Free Soil Testing, Heavy Metal Screening, and Soil Nitrate Analysis for Flood-impacted Farms

Now through August 15th, routine soil testing, heavy metal screening, and soil nitrate analysis will be free of charge for flood-impacted farms. Please write ‘FLOODED‘ on sample submission forms accompanying any soil samples.

More information can be found on the UVM Extension Agricultural and Environmental Testing webpage:

Flood Resources and Help for the Farming Community

Vermont has been hit hard by this recent round of storms, as some know and have experience more closely than others. It has left a devastating mark on the agricultural landscape of our small state. As a Team, we have always helped our community through difficult times and this will be no different! If you or a farmer in your community is in need, please contact Heather Darby at 802-782-6054 or 802-656-7610 or so that we can find ways to provide assistance.


Managing Flood Damaged Crops and Forage (PDF):

Managing Flood Damaged Corn (PDF):

Additional flood related sites and resources can be found at:

July On-farm Field Day Opportunities

It’s July already, and we wanted to share a few on-farm workshops coming up this month that UVM Extension Northwest Crops & Soils Program is organizing or collaborating on…

Friday, July 14, 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Ken Leach and Joanne Chickering, Pawlet, VT. Discussion of drought stress and management considerations for following year as well as strategies to improve drought resiliency. 2 VAAFM WQ credits and 2 CCA CEUs available. Register at Choose Select A Date link to sign up. Contact is or 802-524-6501.

Thursday, July 13, 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Cedar Mountain Farm, Hartland, VT. Dairy herd health workshop with Dr. Dayna Locitzer who will lead a day-long dairy herd health workshop with a mix of classroom time and pasture walk/herd observation. Topics to include physical exam of the cow, time budget, and veterinary skills. Register at Contact is or 802-656-4829.

Wednesday, July 19, 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. Rebop Farm, 1320 Sunset Lake Road, Brattleboro, VT. Birds, Bees, and Beneficial Bugs in Our Livestock Systems to include a pasture walk with discussion of how to enhance bird, bee, and beneficial insect habitats in rotational grazing systems. Free event. To register or for questions, contact or 802-656-4829.

Saturday, July 22, 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. Pasture walk at the Larson Farm, 661 South Street, Wells, VT. Learn how Larson Farm is using automatic gate openers and innovative seed varieties to enhance dry matter intake, soil fertility, and milk production. Includes pasture walk as part of a DBIC Dairy Farm Innovation Grant and pot luck to follow. Register at Contact:

Thursday, July 27, 10am to 3:30pm, Borderview Research Farm, Alburgh, VT. Annual Field Day that will start with a tour of the farm and many of its research plots. Growers will get an update on ongoing and innovative crop and soil research trials, and UVM researches will share highlights from their research at the farm. After a BBQ lunch catered by Phoenix House and some Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, we will have several afternoon session options including soil Health (including greenhouse gases and biochar), IPM, malt barley (with different ways to taste malt), forages (energy content, heights at mowing, etc.), and a hemp processing demo. Cost is $25 per person and free for farmers. Register today at

View our Conferences web page to view all upcoming workshops – We do request pre-registration for all events.

Science in Agriculture Teacher Workshop

Are you an educator looking for new tools and curriculum for your science class? REGISTER HERE (or at: for your spot in the Science in Agriculture Workshop!

During this workshop series (July 18, August 1, August 2), you will gain hands on experience on how to implement benchtop and field experiments, learn how to use AgConnect (a free web-based app that helps your students walk through the scientific method), and have time to adapt our agriculture in science curriculum to meet your classroom needs. This unique offering is FREE of cost – don’t let this one-time-only professional development opportunity pass by!

View the downloadable PDF below for more details…

Extension Professor Heather Darby Receives the 2023 Hubert W. Vogelmann Award

Vermont farmers depend on expert advice for crop production and soil nutrient management; it could mean the difference between a healthy crop of nutritious livestock forage or a field full of weeds. For many years, Extension Professor and Agronomy Specialist Heather Darby has been a well-known and reliable source of applied research, and field-tested crops and soils information. Her commitment to agriculture research, student mentoring, and delivery of countless on-farm education programs has been recognized with the 2023 Hubert W. Vogelmann Award for Excellence in Research and Scholarship. Darby is the first Extension professor at UVM to receive this honor.

Heather Darby and Roger Rainville at Borderview Research Farm in Alburg, VT.

Darby was raised on a northwestern Vermont dairy farm, and she was involved in all aspects of managing it. The experience gave her an awareness of the dedication and hard work needed to operate a farm, and it permeated her career in agronomy research and outreach. These practical experiences, complemented by Darby’s education, have focused her attention on sustainable agriculture and the promotion of environmental stewardship.

Along with the namesake of the Vogelmann award, Darby is considered a pioneer in her field, a forward-thinker and humble leader. However, she has made significant impacts in dairy-based organic agriculture, nutrient management planning, and local grain production regionally and nationally.

UVM Extension Outreach and Program Manager Debra Heleba worked with Darby on several collaborations. Heleba is very familiar with the many projects Darby initiated and/or led to advance research and funding for organic farming systems. Heleba stated, “Heather is a founding member of, a collaboration of researchers and Extension educators across the U.S. who develop researched-based, peer-reviewed content on organic farming system. She gained national attention through her development of goCrop, an online nutrient management tool that helps dairy farmers make field-based fertility decisions while protecting water quality. Heather works with farmers, bakers, and plant breeders from across the country to breed wheat varieties, notably creating varieties based on the work of Cyrus Pringle, an 1880’s UVM plant breeder. She also created the first university-based cereal grain testing laboratory on the East Coast, the E.E. Cummings Crop Testing Laboratory.”

Funding research is a challenging and highly competitive process at universities, but Darby has been able to procure over $21 million in funds during her tenure at UVM. She has also received approximately 144 grants since 2016 to support her projects, totaling more than $14.5 million. As Animal and Veterinary Sciences Associate Professor Jana Kraft stated, “Dr. Darby demonstrates an exemplary, sustained ability to secure externally funded grants and contracts to support her research and team including staff, graduate students, and post-doctoral researchers. She is among the most successful and prolific faculty at UVM.”

Darby’s published research includes almost 50 peer-reviewed journal publications in top-rated journals, nearly 35 abstracts and proceedings, and more than 150 research reports and white papers in ScholarWorks, along with several book chapters and software publications.

Inside and outside of UVM, Darby is well respected for her insights, tireless energy, and dedication. Despite being one of the busiest people that Plant and Soil Science Professor Eric Bishop von Wettberg knows, he considers her an outstanding colleague who finds time for service and mentoring. He said her guidance when he first arrived at UVM was invaluable. She has demonstrated a strong commitment to research mentoring of students at UVM by serving on 25 graduate student doctoral and thesis committees. Vice President for Research Kirk Dombrowski appointed Darby to his Research Advisory Council, and stated, “Heather is an outstanding teacher, and she has also demonstrated a strong service record nationally, in the community, and for the university.”

The Hubert W. Vogelmann Award in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) honors Professor Emeritus Hubert “Hub” Vogelmann, former chair of the CALS botany department and himself a model for the award’s criteria. The award recognizes outstanding effort and achievement in research and scholarship. The recipient of this annual award has his/her name engraved on commemorative plaque and receives an award of $2,500.00 which can be used to support his/her research efforts.

Article Written By: Joanna C Cummings

June 26, 2023 — Univeristy of Vermont, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

Orignal Article can be found at:

Birds, Bees, and Beneficial Bugs in Our Livestock Systems

Join UVM Extension specialists for two farm tours this summer to learn about ways to enhance bird, bee and beneficial insect habitats in your rotational grazing systems.

Friday, June 9, 2023 from 10 a.m. − 12 p.m. at Owl’s Head Farm, 263 Blueberry Farm Road, Richmond, VT

Wednesday, July 19, 2023 from 10 a.m. − 12 p.m. at Rebop Farm, 1320 Sunset Lake Road, Brattleboro, VT

TO REGISTER: Call or email Kelsie Meehan at 802-656-4829 or

Check out the event flyer for more information!

FAP Program Application’s are due by June 15th

The grass has been growing fast and many folks are starting to get cows out on pasture. Before things get too crazy, don’t forget to submit your Farm Agronomic Practices Program rotational grazing application through the VT Agency of Agriculture. Applications are due by June 15th. If you’ve never applied, don’t worry! All the information you need regarding eligibility, payments, and the application requirements can be found at The application is simple and you can always reach out to us for help.

Eligible Practices for FAP Payments:

  • Cover Cropping
  • Crop to Hay
  • Crop to Hay with Nurse crop
  • No Till
  • No Till Pasture and Hayland Renovation
  • Rotational Grazing
  • Manure Injection
  • Educational or Instructional Activities

Influence of Cutting Height on Forage Quality

Harvest management is an integral component of producing high-quality forage. Often harvest timing and speed are discussed but equally important is the cutting height. While many grazing farmers have adopted the practice of leaving more un-grazed material in the pasture, many hay fields are still harvested as low as possible. This, in combination with frequent harvesting, can stress stands causing loss in density, which can lead to declines in productivity, quality, and allow for weeds to proliferate. Furthermore, with more erratic rainfall patterns often leading to long periods of drought during the summer months, cutting at a higher height can help the plants recover faster and keep the ground cooler during these conditions following harvest. Understandably, farmers are harvesting low to harvest as much dry matter per acre as possible. But at what cost? Is the additional dry matter worth it?

In 2022, the University of Vermont Extension Northwest Crops and Soils Program initiated a trial evaluating the impacts of varying cutting heights on forage yield and quality, as well as regrowth rates to better understand this trade-off. Check out results from year 1 of the study, Influence of Cutting Height on Forage Quality and Productivity, linked here.

Time to evaluate your forage stands for winter injury!


Our harsh winter environment in northern New England can be surprisingly damaging to the plants we grow. Conditions like freeze/thaw events with fluctuating temperatures or desiccation due to lack of water can be a main driver for winter injury or winter kill. Perennial forage stands, particularly alfalfa, are no exception. Therefore, it is crucial to assess your forage fields early in the spring for signs of damage.


First and foremost, it is most important to determine if your field(s) was impacted by the winter weather. Check your fields for…

  • Stands that are slow to green up. If other fields in your area are starting to grow and yours are still brown those stands should be checked for injury or death.
  • Uneven growth patterns as that may also indicate damage.

The best way to diagnose damage is by examining the plant roots in a suspect field. To do this, walk diagonally across a field and at regular intervals (every 4 to 5 paces) dig up a shovel full of plants (4 to 6 inches deep) and examine their roots. The roots of each plant should be firm and the interior color should be white or cream colored. If the roots are soft and the interior yellow to brownish in color it most likely was wintered killed. For alfalfa, the majority of crown buds should be white or pink and firm throughout the bud.


Winter injured stands will require different management than healthy stands if they are to stay in production. If winter injury is evident consider the following:

  • Allow alfalfa plants to mature longer before cutting. This will help the plants rebuild needed energy for future production. Increasing the cutting height may also help stands recover. Lastly do not cut winter injured stands late in the fall this will allow them to build up more reserves before winter.
  • If a significant loss of alfalfa was seen in a predominantly grass stand, then you could manage it for grass. This will work best if the grass species are predominated by tall growing species. If the grass is less than 10 inches tall, it may still be economical to apply 50 pounds of N per acre to boost yield and protein. If the grass stand is predominately lower yielding forage, you may want to consider replanting.
  • If the alfalfa stand was only partially injured (25 to 50 %) interseeding (with a no-till or grain drill) with a quick germinating forage could provide additional production. When dealing with winter injured stands, it is particularly important to adequately fertilize and to control for weed competition.


If your stand was over 50 % killed, you may consider replanting. There are several forage choices depending on your needs or goals.

  • Is your forage needed early/mid-summer? A small grain/field pea mixture will be the best choice. Harvest when the small grain is at late boot stage. This will allow enough time to replant the perennial forages during late summer if desired.
  • Are you looking to optimize full season forage production? Corn silage will be the best choice for that. If corn silage is planted by the end of June, it will normally out yield most other forages however you risk lower quality forage.
  • Are you planting mid-June to early July? Consider planting a summer annual grass. These forages should be harvested when they reach approximately 30 inches and will typically be harvested twice. Selecting varieties with the Brown Mid Rib (BMR) gene can increase the fiber digestibility of the forage.

For more information on winter injury, see the resources below:

  1. Evaluating and Managing Winter Forage Stands for Winter Injury, UVM:
  2. Planning Ahead for Winter Injury in Forages, UNH:
  3. Spring Oats Offer Fast Forage, Hay & Forage:
  4. Guide to Using Annual Forages in the Northeast:

It’s time for Frost Seeding!

Spring is right around the corner, but it isn’t too late to think about forage improvements! Frost seeding is a simple practice that can help improve pasture and hay field yield, quality, and composition over time. The general principle of frost seeding is to broadcast forage seed onto pastures or hay fields in early spring when the ground freezes at night and thaws during the day. The time is now! Below are some helpful tips for successful frost seeding.

Manage your expectations:  Frost seeding will not look like a new seeding. New plants will grow over time and hard seed may sit around for a while until conditions are right. The first year you may not notice a huge difference but frost seeding a little bit each year around your farm can help maintain stands and avoid the need to do costly and extensive reseeding.

Limit competition:  Frost seeding will be more successful where the seed can easily reach the soil surface, making seed to soil contact. Fields that have a lot of bare ground showing or where you have grazed or mowed very short will be more successful than fields with lots of residue or thatch covering the ground. Remember for seed to germinate it needs good seed to soil contact.  

Be ready to go when the conditions are right:  At this time of year, conditions can fluctuate quickly. Be ready! Walk your fields and decide which are the best candidates for frost seeding and which species you’d like to seed. When the snow is gone or mostly gone and the ground is freezing at night but thawing during the day, you should frost seed. Sandy soils that don’t heave and shrink under these conditions are generally poor candidates for frost seeding.

Strategic species selection:  To be ready when the weather is ready, you must select your species and purchase seed ahead of time. Frost seeding is more successful with legumes and grasses that can germinate quickly in cool temperatures. Red and white clovers are generally the most successful legumes while perennial ryegrass and orchard grass are relatively successful grasses.

Equipment options:  Frost seeding is often done with seeders mounted on ATVs, or a tractor-mounted or handheld broadcast seeder. When frost seeding with a broadcast seeder, make sure to first determine the effective seeding width to avoid possible overlap of seed. Although not always necessary, a disk or cattle can help incorporate the seed into the soil. A no-till drill can be used but this will increase the number of trips across the field.

ATV with seeder mounted on back.

More information on frost seeding can be found at:

Happy spring and happy seeding!

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