University of Vermont (UVM) Extension recently received a $68,438 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service to work with farmers interested in trying “solar corridors” in their corn silage fields.
The project will be led by Dr. Heather Darby, a UVM Extension agronomist based in St. Albans and head of the UVM Extension Northwest Crops and Soils Team. Over the past decade, the team has worked with farmers to adopt cover cropping projects across the state. This new research project will further enhance the conservation benefits of cover crops on Vermont farms.
Solar corridor cropping systems use wide-row spacing of narrow, single or twin rows of corn to create a corridor between rows. This practice maximizes the amount of sunlight reaching the cover and corn crops, which can increase the yields of both.
This type of cropping system also allows crops to grow throughout the year, which contributes to soil carbon storage, thus keeping carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. In addition, better cover crop establishment aids water quality by increasing ground cover and holding soil in place to reduce nutrient runoff into lakes and streams.
Darby and her team will work with farmers to implement this new practice and develop practical and suitable recommendations for the Vermont landscape. Results will be shared at UVM’s No-till and Cover Crop Symposium, the Northeast Cover Crop Council annual meeting, Franklin Grand Isle Farmer’s Watershed Alliance meetings and on-farm field days, including UVM’s annual Northwest Crop and Soils Field Day.
More information about the research and outreach work of the Northwest Crops and Soils Team can be found at www.uvm.edu/extension/nwcrops.