Brad CochranHumboldt, TN
Madison County Soil Conservation District
Brad Cochran farms approximately 4,000 acres in an operation that stretches across Madison, Carroll and Henderson Counties in Tennessee. He is a second-generation farmer and grows corn, cotton, soybeans and wheat.
Up until the 1980s, Cochran says that his family used conventional tillage methods because erosion, at the time, was just “an accepted result of farming.” However, the family began incorporating conservation practices into their operation in the late 80s by utilizing no-till and a wheat cover crop for their cotton.
Following a national no-till conference in the mid-1990’s, Cochran became interested in using annual rye grass as a cover crop but still did not use a multi-species mix. It wasn’t until about eight years later that he realized the benefits of using a mixture. At that time, he began using a mix of black oats, rye grass and crimson clover. In 2011, he began adding forage radishes to the mix. This four-species mix is what he uses today.
Cochran now uses cover crops on all his acres. He uses a multi-species cover crop on 3,000 acres and a wheat cover crop on the remaining 1,000. He also practices continuous no-till.
The benefits of his soil health practices have been numerous. In three years, his soil organic matter increased from 2.5 to 3.6 percent. He is seeing better water infiltration following rain events, and there are no more visible signs of erosion on his farm. The soil has become less hard and, instead, crumblier and fluffier. His earthworm count has risen to over 40 earthworms per square foot, indicating great soil biology.
Cochran hopes other farmers will join in on these soil health practices. He thinks all farmers should try cover crops and no-till because a farmer’s management practices should make the soil more sustainable. His commitment to soil health has improved his soils and his profit margin, proving that better soils equal better profits.
Updated July 2019.