Improving oilseed production and harvesting practices in New England: A farmer-to-Farmer exchange
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 (White et al. 2007). The results show that oilseed production is feasible in New England. However further advances in local knowledge and technology are needed to advance to the next stages of demonstration and implementation. This research and outreach project has been designed to build on previous projects that have examined best agricultural practices for oilseed production in New England. In 2009, a local farmer with oilseed production experience established two on-farm demonstration/ research trials. These on-farm projects were based on critical needs determined by area oilseed growers. The research included two projects evaluating tine-weeding and killed mulches as methods for weed control. An additional project, evaluated the impact of harvest dates on bird damage. Lastly, a network of oilseed producers were brought together to share information on crop production.
Objectives: The objectives of this project are 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.
1n 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. The second oilseed producers meeting was held on February 2, 2010 in Berlin, VT. There were 26 farms in attendance from VT and NH. The morning was spent with each farm talking about positive and negative aspects of the growing season. In addition, farmers also contributed helpful information on equipment modifications. Most of the afternoon was spent networking. The final hour was used to develop summer workshop agendas and on-farm research plans. A video clip from the meeting can be viewed at our new oilseed webpage – http://www.uvm.edu/extension/cropsoil/oilseeds.
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 combined attendance at these meetings was 136 farmers and service providers.
Oilseed Website – Until recently, information on oilseed and biofuel production in Vermont is available in a piecemeal fashion spread amongst several websites. It is primarily in the form of lengthy reports, which are not user-friendly. As part of this project, a website page was created that specifically focuses on oilseed production, storage, on-farm processing, and use as fuel, food, and/or fertilizer. Past reports have been reformatted and edited to be more useful to the farming community. The website page is still being populated but currently includes research reports, photos, and videos from farms and meetings. Over the duration of the project period we will continue to build content for the farming community. The website can be viewed at http://www.uvm.edu/extension/cropsoil/oilseeds.
Crop Production Budget for Oilseeds – Though production budgets exist for processing oilseeds into biodiesel (Arnott, 2008) and for canola production in Northern Maine (Sexton, 2005), currently there are no production budgets available that focus on costs of crop production and allow producers to change the costs of inputs, which is especially important in these rapidly changing economic times. Our goal is to create an interactive budget tool for oilseed crop production based on currently used practices in New England. During 2009, we asked the oilseed producers to track production expenses on their farms. The data has been collected from 12 farms and is currently being compiled. Our goal is to finish the budgeting tool in 2010.
Guide to Oilseed Production in New England – To make information more accessible to farmers and agricultural professionals, we will compile existing information into a comprehensive manual that explains in farmer-friendly language the best practices for producing or storing these crops in New England. During 2009, a production manual outline was developed. In 2010 we will work to populate the manual with information from the area and beyond.
Field Production Research in Pest Management-
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. GMO 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. In 2009, replicated trials will be conducted at Borderview Farm in Alburgh Vermont. Results of the project are included as an attachment of this report.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
The primary outcome from the first year of this project has been the formation of an oilseed producers network. Now in its 2nd year farmers look forward to getting together to share information and ideas. It also enables them to receive current research reports from our team and guide our program.
46 Line Road
Alburgh, VT 05440
Office Phone: 8027963292