Madison, Crockett and Gibson Counties, Tennessee
Matt Griggs owns and operates a gently rolling hillside farm in West Tennessee. His corn, soybean, wheat, cotton and cereal operation consists of 1,600 continuous no-till acres, both owned and rented.
In the 1990s, the fields averaged around 1 to 1.25 percent soil organic matter (SOM) content, and about 70 acres were significantly damaged by erosion. In 2000, he and his father began no-tilling , and a year later, they sprigged hybrid bermuda grass for hay on those highly eroded soils. They haven’t grown hay since 2013, but the years in bermuda grass transformed the soils and brought the average SOM to more than double at 2.7 percent. After terminating the bermuda grass and no-tilling wheat in its place in 2013, the field yielded an average of 90 bushels per acre. Matt followed up with 45 bushels of double cropped soybeans. The dynamic changes in those soils have Griggs striving to emulate those results with his crop rotations, cover crops and no-till on other fields.
As Griggs advanced in his skills as a farmer, especially in his desire to improve the overall farm’s soil health, he continued to increase the amount of acreage planted in cover. As a result, he’s seen his SOM levels continue to increase.
Griggs has been thrilled with the improvements he’s seen in soil infiltration. “Locally we receive abundant rainfall, but sometimes the timing is not ideal. I want the soil health on my farm to be my irrigation,” he said. “If we receive one inch of rainfall, I want my fields to infiltrate more than 0.2 inches of it.”
In recent years, Griggs has reduced nitrogen application on cotton by about one third without any yield loss. He credits this change to his use of continuous no-till and cover crops.
The Tennessee Association of Conservation Districts (TACD) has awarded Griggs the additional honor of TACD Soil Health Hero. To read more in depth information on his operation and his soil health practices, be sure to visit the Soil Health Heroes webpage for his profile and a 2017 update on his operation.
Updated Oct. 2018