The Virginia No-Till Alliance in collaboration with Virginia Cooperative Extension will launch its fifth year of conferences on no-till farming practices and technologies with four events across Virginia in February. Each conference will be tailored to grower needs in that particular region of the state.

No-till farming minimizes susceptibility to erosion, compaction, fertilizer and chemical runoff, and leaching of nutrients. It is safer for the environment than traditional methods of turning and cultivating soil, while more profitable for the farmer in the long term.

The conferences will take place as follows:

  • Rockingham County Fairgrounds, Harrisonburg, on Feb. 12
  • Olde Dominion Agricultural Complex, Chatham, on Feb. 13
  • Keystone Tractor Museum, Colonial Heights, on Feb. 14
  • University Hall at Mary Washington College, Fredericksburg, on Feb. 15.

Conference agendas will feature speakers from around the United States along with local farmers and state experts who will offer tips on no-till agriculture. Jay Fuhrer, soil conservationist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service in North Dakota, and DeAnn Presley, assistant professor of environmental soil science and management at Kansas State University, will speak at all four events.

Fuhrer’s talk, “It’s Not Just Dirt Anymore,” will explore the positive effects that conservation tillage has on soil quality and specifically soil health because healthy soil is the foundation for productive cropping and grazing systems.

Presley has spent several years researching vertical tillage implements, which disturb the soil less than their traditional counterparts. She will offer an overview of the array of implements in use today and reveal her findings regarding vertical tillage effects on soil quality.

“Those who think that no-till farming methods result in low productivity should listen to David Wolfskill, a dairy farmer from Berks County, Pa., who is past national no-till, corn-growing champion,” said Matt Yancey, agriculture and natural resources Extension agent in Rockingham County. “He is a firm believer that no-till agriculture is the key to his high yields and that no-till farming can work on any field.”

Wolfskill will speak in both Harrisonburg and Chatham. In 2012, his 307 bushel-per-acre yield missed the national title by less than two bushels.

After a year of unprecedented slug populations, slug control is a timely topic. Joanne Whalen, an integrated pest management specialist at the University of Delaware, will lead a session on slug management options at the Harrisonburg and Chatham events. Co-presenters will be Bobby Clark, agriculture and natural resources Extension agent in Shenandoah County, and local producers who have been dealing with increased populations of slugs.

David Reed, Extension agronomist at the Southern Piedmont Agricultural and Extension Center, will round out the program in Chatham with information on how to make conservation tillage work in tobacco production.

Soil sciences and weed control will also be a conference topic in Colonial Heights. Scott Hagood, professor emeritus and Extension weed scientist will talk about strategies for weed control to use with conservation tillage — an especially timely topic in view of growing weed resistance to traditional control techniques. Mark Reiter, Extension soil and nutrient management specialist at the Eastern Shore Agricultural Research and Extension Center, will discuss fertility strategies, focusing on efficient new technologies.

The Fredericksburg conference will spotlight cover crops. Wade Thomason, Extension grains specialists, and Jim Tate, conservation specialist with the Hanover-Caroline Soil and Water Conservation District, will provide updates on ongoing cover crop research.

Each conference starts at 9 a.m. and features a trade show where local, regional, and national vendors will display a variety of products and services related to crop production using conservation tillage. Each conference costs $10 per person, except for the Chatham event, which will be free of charge.

For more information and to register, visit the Virginia No-Till Alliance website. The website also includes presentations from past meetings and information related to no-till and conservation tillage agriculture.

Contact Matt Yancey at 540-564-3080 for further information.



This article was written by Susan Felker.

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