Will and Johnny Robinson
Carroll County, Tennessee
The Robinsons live in Lavinia, Tennessee, and farm approximately 3,800 acres with 2,000 acres in cotton, 900 acres in corn and soybeans, and 900 acres in pasture for their 250 cows and 250 calves (mostly black Angus). The Robinsons test their soils annually and apply nutrients and lime accordingly.
Johnny Robinson began experimenting with no-till in 1978. By 1980, he was helping Tom McCutchen, the former superintendent of the University of Tennessee’s Experiment Station in Milan – the foremost institution responsible for spreading the practice of no-till in the South – with building an 8-row Allis Chalmers no-till planter.
By fall 2016, Johnny was aerially seeding their first year of multi-species cover crops consisting of 26 lbs. of cereal rye, 20 lbs. wheat, 6 lbs. crimson clover, 3 lbs. of daikon radishes, and 2 lbs. collard greens, all per acre. That fall was one of the driest on record, followed up with one of the warmest winters on record, and finally a very cool and wet spring. Even though the Robinson were farming multi-species for the first time, they achieved excellent stands in significant cover crop residue.
The Robinsons generally terminate their covers 14 days before planting at thigh-high height for cotton, waist-high for corn, and shoulder-high for soybeans. Johnny and Will say the covers have helped to suppress weeds, increase water infiltration, and keep the soil temperatures cooler in the summer.
Will Robinson said they want to continue experimenting to find the best combination of covers for their crops, especially cotton. This fall, they are planning to aerial seed approximately 1,041 acres of multi-species covers and put approximately 100 additional acres in rye grass for forages. Their mix for this fall is planned to be 25 lbs. triticale, 25 lbs. winter barley, 8 lbs. crimson clover, 4 lbs. Balansa clover, and 1.5 lbs. Daikon radishes, all per acre.
Will and Johnny Robinson are on their way to improving their farming operation and the health of their soils by following the four principles of soil health. Their never quit attitude will make for substantial changes in their soils in year two and three.