Assessing Forage Research and Education Needs of Organic Dairy Farms in the United States

Organic dairy farming has increased rapidly in the United States (US) over the past several decades, and the viability of these operations relies on forage production. The production of high-quality, high-yielding forage crops depends on optimal forage management and resilience to increasingly unpredictable climate.
In an effort to (1) assess current forage production practices and producer knowledge gaps and (2) identify forage research and educational needs of organic dairy and forage producers across the US, a survey was developed and distributed nationally in the fall of 2021.

Check out the survey results summarized here or at:


Production of high yield and quality forages is critical to the sustainability of organic dairy farms, especially with the ongoing erratic weather conditions. The results of this survey and the focus groups provided insights on current forage production practices and management, factors affecting forage operations, and effects of climate on forage systems. Knowledge gaps and skills needed by organic dairy and forage producers were identified and can be used for developing effective educational and outreach programs to create resilience in organic forage production. Results from these efforts identified these most critical areas of research and education: climate resilience, forage quality, economic viability, and versatile, adaptive forage options. Continuing these efforts to create and disseminate this critical information in coordination with the organic forage and dairy communities is integral to the viability of these industries into the future.

Grass-Fed Dairy Production Course

With increasing organic grain prices, many dairy farms are looking to reduce or even eliminate feeding grain. Grass-Fed dairy is of growing interest and this ONLINE COURSE will walk you through unique aspects of this production system and as well as practical considerations before starting a transition. The online program will include weekly presentation/discussion and online resources.

VIRTUAL PRESENTATIONS/DISCUSSION: Farmers explore topics such as herd mgmt & monitoring, land base assessments, cost of production, and more through presentations and discussion. No internet? No problem! There will be a call-in option. Click here for the course flyer with webinar dates and details.
ONLINE RESOURCE HUB: Gain access to course materials online! Each session is cataloged chronologically and contains recordings of the presentations, lists topics covered and speaker bios, and supplemental resources which can be accessed at any time. The newly published Grass-Fed Dairy Production Manual will be available for download! Note: Most course materials can be mailed to participants without internet access.
MEET IN-PERSON: As an optional bonus, participants will have the opportunity to meet in-person at the Organic Dairy Conference in Vermont on March 9, 2023 at Vermont Technical College, Judd Hall!

Interested in enrolling? This course is free of cost, but REGISTRATION is required.
Register at:
To register by phone, or to request a disability related accommodation to participate in this program, please contact Susan Brouillette at (802) 524-6501 Ext. 432 or by email at by January 6, 2023 so we may assist you—thank you!

End of Year Tidings from the E.E. Cummings Crop Testing Laboratory

Happy holidays to friends and colleagues near and far from the staff at the E.E. Cummings Crop Testing Lab! We’re pleased to have been your choice for grain quality testing in 2022 and hope to see you again in 2023. 

There will be no mail service on UVM’s campus between December 22st and January 2th, so if you have samples that you need run before the end of 2022, please make sure they arrive by Monday, December 19th

The results are in! 2022 Soybean Variety Evaluation

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 (NWCS) Team evaluated yield and quality of short season soybean varieties at Borderview Research Farm in Alburgh, VT as part of a grant from the Eastern Region Soybean Board.

Research Trial Quick Facts:

  • EVALUATION:  31 varieties
  • SOIL TYPE:  Covington Silty Clay Loam
  • PLANTED:  May 23, 2022
  • SEEDING RATE:  185,000 seeds/acre
  • ROW SPACING: 30-inch rows
  • HARVEST DATE:  October 11 & 21, 2022

Conclusion:  Overall, soybean varieties performed well averaging over 70 bu per acre this year. Under these conditions, all soybean varieties reached maturity and a harvestable moisture although harvest dates differed depending on the maturity group. 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. These data suggest that soybeans in maturity groups 0, 1, and 2 can produce high yields under conventional management in Vermont’s northern climate. It is important to remember that these data only represent one year at one location and therefore should not solely be used to make management decisions.

Interested in learning more? Access the full2022 Conventional Soybean Variety Trail here. You can also check out the Oilseed Factsheet: Storage and Cleaning, as well as other soybean and oilseed-related resources on our Oilseed Crops webpage under the Factsheets, Bulletins & Guides dropdown.

We will continue to post all our 2022 Research Reports to the webpage as they are completed throughout the winter.

UVM Extension Announces New Opportunity: Building Soil Health through Farmer Peer Learning Networks

Through a recently awarded 3-year Conservation Innovation Grant, the University of Vermont Extension, Northwest Crops and Soils Program and the Vermont Association of Conservation Districts partnered up to develop soil health peer learning groups for farmers with the goal of advancing soil health of Vermont farmland. Through this program farmers will learn to benchmark soil health, evaluate soil health gaps, and track changes in soil health on their farm. The project will also help to identify trends in soil health and ecosystem service benefits that the agricultural landscape provides to the Vermont landscape. The project will begin in the winter of 2023 and continue over a 3-year period.

Are you a farmer or part of the Lake Champlain Basin farming community and have interest in participating in the peer learning network? Contact Heather Darby at (802) 524-6501 or for more information on getting involved!

This project is part of a larger State of Soil Health initiative in Vermont coordinated by UVM Extension. The goals of this initiative are as follows:  1) Establish a baseline of soil health indicators, carbon stocks, and associated ecosystem services in Vermont’s agricultural landscapes; 2) Create soil health soil sampling standards across management types; 3) Provide farmers with contextualized information about soil health on their participating fields; 4) Support collaboration among the many organizations that work with farmers towards shared goals around soil health; and 5) Build skills and capacity for measuring soil health and soil carbon stocks. Check out this initiative’s Summary of Soil Health Statistics from Vermont Agriculture in 2021 and/or the Soil Carbon Storage and Sequestration in Vermont Agriculture brief.

Impact of Cover Crop Termination Date on Weed Suppression and Corn Yield

Cover crops can retain nutrients, increase organic matter, and reduce erosion. In addition, cover crops may help to increase cash crop yields. Zeroing in on cover crop benefits, what happens to weed suppression and corn yield the longer the cover crop grows? Would more cover crop biomass suppress weeds better? Would that suppression of weeds improve yield or would the thick cover crop mulch cause cooler soil conditions and shade out the young corn seedlings suppressing crop growth?

We set out to answer these questions by implementing an experiment that compares treatments of three cover crop termination dates with no cover crops. On October 5, 2020, winter rye was planted at 70 lbs/acre. In the spring of 2021, cover crops were terminated with an herbicide on three separate dates: 3 weeks before planting (planting brown), 8 days before corning planting (planting green/brown), and 4 days after corn planting (planting green) (Image 1). A bare treatment (no cover crop) served as the control. All treatments were planted on May 18th. Corn was harvested for grain on October 20th. Weed biomass was collected from each treatment just prior to cover crop termination and also when the corn was at the fifth leave stage (V5). Corn seedling vigor was evaluated when corn plants in the plots reached the third leaf stage (V3).

So, what did we find?

Early Season Cover Crop and Weed Biomass: As to be expected, the later the cover crop was terminated, the higher the cover crop and weed biomass. Cover crop biomass at termination was significantly different among the treatments. The first treatment to be terminated, planting brown (1,500 lbs/acre), was 1,810 lbs/acre lower than the planting green/brown (3,340 lbs/acre) and 7,141 lbs/acre lower than planting green (8,671 lbs/acre) (Figure 1). Overall weed pressure was low in the cover crop treatments and was less than 4% of the total harvested biomass.

Corn Vigor: The time of cover crop termination impacted the growth and development of corn. The bare and early terminated cover crop (planting brown) were the most advanced in corn stage, averaging near (V3) (Figure 2). The planting green treatment, was significantly behind the other treatments by nearly a growth stage or more. Image 2, taken 2-July illustrates the delayed growth observed between treatments with no cover crops and those planted green. . There is a high correlation between cover crop biomass and vigor with vigor higher in treatments with lower cover crop biomass. This indicates, that early in the season more cover crop biomass stunted corn growth.

Mid-Season Weed Biomass: So, did early season weed biomass trends translate into later season weed biomass? Weed biomass remained low throughout the season and there were no differences observed amongst the treatments (Figure 3).

Grain Corn Yield: But then the question remains, does any of the delayed growth early in the season compromise corn yields? Average yield ranged between 118 bu/acre in the planting green treatment to 121 bu/acre in the planting brown treatment. The yield range of the treatments was narrow and there were no significant yield differences among the treatments (Figure 4). This indicates that cover crop termination date or cover crop biomass did not impact grain corn yield.

In Conclusion…

Preliminary results indicate that although later cover crop termination did impact early season corn growth and development, this did not translate into reduced grain yields. Additional years of data need to be collected to confirm this first year of data.  This trial will continue in subsequent years and with more data we can have higher confidence in the impact of cover crop termination date on corn yield. Additional research would also be needed to assess impact of cover crop termination date on corn silage yield.

This study is conducted in 16 states as part of the Precision Sustainable Agriculture Network (PSA). This work is supported by the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative’s Sustainable Agricultural Systems Coordinated Agricultural Projects [award no. 2019-68012-29818] from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

DAIRY WEBINAR – Alternative Milking Strategies: Lessons Learned From Research and Experience

Tuesday, December 13, 2022, 12:30-1:30 p.m.

Join UVM Extension’s Sara Ziegler and grazing consultant Sarah Flack for a webinar on alternative milking strategies (click here for event flyer) including seasonal production, once-a-day milking, and other alternative milking frequencies. They’ll share insights on the prevalence of these strategies on dairy farms around the northeast region, as well as common challenges, barriers to adoption, benefits, and economic considerations.

The webinar is free and there is no pre-registration is required. Just connect via the Zoom meeting link on 12/13. Meeting ID: 893 9874 9973 or dial by location – +1 929 436 2866 US (New York), or +1 780 666 0144 (Canada) Or find your local number:
Webinar will be recorded and available at a later date.

Questions? Contact or call 802-524-6501 ext. 432.
For more information go to

Sunsetting of Vermont’s Hemp Program and the Transitioning to the U.S. Domestic Hemp Production Program 

This is the final year that the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets (Agency) will administer the Vermont Hemp Program, including the Vermont Hemp Rules and under its USDA approved Domestic Hemp Production Plan.  The Agency approved its first registration to cultivate hemp in 2013.  That first year the Agency registered 174 acres.

In 2014 the Farm Bill passed allowing states to enact pilot programs to “study the growth, cultivation, or marketing” of hemp. The Agency operated a pilot program through December of 2021 to a 1% total THC standard, participated in the federal rulemaking process, and advocated for federal policy changes in support of sensible regulation that allows, and even encourages, states to foster and help grow a sustainable U.S. hemp industry.

By 2019 Vermont saw an explosion of hemp cultivated for the production, development and marketing of hemp products containing cannabinoids.  The Hemp Program, in 2020, enacted regulations to protect consumers that included requirements to test for contaminants and labeling of products. These rules set the stage for compliance with the federal final rule for a U. S. Domestic Hemp Production Program that became effective in March of 2021.  As the sunset on the pilot program got nearer, Vermont prepared and submitted a state plan for USDA approval to employ federal requirements for the 0.3% total THC standard, federal reporting, and incorporating performance based sampling protocols that exempted fiber and grain growers and research institutions. In its final year of administering a hemp program, the Agency registered just over 161 acres with most crops being grown for cannabinoid production on small acreages. Vermont is also beginning to see potential in hemp fiber cultivation and processing. Many of these businesses employ Vermonters to support their operations, and market hemp products across the country.

What’s Next?

Growers that register to cultivate hemp in 2023 will do so with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).  Many of the same requirements in place in 2022 will remain applicable in 2023 for Vermont growers despite licensure with the federal government.  These include requirements for criminal history reports, reporting crops to the Farm Service Agency, using certified samplers, and meeting the total THC standard of 0.3%. Additionally, hemp cultivation will continue to be regulated under applicable state laws, including the Required Agricultural Practices, and Pesticide Rules.  If you operate a nursery you still need to get a nursery license; or if you manufacture animal dosage form animal health products containing CBD, you will need to register those products.   The Agency does not expect there to be any changes to access to banking and insurance for hemp industry participants.

Hemp growers and processors will still be able to apply for relevant state funds to support their businesses. These include Working Lands Enterprise Funds,  and federal funds from the Agricultural Management Assistance Program offered by the Natural Resources Conservation Service, or those offered through USDA, Rural Development.  Lands and buildings used in the production of hemp may be enrolled in the Current Use program when the operation meets eligibility requirements. There are no changes in access to these programs based on the transition to USDA administration of hemp production in Vermont.  Opportunities will continue to exist for businesses that grew up under Vermont’s Hemp Program and new businesses that seek for find their place.

Nationally, 2023 is the year Congress will revise or renew agricultural and food policy in what is commonly known as the farm bill.  The hemp industry may see changes in federal policies affecting their businesses, so stay tuned. 

The best place for information on becoming registered with USDA is to go to  Growers in 2023 will need to create accounts in the Hemp eManagement Platform,  There is a user guide for producers, USDA Producer HeMP User Guide (pdf), to help you navigate the federal registration system. If producers have questions about hemp production in 2023, contact USDA at,

Written by Stephanie Smith, Cannabis Quality Control and Policy Administrator, Hemp Program Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets

Grow More Conservation Outreach Workshop

WHEN: Nov 17, 2022 from 9am-4pm, DoubleTree Hilton, 870 Williston Rd, South Burlington

REGISTER for free at:

The “Grow More” Approach: Improving Outreach by Leveraging Social Science
To support sustainable agriculture and conservation outreach efforts, National Wildlife Federation has developed the Grow More training approach. The central goal of this effort is to more directly ground conservation outreach in the best understanding of decision making and behavior change science. By basing outreach strategies in proven methods that influence conservation decisions, and the myriad factors that influence these behaviors, we aim to increase the impact of outreach efforts across the country. Put simply, the aim is to grow more: more cover crops, more conservation practices, a more diverse array of crops and livestock, and the conservation leaders that promote these approaches.
This flexible training approach is targeted at professionals and leading farmers who seek to increase the impact of their conservation outreach. The training is structured as a workshop, where trainees come together to learn from experts and each other. NWF provides some training modules that introduce participants to the basics of behavior change, outreach messaging and framing, and outreach planning tools. These workshops can be crafted to meet the specific needs of trainees, including the resource and geographic context as well as time and venue constraints.
The core training is broken down into easily digestible modules. These training lessons build on each other, beginning with basic social science principles, then progressing through more specific examples, and ending with participants being able to reflect and apply the lessons in their own outreach needs.
Key lessons include: 1) Basics of Behavior Change, 2) Culture and Social Norms, 3) Outreach Messaging, 4) Framing Your Outreach, 5) Outreach Planning and Preparing Speakers, and 6) Planning Evaluation Tools.

For more information visit:

Managing Disease On Hemp Farms

Managing disease of the hemp crop is a key component in bringing a high-quality product to the market! Much of disease management for hemp involves practices that need to be deployed far ahead of the harvest. Practices such as wider plant spacing, variety selection, and crop rotation can all help reducing disease pressure.

While preparation through the aforementioned cultural practices of disease control are often the first line of defense, high disease pressure in your hemp crop may warrant further action. If you begin to see additional pressure from pests, a few immediate measures can be taken including physical removal of infected hemp plant tissues. Depending on severity of disease, individual leaves, branches, or flowers may be removed from the field to reduce the spread and entire plant removal may prove beneficial in some instances. Also, a number of commercially available products registered for hemp could also prove effective for disease control if required, however it is important to follow pesticide labels for rates, frequency, and uses. Click here for a list of EPA approved products and active ingredients registered for use on hemp.

In our region the main diseases of concern include powdery mildew, white mold, gray mold, and various leaf spots. For most accurate identification of these diseases, samples of infected plant tissue can be sent to the UVM Plant Diagnostic Clinic located on the UVM campus. With the proper identification of these diseases, you can then select the appropriate control measures and respond accordingly.

Recent research at UVM Extension is evaluating the efficacy of disease control products in hemp, check out the 2021 On-Farm New England Hemp Pest and Disease Scouting Report. You can read more about UVM Extension NWCS’s most up-to-date research on our Research Results webpage. For more information on our UVM Extension Hemp-related research and outreach please visit our Industrial Hemp webpage. Or, visit our main website (click here) for all things Northwest Crops and Soils!

Skip to toolbar