June 16, 2013

Farm briefs: June 16, 2013


Area has new field crops, soils specialist

CANTON — Kitty O’Neil has begun traveling Northern New York as regional field crops and soils specialist with Cornell Cooperative Extension. She will be working with farmers in St. Lawrence, Franklin, Clinton and Essex counties.

O’Neil grew up on a dairy farm in Cayuga County. She holds an animal science degree from Cornell University and a master’s degree in Forages and Dairy Nutrition from Michigan State. 

In Michigan, she helped potato growers improve their production systems and make them more sustainable. She recently earned a Ph.D. there after conducting several years of research with those potato growers, examining impacts of tillage, cover crops, manure amendments and crop rotations on soil health and productivity. 

“I’m eager to apply my efforts to helping Northern New York growers and farmers adopt practices which will reduce risk and production costs while increasing efficiency and livelihoods. From conversations with farmers and other extension personnel, I can already see opportunities to work on hayfield and pasture quality, forage planning and inventory estimations and alternative forage production to reduce risks,” O’Neil said.

“Fall 2013 forage inventories may continue to be affected by the 2012 shortages, though I hope that impact is slight. Only time and weather patterns will determine what is in the barn, silo and bunk at the conclusion of 2013, but I’d like to work with producers now to optimize that potential,” she added.

O’Neil can be reached through the local extension office or CCE St. Lawrence County at 315-379-9192.

Tile drainage research in region being studied

CHAZY — In 2013, the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program (NNYADP) is funding research to evaluate the agricultural benefits and environmental impacts of using tile drainage on farms.

The use of tile drainage has been a critical best-management practice on American farms since 1835. In the early 1900s, William H. Miner, for whom the agricultural research institute in Chazy is named, championed the use of patterned tile drainage to dramatically improve drainage efficiency and crop production potential on poorly drained North Country soils.

The farmer-driven NNYADP has identified the need for research to better understand how the use of tile drainage interacts with the soil, crop production and the environment in the Lake Champlain Basin region of Northern New York, where agriculture is considered a major nonpoint source of phosphorus to the lake.

Tile-drained fields generally reduce total phosphorus loss compared to undrained fields, largely due to reducing surface runoff. However, few controlled field studies have been conducted over multiple years in the Northeast to quantify crop and soil benefits as well as potential water-quality risks and benefits from tile-draining fields.

Project leader Eric Young, agronomist and soil scientist at Miner Institute, said tile drainage is an economically and environmentally important management practice for dairy and crop farmers.

“On poorly drained soils, properly installed and maintained tile-drainage systems produce greater crop yields, reduce erosion and surface runoff, decrease the potential for soil compaction, enhance soil quality and lead to greater farm profitability,” he said.

“However, under unique conditions, tile drainage can accelerate the loss of nitrate-nitrogen and dissolved phosphorus, two important crop nutrients that often limit yield but also have the potential to contribute to water-quality degradation.”

Long-term field runoff plots have been established on a cool season grass hay field at the Lake Alice Wildlife Management Area in Chazy. The trial plots will be managed as a typical dairy-based grass forage production system with nitrogen applied in early spring and manure nutrients applied after each cutting.

The research team will evaluate surface and subsurface drainage water from the tile-drained and undrained fields during the growing and non-growing seasons to quantify how soils, crop management and other field conditions affect nutrient conservation and loss.

Registration offered for tractor driver contest

SENECA FALLS — June 21 is the deadline to register for the New York State FFA Tractor Driving Safety Contest at the 2013 Empire Farm Days at Rodman Lott & Son Farms in Seneca Falls.

The competition open to students aged 14 to 18 will be held Thursday, Aug. 8, at the Northeast’s largest outdoor agricultural trade show. Contestants must contact contest coordinator Jon Clayson by June 21 with their name and age at

Preparing for the annual competition teaches students the importance of learning and using safe farm equipment operating skills. Students complete a written safety exam, a parts identification task and driving courses with 2- wheel and 4-wheel wagons.

“This competition helps students test how well they have learned safe tractor operation and driving skills. A strong performance at the Empire Farm Days event is something they can add to their resumes in pursuit of an agricultural career,” Clayson said.

The Junior Division of the contest is open to 14-16 year olds; the Senior division is for 16-18 year olds. The winner of the Senior Division goes on to compete at the Big E Exposition in Springfield, Mass., in September.

Contest sponsors include John Deere, Kubota, H&S Farm Equipment, New Holland Case International, the New York Center for Agricultural Medicine and Health, Massey Ferguson and Java Farm Supply.

The competition begins at 9:30 a.m. at the Empire Farms Days event that covers 300 acres with 600-plus representatives of agricultural institutions and organizations, farm equipment and ATV test driving opportunities, DairyProfit Seminars and other educational workshops, demonstrations of live horse round pen training, cattle handing, small-livestock care, agricultural plastics recycling, farm safety and farm family displays and more. Visit for more information.