Richard “Dick” Hashe
McMinn County, Tennessee
McMinn County Soil Conservation District
Dick Hashe is a fourth generation farmer who works full time as an administrative coordinator for the McMinn County Soil Conservation District. His family farm was purchased in 1950 and converted to a dairy shortly after. Today, Dick farms 200 acres (115 acres in rotated grain crops (mostly soybeans), 50 acres in pasture, and 15 in woods) on 2-5 % slope, reddish-brown limestone soils. Dick soil tests every three years and maintains his soils’ pH between 6.3 and 6.5 and fertility in the medium to high range.
In 1969, Dick and his family was one of the first adopters in McMinn County to no-till. They understood early on the importance of protecting their soils against sheet and rill erosion. They stayed consistent with no-till, save for an occasional disking to keep the fields smooth, which last happened in 2009. Since then the farm has been 100 percent no-till.
In 2010, Dick planted wheat cover on 14 acres, terminated it at near boot stage, and planted no-till beans. He expanded his use of covers in 2011 and 2012 to 30 acres of predominantly soybean and a few corn acres. In just three years, he saw an increase of 6 to 8 bushels per acre of soybeans.
With his interest in improving soil health, Dick purchased a crimper-roller for 2014. He transitioned his cover crop in the fall of 2013 to a three-way mix of 60 pounds of triticale, 5 pounds of crimson clover, and 2 pounds of radishes per acre. With the crimper-roller, Dick grew the cover crop to head stage for more growth to increase organic matter and also to smoother weeds. He found that a chronic wet spot on his farm had disappeared during the 2014 crop year and credits yield increases to better infiltration.
The diversity of the cover crops and the mulch provides an ideal environment for the soil microorganisms that help boost the health of crops. Through experience, Dick has learned to aerially seed cover earlier and more consistently year after year to achieve the best cover in standing crops. He also plans to interseed a five-way mix to promote more diversity on all of his crop acreage.
Besides better yields with less inputs and non-existent erosion, Dick is noticing better soil structure. In every shovel full of soil, we counted 10 earthworms. Continuous cover will increase crumbly structure and reduce platy structure resulting in better infiltration. Even though he has encountered challenges consistently planting an early cover crop, Dick has achieved many improvements in soil health.