Improving oilseed production and harvesting practices in New England: A farmer-to-Farmer exchange

Final Report for LNE09-282

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2009: $109,306.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2011
Region: Northeast
State: Vermont
Project Leader:
Dr. Heather Darby
University of Vermont Extension
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Project Information

Summary:

On-farm energy production has become a priority for many growers in the Northeast, partly because of the efficacy of this grant. Vermont’s Sustainable Agriculture Council has identified on-farm energy enhancement as a top research priority, and in recent research estimated the demand and capacity for in-state food products, livestock meal and biodiesel made from local oilseed crops. The objectives of this project were to: (1) improve pest management practices to improve yields, quality and economic viability of oilseed crops; (2) develop a guide to “Producing Oilseeds in New England” and dedicated oilseed website for producers; and (3) enhance opportunities for farmer-to-farmer learning exchanges throughout Vermont and New England.

Research trials have shown that management practices can have great impacts on pest damage in oilseed crops. Tineweeding sunflowers twice in the early season has proven effective at reducing weed populations in sunflowers, and crop management practices, such as elevated seeding rates, have been established to integrate tineweeding into a successful program. Tineweeding was not advantageous to a spring canola crop but winter canola was highlighted as a viable alternative producing higher yields with less pest issues. Planting dates were established to better understand how they can influence bird and other pest populations in sunflower production. Planting dates extended into early June appear to reduce both bird and insect damage in sunflowers.

Outreach and educational events have been held on a yearly basis to provide a network for oilseed producers in the region. An oilseed producers group was formalized as a part of the grant and is now heading into its fifth year. During the duration of the project, there were six field days held to highlight oilseed production, with nine outreach events that have had 873 attendees. In addition, the new Oilseed Website (http://www.uvm.edu/extension/cropsoil/oilseeds) built as part of this project has received over 1600 hits from individuals interested in oilseed and biofuel production.

In 2010, an oilseed budget calculator was completed to help farmers make economic decision about oilseed and biofuel production. As many as 145 farms have used these baseline numbers to make decisions on whether or not to start producing oilseeds on their farm. Current numbers show that an average cost of biodiesel production at an average of approximately $1.35 per gallon.

According to evaluations, surveys, conversations with regional growers, and notes from annual oilseed producers meetings, there was been an increase in the production of oilseed crops by 1,340 acres between 2009 and 2012. At least 36 farmers are actively producing oilseed crops in the Northeast, and many have reported increases in yield and quality due, in part, to research and outreach conducted by UVM Extension and made possible by this grant project. In response to an exhaustive survey of oilseed growers that was distributed in 2012-2013, many growers said they had adopted new practices or strategies to control weeds (75%), manage birds (50%), control insects (75%), and control disease (75%). Of those who responded to a 2012-2013 survey on oilseed production, 77.8% of growers indicated that oilseed production had improved their overall farm viability. By improving yields and quality of sunflower and canola crops, farmers were able to increase the value of their crops, and likewise increase their on-farm income. During this project, average yields more than doubled increasing from 689 lbs per acre in 2009 to 1,456 lbs per acre in 2012. The current value of oilseed crops in production is approximately $688,220.

Introduction:

New England meets most of its demand for oilseed co-products and substitutes through importation. Vermont farms, for example, import over 100,000 tons of oilseed meal and 6,000,000 gallons of diesel fuel annually (Stebbins, 2007; U.S. Dept. of Energy, 2004). A study conducted by Stebbins (2007) showed that Vermont had sufficient land base to produce 90,000 acres per year of oilseed crops in rotation with 90,000 acres of grass and other forage or energy crops yielding 6,000,000 gallons of vegetable oil (for fuel and food) and 80,000 tons (50 percent) of the states’ annual demand for oilseed meal. Comparable statistics in other New England states have not been compiled as yet, but may prove to be similar in magnitude. These data suggest that farms in Vermont and New England have a significant opportunity to produce more of their own liquid fuel and livestock feed through oilseed crop production in a crop rotation that is compatible with current forage production.

Many farms in New England are operating equipment on homemade biofuel or straight vegetable oil. These farmers collect waste vegetable oil from neighboring restaurants, filter, and process into biofuel. The demand for waste vegetable oil is high and stories of competition and “fights” have even made the local newspapers. Many farmers are looking for opportunities to grow their own oil on the farm. There is also great opportunity in Vermont and throughout the region for the production of local food-grade oils. With the recent popularity of the localvore movement, interest by consumers in locally produced oils has surged. Farmers with presses have been feeding the resulting meal to their own livestock, or selling it to neighbors. Animals fed this locally produced high protein meal include chickens, sheep, and cattle. Feeding this locally produced meal can save the farm money by reducing the need to purchase off-farm grain supplements. Locally grown canola, mustard, and sunflower meal can also be used as fertilizer. The fertilizer value can be substantial, especially on organic farms that struggle to meet nitrogen needs of crops.
Farmers in Vermont and throughout New England are requesting assistance to identify optimal agronomic practices for the production of oilseed crops. Specific needs in this area include weed control, post-harvest storage of oilseeds, pest management, and optimum maturity for harvesting to minimize bird damage.

Preliminary research projects have shown that oilseed production is feasible in New England. However, further advances in local knowledge and technology were needed to advance to the next stages of on-farm oilseed implementation. This research and outreach project was designed to build on previous projects that examined best agricultural practices for oilseed production in New England.

As more farms begin to grow oilseeds, there are several pest problems that need to be addressed for these crops. At this time the primary yield limiting pests in oilseed crops include weeds and birds. Farms have lost up to 50% of their potential yield from these pests. Weeds have limited yields on the cooperating farms, especially those farms that produce oilseeds organically. Genetically modified canola varieties have been avoided in this area and few herbicides are available for weed control post planting. Some specialty herbicides are expensive and would not be cost effective on such small acreages. To improve yields and economic viability of oilseed production in New England, we need to identify strategies to minimize these pests. The demonstration/research projects were identified by cooperating oilseed farmers as critical areas of information needed to improve oilseed production in New England.

Over the last four years, on-farm research projects have been initiated to evaluate weed and bird control practices for oilseed crops. In addition, a budget for oilseed crop production was completed to allow growers to calculate their expenses and potential profits from growing oilseeds. A network of oilseed growers was created and farmer-to-farmer exchanges helped farmers share valuable information. An “Oilseed Production in the Northeast: A Guide for Growers of Sunflower and Canola” was published and distributed to over 50 growers in the Northeast.

References
Arnott, R. 2008 P.Ag. Business Devt. Specialist MAFRI. Community Based Biodiesel Cost of Production Budget. Manitoba.
Farm Energy Handbook, October, 2006 – edited by Vermont Environmental Consortium, Vermont Agency of Agriculture.
Stebbins, E.J., September 2007 – “Homegrown Feed, Food & Fuel: The Market Potential of Farm-Scale Oilseed Crop Products in Vermont”
U.S. Department of Energy, 2004. Energy Information Administration, Sales of Distillate Fuel Oil by End Use, Vermont.

Performance Target:

A grant was awarded in 2009 to the University of Vermont Extension, under the leadership of Dr. Heather Darby, to improve the viability of oilseed production in New England. The objectives of this project were to: (1) improve pest management practices to improve yields, quality and economic viability of oilseed crops; (2) develop a guide to “Producing Oilseeds in New England” and dedicated oilseed website for producers; and (3) enhance opportunities for farmer-to-farmer learning exchanges throughout Vermont and New England.

Performance Target: By the end of 2012, 50 additional New England farmers will include oilseeds in their rotations and 500 additional acres will be planted in oilseeds. This will result in a total of 1081 acres of oilseed crops on 70 farms in New England. The value of the oilseed crops under current production practices and average yields (1500 lb per acre) will be approximately $243,225. As a result of this project 50 farmers (representing about 10 acres per farm) will have adopted at least one new pest management practice to minimize bird and/or weed damage and double yields (1500 lbs to 3500 lbs per acre). This will result in an increased income of $112,500 for these farms.

The target was largely met: 36 farmers have more than doubled their average yields from 689 lbs per acre in 2009 to 1,456 lbs per acre in 2012. The current value of oilseed crops in production is approximately $688,220.

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand
  • Roger Rainville

Research

Materials and methods:
Improve Pest Management, Yields, Quality, and Economic Viability

The discouraging nature of some bad experiences with pest damage limited grower participation in emerging crops like sunflower, canola, and oilseed soybeans, and identifying ways to mitigate some of these issues was a priority in order to encourage farmer adoption. On-farm research trials were designed to include the evaluation of tineweeding, reduced tillage plantings, and bird control strategies. These trials sought to evaluate pest management strategies that might help to improve yields and quality. Most research trials were implemented at Borderview Research Farm in Alburgh, VT, on a rocky Benson silt loam soil. Additionally, a few research sites were utilized at other farms in Vermont. See research reports referenced in Publications/Outreach and provided as supplemental documents.

In 2010 sunflower insect scouting protocols were developed and performed to generate knowledge about insect pests in Vermont. Procedures were outlined for monitoring adult populations of Sunflower Receptacle Maggot (Gymnocarena diffusa), Sunflower Stem Maggot (Strauzia longipennis), and Sunflower Seed Maggot (Neotephritis finalis). These protocols were used at State Line Farm in North Bennington, VT and at Ekolott Farm in Newbury, VT. Two random locations in the field, at least 75 ft (23m) from the field edge, were selected. For each location, we placed five ammonium-baited yellow sticky traps on wire hangers in an X pattern, with each corner spaced from the others 115 ft (35 m), and the middle card placed where the diagonals cross. Insect data was collected and compiled from both locations.

Tineweeding to Control Weeds in Oilseed Crops:

A 2009 sunflower and canola tineweeding study was conducted to evaluate tineweeding as a weed control strategy. The experimental design was a randomized complete block with three replications. Five weed control strategies were tested: tineweeding 6 days after planting (DAP), tineweeding 12 DAP, tineweeding 6 and 12 DAP, herbicide (POAST – sethoxydim), and no weed control. The seedbed was prepared with conventional tillage methods. Plots were seeded with a John Deere 1750 corn planter equipped with sunflower cups, and the variety Hysun 521 (Interstate Seed) at a rate of 31,000 seeds per acre. Canola plots were seeded with a John Deere 750 grain drill and the variety Nex845CL (Mycogen) at 12 lbs/acre.The plots size was 10’ x 30’. Weed and crop populations were measured at 6 and 12 DAP, and again 5 weeks after planting. Weed identification was performed at each interval. At 6 DAP, the crop had not emerged, and so were not affected by tineweeding.

Very few weeds were present at that time, and those that were present were in white thread stage. At 12 DAP, sunflowers and canola were still germinated or at cotyledon stage. Some seedlings were pulled out by the tineweeding, and some were covered up. However by harvest, the crop had recovered, showing no significant difference in percent survival compared with the control or the herbicide plot. Foxtail (Setaria spp.), redroot pigweed (Amaranthus retroflexus L.), and common lambsquarters (Chenopodium album L.) were all removed by 12 DAP tineweeding. In early September, sunflower height, head width, population, seed size, percent bird damage, and weed subsamples were collected. By 4-Sep 2009, bird damage was already extensive, and by the time the sunflowers had dried down enough to be harvestable, they were completely decimated. North Dakota State University Extension has developed a formula for inferring yields from seed size, population, head width, and seed set which has allowed us to make a conjecture on yield results from data collected. Percent survival was calculated by dividing the harvest population by the seeding rate. All data were analyzed using a mixed model analysis where replicates were considered random effects. The LSD procedure was used to separate cultivar means when the F-test was significant (P< 0.10).

A 2010 sunflower and canola tineweeding trial was conducted to further evaluate this weed control strategy. The effectiveness of a tineweeder as a weed control tool in corn and sunflowers was evaluated with replicated plots at Borderview Farm in Alburgh, VT. The soil type was a silt loam and the previous crop was cereal rye. The seedbed was prepared with a moldboard plow, disked, and then finished with a spike tooth harrow. The experimental design was a randomized complete block with four replications. Canola plots were seeded with a John Deere 750 grain drill and the variety Nex845CL (Mycogen) at 12 lbs/acre. Sunflowers were originally planted on 26-May 2010, but due to poor germination, they were replanted on 9-Jun 2010. Five weed control strategies were tested in the sunflowers: tineweeding 6 days after planting (DAP), tineweeding 12 DAP, tineweeding 6 and 12 DAP, herbicide, and no weed control. Sunflower plots (Seeds 2000 variety Viper) were seeded with a John Deere 1750 planter equipped with sunflower fingers at a rate of 29,000 seeds per acre, with 30 inch spacing between rows. The plot size was 10’ x 25’. Starter fertilizer (10-20-20) was applied at a rate of 200 lbs per acre. An additional 70 lbs of N were topdressed in early July. A pre-plant application of Treflan (trifluralin) was applied to the herbicide plots at 1.5 pints per acre. Weed and crop populations were measured at 6 and 12 DAP. Weed identification was performed at each interval. Weed biomass was measured on 21-Sep 2010. To prevent bird predation, all plots were covered with bird netting and “scary eye” bird deterants were errected in close proximity to the research trials. Sunflower plots were harvested with an Almaco SP50 plot combine on 2-Nov 2010. Canola plots were not harvested due to a crop failure. Yield was measured by weighing the harvested seeds on a platform scale. At harvest, moisture, and test weight were measured. All data were analyzed using a mixed model analysis where replicates were considered random effects. The LSD procedure was used to separate cultivar means when the F-test was significant (P< 0.10).

A 2011 sunflower tineweeding study was conducted at Borderview Farm in Alburgh, VT. The soil type at the site was a Benson rocky silt loam. The previous crop was corn. The experimental design was a randomized complete block with three replications. Plots were 10’ x 25’. The treatments consisted of one control with no tineweeding, tineweeding at 16 days after planting (DAP), tineweeding at 22 DAP, and tineweeding twice (at both 16 and 22 DAP). The herbicide Treflan (trifluralin) applied preplant on the 24-May 2011 at a rate of 2.5 pints per acre. Sunflowers were seeded on 25-May 2011 with a John Deere 1750 four-row planter at a rate of 32,000 seeds per acre. Weed and crop populations were measured before and after tineweeding events, which occurred at 16 and 22 DAP. Weeds were identified and categorized as either annual or perennial broadleaf and grasses. At harvest, population, height, head width, disease incidence, bird damage, and lodging were recorded. Bird damage was estimated using percent evaluations provided by North Dakota State University Extension. Disease incidence was measured by scouting ten consecutive plants in each plot and noting white mold at specific locations on the plant, including head, stalk, and base. White mold (Sclerotinia sclerotiorum), which can overwinter in the ground and spread quickly (especially in wet seasons) has proven to be a problem in the Northeast. Plots were harvested on 26-Sep 2011 with an Almaco SP50 plot combine fitted with specially-designed sunflower pans. Yield was measured by weighing the harvested seeds. At harvest, moisture was measured with a Dickey-John M20P moisture meter. A Berckes test weight scale was used to measure test weight, an indicator of both the density of seed and the amount of debris in the harvest; sunflower test weights should be at least 25 lbs per bushel. All data were analyzed using a mixed model analysis where replicates were considered random effects. The LSD procedure was used to separate cultivar means when the F-test was significant (P< 0.10).

Reduced Tillage and Cover Crops to Control Weeds in Oilseed Crops

In 2009 and 2010, the effectiveness of no-till using the roller-crimper was examined in sunflower and canola, specifically looking at yield trade-offs compared to conventional production. The experiment was conducted on a silt loam soil. On 10-Oct 2008 and 1-Oct 2009 the winter rye was seeded at a rate of 100 lbs/acre. Plots without cover crops served as controls. The plot design was a randomized complete block with three replications and the plot size measured 10’x 50’. In the spring, the cover crops were terminated with a burn-down herbicide (glyphosate at 2 qts/acre), plowing the cover crop into the soil, or by rolling and crimping the crop. After the cover crop was terminated, sunflowers and canola were planted. Starter fertilizer was applied at a rate of 200 lbs 10-20-20 to the acre. Only the sunflower plots were harvested as the canola plots were considered a crop failure. The sunflower plots were harvested on 24-Oct 2009 and 18-Oct 2010.

Strategies to Control Birds in Sunflower Crops

The 2009 sunflower bird control study assessed the impact of altered harvest dates on bird damage and overall yield and quality of sunflower. A study was conducted at Borderview Farm in Alburgh, VT to determine if harvest date impacted the level of bird damage in sunflower fields. The experimental design was a randomized complete block with three replications. Sunflower variety Hysun 521 (Interstate Seed) was planted with a John Deere 1750 corn planter, equipped with sunflower cups, at a rate of 30,000 seeds per acre. Plot size was 10’ x 20’. All data was analyzed using a mixed model analysis where replicates were considered random effects. All data were analyzed using a mixed model analysis where replicates were considered random effects. The LSD procedure was used to separate cultivar means when the F-test was significant (P< 0.10).

In 2011, a sunflower planting date trial at Borderview Research Farm in Alburgh, VT investigated the effects of varying planting dates on pest damage and overall yield and quality. The experimental design was a randomized complete block with split plots replicated three times. The plot size was 5’x20’. The main plots were 3 planting dates (25-May, 1-Jun, and 7-Jun 2011). The subplots were a long and a short season sunflower variety. Croplan Genetics variety ‘306’ had a relative maturity of 87 days and Syngenta variety ‘7120’ a relative maturity of 95 days. The soil was a Benson rocky silt loam and plots prepared by with spring disking and harrowing, and finished with a spike-tooth harrow. A starter fertilizer with an analysis of 10-20-20 was applied at a rate of 260 lbs per acre at planting. Weeds were managed by a preplant application of Treflan (trifluralin) at 2.5 pints per acre. For post-emergence weed control, plots were hand-weeded (16-Jun 2011) and cultivated with a Brillion 4-row cultivator (27-Jun 2011). In late July and early August, sunflowers began to flower, and when at least 75% of a given plot was in bloom, the date was noted. During the season, bird netting was used to discourage birds from damaging the developed sunflower seed heads. With this method, bird damage was kept to a minimum. Prior to harvest, sunflower population, height and head width, as well as the incidence of lodging and bird damage, was recorded. Bird damage was estimated using percent evaluations provided by North Dakota State University Extension. Incidence of white mold (Sclerotinia sclerotiorum) was noted at three locations on the plant: on the sunflower head, along the stalk, and at the base. Plots were harvested on 26-Sep 2011 with an Almaco SP50 plot combine with a 5’ head and custom-made sunflower pans. Following harvest, the test weight was measured with a Berckes Test Weight Scale and a Dickey-John M20P moisture meter was used to measure harvest moisture levels. Harvested seeds were then cleaned with a Clipper fanning mill and evaluated for insect damage. Banded sunflower moth (Cochylis hospes) larvae have been found in the region, and are evidenced by round exit holes in seeds, caused by larvae burrowing in to feed. Banded sunflower moth can cause significant yield losses. Prior to oil extraction, seed samples were dried and moisture levels quantified. Oil was extruded from a subsample of each harvested plot using a Kern Kraft Oil Press KK40. After pressing, oil content and yields were determined. All data were analyzed using a mixed model analysis where replicates were considered random effects. The LSD procedure was used to separate cultivar means when the F-test was significant (P< 0.10).

2012 sunflower planting date study: To evaluate the impact of planting date on sunflower plant characteristics and quality, a research trial was conducted at Borderview Research Farm in Alburgh, VT. The soil was a Benson rocky silt loam and plots were prepared with fall chisel plow and disk, and finished in the spring with a spike-toothed harrow. The experimental design was a randomized complete block with split plots replicated three times. The main plots were five planting dates, each spaced one week apart (18-May, 25-May, 1-Jun, 8-Jun and 15-Jun 2012). The subplots were two varieties, Croplan ‘306’ and Syngenta ‘7120.’ The variety 306 has a maturity of 88 days; the variety 7120 has a maturity of 94 days. Both are considered early-maturing varieties. Both varieties had downy mildew resistance. The plot size for this trial was 5’x30,’ and a 10-20-20 starter fertilizer was applied at a rate of 200 lbs per acre at the time of planting. Plots were planted at a rate of 36,000 viable seeds per acre with a John Deere 1750 corn planter fitted with sunflower fingers. To control weeds chemically, the pre-emergent selective herbicide Trust (trifluralin) was applied on 14-May 2012 at 1.5 pints per acre. A tineweeder was used on 31-May 2012 to reduce weeds. All plots were hand-weeded on 3-Jul. Plots were assessed on 16-Jul 2012 to determine growth stage, and scouted at the R3/R4 stage for banded sunflower moth (BSM) eggs. Three plants from each 2-row plot were scouted, with five bracts per head assessed with magnifying lenses. BSM eggs are small, opaque, and spherical in shape. The research trial was not protected from birds with netting or other strategies, in order to more accurately estimate the impact of bird pressure on seed yields and quality. Plant stand characteristics such as population, height, head width, disease incidence and lodging were measured 10 days before harvest (8-Oct 2012). Disease incidence was measured by scouting ten consecutive plants in each plot and noting white mold at specific locations on the plant, including head, stalk and base. White mold (Sclerotinia sclerotiorum), which can overwinter in the ground and spread quickly, especially in wet seasons, has proven to be a problem in the Northeast in the past. Plots were harvested on 18-Oct 2012 with an Almaco SP50 plot combine with a 5’ head and sunflower pans. At harvest, test weight and seed moisture were determined for each plot, with a Berckes Test Weight Scale and a Dickey-John M20P moisture meter. After seeds were cleaned with a Clipper fanning mill to remove debris and plant material, seed samples from each plot were evaluated for insect damage. Banded sunflower moth larvae damage the seed and create distinguishable exit holes in harvested seed samples. Oil from a known volume of each seed sample was extruded on 27-Nov 2012 with a Kern Kraft Oil Press KK40, and oil quantity was measured to calculate oil content. Oil yield (in lbs per acre and gallons per acre) was adjusted to standard 10% pressing moisture and reported. All data were analyzed using a mixed model analysis where replicates were considered random effects. The LSD procedure was used to separate cultivar means when the F-test was significant (P< 0.10).

Winter Production of Canola to Reduce Weed Pressure

A 2010 and 2011 winter canola variety trials assessed the feasibility of producing fifteen different varieties of winter canola in Northern Vermont. The winter canola was planted on 28-Aug 2009 and 1-Sep 2010 at a rate of 5 lbs per acre with a Kincaid cone seeder. The research plots were 5’ x 20’. The seeds were treated with Herculex, a systemic insecticidal seed treatment. The previous crop was small grain, and the seedbed was prepared by moldboard plow and disk. The soil was a rocky Benson silt loam. The experimental design was a randomized complete block with three replications. Fifteen winter canola varieties were evaluated for winter survival, yield, and oil quantity. Winter survival percentages were measured in April, after the danger of further winter loss had passed. Plots were harvested on 15-Jul 2010 and 19-Jul 2011 with an Almaco SP50 plot combine. Seeds were pressed with a Kern Kraft Oil Press KK40. All data were analyzed using a mixed model analysis where replicates were considered random effects. The LSD procedure was used to separate cultivar means when the F-test was significant (P< 0.10).

Develop Oilseed Webpage and Production Guide

A webpage was developed and maintained regularly to provide up-to-date research and postings of timely events and resources (www.uvm.edu/cropsoil/oilseeds). This webpage, housed on the UVM Extension Northwest Crops and Soils Program website, serves as an organized resource for information on oilseed production and processing. The webpage includes research reports from 2008-2012, links to applicable articles and resources, meeting notes, presentations from past workshops and conferences, informative videos highlighting management information and harvesting practices, and photo slideshows of oilseed crop production. The grant also allowed for the development of a crop production budget for oilseeds, in order to help farmers who are considering oilseed crops to modify the figure used in the calculation to reflect standard practices and equipment availability of their farms. This downloadable, interactive spreadsheet, called the Vermont Oilseed Cost and Profit Calculator was made available through the oilseeds webpage.

A manual entitled “Oilseed Production in the Northeast: A Guide for Growers of Sunflower and Canola” was written, published, and distributed. The goal of the manual was to provide as much meaningful and useful information as possible, and to develop regionally-appropriate recommendations that will stand the test of time. It addresses practices unlikely to change with time, and directs readers to more up-to-date information on the oilseed webpage of the UVM Extension Northwest Crops and Soils website (www.uvm.edu/extension/cropsoil/oilseeds). The guide was written, and as more on-farm research trials were conducted, data was compiled, analyzed, and added to make the manual as relevant and comprehensive as possible. The guide was intended to be both accessible and highly informative. It was peer-reviewed before publication and distributed online as a PDF (http://www.uvm.edu/extension/cropsoil/wp-content/uploads/OilseedManualFINAL.pdf ) as well as in the form of a spiral-bound hard copy. See Publications/Outreach and supplemental documents.

Enhance Farmer-to-Farmer Learning Exchanges

To broaden the reach of the technical assistance and resources being made available, part of the grant was to establish educational opportunities and perform outreach to stakeholders. This included annual field days showcasing agronomic trials, harvest and storage strategies, and fuel processing. We formalized a group of oilseed producers and facilitated annual meetings to bridge gaps in knowledge and experience, as well as to present some of the latest agronomic research from UVM Extension and researchers across the region. These meetings are facilitated by UVM Extension’s Northwest Crops and Soils Program in a central location, with the goal of bringing researchers and growers from across the Northeast together. Each year, attendees have reported that the open-ended informational exchanges that come out of roundtable discussion are a highlight of the meeting.

Research results and discussion:
Improve Pest Management, Yields, Quality, and Economic Viability

Research trials have shown that changes in agronomic management can help mitigate pest pressures. Growers have identified weeds and birds as consistent and prominent barriers to successful oilseed production, losing up to 50% of their yields due to these pests. Replicated trials at Borderview Research Farm in Alburgh, VT, as well as scouting data from farms in other parts of VT, have contributed to the body of knowledge on pest management in sunflower and canola. Trials were repeated in multiple seasons and under varying weather conditions (see attached Table 1. Weather Data for 2009-2012). Through variety trials as well as the following trials, winter canola has proved more reliable than spring canola, and both winter canola and sunflower yields have proven promising for the Northeast.

Tineweeding to Control Weeds in Oilseed Crops:

As with all annual crops, weeds are a primary pest that farmers must adequately control to produce a satisfactory crop yield. Tineweeding is a type of mechanical cultivation that is implemented early on in the field season. A tineweeder is a low-cost and simple piece of equipment. They are designed to disturb the root zones of weed seedlings while they are in the very delicate “white thread root” stage, which often results in seedling desiccation and death. Research conducted from 2009-2011 indicated that tineweeding can be a very effective tool for weed control in sunflowers.

In 2009, no significance was found between tineweeding treatments and sunflower height as of 5 weeks after plant, harvest population, percent survival, height, head width, seed size, bird damage, calculated yield, or weed biomass. There were no significant differences among weed control methods for sunflower yields. However, there were several trends observed in the data. Tineweeding both at 6 & 12 days after planting was the most effective at controlling weeds in sunflowers. The tineweeding strategy had similar weed control results to a standard herbicide control. The herbicide weed control treatment tended to have higher plant populations and also yield than other treatments. In the canola, there were few weeds present at 5 weeks after planting, most likely due to canola’s quick tendency to form canopy closure. Height was also measured at 5 weeks after planting, and no significant difference between treatments was determined, demonstrating crop recovery after the disturbance of tineweeding. No significance was found between tineweeding treatments and canola oilseed and oil yield. The control, with no weed management strategy was the highest yielding out of all the treatments, but not statistically different from other weed control methods. All tineweeded plots recovered from observed damage, showing no significant difference in yield. Based on the data it appears that tineweeding may provide an acceptable method of weed control in canola fields. However, overall if early season weeds are controlled the quick canopy closure of canola can keep weed populations down throughout the growing season. The complete “2009 Sunflower Report” and “2009 Canola Report” can be found as an attachment under the Publications section.

In 2010, weed control method had a significant impact on final weed biomass recorded near sunflower harvest, but weed pressure was not significant enough to impact yield. Tineweeding at 6 & 12 DAP resulted in significantly less weed biomass than only tineweeding once or no weed control. The 6 & 12 DAP, 12 DAP, and herbicide weed control methods were equally effective at reducing weed biomass. The complete “2010 Sunflower Tineweeding Report” can be found as an attachment under the Publications section. In 2010, canola plots did not respond favorably to tineweeding. In the experiment it was found that too much seed was brought to the soil surface resulting in uneven and poor germination. In 2010, the canola was planted and tineweeded 6 days later. The lack of rain and soil moisture resulted in extremely poor germination resulting in a crop failure.

In 2011, there was no significant difference in weed reduction by treatment among any of the three evaluated weed types. Overall, the annual grasses and broadleaves were more easily removed as compared to perennial weeds. Annual weeds were reduced on average 50% as compared to only a 15% reduction of perennial grasses. There was no significant difference in population at harvest, though the average (11,580) was relatively low. Ideal sunflower populations are closer to 28,000 plants per acre. Likewise, sunflower height and head width were not influenced by tineweeding treatments. Stalk rot caused by white mold fungi was significantly greater in the 21DAP and the combined 21 & 16 DAP treatment. Bird damage was significantly higher in the 21 DAP treatment than other treatments. Seed yield, moisture, and test weight did not vary significantly by treatment. Overall harvest populations were low and most likely resulted in lower than average yields in the trial. Poor early season weather conditions led to reduced emergence and poor stands. Interestingly, higher stalk rot incidence and bird damage was observed in the 21 DAP treatment. A higher weed biomass may have caused a change in the microclimate resulting in higher disease at the base of the plant. The complete “2011 Sunflower Tineweeding Report” can be found as an attachment under the Publications section.

Based on three years of experimental data it was obvious that tineweeding can be an effective weed control tool in sunflowers. The best control seems to be achieved with multiple tineweeding events. It is important that the tineweeding occur just prior to weed emergence. This will likely result in tineweeding occurring just after the crop has been planted. As documented in this project, tineweeding is most effective at removing very small annual broadleaf and grass species. Once the weeds are germinated and strongly anchored they become more difficult to remove with tineweeding. At this point more aggressive tineweeding is required and most likely will cause a reduction in plant stands. The multiple tineweeding will likely result in reduced plant populations and therefore higher seeding rates may be warranted. Overall, sunflowers appear to be extremely competitive with weeds as the sunflower yields were not reduced even under high weed pressure.

Tineweeding is not as effective as a weed control method in canola. Shallow-seeded canola does not respond well to the early season weeding. In the experiments it was found that too much seed was brought to the soil surface resulting in uneven and poor germination. Variable result when implementing this practice has led to the conclusion that tineweeding is likely not the best weed control choice for spring canola. Other practices such as planting date or crop rotation will likely lead to better weed control results.

Reduced Tillage and Cover Crops to Control Weeds in Oilseed Crops

Rolling and crimping has proven difficult for both sunflower and canola crops. The timing of killing the cover crop is into the later part of May or early June for northern New England. Unfortunately planting canola this late result in extremely low yields and hence is not a feasible practice. Yields were not collected in either year due to very high weed populations and low canola populations. A better alternative might be planting a fall cover such as oats that winter kills but leaves dead mulch for weed suppression in the spring. Planting sunflowers into killed mulches has also been challenging with sunflower yields lagging far behind conventional practices. In 2009 sunflowers grown with conventional tillage yielded on average 1800 lbs per acre and the roller crimped sunflowers averaged 643 lbs per acre. In 2010, yields were a bit lower but the trend similar. Conventional tillage produced sunflower yields of 1643 lbs per acre while roller crimper yields were 402 lbs per acre. Further work to modify the no-till planter to sweep or clean away additional mulch residue may help improve yields with roller crimper practices.

Strategies to Control Birds in Sunflower Crops

In 2009, a study was conducted to determine if modifying harvest dates can reduce bird damage in sunflowers. Bird damage significantly increased as sunflowers began to dry down. The data indicated that earlier harvest dates would reduce the amount of damage by birds and subsequently increase yields. On October 1, the sunflowers reached physiological maturity (35% moisture) and had only 2.90% bird damage. Although at this stage the sunflowers could be theoretically harvested, the moisture content would prohibit the use of a combine. When the sunflowers reached proper harvest moisture for a combine the bird damage had increased to 68.8%. Hence earlier harvesting would certainly result in significant yield increases. It may make sense for a farmer to apply a desiccant at this stage of growth especially if it has the potential to significantly increase yield by 60-70%. The benefits of a greater yield must be weighed against the price of the desiccant and the increased fuel, time, and compaction resulting from the extra passes with a tractor. If Roundup (or any other desiccant) takes about 12 minutes to apply per acre, uses about a half-gallon of gas per acre, and is applied at 2 qts/acre, and you were to calculate a salary of $15/hr, and $2.50/gallon for fuel, then it would cost an additional $22.56/acre to apply a desiccant. However, if this were to save 60-70% of your crop from bird predation, this would make economic sense.

One strategy to manipulate harvest dates is through varied planting dates of crops. Planting date is a strategy that can be used to increase yields and quality of crops as well as manage pest issues. Modifying planting dates of the sunflower may help reduce bird damage by avoiding migrating populations of birds. If sunflower seed is mature prior to or after bird migration damage may be minimal to the crop. In 2011 and 2012 planting date studies were conducted to determine the impact on sunflower yield.

In 2011, the earliest planted sunflowers (25-May) bloomed earliest, by 27-July. Sunflowers planted on 1-June bloomed by 2-August and the latest planted sunflowers by 8-August. Essentially for every one week delay in planting there was approximately a one-week delay in bloom. The 1-June planting date resulted in a significantly higher plant population compared to the other dates. Having all been seeded at a rate of 32,000 seeds per acre, this means that the establishment rates for the three planting dates varied from 53% to 81%. Sunflowers planted on the third planting date (7-June) were the tallest (55.4 inches) and also had the widest seed head (7.5 inches). Bird damage was lowest among the sunflowers planted on 7-June (6.6%). Lodging was significantly higher at the 1-June planting date than other planting dates. The incidence of white mold in the form of stalk rot was 6.7% in the first planting date (25-May), significantly lower than the second and third planting dates, which had 18.3% and 15.0% stalk rot, respectively. There was no significant difference among planting dates for the incidence of white mold as either head rot or base rot. Bird damage was lowest among the sunflowers planted on 7-June (6.6%). Lodging was significantly higher at the 1-June planting date than other planting dates. The incidence of white mold in the form of stalk rot was 6.7% in the first planting date (25-May), significantly lower than the second and third planting dates, which had 18.3% and 15.0% stalk rot, respectively. There was no significant difference among planting dates for the incidence of white mold as either head rot or base rot. The complete “2011 Sunflower Planting Date Report” can be found as an attachment under the Publications section.

In 2012 pest damage was significantly impacted by planting date. There was no significant difference in sunflower population when the trial was assessed on 29-Jun. Population just prior to harvest was likewise not statistically significant by planting date. The average harvest population was 13,696 plants per acre which was almost a third of the actual seeding rate of 36,000 seeds per acre.In this trial, no sclerotinia infection was found in the form of base rot. Sclerotinia head rot, averaging only 1.0% in the trial, was lowest in sunflowers planted in June. Sclerotinia stalk rot also varied by planting date, though four of the five planting date treatments experienced 0.0% stalk rot. There was 5.0% stalk rot in the second planting date treatment, 25-May. Lodging was significantly greatest in the second planting date (51.7%). All other planting date treatments outperformed this one, though the lowest lodging incidence was in sunflowers planted on 1-Jun (10.0%). Seed loss due to bird damage seemed average in 2012, compared to other seasons. Bird damage was lowest in the latest planting date, 15-Jun (17.0%). Bird damage decreased as planting dates were delayed. Plant height and sunflower head width did not vary statistically by planting date. The average plant height was 53.8 inches, with the tallest plants planted on 1-Jun. Average head width was 6.99 inches, ranging from 6.64 (18-May) to 7.47 (15-Jun).Seed yield ranged widely and was significantly impacted by planting date treatments. The greatest seed yield, adjusted to a standard 13% moisture, was in the latest planting date (15-Jun, 1365 lbs per acre), though this was not statistically different from the seed yield of the 1-Jun planting date. The lowest yield was in the earliest planting date (18-May, 490 lbs per acre). Harvest moisture was not statistically different by planting date treatments, and the average moisture at harvest was 16.7%. The complete “2012 Sunflower Planting Date Report” can be found as an attachment under the Publications section.

Sunflower projects have evaluated methods for reducing bird damage including harvest and planting dates. There still have been no completely effective methods to deter the bird population. However modifying planting dates seems to be the best strategy for bird control, as well as reducing damage from other pests such as banded sunflower moth. Over two years of data collection bird damage decreased significantly as planting dates were shifted later into the season—sunflowers planted on 15-Jun had 57.3% less bird damage than those planted on 18-May. The results showed trends towards less insect damage in later-planted sunflowers as well. One concern with later planting dates would be concerns that the crop would not reach proper harvest moisture prior to a killing frost.

Winter Production of Canola to Reduce Weed Pressure

Farmers are still struggling with spring canola. Spring canola needs to be seeded in mid to early April for maximum yield and also weed control. Most farmers plant the canola too late leading to weedy crops with reduced yields. In 2010 and 2011, winter canola was evaluated as an alternative.

In 2010 stand density estimates were taken three weeks after planting. Baldur had the best fall stand density with an average rating of 8.23, and was statistically similar to KS 4475 and Visby. The variety KS 4426 had the poorest stand. Winter survival was similar across most varieties, with the exception of the varieties Virginia, Kronos, and Sitro, and averaged 87% across the whole trial. The variety KS 4158, a Kansas State University experimental line, had the highest seed and oil yield (4029 lbs per acre). Sitro, Baldur, Witchita, and Kansas State experimental lines KS4022 and KS4426 did not yield significantly different than KS4158. The oil content of the winter canola ranged from 29.6 to 16.3 % extraction. Of interest is the fact that the highest yielding canola did not necessarily have the highest oil content. For example, Sumner had one of the lowest overall seed yields but the highest oil extraction percentage. It is important to evaluate oilseed varieties on both seed and oil yields. Sumner had the highest percent oil content, and was statistically similar to Wichita, Kadore, KS3132, KS4475, KS3254, Visby, KS4022, Kiowa, and KS4426. However, the oil content was fairly low for this canola trial. Normally 40-42% oil is expected for canola, depending on growing conditions, variety, and efficiency of the press. The complete “2010 Winter Canola Variety Trial Report” can be found as an attachment under the Publications section.

In 2011, Winter survival estimates were taken on April 12, 2011. Winter survival was rated on a 0 to 10 scale, where 10 represented excellent winter survival and 0 indicates a complete lack of winter survival. There were no significant differences among varieties. All fifteen varieties tested had acceptable winter survivability. There were no significant differences in seed or oil yield between winter canola varieties. The average yield across varieties was 1,630 lbs of seed per acre. The test weight of all canola varieties exceeded the standard 50 pounds per bushel. The oil yield averaged 70.5 gallons per acre. The oil content of the winter canola ranged from 28.9 to 38.9% extraction. The abundant snow cover during the winter months may have attributed to the ability of the canola to survive the winter months. This is the second year that winter canola has successfully overwintered. Improved survivability can also be attributed to earlier planting dates. Planting winter canola in late August and early September allows the plants to be better established prior to winter conditions. Though there were no significant differences by variety in either seed or oil yields in this year’s trial, average seeds yields were low. Interestingly, the 2010 trial average for seed yield was 3,137 lbs per acre. The lower yields observed in 2011 (1,630 lbs per acre) may have been due to poor fall stand establishment, soil compaction, and/or poor spring weather conditions. The complete “2011 Winter Canola Variety Trial Report” can be found as an attachment under the Publications section.
Successful overwintering of this crop led to exceptional yields and a viable alternative to spring canola. In addition, there were few if any weed issues observed in the plots. Winter canola may be a better and more reliable oilseed crop alternative for the Northeast. Additional data is needed to generate more reliable agronomic recommendations.

Develop Oilseed Webpage and Production Guide

A webpage was created in April 2010 to host information and resources regarding oilseed production in the Northeast (www.uvm.du/extension/cropsoil/oilseeds). The page has been accessed by over 1600 stakeholders. The webpage includes research reports, links to applicable articles and resources, meeting notes, and presentations from past workshops and conferences.

The Oilseed Cost and Profit Calculator were created using input and review from 5 farmers. The tool was made available to the oilseed producers group at the 2010 meeting. Currently it is available online (www.uvm.edu/extension/cropsoil/oilseeds) and has been accessed by 145 farmers and stakeholders around the country.

The results of research trials and pest scouting across the region were compiled into the “Oilseed Production in the Northeast: A Guide for Growers of Sunflower and Canola,” and is available at http://www.uvm.edu/extension/cropsoil/wp-content/uploads/OilseedManualFINAL.pdf. This is the first oilseed production manual to be created with regional data in the Northeast. The manual was completed in the fall of 2012 and distributed to over 50 oilseed producers during 2013 winter meetings.

Enhance Farmer-to-Farmer Learning Exchanges

During the duration of this project 5 oilseed producer meetings were held with an average of 26 farmers attending each year from VT, NY, ME, NH, and PA. The meetings were day long and included farmer and research updates. Meeting minutes, videos, webinars, and online presentations were captured and posted online at www.uvm.edu/extension/cropsoil/oilseeds.

Field days and workshops were held annually to highlight oilseed crops on-farms as well as to discuss research results. During the duration of this project 6 on-farm field days were attended by 873 participants. More information on field days can be found in the Publications and Outreach section of the report.

Participation Summary

Education

Educational approach:
Research Reports

Each year during this grant period, annual research reports have been published summarizing field trials. These reports are made available on the UVM Extension’s Northwest Crops and Soils Program website (www.uvm.edu/extension/cropsoil/research) as downloadable PDF files, as well as being printed and distributed at field days, workshops, and conferences throughout the year.

Research reports (see attached research reports)
2009 – sunflower trial reports (including tineweeding and harvest date studies)
2010 – tineweeding trial and 2010 winter canola variety trial reports
2011 – sunflower planting date study, sunflower tineweeding trial, and 2011 winter canola variety trial reports
2012 – sunflower planting date trial reports

Web Resources

Outreach components
In 2010, an article on sunflower production was published on the eXtension energy website (available at http://www.extension.org/pages/Sunflowers_for_Biofuel_Production). This article, written by Dr. Heather Darby, technician Philip Halteman, and Dr. Vern Grubinger of UVM Extension, focuses on sunflower production and its potential as a biofuel crop.

A webpage was created in April 2010 to host information and resources regarding oilseed production in the Northeast (www.uvm.edu/extension/cropsoil/oilseeds). Since the page’s formation, it has had 1,639 views and has been well-received by growers and fellow researchers. Information had previously been available only in a piecemeal fashion spread across several websites, so the development of this website, with consolidated information and easy-to-access resources on oilseed production, has been integral to the improvements in learning exchanges. We have also been working to build more content during the duration of the project. The webpage now includes research reports from 2008-2012, links to applicable articles and resources, meeting notes, presentations from past workshops and conferences, informative YouTube videos highlighting management information and harvesting practices, and photo slideshows of oilseed crop production. In addition, the UVM Northwest Crops and Soils Program has a YouTube channel (with 185 subscribers), where oilseed videos are posted and accessible to the public. An article written on scouting sunflower pests was developed and loaded to the website. The article is attached to the report “Sunflower Pest Scouting Protocol”.

The manual, “Oilseed Production in the Northeast: A Guide for Growers of Sunflower and Canola,” was finished in early 2013 and distributed (available at http://www.uvm.edu/extension/cropsoil/wp-content/uploads/OilseedManualFINAL.pdf). The manual is provided as an attachment as part of the report (Northeast Oilseed Production Manual). This manual was distributed at the 2013 Annual Oilseed Producers Meeting in Berlin, VT on March 19, 2013 and another oilseed meeting in North Hero, VT.

Oilseed Cost and Profit Calculator, a downloadable spreadsheet created by UVM Extension working collaboratively with the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund Vermont Bioenergy Initiative, is available at http://www.vsjf.org/resources/reports-tools/oilseed-calculator. This tool is designed to guide producers through the economic feasibility of oilseed crop and biofuel production. The calculator has been attached for viewing to this report (VT_oilseedcalculator).

Presentations

Dr. Heather Darby has presented on oilseed production in the Northeast multiple times in the last few years, incorporating findings from these research trials into up-to-date agronomic reports. Presentations were made at the Northeast and New England Certified Crop Advisers Trainings in 2010 and 2012. The presentation was made to an audience of over 60 crop advisers. A presentation on oilseed production was also made at the ACRES USA Conference in Indiana in 2010 to an audience of 75 stakeholders. In the spring of 2010, 2011 and 2012, a UVM course on sustainable energy featured UVM Extension’s work and Dr. Darby was a guest-lecturer. In addition, field trips of student visited the research farm in Alburgh, VT to tour research trials and processing facilities and to learn more about on-farm energy production. There have been a total of 52 students that have attended the course and field day during this time.

On February 16, 2013, Dr. Darby and Hannah Harwood, a UVM Extension Crops and Soils Technician, presented at NOFA-VT’s annual winter conference on growing oilseeds for food and fuel. Two dozen people attended, many of whom were new to the idea of oilseed production, and the pair spoke for an hour on agronomic management, expected yields, and pest management (description available at http://nofavt.org/annual-events/winter-conference/workshops/growing-oilseeds-food-and-fuel).

Oilseed Producers Meeting

One of the biggest components of this grant project has been the formation of an organized group of oilseed producers that meets each year to discuss the previous season, gain information about recent research and opportunities, and plan for the coming season. Annual Oilseed Producer Meetings have been hosted by UVM Extension since 2009. At each meeting, attendance records and notes were carefully kept.

Annual Producers Meetings

In the spring of 2009, the first oilseed producers’ meeting was held in Thetford Vermont. The 20 oilseed producers met at Cedar Circle Farm to create a farmer to farmer network of oilseed producers. The producers spent the day providing input to the project to help identify relevant educational and research programs and shared information with other farmers.

In 2010, the meeting was held on February 2 at the Chamber of Commerce in Berlin, VT. 26 producers from VT and NH were there to build a network, exchange ideas and experiences, and share information on production and equipment. After the producers meeting in 2010, meeting minutes were posted (http://www.uvm.edu/extension/cropsoil/wp-content/uploads/oilseed-producer-meeting-minutes.pdf) and a YouTube video was produced to highlight a discussion on nitrogen requirements in sunflower (http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=SRlRew6lD_Y ); the video had been viewed 91 times as of 27-March 2013. Meeting minutes from 2010 are attached to the report.

The annual meeting in 2011 was held on February 7 in Berlin, VT. There were 26 attendees from VT, NH, MA, NY, and WI who shared information in a roundtable discussion in the morning. Hans Kandel, North Dakota State University Agronomist was a guest speaker and shared sunflower and canola agronomic information with the farmers. Chris Callahan shared the new Oilseed Calculator and Eric Garza presented energy return on investment data collected from local farms. The final 30 minutes was used to share research data collected through this project and to develop summer workshop agendas and on-farm research plans. After the meeting, meeting minutes were publicized on the website after the meeting. (http://www.uvm.edu/extension/cropsoil/wp-content/uploads/Oilseed_Producer_meeting_notes_2011.pdf). Meeting minutes from the 2012 meeting is attached to the report.

In 2012, the Annual Oilseed Producers Meeting was held at the Hotel Coolidge in White River Junction, VT on March 26, with 26 people in attendance. In addition to growers from three states, there were researchers from Vermont, Pennsylvania, New York, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Quebec. Growers were able to interact and share results with one another, and everyone in attendance learned more about the newest oilseed research and marketing opportunities. Presentations included research by Dr. Ryan Elias of Penn State University, Dr. Heather Darby of the University of Vermont, Dr. Douglas Schaufler of Penn State University, agronomist Étienne Tardif of Twin Rivers Technology in Québec, and the work of Dr. Heather Karsten of Penn State University. After the 2012 meeting, slides from each presentation were made available online via the UVM Oilseeds webpage.

The 2013 meeting was hosted on March 19 at the Comfort Inn at Maplewood in Berlin, VT. Despite a snowstorm, 26 people were able to attend, 12 of whom were growers or interested in producing oilseeds in the coming year. Out of 18 respondents to an evaluation distributed at the conclusion of the meeting, 55.6% said they were attending the annual meeting for the first time. As always, a roundtable discussion was facilitated, and attendees enjoyed this portion of the meeting immensely. Each respondent to the meeting evaluation indicated that they enjoyed the roundtable discussion, and handwritten comments included, “the roundtable is a critically important part of the day,” “it was one of the better parts of the meeting because it brought up the issues farmers are having,” and “always good to hear other producers’ issues.” Presenters included Dr. Alan Eaton of UNH Cooperative Extension (via webinar), Dr. Sabrina Greenwood of UVM College of Ag and Life Sciences, Chris Callahan and Hannah Harwood of UVM Extension, Drs. Doug Schaufler and Ryan Elias of Penn State University, and Dr. Heather Darby of UVM Extension. After the meeting, presentations were posted online as downloadable PDFs via UVM Extension’s oilseeds webpage. Alan Eaton’s webinar presentation was recorded and published in the form of a YouTube video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KLuY-FIZp-U&feature=youtu.be). In addition, copies of the recently-published Oilseed Manual, as well as all 2012 research reports, were mailed, along with a letter, to eight growers who had expressed interest in attending but were unable to do so because of the road conditions. In addition, at the request of meeting attendees, and with explicit permission from those included, a list of 34 email addresses was circulated after the meeting so that oilseed producers could stay in contact with one another throughout the year.

Field Days and Workshops

Field days and workshops were held annually to highlight the research being conducted on-farms as a part of this project. Field days also highlights on-farm fuel production.

2009 Field Days

In 2009, there were two on-farm workshops held to distribute oilseed production data to farmers and service providers. The first workshop was held on August 6th at Borderview Farm in Alburgh, VT. The workshop highlighted oilseed crop production and the various research projects. In addition, farmers were able to watch an oilseed pressing demonstration. The second workshop was held at Stateline Farms in Bennington, VT on October 6th. This field day focused primarily of equipment necessary for growing, harvesting, storing, and pressing oilseed crops. The Stateline Biofuels Field Day flyer is attached. The combined attendance at these meetings was 136 farmers and service providers.

2010 Field Day
The workshop was held on August 5, 2010 at Borderview Research Farm in Alburgh, VT. The workshop highlighted oilseed crop production and the various research projects. In addition, farmers were able to watch an oilseed pressing demonstration and were walked through the process of making biodiesel. The attendance at this event was 234 farmers and service providers.

2011 Field Day
A field day August 4 at Borderview Research Farm in Alburgh, VT was attended by 213 people (see brochure). Many of these attendants were growers, processors, policymakers, and interested biofuels enthusiasts. Along with presenting agronomic research, there was an on-site presentation on converting a vehicle to run on waste vegetable oil, how to convert a tractor to run on straight vegetable oil, as well as a demonstration and explanation of two types of oilseed presses. Two large oilseed growers in Vermont were on-hand to speak about their operations and answer questions. The program flyer for the workshop is attached to the report.

2012 Field Days
On July 24, 2011, a field day with the theme of “Integrating Oilseeds into Diversified Agriculture” was attended by Wood’s Market Garden is a fruit, vegetable and flower farm and seasonal market in Brandon, Vermont (see brochure). The farm consists of 150 acres of Vermont farmland and woods, with over 50 kinds of vegetables and fruits grown on 60 acres of sandy loam soils. The farm is owned and operated by Jon and Courtney Satz. Currently, the farm has been growing organically for over 10 years and also has 7 greenhouses for raising bedding plants, ornamentals, and vegetable starts. Over the last few years the farm has been working to incorporate oilseeds into the vegetable rotation, including 15 acres of 2012 sunflowers and soybeans being grown for oil and meal. The soybeans were drilled into winter rye stubble, either flail-mowed or planted after a straw harvest. Participants were able to learn about Jon’s experiences growing oilseeds in rotation with vegetable and investigate several pieces of weed control equipment, including a Hinniker high resolution cultivator. Attendees also saw the new BioBurner being used on the farm to heat greenhouses. The BioBurner has the capability of turning many products into heat including oilseed meal, wood chips, grains, and many other biomass materials. This field day had 34 attendees and focused on the integration of oilseeds into a diversified farm. Thirteen of these participants identified themselves as interested farmers. Farm owner Jon Satz talked about how he fits oilseed crops into successful rotations, as well as discussing planting dates, pest management, and weed control of sunflower and displaying his biomass-burning greenhouse heating system.

On August 9, 2012, Borderview Research Farm hosted its annual Crops and Soils Field Day (see brochure). The field day highlighted oilseed research trials such as the sunflower planting date study as well as sunflower interseeding and variety trials, with an emphasis on pest management strategies). The event had 256 registered attendees (118 farmers). Oilseed pressing and processing, as well as biofuel production, was discussed in an afternoon workshop, and raw oil taste-tests of store-bought and farm-grown oils were conducted. This taste test data was analyzed and some of the results made available on our website. Surveys were handed out at the field day, and 41.7% of respondents said they grew oilseed crops, with 38.5% of the total saying they’d like to try growing an oilseed crop. The program flyer is attached to the report.

Additional Project Outcomes

Project outcomes:

Impacts of Results/Outcomes

The Performance Target for this project: By the end of 2012, 50 additional New England farmers will include oilseeds in their rotations and 500 additional acres will be planted in oilseeds. This will result in a total of 1081 acres of oilseed crops on 70 farms in New England. The value of the oilseed crops under current production practices and average yields (1500 lb per acre) will be approximately $243,225. As a result of this project 50 farmers (representing about 10 acres per farm) will have adopted at least one new pest management practice to minimize bird and/or weed damage and double yields. This will result in an increased income of $112,500 for these farms.

Another objective of this project was to increase farmer-to-farmer networking. The annual oilseed producers meeting has become a main event for established, new, and aspiring oilseed growers throughout the Northeast. In addition, many researchers and Extension find this meeting extremely useful to build their own knowledge, share information, and to gather input on grower needs. Growers look forward to the meeting throughout the year, and enjoy being able to stay in contact with one another and also receive research updates and provide feedback for our ongoing research program. Many growers have returned year after year to the meeting. However, the meeting expands each year and there are new faces in the crowd; at the annual meeting in 2013, 55.6% of the 36 attendees had never attended the event. After the meeting, attendees expressed interest in getting copies of research presentations as well as contact info for fellow attendees; as a result, a list was circulated with contact information. The creation of this oilseed producers’ network has been a huge success, and 134 contacts have been added to an ongoing database of people interested in growing oilseed crops, most of whom are growers.

The results of research trials and pest scouting across the region have been compiled and incorporated into the Oilseed Production Manual. This is the first oilseed production manual to be created with regional data in the Northeast. We will continue to update the manual as new agronomic data is developed in the region. To date the production manual has been distributed to 50 stakeholders. In addition, many farmers have used the research results from this program to their benefit. One hundred percent of the growers at the annual meeting responded that they have benefited from UVM Extension oilseed research and outreach. Forty percent of the attendees responded that the research has helped them improve oilseed yield and quality. Many were impressed with the results of the tineweeding trials, and four farmers have since purchased tineweeders of their own as a result of this research. Farmers continue to implement practices that are deemed favorable from the research trials. Variety trial results have continued to be used widely by farmers across the Northeast and now Midwest. New results on winter canola have encouraged at least six new farmers to try this promising crop. It has also spurred the development of a new USDA SARE Research and Education proposal to evaluate winter canola practices (LNE12-317).

The Oilseed Cost and Profit Calculator has helped all of our local producers hone in on their cost of production and better manage their land and assets. In addition to calculating the cost of the seed crop, the calculator also helps producers gauge cost of fuel production, making on-farm fuel security more possible. Because it is available online, this tool has been accessed by over 145 farmers and stakeholders around the country. For many it has helped them target production areas for improvement. It has helped others decide to steer away from biofuel production and work with neighboring farms to produce fuels.

Have We Met the Performance Target: One of the goals of this project was to improve the economic feasibility of producing oilseed crops in Vermont. Of those who responded to a 2012-2013 survey on oilseed production, 77.8% of growers indicated that oilseed production had improved their overall farm viability. By improving yields and quality of sunflower and canola crops, farmers were able to increase the value of their crops, and likewise increase their on-farm income. Oilseed production in the Northeast has increased from fewer than 500 acres in 2009 to over 1,800 acres on over 35 farms in 2012, while the commodity price of seed has increased. Average yields have increased from 689 lbs per acre in 2009 to 1,456 lbs per acre in 2012. The value of crops under current production is close to $688,220 (see attached Table 2 Oilseed Production from 2005-2012). In addition, two-thirds of growers who participated in a survey in 2012-2013 thought the quality of their crops had increased as a result of information gained through UVM Extension’s outreach events and research. Hence the number of oilseed growers increased but did not meet the projected target of 70 farms. Interestingly the amount of acreage (exceeded by 719 acres) in oilseeds surpassed our projection as well as the value of the crop (exceeded by $444,995). Overall the project met the goals of improving pest management, oilseed yields, farm income, and farmer to farmer networking.

Economic Analysis

One of the goals of this project was to improve the economic feasibility of producing oilseed crops in Vermont. Of those who responded to a 2012-2013 survey on oilseed production, 77.8% of growers indicated that oilseed production had improved their overall farm viability. As indicated above average yields have increased from 689 lbs per acre in 2009 to 1,456 lbs per acre in 2012. The value of crops under current production is close to $688,220.

One grower wrote in February 2013 to say, “with all of UVM’s help we made our oil at $0.60/gallon.” Though this cost of production was subsidized through the University’s purchase of seed and biofuel processing, it was estimated that even at full cost, this producer could easily be producing biodiesel for half the cost of purchased fuel. The Oilseed Cost and Profit Calculator indicated that the cost of oilseed crop production ranged from 97 to 247 dollars per acre (data collected from 5 representative farms in New England). Farms with lower cost of production were implementing reduced tillage practices and/or using crop rotation to supple fertility to the crop. This information indicates the need to establish agronomic information for reduced tillage in oilseeds. The Oilseed Cost and Profit Calculator also showed that the cost of biofuel production on-farms ranges from $1.79 to $3.50 per gallon. These prices are lower than the current cost of diesel fuel ($3.89 per gallon).

Additionally, farmers who are using oilseed meal as a nutritional supplement for livestock report reductions in their grain bill of up to 50%. Assuming an average 100-cow dairy farm’s monthly grain bill is $20,000, this could be an annual savings of $120,000 per farm. Some growers have also been able to sell their oilseed meal as organic fertilizer to other growers or sell locally-produced culinary oil, increasing their profits and contributing a value-added product to local markets. Organic bagged fertilizer with a 5-3-4 analysis (similar to canola meal) has a value of $1500 per ton. Hence the cost savings to an organic producer would be substantial.

With a 211% increase in reported average yields over the course of this project, the work of UVM Extension has benefited growers by helping to improve yields and quality. This has increased profits on farms across the Northeast, as well as providing fuel security, helping to reduce imported feed costs, expanding local markets, and enhancing long-term farm viability.

Farmer Adoption

According to evaluations, surveys, conversations with regional growers, and notes from annual oilseed producers meetings, there was been an increase in the production of oilseed crops by 1,340 acres between 2009 and 2012. At least 36 farmers are actively producing oilseed crops in the Northeast, and many have reported increases in yield and quality due, in part, to research and outreach conducted by UVM Extension and made possible by this grant project. Seven out of 10 growers who attended the most recent producers meeting reported that they were able to include new oilseed crops into existing rotations with the help of this project. In response to an exhaustive survey of oilseed growers that was distributed in 2012-2013, many growers said they had adopted new practices or strategies to control weeds (75%), manage birds (50%), control insects (75%), and control disease (75%). At least 3 farmers purchased tineweeders to help with weed control in their sunflower crop. Comments like “we certainly listen to your input and it does impact our final decisions” helps to verify that the research is aiding in oilseed production and agronomic management.

Assessment of Project Approach and Areas of Further Study:

Areas needing additional study

Additional work is needed on insect and bird management in oilseed crops. Despite ongoing research, growers still report yield drags and, in some cases, crop losses due to these pests. Further planting date trials will be conducted, as well as evaluating alternative management techniques to mitigate pest pressures. In addition, new pests that have been identified for oilseed crops will likely require the development of integrated pest management strategies. As oilseed crop acreage continues to expand new diseases and insect pests can be expected to become production problems. A Northeast Region IPM Center Partnership Grant was awarded in 2013 to explore some of these issues.

Reduced tillage systems still need to be explored and developed for sunflower and canola production. Tineweeding has proven to work well as a weed control measure in sunflower. There could be an impact of interseeding a legume crop into sunflower fields for weed mitigation. Understanding best timing for interseeding and types of cover crops that would be most effective for weed control would be essential next steps. Mechanical weed control of canola is very challenging, but winter canola competes more effectively with weeds than spring canola. A newly awarded SARE grant (LNE12-317) will develop agronomic practices for winter canola.

Identifying and investigating uses for oilseed meals on-farms will be an important aspect of future research. Some preliminary research conducted through a Partnership Grant awarded to Darby (ONE08-081) indicated that oilseed meals can provide a significant level of fertility to crops. Further work needs to be conducted to understand nitrogen mineralization rates of these potential fertilizer sources. Other uses for oilseed meal such as for weed control, disease control, and as protective mulches also needs to be investigated.

Evaluating and developing potential for culinary oil production in the Northeast is a need of local growers. Understanding how to produce foodgrade quality oil from production, extrusion, and storage are essential parameters for future study. A newly awarded SARE Grant (LNE11-309) will help to identify best practices for culinary oil production.

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 or SARE.