Corn Planting Delayed?

Has Field Corn Planting Been Delayed—What Management Decisions Need Adjustment?


The Agronomy Team

(Richard Taylor, Joanne Whalen, Mark VanGessel, Nathan Kleczewski, Amy Shober, Phillip Sylvester, Cory Whaley, and Dan Severson, University of Delaware


The prolonged period of cold and wet weather this spring has delayed planting for many growers.  Late planting dates (roughly after May 26) offer challenges that must be successfully met to ensure the minimum impact on yield potential.  In this article, the UD Agronomy Team will outline adjustments and decisions needed to grow a successful corn crop when planting is delayed.  We’ll cover some of the management decisions and options available to help late planted corn by practice category.


Soil Fertility:  An important potential problem with delayed planting occurs when a portion of the required nitrogen (N) fertilizer has been applied in the weeks prior to when the corn is actually placed in the soil.  During the delay, nitrate-N added can be loss via denitrification or leaching and nitrification of ammonium or urea can begin again resulting in the loss of N if the rainfall pattern continues.  To give the process more time, ammonium or urea sources can be treated with urease and/or nitrification inhibitors such as Super U or Agrotain Plus and this can delay a significant loss of N through leaching or denitrification by three or more weeks.  Losses that do occur will require the grower to apply additional N fertilizer at an additional cost and require changes to the nutrient management plan (NMP).


Also along these lines, the application of manure well before planting can also permit loss of any inorganic N present in the manure.  Although the cold weather has delayed the process of mineralization there was a short period earlier this spring when air and soil temperatures rose enough to encourage mineralization and nitrification of organic N from the manure.  With additional rainfall and a return to cold temperatures, any nitrate N formed will likely be loss before the crop can grow enough to reach the stage when N uptake accelerates.  If N is lost, additional N fertilizer can be applied to the crop, but the NMP will need to be modified.


Although many of Delaware’s growers currently use a banded starter fertilizer and include at least some ammonium sulfate in the starter band, growers may be tempted to speed up the planting process by eliminating banded starter fertilizer.  It is true that as we move into June and if soil temperatures finally warm up, phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) will become more available to the crop and may not be needed as part of the starter fertilizer.  However, slightly higher than usual rates of starter featuring the soil mobile nutrients, N and sulfur (S), or planning on an earlier sidedress N application should help corn get off to a faster start and keep it growing rapidly during the critical V5 to V9 growth stages when kernel number and row number are being set.


Soil Considerations:  Although soil temperature should be increasing rapidly at this time of year, the cooler, wetter conditions we face in 2016 are preventing that increase.  The higher the soil temperature the faster and more uniform is seed germination and emergence.  Rapid germination and emergence will translate into improved yield potential.


Some options for the growers include the use of a turbo-till or similar tillage implement to help dry and warm the surface soil.  Although more extensive tillage could be used as well, further delaying planting to complete preparing a fine-firm seedbed is counterproductive.  In addition, extensive tillage especially on soil that is at the upper limit or past it for water content can lead to severe compaction issues.  Even with a turbo-till, the key to using it successfully will be to avoid any tillage if the soil is too wet since compaction can translate to yield losses that will continue for years.  Turbo-till and similar light tillage that warms and dries the soil surface without causing compaction issues will shorten the time until a field can be planted.  Keep in mind that this type of tillage will incorporate some of the crop residue or disturb a killed cover crop and may not be acceptable in some situations.


Another option is the use of aggressive row sweeps or row cleaners to clear the top of the seed row and allow the soil to warm faster.  This will allow the soil immediately over the seed to quickly warm up and dry if we receive some periods of sunny weather.  Again, warmer soil translates to more rapid and uniform emergence and higher yield potential.


Hybrid Selection:  Growers often start thinking of changing to shorter season hybrids as planting is delayed into early June.  Dr. Peter Thomison from Ohio State University found that a hybrid planted in late May/early June will mature at a faster thermal rate (require fewer total heat units) than the same hybrid planted in late April or early May.  He found that the required heat units from planting to kernel black layer decreased on average about 6.8 GDDs (growing degree days) per day of delayed planting so that a hybrid rated at 2800 GDDs planted at the normal time would require 204 fewer GDDs or about 2600 GDDs if planted 30 days late in late May or early June.  Dr. Thomison does point out that other factors should be considered when deciding on whether to change from a full season to a short season hybrid.  One of these considerations is that a full season hybrid although yielding more could have a significantly higher grain moisture at maturity than earlier maturing hybrids if fall weather conditions are not conducive to rapid drydown.


Another factor that relates to insect control is that European corn borer (ECB) damage and yield reductions are often greater even under low ECB pressure when corn hybrids are planted late.  This warrants the selection of ECB Bt hybrids whenever possible for late planted corn situations.


Since late planting is most likely to occur on soils that are either warmer than the temperature seen at normal planting time or will warm up much quicker as we move into June, germination and emergence will be better than that seen at the optimum planting date.  For early planting dates and optimum plant dates, we often plant 5 to 10 percent higher seeding rates than the target or desired harvest population since we expect greater seedling mortality.  For late planting, seeding rates can be decreased to about 3 percent higher than the desired harvest population and this will reduce the production cost at least a little.


Weed Control:  If the field has not received a burndown, you may need to adjust your standard burndown program to account for larger weeds. If residual herbicides were used ahead of the anticipated planting, you need to think about when the products were applied and at what rate.  Most of the residual herbicides will not provide more than 3 to 4 weeks of activity.  What do the labels allow regarding an additional application?  Are weeds present at time of planting and do they need to be killed?


Disease Issues:  Most issues with stand are caused by wet conditions.  No seed treatment will save you from plants submerged in water or growing in standing water for prolonged periods of time.  The presence of Pythium or Fusarium on roots of plants growing in wet cool soils does not mean stand loss was caused by these organisms.  Rather, stand issues were likely a complex of issues related to poor plant growth and excess water.


Planting into cool soils can result in more issues with pre- or post-emergent damping off due to the seeds remaining in the soil for longer periods of time or delayed seedling growth.  If you replant and stick with a 100-120 day hybrid you can end up with stalk rot or stalk strength issues later on, especially if growing unirrigated corn, because the corn may be exposed to more stressful growing conditions (hoy dry) during critical periods of plant growth.


Two other diseases that should be targeted for finding resistant hybrids are gray leaf spot and northern corn leaf blight.  Whether you are choosing a corn hybrid to replant or choosing a hybrid for the normal planting time, hybrids with resistance to these two diseases should be high on your list.


Irrigation Practices:  On late planted corn, any early moisture stress around V4 to V6 would be more critical and possibly contribute to a yield reduction.  Late planted corn is growing faster than is normally seen since there are so many heat units (GDDs) accumulating in June and early July and the soil is probably already warm.  Therefore, a grower might fail to recognize how rapidly corn roots are growing and how fast soil moisture is being depleted.  This could lead to underestimating the need for additional irrigation.  This is one aspect where moisture stress could have a larger impact on the yield of late planted corn.


If wet soil conditions continue into the rapid growth phase, it might become difficult to apply N via fertigation in a timely fashion.  In case this is a concern, growers could set their irrigation system to run as fast through the field as possible so the water volume is kept as low as possible while applying N fertilizer to keep the grow growing and developing without causing excessive denitrification, leaching, or root suffocation from water ponding.  This applies N almost as a foliar feed application but in a dilute enough solution that foliar burn is not likely to happen.


Insects and Slugs:    One of the most common insect problems in later plated corn is the black cutworm. Conditions favoring cutworm out breaks include a combination of late planted corn, poorly drained soil, heavy broadleaf weed growth, planting into soybean stubble, and reduced tillage. Even if an at planting protection method is used including at-planting insecticides, seed treatments or Bt corn, scouting after plant emergence will still be important.  If conditions remain cool and wet, wireworms and white grubs can continue to be a problem. Although problems from annual grubs tend to decrease with the warming of the soil and development of grubs from the damaging larval stage to pupation, it will still be important to sample fields for grubs before planting to determine what level and species is present and if larvae have started to pupate. Wireworms can remain in the larval stage for up to six years, depending on the species, so you can expect them to be present in fields with a history of wireworm problems. Since slugs have already hatched, the potential for slug damage will be determined by weather conditions after planting. In wet years, we have seen economic levels of damage from slugs continue through June so scouting as soon as corn is spiking is important to time a rescue treatment.

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GMO Milk

Will non-GMO be the next trend?

When food products made from genetically modified organisms (GMOs) hit commercial markets in the late 1990s, many thought consumer opposition would be short lived. Now a vast majority of the nation’s corn and soybeans are GMOs, which means that milk—except for milk that’s organically produced—is also considered to be a GMO product.

The number of consumers who are buying organic food products and/or food products made without GMOs is increasing; both the organic and non-GMO food categories are seeing tremendous growth, says Sara Dorland, analyst with the Daily Dairy Report and managing partner at Ceres Dairy Risk Management, Seattle.

“Regardless of the science, 20 years after the first commercial introduction of genetically engineered (GE) crops, consumers are starting to push back, and a growing number of consumers are reaching for products with ‘clean’ labels, no artificial colors or flavors, and in some cases non-GMO,” Dorland notes. “And large food companies are starting to pay attention.”

Within the past year, Dorland notes that Kraft Foods removed artificial colors from its iconic yellow macaroni and cheese, and General Mills recently committed to labeling U.S. products that contain GMOs. Whole Foods has also said that by 2018 it will have implemented a full transparency policy on GMOs and will verify all non-GMO claims.

In late April, Dannon announced plans to transition its Oikos Greek, Danimals, and Dannon yogurts as non-GMO products starting this July. “In addition, by December 2017, Dannon, like General Mills, will label any brands that still contain genetically engineered ingredients. As larger companies look more seriously at sourcing non-GMO milk, the entire dairy industry will need to take note,” says Dorland.

While the news that the popularity of organic and non-GMO milk products is not necessarily good news for conventional milk producers, it could present an opportunity to those who are willing to change their strategy.

“For dairies converting to non-GMO milk, the overall process could be easier than switching to organic production,” Dorland notes. “Recently, the Non-GMO Project changed its rules for non-GMO milk production by reducing the conversion period from one year to 30 days, which basically reduces the amount of time a transitioning producer must sell non-GMO milk as conventional. This is a significant benefit for producers making or contemplating the switch.”

Non-GMO regulations also do not impose pasture restrictions on milk cows like those for organic milk producers. Assuming a producer does not have cloned or genetically altered cows, Dorland notes that making the switch to producing non-GMO milk is a matter of sourcing non-GMO feed.

“Readily available feed could be the limiting factor in conversion to non-GMO milk,” says Dorland. In 2015, 92% of all corn and 94% of all soybean acres were planted with genetically engineered seeds, according to USDA. For corn and soybeans to be considered non-GMO, a five-year transition period is required for crops used in livestock feed.

“That does not necessarily preclude the resulting crops from being eligible for non-GMO status during the transition period, but they must be proven to be non-GMO through testing, and the producer or farmer must demonstrate that the seeds and the crop are part of a system designed to avoid GMOs,” says Dorland. The Non-GMO Project focuses on testing feed because no reliable tests for milk exists. Organic feed also qualifies as non-GMO, but the cost of organic feed is likely higher.

If consumers are willing to pay up for non-GMO dairy products and manufacturers are willing to pay a premium for non-GMO milk, which at this point is unclear, some dairy producers will likely start looking to non-GMO production as a way to differentiate their product in what is currently an oversupplied milk market, Dorland adds.

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Small Ruminant Producers:


We are pleased to offer an online training program for FAMACHA© certification as part of new Northeast SARE Grant (LNE15-342).  Online FAMACHA© certification can be obtained through a 4-step process:


  1. View our 2 hour video on Integrated Parasite Control and our 30 minute video, Why and How To Do FAMACHA© Scoring. Complete an online post-video summary.
  2. Practice the Cover, Push, Pull, POP! technique.
  3. Record and email us a video of your FAMACHA© scoring technique.
  4. Follow-up by phone and/or email as needed.Live video sessions can be utilized if needed.

Once this certification process is complete, you will be able to purchase a FAMACHA© card.  Visit our website for detailed instructions including contacts for more information,


For those producers that are already FAMACHA© certified, our online videos serve as an excellent refresher on integrated parasite management as well as the FAMACHA© system including hands-on demonstration of the proper scoring technique.

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Planting Season and Farm Vehicles

  • Planting season presents special dangers for farm workers and motorists. Drive slowly and cautiously during spring planting season, says MU Extension health and safety specialist Karen Funkenbusch.

Drivers should pay special attention as they travel rural roads and highways during spring planting time, says University of Missouri Extension health and safety specialist Karen Funkenbusch.

It’s the time of the year when the rural roads are filled with tractors pulling farm equipment. Slow-moving farm equipment presents special dangers for motorists, Funkenbusch says.

The most common accident occurs when a slow-moving farm vehicle turns left. Large farm equipment needs to make wide turns to line up with a gate or driveway.

Slow down on rural roads, she says. A car traveling 55 mph requires 224 feet to stop on dry payment, assuming average reaction time for braking. At 55 mph, it takes a car just five seconds to close the length of a football field and overtake a tractor moving 15 mph.

Stay back from farm equipment. Use caution and patience, Funkenbusch says. Noise from the equipment’s motor and tires may make it difficult for the driver to hear approaching vehicles.

Dusk, sunrise and blinding sunlight compromise the driver’s vision. Keep an eye on traffic behind you that may also attempt to pass. Pass only when the road is clear and vision is unobstructed. “Getting to your destination safely is the main goal,” Funkenbusch says. “A few extra minutes may save lives.”

Most farmers make every effort to be courteous and safe, she says. Many will pull equipment off the roadway when road shoulders permit to let motorists pass safely. Watch for hand signals from the farmer.

Farmers may rush as they face weather-related deadlines. They want to get into the fields to till and plant. Practice patience during the small and temporary inconvenience of your food being produced, Funkenbusch says.

Funkenbusch also recommends that parents talk to teen drivers in their household about additional dangers presented during farming season. Hired farmhands also should review safe practices.

Funkenbusch offers additional recommendations for farmers:

  • When driving farm machinery on a road or highway, display a red flag measuring 12-14 feet high atop a pole so that the machine can be seen even when hidden by a rise or curve in the roadway.
  • When rounding a curve, stay to the right-hand side of the road as much as possible. Avoid soft or steep road shoulders, which may cause the tractor to tip.
  • Take extra precautions when driving in the early morning or early evening hours, when visibility is often impaired by sun.
  • If traffic lines up behind you, pull off or let traffic pass when it is safe to do so.
  • Railroad crossings, especially those without gates, present a special hazard. Never take a safe crossing for granted.
  • Use hand signals, electronic signals or both to indicate intentions to turn. Avoid wide turns.
  • Turn your headlights on, but turn off rear spotlights, which can be mistaken for headlights.
  • Avoid the roads during rush hour, in bad weather and at night.
  • Use pilot cars if going a considerable distance, and hang a flag out the window of these vehicles or use a slow-moving vehicle emblem.
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Un-complicating firearm and captive bolt euthanasia

While never the preferred outcome, humane euthanasia plays a key role in animal care and veterinary medicine. For bovine practitioners working in the field, euthanasia of cattle often involves using a firearm or a captive-bolt device. Recommendations for placement of the bullet or bolt can, however, create some confusion and potentially affect efficacy of the procedure.

During the recent Academy of Veterinary Consultants conference, Iowa State University veterinarian Renee Dewell, DVM, MS, presented a simple way to determine the optimal point of entry for euthanizing cattle with a firearm or captive-bolt device.

Dewell credits a team including Dr. Eric Rowe and Mr. Wolfgang Weber from the anatomy division at ISU, Dr. Dee Griffin from the University of Nebraska, ISU Extension veterinarian Grant Dewell and Mr. Doug Bear, Iowa BQA Coordinator, for working together to provide a rationale and validate an easier way to describe the ideal entrance point for a bolt or bullet.

Dewell’s team suggests that the operator simply aim the bullet or captive bolt towards the base of the tongue at the midpoint of a line drawn between the base of each ear.

Dewell said the project was initiated after several members of the group related incidents where they  observed those responsible for euthanasia struggling with firearm or captive bolt euthanasia because of difficulty in rapidly and correctly locating the point of entry. “Veterinarians and others responsible for euthanasia are tasked with dispatching an animal as quickly and humanely as possible.  A method to rapidly and accurately locate the optimal point of entry for a bullet or captive bolt may simplify the procedure and result in less stress for both the person conducting the euthanasia procedure as well as the animal.” Says Dewell.

Dewell acknowledges there are several existing descriptions to locate the optimal point of entry, all targeting the brainstem. While Dewell and her group don’t dispute the validity of  them, the group contends that some techniques to determine the point of entry may be difficult to remember, require multiple steps, need to be adjusted based on breed type, and may be challenging in polled cattle when the suggested protocol uses horns as a landmark. Dewell also noted that the recent PRRS (swine) and HPAI (poultry) outbreaks have invigorated efforts within the cattle industry to plan for a swift and effective response during a disease outbreak. Dewell stated that depopulation would likely be considered in some disease scenarios as part of a response effort and emphasized that preference should be given to the use of depopulation techniques and strategies that are most likely to minimize human psychological stress and support animal welfare.

“Several team members had already been successfully using the ears to help determine the point of entry and we had discussed this concept with others but none of us was aware of any scientific support for this idea.”  In addition, she says she and several team members had observed packing plant personnel use the ears as landmarks when stunning. “Packing plants may process more than 350 head per hour. Rapid and accurate stunning is absolutely critical to protect human safety, support a high standard of cattle welfare, and maintain the projected kill rate. Plant personnel who are responsible for stunning use a captive bolt far more than veterinarians or other cattle caretakers.  Even though the captive bolts used in packing plants are non-penetrating, the intended point of entry is comparable to that for penetrating captive bolts and firearms.”

The team is confident that their suggested technique is both reliable and broadly applicable to the bovine species because of the relationship of cranial nerves between the brainstem and external acoustic meatus as well as the comparable brain size in cattle regardless of maturity. Dewell expressed gratitude for the expert anatomical input provided by Rowe and Weber as well as the fact that bovine cranial nerve and head skeletal anatomy have already been well documented in the literature. These established anatomical parameters are common to the bovine species regardless of age, gender, presence/absence of horns, or breed type. They used this existing knowledge to explain the suggested protocol and then demonstrated it using specially prepared prosections.

Dewell summarized the presentation by emphasizing the importance of appropriate ammunition and equipment, proper animal restraint.  She also reminded us that the AVMA’s Euthanasia Guidelines strongly recommended a reliable and humane adjunct method be used following the use of captive bolt.




Credit Iowa State University

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Land O’ Lakes implements nationwide base plan

This story originally appeared on Farm Journal’s MILK

Milk production in the U.S. has grown substantially over the last 10 years. From 2000 to 2014 the amount of milk produced in America has grown 23.1%. Combined with production increases around the world, supply is outpacing demand and milk prices have fallen.

In response to the glut of milk, Land O’ Lakes will have a nationwide base plan fully implemented this year.  “By instituting a Base Program, we are acting as an industry leader to implement more structure and discipline and be in a better position to capture market opportunities to maximize the value of member production,” officials say.

Details on the base program have not been disclosed; however, Land O’ Lakes officials say they have had similar programs in place for California members since 2008 and for Bismarck, N.D., members since September 2006. The co-op introduced a Base Program in their Eastern and Upper Midwest regions earlier in 2016.

It is unknown at this time if other co-ops will follow suit. Dairy Farmers of America, the nation’s largest dairy cooperative, says it doesn’t intend to implement a nationwide program this year.

“At this time, DFA does not have any plans to establish a national quota/base plan for our membership,” says John Wilson, Senior Vice President and Chief Fluid Marketing Officer. “As the movement of milk is very regional, supply management decisions are handled region by region.”

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The Holstein Dairy Cow

History of dairy cow breeds: Holstein

Holstein cows are the most recognized breed of dairy cattle with distinctive black and white or red and white markings.

Have you ever looked at a dairy cow and wondered about the history of the breed? This new series from Michigan State University Extension will explore the history of the seven major breeds of dairy cattle in the U.S. First in the series is the Holstein.

Holstein cows are perhaps the most recognized breed of dairy cattle and are the most common dairy breed in the U.S. The have distinctive black and white or red and white markings. The red and white coloring is a recessive gene that appears when both the dam (mother) and sire (father) are carriers or exhibit the trait themselves. The Holstein breed is known for high milk production but has less butterfat and protein based on percentage in the milk, compared other breeds.

Holstein cows originated in the Netherlands approximately 2,000 years ago. Two breeds of cattle, black animals from the Batavians (present day Germany) and white animals from the Friesians (present day Holland), were crossed to create a new breed of cattle. This crossbreeding led to a high milk-producing animal that was able to do so on limited feed resources. Originally, this breed was known as Holstein-Friesians but is now known more simply as Holsteins. Friesian cattle still exist today but are separate from the Holstein breed. There are Friesian breeds from the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Holland and these animals tend to be smaller bodied than Holstein cattle.

Holstein cattle were initially brought to the U.S. in 1852 by a Massachusetts man named Winthrop Chenery. There was a growing market for milk and a need for cattle, so dairy breeders looked to Holland for animals. Chenery purchased the cow from a Dutch sailing master who had a Holstein on board to provide fresh milk to his crew during the voyage. Impressed with the cow’s milk production, Chenery imported more cows in 1857, 1859 and 1861, and soon many other breeders followed suit to establish lines of Holstein cattle in the U.S.

Near the end of the 1800’s, there were enough cattle and dairy farmers interested in the breed that the Holstein-Friesian Association of America was formed in 1885 to maintain herdbooks and record pedigrees of cattle in the U.S. In 1994, the association changed its name to Holstein Association USA, Inc.

Here are a few more fun facts about the Holstein breed:

  • A mature cow weighs about 1,500 pounds and stands 58 inches tall at her shoulder.
  • There are more than nine million dairy cows in this country and about 90 percent of them are Holsteins.
  • Holstein calves weigh 80 to100 pounds when born.
  • Holstein cows take the top awards in milk production. The average cow produces about 25,000 pounds, or around 2,900 gallons, of milk each lactation or milking, cycle. Each lactation cycle lasts about a year.

Enjoyed learning about Holsteins? Stay tuned for more articles about U.S. dairy breeds!

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Will dairy base plans be triggered this spring?

With milk production up in New York, Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota and processing plants nearing capacity, it begs the question whether dairy co-ops will have to activate base plans to slow milk production.

It’s a real possibility, says the University of Wisconsin’s Bob Cropp. “I haven’t heard of any new big plant capacity coming on out there,” he says.

Plants in New York and Michigan were brimming to overflow last spring, and some had to dump milk after they skimmed off solids. This year, even though we’re not yet through the first quarter, production is up.

Even discounting for leap year, February milk production in New York is up 4.6%, Michigan is up 7.7%, Wisconsin is up 5.1% and Minnesota is up 1.4%. Cow numbers are also up in three of these four states. New York is up 4,000 head; Michigan is up 11,000, and Wisconsin is up 5,000. Cow numbers in Minnesota are unchanged.

At the same time, milk/feed margins are tight, particularly in New York. Because of the large milk supply, dairy processors there are not paying premiums to attract milk and basis is much lower than in the Midwest. “That hurts,” says Mark Stephenson, a dairy economist with the University of Wisconsin.

“Bankers out there tell me there are a few farms that are in bad enough shape that they likely will not be get operating loans,” he says. “That’s not widespread, but if you’re talking about that at all going into spring planting season, if you’re working capital isn’t adequate, that’s tough.”

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Farmers’ Markets

DOVER — With a record season behind them, Delaware’s farmers’ markets are gearing up for another great year.

Twenty-three community-run farmers’ markets will be opening over the next three months, selling Delaware produce and other farm-fresh goods.

“Farmers’ markets are a great way to connect with the people who grow your food, building relationships and strengthening communities,” said Secretary of Agriculture Ed Kee. “For farmers, they’re a wonderful opportunity to reach new customers and have some great conversations around agriculture’s importance and the strength of our family farms.”

The season begins April 7, with the opening of the Garden Shack Farmers’ Market near Lewes. The Milton Farmers’ Market opens April 22, and the Fresh Friday Farmers’ Market in Wilmington opens April 29. Twelve markets open in May and eight in June.

A farmers’ market directory, complete with locations, hours, and dates of operation, is at the Delaware Buy Local Guide at

The 2015 season set a record, with more than $3 million in sales, up more than $390,000 over 2014 and up ninefold since 2007.

Nine markets are offering Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) transactions, allowing families to purchase local produce and food items as part of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

All community-run farmers’ markets are operated at the local level, by municipalities, business groups, farmers or market associations, with the Department of Agriculture providing support and marketing assistance.

Farmers and others interested in becoming a vendor, or community groups interested in starting a local market, can contact Department of Agriculture marketing specialist David Smith at (302) 698-4625 or

# # #

Media contact:
Dan Shortridge
Director of Communications and Marketing
Delaware Department of Agriculture

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Delaware Farmland Preservation

Delaware farmland preservation mandate fails

The goal of the Delaware Farmland Preservation Program is to keep working farms intact instead of having the land developed as commercial or housing lots. (Delaware State News file photo/Andrew West)

DOVER — The Delaware House of Representatives voted down a constitutional amendment that would have mandated the state provide $10 million for farmland preservation annually.

Members were in favor 20-17, with four absent, but the chamber fell short of the two-thirds needed to change the constitution.

In 2005, the General Assembly unanimously passed a bipartisan bill setting aside $10 million from the realty transfer tax collected by the state every year. That sum was intended to go to the Agricultural Lands Preservation Foundation to buy development rights and keep land free from construction.

The law says the state “shall” allocate $10 million on a yearly basis, but the farmland program has received the full level of support only twice in the past seven years.

In the current year, $3 million was provided.

Rep. David Wilson, R-Bridgeville, the sponsor of the legislation, said state officials should not break the law “just because we can.”

Rep. David Wilson

“Because the law is not part of the state’s constitution, this funding is vulnerable and is being raided,” he said on the chamber floor.

The University of Delaware has reported the total economic contribution of agriculture in Delaware in 2008 was $7.95 billion.

Participants in the state’s preservation program first enter into agreements where they pledge not to build on their land for at least a decade. Later, they have the chance to turn their property into an easement, selling the development rights to the state.

The state has spent about $114 million on 808 easements covering 116,000 acres since 1996. Of that, 61,000 acres are in Kent, 42,000 in Sussex and the remainder in New Castle.

Of the 16 lawmakers who represent Kent and Sussex counties and were present Tuesday, 15 voted in support of the bill.

Rep. Wilson said afterward he was not surprised, but was disappointed.

“We’ve lost the cars, the chemicals is well on their way out,” he said, arguing for providing greater support to the agricultural industry.

Reach staff writer Matt Bittle at

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