed in a comparison between a conventional, reduced-till, and no-till corn/soybean rotation. Finally, the webinar ends with a very brief discussion of the economic factors that one should consider in making the move from a conventional to reduced-till or no-till system.

This webinar was offered on-demand only to accommodate the use of videos. The videos are provided separately below for anyone having issues with the recording of this webinar.
Tillage ImplementsA review of tools for estimating erosion, primary and secondary tillage equipment, and the effects of the equipment on erosion calculations, SCI and STIR.
Tillage ImplementsThis course will review tillage calculation tools, primary tillage implements, and secondary tillage implements used in a corn/soybean setting.


5. Knowledge of Wildlife Management and Adaptive Plant Species

Coming soon.


Additional KSAs Based on Practice Phases

1. Inventory and Evaluation (I&E) planning

  • Ability to use applicable wildlife habitat evaluation guides

2. Design and development of conservation practice requirements

  • *Knowledge of site preparation methods common for geographic region
  • Knowledge of plant species best suited for geographic region
  • Knowledge of planting dates for plant species used
  • *Ability to formulate fertilizer recommendations
  • Knowledge of operation and maintenance for vegetative establishment

3. Installation oversight and certification

  • *Knowledge of planting methods and equipment
  • *Ability to calculate pure live seed
  • Knowledge of Minnesota Seed Law
Selling Seed in Minnesota (Seed Law)The Minnesota Department of Agriculture has put together this video presentation to help retailers understand the requirements for labeling and selling seed in Minnesota. It provides basic information that seed retailers should know regarding the Minnesota seed law, seed inventory management strategies, and seed label requirements. Please contact with any questions or if you would like further information.
Minnesota Seed LawAll seed that is sold in Minnesota must be properly labeled to meet the requirements of the Minnesota Seed Law (Minnesota Statutes, sections 21.80-21.92) and the Federal Seed Act.   These laws are intended to protect consumers based on truth-in-labeling principles and promote fair competition among seed sellers through the establishment of minimum standards.
  • Knowledge of Minnesota Noxious Weed Law
Minnesota Noxious Weed LawThe Noxious Weed Law affects growing plants. Some plants are noxious because they can harm people, animals, the food we eat, and nature.  MDA, county, city, and township officials inspect land and ask owners to control and eradicate noxious weeds that are present in order to keep them from spreading and harming neighboring lands.
Minnesota Noxious Weed ListProhibited noxious weeds are annual, biennial, or perennial plants that the commissioner designates as having the potential or are known to be detrimental to human or animal health, the environment, public roads, crops, livestock or other property. 
  • *Ability to read seed tags
  • Skills in seed, seedling and plant identification of common plant and weed species


Agronomy Tech Note #31 Training Series

Introduction to Agronomy Tech Note #31Agronomy Technical Note #31 (ATN31) is used as a guide for the establishment of native and introduced plantings of herbaceous vegetation for the following practices:
• Conservation Cover (327)
• Contour Buffer Strips (332)
• Critical Area Planting (342)
• Filter Strip (393)
• Forage and Biomass Planting (512)
• Cross Wind Trap Strips (598C)
• Restoration of Rare or Declining Natural Communities (643)
• Upland Wildlife Habitat Management (645)
• Wetland Restoration (657)

This course is the first module in the series, and it provides an overview of Agronomy Tech Note 31 and an introduction to introduced, native, and invasive species.
Seed and Seeding MethodsThis course is the second module in the ATN 31 series, and it describes the different methods for seedbed preparation and seeding and covers seeding equipment, seeder calibration, herbicide considerations, and planting dates. This course also discusses the concepts of Pure Live Seed (PLS) and Seeds Per Square Foot (seeds/sq. ft.).
Seeding Considerations and EvaluationsThis course is the third module in the ATN 31 series, and it covers companion crops, temporary cover, weed control, and fertilizer and lime considerations. This course also outlines the procedures for completing stand evaluations.
Seed Calculator ToolThis course is the fourth and final module in the ATN 31 series, and it provides instructions on the use of the Seed Calculator Tool for developing seed plans and completing checkouts after plantings.


Plant ID and Species Selection Training

Basics of Plant Identification for Conservation PlanningThis course introduces you to plant identification and its role in the conservation planning process. You will learn basics of plant identification, such as how to identify plant parts and how to use different types of plant keys. You’ll also learn about collecting and preserving plant samples and about electronic and other resources that can help with plant identification. You’ll lastly learn how plant identification is used within specific phases of the Nine Steps of Conservation Planning.
Introduction to Plant Identification(Time: 1:07:49)   Plants are of central importance to natural resource conservation. Thus, the ability to identify species or species groups is an essential skill for USDA NRCS field staffs. The goal of this webinar is to provide participants with a basic understanding of plant ecology and a framework for determining the identity of plants. Participants will learn about the major groups of plants, traits that they should be looking for to distinguish plant groups, when to look for distinguishing traits, how to collect and preserve plant specimens, resources available to determine plant identification, operation of a simple plant key, and limits on the precision of plant identification. This webinar will also identify additional resources/training available to further develop skills.
Tech Talk: Native Plant IDKarin Jokela, Xerces Society Partner Biologist, and Jeff Kalin, NRCS State Wildlife Biologist, cover native plant identification for the most commonly used grass and wildflower species in pollinator conservation mixes, as well as problematic weedy species that often show up during the establishment phase. Species will be presented as seedlings, mature plants, and as seed heads. Karin and Jeff will also share strategies and tools to help you carry on learning plant identification skills until you feel proficient.
Tech Talk: Native Plant CommunitiesMegan Benage and Becky Marty from the DNR present on Native Plant Communities. This workshop session covers a tour of the Native Plant Communities Field Guides including key features, how to key things out and pitfalls to using the guide and applying its information. The session also includes plant characteristics and how to key things out for Plant ID. In addition, you will find out how you can use the information contained in the Native Plant Community guidebooks in your job with prairie and forest examples.
Tech Talk: Designing Pollinator Seed MixesKarin Jokela, Xerces Society Partner Biologist, demonstrates how to design and evaluate pollinator seed mixes using the latest version of the NRCS seeding and certification calculator. Minnesota's native bees and butterflies are diverse, and supporting them with high quality conservation plantings can sometimes be a complicated endeavor. This training provides an overview of the unique considerations that should be factored into pollinator seed mix designs, as well as ample opportunities to practice inputting and evaluating various seed mixes within the NRCS calculator.
Tech Talk Replay: Evaluating Seed MixesTech Talk Replay from June 22, 2020. Karin Jokela reviews pollinator habitat requirements and considerations, and goes on to evaluate several example seed mixes to determine if they meet NRCS standards and specifications and if they will address the resource concern. Seed mix considerations also included longevity, diversity, season long pollinator benefits, and balance among species.


Prairie Strips and Pollinator Training

Tech Talk: Prairie Strips Part 1: A New Option for Water Quality, Pollinators, and WildlifeJoin Jim Fritz (SE ARC, MN NRCS), James Fett (Watershed Technician, Mower SWCD), and Andrea Eger (Regenerative Ag Project Manager, TNC) as they discuss the following topics on CP43 CCRP Prairie Strips:

FSA CRP eligibility, contract length, eligible for SIP and PIP payments, acreage limits
Program policy specific to CP43 such as field locations, size requirements, grass and forb requirements
NRCS CP43 suitability and feasibility worksheet, CP43 Implementation Requirement job sheet
Seed design calculator
Pollinator concerns with adjacent cropland, referencing Agronomy Tech Note 9 and 31 for guidance to planners and landowners
What makes CRP prairie strips the newest most exciting conservation practice?
Outreach and promotion in Mower County
Partnerships to leverage incentives for landowner adoption
Grant opportunities to promote STRIPS
Tech Talk: Prairie Strips Part 2: Addressing Pesticide Risks to PollinatorsEmily May and Karin Jokela from the Xerces Society will present on pesticide risks to pollinators in habitat near cropland, including field research on pesticide contamination and impacts, and how to address and mitigate those risks in planning prairie strips. The talk will include local case studies and partner experiences.

Additional Pollinator trainings are available in Online Learning.


Updated: 1/19/2023