Sussex Conservation District
My name is Guy Phillips from Georgetown, Delaware. I’m married with three grown children and four granddaughters. I live in and work with the Sussex Conservation District.
Soil Health Practices
I’m a small grain farmer growing corn, soybean, and wheat on 300 acres with about half of that being irrigated. I also raise approximately 178,000 broiler chickens annually. My operation is completely no-till with the majority of the ground planted in cover crops as soon as possible after harvest.
The cover crops include mostly cereal rye with some of the early fields planted in a combination of cereal rye and tillage radishes. The cover crops are broadcast then incorporated with a Great Plains Turbo Till to get a more uniform stand and to improve crop and soil health. I utilize poultry manure, which is a valuable nutrient source (organic fertilizer), in the spring to the actively growing cover crop. The cover crop holds the nitrogen and phosphorus from the manure to be released later in the season when it deteriorates. The actively growing cash crop utilizes those nutrients to increase yields.
I no-till all of my fields to improve the bottom line and to build organic matter. I also feel the no-till and cover crop combination allows the water to infiltrate properly without running off, improving the water holding capacity during drought conditions. Worms are my friends.
In Sussex County, Delaware, our soils are predominately sandy with a high water table. The challenge is keeping the water and nutrients in the root zone. My current soil health management practices of crop rotation, no-till, and cover crops are a good way to improve that situation. Early on, a big challenge was finding information on soil health practices and ways to implement them. Now there is much more interest and information available to assist farmers with the transition.