Soil Health Heroes

Soil Health Heroes - Matt Griggs

Improving Soil Health in Lieu of Irrigation

This is the third in a series of “Profiles of Soil Health Heroes.” This profile is on Matt Griggs, Madison, Crockett, and Gibson Counties, Tennessee. Matt is owner and operator of a gently rolling hillside farming operation in West Tennessee. Matt’s farming operation consists of 1,600 owned and rental acres predominantly on loess and Coastal Plains Soils, slopes ranging from 2 – 6 %.

Matt farmed with his father up to 2005. Their cropping system was corn, soybeans, and cotton from 2000-2005. Since 2000, they practiced continuous no-till without full width tillage. Matt became the main operator since 2005 cropping season. Matt’s fields are fairly small with odd tree lines. The size and shapes of his fields make pivot irrigation options impractical.

Matt Griggs

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Soil Health Heroes - Greg Brann

Walk the Walk, and Talk the Talk

This is the second in a series of “Profiles of Soil Health Heroes.” This profile is on Greg Brann, Tennessee NRCS State Grazing Lands Soil Health Specialist (SCS-NRCS). Greg is owner and operator of Big Spring Farm. Greg has worked 36 years with the Soil Conservation Service-Natural Resources Conservation Service, approximately 20 years as State Grazing Lands Specialist. All of Greg’s previous ancestors farmed, so it is natural occupation that he followed. Greg has literally been farming all of his life, and has that special quality of professionally promoting pasture soil health and practicing it on the farm at a very high level for many years. Since 2010, Greg has held his now annual “Pasture Walk.”

Recent Pasture Walk in October, 2014. Many livestock farmers attend annually to learn Greg's management techniques.

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Soil Health Heroes - Danny Powell

This is the first of a series of "Profiles of Soil Health Heroes." Danny Powell, a third generation farmer from Cannon County improved the soil health and his overall 2,800 acres of his row crop operation. Danny began farming some of his current fields in the early 1980s. The fields had low pH, and low fertility. His predominant soils are Dickson/Sango which are inherently low in PA291204newphosphorus.

After cover crops terminated, spring of 2014.

Danny planted wheat as a crop on his low fertile soils. Wheat was in dough stage, and he decided to terminate the wheat cover and follow with soybeans, and hence a system of cover crops began. He has followed a cover crop system ever since, only missing some years of cover only due to excess wet seasons.

In the last four years, his cover crops of choice have progressed from only wheat to multi-species cover crops.  His current cover crop mixture is cereal rye, Austrian winter peas, crimson clover, oats, and Daikon radish. He has been in continuous no-till since the 1980s.

His crop rotation has been progressing for several years; his crop rotation is corn-cover crop followed by soybean-cover crop. Besides cover crops, Mr. Powell also applies chicken litter to supply nutrients and to increase soil organic matter. Mr. Powell uses yield monitoring GPS to track yield results and samples soil by grids/zones. Satellite imagery is used to adjust rates. Mr. Powell monitors his soils to achieve optimum fertility while protecting the environment by not over applying nitrogen and phosphorus.

Mr. Powell has observed anecdotal changes in his soil from no-tilling, from cover crops and leaving crop residue, and providing continuous root growth. The changes are increases in soil carbon and increased aggregate stability resulting in more visible infiltration, and essentially no sheet erosion. Soil life has increased, especially with more evident earth worm numbers. He also has witnessed significant increases in yields with no increase of inputs other than his cover crops. The video below shows earthworm activity and excellent soil structure.

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