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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.
Wildlife big contributor to problem
“For example, at one of the meetings they showed a chart showing what percentage of bacteria comes from which source. It showed over half was coming from wildlife, and the question was how do you plan to control wildlife. The answer is we don’t control that — we plan to reduce the TDML by placing restrictions on other areas, like agriculture,” Mills says.
Randolph contends (and research seems to confirm) that Virginia farmers are already doing more than their share of cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay. A recent Virginia Tech survey indicates over 90 percent of Virginia crop land that impacts the Bay is in some form of conservation-tillage.
Ruffin says the term ‘agriculture’ isn’t well defined by the people who are leading the movement to enforce President Obama’s decree to speed up the cleanup of the Chesapeake Bay.
“All these nutrient loads that agriculture supposedly puts into the Bay need to be quantified. It’s like ‘non-source point pollution’. What exactly does that mean and how much of it can be attributed to grain farmers, versus cattle producers, versus industrial sites?
“I think agriculture has done a tremendous job in helping reduce pollutants that go into the Bay — just by adopting no-till farming. What impact does continuous no-till farming have on the level of pollutants that go into the bay, or the restriction of these pollutants — those type figures need to quantified and verified,” Ruffin says.
Question four: Injecting nitrogen has been mentioned several times as a way to make application more precise and reduce the amount of chemical that can get into streams that impact the Chesapeake Bay. Why isn’t fertilizer injection commonly used in Virginia?
“For one thing, we have a huge problem transporting large equipment, our farms are typically spread out over a large area, with a lot of small fields, so that’s been an issue with injecting fertilizers in the past,” Randolph says.
He adds that very little fall fertilizer is used, noting that most nitrogen used in southeast Virginia goes in during a 45-day window at the front end of the growing season.