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Out Croppings: Important crop news from the field!

Be On the Look Out for Loose Smut

Posted: June 20th, 2016 by outcropn

Loose smut infected wheat head.

Loose smut infected wheat head.

As winter grains are heading out and flowering, it’s time to start scouting your fields for loose smut (Ustilago nuda, Ustilago avenae, and Ustilago tritici). Loose smut is found in winter and spring spelt, barley, and wheat, as well as oats.

Spelt and barley are particularly susceptible to infection. Loose smut is one of the easiest grain diseases to spot in the field. During spike or head emergence, diseased heads emerge slightly earlier than healthy ones and appear as a mass of dark brown spores covered with paper-like membrane. This membrane tears easily as healthy plants begin to flower, and windblown spores infect the embryos of developing seed. After the fungus invades the grain seed embryo, it remains dormant until the seed is planted and germinates. Infected plants appear to be normal, but develop smutted heads.

Planting contaminated seed, especially in organic systems, can exponentially increase grain infection rates, resulting in yield reductions; 100% of the smutted heads are lost. Eating loose smut infected grain poses no harmful health effects and doesn’t appear to impact baking quality.

 Control

 If you find loose smut in your fields, don’t save the seed.

  • Plant certified or otherwise high-quality, disease-free seed.
  • Plant resistant varieties.
  • Infected seed can be treated with various systemic fungicides in conventional systems.
  • In organic systems, hot water seed treatment can be used to rid infected seed of the Loose smut fungus.

For More Information

If you have questions about loose smut or any other plant disease, the University of Vermont Plant Diagnostic Clinic can help. Click on the link below for details on submitting a sample for identification:  http://pss.uvm.edu/pd/pdc/pdf/pdcform.pdf.

Planning Your Mid-Season Corn Fertility Boost

Posted: June 14th, 2016 by outcropn

cornThe corn has been growing and, in spite of a brief cold spell, is about to begin its rapid growth phase and peak in its demand for nitrogen! A  high yielding corn silage crop can easily require 150 pounds of nitrogen per acre. Much of the required nitrogen will come from manure applications, crop residues, and nitrogen tied to soil organic matter. These sources of nitrogen are in the organic form and are not readily available to plants as they first need to be broken down by microorganisms before a plant can use them. The exact amount of nitrogen that these organic sources of fertilizer will provide varies based on moisture, temperature, and substrate quality.

To help determine how much nitrogen from these sources are available to the corn crop, we recommend taking a pre-sidedress nitrate test (PSNT). This will help you determine the right amount of nitrogen to apply–for best yields, to prevent wasting money on unnecessary fertilizer, and to prevent leaching of excess fertilizer.

What is the Pre-Sidedress Nitrate Test (PSNT)?

The PSNT measures nitrate, the main form of nitrogen used by plants. By mid-season when you take a PSNT, much of the nitrogen that was in an organic form is being broken down rapidly to the nitrate form. The amount of nitrate measured by the PSNT can be used as an indicator of how much nitrogen will become available during the rest of the season and how much additional nitrogen fertilizer the corn may need. Additional fertilizer can then be applied as a sidedress or topdress application.

How to Use the PSNT

To take a PSNT, sample your fields right before the time of topdress — when the corn is 8 to 12 inches tall, in theV4 to V7 corn growth stage. Take 15 to 20 soil cores per field, each core 12 inches deep. You can use a soil probe (preferred) or garden trowel to take a sample. We have some soil probes at our St. Albans office available to borrow on a first-come, first-served basis. Take the soil cores in a random, zig-zag pattern throughout the field, avoiding spots where starter fertilizer was applied. Mix the soil cores together in a bucket and keep about 1 cup as a sample to send to the lab. Dry the sample right away in an oven at less than 150 degrees F in a glass dish until dry (2 to 4 hours should be fine) or by spreading it out on a paper bag in the sun. Or, keep the samples cool and deliver to the UVM Agricultural and Environmental Testing Lab in Burlington the same day it was collected. The nitrate concentrations will change in the sample if it stays at room temperature or has not been dried, giving inaccurate results.

If the PSNT results are low, especially below 15 ppm, it will be worth it to fertilize. Starter fertilizer rates greater than 20 pounds per acre should be subtracted from the recommended sidedress rates. Also, reduce the recommended rate by 30 pounds per acre where the previous crop was a well-managed stand of grass, legume, or mixed forage. If the PSNT results are 25 ppm or higher, there is little or no yield increase from applying more nitrogen. See Table 6 in  Nutrient Recommendations for Field Crops in Vermont to find fertility recommendations based on your PSNT results.

A PSNT sample and submission form can be found at: www.uvm.edu/pss/ag_testing/nitrate_form.pdf. You can contact the testing lab at 802-656-3030 or AgTesting@uvm.edu, and/or visit their website at: www.uvm.edu/pss/ag_testing/. Feel free to call our office with any questions at 802-524-6501 or email us at cropsoilvt@gmail.com.

Now’s the Time to Plant Summer Annuals

Posted: June 9th, 2016 by outcropn

Planning for the “summer slump?” Now is the time to consider planting summer annuals to maintain forage production during this period of the grazing season when recovery periods slow for cool season pasture perennials, such as timothy, orchardgrass, and clover.

Summer annuals are warm-season grasses typically planted in early June (now!) 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 outcompete 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 (with sunflower and sunn hemp).

Sudangrass (with sunflower and sunn hemp).

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.

Millets

IMG_1696Millet 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

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.

More Info

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

Updated Nitrogen Recommendations for Corn Now Available

Posted: May 31st, 2016 by outcropn

First corn of the season.

First corn of the season.

Nutrient recommendations based on soil testing and other soil and crop information are the basis for manure and fertilizer management for your field crops that optimizes economic returns while protecting water quality and the environment.

The recommended nutrient rates reported on the UVM Soil Test Report and found in the Nutrient Recommendations for Field Crops in Vermont are based on crop response research and past experience.

Recent updates have been made for nitrogen recommendations for corn production in Vermont, now available at: http://pss.uvm.edu/vtcrops/articles/2016_Soil_Test_addendum_UVMExt.pdf.

These updates have been based on new research, changes in cropping practices, improvements in crop genetics, and ongoing results from the soil testing program at the University of Vermont, a joint effort of the Agricultural and Environmental Testing Laboratory, which conducts chemical analysis of the soils, and UVM Extension, which interprets and develops nutrient recommendations that are presented in the Nutrient Recommendations for Field Crops in Vermont, and in the new addendum, 2016 Cropping Season Addendum to Nutrient Recommendations for Field Crops in Vermont.

Cover Crops Resources Galore!

Posted: May 12th, 2016 by outcropn

ccwebinarseriestitleOur morning Cover Crops webinar series is in full swing! Thus far, we have held three webinars featuring Bill Curran, PennState Extension; Heather Darby, UVM Extension Northwest Crops and Soils Program; and Kirsten Workman, UVM Extension Champlain Valley Crops, Soils, & Pasture Program.

Don’t worry if you missed the live broadcasts of these webinars; recordings have been posted on our NWCS YouTube channel and are also available on our NEW cover crop website at: go.uvm.edu/covercrops.

Here are some quick links to the recordings:

We have two webinars left in the series and you can sign up for either or both at: go.uvm.edu/coffeebreakforcovercrops.

  • 5/18: Options for interseeding cover crops. Jeff Sanders, UVM Extension.
  • 5/25: NRCS programs for cover cropping. Sandra Primard, USDA NRCS.

Be sure to check out all of the resources posted on our new cover crop website, including research reports, guides & bulletins, videos & webinar recordings, and conference proceedings.

The webinar series has funding support from the Northeast Extension Risk Management Education Center; USDA NRCS Conservation Innovation Grants program; and NE-SARE.

NERME-Logo USDA-Logosare-national

 

 

 

Update – Coffee Break for Cover Crops

Posted: April 22nd, 2016 by outcropn

UPDATE – Coffee Break for Cover Crops Webinar Series

Wednesdays: 4/27, 5/4, 5/11, 5/18 & 5/25

We apologize for including an incorrect list of the topics with the dates in the first posting.  Following is the correct topics for each webinar date.

4/27: Cover crops and your corn herbicide program.  Bill Curran, Penn State University.
5/4: Termination strategies, pros and cons. Heather Darby, UVM Extension.
5/11: Cover crop variety selection for inter-seeding.  Kirsten Workman, UVM Extension.
5/18: Options for inter-seeding cover crops. Jeff Sanders, UVM Extension.
5/25: NRCS programs for cover cropping. Sandra Primard, USDA NRCS.

Take your morning coffee break with us as you learn practical tips about cover cropping.

Each webinar will run for 30 minutes, from 9 to 9:30 a.m. – just enough time to enjoy your cup of coffee before heading back out to the barn, field or computer.  Learn more about topics we will cover, and register [at no cost] for one or all of the webinars at:

go.uvm.edu/coffeebreakforcovercrops

Coffee Break for Cover Crops Webinar Series

Posted: April 21st, 2016 by outcropn

Coffee Break for Cover Crops Webinar Series

Wednesdays: 4/27, 5/4, 5/11, 5/18 & 5/25

Take your morning coffee break with us as you learn practical tips about cover cropping.  Based on the most current research and on-farm experiences, our UVM Extension Northwest Crops & Soils team will provide you with cover crop tips you can use on your farm and/or in your work with farmers.

Each webinar will run for 30 minutes, from 9 to 9:30 a.m. – just enough time to enjoy your cup of coffee before heading back out to the barn, field or computer.  Learn more about topics we will cover, and register [at no cost] for one or all of the webinars at:

go.uvm.edu/coffeebreakforcovercrops

Our topics include:

4/27: Cover crops and your corn herbicide program.  Bill Curran, Penn State University.
5/4: Termination strategies, pros and cons. Heather Darby, UVM Extension.
5/11: Cover crop variety selection for inter-seeding.  Kirsten Workman, UVM Extension.
5/18: Options for inter-seeding cover crops. Jeff Sanders, UVM Extension.
5/25: NRCS programs for cover cropping. Sandra Primard, USDA NRCS.

 

Cover Crop Coffee Club – attend all 5 webinars and we’ll send you a gift certificate for a cup of joe on us!

To request a disability-related accommodation to participate in the program, contact Susan Brouillette 802-524-6501 or susan.brouillette@uvm.edu two weeks in advance of the scheduled webinar so we may assist you.

The webinar series has funding support from the Northeast Extension Risk Management Education Center; USDA NRCS Conservation Innovation Grants program; and NE-SARE.

NERME-Logosare-national USDA-LogoUVMEXT_horizontal

Terminating Cover Crops

Posted: April 20th, 2016 by outcropn

Please Die Rye (reposting from May 8, 2015)

Over these past summer-like days, undoubtedly you’ve seen some rye growth! So now is definitely the time to be thinking about termination.

Killing the rye through plow down or herbicides are your options right now. Incorporating a winter rye cover crop in its vegetative stage will result in the quickest nitrogen release to your corn crop. An early kill can give a 30 to 50 pound nitrogen credit.

When rye reaches the boot stage (right before the head emerges), it may be harder to kill and will be slower to break down. It also may tie up nitrogen and delay its availability to the corn crop.

If you are planning a no-till corn planting, terminate with herbicide immediate after planting –timing is key so be sure planting aligns with a nice stretch of weather. If you are planning to terminate the rye with a roller-crimper, you must wait until the rye is flowering — when the anthers are clearly visible and shedding pollen. If you do not wait until this critical stage, the winter rye will likely “stand back up” shortly following rolling and crimping.

Enjoy the nice weather.covercropTrial

Some additional information on your growing cover crops

  • If the crop is at 8 – 10 inches in height and you are not sure of when you can set it back with manure, tillage, or planting in the next 10 days, you need to start thinking of a way to terminate it before it becomes a problem.
  • If you’re planting beans, it will not be a problem. You can routinely no till into standing rye then spray and have a super bean crop.
  • If you are no-tilling corn into standing rye, in most cases as long as you terminate (spray herbicide) immediately after planting it will not be a problem although it may tie up some nitrogen as it begins to decompose (as much as 70# if rye is mature).
  • If you are planning on conventional tillage, you need to watch your cover crop carefully or you will spend considerable time fighting with it in early June trying to get it to lay down enough to plant you corn into.

If you are planning to get out and apply manure, please pay attention to your setbacks and buffers. Work towards tilling the manure in immediately after application as it will retain 50% more nitrogen then leaving it sitting on the surface for a few days (the ammonium nitrogen will volatilize quickly on the surface and be lost to the atmosphere). Its money in your pocket and you have to till it anyway. It will also mitigate runoff concerns on slopes or in case of a major rain event.

Team Heads to Maryland for Cover Crop Training

Posted: April 14th, 2016 by outcropn

Spading closing wheels with drag chain.

Spading closing wheels with drag chain.

Cover crops, here we come! A team of Vermonters—including NWCS team members Heather Darby, Jeff Sanders, and Sara Ziegler; CVCSP staffer Kirsten Workman; farmer Becky Maden; VT NRCS conservation agronomist Sandra Primard; and VT state SARE coordinator Deb Heleba—headed to Baltimore, Maryland in late March to a conference called, “Cover Crops for Soil Health: A Northeast SARE regional training.”

The training brought together agricultural service providers (Extension, NRCS, and non-profits) and farmers from every state in the Northeast U.S. for three days of presentations by researchers and farmers to learn about the benefits of integrating cover cropping into grain and vegetable crops.

Although most of the research presented had been conducted in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and New York, we did learn about the relationships and tradeoffs of planting dates and termination timing, species performance when interseeded into corn, considerations for developing mixtures that are multifunctional, barriers to adoption facing farmers…and so much more!

Heather presented some of our NWCS research at the training and encouraged participants to think about the multiple uses that cover crops can offer farms – from pollinator and beneficial insect habitat to livestock forages.

DawnBiologic's ZRX Electro-Hydraulic Roller / Crimper / Row Cleaner invented by PA farmer Charles Martin

DawnBiologic’s ZRX Electro-Hydraulic Roller / Crimper / Row Cleaner invented by PA farmer Charles Martin

The highlight of the training was a field tour at the USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Agricultural Research Center in Beltsville, Maryland. There, researchers have been conducting a number of field trials looking at legume cover crop breeding efforts, long-term evaluation of cover crops in reduced till conventional and organic grain production, and cover crop establishment approaches (interseeding, aerial seeding, and post-harvest drilling).

Perhaps our favorite part of the day was taking a look at the equipment demonstrations. We met Pennsylvania farmer, Charles Martin, who invented a one pass roller-crimper and no-till seeder. This unit has recently been sold to DawnBiologic and is called the ZRX Electro-Hydraulic Roller / Crimper / Row Cleaner. We are currently working to raise funds to purchase one of these units to test here in Vermont.

Weed seed crusher.

Weed seed crusher.

We also looked at units outfitted with spading closing wheels and drag chain, rotary hoes, and a really outlandish machine designed to destroy weed seeds borrowed from the mining industry (think crushed stone!)

We’ve returned with a renewed appreciation for the farmers with whom we work who always seem willing to try new ways to improve cover cropping on their farms. Stay tuned for our upcoming cover crop work — we plan on hosting a morning webinar series on cover crops in the coming weeks, and also plan to expand our no-till and cover cropping efforts during the season.

Now’s the Time to Consider Frost Seeding

Posted: March 2nd, 2016 by outcropn

Frost seeding by ATV!

Frost seeding by ATV! Photo credit: Dan Hudson, UVM Extension

Looking for a cost effective strategy to improve forage diversity and quality in your fields?

Frost seeding is a low cost seeding strategy that relies on the action of the soil freezing and thawing to incorporate broadcasted seed into the ground. Frost seeding can begin at any point now as most fields throughout Vermont are without snow cover.

Keys to successful frost seeding include:

  • Removal of vegetation before seeding (ideally grazing or mowing in the fall),
  • Seeding early in the spring (after the snow is gone but while the ground is still frozen),
  • Selecting species that can germinate when cold–Ideal species for frost-seeding include red and white clover seeding at rates between 6 and 8 pounds per acre–and,
  • Allowing for new seedlings to establish (avoid over grazing and letting plants grow to 6 to 8 inches before harvesting).

More information on frost seeding can be found at: uvm.edu/extension/cropsoil/wp-content/uploads/frostseeding.pdf.

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