No-till is a system that lets the farmer be flexible enough to roll with the punches of the production season, says Ron Morse, Virginia Tech horticulturist.

Morse will be on-hand March 27 for a conservation-tillage seminar at the Pitt County, N.C., Agricultural Center in Greenville. The “Cover the Land Conservation-Tillage Seminar” begins at 8:30 a.m. and runs until 3:45 p.m. CCA and pesticide re-certification credits will be available.

Morse will also bring to the seminar the no-till rig he and colleagues developed for transplanted crops.

The seminar will also feature hands-on, no-till advice from Steve Groff, a veteran no-tiller from Lancaster County, Pa.; Wayne Reeves, USDA-ARS soil scientist at Auburn, Ala., will discuss rolling cover crops down and long-term cotton research, and a panel of eastern North Carolina producers will share their experiences with conservation-tillage on a number of crops.

Morse, a horticulturist at Virginia Tech, says after trying to modify a planter to fit no-till situations, he and colleagues started from scratch to make a planter for transplanted crops such as vegetables and tobacco.

The “sub-surface, tiller-transplanter,” features two components. In addition to tilling a narrow sub-surface strip, the up-front component of the transplanter also deposits fertilizer alongside the row. A big coulter slices the soil without inverting it. Newer models also lay drip tubing.

Morse, who's developed no-till systems for transplanted crops, says conservation-tillage offers many advantages.

“If you get the residues thick and even enough, conservation-tillage will do a lot of good things for you,” Morse says.

No-till suppresses weeds, conserves water and moisture and eliminates erosion on highly erodible land. “For tobacco and other crops, it also can become a quality issue,” Morse says. “Tobacco that's grown on a mulch field doesn't have dirt splashing up on the bottom leaves. Another really, really, really outstanding advantage comes with pumpkin production.

“In some states, no-till is the only way producers will grow pumpkins,” Morse says. “Which pumpkin would you rather buy, one grown on open soil that gets dirty or one laying on a bed of straw?”

In addition to the benefits of weed suppression, water and soil conservation, no-till also gives producers the benefit of “flexibility of farm operations,” Morse says.

“What that means is you can get back in the field soon after a rainstorm, whereas in a conventional field you have to wait two or three days for the field to dry out,” Morse says. “Say you need to spray or harvest a crop that has a critical maturity stage, you can get back in the field with no-till.

“When you talk to farmers, one of the first things they'll mention is the flexibility of conservation-tillage,” Morse says.

The Conservation-Tillage Seminar is scheduled for March 27, 8:30 a.m.-3:45 p.m. at the Pitt County Agricultural Center, Greenville, N.C. The cost is $7 before March 15; $10 after March 15 and at the door. For more information, call 252.752.2720, extension #3; or send a check payable to the Pitt SWCD at 403 Government Circle, Suite 4, Greenville, N.C. 27834-8166.