by Bill Mardis
A no-till tobacco setter made available by the Pulaski County Soil Conservation District has proven a boon in labor-saving costs to growers.
The tobacco setter and trailer, purchased with a $25,000 grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, allows tobacco to be set in unplowed ground the same as no-till corn.
“We are the only conservation district in Kentucky that has a piece of equipment like this,” said Rodney Dick, chair of Pulaski County Soil Conservation District. “We make available types of expensive farm equipment that individual farmers often don’t buy,” he said.
Laughingly, Dick said he remembers setting tobacco with a peg after rain wet the ground ... and I don’t want any more of that.” Mechanical tobacco setters are used today, but, without no-till equipment, tobacco plants are set in plowed ground.
John Burnett, Buck Creek Watershed coordinator, is in charge of managing farm equipment rentals and Jon Anderson, Kentucky Fish and Wildlife environmental scientist, works with farmers who take advantage of the program.
An application for the grant to purchase the no-till tobacco setter was submitted in February to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF),” Burnett said. The grant was approved and the no-till setter was delivered in April in time to set tobacco this spring.
NFWF provides grants on a competitive basis to protect imperiled species, promote healthy oceans and waterways, improve wildlife habitat, advance sustainable fisheries and conserve water for wildlife and people.
Savings to growers are the expense of not plowing and tilling the field. Environmentally, no-till farming prevents erosion and leaching of nutrients from the soil into waterways. The two-row no-till tobacco setter is equipped with a roller crimper that compacts the cover crop to limit the shade effect on growing tobacco plants, Burnett noted.
Tobacco apparently grows as well as no-till corn. “You treat the tobacco plants as you would any growing no-till crop,” said Burnett.
Growers renting the no-till setter may set the first acre of tobacco free, and up to five acres for a fee of $20 per acre. Dick said the machine was used in 12 area counties this spring, setting a total of 105 acres of tobacco.
Called a share-use equipment program, the no-till tobacco setter is one of several pieces of equipment made available to farmers by the Pulaski County Soil Conservation District. The district has three no-till drills for pasture renovation, a fence-post driver, a weed wiper for controlling Johnson grass and a boomless pasture sprayer to control noxious weeds has been purchased and is expected to be delivered soon.
The Pulaski County Soil Conservation District is governed by a seven-member board of directors.