CDLE Extension Research Projects
Corn silage is a primary source of feed on most New England dairy farms, and feed is the largest annual expense. The corn growing season spans mid-May through early-October, with variation according to weather, region, and the maturity period (days to harvest) of the corn that the farmer selects. Corn planted in Massachusetts ranges from 85 days to maturity to well over 114 days to maturity.
Following the corn harvest, farmers will spread stored manure onto their fields to make space to store manure that will accumulate over the coming winter months. Before or after the manure application, farmers will ideally plant a cover crop. Cover crops are typically not harvested for profit, and rather serve to protect the soil until the following spring, when corn will again be planted.
There has been a steadily increasing demand for craft beer in the United States in the past 2 decades, especially the northeastern and western regions of the country. Currently, there is an insufficient body of research regarding varieties and fertility management plans that would permit growers in the pioneer valley to produce malting-quality barley. Barley must fit into a range of specific quality parameters, such as percent protein and the near absence of Deoxynivalenol (DON, produced by Fusarium head blight), to be suitable for malting. However, malt barley has a price premium ($5.70/bu) over feed barley ($3.37/bu) (June, 2016). This price premium may incentivize production for growers in the region. Consumer demand for locally sourced ingredients, in addition to locally produced beer may provide further economic incentives for regional production. Increased understanding of viable methods for producing malt quality barley in the region would therefore provide economic benefit to local breweries, malt houses, and farmers.
Nearly 15,000 acres were devoted to sweet corn production in New England in 2012. Because sweet corn is an herbicide-, fertilizer-, and water-intensive crop, research must be done to develop production systems that can reduce inputs and tillage. This project aims to improve sustainable and profitable production of early sweet corn in the Northeast by integrating the benefits of forage radish cover crops and no-till production. Two experiments will measure the precocity, fertility, and weed suppression in early sweet corn provided by fall forage radish cover crops.