48th TWC, Tob. Work. Conf., 2018, abstr. 64

An overview of conservation tillage tobacco in Tennessee

WALKER E.(1); BAILEY W.A.(1); RHODES N.(1); DENTON P.(2); FOWLKES D.(3)
(1) University of Tennessee, Knoxville TN USA; (2) GAP Connections, Knoxville TN USA; (3) Burley Stabilization, Springfield TN USA

Conservation tillage tobacco has been evaluated in Tennessee for over 30 years. During this time, no-till and strip-till systems have been compared with conventional tillage. Advantages of conservation tillage tobacco include soil and moisture conservation, improved soil structure, improved trafficability in wet conditions, and fuel, time, and labor savings. Challenges of conservation tillage tobacco include increased management, it is not suited for all soils, and there are limited weed control options. Adoption has been slow and limited, but strip-till tobacco has experienced significant recent adoption due to improved equipment and comparable yields with conventionally tilled tobacco. Interest in no-till tobacco has also increased, due in part to the restructuring of farm commodity programs by the Agricultural Act of 2014 that ties crop insurance premium subsidies to conservation compliance. However, no-till tobacco yields tend to be lower than strip-till and conventionally tilled tobacco. Until no-till tobacco yields are consistently improved or this practice is required, it is unlikely that no-till tobacco acreage will significantly increase in the near future. Furthermore, an uncertain future for domestic burley production and the need to retain and increase contracts may cause growers to forego implementation of new practices such as no-till tobacco production, choosing rather to continue with proven practices with which they are confident and comfortable. (Reprinted with permission)