COLUMBUS — With rising crop input costs affecting the production bottom line, more farmers are recognizing the economic value and environmental benefits of conservation tillage practices.
The record attendance at this year’s Conservation Tillage and Technology Conference may be a reflection of that increased interest, said Randall Reeder, an OSU Extension agricultural engineer and a conference organizer.
The annual conference, held in Ada, Ohio, saw a 15 percent increase in attendance from 2008 to nearly 900 participants.
Since 2003, attendance has increased nearly 40 percent.
Reeder said record attendance was also posted for the Ohio No-Till Conference in December, as well as the National No-Till Conference held in January.
OSU Extension introduced the precursor to the Conservation Tillage and Technology Conference in 1984 — a one-day ridge-till meeting.
Gradually, the meeting evolved into a two-day program with concurrent sessions on no-till, mulch-till and other related topics.
The conference has been held at Ohio Northern University for 17 years and is considered the longest-running conservation tillage conference in the country.
Each year the conference welcomes farmers and agricultural consultants from across the Midwest, including Ohio, Indiana and Michigan, as well as Canada.
It features about 60 speakers including university specialists, industry representatives and farmers covering topics ranging from cover crops to soil fertility to precision agriculture.
Two new sessions offered this year — a pre-conference on cover crops and an in-depth session on corn production — were big hits for participants, said Reeder.
Corn University was also a highlight this year. The five-hour program featured Extension corn specialists from across the Midwest who offered information on how to achieve high corn yields.
In addition to farmers, the Conservation Tillage and Technology Conference is a big draw for crop consultants, who can choose from more than 40 hours of Certified Crop Advisor credits in soil and water, nutrient management, pest management and crop management.
The educational value both farmers and Certified Crop Advisors obtain during the conference can mean big savings for Ohio agriculture.
In 2008, farmers who attended the conference translated the educational value into $4.7 million for their farming operations, while Certified Crop Advisors placed the conference’s educational value at $250 million.
Corn, soybeans and wheat are Ohio’s top-three field crop commodities.
Approximately 20 percent of the state’s corn crop is in no-till, while 80 percent of Ohio’s soybeans and wheat are farmed no-till.
The next conference will be held Feb. 25-26, 2010, at Ohio Northern University in Ada.