Tipton County, Tennessee
Third-generation farmer Glenn Hopkins manages a family operation with his wife Marcie and their oldest son Nathan, who is 18 years old. Glenn and Marcie also have twin sons named Mike and Mitch, who are 13 years old and help on the farm, along with Glenn’s parents, Troy and Gail Hopkins, who own interest in the farming operation.
Glenn grew up on the farm his grandparents started as share croppers. After graduating high school, he earned an Associate’s degree in law enforcement, served as a deputy sheriff for Tipton County, and was planning to finish a Bachelor’s degree in criminal justice at Memphis State University when his father Troy went in for surgery in fall 1992. Glenn came back to the farm, married Marcie in 1994, and was a full-time farmer by 1995.
Troy Hopkins became interested in no-till in the 1980s, but it took chemical advances in weed control during the 1990s for no-till to become a viable management method. Troy and Glenn began applying wheat as a cover crop shortly after, using a high, clear-range fertilizer buggy as cotton was defoliated. They would terminate the wheat at 8-10″ in height, and slowly but surely, they saw changes in the soil.
In 2007, they began using a do-all and spinner-truck to apply wheat. They would follow up in the spring by no-tilling crops in killed wheat. Even though they were no-tilling, they still disked from time to time. They farm 4,000 acres altogether: 1,275 acres of cotton, 200 acres of wheat, and 2,725 acres of soybeans. Since 2012, they have not grown any corn. Glenn plans to add corn back into the rotation in 2018.
The began using a multi-species cover crop mix in 2015 on 300 acres, and this fall will apply covers on all 4,000 acres. For their cotton ground in the fall of 2017, they plan to plant 4 lbs. Balansa clover, 8 lbs. crimson clover, 6 lbs. winter peas, 15 lbs. cereal rye, 15 lbs. winter wheat, and 2 lbs. of nitro radishes, all species at a per acre basis. Their soybean ground will be 2 lbs. Balansa clover, 4 lbs. crimson clover, 30 lbs. cereal rye, 30 lbs. winter wheat, and 2 lbs. nitro radishes, all per acre basis. Most of their multi-species mix will be under EQIP contract. The remaining acres on soybean ground not in EQIP will be planted to cereal rye and winter wheat.
When Glenn attended the National No-till Meeting in St. Louis, Missouri, in January 2017, he was turned on to the Dawn Biologic 2RX Crimper/Roller. Glenn purchased the roller and is making modifications for each attachment in each row to have springs so they can move up and down on sloping land. The unit is 12-row 38″ rows. This is the second one that they built for 38″ rows. They used a rented I and J roller/crimper rented from the Lauderdale County Soil Conservation District to roll their 2017 cover crops.
The Hopkins Family tests their soils every two to three years on 2.5 acres grids. They use variable rate precision application for phosphate (P), potash (K), and liming if soil test shows significant differences. In their cotton, Glenn split-applies the nitrogen (N) at 45 units at planting and 35 – 45 units side dressed.
Glenn’s advise to other farmers is this: “you need to change and adapt by reducing inputs to maintain or hopefully increase yields.” Glenn also wants other farmers to know how much time is wasted tilling. When the Hopkins tilled, Glenn missed out on family time.
Troy, being from an older generation, has been slower to accept the cover crops and planting in heavy residues. He remarked that he had been to some field days and was impressed by how water infiltrates quicker into the soil compared to no-till. He is coming along, but admits the covers in the wet spring challenged his heart a few times.