Reducing fuel and fertilizer costs for corn silage in the Northeast with cover crops and no-till

2009 Annual Report for LNE09-287

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2009: $149,755.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2012
Grant Recipient: University of Maine
Region: Northeast
State: Maine
Project Leader:
Richard Kersbergen
University of maine Cooperative Extension

Reducing fuel and fertilizer costs for corn silage in the Northeast with cover crops and no-till


Surveys were sent out to dairy farms in Maine and Massachusetts to get baseline data on fuel, fertilizer and cover crop practices. This data will be used as par of the verification plan in 2012.

The survey in Massachusetts indicated that almost 80% of dairy farmers and livestock producers either do not plant cover crops or plant it very late, with poor establishment and nearly no nutrient recovery. The focus of this study therefore has emphasized the importance of early maturing hybrid corn silage varieties, and effective cover crop strategies for nutrient recovery. Termination of the cover crops and evaluation of no-till corn systems are also being investigated.

Producers in Maine met several times to evaluate potential trials and determine host sites.

Maine, Vermont and Massachusetts all conducted short season corn variety trials. Two farms in Maine, one in Vermont and one in Massachusetts hosted these trials. Most of the seed corn dealers provided seed supplies and support for some of this work. In Massachusetts, eighteen corn hybrids which were grouped in two maturity groups; shorter –season (with RM= 84-100 day) and full-season (with RM? 100days). Silage yield, ear yield, ear percentage, and GDD requirement for silking and physiological maturity was determined. In Maine a short season trial with 6 varieties was held at the Keene farm in Belfast while a second trial with 30 hybrids was planted at the Barker Farm in Leeds. The trial in Vermont featured twelve varieties.

In Maine, a no-till trial was established in the spring of 2009 and monitored throughout the season.

Cover crop trials were established on several farms in each state, to evaluate the importance of planting date, type of cover crop and nutrient retention. Planting date, type of cover crop (Wheat, triticale, rye) was also investigated. In the fall of 2009, host farms also established cover crop sites for no-till and cover crop termination studies for the spring of 2010.

Numerous field days, seminars and professional meetings were hosts for information dissemination concerning these trials.

Objectives/Performance Targets

60 dairy farmers in Maine, Vermont and Massachusetts will adopt cover cropping and reduced tillage strategies in corn silage systems on at least 3,000 acres to reduce fossil fuel costs (diesel and N fertilizer) by $30-$35 per acre, improve soil and nitrogen conservation from manure nutrients by $20 per acre and improve forage quality and profitability through reduced purchased grain inputs by $65 per cow per year (2010-2012)


Producers in Vermont, Massachusetts and Maine will work with researchers to fine tune research and demonstrations for each state. (Spring 2009)
15 (five systems in three states) corn silage producers will enroll in an intensive three year study investigating cropping systems that will reduce tillage and conserve soil and manure nutrients. Trials will initiate in the spring of 2009. (Spring 2009-fall 2011)
–Trials were initiated in all three sates and involved 7 different farms.
Producers and corn seed dealers will initiate corn variety trials in each state that will each year of the trial (Spring 2009-2011)
–6 trials were completed in 2009 (2 in each state)
Cover crop trials on participating farms will initiate in September of 2009.
–Planting date and nutrient retention trials have been planted. Vermont used some existing cover crops to initiate termination trials in 2009
Researchers will work intensively with an additional 15 producers to implement some alternative winter cover crop strategies, alternative manure applications and no-till planting techniques of short season corn hybrids on 450 acres. Each winter, revisions and alternatives will be reviewed by producers and researchers based on the previous year experience. (2009-2011)
–Seminars and workshops during the winter of 2009-2010 will be used to recruit additional participants.
Producers and researchers will monitor fuel usage and nutrient flows through 2 full growing seasons along with forage quality impacts (2009-2011)
–Fuel usage and time will be evaluated on alternative sites in 2010 growing season.
Field days, crop advisor trainings and articles in popular press will be used to disseminate information to 600 growers of corn silage in the Northeast. (2010-2012)
–workshops in 2009 reached over 500 participants, including farmers, consultants, extension faculty and NRCS staff.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

Corn hybrid performance trials: Vermont, Maine and Massachusetts

RESULTS can be found under milestones as an attachment


Roger Rainville

Farmers Watershed Alliance
Alburg, Vt
Heather Darby
Agronomic and Nutrient Management Specialist
UVM Extension
278 South Main St Suite 2
St. Albans, Vt 05478-1866
Office Phone: 8025246501
Masoud Hashemi
Extension Assistant Professor
Stockbridge School Of Agriculture UMass
207 Bowditch Hall
Amherst, MA 01003-9294
Office Phone: 4135451843
Stephen Herbert
Professor of Agronomy
University of Massachusetts Amherst
Bowditch Hall, rm 207
Amherst, Ma
Office Phone: 4135452250