Dillon, South Carolina
Soil and Water Board (Commissioner)
South Carolina Association of Conservation Districts (Board Member)
I live in Dillon, South Carolina, with my wife Renee’. We have two children, Heather, a Soil Conservationist with NRCS and Caleb, a full time farmer and rep for a corn seed and cover crop company. They are both graduates of Clemson University. I am a Soil and Water Board commissioner in Dillon and am on the board of the South Carolina Association of Conservation Districts.
Soil Health Practices:
We have no-tilled our land for the past 15 years, and for the last 4 years began experimenting with cover crops. We started with 20 acres of cover and now our goal is to plant a cover crop on every acre we farm. We started with winter covers and we have expanded to summer covers after corn harvest and before wheat planting. We like multi-species covers, but have found we must change species and mix according to goals and planting date. We are involved with an on-going CIG (Conservation Innovation Grant) through the NRCS. This has helped us gain experience and knowledge of cover crops.
Our first year with covers we didn’t roll the cover down and planted into standing rye. The vole came in after the corn was up, dug up the seed coatings, and plants died. We lost 35% of stand and yield. Where the tractor tire ran and laid the rye down, there was no damage. We found out they use the cover to protect themselves from enemies. We knew from this experience that we needed a roller to solve the problem. We bought a front-mounted 3pt hitch and a roller for the front of the tractor so we could roll and plant at the same time. Problem solved!
We also had trouble with planting the wrong cover at the wrong time or the wrong way. We learned one size doesn’t fit all. We have to adapt to goals and planting times.
A good experience we have had is with earthworms where we have never seen them. The worms GREATLY reduce fertilizer costs and increase organic matter. There is also less movement in PH and less lime needed. We stopped having to pull no-till subsoiler and reduced compaction. The list goes on.
Attitude is number one. There is industry pushback and a lack of on-farm research. The idea it “won’t work here.” We don’t mind trying the new stuff, especially if it makes us able to weather the ups and downs that come with farming.