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Out Croppings: Important crop news from the field!

Impact of Dry Weather on Corn Growth and Development

Posted: August 20th, 2012 by outcropn

Dr. Heather Darby, UVM Extension Agronomist

Very low precipitation over the last few months has caused drought stress in isolated areas of the state. The dry weather can have an impact on corn growth and development. For many farms corn silage harvest will begin in the next few weeks partly due to an above average accumulation of growing degree-days (GDDs) and for some due to severe drought stress. The goal of this article is to describe the impact of drought on corn development and provide suggestions for managing drought-stricken silage.

Drought Impacted Corn in Grand Isle County

Impact of drought on corn pollination
Many producers have observed leaf rolling in their corn fields especially in fields where soil compaction is severe. Some of these fields are entering the critical pollination and fertilization period where any type of environmental stress will result in yield loss. About 2 weeks before silk emergence, corn enters the period of grain yield determination. Corn is the most sensitive to drought stress during this period. Continued wilting of the plant at this stage can decrease yield 3 to 4 percent per day. Inadequate plant water can also delay silk elongation and silks that do emerge may become non-receptive to pollen. Obviously this can result in poor pollination. During the silking and pollen shed period, severe stress may reduce yield up to 8 percent per day.

Impact of drought stress on grain-filling
Water stress during grain-filling reduces yield 2.0 to 6.0% with each day of stress.
Abortion of kernels during the first 2 weeks following pollination is common during drought. Kernels can also abort during blister and milk stages if there is severe drought stress. Once kernels have reached the dough stage of development, yield losses will occur mainly from reduced kernel test weight. Drought stress during dough and dent stages can lead to premature black layer formation in the kernels.

Impact of drought stress on corn nitrate levels
Drought conditions can cause nitrates to accumulate in corn plants. Under normal growing conditions, nitrates are quickly converted into plant proteins and other compounds. When plant growth is slowed or stopped, nitrates can accumulate in the plant. Rainfall following an extended dry period may cause an immediate increase in nitrates for 2 to 5 days until the plant can utilize the nitrates.

There are several strategies that can help reduce nitrate levels in drought-stressed plants. First, try to wait 3 to 5 days after an appreciable rain or long cloudy spell before harvesting crops. Since nitrates accumulate in the stalks, consider a higher cut height. Leaving 12-inch stubble in the field can reduce nitrates but would also reduce yields. Ensiling will also help to reduce nitrates by as much as 60 percent. Allow the forage to ferment for 4 weeks to allow for complete fermentation. Any suspect feed should be tested for nitrate levels before feeding. The silage can also be tested at harvest to determine if nitrates are a cause for concern.
Symptoms of acute nitrate poisoning in animals are related to the lack of oxygen in the tissues. These include muscular weakness, accelerated heart rate, difficult or rapid breathing, cyanosis, coma, and even death. Drop in milk production, abortion due to lack of oxygen getting to the fetus, poor performance and feed conversion are seen in chronic cases. The most critical factor influencing possible toxicity is the rate of nitrogen intake, which is affected by forage dry matter intake over a given time period. Feeding practices that regulate dry matter intake can be used to manage high nitrate forages. When stored forages contain more than 1,000 ppm NO3-N, intakes generally must be managed to avoid toxic effects (Table 1).

Source: Adams, et al. 1992. Prevention and Control of Nitrate Toxicity in Cattle. Taken From: From Harvest to Feed: Understanding Silage Management, by C.M. Jones, A.J. Heinrichs, G.W. Roth, and V.A. Ishler, Depts. Of Dairy and Animal Science and Crop and Soil Sciences, Penn State University

Lastly, high nitrates can also contribute to elevated levels of deadly silo gas. Silo gas is produced 4-5 days after silo filling. During this period the nitrates are converted to oxides of N. Nitrogen dioxide or NO2 is the most common and is a yellowish orange gas with a bleach-like odor. This gas is heavier than air and can form in the silo and then escape down the unloading chute into the barn, endangering humans and livestock. Exposure to silo gas can cause immediate death or severe lung injury due. To avoid exposure to silo gases, keep the door between the feed room and the barn closed, ventilate the silo by running the blower for at least 20 minutes before entering the silo and learn to recognize the bleach odor and yellow-orange color as signals of silo gas.
For more information on nitrate testing of forage please contact Dr. Heather Darby – (802) 524-6501 or Dr. Sid Bosworth – (802) 656-0478 at the University of Vermont Extension.

Armyworm Alert!

Posted: June 11th, 2012 by outcropn

An armyworm outbreak has been reported in New York. Western NY through the western edge of the Finger Lakes is where there is the most activity. Damage to grass hay, wheat, corn, pastures, and lawns has been reported for this area. Armyworm has also been found in the greater Albany area and most recently in Clinton county (NE NY).  Over the last week very low numbers have been observed in Northeastern, VT as well.

Please don’t panic, but do go out and scout your corn and grass fields for armyworms. When full grown, the caterpillars 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. The caterpillars normally feed at night and much damage can occur before they mature. The preferred foods are grasses including corn, grains, and timothy. They will feed on other plants if grasses are unavailable. Feeding will start on the lower leaves and move upwards. A large population 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 scouting and control options please contact Dr. Heather Darby at the University of Vermont Extension at (802) 524-6501.

Winter Spreading Ban Lifted

Posted: March 21st, 2012 by outcropn

20 March 2012


As a result of unusually warm and dry weather, lack of snow and projected weather forecast over the next few weeks the Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets in agreement with the Agency of Natural Resources and Vermont Association of Conservation Districts is lifting the winter spreading ban that normally is in place until April 1st. According to Secretary Chuck Ross, “I am lifting the ban because I believe it will help farmers best manage their manure resources and is in the best interests of Vermont’s waterways.” David Mears, Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Conservation agreed stating “Current conditions are favorable for manure application. Taking advantage of good weather now may prevent application of manure later when conditions may not be as good.”
The manure spreading ban is a regulation that has been in place since 1995 under the Accepted Agricultural Practice rules. Vermont was a leading state in developing such a ban, however in recent years several other states have been considering or adopting the idea. Research has shown that manure applications on frozen ground can increase the runoff potential. Vermont chose to select a ban period from December 15th to April 1st each year to protect water quality; however the Agency has discretion with those dates to accommodate these exact types of circumstances.
Farmers are reminded that Vermont’s Accepted Agricultural Practices Rules and medium and large farm permit requirements apply as appropriate including:

  • Manure shall not be spread within 10 feet of the top of the bank of surface waters or within 25 feet at points of concentrated runoff on small farm operations
  • Medium and Large farms shall not spread manure within 25 feet of the top of the bank of surface waters
  • Manure shall not be applied in such a manner as to enter surface water
  • Manure applied to land subject to annual overflow from adjacent waters shall be incorporated within 48 hours
  • The Agency also highly recommends that the following practices be observed while the spreading ban is lifted:
  • Avoid spreading manure during or just before rain events. Remember that manure cannot be spread in such a way as to run off the intended site during application.
  • Where appropriate, incorporate manure as quickly as possible.
  • Avoid spreading manure on fields that are subject to annual overflow from adjacent surface waters. Manure spread on annual crop land that is subject to annual overflow from adjacent surface waters shall be incorporated within 48 hours.
  • Consider using split manure applications and reduced manure application rates.
  • Do not apply to land that is still snow-covered or frozen.


Frost Seeding: A Cheap Alternative to Improve Pasture and Hayland

Posted: March 7th, 2012 by outcropn

Looking for ways to increase forage quality and yield? Frost seeding is a good way to establish desirable species into an undisturbed sod at a low cost per acre. Read Dr. Darby’s article for specific information and to learn the key to increase the success of frost seeding establishment.

Key Crop Insurance Dates Just In for 2012

Posted: January 13th, 2012 by outcropn

Pam Smith, UVM Extension’s Crop Insurance Coordinator, just distributed the 2012 Key Crop Insurance Dates. The first deadline is 1/31 for AGR and AGR-Lite policies; sign up deadline for corn, soybeans, spring wheat, barley, and spring forage seedings is 3/15.

Organic Farming Symposium

Posted: December 19th, 2011 by outcropn



January 19th-20th, 2012 (preceding NOFA-NY’s Winter Conference)
NOFA-NY’s inaugural Organic Farming Symposium will take place on January 19th and 20th, 2012 at the Saratoga Springs Hilton. Join organic farmers from across the Northeast to hear from over 50 researchers–academics at some of this country’s most respected institutions, on-farm researchers, and PhD students–who will present their latest organic agricultural research projects. Engage in in-depth discussions with researchers and practitioners exploring the latest techniques for a successful organic farm. Share your own experiments and best practices with researchers and farmers.

Topics will cover organic fruit, vegetables, grains, soil, weed and pest management systems, ruminants and non-ruminants, and economics. Formats include one-on-one discussions with posters, panel sessions, and roundtables.

The goal of this Organic Research Symposium–NOFA-NY’s first ever–is to get farmers and researchers to meet, learn from one another, and collaborate moving forward.
Register here or call Katie (Registration Coordinator) at (585) 271-1979 ext. 512! Attend both the Symposium and the Winter Conference and receive an additional discount.


Sign up now for January 2012 Manure Applicator Training

Posted: December 19th, 2011 by outcropn

UVM Extension is offering a two-part course for anyone who applies manure to understand the rules and regulations with a goal of protecting the environment and conserving nutrients. The course will be offered from 10 am to 3 pm on both January 10 and 17 at the American Legion in St. Albans. There is no fee for farm owners, custom operators, or farm employees to attend; all others including farm service providers pay $60. For more information, see the program brochure.

Managing Flood Damaged Crops and Forage from Tropical Storm Irene

Posted: September 19th, 2011 by outcropn

Tropical storm Irene has caused some of the most massive flood damage to crops in over fifty years. Many crop fields were completely destroyed, while others were left with varying degrees of damage. Before making any decisions about your fields, you should document and report any crop damage to your local U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency (USDA FSA) office, your crop insurance agent and the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets. You are strongly encouraged to take ‘time-dated’ photos of any damage. Such information may be critical in federal emergency determinations and your eligibility for these programs.
Click on the link below for the best management guidelines for harvesting, storing, and feeding flooded field and forage crops including corn, hay crops and pasture.

Managing Flood Damaged Crops and Forage from Tropical Storm Irene (pdf)

Butterworks Farm Field Day, Sept. 20, 2011

Posted: September 12th, 2011 by outcropn

Grain Storage and Processing
Butterworks Farm

Tuesday, September 20, 2011 11:00 am – 3:00 pm
Butterworks Farm, Trumpass Rd., Westfield, VT

Jack and Anne Lazor farm in Westfield, VT, in the heart of the Northeast Kingdom, where they produce delicious yogurt from their Jersey cows. Jack is one of Vermont’s pioneer grain growers—he started growing grains to feed his family and neighbors, as well as the herd almost 30 years ago. At Butterworks, they grow over 150 acres of corn, oats, barley, peas, soybeans, spelt, rye, sunflowers, dry beans, and wheat for animal and human consumption.

This on-farm workshop will focus on grain topics related to grain storage, cleaning, drying, and processing value added products. Jack and Brent Beidler, of Beidler Family Farm, will also share their experiences from a trip earlier this summer to visit small scale grain farmers and processors in Ohio.

The workshop fee is $15.00 per person.
Lunch will be provided by the NOFA pizza oven.

For more information or to register by Sept. 14th, please contact Heather Darby or Susan Monahan;
(802) 524-6501 heather.darby[at]uvm.edu or susan.monahan[at]uvm.edu
If you require a disability related accommodation to participate in this program, please let our office know by Sept. 14th so we may assist you.
From the south, travel north on Route 100. Turn left on Route 58, travel for 1.9 miles. Turn right on to Buck Hill Rd, travel for 2.2 miles, turn right on Trumpass Rd. The farm will be on your left.

View Larger Map

Post Irene Resources

Posted: September 2nd, 2011 by outcropn

Our hearts go out to each and every farm family dealing with the aftermath of Irene. Please let us know how we can best help!

UVM Extension has created a list of resources that may be useful to farmers and citizens alike: http://www.uvm.edu/extension/?Page=emergency.html.

For information on forage crops–including corn, hay and pasture–take a look at Recent Rain Creates Stress on Crops.

It’s important to contact support services as soon as you can to report crop injury and losses. We are all here to help you with this so please do contact us. The local USDA offices — both FSA and NRCS — are helping farmers fill out paperwork, and our Risk Management folks suggest to contact your Crop Insurance Agent as soon as possible. Here is an info sheet with some helpful suggestions: http://www.uvm.edu/extension/cropsoil/wp-content/uploads/BE-FAMILIAR-WITH-CROP-DAMAGE-2.pdf.

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