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Tifton conference informs farmers

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By Christian Jennings - bio | email

July 29, 2008

TIFTON, GA (WALB) - Georgia farmers are learning ways to grow their crops with less water. That could save big money on fuel and irrigation, and put more money in farmers' pockets. A three day conference of farmers in Tifton kicked off Tuesday.

It focused on the importance of conservation tillage.

Rain. It's always welcome in South Georgia and on Tuesday Tifton crops are a few minutes away from a downpour. But summer showers aren't enough to save farmers and businesses during the drought. That's where conservation tillage comes in.

"It's a cheaper way to farm, and a much better way to farm," says one local farmer.

Jeff Reed grows peanuts and cotton. He was there Tuesday at UGA's Tifton Campus along with hundreds of others to learn about the latest in conservation efforts from researchers, professors, and even Georgia's climatologist, David Stooksbury.

"One of the major impacts it has is it decreases the demand on water," he says.

Tillage systems can be used on almost any crop. But how does it work? Here's one way. Lets say you grow corn. In the winter months, you plant what they call a cover crop. Later, you kill it, and plant your corn right into the ground, reducing the destruction of the soil.

"I've always thought of it as a poor man's irrigation. An inch of water with conservation tillage would be equivalent to two inches conventional till," says Dean.

Besides saving water, it saves money. Less trips on the field, means less fuel needed for tractors, and less fuel for the big irrigation pumps. But what can farmers expect in the next couple of months? State Climatologist David Stooksbury says we can't be certain.

"Now if we start to go into August we're going to be dependent more and more on aspects of tropical storms. And you know whether we're going to be impacted by these tropical systems. If we are not, then August and beyond can become extremely dry." Making the need for new conservation techniques more crucial than ever before.