Crop Insurance Update

By Jake Jacobs, UVM Crop Insurance Education Coordinator

Dept of Community Development and Applied Economics

According to the 2012 Census of Agriculture, two fifths of all land in the United States is farmland, which equates to 915 million acres and 2.1 million farms and ranches.

Of the 915 million acres of land in farms in 2012, 45.4 percent was permanent pasture, 42.6 percent was cropland, and 8.4 percent was woodland. The remaining 3.6 percent was land in farmsteads, buildings, livestock facilities, etc. Although the amount of cropland overall was down 4 percent, the amount of cropland harvested was nearly 2 percent more in 2012 than 2007. (

There are 389.7 million acres of cropland in the United States.  Cropland includes areas used for the production of adapted crops for harvest. Two subcategories of cropland are recognized: cultivated and non-cultivated. Cultivated cropland comprises land in row crops or close-grown crops and also other cultivated cropland, for example, hay land or pastureland that is in a rotation with row or close-grown crops. Non-cultivated cropland includes permanent hay land and horticultural cropland.

Corn drought; a reason to get crop insurance.
Corn drought: one of the many reasons to get crop insurance.

Cover Crops – It’s that time of the year to think about cover crops. Cover crops include grasses, legumes and forbs for seasonal cover and other conservation purposes.  Cover crops are primarily used for erosion control, soil health improvement, and water quality improvement.  A cover crop managed and terminated according to these guidelines is not considered a “crop” for crop insurance purposes. The cover crop may be terminated by natural causes such as frost, or intentionally terminated through chemical application, crimping, rolling, tillage, or cutting.  Cover crops may be grazed or harvested as hay or silage, unless prohibited by RMA crop insurance policy provisions.  Cover crops cannot be harvested for grain or seed.  If you have questions about crop insurance coverage for your cover crops, contact your insurance agent.  To find an agent licensed by USDA in Vermont, go to

Dairy MPP – The registration period for MPP-Dairy coverage for the year 2017 began July 1, 2016.  In an effort to allow dairy producers to make well informed coverage election selections suitable to their operation’s needs, the registration and coverage election deadline has been extended to December 16, 2016.  Contact your local FSA office for more information or to register.

For more information about crop insurance contact Jake Jacobs [802-656-7356 or]


Successful No-Till Alfalfa on Clay Soils

By Nate Severy, Agronomy Outreach Professional

This year there were a number of farmers who no-tilled alfalfa in clay and silty soils throughout Addison County.  While this was a difficult year for good alfalfa establishment due to our dry, hot weather, all of the no-till alfalfa farmers had successful stands.

NT alfalfa 8252016

Below is a summary of what these farmers did that contributed to their success:

All farms planted during a “window of opportunity”.  While all farms managed their fields differently, there are generally 3 times through the year where there is a “window of opportunity” in which you can successfully plant alfalfa into your cover crop.  These are: early April before green-up, mid-late May immediately after harvesting your cover crop for forage, or August after you combine and harvest grain and straw.  One positive aspect about no-till seeding is that in the spring only the top inch of soil needs to be dry in order to plant, as opposed to the entire plow layer with conventional field prep.  This means you can seed much earlier in the spring without the risk of turning your clay soil into moon rocks.

All farms fertilized, prepared good/level seedbeds, and planted a cover crop last fall after short-season corn silage.  Cover crop planting dates ranged from early September to the beginning of October.  If you are planning on harvesting your winter rye/triticale/wheat as forage, the earlier you can plant in September, the better your spring yield will be.  That means you will want to make sure you plant a corn silage variety that can be harvested early enough that you have adequate time to prepare a proper seedbed.  If you do not want to harvest forage from the cover crop, either plant at a lighter rate or plant a mix that has a winter cereal with a winter-kill crop like oats or radishes.

All farms planted at the proper seeding depth.  For winter cereal grains, planting depth should be between 1-1 ½ inches, which means you need to plant with a grain drill.  Broadcasting and lightly tilling it (followed by a roller) can work, but there is a very fine line between incorporating your seed and burying it.  Broadcasting and only going over the field with rollers is not recommended.  The seeding depth for alfalfa should be between ¼ to ½ an inch.  Most farms used a grain drill, but it is possible to broadcast your seed if you “aggressively scratch” the field before seeding and pack it several times afterwards.

All farms planted alfalfa into a low-competition environment.  Some farms planted into their cover crops in mid-April before there was much spring growth, a farmer planted his alfalfa in May after harvesting the cover crop as forage, and a few farms planted alfalfa in April, spraying and killing their cover crop immediately afterwards.  You can have good alfalfa establishment in a thick cover crop/nurse crop, but you will have less first-year alfalfa yield when compared to a light cover crop/nurse crop.

Three farms successfully frost seeded 5lb/ac red clover in March into their cover crops.  Frost seeding can be an effective way to introduce crops into fields.  However, you need three things to happen perfectly: very small seeds, soil that will freeze-thaw, and bare ground.  These cover crop fields seemed to be good candidates for frost seeding 5lb/ac red clover in March, and by August you could definitely see where we did and did not frost seed.

Planting alfalfa and other hay crops is risky no matter the year.  Hopefully more farms try this method of seeding so we can learn more about the best way to establish and maintain this valuable crop.

No-till alfalfa being planted into a cover crop and corn residue
No-till alfalfa being planted into a cover crop and corn residue

alfalfa 8242016







Do you have questions about this work or would like assistance with no-till alfalfa? Contact Nate [802-388-4969 ext. 348,]


Grasslands Face Troubling Times

How to Restore Their Perceived Value

By Cheryl Cesario, UVM Grazing Specialist

Scott Bauer / Photo courtesy of USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, via Wikimedia Commons

A recent study published in the scientific journal, ‘Nature’, examined the importance of species diversity in grassland ecosystems. The German-based study included dozens of researchers collecting data along various levels of the grassland food chain. The data was collected on a total of 4600 species, the most extensive ecological sampling in Europe to date. These species, they found, interact and rely on each other to provide critical grassland ‘ecosystem services’, such as food production, soil development, carbon storage, and flood and drought mitigation, among other climate regulatory functions. The study emphasizes the importance of maintaining biodiversity across all levels of the grassland food chain, which provide synergistic effects that ultimately benefit the planet and humanity as a whole.

So if grasslands play such a critical role in our planet’s health, why are they disappearing at an alarming rate? The same month the ‘Nature’ study was published, the Union of Concerned Scientists published an article about the continued reduction of grassland acres across the U.S. From 2008-2012, extensive acreage was cultivated for the first time, mostly planted to annual crops. This phenomenon was greatest in the Great Plains and western Corn Belt, where 77% of new cropland was borne from grasslands. Several crops took their place, led by corn, wheat and soybeans. These grasslands are being traded for crops that require irrigation in areas where irrigation and drinking water supplies are shrinking.

Contrast this with the ‘Nature’ study regarding the importance of grassland biodiversity and the role these ecosystems play in climate adaptation. The regions of the country with the highest loss of grasslands are also the same ones where flooding frequency has increased the most. This doesn’t seem like the best strategy for building resiliency.

There are USDA programs designed to encourage and protect grasslands, such as the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). CRP encourages farmers to convert highly erodible cropland or other environmentally sensitive acreage to vegetative cover, such as native grasses, wildlife plantings, filter strips, or riparian buffers. Farmers receive an annual rental payment for the term of the multi-year contract. However, enrollment peaked at 36.8 million acres in 2007, dropping to 24.2 million acres by September 2015. States such as Kansas, North Dakota, Montana and Texas have seen reductions of over 1 million acres each in CRP land over the past 8 years. For scale comparison, in Vermont our CRP acres total approximately 2,800 acres, mostly in various riparian buffer, filter strip, and habitat plantings. While we don’t have large swaths of native grasslands here in Vermont, we do import large amounts of grain from the Midwest to feed cattle and other livestock, so ultimately we are part of the grassland-biodiversity-climate adaptation issue.

When commodity prices are high, acres that transition out of the program are often not re-enrolled. The trend may continue: between 2020 and 2022, 11.6 million CRP acres are scheduled to expire nationwide and it remains to be seen what the future holds for those grassland acres. With more and more discussion and interest in adaptive, resilient and regenerative agriculture, one would hope that more policies and programs may be on the horizon to encourage biodiverse grassland ecosystems that provide so many benefits.

To read more:

Basche, Andrea. “Why the Loss of Grassland is a Troubling Trend for Agriculture, in 11 Maps and Graphs.” Union of Concerned Scientists [Blog]. August 10, 2016.

Schuessler, Ryan. “The enormous threat to America’s last grasslands.” The Washington Post: Energy and the Environment. June 16, 2016.

Do you have questions about grazing management? Contact Cheryl Cesario [802-388-4969 ext. 346 or]

Aeration Tillage

Effects of Aeration Tillage on Hay Yield and Soil Compaction
A Demonstration

By Rico Balzano

In tAeration picturehe Champlain Valley of Vermont, Vergennes and Covington clay soils used for grass hay production are subject to soil compaction over time as equipment travels over the crop for multiple passes for maintenance and harvest operations. The Champlain Valley Crop, Soil, and Pasture Team received a Northeast SARE grant to investigate the potential benefits of regular and consistent aerator use on permanent hay fields to help alleviate compaction and maintain consistent yields over time.


Three field sites were selected in Bridport and Addison to impose repeated aeration tillage treatments using a Gen-Till aerator, a single-axle Aerway, or a tandem-axle (T-axel) Aerway aerator tillage implement on hay fields. Data was collected in 2014, 2015 and for the first cut of 2016 at the Addison site; and 2014 and for the first cut of 2015  at the Bridport site. Treatments at the Addison site were no aeration, aerated one year (2014), and aerated two years (2014 and 2015). The 2015 growing season was unusually wet in June with over 8.5” of rain.

Hay Yield

The aeration appears to have positively affected yield in 2016 for aeration in 2014, but negatively affected yield in 2016 for aeration in both 2014 and 2015. The second year of aeration soil was saturated during the growing season. Aeration treatments had greater yield than the control in 2014 for all three cuts, but similar or lesser yield than the control in 2015 for both cuts. It is well known that clay soil is susceptible to compaction under saturated conditions, and these results are likely reflecting those conditions.


Soil samples were collected from each treatment block in November 2015 and sent to Cornell Soil Health Test lab for analysis. Soil compaction in the treatment areas was measured using a manual soil penetrometer to record the maximum pressure (psi) required to penetrate the soil from 0 to 6 inch depth and 6 to 18 inch depth as part of the Cornell Soil Health Test field procedures.

Surprisingly, average surface compaction measurements were not significantly different as a result of the aeration treatments. Subsurface compaction showed a slight increase under aeration, though aeration tillage is not expected to change soil compaction at that depth.

Precision Agriculture

The farmer at the Addison site, Doug Gould, used the FM-750 GPS steering guidance unit that we provided to track aeration tillage activities in the field. As a result, he has purchased his own GPS guidance system to use while aerating or during fertilizer application to improve field efficiency of machinery operations.


The soil conditions during the time of aeration will likely have an impact on compaction and yield. If the soil is wet at the time of treatment, aeration may be less effective and even counter productive. If the soil is dry at the time of aeration, aeration may benefit compaction and yield.


(click on a graphic to see it enlarged)

Table 1. Effects of aeration in 2014 and 2015 on 2016 first cut hay yields.
Table 1. Effects of aeration in 2014 and 2015 on 2016 first cut hay yields.
Table 2. Hay yield results comparing control and aeration in 2014 and 2015 for all hay cuts.
Table 2. Average hay yield results comparing control and aeration in 2014 and 2015 for all hay cuts.
Table 3. First cut hay yield comparison at Addison site only.
Table 3. First cut hay yield comparing control and aeration at Addison site only for both 2014 and 2015.
Table 4. First cut hay yield comparing control and aeration at Bridport site only for both 2014 and 2015.
Table 4. First cut hay yield comparing control and aeration at Bridport site only for both 2014 and 2015.






















Table 5. Comparison of aeration and control on average soil compaction in 2014 and 2015 at both sites.
Table 5. Comparison of aeration and control on average soil compaction in 2014 and 2015 at both sites.
Illustration of precision agriculture methods












Questions about aeration tillage can be directed to Rico [802-388-4969 ext. 338 or]


Work for this project was funded by:SARE_Northeast_CMYK


Another Corn Hybrid Field Day – This Week!

The Champlain Valley Crop, Soils, and Pasture Team will have a field day September 1, at the Clifford Farm in Starksboro, VT to see a corn hybrid demonstration, comparing shorter season to longer season corn hybrids (83-89 day vs. a  96-day).  This is a FREE EVENT with lunch provided by Wolf River Valley Seeds, Renaissance Nutrition & Marcel Moreau.

When: Thursday, September 1, 2016, from 11 am to 1 pm
Where: Clifford Farm, 6147 VT Route 116, Starksboro (the field is next door to the Cliffords’ house, just south of the farm.  Look for the signs!)
OR CALL: 802-388-4969 or toll free in VT at 1-800-956-1125

Research in northern VT has suggested that hybrid, as opposed to just day length, is important in determining corn yield.  Shorter season corn hybrids were planted at multiple sites to demonstrate which of them perform as well as longer season hybrids.  The objective is to find optimum day length to balance yield, performance on local soils, and have time in the fall for successful cover crop seeding and establishment.

After lunch there will be the opportunity to look at a field that was no-tilled after first cut hay and check out the farm’s new no-till closing wheels.

Corn To request a disability-related accommodation to participate in this program, contact Karen Gallott, UVM Extension by 8/30/2016 at 802-388-4969 or toll-free in Vermont at 1-800-956-1125 so we may assist you.






ThisUSDA NIFA Logo material is based upon work that is supported by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture, under award number 2014-68006-21864. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.


Upcoming Crop Field Days!

Join us for two upcoming events looking at cropping systems in Addison and Rutland County.


  • August 26th 11 am – 2 pm:

    Corn Variety Trial Demonstration. We will be looking at a whole series of corn silage varieties planted side-by-side to examine development and potential for earlier harvest for better establishment ofCorn a cover crop. We will also have time after lunch to see other cover crop/no-till fields. This event is FREE and THERE WILL BE A CATERED LUNCH. Yes, you read that right, free catered lunch! So grab your farm friends and get excited (hopefully) for short(er) season corn. More information can be found on our flyer: Corn Trial Field Day 8-26-16, or by contacting Kirsten Workman [, 802-388-4969 x 347]. Vorsteveld Farm, 3925 Panton Rd. Panton, VT

    Special thanks to Crop Production Services for providing lunch.

  • August 30th, 12 – 2 pm:

    Crop Patrol in the Southern Champlain Valley. Join us CropPatroland the Champlain Valley Farmer Coalition as we ‘tour’ neighboring fields to look at no-till corn, alfalfa and annual ryegrass. The event will begin at Dorset Peak Jerseys, in Danby, VT – 468 Danby Mt. Rd. More information can be found on our flyer: crop patrol 8-30-16, or by contacting Rico Balzano [, 802-388-4969 x 338]. This event is free.



University of Vermont Extension and U.S. Department of Agriculture, cooperating, offer education and employment to everyone without regard to race, color, national origin, gender, religion, age, disability, political beliefs, sexual orientation, and marital or familial status. To request a disability related accommodation to participate in this program, please contact Karen Gallott at (802) 388-4969 or 1-800-956-1125 (toll-free in Vt. only) by August 22, 2016 (first event) and August 27, 2016 (second event).

Join Us At Addison County Fair & Field Days! And…. bring your submission to our crops exhibit!

Hey Folks, Addison County Fair and Field Days is coming up August 9 – 13th and we are looking forward to your entries. Help us show and tell the general public about the crops you grow and use your prize winnings on fair treats for the family!
Bring in your crop entries:

Monday, August 8, 2016 – 8 AM to 12 noon

  1. A farm may have only one (1) entry in each class. All entries must be produced on the exhibitor’s farm.
  2. Bring exhibits to the 4-H Exhibit Building on Monday, August 8th between 8:00 AM and 12:00 noon-This is the only time to enter!
  3. Entries must be tagged using Field Days’ tags: grower name, farm name, address, class, & variety.
  4. Entries will be judged and awarded ribbons as follows: Excellent – Blue;   Good – Red;  Fair – White;
Rosettes for Best of Class and Best of Show.
  1. Premiums paid:          Blue – $15             Red – $10              White – $5
Best of Each Class – $25     Overall Best of Show – $50
1.   Corn Plants – 3 whole plants with roots intact
2.   Soybean – 5 whole plants with roots intact
3.   Cereal Grains-Wheat, Barley, Oats, Rye – bundle
4.   Corn Silage – 1 Quart Jar
5.   Snaplage or ground ear corn – 1 Quart Jar
6.   Grass Haylage – 1 Quart Jar
7.   Legume Haylage- 1 Quart Jar
8.   Dry Hay-Legume – 1 Slice of a Bale
9.   Dry Hay-Grass- 1 Slice of a Bale
10. Dry Hay-Mixed legume/grass – 1 Slice of a Bale
11. Wrapped Baleage Hay – 1 Gallon zip-lock bag
12. Corn Grain Whole – 1 Quart Jar
13. Corn Grain Ground- 1 Quart Jar
14. Soybean Grain Whole – 1 Quart Jar
15. Cereal Grain Whole – 1 Quart Jar
16. OTHER Pulse OR Brassuca Seed Whole- 1 Quart Jar
Addison County Fair Website:
DSC_0288DSC_0305 DSC_0303