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Out Croppings: Important crop news from the field!

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.

2015 Corn Research Reports Ready

Posted: December 21st, 2015 by outcropn

Corn trials researched by  NWCS in 2015 get harvested.

Corn trials researched by NWCS in 2015 get harvested.

Our Northwest Crops & Soils Team has been busy this fall harvesting research trials, collecting samples, and crunching stats on all the data we’ve collected.

Now that it is officially winter, we are busy writing reports for all of the trials conducted during the 2015 research season. The first of our reports are ready — these include our silage corn research for long-season and short-season varieties, as well as organic varieties.

Be sure to visit our Research page at www.uvm.edu/extension/cropsoil/research to see additional reports as they become available into the new year!

It’s Autumn: Time for Cover Crops, Manure Management, and RAPs

Posted: October 14th, 2015 by outcropn

Corn trials under research by NWCS in 2015 get harvested.

Corn trials under research by NWCS in 2015 get harvested.

As the harvest season winds down, folks have turned their attention to post-harvest cover cropping and manure application. The corn harvest was several weeks late (again); delays in getting field work done (due to equipment failures and busy custom operators) has slowed some operators getting corn harvest done in a timely manner. However, although the deadline for NRCS funding for cover cropping has come and gone, farmers are still planting cover crops using drill seeders and other incorporation methods. Drilling in cereal rye may still be effective but the remaining growing season is short—the days are cooling off and we are seeing reduced daylight hours which will slow crop growth.

Now is a great time to start thinking about the short day corn varieties to plant on those fields you are required to cover crop to meet nutrient management plan (NMP) requirements and/or NRCS contract obligations. Our NWCS research continues to show that 90 to 95 day varieties can and do out-yield some longer day varieties. People interested in exploring shorter day corn varieties should consult with their seed salesperson and also look at our corn trial reports. The data for 2015 is being compiled now and should be available in the coming months.

Manure application is another major task on the farms at this time of year. Remember to consult your NMP to obtain proper application rates and follow proper protocols. Keep your records up to date! Not only is it a requirement of all MFO and LFO farms, records are also your defense against any accusations of misapplying manure. SFOs are strongly encouraged to keep records as well and may be required depending on your NMP status.

Also, make sure you maintain your setbacks from streams and ditches. And, manure applied to the landscape needs to be done in accordance with current regulations. If you have questions, you can contact UVM Extension or the Vermont Agency of Agriculture for clarification.

The newly revised AAPs called “Required Agricultural Practices” (RAPs) will be coming soon. Please pay attention to upcoming meeting dates as these will be your opportunity to voice how the new Act 64 regulations will affect your business. This is a big deal and your input is critical to having a good set of rules that protect water quality and keep farming economically viable. We will provide more information about this as it becomes available.

Upcoming Field Day Focuses on Soil Health

Posted: August 14th, 2015 by outcropn

Joel Myers talks soil health  at 2014 field in  Addison County .

Joel Myers talks soil health with farmers at 2014 field in
Addison County.

On Friday, August 21, we will hold a day-long field day focused on soil health. The Summer Soil Health Field Day will be held from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Gervais Family Farm #2 on Davis Road in Enosburg Falls.

The day will feature Joel Myers, a private consultant in continuous no-till systems and cover cropping. Joel was a state agronomist with USDA NRCS in Pennsylvania before his 2006 retirement and has more than 40 years working with farmers on soil health benefits of no-till systems, as well as crop rotations and cover cropping.

The field day will also include information about cover crops, no-till, and manure management as well as equipment and field demonstrations. The event is a collaboration among the UVM Extension Northwest Crops and Soils Program (NWCS), Friends of Northern Lake Champlain (FNLC), and USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).

Registration is free –with lunch generously sponsored by Champlain Valley Equipment– but please register online at http://bit.ly/1IoSrpm.

View the Summer Soil Health Field Day Flyer for more information.

School may be out for Summer but the Testing Lab is In Session!

Posted: July 29th, 2015 by outcropn

NWCS staffer Erica Cummings with Falling Number machine in UVM Extension Cereal Grains Testing Lab.

NWCS staffer Erica Cummings with Falling Number machine in UVM Extension Cereal Grains Testing Lab.

The University of Vermont Extension Cereal Grain Quality Testing Laboratory is run by our NWCS team. Since it opened in 2011, we have tested hundreds of grain and hop samples from our research plots as well as commercial samples from farmers throughout the region.

The lab is now back open for the season and ready for business! Here are the tests offered by our lab for grain samples:

Test Weight: Test weight is a measure of the density or weight recorded in pounds per bushel of a grain at a standardized moisture level. It is a general indicator of grain quality; higher test weight generally means higher quality grain.

Grain Moisture: Determining moisture content is an essential step in analyzing flour quality since this data is used for other tests, namely falling number and protein, and is an indicator of grain storability. Whole grains and flour with high moisture content (greater than 14.5%) attract mold, bacteria, and insects, all of which cause deterioration during storage.

Whole Grain Protein: The lab is equipped with near-infrared technology (NIR) for protein analysis. Protein content is often a key specification for wheat and flour buyers as it can affect flour processing properties like water absorption, gluten strength, texture, and appearance. In general, higher protein indicates higher quality wheat.

Falling Number: The lab houses a sophisticated machine to test the Falling Number of wheat, an internationally standardized method for sprout damage detection. The Falling Number system measures the alpha-amylase enzyme activity in grains and flour to detect sprout damage and is crucial for final product quality of bread, pasta, noodles and malt. The falling number is measured by the amount of time, in seconds, it takes for a plunger to fall through a slurry of flour and water to the bottom of the sample tube. In general, a falling number of 350 seconds or longer indicates low enzyme activity and sound wheat. Falling numbers below 200 seconds indicate high levels of enzyme activity and much sprouting damage.

Seed Germination: New in 2015, the lab is offering germ tests of grains, particularly helpful for seed that is not certified or that is carried over from a previous year.

Corn Analysis: Our lab is able to provide analyses of corn samples. Results include % moisture, % crude protein, % crude fiber, and % starch.

Vomitoxin “DON”: We can test for deoxynivalenol (DON) also known as vomitoxin. Contamination of wheat with DON is directly related to the incidence of Fusarium head blight and strongly associated with relative moisture and timing of rainfall at flowering. The results are expressed in parts per million (ppm). Occurrences of vomitoxin in wheat at or above 1 ppm are considered unsafe for human consumption by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA has also established DON advisory levels to provide safe livestock feeds – a 10 ppm level is set for grains destined for cattle older than 4 months and for poultry (provided it does not exceed 50% of the diet); and a 5 ppm level is set for grains destined for swine (not to exceed 20% of the diet) and other animals (not to exceed 40% of the diet).

If you are interested in submitting samples to the lab for testing, please keep the following in mind:

  • Submit 1 quart of clean and dry (<14% Moisture) whole grain (do not send flour) for each sample submitted. Grain samples with stones and dirt will NOT be accepted. Remember, your results will only be as good as the sample submitted. Payment MUST be included with samples. Please clearly label each sample.
  • A sample submission form MUST be included for EACH sample–we cannot accept samples with no or incomplete forms.
  • Payment MUST accompany the samples to be analyzed. Samples with no payment included will not be accepted.

For more information about the testing lab and to download submission form(s), visit our website at: uvm.edu/extension/cropsoil/cereal-grain-testing-lab and/or send us an email at: cropsoilvt@gmail.com.

Annual Field Day This Week! 7/23

Posted: July 20th, 2015 by outcropn

imageJoin us this Thursday, July 23, 2015 from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. for our annual Crops and Soils Field Day at the Borderview Research Farm in Alburgh.

The day will include our infamous tour where you will see many of the research trials we are conducting, including those on heirloom beans, silage corn, flax, wheat, malting barley, summer annuals, and much more!

We will also run demos of the highboy cover crop seeder, box manure spreader, and manure injector. Come see a drone in action that can monitor crops. Take at look at the equipment researchers use to measure greenhouse gases, as well as some low cost cooling and monitoring equipment.

Registration, which includes lunch, is $10 for farmers; $25 for others. To register online and for more information, visit https://www.regonline.com/cropsfieldday.

Be on the Lookout for Armyworms

Posted: July 10th, 2015 by outcropn

Armyworms, courtesy of Sid Bosworth, UVM Extension

Armyworms, courtesy of Sid Bosworth, UVM Extension

Armyworms have been spotted in Addison, Franklin, and Grand Isle Counties of Vermont, as of July 9, 2015. 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 be monitoring fields–at high enough populations, armyworms can create a lot of damage very quickly.

To scout, look for caterpillars — when full grown, 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 much damage can occur 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. Corn fields that are minimum or no-tilled into grass sod 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 Dr. Heather Darby at the University of Vermont Extension at (802) 524-6501.

 

 

Using the Penn State Interseeder to Plant Cover Crops

Posted: June 30th, 2015 by outcropn

Cover crops can add organic matter, increase soil fertility, and reduce erosion, among many other benefits. However, our short growing season makes getting covers established after corn harvest challenging. As an alternative, farmers and researchers alike are looking at ways to establish cover crops as the corn is growing.

The first window to establish covers is just prior to corn canopy closure–at this stage of corn development, there is enough light to allow for solid seed germination. As the corn crop grows, the canopy will shade the cover crops. The cover crop growth slows but resumes after the corn harvest when the cover crop can have unfettered access to the sun.

Penn State interseeder.

Penn State interseeder.

During this time of year, some farmers broadcast seed using a tractor-mounted seeder and/or mixed with fertilizer and applied at the time of topdress. However, there is new equipment available to interseed cover crops at the same time of N topdress and herbicide application. The Penn State Interseeder is designed to function like a no-till drill. As a result, the seed is incorporated and has better germination than if the cover crop was broadcast. Thus, the cost of seed is often reduced by a quarter of the amount of broadcast seed needed to meet requirements by the USDA NRCS guidelines for cover cropping.

A common concern about planting cover crops this early in the season is that they may compete with the corn crop for nutrients. However, the cover crop roots are very shallow while corn roots are growing deeper in the soil profile, so the cover crops are not pulling nutrients from the same zone of soil as the corn crop.

Newly planted cover crops in test plots at Borderview Research Farm (June 19, 2015).

Newly planted cover crops in test plots at Borderview Research Farm (June 19, 2015).

After the corn harvest, the cover crop growth resumes. The biomass increases and the roots deepen. This living crop provides an ideal mechanism for capturing the nutrients applied during fall manure spreading. Come spring time, the dying cover crop will add organic matter to your soil and the decaying biomass will add the nutrients it sequestered from last season’s manure application.

More information about the Penn State Interseeder and cover crops can be found in “Under Cover: Integrating Cover Crops into Silage Corn Systems” on UVM Extension NWCS. If you have any questions, please give our office a call or email cropsoilvt@gmail.com.

Sidedressing Your Corn: How Much is the Right Amount?

Posted: June 25th, 2015 by outcropn

Recommended nitrogen rates for corn based on the Pre-sidedress Soil Nitrate Test (PSNT).

Recommended nitrogen rates for corn based on the Pre-sidedress Soil Nitrate Test (PSNT).

Before you sidedress your corn, we recommend doing the Vermont Pre-Sidedress Nitrate Test (PSNT). The PSNT measures nitrate, the main form of nitrogen (N) taken up by plants and an indicator of N available to the crop for the remainder of the season. The PSNT should be taken right before you sidedress, so you can identify if there is enough, too much or too little soil-nitrate for the crop to reach your yield goals. Applying too much fertilizer wastes money and can lead to environmental damage by nitrate leaching into waterways. Applying too little can decrease yields.

How to Use the PSNT

Sample fields when corn plants are 8 to 12 inches tall, taking 15 to 20 soil cores per field at a depth of 12 inches. Avoid sampling close to where you had banded fertilizer near the row. Take the samples in a zig-zag pattern all over the field so you get a good representation of the area. Do not specifically choose ‘nice’ or ‘bad’ spots – be random. Mix the soil cores together in a clean plastic bucket and place a few handfuls of the soil in a paper bag. For more tips on how to soil sample, check out this link from the UVM Agricultural and Environmental Testing Lab.

When in the field, keep the samples cool in the shade or in a cooler. The main reason to keep the samples cool is to prevent microbes that are active at warmer temperatures from further breaking down organic nitrogen, which would give you less accurate test results. Ideally, get the sample immediately to the laboratory for analysis. If this is not possible, dry the sample by spreading out the soil on a paper bag in the sun so it dries quickly. Or, put the sample in a glass dish in a very low temperature oven, less than 150 degrees Fahrenheit until dry (2 to 4 hours should be fine). If drying is not possible, put your samples in the refrigerator.

See below for a helpful chart to interpret your PSNT results. If the PSNT is 25 ppm or higher, there is little or no yield increase from applying more nitrogen (Jokela, 2008). The chart comes from the extension publication, Nutrient Recommendations for Field Crops in Vermont, where you can find more information on soil and nutrient management.

For more information, contact the UVM Agricultural and Environmental Testing Lab at 802-656-3030, call our office 802-524-6501, or email us at cropsoilvt@gmail.com.

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