Alex JohnsonLexington, TN

Alex Johnson

Henderson County Soil Conservation District

Lexington, Tennessee

Alex Johnson, an avid soil health advocate, has been adding a multi-species cover crop mix to his fields for over five years. He became interested in this subject as he read about nutrient management and soil health changes in different publications. He quickly became hooked.

Johnson and his father manage a predominantly soybean farm with a mixture of cover crops that includes cereal rye, crimson clover and Austrian winter peas. Through their five years of cover crop usage, their soils have significantly improved. Soils in covered fields have become granular, with a strong, sweet, earthy smell. The soil surface is now littered with earthworms and quickly decomposing crop residue.

Johnson continues to use a mixture of cover crops because he recognizes the benefit of having species that will survive when others do not. He took special note of this in 2017, when his cereal rye died in water-logged conditions and his radish died during a heavy freeze. He was thankful that other species in his mixture survived to provide the benefits he needed.

Cover crops have also helped the farm’s bottom line, allowing Johnson to save approximately $34 an acre on herbicides and fungicides. As the cover crops have helped to suppress weeds, he has been able to reduce his herbicide sprayings to only once a year.

Johnson’s soil health practices have also helped his surrounding environment. Water running off his field and into the Beech River is clear, while water coming from his neighbor’s tilled fields is muddy.

Updated June 2019.

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