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Vermont Hemp Production Plan approved by USDA

The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets’ Hemp Program received approval from the Agricultural Marketing Service of the U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) of the Vermont Hemp Production plan. The approved plan supports the Vermont Hemp Rules and governs registration, production, and compliance for hemp cultivation beginning in 2022. All grower registrants should consider these programmatic changes required by the 2018 Farm Bill, USDA’s final rule, and as reflected in Vermont Hemp Production plan, and how it may impact their operations.

Click here for a 2-page summary of changes to the Vermont Hemp Program applies to all registrants of the Vermont Hemp Program that grow at any scale, including those growing under a personal use registration and those producing hemp for research purposes. This resource can be found on the UVM Extension Northwest Crop & Soil Program’s Industrial Hemp webpage under ‘Related Articles of Interest’.

Im[PRESS]ive Oilseed Crops

Oilseeds are crops that may provide avenues for diversification on Vermont farms. They include sunflower, canola, soybean, flax, and hemp. Oil extracted from these crops can be used for on-farm fuel production or culinary uses, while the leftover meal can be used as a high protein livestock feed or soil amendment to boost fertility.

An oil press is a machine that extrudes the oil from the crop by separating it from the meal. There are several types of small-scale oil presses that vary in size, and some offer more flexibility than others. Check out this factsheet on Oilseed Oil Presses or this YouTube video on small-scale oil presses to learn more.

Pressing seed for oil is an activity that begins as the farm season slows down and the weather cools at Borderview Research Farm. The video below shows our oil press in action, with farm owner Roger Rainville and two UVM Extension NWCS employees processing soybeans:

Oil Press in action at Borderview Research Farm in Alburgh, Vermont. December 2021.

The UVM Extension NWCS team’s oilseed program aims to develop best practices for oilseed production under Vermont’s growing conditions. Check out our 2021 Research Reports for the most up-to-date results, including the Conventional Soybean Variety Trial, the Conventional Soybean Performance Trials Summary, the Organic Soybean Variety Trial, and the Organic Soybean Performance Trials Summary

For more information and resources, read our Oilseed Production in the Northeast guide and visit our oilseed crops webpage

The results are in! 2021 Conventional Soybean Variety Trial

Soybeans can be grown for human consumption, animal feed, and biodiesel production. As farmers look to reduce feed costs or diversify markets, soybean acreage across Vermont is increasing.  Local research is needed to identify varieties that are best adapted to this region. In an effort to support and expand the local soybean market throughout the northeast, the University of Vermont Extension Northwest Crops and Soils Program (NWCS), with support from the Eastern Soybean Board, established a trial in 2021 to evaluate yield and quality of soybean varieties appropriate for the region.  The NWCS team evaluated 29 commercially available varieties with maturity ratings from 0.7 to 2.8

2021 Soybean Plots at Borderview Research Farm in Alburgh, VT

Overall, soybean varieties performed well averaging over 62 bu ac-1 despite very droughty conditions through much of the season. Under these conditions, all soybean varieties, ranging in relative maturity from 0.7 to 2.8, reached maturity and a harvestable moisture but all required additional drying to be stored safely. Although little pest and disease pressure was observed, some differences were still observed and highlight the importance of local variety evaluation in soybean variety selection. Overall, these data suggest that soybeans in maturity groups 0, 1, and 2 can produce high yields in Vermont’s northern climate.  

Variety trials are important to a farmer’s success because they provide information which helps the farmer manage risk and choose varieties which have proven to have regional success and stability in our changing climate. 

Read the full 2021 Conventional Soybean Variety Trial report linked here. Check our Research Results webpage for 2021 research reports as we post them throughout the winter. Happy reading!

The results are in! 2021 Organic Corn Silage Variety Trial

The University of Vermont Extension Northwest Crops and Soils Program conducted an organic silage corn variety trial in 2021 to provide unbiased performance comparisons of commercially available varieties. To determine varieties that are best suited to this production system and our region’s climate, we evaluated 14 commercially available organic corn silage varieties from 2 companies

Heather Darby discussing on-farm research with a field day crowd.

Varieties ranged significantly in terms of yield, quality, and digestibility.  These differences can have notable impacts on herd health, milk production/yield, and your bottom line as a farmer, which is why selecting the variety you plant is crucial to achieve optimal results.  With a changing and increasing volatile climate, farmers need to know which varieties may perform better in dry drought conditions and which may perform better in wet conditions to make management decisions for their local weather patterns on their fields. 

Read the full 2021 Organic Silage Corn Performance Trial report linked here.

All research reports are posted to the Research Results tab of our website. Check back there as we post more reports from the 2021 field season this winter!

Vermont: Is Fiber Hemp the Future?

Written by Laura Sullivan, Founder of Pipedream Hempworks, Research Technician at the University of Vermont Extension Northwest Crops and Soils Program.

This past growing season we at UVM Extension Northwest Crops and Soils (NWCS) planted 13 fiber and dual-purpose varieties of Hemp at Borderview Research Farm in Alburgh, Vermont as part of our Hemp fiber variety trial. The seeds were sown in early June 2021 and two harvest dates were set for late August and early September to obtain data at a variety of stages in the lifecycle. After each harvest, fiber was retted one of two ways: Field retting is a process in which the hemp is cut and left on the ground to grow bacteria that break down the pectin layer binding the bast fiber (outermost layer of the stalk) to the hurd (woody core of the stalk). Water retting is a process where plant bundles are submerged in water to achieve the same. Subsamples of each variety underwent both retting practices for quality comparison.

Field retted bundles drying before storing.

After the small feats of retting were completed came the more daunting task of getting the retted samples processed into workable fiber. In 2021 America, we have become accustomed to a certain ease around manufacturing products that simply doesn’t exist for hemp. In a nation where growing industrial fiber hemp was once mandated to keep up with development and war, currently there is not a single long staple fiber mill to speak of. “Long staple” refers to the length of fibers belonging to bast fiber plants like hemp and flax. After NAFTA and CAFTA were implemented in the 1990s, the majority of textile manufacturing and other non-perishable industries were moved overseas where they could be done at a lower price point, and U.S. mills and dye houses subsequently closed.

Lucky for us, living in a small state with a rich textile history has its perks. Antique milling equipment belonging to the historic Old Stone House Museum in Brownington, Vermont was generously lent to us for our research. A good bit of the fiber was processed manually this way, yielding beautiful horsehair-like sliver for spinning, while the rest awaits processing with the aid of electricity at a mini mill in Nova Scotia (our closest option) this winter. Stay subscribed to our blog to follow along with this fibershed project as it unfurls in the coming seasons, and as more fiber hemp research is published by the NWCS team. Ambitions have been laid for fun events and educational opportunities surrounding growing and processing fiber domestically.

Hemp on the flax break from the Old Stone House Museum.

Through our research we aim to carve a trail into the modern era that bypasses the perils of the current fast fashion model where clothes are treated as disposable, while consisting of the least “disposable” materials on the planet. If there is anything that you, reader, take away from this post let it be this: clothing is agriculture. It is revolutionary to grow and support local fiber because it is to believe in an alternative future where humans work symbiotically with nature instead of in spite of it. When our clothing comes from the soil, it can return to the soil, thus, building soil. When we build soil, we sink carbon.  If we can achieve this goal of a closed-loop-clothing system on our research farm, then we will be able to better help farmers in our region to do the same. In an era of climate breakdown, fiber farming could offer Vermonters a lot to be hopeful about.

UVM Extension NWCS Hemp Fiber Variety Trial, Borderview Research Farm, Alburgh, VT, 2021.

No-Till Training Webinar Series

In 2018, the UVM Extension Northwest Crops and Soils (NWCS) team hosted a No-Till Training Program for Agricultural Technical Service Providers (TSP). This training was created to help foster a stronger working knowledge of no-till equipment, soil health, and technology used to make no-till systems successful, better enabling TSPs to support farms and farm operators in the no-till transition. The training included a winter webinar series and 4 on-farm in-field intensives during the 2019 growing season. Recordings from the webinar series have been made available on the NWCS YouTube channel under the No-Till Training Program playlist. They are also provided below:

Equipment and Application Tools for No-Till, Jeff Sanders, UVM Extension
Herbicide and Pest Management in No-Till, Bill Curran and John Tooker of Penn State University
Water and Soil Management for No-Till, Odette Menard, Ministère de l’Agriculture, des Pêcheries et de l’Alimentation du Québec (MAPAQ)
Fertility and Manure Management, Charles White, Penn State University Extension
Precision Agriculture Technology in No-Till, Scott Magnan, Scott Magnan’s Custom Service
Economics and Record Keeping for No-Till, Kirsten Workman, UVM Extension

This material is based upon work supported by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture, through the Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program under sub-award number ENE18-149.

The Importance of Yeast and Mold Testing in the Hemp Industry

Blog written by Mike Esposito, Lead Scientist, MCR Labs.

Producing hemp in the Northeast comes with a unique set of challenges. Irregular weather patterns, large swings in temperature, and the ubiquitous nature of airborne yeast and mold spores coincide to create a perfect storm of microbiological problems for growers working hard all season to cultivate a marketable and safe crop. 

While the fruits of many crops may have a waxy rind allowing for yeast and mold spores to be rinsed away, hemp inflorescences (aka flower heads) are prone to mold spores. A water rinse, more often than not, will contribute to compounding growth of the very organisms cultivators are trying to remove. Other approaches to removal of yeasts, molds, and other spoilage organisms may lead to changes in the chemical profile of the product that could result in the crop becoming less marketable. While various remediation companies are working to continuously improve offerings like ozone treatments, gamma irradiation, or microwave remediation, others in the hemp sector push for regulatory changes that would permit them to market crops with higher counts of yeast and mold organisms.

Health Risks to the Consumer Associated with Yeasts and Molds

Though many of the yeasts and molds found on hemp are relatively harmless to the consumer, management of total yeast and mold counts on a hemp crop still remains critical to maintain a healthy consumer base as well as a healthy hemp labor force. Yeast and mold in abundance on hemp plants and hemp products can be harmful to the immunocompromised as well as laborers who are exposed to chronic airborne mold, and certain more specific strains of yeast and mold can lead to dangerous infections or exposure to hazardous mycotoxins.

Consumers who may be utilizing CBD products to treat any number of medical symptoms are most at risk of opportunistic infections from some species of fungi, like members of the aspergillus genus, and in rare cases even from organisms like trichoderma harzianum, which is found in many commercially available agricultural inoculant products. Hemp material containing large amounts of fungal organisms may also contain hazardous levels of mycotoxins, compounds produced by some yeasts and molds as a defense mechanism, leading to acute toxicities or even carcinogenic effects after chronic exposure.

Health Risk to the Labor Force Associated with Yeasts and Molds

Aside from yeast and mold testing as a means of stopping hazardous fungal species and mycotoxins from making their way to the consumer base, yeast and mold testing as a function of “quality indication” plays a crucial role in protecting the labor force that produces and processes hemp plant material. While cultivation of hemp has occurred since ancient times, the legal production of hemp is relatively new, meaning risks associated with cultivation of hemp have not been investigated as thoroughly as risks associated with other crops. It’s known that certain agricultural trades have increased risk levels for hypersensitivity pneumonitis, also known as extrinsic allergic alveolitis, as a result of exposure to various molds. Illnesses with names like “berry sorter’s lung”, “farmer’s lung”, or “wine-grower’s lung” are associated with mold species like botrytis cinerea, commonly known as gray mold. This species of mold is also known as the dominant causal agent of “bud rot” in hemp production, and is commonly found on plants harvested during industrial hemp cultivation.

An investigation of air quality at an outdoor cannabis farm utilizing organic practices sampled airborne organisms and found a wide variety of mold species present in personal air samples collected near employees. Of all the fungal species identified, b. Cinerea was shown to be the most dominant species found in personal and area samples, accounting for 34% of the total fungal DNA sequences assembled.

With this in mind, should hemp cultivators be wary of a “hemp farmer’s lung” making its way into the sector as the industry continues to develop? There is still much discussion to be had about yeast and mold testing in the industry, with valid arguments towards both relaxing and increasing regulation and testing of hemp material. Further investigation is clearly needed for determining yeast and mold standards which are reasonable and acceptable for both indoor and outdoor hemp cultivation and processing areas.

Photo from NC State Extension, https://content.ces.ncsu.edu/gray-mold-of-industrial-hemp

Meet the new Dairy Herd Management Technical Advisor!

My name is Whitney Hull, and I would like to introduce myself as the new UVM Extension Dairy Herd Management Technical Advisor, which is part of the Northeast Dairy Business Innovation Center. My role is to provide technical assistance to farms that have herd management related concerns.

I have been working in the dairy industry for the past 13 years. I started my career as an Artificial Insemination technician in Northern Vermont, working with dairies of all sizes to manage their herd reproduction. In 2014, I transitioned to dairy nutrition, where I worked with farmers developing rations for their herds as well as provided technical support to other nutritionists. Throughout my career, I have enjoyed using my skills to help farmers manage challenges in their farm businesses, and I am excited to take this broad range of experience and use it in my current role with UVM Extension to provide assistance to Vermont dairy farms through the Northeast Dairy Business Innovation Center program.

What exactly is Technical Assistance and how can it apply to your farm?

The program will focus on delivering technical assistance to farm business managers who wish to engage teams of specialists, targeting specific areas of dairy management with the goal of making improvements to their operations and the bottom line. Technical service providers will work directly with dairy farm business owners to deliver outreach education to farm managers in the areas of milk quality, grazing and pasture management, dairy nutrition, animal husbandry, animal housing and facilities, and personnel management.

How can I apply for this program?

It’s easy! You can follow this link https://www.uvm.edu/extension/sustainableagriculture/dairy-herd-management-technical-assistance to apply directly on the website. There will be a short intake interview once you have filled out the initial web inquiry in which we will discuss more about your operation and your current herd management question or need.  From there, we can discuss the best way to meet your needs. My contact information is listed below. Please be in touch if I can provide technical assistance on your farm.

Whitney.Hull@uvm.edu

802-888-4972 or 1-866-260-5603 (toll-free in Vt.)

Article on Regulations and the Manufacturing of Hemp Products

Curious about the differentiation between hemp and marijuana, specific regulations for manufacturers, and/or important terminology for cannabis? Check out Omar A. Oyarzabal’s recent article titled, ‘Regulations and the Manufacturing of Hemp Products’. Omar is the founder of Safe Food Team, LLC and is also a member of the National Advisory Committee on Microbiological Criteria for Foods, a Certified Food Safety and Quality Auditor (American Society for Quality) and a Food Processing Authority. Omar is also a Lead Instructor for: 

Omar has taught food safety, bioinformatics, biostatistics, microbial risk assessment and management, and introductory HACCP classes for about 25 years before starting Safe Food Team, LLC. 

For more in-depth information on the manufacturing of hemp products from Omar, you can view the recording of a recent online presentation he gave for our 2021 Hemp Production Webinar Series at:  Manufacturing of Hemp Products: Types of Products, Regulations & Guidelines  

You can find this article and many other factsheets, bulletins, and articles of interest on the UVM Extension Northwest Crops and Soils Program’s Industrial Hemp webpage

Industrial Hemp Regional Pest Survey Update

For the second year in a row, the UVM Extension, Northwest Crops and Soils Program has been conducting a regional assessment of the disease and insect pests found in industrial hemp throughout New England. Over the last couple of weeks, 10 hemp fields have been scouted from across Vermont and we would love to share a little of what we have been seeing. Depending on the specific location, the 2021 season has presented challenges with the heat, not enough rain, too much rain, or all the above! As a result, we have been seeing various issues related to abiotic (water in particular) stresses popping up.  

The most common diseases we are finding this year are fungal leaf spots. They can include several species of pathogens, the one specific to hemp is Septoria cannabis. Like most foliar diseases, Septoria requires moist conditions to germinate, and begins at the ground in the bottom leaves, working its way up the plant. Common signs are yellow spots, and brown or yellow discoloration on the leaves (Figure 1).  

Figure 1. Leaf spots on industrial hemp leaf.

A small amount of powdery mildew has also been seen, but we can expect to see increasing amounts throughout the region. Powdery mildew appears as patches of white spores on the surface of leaves (Figure 2). If the infection progresses, and entire leaves, petioles, and flowers become covered, that can lead to reduced flower quality. 

Figure 2. Slight powdery mildew infection on industrial hemp.

It should be no surprise that, by far, the most common insect pest we are seeing in hemp fields are cannabis aphids. Winged and wingless aphids (Figure 3) can usually be found the underside of leaves and stems, sucking the life out of your hemp plants. They are not doing any harm at this point; however, the concern is that as the season progresses and aphid populations slowly grow, high populations might reduce plant vigor or slow growth.

Figure 3. Up close and personal with a cannabis aphid.

You are probably also seeing chewing damage from flea beetles (Figure 4) and Japanese beetles, but those guys are just nibbling here and there, and your plants can withstand a considerable amount of defoliation without any impact on hemp yields. Kadie Britt (2021), a good friend of ours recently found that “removal of leaf tissue in grain and CBD cultivars did not significantly impact observable effects on physical yield (seed or bud weight) or cannabinoid content (CBD or THC) at the time of harvest”.

Figure 4. Small “shot hole” wounds in leaves are typical leaf injuries produced by flea beetles. (courtesy: W. Crenshaw)  

For a full report on last year’s results, checkout our 2020 On-Farm New England Hemp Pest & Disease Scouting Report at: (https://www.uvm.edu/sites/default/files/Northwest-Crops-and-Soils-Program/2020%20Research%20Reports/2020_Hemp_On-Farm_Scouting_Report_Final.pdf).  

For more information on our Industrial Hemp Research Program, check out the Industrial Hemp page on our website: https://www.uvm.edu/extension/nwcrops/industrial-hemp  and/or a full list of our research reports at:  https://www.uvm.edu/extension/nwcrops/research  

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