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Out Croppings: Important crop news from the field!

Armyworm Alert

Posted: June 14th, 2017 by outcropn

Armyworms. Photo by Sid Bosworth, UVM Extension. Click on image to enlarge.

Armyworms were spotted in Addison County Vermont on June 12, 2017. Please don’t panic but do scout your corn and grass fields for armyworm caterpillars.

True Armyworm, Pseudaletia unipuncta, are typically spotted each year on some acreage in Vermont — crops most affected are grasses including field corn, grass hay and pasture crops. It is important for farmers and consultants to monitor fields. At high populations, armyworms can create significant damage very quickly.

Scout for caterpillars. When mature, they can be almost 1.5 inches long. The caterpillars are usually greenish or brownish, but can be almost black. The sides and back of the caterpillar have light colored stripes running along the body. They normally feed at night and can cause much damage before they mature.

Their preferred foods are grasses including corn, grains, and timothy but they will feed on other plants if grasses are unavailable. Feeding will start on the lower leaves and move upwards. A large population of armyworm caterpillars can strip an entire field in just a few days. When the field is eaten they “march” to adjacent fields. Please note: Corn fields that are reduced or no-tilled or fields infested with grass weeds are most susceptible.

For more information on armyworm, see “When Armyworms Come to Town” and/or True Armyworm resources on the Vermont Crops & Soils webpages. For additional scouting and control options, please contact the following agronomists.
Northwest VT: Heather Darby at (802) 524-6501 or heather.darby@uvm.edu.
Champlain Valley: Jeff Carter at (802) 388-4969 or jeff.carter@uvm.edu.
All other locations: Sid Bosworth at (802) 656-0478 or sid.bosworth@uvm.edu.

Grain Growers Take Note of Powdery Mildew Alert

Posted: June 13th, 2017 by outcropn

Winter wheat leaf infected with powdery mildew in Alburgh, Vermont. Click on image to enlarge.

The cool wet weather throughout the spring has created the ideal growing conditions for a plethora of fungal pathogens. Several leaf diseases have been observed in our grain trials this season. One of the more easily identifiable ones is powdery mildew.

Powdery mildew is a common disease of grain crops and can be observed periodically on virtually any crop. Different fungi cause powdery mildew in different crops but all of the powdery mildew fungi are closely related. In grain crops, the causal fungi are mainly in the genus Erysiphe.

Powdery mildew first appears on the surface of the lower leaves as white powdery patches. If the conditions remain ideal for powdery mildew development, these patches will get larger, run together, and eventually cover large portions of the leaf. The white, powdery growth turns a dark yellow-gray with age. Many dark specks resembling grains of pepper (powdery mildew fruiting bodies) form in these patches later in the summer. Yellow, necrotic lesions will appear on the lower leaf surface directly beneath the patchy areas of the mildew. Under the right conditions, the powdery mildew will move from the lower leaves to the upper leaves and occasionally will spread to the grain head.

Severe infection of powdery mildew can reduce yields by disrupting a host plant’s photosynthesis, respiration, and transpiration. Plants lose vigor and as a result, there is a reduction in grain fill.

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

Performance of Winter Canola Varieties

Posted: March 13th, 2017 by outcropn

Canola, a member of the mustard family, is primarily grown as an oilseed crop across the Midwestern U.S. and Western Canada. The crop is of interest in our region for providing fuel, feed for livestock, and providing more rotational crop options.

There are spring canola varieties–planted in the spring and harvested in the summer–and winter canola varieties planted in late summer which lie dormant over the winter and are harvested in mid-summer the following year. Winter canola, therefore, has the potential to fit into field rotations with other annual crops such as small grains or annual forages. However, in the Northeast, the challenge with growing winter canola is winter hardiness. Because our region often experiences harsh and volatile winters, these conditions can lead to widespread winterkill.

Seed yields of the 15 different varieties of winter canola we researched. Click on image to enlarge.

To investigate the potential of winter canola performance in our region, we compared 15 different varieties, evaluating yield, oil content, and other parameters. Due to extremely mild conditions during winter 2015-16, all of the canola survived and was harvested.  The highest yielding variety was Mercedes which produced over 2300 lbs. ac-1. Eight of the other varieties performed statistically similar to Mercedes, producing between 1878 and 2169 lbs. ac-1. The droughty conditions experienced throughout last season did not seem to impact canola yields; they averaged over 1800 lbs. ac-1 and test weights averaged 49.5 lbs. bu-1 which is on par with the industry standard test weight of 50 lbs. bu-1. These data suggest that winter canola, when it overwinters in this region, has the potential to provide significant yields and opportunities for crop diversification.

The full research report can be found on our website at: www.uvm.edu/extension/cropsoil/research.

Gearing Up for Spring: Improve Your Pasture & Hayland through Frost Seeding

Posted: February 23rd, 2017 by outcropn

With the spring-like weather these past few days, now’s the time to consider frost seeding as a cost-effective method to improve forage diversity and quality in your hayland and pastures.

Frost seeding is a low cost seeding strategy that relies on the action of the soil freezing and thawing to achieve the seed-to-soil contact needed for germination. Frost seeding may begin when fields are without snow cover but when the ground is still frozen.

Some keys to successful frost seeding include:

  • Removal of extra 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).

For more information on frost seeding, visit our article, “Frost Seeding: A Cheap Alternative to Improve Hay and Pasture Land.”

Our First Year Growing Industrial Hemp

Posted: February 7th, 2017 by outcropn

Industral hemp, Alburgh, VT

During 2016, our Northwest Crops and Soils Program began researching industrial hemp. Hemp is a non-psychoactive variety of cannabis sativa L. The crop is one of historical importance in the U.S. and is re-emerging as manufacturers seek it as a sustainable resource for a wide array of food and fiber products.

Vermont is among 32 states allowing hemp production and growers have begun experimenting with it; however, hemp remains mostly prohibited at the federal level. The 2014 Farm Bill has allowed universities, like the University of Vermont, and state departments of agriculture to produce hemp for research purposes. Hemp is poised to be a “new” cash crop, creating a potential market opportunity for Vermont farms. To help farmers succeed with this new crop, regionally adapted agronomic research is needed. In 2016, we performed research trials to evaluate planting dates, varieties, seeding rates, and row spacing for their impact on hemp yield and pest pressure.

Research Trial Results

Industrial hemp yields in Alburgh, Vermont by variety and planting date, 2016. Click on image to enlarge.

Planting Dates and Varieties

Twelve varieties of hemp were grown over the course of four planting dates: 26-May, 2-Jun, 12-Jun, and 17-Jun and seeded at 25 lbs ac-1. All hemp varieties at all planting dates reached full maturity. The best time to harvest is when 50% to 70% of the seed is visible and brown; the remaining seed is covered with a green husk that surrounds the seed while it is developing (if the green shell is removed most of the seed is mature). When we harvested past this point of maturity, there were significant seed losses due to bird damage, shatter, and tougher, more mature hemp fiber gumming up the combine. Harvest from the first planting date (26-May) showed optimal yields, averaging 850 lbs ac-1, above the Canadian yield averages of 500 to 1200 lbs ac-1. The 2-Jun planting date averaged a yield of 575 lbs ac-1, the 12-Jun planting date averaged a yield of 407 lbs ac-1, and the 17-Jun planting date averaged a yield of 552 lbs ac-1. Differences in variety performance were observed and can be seen in Table 1.

Row Spacing

Three row spacing treatments were evaluated including a STANDARD at 7.0” between rows, WIDE at 9.0” between rows, and a BANDED treatment that created 5” banded seed rows and 6” between rows. The variety Anka was used for this trial and planted on 24-May at 25 lbs ac-1. The WIDE and BAND treatments were cultivated with a row cultivator on the 16-Jun.  Weed cover in the treatments ranged from 7.03 to 17.1 percent, which was not significantly different between treatments. Hence, row spacing did not appear to impact weed biomass and cultivation did not appear to improve weed control. In addition, row spacing did not significantly affect yields. Average yields for the trial were 1120 lbs ac-1.

Industrial hemp seed harvest, Alburgh, VT.

Seeding Rate

Five seeding rates–20, 25, 30, 35, and 40 lbs ac-1–were trialed over two varieties, Anka and CFX-2, planted on 31-May. Hemp yield and test weight were not impacted significantly by seeding rate. The average yield across all seeding rates was 1140 lbs ac-1. Plant populations measured at harvest were significantly higher for the 35 lbs ac-1 seeding rate at 7.07 plants ft-2 and comparable among all other seeding rates.

Looking Forward

We plan to continue this research for the 2017 season. For more information on the results of our 2016 research, please check out our website: uvm.edu/extension/cropsoil/hemp.

Preliminary Results from 2016 Winter Wheat Variety Trials Give Snapshot of Yields

Posted: August 31st, 2016 by outcropn


Click on table to enlarge.

This year, the University of Vermont Extension Northwest Crops and Soils team conducted an organic hard red winter wheat variety trial–both heirloom and modern day varieties–to determine those that perform best in our northern climate. The following provides harvest results from the trials at Borderview Research Farm in Alburgh, Vermont.

The project evaluated 34 winter wheat varieties: 20 Heirloom (Table 1) and 14 Modern-day (Table 2). The experimental plot design was a randomized complete block with three replications. The seedbed was prepared by conventional tillage methods and the plots were managed with practices similar to those used by producers in the surrounding area. The soil type was a Benson silt loam soil. The plots were seeded with a Great Plains NT60 Cone Seeder on 25-Sep 2015 at a rate of 350 live seeds per m2. The plots were harvested with an Almaco SP50 plot combine on 21-Jul 2016; the harvest area was 5’ x 20’.


Click on table to enlarge.



The highest yielding variety was 112313W at 4,336 lbs ac-1 (Table 3). Other high yielding varieties include: Byrd (4,090 lbs ac-1), Forward (3,966 lbs ac-1), Winterhawk (3,616 lbs ac-1), WB-Cedar (3,524 lbs ac-1), 10007W (3,507 lbs ac-1), Brome (3,484 lbs ac-1), and Fredrick (3,411 lbs ac-1). The lowest harvest moisture was 1007W at 15.1% moisture and the highest harvest mois-ture was Brome (20.8%). All of the varieties were above the 14% moisture and therefore had to be dried down for before storage.

Click on table to enlarge.

Click on table to enlarge.



The variety with the highest test weight was Expedition (62.8 lbs bu-1). Out of the 34 varieties trialed, 28 of those met or exceeded industry standard for test weight. Additional quality measurements–protein, falling number and DON concentration–are currently being evaluated for these varieties. We will continue to com-pile data from this and other trials; results will be posted to our website at www.uvm.edu/extension/cropsoil/research.

For a pdf version of the information in this post, please visit the Northern Grain Growers website at: http://northerngraingrowers.org/wp-content/uploads/2016-WWVT-Pre-Results.pdf.

Dry Weather Impacts Corn Harvest

Posted: August 29th, 2016 by outcropn

Drought Impacted Corn in Grand Isle County, 2012.

While the past weeks have brought some much needed rain to Vermont, above average accumulation of growing degree-days (GDDs) and droughty conditions for much of the growing season has impacted corn growth and development.

We expect that we will start our silage corn harvest sometime this week.

For more information, please refer to our 2012 blog post,
Impact of Dry Weather on Corn Growth and Development, available at: http://blog.uvm.edu/outcropn/2012/08/20/impact-of-dry-weather-on-corn-growth-and-development/. Happy harvest!

It’s Time to Plant Cool Season Annual Forages

Posted: August 9th, 2016 by outcropn

Although it’s still summer, now is the time to think about fall feed. Exceptionally hot and dry weather this season has really put the pinch on pastures and stored feed. To fill in the gaps, consider planting cool season annuals. These annual forages can provide grazing options into late fall and/or can be harvested for storage. Now is the perfect time to plant these forages, giving them ample time to establish and produce plenty of biomass before the hard frosts arrive.

Annual Ryegrass

A blend of oats, peas, turnip, and triticale.

A blend of oats, peas, turnip, and triticale.

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.

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 our region.

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: http://www.uvm.edu/extension/cropsoil/wp-content/uploads/managing-cereal-grains-for-forage.pdf.




Forage brassicas–such as turnips, kales, and radishes–can provide plenty of very high quality fall forage. They may be seeded alone or in combination with other annuals. Yields of 1500 to 2000 pounds of dry matter per acre can be attained.

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 Info

For more information on using cool season forages, see our latest reports on:


Summer Forage Seeding Options

Posted: July 13th, 2016 by outcropn

Poor establishment of a spring forage seeding due to dry conditions.

Poor establishment of a spring forage seeding due to dry conditions.

Persistent dry weather has led to poor establishment of many new forage seeding throughout the region. Many farmers are wondering what to do with these failed or very poor stands?

The first step is to complete a thorough assessment of the field to see how much of the area did not establish.  If the stand looks like it is growing but just far behind where it should be at this point, the best measure may be to mow off the likely dense sward of weeds to allow the struggling forages to gain some sunlight. The recent moisture may push these forages along allowing them proper growth prior to the winter months.

It may be possible to just fill in poorly established spots with a no-till seeder in the late summer, preferably in late July or August so that forage seedlings have the six to eight weeks of growth needed to get established before a killing frost. Also, to reduce competition from the existing stand, mow the stand just previous to seeding. If soil conditions are extremely dry, this method may not be successful.

If you are in dire need of feed, it is not too late to seed a summer annual. The best choice in early to mid July would be a sudangrass or sorghum-sudangrass cross. These forages establish quickly in the heat and can produce ample forage even in dry conditions. If seeding later than July, consider planting a cool season annual such as oats, annual ryegrass, or triticale. Any of these choices will produce 1 to 2 tons of dry matter of high quality feed. Check out our warm and cool season forage reports at: http://www.uvm.edu/extension/cropsoil/forages.

Sudangrass (with sunflower and sunn hemp).

Sudangrass (with sunflower and sunn hemp).

A final option is to consider replanting the forage seeding in the late summer. These late summer seedings generally occur in August so that they have plenty of time to establish prior to fall dormancy. A rule of thumb is to plant 6 to 8 weeks before your average date of a killing frost. Seeding rates and seeding depth (1/4 to 1/2 depth) should remain the same for late summer seedings. Weed control is generally not an issue this time of the year so a nurse crop is not recommended and only competes with the new seeding for moisture, nutrients, and space. Avoid Italian or annual ryegrass in your mixtures as these grasses tend to grow rapidly in the fall and can be very competitive with other forage species.

Soil is warmer this time of the year so with adequate moisture the crop will develop and canopy at a much faster rate. Forage yields of late summer seedings during the first production year are often comparable to mature forage stands! Remember ample moisture needs to be present to get these shallow seeded crops off and running. If we go into August extremely dry, it is best to wait until there is some adequate rain.

Getting Started in Grains: Recap of Field Day at Rogers Farmstead

Posted: July 1st, 2016 by outcropn

Jessie and Nate Rogers.

Jessie and Nate Rogers.

On the first official day of summer, a crowd gathered in the barnyard of Rogers Farmstead in Berlin, Vermont. The topic was to learn the ins and outs of small grain growing and processing from beginning farmers Nate and Jessie Rogers. This event was the first in a series on grain production offered in collaboration by the UVM Extension Northwest Crops and Soils Program and NOFA-VT, sponsored by King Arthur Flour.

The Rogers started their farm in 2012. “We started growing with the intent of getting to human food,” said Nate, “Our plan was for our first crops to be used for chicken feed.” The business has changed in these past few years; thanks in part to fellow farmers, and support organizations like NOFA-VT, UVM, and the Northern Grain Growers Association.

Taking a look at Nate's combine.

Taking a look at Nate’s combine.

Currently, Nate and Jessie grow 60 acres of hard red winter wheat, 10 acres of hulless oats, an acre of spelt, and buckwheat, in addition to a small raw milk dairy and yogurt operation. They sell 95% of their wheat crop to Elmore Mountain Bread, a wood-fired micro bakery in Elmore, Vermont. Elmore Mountain Bread buys the wheat berries and mills them into flour using their own custom-built mill.

Asked about the challenges to starting their farm, Nate said, “Equipment, equipment, equipment!” Access to and the cost of purchasing the basic equipment needed to produce a grain crop was daunting, but a grant from the Working Lands Enterprise Initiative helped.

Nate reviewed the equipment they’ve acquired to date; he started with tillage tools necessary to prepare the seedbed for planting, including a moldboard plow, discs and spiked tooth harrow, not to mention a tractor to pull all of these implements.

After the seedbed is prepared, the Rogers use a grain drill to plant the seed, although, Nate added, it’s possible to broadcast the seed but you risk spotty stands if you don’t use something like a seed roller to increase seed-to-soil contact.

The next necessary piece of equipment for grain growing is the combine. Nate purchased their combine from Michigan; he mused that the cost of shipping was almost as expensive as the machine itself!

The Rogers' refurbished grain drier .

The Rogers’ refurbished grain drier.

As for postharvest equipment, Nate stressed the importance of drying grain down to below 14% moisture necessary for proper storage. They use a refurbished grain drier and grain storage containers. Grain cleaning equipment, another crucial tool in grain production, and the flour mill complete the equipment list.

Even with doing everything “right,” Nate said, “You can end up an unsalable product if the wheat doesn’t meet basic quality standards, the most challenging in this ever changing climate, is DON levels.” DON or deoxynivalenol is a mycotoxin produced by the fungus Fusarium graminearum under cool and wet conditions; the FDA has a 1 ppm DON limit for wheat for human consumption. Nate stressed the importance of identifying and growing Fusarium resistant varieties like the Redeemer winter wheat he currently grows.

The workshop ended with a stop at the NOFA-VT pizza oven for some freshly baked pretzels — yum!

For more about grain production in the Northeast, the cereal quality testing lab, and our latest grains research reports, check out the Northwest Crops and Soils website, www.uvm.edu/extension/cropsoil, and the Northern Grain Growers Association website, www.northerngraingrowers.org.

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