This month, I had the opportunity to talk no-till to the Virginia No-Till Alliance. This is the third year for their conference after looking at what the Pennsylvania no-tillers have done. They call their group Vantage and they are starting new chapters around the state, just like the Future Farmers of Virginia did in 1927 at Weyer’s Cave.
The event was held at the Rockingham County Fairgrounds in Harrisonburg, very near the site of the first chapter of the Future Farmers of Virginia.
I soon learned many of those farmer know more than I do. They asked hard questions. They have the water-quality issues of Chesapeake Bay, so they started no-tilling a long time ago.
I focused on planters and planter attachments to make no-till an improved success. They have lots of confined livestock operations and dairies, so handling of manure with no-till is a big discussion point.
That got us down to basic soil fertility and how to grow the most crop on the least amount of inputs, using the resources they have. They have great resources.
Very few of them tissue test. I find that everywhere. I don’t know how to balance nutrients and add micronutrients needed in such small quantities without the tissue test.
The forage guys have a leg up. They can better test the nutrient value of their crop than those of us who row crop. The minerals in rations change the precious manure you apply to your fields. We can measure that and we need to know what it is.
We can be way smarter than the educated people proposing regulations, so we must. No-till reduces brown rivers, which carry away our precious topsoil and nutrients. However, they don’t like the few chemicals we need to use to protect our crops.
The farmers in Virginia are the salt of the earth. You are, too. I try to be one every day, but in this economy and with all our opportunities and struggles, it is a struggle.
The No. 1 thing I can recommend today is to go through your planter and drill right now. Make sure it is able to do the job you want it to do. Planting time is almost here. Are we ready?
The No. 2 thing I can recommend is plan to tissue test all your fields, right now, today. Have a plan in place for you or someone to do it. If you need help with the interpretation, I am available, as well as many recognized people in the ag industry. You applied various nutrients; know what your crop took up.
I planted my first crop as an 8th grader in 1963 before going to high school. I can’t wait until the next one is out of the ground.