Plants Protecting Plants

The Plants Protecting Plants project is another one of Rodale Institute’s several ongoing experiments aimed at improving soil health.

John Goode April 2016 1The project, started in 2013, is intended to develop improved agronomic methods of establishing cash crops while also suppressing weeds in organic no-till systems.

Directed by Dr. Kris Nichols, the trial is meant to discover whether or not a perennial plant can be used as a cover crop to combat weeds and protect the soil. This way, farmers will have a perennial cover that does not need to be planted every year, saving annual seed costs.

In order for the project to work, our researchers had to find plants that would spread across the soil surface, but wouldn’t grow too tall and interfere with either the cash crop growth or harvest. Several different types of plants were considered for the project, including avens, evening primrose, chamomile, yarrow, thyme, sedum, dianthus, self-heal, blue lupine, and fameflower. After several months of greenhouse and field research, five of these were selected of which chamomile was found to be the most effective weed combatant, able to withstand being trampled or driven over by heavy equipment during field operations, and the least intrusive.


While soybeans and corn are the main cash grain crops being tested in this project, we are also testing a variety of other agricultural enterprises, such as vegetable production, orchards and pastures.

Stay tuned for more updates, videos and web articles regarding the Plant Protecting Plants project!

This material is based upon work supported by the Natural Resources Conservation Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, under Grant Agreement Number 69-2D37-13-670. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.




Dr. Kris Nichols gives us a quick peak at this soil health projects.


5 Responses to “Plants Protecting Plants”

  1. bill nelson

    Thanks for this research. I farm fruits and vegetables in Ohio and I look forward to the progress of this project.

  2. Mary W. Christensen

    We are very interested in Rodale Institute’s project “Plants Protecting Plants.” We would greatly appreciate further information about this project as it develops.

    • Rodale Institute

      Hi Mary, thank you for your interest in this project! Please follow updates on our website as well as social media outlets to read web articles and watch videos about this project.

  3. Michael Bakonyi

    I’m also very interested in exactly these kind of projects especially regarding vegetable production. Do you know any projects or farms experimenting with perennial cover crops + veggies in Europe or Northern Africa?
    Cheers from Germany

  4. Elsita Schulte

    We are very interested. We farm pecans in Entre Rios, Argentina. Any chance of using a very low ground-cover under and between trees would be a very welcome method to avoid using glifosato before harvest.
    Thank you


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