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Out Croppings: Important crop news from the field!

Hemp and Cold Temperatures

Posted: October 22nd, 2019 by outcropn

Hemp flower harvest is well underway in the state of Vermont. Harvest can span over a several week period and proceed well into late fall. Although temperatures have been mostly mild throughout Vermont, some areas have experienced several light frosts in the past month, and as October continues on, temperatures will drop again. We have received many inquiries on the type of damage hemp plants might experience if they get frosted.

The good news is that hemp is quite frost tolerant! Ideally hemp should be harvested before the first hard frost, but if you must harvest after the first hard frost, yields are not likely to be impacted. Hardy and mature hemp plants can easily tolerate a frost of 29-32°F, while those temperatures would kill seedlings in the spring. A moderate freeze of 25-28°F can damage vegetation, and will impact semi-hardy plants. Colder temperatures will also cause green plants to turn purple/red, but the change of color of the vegetative tissues does not necessarily mean that the oils (i.e. CBD) in the plant will be affected. Freezes of 24°F and colder will cause heavy damage to most plants.

In our 2018 Hemp Cold Tolerance Trial, we tracked the temperature at the base of CBD hemp plants in plots with and without row cover, and tested the total potential CBD at 6 different dates in each treatment from October 18th to October 26th. Row covered plants had a higher average temperature and reached less temperature extremes than uncovered plants as expected, but the difference in temperature did not appear to correlate to total potential CBD concentrations. The lowest temperature was 27.8°F in the uncovered plants, indicating that light frosts will not affect the total potential CBD quality. For more information on the trial, see: https://www.uvm.edu/sites/default/files/media/2018_Hemp_Cold_Tolerance_Trial.pdf

Funding Available for Innovative Equipment to Improve Water Quality on Vermont Farms

Posted: September 10th, 2019 by outcropn

For Immediate Release:

Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets

Funding Available for Innovative Equipment to Improve Water Quality on Vermont Farms

$1 million will Support Farms and Vermont Clean Water Goals

September 10, 2019 | Montpelier VT – The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets (VAAFM) is pleased to announce that $1 million dollars in funding is available for farmers, custom applicators, non-profit organizations and phosphorus separation equipment providers through the Capital Equipment Assistance Program (CEAP). Financial assistance is available for new or used innovative equipment that will aid in the reduction of surface runoff of agricultural wastes to State waters, improve water quality of State waters, reduce odors from manure application, separate phosphorus from manure, decrease greenhouse gas emissions, and reduce costs to farmers. The following equipment categories are eligible for funding:

  • Manure and Silage Management Equipment
  • Cover Crop and Field Improvement Equipment
  • Precision Agriculture Equipment
  • Conservation Tillage Equipment
  • Phosphorus Reduction, Separation, Treatment Equipment or Technology

CEAP grant applications are due by November 1, 2019 and notification of grant award will occur by February of 2020. All categories are eligible to receive state financial assistance up to 90% of eligible costs not to exceed maximum funding rates, which vary based on the type of equipment. Applicants are limited to one application per individual farm operation, organization, or entity.

“The CEAP program is important for our farmers to help make capital investments to continue improving water quality on our farms.   These investments are crucial for meeting our state clean water goals.  Manure injectors, precision agriculture or dissolved air flotation technologies require significant investment, but can save farmers money while improving farm nutrient management and environmental stewardship.  We thank our farmers for their continued efforts and investments in this important area,” said Secretary Anson Tebbetts, Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets.

To learn more about the program requirements, or to apply please visit agriculture.vermont.gov/ceap

For questions please contact:

Nina Gage | VAAFM Water Quality Division

802-622-4098 | Nina.Gage@Vermont.gov


Scott Waterman

Policy and Communications Director | VT Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets 802-622-4662 | scott.waterman@vermont.gov

Dealing with Immature Corn Silage

Posted: September 5th, 2019 by outcropn

Dealing with Immature Corn Silage

Corn planting was delayed due to a wet spring and growth was severely slowed by cool temperatures during the early summer months. It is likely that many corn fields will not make the proper stage for corn silage and understanding how to handle immature corn silage will be critical.

Harvest Timing and Frosted Corn

Timely harvest of corn silage is one of the most critical factors affecting forage quality. To ensure maximum yields of dry matter, nutrients per acre, palatability, intake, and minimize storage losses, corn should be harvested at 35-30% dry matter. Immature corn silage due to late planting will be at increased risk for frost damage, which occurs when temperatures stay below 32°F for a few hours or 28°F for several minutes. The stalk and grain are less susceptible to frost damage as the thicker tissue retains more heat than the leaves, which are the most susceptible to damage.

After a frost, immature corn will most likely be too low in dry matter content for direct chopping.  If possible harvesting should be delayed until the plant is above 30% dry matter. Harvesting the plant at low dry matter content will alter fermentation, increase silage runoff, and could potentially decrease feed intake. To avoid seepage losses and risk of an undesirable fermentation, it will be necessary to allow the immature crop to stand in the field for several days following a frost to dry down. After a frost, moisture content is harder to determine. Frost damage turns leaves brown and creates an illusion of rapid dry down, but the plant will have a lower dry matter content than it appears to, as higher moisture content remains in the stalk and ear. Even experienced farmers who can easily estimate the moisture content for a normal corn crop might underestimate the moisture of immature corn.

Remember frozen immature corn will not dry down any faster than unfrozen corn.  The only sure method to determine dry matter is to chop a small amount of and obtain a moisture determination (microwave method or Koster Tester) to know when the crop is nearing the desired 35-30% dry matter.  As a rule of thumb, whole plant moisture normally decreases by 0.5% per day.


Plant material of 30% or slightly higher dry matter can be more effectively stored in a horizontal bunker or stack without excessive seepage losses than in an upright silo structure. Packing, covering, and particle size guidelines used in harvesting normal corn silage should be followed for immature corn silage.  If possible, store immature corn separately from high quality corn silage. Very immature corn silage should be fed to animals with lower nutrient requirements. Under the best of conditions, inoculants are generally not necessary for corn silage, however, this may be a year to consider their use. For more information on the use of inoculants, see “Inoculants for Haylage and Corn Silage” at: http://pss.uvm.edu/vtcrops/?Page=articles/haylage.html

Feed Quality

Immature corn at the dough state will yield 65-85% of normal silage yield, and slightly immature frost damaged corn that has dented can still produce good quality silage. The table below shows that while yields are decreased, overall energy content can be similar to mature silage. However, starch levels are likely to be lower.

Immature corn will also be higher in protein than those of a fully matured crop.  It is not recommended to add non-protein nitrogen (NPN) sources if the plants did not reach milk stage because seepage can concentrate NPN in the lower portion of the storage unit. After a frost, if the leaf material is dead but the stalk and roots remain alive, there is a chance nitrates will accumulate in the lower stalk. Increasing the cutting height will lower dry matter but increase silage quality since the lower stalk has the lowest digestibility and highest nitrate levels. Field losses will increase with time so producers need to balance harvest losses against fermentation loss and quality problems associated with wet silage. 

It will be important to test forage made from immature corn as there will be a large variation from the nutrient content that might be expected.  If you are going to feed a significant amount of immature silage to lactating cows, it will be worthwhile to obtain a fermentation analysis that includes silage pH, ammonia, titratable acidity, lactic, acetic, proprionic, butyric and isobutyric acids.

If you will be selling silage, the following resource has information regarding negotiating the value of immature corn silage: http://corn.agronomy.wisc.edu/WCM/W158.aspx

More information on managing immature silage can be found in the following resources:

“Inoculants for Haylage and Corn Silage” by Heather Darby and Sid Bosworth, UVM Extension. http://pss.uvm.edu/vtcrops/?Page=articles/haylage.html

“Considerations for Working with Immature Corn Silage” by Cornell University Cooperative Extension. http://www.thatscooperativeextension.org/documents/ag/ImmatureCornSilage.pdf

“Managing Immature and Frosted Corn Silage” by Heather Darby and Sid Bosworth, UVM Extension. https://pss.uvm.edu/vtcrops/articles/ChoppingImatureCorn.html

“Negotiating the Value of Immature Corn Silage” by Joe Lauer, University of Wisconsin. http://corn.agronomy.wisc.edu/WCM/W158.aspx

Now is the time to plant annual cool season forages!

Posted: August 12th, 2019 by outcropn

Late corn planting this year due to a wet spring may mean a decreased supply of silage in future months, and planting cool season annuals such as annual ryegrass, winter grains, and brassicas, can be a way to ensure your stocks of stored feed are adequate in the upcoming months. Cool season annuals can be both harvested for storage and grazed in the late fall. The sooner you plant cool season annuals, the more time they will have to establish and produce biomass.

Annual Ryegrass

Annual ryegrass is a fantastic fall forage. It establishes quickly and is very palatable for grazing. Annual ryegrass can produce about 0.5 ton of dry matter per acre in our region if sown by late August. The seed is typically quite inexpensive compared to winter grains or brassicas making it a very affordable way to boost fall grazing and/or feed stores. Annual ryegrass can be drilled at a rate of 20 to 30 pounds per acre at a depth of ¼ to ½ inch.

Annual Ryegrass

Winter Grains

Winter grains are also great options for fall forage. Winter triticale, wheat, and rye can produce large quantities of biomass in the fall prior to going into dormancy for the winter. They can also provide early spring forage that can be harvested prior to planting corn or soybeans. Oats are another annual forage option. They can also be planted in the fall but will winterkill in northern New England.

Grains may be seeded with a grain drill into a well prepared seed bed or seeded with a no-till drill at a rate of 125 to 150 pounds at a depth of about 1 inch. Plant these winter grains as early as possible to maximize fall forage production. Grains planted later than mid-September will not yield much, if any, forage this fall. For more information on managing winter grains for forage see the following fact sheet:



Forage brassicas, such as turnips, kales, and radishes, can provide plenty of high quality fall forage. They may be seeded alone or in combination with other annuals, and they can yield 1500 to 2000 pounds of dry matter per acre. Brassicas are highly digestible and therefore, need to be grazed with caution to avoid bloating. Animals should only be allowed to graze brassicas for short periods of time and given adequate fiber. Brassicas can be drilled at a rate of about 6 pounds per acre at a depth of ¼ to ½ inch.


For More Information

For current research on using cool season annual forages, see our recent reports:






Are you in need of some extra feed?

Posted: July 19th, 2019 by outcropn

Despite a cool and rainy start to the season, the weather has once again flipped to being quite hot and dry. You may be noticing your cool season pasture perennials, such as timothy, orchardgrass, and clover, growing much slower and requiring longer recovery periods before subsequent grazing or harvesting. This may also be worse in stands already stressed from winter injury. If this decline in production is leaving you short on feed, consider planting a summer annual. Summer annuals are warm-season grasses typically planted in early summer and can be grazed or harvested as stored feed (hay or silage) once or twice during the season, depending on the weather. Although they require hot weather and modest fertility rates, they can grow quickly outcompeting weeds and develop extensive root systems that can scavenge nutrients and water that would otherwise be unavailable to most other crops.

Sudangrass, Forage Sorghum, and Sorghum-Sudangrass Hybrids

Sudangrass establishes quickly, produces a lot of biomass, and has an extensive scavenging root system. Sorghum-sudangrass hybrids, and especially brown mid-rib (BMR) varieties, have been gaining in popularity as these hybrids produce similar yields to sudangrasses yet are of higher digestibility and forage. Sudangrasses and sorghums should be seeded into soils that are about 65°F with adequate moisture at a depth of about 0.5 to 1 inch at a rate of 50 lbs. per acre. High biomass production can make curing for hay difficult. At heights above 36 inches, these grasses begin to produce seed heads, and crude protein and digestibility levels will drop dramatically. Plants should not be grazed below 10 inches if regrowth is desired. These species can contain toxic prussic acid. The following guidelines should be followed to avoid poisoning:

  • Graze sorghums, sudangrasses, and hybrids when they are at least 18 inches tall.
  • Do not graze plants during and shortly after drought periods when growth is severely reduced.
  • Do not graze wilted plants or plants with young tillers.
  • Do not graze after a non-killing frost; regrowth can be toxic.
  • Do not graze after a killing frost until plant material is dry (the toxin usually dissipates within 48 hours).
  • Do not graze at night when frost is likely. High levels of toxins are produced within hours after frost occurs.
  • Delay feeding silage six to eight weeks following ensiling.


Millet is another warm-season grass that can be grazed or harvested as stored feed. It tends to grow more slowly than sorghum and sudangrass; however, it can tolerate more acidic soils and does not contain prussic acid. Millet should be seeded at a rate of 20 lbs. per acre via the same methods as sudangrasses. If nitrogen is to be applied, it should be done in multiple, smaller applications after grazes to avoid over-fertilization and potential problems with nitrate accumulation. Proso, foxtail, pearl and Japanese millets are the common types used for livestock feeds. Proso and foxtail millets are often ensiled as they have shorter grazing seasons and tend not to produce as much biomass as pearl and Japanese millets. Millet can be grazed when it reaches a height of about 18 inches. It should not be grazed below 10 inches if regrowth is desired.


Teff is a relatively new crop to the Northeast. It is native to Ethiopia where it is grown as a cereal crop in traditional foods. It can be grazed or harvested as stored feed. It does not have issues with prussic acid or nitrates. Teff’s thinner stems allow for faster hay curing than millet or sudangrass. It should be seeded at around 6 pounds per acre at a shallow depth of 0.25 inches as the seed is quite small; seeding deeper than 0.5 inches will likely result in very poor stand establishment.  Cultipacking after seeding may be beneficial in providing adequate moisture to the seed. Teff can be grazed or harvested approximately 50 to 55 days after seeding depending on weather. Before grazing, test the stand—by pulling on a handful of the grass—to see if the roots have established enough to withstand grazing. For optimal forage production, do not graze or harvest below 5 inches as this will stunt the crop. Subsequent harvests should be possible in another 45 to 50 days after the first graze/harvest.

For information on summer annuals, see the eOrganic webinar, “Focus on Summer Annuals,” with Heather Darby and Rick Kersbergen: http://articles.extension.org/pages/68106/organic-dairy-forages:-focus-on-summer-annuals.

Corn as a Cover Crop

Posted: July 3rd, 2019 by outcropn

RMA recently made a one-time change that allows for more flexibility on insured acreage with a prevented planting claim, including use of corn as a cover crop on prevented planting acres, with use for silage allowed after September 1, if cover crop guidelines from local agricultural experts are followed.  This is in response to delayed and prevented planting resulting from above average rainfall and wetness.

Short summary:  The USDA Risk Management Agency has made a one-time change to the 2019 crop year prevented planting rules that effectively allows silage corn, if planted as a cover crop following local agricultural expert guidelines, to be acceptable as a post-prevented planting cover crop. Under this one-time rule change, producers are allowed to produce this crop while retaining their prevented planting payment. This change couples with previously announced one-time changes to the prevented planting rules – including expanded acceptable uses for post-prevented planting cover crops and a change in the cover crop haying and grazing start date rule – serve to help those struggling to meet their forage needs due to the weather. 

For more information:

  • Visit the UVM Agricultural Risk Management and Crop Insurance Education website at http://go.uvm.edu/ag-risk where you will find
    • a Fact Sheet from Cornell University Targeted States program director Dr. Jenny Ifft and co-director Jerzy Jaromczyk in the “News and Events”section and
    • in the “Other Resources” section you will find links to RMA information on Prevented Planting flood provisions, Change to Haying and Grazing Date for Prevented Planting Acres Planted to a Cover Crop, and FAQ about Prevented Planting Due to Flooding.
  • Contact your crop insurance agent.

Crop Insurance Deadline

Posted: June 27th, 2019 by outcropn

Crop Insurance Deadline for Fall-seeded Forages
June 13, 2019
Vermont producers are reminded that the final date to apply for crop insurance coverage for fall-seeded forages for the 2020 crop is July 31. Current policyholders who wish to make changes to their existing policies also have until July 31 to do so. Crop insurance coverage decisions must be made on or before the sales closing date. Fall-seeded forage acreage that will be covered by crop insurance must be planted by August 31.

Crop insurance is sold and delivered solely through licensed crop insurance agents. A list of crop insurance agents is available online by clicking on the Agent Locator on the RMA website. Producers can also find the RMA Cost Estimator at the website to get a premium amount estimate of their insurance needs.

For more information about agricultural risk management for Vermont producers, visit the UVM web site at http://go.uvm.edu/ag-risk or go to the USDA Risk Management Agency web site at www.rma.usda.gov.

USDA and the University of Vermont are equal opportunity providers and employers. This material is funded in partnership by USDA, Risk Management Agency, under award number RM18RMETS524C022.

Late Corn Planting

Posted: June 17th, 2019 by outcropn

At this point in the season, it is important to make sure that crops planted in June and early July will have enough heat accumulation, measured in Growing Degree Days (GDDs), to reach maturity and provide adequate yields. This year we have seen fewer GDDs than average, and a wet spring has delayed corn planting. However, it may not be too late to plant corn for silage in some locations.

From May 1st to June 11th, 224 GDDs (with a base temperature of 50°F and a maximum temperature of 86°F for corn) have accumulated in Alburgh VT, which is 108 less than the 30-year normal of 332 GDDs, and 152 less than the 15 year average of 376. Lower accumulations of GDDs have occurred before, with the lowest on record being 207 GDDs from May 1st to June 11th in Alburgh, VT, and the highest being 553 GDDS.

For the year to date, from January 1st to June 11th, 240 GDDs have accumulation total, 135 less than the 30-year normal of 375.

The accompanying figure at the end of this document shows this year’s accumulated GDDs for corn in Alburgh, VT, starting on May 1st, in comparison to the 30-year normal and period of record.

One option to ensure an adequate corn yield is to plant a silage variety with a lower relative maturity (RM). Corn varieties will higher relative maturities, like 110-115 RM, will require 2700-2900 GDDs. By planting corn with a lower RM, you can harvest a crop that requires closer to 2000 GDDs. Silage corn with 90-95 RM will take approximately 2200-2300 GDDs to maturity, 85-90 RM will take approximately 2000-2200 GDDs, and 80-85 RM will take approximately 1700-2000 GDDs. After June 10th it is too late to plant most corn varieties.

Suggested planting dates in Wisconsin recommend planting corn for silage with 85-90 RM around June 10th, 80-85 RM around June 20th, and can be planted as late as July 1st. The table below shows projected GDDs that will likely accumulate from June 14th to the end of October in different locations around Vermont, calculated from the average frost dates and average monthly highs and lows from usclimatedata.com.

Town Average frost date Projected GDDs June 14th-October 31st
Newport Sept 21-30 1413-1448
St. Johnsbury Sept 21-30 1501-1582
Rutland Sept 21-30 1467-1534
Burlington Oct 1-10 1772-1878
Salisbury Sept 21-30 1727-1816
Randolph Sept 11-20 1327-1381

In the warmer regions of Vermont such as Addison and Chittenden counties, you may be able to successfully plant and harvest silage corn with 80-85 RM varieties. In cooler regions, it is too late to plant corn that will reach relative maturity.

If you are outside Addison and Chittenden counties, and your silage corn is still not in the ground, or if you are in Addison and Chittenden and will not be able to plant in the next week or so, you will want to consider your other options, such as planting a cover crop. If you have crop insurance, consider what the latest planting date you can plant without affecting your coverage. When considering whether to plant soybean instead of corn, take into account whether any nitrogen was applied to the field for a corn crop, as corn will use more of the applied nitrogen than soybeans. If nitrogen amendments have been applied, corn will make the best economic use of the nutrients already applied. The application of corn herbicides will also limit what can be planted next. Brassica cover crops for forage can be planted in July, and can be planted with cereal cover crops. Brassicas will remain a good grazing forage into November as they are frost tolerant. Winter cereals and legumes can be planted in August. For more information on summer alternative forages, see Northwest Crop and Soils’ Use of “Alternative Forages” on Certified Organic Dairy Farms in the Northeast (PDF) fact sheet at https://www.uvm.edu/sites/default/files/media/FAFOAlternativeForages.pdf.


Climate Smart Farming Growing Degree Day Calculator, Cornell University.

Grubinger, V. (2015). Scheduling Sweet Corn Plantings. University of Vermont Extensions Vegetable and Berry Program. https://www.uvm.edu/vtvegandberry/factsheets/SchedulingSweetCorn.html

Lauer, J. (2013). How Late Can I Plant Corn? Field Crops 28: 421-111.


Support our Industrial Hemp Program

Posted: June 4th, 2019 by outcropn

We are excited to expand our field-based research and outreach program for Industrial Hemp, as well as develop a testing facility to further enhance our research capabilities! To date, we have gained a lot of hands-on experience and research information from the research trials we have implemented for hemp fiber, seed, and CBD production. Visit our Industrial Hemp page – www.uvm.edu/nwcrops/industrial-hemp.

With your support, we hope to raise $50,000 or more to meet out 2019 goals, including:

  • Continue to develop CBD research.
  • Researching how hemp impacts soil quality.
  • Initiating a cropping system study to evaluate the impact of hemp in a forage and grain rotation.
  • Continue building agronomic guidelines for industrial hemp production, including suitable cultivars, fertility management, planting dates, seeding rates, and pest, disease and weed management.
  • We hope to add analytical equipment that can measure the impact of management and environment on concentrations of cannabinoids and terpenes in hemp.
  • Continue to provide you with educational materials from our projects.

We hope you will join us in our crowdfunding efforts to raise funds to support our continued Industrial Hemp research and reach our 2019 goals!  Visit go.uvm.edu/givenwcs today to provide your support!

Thank you!
The UVM Extension Northwest Crops & Soils Program

Crop Insurance

Posted: June 3rd, 2019 by outcropn

WHEN PLANTING GOES WRONG… Prevented Planting & Replant Provisions in the 2019 Crop Year.

Crop insurance can help your farm recover from a crop failure. Did you know it can also help you manage risk at planting time? Most crop insurance policies include provisions that can compensate you if you are unable to plant or help you afford to replant your crop if necessary.

USDA Risk Management Agency is sharing a handout on crop insurance – https://www.uvm.edu/sites/default/files/Northwest-Crops-and-Soils-Program/VT.Prevented_Planting_2019.pdf. Please view handout for additional information.

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