Learn Conservation Tillage from farmers that succeed with it

 

The promise of reduced tillage methods is that you save time and fuel, reduce wear on equipment and keep precious top soil where it is.

A group of 200 to 250 farmers are expected to at University of Minnesota Extensions 2012 Conservation Tillage Conference, which, among other things, offers nine continuing ed credits.

The conference takes place Feb. 7-8 at the International Event Center in Rochester. Call 1-888-241-3261 to register. Fees are $150 for both days, $90 for the first day only, or $60 for second day only.

“We cover weeds, fertility and try to get all aspects of reduced tillage,” said Jodi DeJong-Hughes, a soil scientist with Extension who has conducted research on conservation tillage since 2003. “Conservation tillage is a lot more than just changing your equipment. That’s why I love the farmer panels at the conference–all of these guys are doing reduced tillage in their own operations, but they are all doing it in different ways. It’s great for farmers to see that it’s not one way fits all. Here’s an opportunity to learn from folks that are really making this work.”

DeJong-Hughes noted that numbers of farmers in Minnesota doing conservation tillage have stalled, which she attributes to a wild run of different weather from year to year over the last few growing seasons, alternating between very wet and very dry.

“When people come up against a challenging weather regime and they are trying to learn this new cultivation method, some are probably tempted to go back to what they know or what they are used to,” she said.

But tipping the balance toward reduced tillage is the growing base of knowledge being developed by farmers with decades of proven yields. DeJong-Hughes will be joined in a research presentation by Prof. Jeff Vetsch, who has 15 years of experience with reduced tillage. The equipment manufacturers are coming up with ideas that address problems like extreme soil moisture or lack of soil moisture–a real concern this year across the southern tier of Minnesota. Many farmers are worried about their soil condition not having had the typical amount of rainfall to percolate through and break up soil clods.

The conference will be a chance to network with other farmers and learn how they are dealing with these and other challenges. One new feature of the conference this year will be “Table Talk.”

“This is kind of like a ‘lightning round,” said DeJong-Hughes. Instead of an hour-long discussion, we’re taking and breaking up the hour into four 15-minute blocks, so farmers can get to more topics, get the basics, make some good contacts and ask follow-up questions.”

Even though equipment isn’t all there is to know about reduced tillage, it’s still an important part and the Conservation Tillage conference will not stint in giving manufacturers a forum to present their latest products. DeJong-Hughes noted that manufacturers have come up with novel coulter set-ups that give the farmer an alternative that keeps residue in place while it helps address issues of soil condition.

“Some manufacturers have come up with double coulters that can be swapped in instead of the knife for a spring to pass, to freshen up the berms, introduce air, break up clods left over from last season,” she said. “Another piece we’re planning to use this spring has a three-coulter set up in a triangle shape–two outside ones are about seven inches apart. It has hoses so can you put down starter fertilizer at the same time you do this spring pass. This year, we’re going to compare using it in a full secondary pass, and compare that to no pass, and to a pass that just freshens up the berm.”

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