May 16, 2003 | By: Aimee D. Heald

Most tobacco growers are interested in soil and water conservation, shorter field preparation time and cleaner cured leaf. 

University of Kentucky researchers believe no-till tobacco technology can help growers achieve all of those things. The no-till tobacco transplanter will be demonstrated at the Plant and Soil Sciences Field Day June 12 at UK’s Spindletop Farm in Fayette County.

Early attempts at a no-till transplanter design resulted in a very heavy machine that operators found difficult to manage with the small tractors typical of tobacco growers at the time. There was also a problem with soil compaction in the planting furrow under wet conditions.

“In the mid 1990s we started a new effort to develop a no-till tobacco transplanter with financial backing from the Council for Burley Tobacco,” said Bob Pearce, UK tobacco management specialist. “We had three main objectives for the transplanter.”

Pearce said they wanted to develop a design that would work with both finger type and newer carousel-type transplanters. He said they also wanted to simplify the design so growers could easily modify stock models. Finally designers wanted to reduce the amount of weight needed and provide tillage in the root zone of young transplants.

The cooperation between the agronomy department and the biosystems and agricultural engineering department resulted in a design that satisfied the three objectives and performs well on a variety of soil types.

“We have a base unit, the Mechanical Model 6000,” Pearce said. “Other makes and models have been successfully modified. The basic principles and functions of each component remain the same on different models, but the attachment points and mounting brackets may need to be considerably different depending on the grower’s needs.”

The transplanter has been used for the past five years in tobacco operations around Kentucky. 

“We’ve learned a lot through the design and testing process of the no-till transplanter,” Pearce said. “Proper soil moisture is a key to achieving proper results with the transplanter.”

Pearce said that since the ground is firmer, many growers thought no-till tobacco could be transplanted before conventional transplants.

“Our experience has been just the opposite,” he said. “No-till retains moisture better than conventional and therefore is slower to dry out. Setting under wet soil conditions can lead to poor root coverage and compaction in the planting furrow.”

No-till tobacco techniques will be demonstrated at the 2003 Plant and Soil Sciences Field Day at UK’s Spindletop Research Farm on Iron Works Pike in Lexington. For more information about the field day visit the web site or contact your county Extension agent.


Bob Pearce  859-257-5020