As Ned Highsmith’s tractor slowly rolled along rows of soil, black plastic covered the top with the help of machinery attached to the back.
Soon, the Sampson County farmer hopes to see a variety of vegetables come from the earth through the plasticulture and drip irrigation method. With the assistance of agents from Sampson County Cooperative Extension, he was glad to show a group of interested small farmers during a Thursday afternoon demonstration. Highsmith has been using black plastic to grow crops for about six years.
“It’s easy to maintain, it’s less water and you can grow it faster because the temperature on the ground is warmer,” Highsmith said about the maintenance and other work.
Under the plastic, drip lines were added to provide waters to the plants. On the ends, header pipes were attached. The drip irrigation allows farmers such as Highsmith to save water and nutrients when the water slowly drips under the plastic.
Walter Adams, agricultural natural resources technician, added that the method helps farmers reduce diseases too.
“The big is that a lot of people want to irrigate over the top and that’s a real good vantage point for diseases to enter the plant,” Adams said. “By irrigating just the root system, you don’t have to worry about the disease effecting the top of the plant.”
According to officials, farmers may see results in 1 to 3 weeks, depending on the plastic type. Weed control was another listed benefit since seeds are deprived of sunlight required for growth.
James Hartsfield, area farm management agent for Sampson and Duplin counties, said there’s a possibility of interested farmers receiving assistance with equipment through a local plasticulture program.
“I think it went very well,” Hartsfield said. “As farmers look for alternatives, I think black plastic would be good for them if they wanted to get an early start on the market.”
The demonstration is part of the 2018 Small Farms Week, which officially begins March 25 in Robeson County — home of the 2017 Farmer of the Year. A few years ago, Sampson County hosted when Donnie and Alease Williams were honored. Together, Hartsfield and Adams wanted to introduce black plastic to honor Small Farms Week. The Program is sponsored by North Carolina A&T University’s Cooperative Extension Program.
“We feel like it got a lot of good benefits and a lot of return for the farmer,” Adams said.
For more information, contact Hartsfiled at 910-592-7161 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Walter Adams, agricultural natural resources technician, may also be contacted at 910-296-2143 or by email at email@example.com.
Reach Chase Jordan at 910-592-8137. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.