July 2, 2003 | By: Laura Skillman
Princeton, Ky.

Two upcoming field days in western Kentucky will highlight the use of irrigation and black plastic in vegetable production as a way to increase yields and profits.

“We are promoting this method as a means of diversification to growers who are interested in finding a crop to help reduce their loss of income as the result of lost tobacco quota,” said Shane Bogle, a vegetable and fruit crop Extension associate with University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service.

Bogle is one of several Extension horticulture associates in the state working through a grant from Kentucky Agriculture Development Board. The board is charged with dispersing money the state receives through the national tobacco settlement. A goal is to help Kentucky farmers reduce their dependency on tobacco.

“The purpose of the field days is to let interested producers see how this system works and to attract new producers to the program,” he said. “We will talk about all aspects of production with a focus on the plastic and irrigation system.”

The equipment used to put the black plastic into the fields will be on display at the field days. For about $6,000 a farmer can purchase the equipment necessary for this production method, Bogle said.

Part of Bogle’s overall program includes providing one acre of black plastic and irrigation as well as technical assistance for farmers who are willing to participate in the field demonstrations.

The field days will be July 14 at the David Brumfield farm in Hopkins County and July 24 at the David Adams farm in Caldwell County. Farmers attending the twilight walking tours will see production of cantaloupes, watermelons, tomatoes, peppers and squash.

“What we are seeing is that this system is the closest dollar for dollar to tobacco,” he said. “If they have the black plastic and irrigation it doubles the production from that of someone’s garden. It gets that dollar value up there.”

Vegetable production is a lot riskier than tobacco production, Bogle said.

“People are very open about it,” he said. “They understand it and are willing to take the risk.”

There are cooperatives helping with markets for some growers, but Bogle said most of the farmers he is working with are selling through farmers’ markets or a nearby produce auction.

Both tours will begin at 5:30 p.m.  For directions to the tour sites contact Bogle at 270-365-7541 ext. 262 or smbogl2@uky.edu or the county Extension offices in Hopkins and Caldwell counties.