Project ID



The project examined the impact of cover crops on soil health, and evaluated the use of decomposition of household items (tea bags, cotton, and birch sticks) as alternative measures of more expensive soil health measurements. As a measurement of soil health, commercially available green and red tea bags were used to create soil decomposition indices for nine Iowa farms with and without replicated cover crop strips.

Key Question

Do cover crops increase soil health and resistance to climate change?


Cover crops do improve some soil health indicators, but effects were limited and the number of years of cover crop practice did not make much of a difference in improving soil health. Decomposing household items showed some promise as an inexpensive, scientifically robust indicator of soil health.

Principal Investigator(s)

Marshall McDaniel


Teresa Middleton, Stefan Gailans; Sarah Carlson; Tom Kaspar; Mahdi Al-Kaisi; Mary Wiedenheoft

Year of Grant Completion