East Carroll Parish Soil and Water Conservation District
My wife Melissa, our four children, and I live and farm in Monticello, Louisiana – located in the northeast corner of the state. Currently, I serve as chairman of the East Carroll Parish Soil and Water Conservation District and operate a grain farm, the majority of which is irrigated.
We implemented our first conservation practice – water control structures – on our farm 20 years ago with the help of NRCS. The process opened my eyes to the resources and expertise that NRCS offers landowners. In the two decades since, we’ve participated in a host of voluntary conservation programs: the Conservation Stewardship Program, the Wetlands Reserve Program, the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program, the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, EPA’s 319 grants program and the Mississippi River Basin Initiative. Our farm has also become certified by the Louisiana Master Farmer program.
Donavon plants his seed into raised beds to facilitate furrow irrigation and the drainage of excess rainfall. Maintaining good soil structure in the beds can be challenging, but by maintaining them, the Taves Family has been able to limit soil compaction in the root zone. “Over the years, we have approached soil improvements with several strategies, including leaving the crop residue entirely on the surface post-harvest, planting a cover crop, and chopping corn residue ahead of lightly reshaping the seedbeds,” Donavon told NACD. “Each approach has its benefits.”
The biggest challenge Donavon faces in using cover crops is planting. “Our early March planting window does not allow time for cover crop growth in the spring, because burn down typically takes place in January,” he said. “Termination of certain cover crops can also be a challenge.”