Three years ago Buddy Stuckey was getting frustrated in his efforts to grow no-till cotton. A year later he was the host farmer for one of Monsanto's Centers of Excellence demonstration farms.

Today Stuckey is no-tilling 75 percent of his cotton and intending to increase to 100 percent. He is opening his farm on Lucknow Road, one mile north of Bishopville, S.C., on Sept. 28, 2000 for fellow farmers to compare no-till, minimum-till and conventionally-tilled cotton.

The annual field day begins at 4:30 p.m. with speakers and field demonstrations, followed by a pig picking.

Equipment dealers and other exhibitors will join specialists from Clemson University, Monsanto representatives and others in evaluating Stuckey's cotton and sharing their experiences with conservation-tilled cotton. Stuckey says he has learned a lot about no-till equipment, variety selection, weed control and other aspects of no-till cotton.

"The main thing I was after was making the same amount of cotton more economically," he says. "That's exactly what I've been able to do with no-till. The last two years have been real dry. My no-till cotton has yielded as well or better than anything else I've planted, and it has cost me less to grow than my conventional cotton. We've had better rains this year and I'm looking forward to seeing how my no-till compares in a good growing season. Even if they yield the same, I'm coming out ahead because of the lower costs with no-till."

In the past, Stuckey felt like he had to till the soil to break up hard pans and prepare a clean seedbed. He then cultivated to get rid of weeds and break up the crust on top after rains.

"With no-till, we're cutting out most of those trips," he says. "Financially I'm well ahead. We're not having to buy near the diesel fuel we used to burn. With the price of diesel as high as it is today, that's a major savings. And, I haven't had to rebuild a disk harrow in three years. Now that I know I can handle no-till cotton, I'm working toward planting all my cotton no-till."

Stuckey has worked through the spring and summer with Lee County Extension Agent Randy Cubbage and Monsanto's John Bradley to grow replicated trials of no-till, minimum-till and conventionally-tilled cotton. With demonstration fields spaced a mile apart, tour participants can see the same production systems under different soil and environmental conditions.

"I'm also glad we've decided to have this year's field day late in September instead of in August like last year," Stuckey says. "This year we should be able to get a better idea how this cotton is going to yield. We can see how it's growing, how well the weed and insect controls worked and other things. This year we'll be able to look at mature cotton."