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Workshop to focus on conservation tillage production systems By Clint Thompson

Sustaining agriculture’s future through conservation practices will be the focus of an upcoming workshop in Lyons, Ga. on Thursday, Feb. 13.

The Conservation Tillage Production Systems Training Conference/Workshop will be held at the University of Georgia Vidalia Onion and Vegetable Research Center. The workshop is designed to educate farmers on the potential benefits conservation tillage can bring to their day-to-day operations.

“Conservation tillage practices have become increasingly popular by farmers over the last 20 years. A lot of farmers use conservation practices, to some extent,” said Chris Tyson, the UGA Extension agent in Tattnall County. “I’d say more and more people are doing some type of conservation practice. They may just be running a strip-till rig through winter weeds that they kill off, or they may be planting a cover crop like a wheat cover crop. Or they may be using something like a heavy rye cover crop.”

Tyson will lead inside and outside field day demonstrations at the fourteenth annual event. “What we’re doing at this year’s workshop is focusing more on back to basics; very basic stuff in conservation tillage. Why are they important? Why it’s important to conserve water or prevent erosion?”

Farmers will see a rye crop planted adjacent to the Vidalia Onion Research Lab where the conference will be held. Tyson will point out the process used in growing the rye and explain the benefits.

UGA Extension faculty members will discuss various conservation practices. Gary Hawkins, a UGA Extension water resource specialist, will cover how to conserve soil and water resources.

In his study of conservation tillage, ( 0028 caes.uga.edu/topics/sustainag/contillage 026C ), Hawkins describes the technique as a process of preparing land for crops with the focus of enhancing aspects of a healthy soil. One way this is done is by planting a row crop, like rye, during the winter months. The rye is planted but killed prior to planting cotton. As a result, limited tillage is needed during cotton planting. This reduces the amount of disturbed soil. If this process is repeated every year, residue left from the winter cover crops builds the soil’s organic matter, reduces erosion and runoff and improves soil quality and water quality.

For a list of the system’s benefits, see 0031 caes.uga.edu/topics/sustainag/contillage/benefits 0440 .

UGA Extension weed specialist Stanley Culpepper will discuss weed management issues and UGA Extension ag economist Amanda Smith will focus on the economics of conservation systems.

“From an economic standpoint, conservation tillage farmers make fewer trips across the field because they’re not having to disc or plow the soil. So there’s a savings from the standpoint of machinery and equipment with lower fuel, labor and repair costs as well as time,” Smith said. “Some farmers have found that if they use conservation tillage practices, they can actually expand their acres. They’re spending the same amount of time in the fields, but farming more acres.”

Yields from conservation tillage compare to those from conventional tillage, she said. However, farmers who practice conservation tillage enjoy non-monetary benefits that result from limited tillage of farmland.

The workshop will begin at 9 a.m. with registration and welcome and conclude at 2 p.m. Registration is free, but interested participants are asked to register at 0020 ugatiftonconference.org/calendar 0201 .

(Clint Thompson is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences based in Tifton.)

Conservation tillage in cotton field.
Conservation tillage in cotton field.

Corn and rye residue, part of a conservation tillage system on Barry Martin's farm in Hawkinsville, Georgia.

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Corn and rye residue, part of a conservation tillage system on Barry Martin's farm in Hawkinsville, Georgia. Download Image
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