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Virginia ag leaders say the acreage for no-till farming in the state are woefully under-estimated by the EPA and farmers are not getting enough credit for their efforts to cleanup the Chesapeake Bay.
A road survey, conducted by Stephen Davis at the Middlesex County, Virginia Extension Office, has revealed that approximately 90 percent of fields in eastern Virginia are being no-tilled. Furthermore, over 37 percent of the acreage contained a winter cover or small grain crop.
Veteran Virginia Crop Consultant Wendell Cooper says the amount of no-till acreage he works in Southeastern Virginia is even higher than 90 percent. The only exceptions are peanuts, which are on the decline in acreage in Virginia and vegetable crops, which make up a small percentage of farmland in the state, he says.
Virginia Tech Soybean Specialist David Holshouser says virtually all the soybeans he sees growing in the state are under some type of conservation-tillage system, primarily no-till. His observations concur with the Middlesex County Extension study that over 90 percent of the cropland in Virginia is in a conservation-tillage system.
In conducting his study, Stephen Davis traveled over 350 miles and checked 774 fields in 13 counties. His travels took Davis through the heart of the Chesapeake Bay watershed in Virginia, an area representing 178,000 acres of corn, soybean, wheat, and barley.
“When I first began in Gloucester, I was stopping every half mile and recording data on both the left and right side of the road. Then, beginning in Middlesex County, I began stopping at all crop and permanent grass fields that I passed on the left and right side of the road,” Davis explains.
“The purpose of the survey was to get a better idea of fields that were in no-till production and compare findings to the DCR numbers for the same practice,” he adds.
Survey results revealed that only 4 percent of the fields were tilled. No tillage was practiced on 90 percent of the fields and another 6 percent were in permanent grass. A cover crop was planted on 15 percent of the fields. Corn was growing on 44 percent and soybeans were growing on 27 percent of the fields.
Wheat or barley was being grown on another 22.5 percent of the fields at the time of the survey. Much of this acreage likely was planted to double-crop soybeans and some percentage of it would have a winter cover crop planted on it.