By Martha Griffin, Soil Conservationist
It was a hot and overcast early June day in Gibson County when Brent Griggs and his two young sons, Jack and Nathan visited with us on their farm near Rutherford. In a field of knee-high corn Griggs tells of how the farm had recently been in a state of construction. In early 2015, there were a total of 13 erosion control structures built on this property, including a grassed waterway (pictured below) that is now protecting an area that was once gullied and carried off valuable soil and nutrients from the land.
On this day, we observed the contrast of how the cash crop (field corn), which was planted into a five species mix of winter cover, where part was green planted (not sprayed until planting) and the other part which was terminated with herbicide 30 days before planting. Compare the photo below, right side was green planted and the left herbicide killed, there is a notable difference in residue remaining between the sprayed and green planted corn. Yield totals will be gathered at harvest for comparison but significant weed suppression has already been noticed.
For Griggs, planting winter cover was not new, but planting five species was. He and his father started planting some tillage radishes a few years back and then added cereal rye to the mix the following years. Although he admittedly says there is a learning curve when it comes to utilizing winter cover, he says he is happy with the way the crops have responded and that he is confident that winter cover will be beneficial to his bottom line and the health of his farms.
“The cover crops, structures and grassed waterway eliminated the ruts and erosion issues we had been facing, this was the first year we didn’t have to till in the ruts,” said Griggs. For him, this is the beginning of a three year soil health program available through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) offered through the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). With help of the EQIP program, NRCS field office staff were able to design and help share the cost to build the 13 structures and plant the 5 species winter cover mix. Through better management practices such as no-till, crop rotation, and winter cover, the farm has better protection from soil loss and degradation, and this program provides an approach to building soil organic matter, weed suppression, increased nitrogen (N) production, as well as soil and water health. For more information on soil health and programs available through NRCS in Gibson County contact: Trenton Field office at 1252 Manufactures Row, Trenton, TN 38382 or call 731- 855-0023.
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