Integrating Solar Corridors into Vermont Corn Silage Production Systems

Project Overview

Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2021: $28,797.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2023
Grant Recipient: University of Vermont Extension
Region: Northeast
State: Vermont
Project Leader:
Dr. Heather Darby
University of Vermont Extension

Information Products


  • Agronomic: corn


  • Crop Production: cover crops
  • Education and Training: extension, on-farm/ranch research, workshop
  • Soil Management: soil quality/health

    Proposal abstract:

    Although substantial gains in cover crop acreage have been seen across the northeast, proper establishment of cover crops continues to be challenging for dairy operations which rely heavily on corn silage. In a recent SARE grant (LNE18-361), Darby and 30 farm partners evaluated corn variety, corn population, and interseed timing to increase light infiltration and improve cover crop establishment. Results remain highly variable and reduces the overall cost effectiveness of the practice. Farmers are interested in exploring the concept of solar corridors that integrates row crops with solid-seeded cover crops in broad strips. The broad strips (corridors) allow for more efficient capture of solar radiation by each crop.  This strategy may allow farmers to select cover crops that maximize nutrient cycling or increase forage production and help reduce farm costs and improve cover crop adoption. Research is needed to understand the advantages and disadvantages of various row arrangements for corn silage systems, which cover crops are most successful in these systems, and which cover crops can provide the most benefit. On‐farm and small plot research will help farmers to better understand how to adapt solar corridor cropping practices to corn silage production systems. Although the research is focused on solar corridor strategies the educational components will include information on a suite of practices that can help to maximize cover crop outcomes and overall farm sustainability. The education plan will deliver information to over 500 dairy and corn growers in the northeast through farm demonstrations, field days, conferences, webinars, and videos.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    This project seeks to develop Solar Corridor Systems that are feasible for corn silage production systems in Vermont. The successful Solar Corridor System will optimize cover crop benefits and maintain corn silage yield and quality.  To develop a successful Solar Corridor System we will develop research with the following objectives:

    Objective 1: Evaluate the effect of corn row widths and corn population on silage yield/quality as well as cover crop biomass.

    Objective 2: Evaluate the effect of corn row width on establishment and productivity of forage based cover crops corn.

    Farmers will benefit from the results by learning more about how to adapt corn silage production systems to reap the numerous benefits of cover cropping. Dairy farmers in Vermont are currently harvesting cover crops as forage adding additional benefits to the practice. A successful Solar Corridor System may further help farmers reap the benefits of cover cropping and crop diversity.

    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.