Addison County Fair and Field Days Crop Entry Info

The Fair is scheduled for Tuesday, August 10 through Saturday, August 14. For schedule, exhibits and forms visit https://www.addisoncountyfielddays.com. We need your crop submissions to make our display spectacular! Submit your crops at the north end of the 4-H Exhibit Building on Monday, August 9, between 8:00 a.m. and noon. Judging begins at 1 p.m. Contact Karen Gallott if you have any questions about entries – 802-388-4969, karen.gallott@uvm.edu

On the Wild Side: Planting Food Plots

This post is from our Summer 2021 Newsletter by Jeff Carter.

I have had great success utilizing summer seedings in early August to grow high quality food plots for fall. The same system used in farm fields for seeding pastures and hay fields works for clover, chicory, peas, radishes and Brassicas for wildlife food plots. Remember that warm soil and fewer weeds means the new crop can grow very fast compared to an early spring seeding. However, water is needed for good germination, so wait until the hot dry days of July have passed. The seeding rates (below) are in pounds per acre (43,560 sq. ft.) so adjust according to your food plot size. Make sure to take a soil test before any crop planting, and remember to feed your crops lime and fertilizer if you want to feed the wildlife. Find wildlife food plot recommendations at https://go.uvm.edu/ag-testing.

I like to plant these mixes in separate plots, or side-by-side, right at the end of July or the first week in August:
• Cool season perennial: 8 pounds clover mix plus 4 pounds chicory per acre. Add 30 pounds of oats as a nurse crop (and to keep the bears busy) while the clover gets good roots established.
• Cool season annual: 6 pounds Brassica mix, plus 2 pounds radish per acre. Overseed 100 pounds of oat/wheat/rye mix 30 days later for a tasty treat in late fall that provides for winter feed and spring green-up.Toward the end of August, try this mix:
• Cool season Annual: 50 pounds oats plus 50 pounds winter peas. Add 100 pounds of wheat or rye in early September for that extra boost of feed. Reach out to Jeff if you have questions on food plots at jeff.carter@uvm.edu or 802-388-4969 ext. 332

Carbon in the Soil – How Much to Add, How to Measure?

This article is based on two accompanying articles by Jeff Carter and Kristin Williams in our Summer 2021 Newsletter. Read the full articles on page 6 and additional info from Kirsten Workman on page 1.

Adding carbon to agricultural soils is being tossed about as the preferred currency for extra payments to support farms, improve soil health for better crops, hold precious rainwater, and reduce those pesky CO2 greenhouse gases (GHG) in the atmosphere which are hurting our planet. This leaves farmers and service providers asking, “how much carbon should we be trying to add to our soils?” The short answer is, “as much as you can.”

Right now, the Vermont Climate Council, the Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) workgroup, and the Addison County Climate and Economy Action Committee (CEAC) are all discussing the values of increasing carbon in farm fields, for short-term income, long-term soil base preservation, and GHG mitigation. Easy to talk about, but much harder to accomplish if you are a farmer.

The University of Vermont is in the process of soil health testing, including measuring carbon for multiple projects. This include a Conservation Effects Assesment Project (CEAP) lead by Joshua Faulkner with support from our team, which is a long term water quality project in Addison County. Allison White is conducting a ‘State of Soil Health’ survey of farms across Vermont. Joshua is also leading another initiative looking at soil health and climate.

Read the full articles in our Summer 2021 Newsletter.

Check out these sites for the status of these projects in Vermont:
https://aoa.vermont.gov/content/vermont-climate-council
https://agriculture.vermont.gov/pes
https://ceacac.org/climate-action-planning

Opportunity for Farmers to Develop Grazing Plans

This fall, through Northeast SARE funding, we will again offer a grazing management course for farmers to learn about the benefits and challenges of grazing from both economic and environmental perspectives. Participating farmers will develop a plan specific to their own operation that considers their personalized farm goals.

The class will meet once per week over the course of a month and each farmer will receive a copy of Sarah Flack’s book “The Art and Science of Grazing” as both the course textbook and helpful future reference. Outside of class, one-on-one farm visits will provide additional support as new practices and strategies are implemented on the ground.

Read more about the course on page 3 of our Summer 2021 Newsletter. You can also contact Cheryl Cesario at 802-388-4969 ext. 346 or email cheryl.cesario@uvm.edu.

Our Summer 2021 Newsletter is Here

In This Issue:

  • Focus on Agriculture
  • News, Events and Info You Should Know
  • Opportunity For Farmers to Develop Grazing Plans
  • Managing Nitrogen in Hay and Pasture Crops
  • How Much Carbon Should You Add to Your Soil? and Soil Health Testing Coming to a Field Near You
  • On the Wild Side
  • Addison County Fair and Field Days Crop Entry Info

Read the full Summer 2021 Newsletter as a pdf.

Managing Nitrogen in Hay and Pasture Crops

This article is part of our Summer 2021 Newsletter by Kirsten Workman.

Perennial crops can be hard to target for nitrogen (N) applications, as the decision often depends on stage of establishment and species composition. Both factors change over time and adjustments should be made from season to season, or even within the same season. Below are factors to consider when trying to target the most efficient use of manure-based and purchased nitrogen in your perennial crops.

Species
Grass and legumes (alfalfa, clovers, trefoil) each have very different nitrogen needs. Grass crops will respond readily to both manure-based and fertilizer-based nitrogen. Grass species not only reward adequate N supply with increased yield, but also increased quality. Applying up to (and sometimes over) 200 pounds of nitrogen per acre on grasses almost always yields an economically viable response. Legumes, on the other hand, do not need additional nitrogen from manure or fertilizer. Legumes have a fascinating symbiotic relationship with a soil-borne bacteria known as rhizobia. Rhizobia fixes atmospheric nitrogen in nodules on the roots that it colonizes, and then transforms it into plant-available nitrogen. As a result, a clear stand of clover or alfalfa would not need additional nitrogen fertilizer or manure to reach maximum yield or quality. However, very few hay or pasture stands in Vermont are 100% grass or legume, and most farmers want a combination to maximize the benefits of species diversity and production. In these cases, we adjust the recommended nitrogen application rate to maximize production but still encourage the legumes in the stand to fix nitrogen. Fixing nitrogen is a trade-off for the plant, which shares carbohydrates with the rhizobia. This means that if extra nitrogen is available, plants can become “lazy” and not invest energy in that association. Additionally, a mixed stand with legumes that is treated with N up to the grass rates will encourage a shift of dominant species towards grasses as the grasses begin to outcompete the legumes.The table below shows how the nitrogen recommendations change depending on the legume content of the stand. In this case, grass is defined as any stand with less than 30% legume.

Split Applications
Because N is mobile (both in the soil and the plant), it is important to split applications to maximize uptake by the plant and reduce losses. With hay and pasture, fortunately, we take multiple harvests and have the opportunity to split applications into reasonable amounts to be utilized by the crop over the course of the season:
• Grass: split applications into 50 to 75 pounds per acre increments, ideally following each harvest.
• Mixed stands (30-60% legume): one single 40-pound application; if applied in early spring, a second 40-pound application may be beneficial.

N During Establishment (New Seedings)
Nitrogen fertility is not recommended for establishing legumes and mixtures. The exception is when a small grain is seeded with the legume or mixture. In this case, a 30 pound per acre application is recommended to get the companion crop up and growing ahead of the weeds. For a new grass seeding, the following recommendations apply:
• 50 pounds per acre for a spring seeded crop.
• If more than one harvest occurs in the seeding year, a second application of 40 to 50 pounds should be applied.
• Late summer seedings only need 30 pounds per acre.

Reducing Needed N With Maintenance of Legumes
If nutrients are limited and you are trying to reserve manure-based nitrogen for crops like corn or pure grass, take steps to maintain legumes in your stand. This will reduce or eliminate the need for manure or purchased nitrogen. Strategies to help maintain legumes include:

Maintain higher soil pH (6.8).
• Leave adequate crop residual between cuttings, but especially after your last cutting.
• Consider a less intensive cutting schedule to ensure adequate regrowth between harvests. Time your last harvest to allow for adequate regrowth before frost.
• Monitor and maintain adequate potassium and boron levels in the soil.

At the end of the day, managing nitrogen resources on hay and pasture crops will pay off. A well-fertilized grass crop will pay you back in most years. However, manure is especially tricky, as it is easy to overapply N on mixed stands and this can contribute to legumes becoming less competitive, leaving the stand open to weeds. If you want to maintain legumes, back off on N and manage for legumes. Split applications for the best effect and, if possible, utilize low disturbance injection to really make the most of N in manure applications.

Making nutrient management decisions systematically on your farm and keeping good records is all part of having a nutrient management plan. Even without a formal plan, you can make informed decisions based on these basic principles. We are here to help farmers optimize yields and manage their inputs wisely.

*All recommendations are from “Nutrient Recommendations for Field Crops in Vermont” (September 2020, https://go.uvm.edu/br1390). For specific recommendations, consult your crop adviser or call Kirsten for more information. If you would like help managing nutrient application rates, or have other related nitrogen questions, contact Kirsten at kirsten.workman@uvm.edu or 802-338-4969 ext. 347.

Keeping the Nitrogen in Manure

By Kirsten Workman (as published in our Spring 2021 Newsletter)

While manure often gets a bad rap, it gives farmers who raise livestock a valuable resource to meet the nutrient needs of crops and supplies organic matter to the soil in a way unmatched by commercial fertilizers. Utilizing manure effectively maximizes fertility, reduces runoff, and economizes spreading costs. Manure’s nutrient content varies with on multiple factors such as moisture, livestock, bedding, storage and feeding strategies. You should analyze manure annually to value these nutrients, including nitrogen (N).

Nitrogen in manure comes in two forms: organic and inorganic. The organic is a slow release N, broken down by soil organisms into plant-available forms, a process called mineralization. Most mineralization happens in the first year of manure application, and will continue slowly for one or more additional years. The inorganic portion (expressed as ammonium-N or NH4+ on your test results) is readily plant available, acting like a fertilizer application. Like fertilizer, it can be prone to losses. Liquid manure has much more readily available N, meaning it has the benefit of being available but also must be managed accordingly. Well-timed and incorporated manure optimizes N for your crop and minimizes losses, both to the air and water.

Timing. Spreading manure on living plants is the simplest way to retain available N. Spreading in the fall instead of spring can drop the amount of N available to a crop by as much as 55%, depending on dry matter content and incorporation. Manure applied in the fall has far more opportunity for loss before utilization, than manure applied in May. Volatization (loss to the air), leaching and runoff are all more likely to occur when applying on bare soil between annual crops, or even when hay/pasture is dormant, particularly with rain and snowmelt. This is not only an environmental issue, but also a farm profitability issue. Purchased nitrogen is a significant cost, so the more efficient use of manure the better.

Incorporation. Getting manure below the soil surface and into the root zone is key to retaining N. The longer the delay in time between application and incorporation, the greater the loss of ammonia volatization (NH3+). There are several ways to incorporate, but timing is critical. Incorporation methods include tillage, injection with specialized equipment, and even gentle rainfall (as long as it does not cause runoff).

Other considerations for retaining nitrogen from manure include high soil organic matter and cation exchange capacity, both the pH of soil and manure below 7, little or no wind, cool temperatures (but not frozen soils), moist but not saturated soils, and applying to a living crop including a cover crop. This chart illustrates the relationship between broadcast, incorporation, and nutrient loss:

Highest Loss to Lowest Loss in order –

Broadcast on surface without incorporation Broadcast; Incorporation 1 to 7 days after application Broadcast; Incorporation < 24 hours after application; Immediate incorporation or injection.

Manure Math. Using the book value for liquid dairy manure 8,000 gallons applied in the spring, immediate incorporation = 100 lbs. of available N 8,000 gallons applied in the fall with no incorporation = 52 lbs. of available N for your crop.

Book value – See “Nutrient Recommendations for Field Crops in Vermont” (http://go.uvm.edu/nutrecs; PDF, revised 2018, University of Vermont). Book values for manure are on page 24, Tables 15 and 16. Manure N availability changes with timing and incorporation are on page 25, Tables 17 and 18.

Need to test your manure? Visit the UVM Agricultural and Environmental Testing lab website (http://pss.uvm.edu/ag_testing) for forms and sampling instructions. You can also call us at 802-388- 4969 if you would like a manure jar sampling kit. Kits will be left in a box outside our office doors and can be resubmitted there. You must let us know ahead of time when you plan to drop it off because manure samples have to be frozen in a timely manner to retain N content. The best time to sample manure is at or near spreading.

Citations:

1. Nutrient Recommendations for Field Crops in Vermont (BR 1390.2). University of Vermont Extension, 2020. https://www.uvm.edu/sites/default/files/Northwest-Crops-and-Soils-Program/2021%20Events/NMP%20Class/NutrientRec_BR1390.3_Sept2020.pdf

2. Manure application methods and nitrogen losses. University of Minnesota Extension (2018). https://extension.umn.edu/manure-management/manure-application-methods-and-nitrogen-losses

3. Conserving Ammonia in Manure (CDLE Pub. 09-50). UMass Extension (2009). https://ag.umass.edu/crops-dairy-livestock-equine/fact-sheets/conserving-ammonia-in-manure

Resources:

 Taking a Manure Sample: https://www.uvm.edu/sites/default/files/media/Manure3.pdf

UVM Manure Sampling Analysis at the Agriculture and Environmental Testing Lab: https://pss.uvm.edu/ag_testing/

More information about manure sampling in Vermont for 2021: https://cvfc-vt.com/2021/03/nutrient-management-minute-manure-sampling/