Fall in south Georgia — leaves on trees are slowly changing colors and a coolness is in the air. These subtle signals tell us it’s time again for the Sunbelt Agricultural Exposition.

The gigantic three-day farm trade show has earned its well-deserved reputation as North America’s Premier Farm Show.

The Expo is a must-see event for full-time farmers, part-time farmers, would-be farmers, and anyone who enjoys the rural lifestyle and living in the country.

The best technology the agricultural industry has to offer will be on display during the show Oct. 19-21.

It will again be held at its permanent location, Spence Field, the site of an old former military airbase near Moultrie, Ga. The Spence Field Expo site is located four miles southeast of U.S. Hwy. 319 on Ga. Hwy. 133.

Spence Field facilities allow for onsite overnight camping. A 4,500-foot runway controlled by the Federal Aviation Administration is available for private and charter airplanes.

For farmers needing equipment or wanting to see new agricultural technology put to use in a real farm setting, the Sunbelt Expo is the place to be.

Visitors to the show will find 100 acres of both indoor and outdoor exhibits, along with an adjoining 600-acre working research farm. The show has something for everyone involved in agriculture.

If you haven’t been to the Expo before, keep in mind that this show is big. You won’t be able to see everything in one day, or even in three days.

If you’re a returning visitor, you’ll notice a few changes at the show this year. For instance, popular backyard gardening demonstrations and seminars will be moving this year to the Family Living building.

The Expo’s hunting and fishing exhibits will be relocating to Agribusiness Building-4. Sheep and goat exhibits will be moving to the horse pavilion, and the dairy exhibits will be located under a new permanent building.

The crop harvesting and land tillage demonstrations, the equipment driving ranges, irrigation technology on display and the precision farming demonstrations all provide opportunities to see and compare a wide range of farming equipment.

Equipment company representatives will be in the fields and will be eager to answer any questions about their machinery.

The Expo farm is a working year-round agricultural classroom and laboratory, generating new information on the latest farming technologies.

New crop varieties, tillage systems, row spacings, fertilizer treatments, weed control, plant disease control and insect control methods are first tested at Expo before being introduced for commercial use.

For instance, the Expo farm pioneered the growing of peanuts using twin rows, conservation-tillage and new varieties to overcome the damage of tomato spotted wilt virus. University of Georgia Extension specialists still use the Expo farm to test new production and crop protection practices.

There’s no doubt the crop harvesting and land tillage demonstrations set Sunbelt Expo apart among major U.S. farm shows. When farm equipment manufacturers introduce new machines, Expo is the venue they select to first showcase the equipment.

Four- and six-row cotton pickers and self-propelled peanut combines were all first introduced at Sunbelt Expo.

The first opportunity for farmers in the Southeast to see cotton pickers with built-in module builders was at the Expo farm a few years ago.

Precision farming technology

Expo was also the first site to showcase the extensive array of precision farming technology, such as tractors with automated steering and global positioning systems, and sprayers and bulk fertilizer spreaders equipped with variable rate application technology.

Irrigation technology is also prominent in the Expo exhibits and in the crop fields. A new method for scheduling corn irrigation was tested for the first time this year on the Expo farm.

Cotton irrigation scheduling, now widely used by farmers in the Southeast, was also developed based on several years of early testing at the Expo farm.

Major crops this year include cotton, peanuts, corn, soybeans and bermudagrass hay. The Expo farm also features some of South Georgia’s largest plantings of alfalfa and perennial peanuts, both high quality forage legume crops. 

Crops grown for biofuel have been a major emphasis in the Expo fields this year.

You’ll find an extensive planting of switchgrass, which can be used as a feedstock for the making of ethanol. Another new fuel crop planted for the first time this year is miscanthus, a tall-growing perennial grass crop capable of producing 10 to 15 tons per acre.

“We’re seeing a huge amount of interest in fuel crops,” says Expo Director Chip Blalock, “and we’ll have a wealth of knowledge to share on this promising new farming venture.”

Tractor-drawn and shade-covered shuttle wagons will transport visitors to the fields to see the popular harvesting and tillage demonstrations. Assuming the weather is good, these demonstrations will last from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. each day.

On the way, visitors will be able to get off the wagons to get a close view of the equipment at work or to test drive new tractors with GPS and other precision farming technology.

Animal agriculture is also prominently featured. You’ll find special exhibit sections throughout the show dedicated to beef cattle, dairy cattle, horses, sheep and goats, alpacas, poultry, aquaculture and fish farming.

At many of these exhibits, you’ll be able to see presentations and demonstrations given by the Southeast’s top university researchers and Extension specialists.

The Sunbelt Expo helps to sponsor the most prestigious farming awards program in the United States.

The Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year award recognizes 10 outstanding farmers from the states of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.

One of these farmers will be announced as the overall Farmer of the Year winner at the Willie B. Withers luncheon Tuesday, Oct. 19.

The American Grand Finals stock dog trials will return for all three days to showcase some of the nation’s top border collie dogs as they move both cattle and sheep through a number of obstacles and pens in a large grassed field west of the exhibit grounds. This event always delivers in providing topnotch family-friendly entertainment.

Antique tractors will be on display in the western section of the exhibit grounds and will parade through the exhibits each afternoon of the show. Hunting and fishing exhibits and demonstrations will also return.

Other special exhibit sections emphasize pickups and automotive accessories, all terrain vehicles, lawn and garden equipment, electricity, propane gas, forestry and sawmills.

Family living exhibits will feature works of art and popular cooking demonstrations along with a wide variety of arts and crafts and information on health, safety, home furnishings and cookbooks.

For additional information visit www.sunbeltexpo.com.