New Crops to New Tech, NY Farm Viability Projects Seek to Create/Share Knowledge

Aileen Randolph

15 projects, $1.584 million awarded to help NY farmers improve their bottom line

The New York Farm Viability Institute (NYFVI) Board of Directors announced 15 projects selected for funding in its competitive Farm Viability grant program. The projects reflect a diverse mix of strategic approaches for improving the economic viability of New York farmers.

One project will be supporting the State’s growing hemp industry, building foundational knowledge on different growing practices to produce a quality crop suited for CBD. An economic analysis of various growing systems will also be included.



Two projects will explore the use of biological controls to fight insects. Four others will develop or evaluate new technologies including a device for use in commercial bee hives to zap deadly Varroa mites; hand held near infrared (NIR) readers that may help farmers more precisely manage the nutritional value of feed rations; UV light to fight downy mildew in cucumbers and ECa maps to predict soil cation exchange capacity.

Additional projects will help farmers more precisely use chemical sprays to counter pathogen and weed resistance; improve the productivity of garlic seed, and red clover crops, and better understand the factors that impact the quality and quantity of colostrum in dairy cows.

Other important work includes two human resource management programs for dairy farms. One project will focus on developing new approaches to developing safety practices and the other will help farm managers onboard their new employees.

I was pleased to see the strong support from the dairy panel for the HR projects, and it makes sense. Labor is our biggest asset and we need to make sure we are always improving. On the production front, I’m eager to see how we can improve colostrum to give calves a better start.

~ Rob Noble, Noblehurst Farms NYFVI Vice Chair NYFVI Dairy Committee

“The range of strategies being explored by researchers and educators in New York is truly impressive. I believe the Farm Viability board, guided by the input from the farmer review panels, did an excellent job in identifying the ideas that hold the most promise for New York’s farmers.” said Mike Jordan, NYFVI Chair and owner of Olde Chautauqua Farm.

“New York farmers are fortunate that its state government invests in agricultural research and education. On behalf of the Farm Viability Institute, I would like to thank Governor Cuomo along with Senator Jen Metzger and Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo and their respective Agriculture Committees for their support of our mission in the NYS budget.” said Dave Grusenmeyer, NYFVI Executive Director.

110 farmers across New York State participated in the proposal evaluation process to ensure the projects selected for funding address on-the-ground priorities. The volunteer board, comprised of ten farmers from across the state, made the final funding decisions. It was an extremely competitive year, with 46 proposals requesting nearly $5 million submitted. Grant applications were evaluated in six areas: Producer Involvement, Relevance to NY Agriculture, Farm-Level Impact, Outreach, Evaluation and Budget. The work selected represents a cross-section of NY agriculture, with research and education efforts that will benefit farms of all sizes and production practices. Project work is beginning immediately.



Following are profiles of each of dairy and field crops projects that were selected for funding.

Faster Cheaper and Safer: Re-engineering Best Management Safety Practices on NY Dairies Between 2007 and 2014, 36 workers died on NY dairy farms. Although, on-farm safety training has been provided for decades by the New York Center for Agricultural Medicine and Health (NYCAMH) , injury statistics demonstrate that additional solutions for encouraging workers to adopt safety best practices are needed. This project seeks to apply advancements in human behavioral research to the field of dairy safety. Led by Julie Sorenson with NYCAMH/Basset Healthcare Network, the project will integrate international expertise in “behavioral nudging”. Anticipated outcomes include the development of safety solutions that increase worker adoption, reduce risks, reduce time and effort required to complete identified work-tasks and increase farm profitability either through improved work efficiencies or the elimination of waste. Farmers will be involved in many phases of the project, from identifying priority work-tasks to evaluating solutions. Results can be implemented on most NY dairy farms and will be shared through multiple, existing partner networks and NYCAMH promotional activities.

The work by Bryan Brown and the CCE team will be invaluable in helping manage herbicide resistant weeds. The knowledge created from this applied research will help us all be better farmers

Amos Smith, Lawnel Farms #2 NYFVI Board Member NY Corn & Soybean Growers Association

Onboarding Dairy Farm Employees: Safe, Productive and Engaged from Day One! Recent research with large dairy farms indicates annual employee turnover rates ranging from 20% to 80%. Assuming a 500 cow farm with 10 employees, a 50% turnover rate mean 5 new employees each year. Getting them started right can make or break the business. The goal of this work is to help farm managers learn how to “onboard” their farm employees to help them be safe, productive, and engaged from day one of employment. A closely related goal is for farm employers to become more professional in their human resource practices and fully compliant with existing state and federal employment regulations. This project, led by Richard Stup of Cornell University and executed through regional extension educators will work with 50 NY dairy farms to develop their onboarding process. A wide array of templates and training materials will be created and made available to ensure the knowledge can be utilized by all dairy farms.

Measure to Manage: Why Does the Colostrum Vary? Colostrum is the “liquid gold” produced by mammals before giving birth, and is known to be critical for a healthy start of the newborn. Prepartum risk factors influencing colostrum production of modern dairy cows are largely unstudied despite the fact that the volume and/or quality of colostrum may vary significantly among operations and individuals. Cornell researcher Sabine Mann, with the College of Veterinary Medicine and her colleagues want to understand what factors affect the quality and quantity of colostrum produced. The possible contribution of age of animal, nutrition, stocking density and season (photoperiod/temperature/heat stress) will all be evaluated. This information will help farms understand the practices that they can modify to ensure that all their calves receive high quality colostrum to aid in the prevention of preweaning diseases such as diarrhea and pneumonia. Research will take place on 21 New York dairy farms.

Forage Evaluation On-Farm Using Handheld NIR Units: The use of Near Infrared Reflectance Spectroscopy (NIRS) analysis for forage quality was developed in the mid 1970s. It allows for fast, accurate and precise evaluation of the chemical composition and associated feeding value of forages and other feedstuffs. Since that time, the knowledge of animal nutrition has grown exponentially, and now dairy farms are increasingly practicing “precision feed management” an approach that evaluates the nutritional value of feed relative to its cost and the benefit of increased production. In the US, most farms that are using this approach are sending forage samples to labs for testing on a regular basis. The development of new handheld NIRS devices offers potential for on-farm testing and immediate results. Jerry Cherney with Cornell University wants to help farmers know how well these tools work. This project will evaluate four commercially available devices for accuracy, precision and practicality of use on the farm. At its conclusion NY dairy farmers will understand the potential value of using these tools on their farm.

Regaining Control of Herbicide-Resistant Weeds in Corn and Soybeans: New York corn and soybean growers are fighting to keep horseweed (marestail) and waterhemp out of their fields. Both plants have developed resistance to certain herbicides and improved management approaches are needed to keep corn and soybean fields productive. Bryan Brown, with the Integrated Pest Management Program at Cornell AgriTech will be trialing a number of options at five farms across the state to help growers understand which combination of cultural, mechanical and chemical processes may prove to be most effective. Cost effectiveness of the practices will also be evaluated. Results will be shared via the NYSIPM YouTube channel, podcasts other traditional outreach methods such as field days.

Growing the Potential of Red Clover: Optimum Stage of Harvest, Feed Value Compared to Alfalfa Across New York there are soils that simply don’t drain well enough to grow alfalfa, particularly in a wet year. Farmers are looking for profitable alternatives. Recent Cornell varietal trials demonstrated that red clover can match alfalfa yield in short rotations and the University of Wisconsin found it potentially equals or exceeds alfalfa in feed value. In this project, Tom Kilcer, with Advanced Ag Systems, seeks to establish the value compared to alfalfa in NY; and the unknown optimum time frame for NY farmers to harvest based on the analysis of the nutritional profile at various stages. Trials will take place on three farms and the results will be shared broadly within the ag community. The livestock panel also reviewed this proposal.



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