Nutrient Management Guidelines and Cover Crop Practices for Soil Health

Final report for NEMA14-001

Project Type: PDP State Program
Funds awarded in 2014: $18,946.00
Funds awarded in 2015: $18,946.00
Funds awarded in 2016: $18,920.00
Projected End Date: 10/31/2017
Grant Recipient: University of Massachusetts
Region: Northeast
State: Massachusetts
State Coordinator:
Katie Campbell-Nelson
Cornell Cooperative Extension, Columbia and Greene Counties
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Project Information

Performance Target:

15 agricultural service providers who gain practical knowledge and skills in practices consistent with nutrient management Best Management Guidelines and Cover Cropping options/benefits/practices will design and deliver educational programs and services, including but not limited to workshops, webinars, presentations, fact sheets/ other educational materials, and individual consultations to 100 growers/producers who manage a total of 3,000 acres of land.

Introduction:

Preserving and improving soil health/quality/resiliency continues to be an area of strong interest and concern for MA land stewards. Not unique to MA, this concern has been echoed across the region and nationally leading NRCS to emphasize soil health awareness as a continued priority with a special emphasis on cover cropping.

This project worked toward skill and knowledge development among service providers for an increased ability to work with farmers on specific issues for improved soil health, quality or resiliency. Particular attention was paid to 1) nutrient management practices to mitigate against leaching or runoff/
erosion; and 2) cover cropping strategies for improving soil health (e.g., increased organic matter content, improved drainage, increased resiliency to extreme weather events, disease suppression).

The goal was to equip service providers with a set of soil health assessment tools (multiple tools rather than a comprehensive all-in-one kit) and the knowledge for how to choose the appropriate tool, use it correctly and help farmers interpret the resulting information to make a sensible decision about implementing a recommended practice.

Advisors/Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand
  • Sonia Schloemann
  • Tom Akin
  • Kate Parsons
  • Tyson Neukirch
  • Hotze Wijinja
  • Ned Beecher
  • Ryan Karb

Educational Approach

Educational approach:

Through a series of 9 workshops/field days over 3 years, including a workshops in year 2 on how to conduct an on-farm demonstration trial, a symposium on managing phosphorus and a no-till conference, this project offered agricultural service provider and farmers opportunities to learn more about soil health tests, managing soil P and organic residual materials, cover cropping and reduced tillage, and providing nitrogen from cover crops. The project also supported 8 delegates from Massachusetts to attend the Northeast SARE Regional Cover Crops Workshop in March, 2016. Afterwards, 5 of these service providers established cover crop demonstration plots at the UMass research center which were toured during a project field day. Six farmers who participated in the ‘how to conduct and on-farm demonstration’ workshop also implemented on-farm cover crop trials and the trial results were discussed at project workshops.

The demonstration trials established by service providers and farmers during this project were:

2015:

“Nitrogen management of Sweet Corn Production by Planting Fava Beans”

Fatemeh Etemadi, Masoud Hashemi, Sarah Weis

“Integrating Forage Radish Cover Crops and No-Till for Early Sweet Corn “

Julie Stultz-Fine, Masoud Hashemi

“Enhancing Soil Health with Hardwood Biochar”

Emily Cole, Stephen Herbert, Masoud Hashemi, Baoshan Xing

“Cover Crop and Nitrogen Management for Sustainable Potato Production”

Emad Jahanzad, Allen V Barker, Masoud Hashemi, Touria Eaton, Amir Sadeghpour

“Dual-Purpose Double Cropping with Winter Grain and Early-Maturing Corn”

Samantha Glaze-Corcoran, Masoud Hashemi

“Evaluation of Mustard Cover Crop as a Biofumigant for Phytophthora capsici and Root Knot Nematode” 2 Locations

Twin Oaks Farm, Katie Campbell-Nelson, Edwin Matuszko

Spring Rain Farm, Katie Campbell-Nelson, Billy Mcaffrey

2016:

“How to Conduct and On-Farm Trial”

Katie Campbell-Nelson, Julie Stultz Fine, Sam Glaze-Corcoran

 “Evaluation of Mustard Cover Crop as a Biofumigant for Root Knot Nematode.” 2 Locations

Red Fire Farm, Katie Campbell-Nelson, Ryan Voiland, Emily Stark

Spring Rain Farm, Katie Campbell-Nelson, Billy Mcaffrey

  2017:

“No-Till Grain Corn and Cover Crop Demonstrations”

Mayval Farm, Kate Parsons, NRCS

“Tarpping and Reduced Tillage for Organic Winter Squash”

King Farm, Tyson Neukirch, The Farm School

 “Nitrogen contribution from cover crops for vegetable crop uptake” Six Locations

Langwater Farm, Kevin O’Dwyer and Emily Macdonald

Lyonsville Farm, Maria Topitzer and Andrew Lawson’

Many Hands Farm Corps, Ryan Karb

Tangerini Farm, Laura and Charlie Tangerini and Steve Chiarizo

Twin Oaks Farm, Edwin and Joe Matuszko

UMass Crop and Animal Research and Education Center, Katie Campbell-Nelson, Genevieve Higgins, Michelle Meder

Through the 3 workshops/field days per year that included discussion of demonstration trial findings, beneficiaries increased knowledge/skill/confidence to provide farmer education on practices consistent with Best Management Guidelines to improve nutrient
cycling/reduce risk of leaching or run-off such as:

  • Determine soil drainage class using NRCS Web Soil Survey
  • Use and suitability of several types of soil testing
    methodologies (e.g., standard UMass, Cornell Soil
    Health®, SOLVITA®, Haney, etc.)
  • How develop nutrient budget for specific soil (esp. N & P)
  • Role of organic matter and soil microbial activity in
    nutrient cycling

Beneficiaries increased knowledge, skill and confidence
to provide education to farmers about Cover Cropping
options/benefits/practices such as:

  • Types of cover crops for use in New England
  • Timing options for cover crops in New England
  • Use and suitability of cover crop selection tools (e.g.,
    Cornell Cover Crop Decision Tool)

The project also produced two fact sheets:

Compost Analysis and Interpretation: https://ag.umass.edu/vegetable/fact-sheets/compost-analysis-interpretation

Nutrient Management Planning Checklist: https://ag.umass.edu/sites/ag.umass.edu/files/pdf-doc-ppt/nutrient_management_plan_checklist.pdf

As a result of learning and new information resources, service providers will be better able to advise farmers who want to improve their nutrient
management and cover cropping practices.

 

Milestones

Milestone #1 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

Year 1 Milestone Accomplishments

Proposed Completion Date:
October 31, 2015
Status:
In Progress
Accomplishments:

Fall- Winter 2014

  1. 100 agricultural service providers and 50 farmer participants receive project information and invitation to become enrolled in the project.
  • An email list from various workshops and events in prior years was compiled with 29 farmers and 102 agricultural service providers. An additional 2,500 farmers and other readers received notification of programs through the UMass Extension publication Vegetable Notes and Berry Notes. Participants became enrolled when they attended educational programming and filled out surveys confirming their participation.

Winter 2014-15

2. 30 agricultural service providers beneficiaries agree to enroll and:

  • Take baseline survey to determine knowledge/skill/confidence in key topic areas
  • Agree to participate in at least one project event (Cover Crop & Reduced Tillage Workshop, Nutrient Budgeting Workshop, Soil Drainage Class Workshop).

State Coordinator and project team plan and schedule annual workshops; invite project participants; develop event evaluation tools; develop support materials for ASP program follow-up to track farmer implementation.

  • Survey was answered by 32 agricultural service providers and 5 farmers who agreed to enroll in the program. The baseline survey indicated a desire to learn more about soil health tests, managing soil P, and cover cropping for no-till. Increased confidence was sought in order to implement the following practices: soil health measurements and interpretation, setting up and conducting field trials on cover cropping and no till, and P mitigation practices. Because respondents highly prioritized topics on phosphorous management, various indicators of soil health, and how to conduct a research trial on their own, workshops in 2016-2017 will be on these topics.

State Coordinator and project team identify opportunities for demonstration plots at University research facilities or cooperating farms to assist in developing or modifying certain practices and/or show methodologies for and benefits of recommended practices.

  • UMass research farm in South Deerfield, Bristol County Agricultural School in Dighton, the Farm School in Athol, and Langwater Farm in Easton will be sites for cover crop research trials in 2016-2017.

Spring – Summer 2015

3. 30 beneficiaries will participate in one or more of the following workshops:

  • Cover Crop & Reduced Tillage Workshop
  • Nutrient Budgeting Workshop
  • Soil Drainage Class Workshop

A total of 175 people attended the four workshops presented in 2015 as part of this SARE PDP project. Listed below are agricultural service providers (ASPs) and farmers who responded to surveys and enrolled in the program at each workshop.

    1. Cover Crop and Reduced Tillage workshop: “UMass Agricultural Field Day” 6/24/15
      • ASP: 11
      • Farmer: 6
    2. Nutrient Budgeting workshop: “Twilight Meeting at Langwater Farm” 10/9/15
      • ASP: 2
      • Farmer: 10
    3. Soil Drainage Class workshop: “Diagnosing Streams: Flood protection remedies for farm and forested lands” 7/16/15
      • ASP: 5
      • Farmer: 0
    4. “Soil Tests for New England and Interpreting them for Phosphorous Management” 8/17/15
      • ASP: 16
      • Farmer: 3

4. 5 Agricultural Service Providers use 2 demonstration plots established by the project team for farmer education workshops or informal observations with farmers

  • 5 agricultural service providers established 6 research and demonstration plots at the UMass Crop and Animal Research Education Center in South Deerfield. Over 100 attendees at the agricultural field day toured these research plots and learned about cover crops and reduced tillage. Two additional cover crop research trials were conducted on farms in Hadley and Taunton and five farmers gained experience in cover crop management on 10 acres as a result. See pages 4, 7, 12, 14, 16, 18 of the Field Day booklet here for descriptions of the projects: https://ag.umass.edu/sites/ag.umass.edu/files/research-reports/umass_field_day_research_booklet.pdf

Fall 2015

5. State Coordinator and project team meet to assess quality and impact of current year’s programming, make adjustments and plan for Year 2

  • Katie Campbell-Nelson and Kelly Kraemer met to review surveys and evaluations and develop new ones to assess the effect of 2015 programming and select priorities for 2016.

6. 50 ag service providers and 300 farmers receive notice of online soil health and cover crop fact sheets and other information resources developed by the state coordinator and project team, and available online at the UMass Center for Agriculture, Food and the Environment website.

  • 102 Ag Service Providers received outputs from workshops (fact sheets, booklets, PowerPoint presentations) and 500 farmers received factsheets via Vegetable Notes and Berry Notes.
Milestone #2 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

Year 2 Milestone Accomplishments

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
2
Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
6
Actual number of farmer beneficiaries who participated:
2
Actual number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who participated:
6
Proposed Completion Date:
October 31, 2016
Status:
Completed
Date Completed:
April 1, 2016
Accomplishments:

Fall – Winter 2015-16

  1. 30 agricultural service providers (ASPs) respond to follow-up survey on how they used information learned in year 1 in their programs,
  • 25 ASPs responded to surveys and 12 of them went on to provide 14 specific educational programs and services(i.e. factsheets, newsletters, workshops, webinars, consultations) to farmers based on what they learned. Respondents estimated over 1,200 farmers were reached by their educational outreach.

Confirm continued enrollment in program (if some un-enroll, new participants recruited),

  • 23 ASPs suggested topics themselves and expressed interest in 12 of these topics for educational programming with “Develop and conduct your own on-farm research trial for soil health practices”, “Measuring Soil Carbon”, and “Mitigation Practices for excess Phosphorus” as the highest rated topics for education.

And agree to participate in at least one project event (Cover Crop & Reduced Tillage Wkshp, Nutrient Budgeting Wkshp, Soil Drainage Class Wkshop).

  • Partnerships were developed to offer the following: 1) with Seedway, NRCS, farmers, and other members of UMass Extension to develop a workshop to be held in July, 2016 on “How to conduct an on-farm trial” with a cover cropping experiment as a template and 2) Partnerships were developed with other members of UMass Extension and the New England Biosolids and Residuals Association (NEBRA) to host a Phosphorus Symposium in November 2016.
    1. Up to 5 delegates will be selected to attend Regional Cover Crop Conference in Spring, 2016.
  • 8 delegates from Massachusetts attended the Regional Cover Crop Conference in March, 2016 in Baltimore, MD.

Spring – Summer 2016

2. 30 beneficiaries will participate in one or more of the following workshops:

  1. Cover Crop & Reduced Tillage Workshop
  2. Nutrient Budgeting Workshop
  3. Soil Drainage Class Workshop
  • Julie Fine and Katie Campbell-Nelson presented at Carovail Fertilizer Company Annual Meeting on ‘Soil Health Testing’ and ‘Nutrient Management Planning and Rgulations’ respectively on Feb 19th, 2016. 75 farmers attended and 15 Agricultural Service Providers attended. Twelve people responded to the survey to assess their learning. Eight farmers gained knowledge about soil health and nutrient management and 4 farmers planned to implement s new practice as a result of attending this program. Two farmers followed up with Julie Fine and conducted in depth soil health tests with consultation from Julie.
  • Cover Crop & Reduced Tillage Workshop changed to “How to Conduct an on-Farm Trial” workshop. held July 12th, 2016; 7 ag service providers, 10 farmers and 3 students participated. As a result of attending “How to Conduct an On-Farm Trial” in July, 2016, 6 farmers implemented an on-farm trial on their farms, 1 farmer improved an ongoing trial, and another farmer applied for grant funding to conduct their own trial. Twelve people responded to the survey.  Eleven farmers gained knowledge about conducting on-farm trials and 11 farmers planned to implement a new practice related to on-farm trials.
  • Nutrient Budgeting and Soil Drainage Class Workshops changed to “Symposium: Managing Phosphorous in Organic Residuals Applied to Soils”. held November 2nd, 2016. Fourteen farmers attended and 129 Agricultural Service providers attended. Fifty one people responded to the survey to assess their learning. Forty eight agricultural service providers learned about managing phosphorus in organic residuals applied to soils and twenty eight planned to implement a new practice based on what they learned.

3. 5 Ag Service Providers use 2 new demonstration plots established by the project team for farmer-education workshops or informal observations with farmers

  • Completed. Additional demonstration plots were not established. Six demonstration trials (described in Year 1 milestones) were planted in August-September 2016 and will be part of 2 cover crop field walks in May and September of 2017.

 Fall 2016

4. State Coordinator and project team meet to assess quality and impact of current year’s programming, make adjustments and plan for Year 3

  • Not completed. Conference Call is being scheduled with enrolled Ag Service Providers to plan programming for next year: 2 cover crop trial field walks and 1 industry group fertilizer meeting. This conference call was postponed to Spring 2017 after the “Managing P in Organic Residuals symposium” held on Nov 2nd, 2016.

5. 50 ag service providers and 300 farmers receive notice of online soil health and cover crop fact sheets and other information resources developed by the state coordinator and project team, and available online at the UMass Center for Agriculture, Food and the Environment website.

 These materials are also published in other Extension Publications reaching an additional audience of 2,500 people.

6. Delegates who attended the Regional Cover Crop Conference will share findings from the MA project and provide feedback from conference to incorporate into year 3 project activities in MA.

  • Delegates who attended the regional cover crop workshop participated with the state coordinator to establish 5 on-farm cover crop demonstration trials. These trials are funded through a separate Northeast SARE partnership grant (ONE16-281c). Results from these trials were discussed at this state project’s educational workshops.

Milestone #3 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

Year 3 Milestone Accomplishments:
“Nutrient Management for Vegetable Farmers” UMass Vegetable Winter School, Brigham Hill Community Farm, Grafton, MA.

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
20
Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
6
Actual number of farmer beneficiaries who participated:
20
Actual number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who participated:
4
Proposed Completion Date:
October 31, 2017
Status:
Completed
Date Completed:
January 10, 2017
Accomplishments:

UMass Winter School was the first program offered to support vegetable farmers in completing Nutrient Management Plans in order to comply with the newly promulgated regulations in the state (330 CMR 31.00) requiring them. Regulators worked with Extension Educators to offer the training and were successful at providing a safe and productive working environment so that all the farmers in attendance walked away with nutrient management plans for their farms. See the “Success Stories” section below to read about the regulator’s experience.

Farmers in attendance completed Nutrient Management Plans for their farms with 2 crop advisors, 1 Extension Educator and 1 regulator from the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources which are compliant with ‘330 CMR 31.00. An Act Relative to the Regulation of Plant Nutrients’.

Milestone #4 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

“Twilight Meeting: UMass Vegetable Program’s Research Tour and Pest Roundtable” UMass Agricultural Research and Education Center, South Deerifeld, MA.

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
40
Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
6
Actual number of farmer beneficiaries who participated:
40
Actual number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who participated:
8
Proposed Completion Date:
October 31, 2017
Status:
Completed
Date Completed:
September 12, 2017
Accomplishments:

Farmers and ASPs learned the outcomes of 6 on-farm trials on “Nitrogen from Cover Crops for Vegetable Crop Uptake: 2016-2017” which was presented one year prior at the “How to conduct an on-farm trial” workshop.

Milestone #5 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

“Massachusetts No-Till Conference” Carter and Stevens Farm, Barre, MA.

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
80
Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
10
Actual number of farmer beneficiaries who participated:
90
Actual number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who participated:
10
Proposed Completion Date:
October 30, 2017
Status:
Completed
Date Completed:
October 30, 2017
Accomplishments:

Farmers and ASP’s gave presentations and worked together on effective No-till practices for organic and conventional vegetable and dairy producers. This program was co-sponsored by NRCS and the Massachusetts conservation districts.

Milestone Activities and Participation Summary

Educational activities and events conducted by the project team:

ActivityYear 1Year 2Year 3Total
Consultations 5 30 35
Curricula, factsheets or educational tools 1 1 2
On-farm demonstrations 1 1 6 8
Published press articles, newsletters 2 2 2 6
Tours 1 0 1 2
Webinars, talks and presentations 1 1
Workshop / field days 3 3 3 9
Symposium held in Year 2. 1 1

Beneficiaries who particpated in the project’s educational activities and events:

AudienceYear 1Year 2Year 3Total Individuals
Extension 16 0 4 0
NRCS 10 0 6 0
Researchers 0 0 2 0
Nonprofit 0 0 1 0
Agency 3 0 1 0
Service providers (other or unspecified) 10 135 14 0
Farmers / ranchers 19 15 123 0
Others 0 145 0 0

Participation Summary

65 Number of agricultural educator or service providers reached through education and outreach activities

Learning Outcomes

48 Agricultural service providers reported changes in knowledge, skills and/or attitudes as a result of their participation.
47 Farmers reported changes in knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness as a result of their participation
32 Ag service providers intend to use knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness learned through this project in their educational activities and services for farmers
Key areas in which the service providers (and farmers if indicated above) reported a change in knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness::

Participants at project workshops and field days were surveyed at the end of events to assess their learning and intention to use new ideas.

Year 1 key areas of learning verified
Knowledge:
• Types of cover crops that can be used for specific needs
• Best time for seeding different cover crops
• How cover crop mixtures can be used in vegetable production
• How cover crop rotations can be used in vegetable production
• Understand how rivers impact agricultural lands in Western Massachusetts
• Understand why some rivers erode land
• Explain the role of large woody debris in river function
• Determine differences between healthy and unhealthy riparian areas
• Interpreting soil tests for phosphorous management
• Soil tests appropriate for New England soils
• Mitigation practices for soils with excess phosphorous
• How to use the Haney soil test
• New MA nutrient management regulations
• Compost testing and interpretation
• Impacts of compost on soil and crop nutrition
• Managing weeds with cultural practices

Practice:
• Use cover crops appropriate for specific needs
• Seed cover crop at the appropriate time
• Use cover crop mixtures
• Rotate cover crops
• Plant appropriate cover on a bank for flooding protection
• Eliminate invasive vegetation in riparian areas
• Leave no soil bare in flood prone areas
• Multifunctional riparian buffers (MRB), which contain staggered vegetation that can be harvested for economic return even if flooded
• Rest riparian pastures during the critical growth period of plants that provide stream bank stability
• Implement or provide education on a phosphorous mitigating practice
• Use the Haney Soil Test
• Provide education on soil tests appropriate for phosphorous management
• Plant a cover crop for improved nutrient cycling
• Submit a compost or soil test sample
• Calculate nutrient content of compost amendment
• Implement a cultural practice for weed control

Year 2 Key areas of learning verified
Knowledge
• Soil biology and the soil food web
• What advantages soil health assesment may provide
• Developing a research question
• Experimental design
• Experimental methods
• Phosphorus policy & regulation in New England
• Phosphorus dynamics in soil
• Analysis and interpretation of Phosphorus in soils
• Analysis and interpretation of Phosphorus in organic residuals
• The Phosphorus Index
• Mitigation strategies for high Phosphorus agricultural soils
• Impact of use of organic residuals on soil Phosphorus levels
• Differences among varying sources and types of organic residuals (composts, biosolids, digestates)
• Environmentally sound uses of organic residuals.
Practice
• Conduct a soil health assessment
• Increase organic matter in soil without causing nutrient polluntion
• Using cover crop mixtures
• Conduct a research trial
• Apply for a SARE or other research grant
• Educate others on conduction an on-farm research trial
• Implement a Phosphorus mitigating practice.
• Factor results of soil test into determination of organic residuals applications.
• Provide education on Phosphorus management and organic residuals
Provide education on Phosphorus analysis, interpretation, or recommendations

Performance Target Outcomes

Performance Target Outcomes - Service Providers

Activities for farmers conducted by service providers:
ActivityYear 1Year 2Year 3Total
Specific service provider activities not reported. 143 143
41 Total number of agricultural service provider participants who used knowledge and skills learned through this project (or incorporated project materials) in their educational activities, services, information products and/or tools for farmers
1450 Farmers reached through participant's programs
Total amount of production these farmers manage:
Not reported.
Performance target outcome for service providers narrative:

Year 1 Narrative

In the Fall of 2015, all 58 project participants who filled out surveys during the summer at workshops were surveyed again to evaluate what they learned, and implemented as a result of this project so far. 21 ASPs responded and 3 farmers responded. As a result of attending the workshops, ASPs reported recommending and farmers reported adopting following practices:

  • Use cover crops appropriate for specific needs
  • Seed cover crop at the appropriate time 
  • Use cover crop mixtures 
  • Rotate cover crops 
  • Leave no soil bare in flood prone areas 
  • Implement or provide education on a phosphorous mitigating practice 
  • Provide education on soil tests appropriate for phosphorous management 
  • Plant a cover crop for improved nutrient cycling 
  • Submit a compost or soil test sample 
  • Calculate nutrient content of compost amendment 
  • Implement a cultural practice for weed control 

 Year 2 Narrative

Participants of the Managing Phosphorus in Organic Residuals Symposium were surveyed about their use of new information learned. 

20 ASPs responded that they provided education on:

  • P management and organic residuals (20)
  • P analysis, interpretation, or recommendations (20)

7 farmers reported implementing a P mitigating practices, e.g.

    • Use less compost
    • Adjust corn starter P based on manure history
    • Adjust pH and test soil before making P application

13 farmers reported using results of soil test to determine organic residuals applications. 

See “Success Stories” section for more information about how service providers used information learned at the Symposium.  

Year 3 Narrative

This year we offered 3 educational programs: Nutrient Management for Vegetable Farmers (17 farmer attendees, 3 ASPs), UMass Agricultural Research Twilight Meeting and Round Table (43 farmer attendees, 7 ASPs), and the Massachusetts No-Till Conference (85 farmer attendees, 15 ASPs). Participants at the MA No-Till Conference were surveyed about their use of information. Results from farmer respondents were:

  • 17 planted a no-till crop on 297 acres
  • 9 planted a cover-crop on 327.5 acres

See “Success Stories” section for information about how service providers used information learned at the conference. 

Performance Target Outcomes - Farmers

42 Farmers made a change/adopted a practice as a result of this project
Performance target outcome for farmers narrative:

Year 1 Narrative

The 3 farmers responding to the follow-up survey farmers reported making one or more of these changes:

  • Interpreted soil test results for phosphorous management
  • Implemented a phosphorous mitigating practice
  • Plant a cover crop for improved nutrient cycling
  • Submit a compost or soil test sample
  • Calculate nutrient content of compost amendment

Year 2 Narrative

As a result of attending “How to Conduct an On-Farm Trial” in July, 2016, 6 farmers implemented an on-farm trial on their farms, 1 farmer improved an ongoing trial, and another farmer applied for grant funding to conduct their own trial.

7 farmers who participated in the symposium on P management reported implementing a P mitigating practices, e.g.

    • Use less compost
    • Adjust corn starter P based on manure history
    • Adjust pH and test soil before making P application

13 farmers reported using results of soil test to determine organic residuals applications. 

Year 3 Narrative

  • 17 farmers who attended the MA No-till Conference reported planting a no-till crop on 297 acres
  • 9 reported planting a cover-crop on 327.5 acres

Additional Project Outcomes

1 New working collaboration
Additional Outcomes Narrative:

Year 1 Narrative

New working collaborations: MA Department of Agricultural Resources and UMass Extension staff have begun collaborating on educational programming and materials in response to new nutrient management regulations going into effect in Massachusetts on December 5th, 2015: CMR 31.00 Plant Nutrient Application Requirements for Agricultural Land and Land Not Used for Agricultural Purposes. This SARE PDP grant has allowed these new working collaborations to have a structure and purpose, providing funds for developing related educational programs and materials.

New projects started: A team of 8 (2 Graduate Students, 1 Extension Educator, 1 Assistant Professor, 1 Crop Consultant, 1 Soil Conservationist, 1 Seed Salesman, and 1 Farmer) were identified to participate in a Cover Crop Training to be held in Baltimore, MD March 29-31, 2016 hosted by SARE. Training participants collaborated with the state coordinator on a new Northeast SARE partnership grant project that was developed and funded after the workshop.

Success stories:

The following individuals were interviewed at the completion of this project and were asked to share how the educational programs offered over the last 3 years has influenced their work with farmers:

A farmer harvests cabbage in September 2017 from his trial on “Nitrogen Contributions from Cover Crops for Cash Crop Uptake”

 

A farmer says: “I attended “How to Conduct an On-Farm Trial” and “Twilight Meeting: UMass Vegetable Program’s Research Tour and Pest Roundtable” and found both to be very enlightening. I had wanted to conduct on-farm research but was generally unfamiliar with the practices to make trials more official and science based. The workshop was very helpful and helped me to decide to participate in a research project conducted on multiple farms the following season.”

A fertilizer company representative says: “Soil health is where it begins as far as plant health is concerned. A very positive result of the programs presented (through this SARE grant) has been the opportunity to have a discussion on soil health and balance with growers. It is easier today to talk to growers about their elevated phosphorus levels and the importance of cover crops. Soil biology has become part of the discussion in a much bigger way than two years ago. As a result many growers have gotten off the triple-19 diet and are using soil and tissue tests to guide their decisions.”

 

An Extension Educator hides in her cover crop trial on a farm in Easton, MA.

An Extension Educator says: “This SARE grant has greatly increased my confidence in providing educational programs about cover cropping, nutrient management, and soil health in general.  Just last week I was able to step in on just 1 hr. notice to present a talk to an audience of 200 growers on “Nitrogen Management for Vegetable Farmers”. The presentation was well received.  I would not have been able to do that 3 years ago and now have the confidence to call myself a ‘nutrient management specialist’.”

 

A regulator says: “The 2017 UMass Winter School session on nutrient

Farmers attending UMass Vegetable Program Winter School

management provided an opportunity to interact with farmers and work on their nutrient management plans.  Through one-on-one exercise sessions, it was for me rewarding to learn that farmers come to realize that nutrient management planning can have substantial benefits for their operations.  One farmer told me that they decided to do soil testing and learned that their long-established practice of applying general purpose fertilizer at rule-of-thumb rates was not the most efficient use of fertilizer. In addition, he had become more aware that the traditional practice could potentially have negative environmental impacts. He clearly showed excitement to have learned that the use of soil testing actually had reduced fertilizer input and thereby contributed to an improved efficiency at his operation.  For me as a regulator this experience indicated that these outreach and education efforts are beneficial for farmers and they support the objectives of both UMass Extension and state regulatory agencies.“

 

A crop consultant says: “Bar none, dealing with high soil test phosphorus is the major issue my client farmers face and it has become the focus of my nutrient management consulting business. Information presented in the P workshops was invaluable in keeping me up to date with the nutrient regulations being developed in Massachusetts so that I could assist my clients with compliance. I used the information I learned to advise two dairy farms with a combined total of 400 cows to:

Farmers attend a twilight meeting with a round table discussion where they learn about 6 on-farm cover crop trials.
  1. keep better records of soil tests using field maps with a consistent numbering system
  2. test the P in manure and credit it for crop production
  3. keep field-by-field records of manure application
  4. calibrate their manure spreaders
  5. work with fertilizer dealers to develop zero-P blends of fertilizer
  6. eliminate corn starter P on fields with high soil test P.

I also used the information I learned to advise a company that builds on-farm digesters on the critical importance of doing the nutrient management plan before designing and building the digester.”

SARE Outreach

Outreach about SARE:

Information about SARE grant programs and information resources was shared at the programs and events listed below.

Year 1 (2014-2015) SARE Outreach Activities

Event/Activity

Number of Contacts with:

Farmers

Ag. Professionals

SEMAP Conference, 2/28/15

80

18

UMass Agricultural Field Day, 6/24/15

25

15

NOFA Summer Conference 8/14-16/15

150

20

Year 2 (2015-2016) SARE Outreach Activities

Event/Activity

Number of Contacts with:

Farmers

Ag. Professionals

Carovail Fertilizer Company Annual Meeting, 2/19/16

75

15

How to Conduct an On-Farm Trial, 7/16/16

12

3

Managing Phosphorus in Organic Residuals Applied to Soils, 11/2/16

 

143

Recieved information about SARE grant programs and information resouces:

Audience Year 1 Year 2 Year 3 Total
Service providers 53 161 0 214
Farmers 255 87 0 342
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.