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• The topic was of a recent farm tour was conservation-tillage, but ultimately the conversation got around to what’s the No. 1 topic on the minds of many Virginia farmers — the Chesapeake Bay cleanup.
Precision agriculture fits well
Randolph says, “A lot of the precision application technology got its start in the Midwest and it works well there. However, with our tabletop shape of many of our fields and the overlaps and funny corners of fields make swath control, autoboom and autosteer equipment more applicable here.”
The Virginia grower says it’s a fine line between getting enough nutrients in the soil to maximize crop production and avoid over-use of nutrients which isn’t good for the bottom line or the environment. “As we move forward with some of this new technology, I think we will become even more efficient,” Randolph says.
Ruffin says that new technology is out there — some of it probably hasn’t been fully developed. “We need more research at the university level to find and develop this technology.
“I think the next horizon that will help us be more efficient is genetics. It seems logical to me that drought tolerant corn is on the horizon. It seems possible that science will develop new varieties that use less nitrogen and other nutrients — the same chemicals that are causing problems with the Chesapeake Bay cleanup,” Ruffin says.
Question three: How do the Federal government and other organizations involved in the Chesapeake Bay cleanup get other Virginia farmers and farmers in other states that impact the Bay to your level of conservation farming.”
Mills says that’s a difficult mission to determine what other farmers will do. “For us, economics, things like cost-share and tax incentives on no-till equipment will entice farmers to try more conservation-tillage.
“The age of farmers is a big factor in adapting new technology. Too many farmers are near retirement age and their thinking seems to be — why should I invest in new equipment and change my practices? In our area, I don’t see a lot of young people getting into farming,” Mills says.
“We are in the York River watershed and the EPA is working on a total minimum daily load (TDML) of bacteria for that watershed. I’ve been to some of the fact-finding meetings, and I don’t think some of these folks have a real good idea of what the problem is.