Sign Up for New Priority EQIP Practices

In Vermont sign up deadline for all 2021 EQIP contracts is March 19, 2021.

You can still sign up for EQIP after that, but you will be considered for next year.

VT Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) has announced a top ten “high-priority” list of Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP) practices. The state chose these practices to motivate producers to implement important practices that address critical resource issues but that are not as widely adopted. This is part of the 2018 Farm Bill – states were allowed as of 2020 to provide increased payment rates for up to 10 high-priority practices. These practices will be incentivized at a 90% cost payment rate. In consultation with each state’s Technical Committee, the State Conservationists designates their state’s priorities.

In Vermont, the ten priorities are: Contour Buffer Strips (332), Cover Crop – multi-species only (340), Residue & Tillage Management – reduced-tillage (345), riparian forest buffer (391), Pasture and Hay Planting (seeding down continuous corn) (512), Open Channel (582), Stripcropping (585), Nutrient Management (manure injection only) (590), Tree / Shrub Establishment (612), Phosphorus Removal System (782).

Some of these practices are probably more familiar to our audience than others, like reduced tillage. Other practices like stripcropping offer soil conservation benefits particularly on steep slopes, but are not commonly seen in our area. Open Channel refers to a two-stage ditch, and Phosphorus (P) Removal System is the installation of an end-of-pipe filter system to mitigate P losses in tile drains. 

If you are interested in signing up for one of these practices, call your local NRCS office, in Middlebury – 802-388-6748. You can also call our office – 802-388-4969, if you’d like to discuss how we might assist you in getting a project implemented. NRCS accepts applications on a rolling applications but processes them in batches, sign up deadline for 2021 practices is 3/19/21.

Clarification for Changes to 590 NMP Standard

VT NRCS has made some changes to the 590 standard, which is the standard that applies to Nutrient Management Planning.

The most important change is what is allowable under a medium and high P-Index score.

Here is a summary of some changes:

VT NRCS summary of changes as shared by Sandra Primard, State Agronomist:

Recently the VT Nutrient Management Standard 590, UVM ‘Nutrient Recommendations for Field Crops in Vermont’ and the Vermont Phosphorus Index have undergone updates.

The UVM ‘Nutrient Recommendations for Field Crops in Vermont’ corrected some typos, made a few minor edits for clarity and updated sample soil and manure submission forms. The recommendations have NOT changed. The new version is BR.1390.3 and can be found at https://www.uvm.edu/extension/agriculture/vermont-phosphorous-index

The Vermont Phosphorous Index updated the nutrient management interpretations of the Vermont PI scores to fit the new VT 590 standard. The new version is Version 6.2. No changes to the structure or calculations in the P-Index were made, just the resulting nutrient management interpretations which are given at end of this email. Scores produced using Version 6.2 should be identical to those produced using Version 6.1, given the same inputs. The Vermont Phosphorous Index can be found at  https://www.uvm.edu/extension/agriculture/vermont-phosphorous-index

The updated VT Nutrient Management Standard 590 occurred because every five years the NRCS National Headquarters updates the National Standards.  Then each state shapes the National Standard to fit their state. Each state can make the National Standard stricter but not less strict. Vermont worked with its many partners to update the standard so that it fits with the State laws of the Required Agricultural Practices (RAPs) and the State Water Quality Regulations.  In the past, the Vermont added language in the standard was in blue font.  Now it is in bold italics. The VT 590 can be viewed here:

Summary of 2020 VT Nutrient Management 590 Standard Changes

Aligns with the State water quality regulations and requirements including the Required Agricultural Practices (RAPs).

Soil tests must be no older than 2 years when developing new nutrient management plans.

Additional clarification on annual sampling of manure tests.

Additional clarification on realistic yield goals.

Additional clarification on applying nutrients on frozen, snow covered and saturated soil conditions.

The Plans and Specification section has been developed more fully.

The Operations and Maintenance section has been developed more fully.

Vermont Phosphorus Index

The medium rating of the VT PI requires P application not to exceed crop P removal rate or soil test P recommended rate.

The high rating of VT PI also requires P application not to exceed crop P removal rate or soil test P recommended rate.  In addition, a soil P drawdown strategy is needed along with implementation of mitigation practices.

The very high rating of VT PI requires no manure or P fertilizer applications.  In addition, a soil P drawdown strategy is needed along with implementation of mitigation practices.

NMP Updates for 2020-2021

North West Crop and Soils Team has developed a factsheet that walks you through the process of updating your NMP in goCrop.

See a recent video recording which walks through the basics of NMP record keeping and a pdf of slide notes (also housed on their NMP page).

See changes to VT NRCS 590 Nutrient Management Planning Standard.

They’ve created an Records Sheet to streamline the process:

Our website has NMP resourses as well.

Given the realities we face, we’ve decided to make NMP Updates one-on-one, on an appointment basis only. You should have received a letter or email from Susan Brouillette letting you know. We will also be reaching out to folks in the coming months. We are encouraging folks who can to have one-on-one video chats, in which we can walk anyone through the process of updates. We are happy to also help folks set up video chat if you are unfamiliar with it. We also encourage everyone to do as much work ahead of any meetings as possible, including gathering records. Phone call appointments are also available.

Give us a call at 802-388-4969 to schedule an appointment.

Below is the letter Susan Brouillette sent to individuals who have taken past NMP classes. If you took your NMP class with us (Middlebury, Richmond, Rutland), give us a call. Otherwise, you can call Susan with questions. This letter contains additional info on what materials are needed to prepare for updating your NMP!

Reminder:

Our Current and Ongoing Office Policy

The Middlebury Extension office is open by appointment only.  Please plan ahead and give us at least 2 days’ notice to make arrangements for your appointment by calling 802-388-4969. This way we will be able to meet your needs.

  • Face masks are required upon your arrival at the office
  • Sign in at the front desk for contact tracing
  • Use the provided hand sanitizer
  • Maintain a 6-foot distance between yourself and others

If you do not feel comfortable coming to our office, please call 802-388-4969 leave a phone message and we will return your call in one business day. We will do our best to provide you with the service you need.

January 2021 – goCrop is being updated! Hopefully those updates will make it easier to get your records entered and roll over your plans. However, we are happy to help everyone navigate these new changes as smoothly as possible.

Curl Up Next to Fire with our Newsletter – Fall/Winter 2020

This season we have combined the Fall and Winter Newsletter.

In This Issue

  • Focus on Agriculture, by Kirsten Workman
  • News, Events and Info You Should Know
  • Winter Planning for 2021 Farm Risk Management, by Jake Jacobs
  • Nitrogen, An Overlooked Macronutrient, by Kirsten Workman
  • Transition to Grazing: Farmers Thinking Outside the Box, by Cheryl Cesario
  • Giving Credit Where Credit is Due: Farmer’s Practices Make Gains Towards Meeting TMDL, by Kristin Williams

View the Full PDF Here!

See our highlighted article on Nitrogen management (which will become a series) as a blog post.

Important update on our No-Till, Cover Crop Symposium included in the newsletter:

We have made the difficult decision to forego our annual in-person No-Till and Cover Crop Symposium in order to comply with COVID safety precautions, and keep folks safe and healthy. But we have some other exciting options in the works. The 2021 event was intended to be a partnership between our conference and the Northeast Cover Crop Council’s Annual Conference. The NECC Annual Conference has moved online and will be held on March 4, 2021. Save the date and stay tuned for more details including an agenda which will be posted soon on the http://northeastcovercrops.com/ website. In addition the Champlain Valley Crop, Soil and Pasture and Northwest Crops and Soils Teams are working on bringing the NTCC Symposium ‘hyper-local” by potentially hosting smaller in-person meetings (with remote participation available) to build on the virtual NECCC meeting and fill the void of the NTCC Symposium. If there are topics you’re interested in hearing more about in your locale, reach out to Kirsten at kirsten.workman@uvm.edu and let her know.

Nitrogen: An Overlooked Macronutrient

By Kirsten Workman, Agronomy Specialist

This article was originally printed as part of our Fall-Winter 2020 Newsletter.

In the Champlain Valley, we spend a lot of time and effort managing phosphorus (P). Rightfully so, as it is the pollutant behind algae blooms in Lake Champlain. Our clay soils often bind to it tightly, making it less available to plants when they need it most, and it isn’t perfectly balanced with crop needs in our manure applications. All of this makes it a tricky nutrient to manage. However, we have taken our eye off another primary macronutrient as a result.

Nitrogen (N)

Nitrogen is the dominant macronutrient in agriculture. While it hasn’t had top billing here lately, it is probably the most important and studied nutrient from a crop production standpoint. Without adequate nitrogen, yield and quality can be compromised. Nitrogen drives vegetative growth and protein content, having a direct correlation with forage value in livestock systems and nutrition in food crops. In watersheds where the receiving surface waters are marine (e.g., the Connecticut River which drains to Long Island Sound, or the Mississippi River which drains into the Gulf of Mexico), nitrogen causes water quality issues like eutrophication and algae blooms – the same problems that phos-phorus causes in Lake Champlain. Generally, N is much more mobile than P in soil. Because of this, it is often prone to loss. The primary pathways for N loss are:

• Volatilization – N turns into ammonia gas and dissipates into the atmosphere. (Applying nitrogen when temperatures are cool, a light rain is expected to facilitate incorporation, or by physically mixing it with the soil can reduce volatilization risk. Nitrogen stabilizers can also inhibit this reaction.)

• Denitrification – Occurs in saturated soil conditions when nitrate turns into N2 and N2O gas. (Good soil drainage, high soil organic matter and proper pH, split N applications and nitrogen stabilizers can help prevent excessive denitrification.)

• Runoff – Carries nitrogen from manure, fertilizer and eroded soil off the field into ditches, creeks, rivers and streams. (Field buffers, reducing erosion, properly timed nutrient applica-tions can reduce N runoff.)

• Leaching – When N can’t attach to soil particles or be taken up by plants, it easily leaches downward with soil water toward groundwater and even out tile drain outlets. This is much more common in sandier soils that do not have the water holding capacity of heavier soils like clay and loam. (Applying manure and nitrogen fertilizer during the growing season, proper nutrient management, avoiding fall-killed sod, and utilizing cover crops to increase nutrient uptake can decrease the amount of N leaching.)

A primary reason nitrogen is analyzed so much, is that farms can often see immediate impacts from over or underutilizing nitrogen. In addition, good N management can also save a farm a significant amount of money in fertilizer savings. This often gets overlooked when N prices are low (as they have been recently), and farms are prone to “insurance applications” of N to make sure they aren’t shorting their crops. With prices averaging between $0.28 to $0.41 per pound of N¹ (depending on the type of fertilizer), it can seem like a cheap way to ensure good yields and quality. However, in a time of tight margins and increasing environmental regulation this can be an unsustainable way to operate. And if you are an organic producer, the $3 to $5 per pound cost of N fertilizer means you probably already understand the value of farm-produced nitrogen, and being as efficient as possible with those homegrown and purchased sources of N². In 2018, Vermont agricultural producers utilized almost 10,000 tons of nitrogen fertilizer, with another 7,000 tons of multi-nutrient fertilizers that likely had some portion of nitrogen³. In comparison, during this same time period, 15 tons of phosphate fertilizer was sold for agricultural use.

In the coming months, we’ll dig deeper into the world of nitrogen and see where we can do a better job providing our crops with adequate nitrogen without breaking the bank or causing unintended environmental consequences. We will consider:

– Corn and Nitrogen: Managing N in corn silage crops and how do we know if we’ve overdone N applications? A Caring Dairy Prove-It Project case study on Corn and Nitrogen.

– Managing N in hay and pasture crops and letting nature pay your fertilizer bill.

– Manure and N management – how do we make the most of the nitrogen in our manure?

– HomegrowN – taking credit for all the nitrogen on your farm, not just the stuff you purchase outright.

If you have a question about N fertilizer or manure management you can also contact Kirsten at kirsten.workman@uvm.edu.

One tool available to producers to evaluate N management strategies is the Corn Stalk Nitrate Test (CSNT), seen here on the Gosliga Farm (Addison, Vt.). It is designed to be a report card assessment at the end of the season to help modify and improve N management strategies on the farm in future years. The CSNT is a useful tool that indicates whether the nitrogen supply for that year was low, marginal, optimal, or in excess of what the corn needed this year. Corn that has received inadequate N will remove N from the lower cornstalk and leaves during the grain filling period. Plants that have received more N than needed to attain maximum yields tend to accumulate nitrate-N in the lower stalks at the end of the season.

Citations:

¹ August 2020 (Progressive Farmer by DTN), https://www.dtnpf.com/agriculture/web/ag/crops/article/2020/08/12/fertilizer-prices-remain-lower-first

² Organic N price based on estimated costs of bulk sodium nitrate (a.k.a. Chilean nitrate)

³ VAAFM, 2018-2019 Vermont Fertilizer Analysis Report https://agriculture.vermont.gov/sites/agriculture/files/documents/PHARM/Fertilizer/Annual%20Report%20Fertilizer%202018-2019.pdf

RESOURCES: https://extension.missouri.edu/publications/wq252 http://cceonondaga.org/resources/nitrogen-basics-the-nitrogen-cycle