Roy “Shep” Morris
Macon County, Alabama
Macon County Soil and Water Conservation District
Roy “Shep” Morris of Morris and Morris Farms uses conservation practices to minimize energy use on his operation and to help the environment. Shep cultivates about 1,300 acres of cotton, 1,300 acres of corn, 400 acres of wheat, and 400 acres of sesame. He also manages about 500 acres of trees and 100 acres of pecans.
Shep has increased the organic matter in his soils by using cover crops, crop rotation, and local chicken litter as fertilizer. He plants corn because it leaves large amounts of residue after harvest, which in turn increases soil organic matter, improves soil health, and the overall function of the soil. “By bedding the corn stubble, nitrogen and potash are built up. Planting corn also helps minimize labor and equipment needs,” Shep said. “Because of the timing in planting corn and cotton, we can use the same planter to plant both crops. The harvest equipment is different, but we use the same labor.”
Morris, a supervisor with the Macon County Soil and Water Conservation District, also depends on crop rotation to help build soil health. Planting corn, cotton, and wheat each year spreads out the workload, making efficient use of labor and machinery and reducing the input costs for all his crops. By using conservation tillage, he saves on fuel costs by taking less trips across the field.
After the corn harvest, he uses an implement called a “one-trip plow.” It builds a raised bed to plant cotton, and allows him to plant the corn without additional tillage. Any corn left in the field after harvest will sprout back, further protecting the soil and adding to the crop residue. Shep uses a stripper harvester that is less expensive to operate (about $50 a day to run) than a picker and harvests more cotton from the stalk, increasing yields.
“The stripper is cheaper,” he says, “because it takes less horsepower to run and has less moving parts.” These strippers are lightweight and fast and protect soil health by reducing soil compaction. Shep realizes additional cost savings in time and transportation by marketing his corn locally to poultry producers and helping to open a community cotton gin. He also saves on fertilizer costs by using poultry litter on his crop fields.
Shep applies herbicide, defoliant, and other applications using his own airplane, which has led to fewer ruts in the ground. In the fall, he uses the airplane to seed his rye cover crops on all of his fields. Shep is very open to using new technology (he already has a yield monitor on his combine to collect crop data) and is in the early stages of implementing precision agriculture on his farm.