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Out Croppings: Important crop news from the field!

Determining the sex of hemp plants

Posted: July 22nd, 2020 by outcropn

Hemp grown with the purpose of maximizing cannabinoid and terpene content is done exclusively with female plants to maximize quality and yield of flower material. With male plants present in this type of production system, pollen will be produced and fertilize female flowers. This will result in plants focusing more energy towards seed production, resulting in diminished quality and cannabinoid content. In order to prevent this, it is important to frequently scout and rogue male plants from fields.

Scouting and removal of male plants should begin at the 4-6 week mark and continue throughout flowering as needed. In order to determine the sex of a plant, look along nodes of individual plants where side branching occurs to observe the formation of male or female flowers (Image 1, above). This may be easier with a hand lens and pre-flowers may initially be covered by a sheath at nodes. Pulling this back during this period may reveal a cluster of male flowers or female flower. Female flowers will first become apparent by the formation of the pistils, which look like two small white hairs emerging from nodes. As these mature they will begin to die back and turn brown. These are the portions of the female flower that are receptive to pollen produced by male flowers. Male flowers will begin forming at nodes in clusters (Image 2). These will initially look like small capsules encased by the male flower sepal before opening. After opening, pollen bearing anthers will begin to mature and develop pollen for dispersal by wind. Pollen from hemp plants has the potential to travel 5km or more with individual plants producing as many as 350,000 individual pollen grains or more.


  • With the potential for a single male plant creating such massive amounts of pollen, removal of undesirable males from a flower production system becomes crucial to maintain a high-quality crop. Males may be present even while growing hemp from feminized seed (though the chance is far less with most feminized seed producing 99% females) and male flowers may develop when plants are grown under stressful conditions resulting in hermaphroditic plants. Now’s the time to start scouting your crop for male and hermaphroditic plants and ensure you end up with the best crop possible. Time to go rogue!

2020 Cover Crop Assistance Applications

Posted: July 21st, 2020 by outcropn

The deadline for 2020 cover crop assistance applications has been extended to AUGUST 7, 2020. Applicants are advised to apply online when able to do so if you have not done so already.

Apply Now The payment rates vary by practice type (information and payment rates) and applications are due for each practice at least 30 days prior to implementation. There is a maximum of $8,000 available per farm operation from July 1, 2020 through June 30, 2021. Farm operations that meet the threshold for the Required Agricultural Practices are eligible to apply; operations must be in good standing with water quality regulations (do not owe the Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets any funds, and are not in final order in enforcement) in order to receive financial assistance.

Cover crop payments for 2020 and recommended planting dates and seeding rates are detailed here: Broadcast or Interseeded method with a payment rate of $30 / acre, plant by October 1st at a seeding rate (may vary) of 100 lbs per acre for Winter Rye; Drilled or Otherwise Incorporated methods with a payment rate of $45 / acre, plant by October 15th at a seeding rate (may vary) of 75 lbs per acre for Winter Rye; and Helicopter Seeded method with a payment rate of $35 / acre, plant by October 1st at a seeding rate (may vary) of 100 lbs per acre for Winter Rye. NOTE*The recommended seeding rate will vary for alternative cover crop species and mixes. You should contact your local agronomist or crop consultant for comparable cover crop soil coverage rates when planting cover crops with a mixture of species and varieties.

The Agency advises farmers to plan ahead as best as possible for implementation of agronomic practices, especially when seeking financial assistance. Any applications that request funding for a specific practice are only eligible for funding as detailed on their application and grant agreement.

If you have specific questions about practice eligibility, or how the FAP program works, you can contact Clark Parmelee at 802-661-8284 or learn more on the FAP program webpage.

If farms need assistance on their applications, please contact me at the phone number below so we can help! Kindly, Nina Gage 802-622-4098 Vermont Agency of Agriculture Food and Markets Water Quality www.agriculture.vermont.gov Find us on social media:

The European Corn Borer in Hops and Hemp

Posted: July 2nd, 2020 by outcropn

As the production of hemp and hops grows in the northeast, pests such as the European corn borer (ECB), Ostrinia nubilalis, are increasingly problematic for these crops. As the name suggests, ECB are a major pest of corn, though they can be damaging to hundreds of plants. The ECB caterpillars feed on and weaken plant stems, which can cause them to break, ultimately reducing quality and yields. If corn planting is delayed, ECB may shift to alternate hosts. Depending on the year, farmers have reported varying degrees of damage. Crops located near corn fields can be at higher risk. It is important to understand the lifecycle of the ECB, so proper monitoring and control measures can be put into place to minimize crop damage.

Scouting – Growers should monitor their crops for corn borers eggs beginning in early spring. Regularly scouting your crop is a cheap and easy way to monitor pest populations and potential problems that may arise. The ECB can easily be managed in their egg and larval stages, but once the caterpillars enter the stem or bine, they are more difficult to deal with. To scout your hemp and hop plants, examine the top and bottom of the leaves, on low and high portions of the plant stems. Choose random plants throughout your fields and hop yards to gain a representative view of the entire planting.

The ECB moth flights in June and August can also be monitored using pheromone-baited Scentry Heliothis net traps. Place two traps at least 50 feet apart along the edge of your field or hop yard, with the bottom of the trap above the top of grassy weeds, no higher than 4 inches above the vegetation. Avoid placing them over bare ground. Because there are two strains of ECB found in New England (New York strain and Iowa strain), bait one trap with a lure for each. Be sure to check the traps once or twice per week, and replace lures every other week. Several states in the Northeast maintain ECB monitoring networks geared towards sweet corn production (for example NY: http://sweetcorn.nysipm.cornell.edu/, PA: http://www.pestwatch.psu.edu/sweet_corn.htm), so you can get a general idea of when the ECB flights are occurring in our surrounding region. However, ECB distributions are notoriously patchy, so it is important not to become over reliant on data from other states, or even regions within states.

For more information on the Life Cycle and Management of corn borers, please read the European Corn Borer fact sheet found on our web site – https://www.uvm.edu/sites/default/files/Northwest-Crops-and-Soils-Program/Articles_and_Factsheets/European_Corn_Borer_Hemp_Hops_factsheet_FINAL.pdf

Watch out for Slugs!

Posted: June 25th, 2020 by outcropn

The cool and damp start to the season we’ve had not only impacts the germination and growth of young corn and soybean plants, it also can leave them vulnerable to pests like slugs. Fields with heavy residue from weeds or cover crops, especially no-till fields, are at higher risk of harboring slugs. This is due to the residue covering the soil surface holding in moisture and cooling its temperature, creating an ideal habitat for slugs. Research in PA has shown soil temperatures to be 1.3 to 4.3 degrees cooler when planting into high cover crop biomass (Reed et al., 2019).

Adult slugs typically lay egg masses in the fall in the soil. However, some may hatch and overwinter as adults laying eggs in the spring. Mild winters and high residue can provide extra protection, leading to increased populations the following spring. Juvenile slugs hatch in mid-spring, typically in May in northern regions, and begin feeding within a couple weeks. The slugs continue to feed on crop foliage and other residue throughout the summer and typically are mature enough to lay eggs by the fall.

Seedling defoliation from slugs can happen very quickly given the right conditions. Therefore, it is important to scout fields even before the crops begin to emerge. Look for slug eggs on the soil or residue that look like very small pearly orbs (Image 1). Juvenile slugs look just like adult slugs but are very small (Image 2).

Image 1 (left). Slug eggs. Image 2 (right) Juvenile slugs. Source: https://agcrops.osu.edu/newsletter/corn-newsletter/2018-14/season-slugs).

As soybeans emerge, slugs may feed on the cotyledons causing irregular shaped holes (Image 3). As the plants grow, damage can be seen on the leaves (Images 4 and 5).

Image 3 (top image). Slug damage to soybean cotyledon.Source: https://swroc.cfans.umn.edu/ipm-stuff-2015-06

Image 4. Slug damage on young soybeans.  Source: https://ohioline.osu.edu/factsheet/ENT-20). 

Image 5. Slug damage on young corn. Source: Sara Ziegler, UVM Ext.

Because the growing point of a young corn plant remains under the soil surface and protected by the leaf whorl for some time, corn often is able to outgrow early slug damage. However, in soybeans, where the growing point is above ground and exposed to slugs, damage can be severe if it occurs at the right time and slug pressure is high. Scouting can help inform the grower as to relative slug pressure and can identify a serious problem early, allowing for replanting if necessary. Slugs are most active at dawn and dusk when moisture tends to be high and temperatures are cooler. Because the eggs and juveniles are so small, care should be taken to look very closely under residue and on and around seedlings. Unfortunately, there currently are no economic thresholds for slugs on either corn or soybeans to use as guidelines when scouting.

Management tactics for slugs are limited and may not fit within some cropping systems. However, there are some simple cultural practices that may help. Tillage can bury eggs and destroy slugs, however, obviously this is at odds with the goals of no-till cropping systems and will not be an acceptable control method. Within no-till systems, it may be possible to adjust equipment to provide better residue management (i.e. row cleaners) and can help dry and warm the soil allowing for faster crop growth. Additionally, ensuring that the furrow is closed can help as an open furrow can allow slugs to travel more easily from one plant to another. Spiked closing wheels can help close the furrow and disrupt slug travel patterns between plants. Another alternative may be shifting planting dates. Planting earlier when slugs have not yet hatched may allow for the crops to emerge and grow to a point where they can overcome the later heavier slug pressure. If planting prior to slug hatch is not possible, later planting dates may be considered when temperatures are warmer allowing for faster germination and growth to outpace the slugs. Although it seems counter intuitive, using untreated seed may help combat slug populations. One of the major natural enemies of slugs are ground beetles. These insects are sensitive to neonicotinoids found in corn and soybean seed treatments such as Cruiser (thiamethoxam) and Poncho (clothianidin). Using these seed treatments when there isn’t a pest problem in the field can lead to a secondary outbreak in slugs due to harming the natural enemy population. Preliminary research at Penn State by entomologist John Tooker, has also suggested that cover cropping may actually decrease slug populations. Having a cover crop of cereal rye or clover in the field provides the slugs an alternative and perhaps preferential food source over your crop. Additionally, having a cover crop provides habitat for natural enemies like the ground beetles that can help control the slug population.

If all else fails, there are two chemical slug control options: metaldehyde and iron phosphate. Metaldehyde causes the mucus-producing cells within the slug to burst, causing death. Products typically contain 3-4% metaldehyde and are mixed with a food-based carrier to bait the slugs into ingesting the chemical (Image 6).

Image 6. Slug baits containing iron phosphate or metaldehyde Source: Hollingsworth et al., 2013

Iron phosphate causes slugs to cease feeding causing death in a matter of days. Similar to metaldehyde products, iron phosphate is typically mixed with food-based bait carriers. Iron phosphate is less effective and more expensive than metaldehyde,Wawtch but is approved for use in organic systems. When using either product it is important to apply the material evenly to provide the best control. Continuing to scout following an application can help you determine if the control is working. These chemical controls also do not harm natural enemy populations as seed treatments can.

Potato Leafhoppers have Arrived!

Posted: June 24th, 2020 by outcropn

First, second, and third instar potato leafhopper nymphs.
First, second, and third instar potato leafhopper nymphs.

It is leafhopper season again and those pesky insects have been spotted at our research hop yard at Borderview Research Farm, in Alburgh, Vermont. This is a great time to start scouting for insects as well as for disease to ensure proper management of all hop pests. So far, this season has not been conducive for the hop pests that thrive in wet conditions, such as downy mildew and aphids, but the potato leafhoppers have arrived right on schedule. Potato leafhoppers are migratory insects transported via wind currents from the southern United States, generally appearing in the Northeast between late-May and mid-June. Our first sighting was on June 10, 2020.

To scout for potato leafhoppers, examine the back of a hop leaf for little torpedo shaped insects with distinctive green coloration. Young potato leaphoppers, or nymphs, are flightless insects and can be seen scuttling around the leaves in a side-to-side fashion. Adults can also be scouted by checking the backs of the leaves, or for a easier approach, you can just give your plants a little shake and watched the adult potato leafhoppers fly off the plant or jump from leaf to leaf. At our hopyard, we have only observed adults so far, but that means the nymphs aren’t far behind. Within one season, there are usually two or three generations of leaphoppers present in northern hop yards.

Hopperburn: visual V-shaped chlorosis injury caused by potato leafhopper.
Hopperburn: visual V-shaped chlorosis injury caused by potato leafhopper.

Potato leafhoppers are an economically damaging pest that can cause hopper burn, which is a distinctive yellowing of the leaves in a V-shaped pattern, eventually leading to leaf tip necrosis. Hopper burn decreases leaf photosynthetic activity and can cause plant production to suffer. One of the best ways to combat potato leafhopper damage is by planting an alfalfa or red clover trap crop. Potato leafhoppers prefer to feed on these legumes and can be redirected from your hop yard with strategic plantings on the outskirts of the yard or in the drive row.

For more information on PLH management in hops, see the following resources:

Potato Leafhopper in Northeastern Hopyards fact sheet.

Vermont Hops Power Hour, 6.26.2017, Potato Leafhopper

Field Guide for Integrated Pest Management in Hops (https://www.usahops.org/resources/field-guide.html

Stay vigilant and keep scouting!

Farmer Survey in VT on Conservation Practices

Posted: June 24th, 2020 by outcropn

The Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) at the University of Vermont is conducting a farmer survey in Vermont to better understand why farmers adopt conservation practices and how these practices are currently used. The survey is part of EPSCoR’s Research on Adaptation to Climate Change (RACC) Initiative. This is the third time EPSCoR has conducted this survey, with prior surveys conducted in 2011 and 2016.

The survey should take 20-30 minutes if completed online. It can be completed online at a time that is convenient for you. In addition, the first 100 respondents to complete the survey will receive a $25 gift card or can choose to make a $25 donation to a charitable organization. You may also schedule a time to complete the survey by phone. We are happy to conduct the survey by phone, but please be advised that due to the nature of the questions, the survey takes approximately 45-50 minutes by phone.

The survey is designed to help gain a better understanding of Vermont farmers’ perspectives on using conservation practices aimed at sustainability. The objective of this survey is to develop statistics on current farming practices, decision making, enrollment in federal conservation programs, nutrient management plans, weather and climate affects, and opinions on incentives for implementing conservation practices. The geographic focus on the survey is the Lake Champlain watershed. Should you wish to forward this to other farmers within the Lake Champlain watershed, we’d welcome that. The results of the survey will be used to produce a report that farmers, researchers, industry, consumers, and government leaders can use to inform policy.

If you would like to engage in this important research, we will look forward to hearing from you. Please choose one of the three options below to participate: 1. Follow this link to access and complete the online survey. (https://survey.uvm.edu/index.php/769746?lang=en) When you click the link, you will land on a form that asks for your name and email. Once you complete and submit this short form, an email with a link to the survey will be sent to you. 2. Call Us Call Amy Kelsey at (802)-598-4551 to schedule a time to complete the survey by phone. 3. Email Us Email amy.kelsey@uvm.edu to schedule a time to complete the survey by phone.

It’s time to topdress your corn

Posted: June 16th, 2020 by outcropn

It’s time to topdress your corn – remember don’t guess, soil test!

Although nitrogen (N) is one of the most important macronutrients for crop growth, it is not a nutrient you’ll find on your standard soil test report. This is because, unlike the other macro- and micronutrients, N availability is largely driven by microbial activity in the soil and therefore can change rapidly depending on the weather, soil type, moisture, temperature, etc. Soil microorganisms break down organic materials, such as manure, organic matter, and crop residue, and release plant useable forms of N into the soil. Just like livestock, soil microbes are limited by resources such as air, water, and food and are sensitive to fluctuations in temperature. Therefore, crop N needs can be estimated by yield but cannot accurately account for what will actually be made available to the crop. The Pre-Sidedress Nitrate Test, or PSNT, was developed to help farmers more accurately predict crop N needs. The test measures the amount of nitrate-N in the soil at the time the sample was taken. The available nitrate is compared to a model of corn growth and response to N which will tell you how much more N the crop will need to produce the desired yield (Table 1). Applying this level of N decreases the potential for pollution and avoids spending money on unnecessary fertilizer.

Table 1. Sidedress N recommendations based on PSNT results and yield goal. Source: Nutrient Recommendations for Field Crops in Vermont

A PSNT sample should be taken prior to the corn being topdressed, generally this occurs when the corn is 8-12” tall (the V5 to V6 growth stage). Collect 15-20 soil cores per field at a depth of 12”. Just like when you are collecting a normal soil sample, be sure to cover as much of the field as possible to gain a representative sample. Sampling in a W or X pattern can be helpful to ensure good coverage. Also make sure you test a good representative group of your fields accounting for differences in soil type, drainage, and microclimate, which can all impact N availability. When sampling, avoid sampling too close to the corn plants if starter fertilizer was banded at planting.

Once you have collected the samples, keep them cool, and deliver them to a lab that day for analysis. Keeping the soil cool is critical because the soil nitrate-N levels will change quickly. Once the lab receives your sample, they typically return results within 24 hours. Results will include a recommendation for how much additional N is needed to obtain your yield goal. Instructions for submitting a sample to the UVM Agricultural and Environmental Testing Laboratory can be found here (http://www.uvm.edu/pss/ag_testing/PSNT_multi_form.pdf).

Interested in learning more about the PSNT and other nutrient recommendations? Check out this handy guide: Nutrient Recommendations for Field Crops in Vermont (https://www.uvm.edu/sites/default/files/Agriculture/NutrientRecs_BR1390.2.pdf).

Time to Plant Soybeans

Posted: May 27th, 2020 by outcropn

Warmer weather over the last week has helped to warm and dry the soil making it optimum for planting warm season crops. Many farmers wait to plant soybeans after corn and first cut, as there is concern that soybean seed will not germinate at soil temperatures below 60º F. Your planting dates should be based on weather conditions, not necessarily a specific date.

Soybeans can germinate in soil around 50º F, but the ideal temperature is 70º F or higher, but those conditions may not occur in Vermont until mid to late June. Soybeans shouldn’t be planted in extremely damp conditions, because oxygen-deprived saturated soils and soil crusting can hinder emergence. Wet conditions can also reduce germination and increase the prevalence of diseases caused by pathogens like Pythium. When your soil temperature is around 50º F, germination may be slow and emergence can take up to 3 weeks.

Organic and untreated soybeans shouldn’t be planted until the soil temperature reaches at least 60º F. In northern New England and Eastern Canada, you often cannot plant soybeans until late May. However, if warm spring conditions occur, planting should begin to maximize yield.

Three years of research trials in Alburgh, Vermont have shown that optimum soybean yields are achieved when planting between late May and early June.

Remember to select varieties that can easily mature in Vermont when planted by mid-June. Generally, soybeans in the maturity groups 0 to 1.5 perform the best in Vermont. If planting in May a full-season variety should be planted, but as planting dates move into June a short maturity variety should be selected.

Lastly, soybeans also need a pH level of 6.0-7.5. Ideal soils are medium-textured loam with high levels of P and K, but low to medium levels of nitrogen. If nitrogen levels are high in soybean fields, nitrogen fixation will be diminished and weed pressure will increase. While saturated soils are poor for planting, moisture must be available in the upper layers of the seedbed, especially during germination, flowering, and podfilling.

For more research results on soybean planting dates and varieties, see our research reports at: https://www.uvm.edu/extension/nwcrops/research

New Forage Seedings

Posted: May 6th, 2020 by outcropn

It is time to get in those new forage seedings. Luckily, there have been nearly ideal conditions this spring and planting for many is underway. This post will provide some tips to consider before heading to the field with the seeder.

Preparation – To ensure the best chances of a vigorous and healthy stand, check your soil fertility and pH well before planting. When soil pH is above 6.0, forages are more productive, but it should be closer to 7.0 for alfalfa or birdsfoot trefoil. If you’d like to establish an alfalfa crop in a soil with a lower pH, you can lime the field now and plant an annual forage, and establish alfalfa later in the growing season. Other nutrient requirements should be determined from your soil test. Don’t forget to consider the previous crop and any potential herbicide carryover, because forages are more sensitive to carryover than a crop like corn.

Select your varieties considering your soil characteristics and forage goals. Commonly grown grasses include orchardgrass, reed canarygrass, timothy, smooth bromegrass, tall fescue, meadow fescue, Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrass, and festulolium. Some species such as perennial ryegrass and festulolium can be very short lived in Vermont growing conditions and others like timothy and reed canarygrass can be very slow to establish. Combining grass with legumes will improve forage quality, yields, and reduce nitrogen fertilizer inputs. Legumes such as alfalfa, red clover, white clover, birdsfoot trefoil, and alsike clover grow well in Vermont. Species such as alfalfa prefer loamy soils and can perform well during dry periods, where white clover can withstand wet soils but does not handle droughty conditions well. In the spring, it is common to add a “nurse crop” to the seed mix. The goal of the nurse crop is to help outcompete weeds and provide some early forage from the new seed. Nurse crops should be used only with pure legume stands or high legume to grass mixtures. Often a nurse crop will smother out the slow growing grass species if present. For more information on forage species, see UVM Extension’s fact sheet Description and Seeding Rates for Forage Plants Growing in Vermont at: http://pss.uvm.edu/vtcrops/articles/VT_Forage_Description_and_Seeding_Rate.pdf

Planting – Seed a high-quality seed with a properly calibrated drill or seeder as soon as weather permits, which is generally late April to early May in this region. The goal is get the forage stand well established before we hit the hotter and drier summer months. If planted too close to summer, there might be enough forage growth before the plants hit dormancy during the hot and dry period. In general, new seedings in Vermont should not be planted past May 15th. If time is getting late, it is best to wait until late summer to put the new seeding into the ground or wait until next year. Planting early can also help new seedings outcompete weed pressure.

Make sure to not plant the seed to deep! Most forages should be planted to a shallow depth 1/4 to 1/2 inch depth. Planting too deep will result in decreased or no emergence. Seeds of grasses and other forages simply don’t have enough stored energy to emerge if they are not close to the soil surface. It should also be noted that forage emergence can be severely impacted by crusted soils. Make sure not to overwork the soil! Seeding with a drill or cultipack seeder is recommended, though forages can be seeded by broadcast with a fertilizer spreader if necessary – but there is risk of an uneven spread, and you may need to increase the seeding rate.

Summer Considerations – If your seeding has poor establishment or has reduced yields due to summer heat and dry weather, you can still increase yields by planting in more heat-tolerant summer annuals in July and August, and/or establishing fall forages. When establishing a new forage field for hay, it’s important to delay the first cutting to not weaken the stand. Harvest the first cut at the flowering of legumes, or about 70 days after seeding for grasses. Stands should be harvested earlier if they are being overrun by weeds. This will clip off the weed tops and prevent the impending seedhead development, and a future weedy disaster.

For more information on forage species selection please review our research reports: https://www.uvm.edu/extension/nwcrops/research

Forage Brassica

Growing Hemp Update and COVID-19 Update

Posted: April 30th, 2020 by outcropn

Planning to grow hemp this season? It’s time to register. Whether you’re growing, processing, or storing hemp, you will need to complete a hemp registration application this season with the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets. You can register your entire operation on a single registration form including growing processing, storage and dying. The registration requires you to provide GPS coordinates for the vehicle access points to your site.

For growers, an aerial view map showing the location of indoor or outdoor cultivation areas is also required. The Agency has Guidelines on how to use google maps to create such a map. For personal use, registration is $25, and for commercial growers, the license fee depends on the category and scale of production. See Frequently Asked Questions which include an easy-to-use license fee calculator. Whether you have 1 plant or 1 acre, industrial hemp cannot be grown legally unless you register.

Contact: tel. 802-828-1732 or Agr.hemp@vermont.gov.

Reducing Risk & Slowing the Spread – COVID-19 Info for Farmers & Producers As Vermont moves forward in phases, all operations must follow public health, safety, and social distancing measures to prevent outbreaks and limit the spread of COVID-19. Vermont Agency of Commerce has mandatory requirements which encompass specific measures for face coverings, cleaning and disinfecting, access to soap and water, bathrooms, signage, common areas, occupancy limits, pre-screening of workers, and a designated health & safety officer.

UVM’s New Farmer Covid-19 Information page has links to key resources covering financial assistance, legal issues, marketing, business continuity and other guidance for farmers.

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