Franklin County Soil Conservation District
Dusty Matlock’s farming career began in his high-school years when he started helping his grandfather run his cow-calf operations following a stroke. Matlock increasingly became involved on the farm and now runs an operation that includes 1,800 acres of cropland and grazing stocker calves. He grows a corn-soybean rotation and practices prescribed grazing for his calves.
Matlock is not brand new to the soil health arena. He has been using no-till since he began farming on his own, due to labor, equipment, time and fuel savings. He has also been planting covers in his pasture for over 12 years and recently began using a five-way cover crop mix. For his pastures, he uses a mix of cereal rye, wheat, crimson clover, vetch and Austrian winter pea. This is different than his mixture for his non-grazing land, on which he uses a mix of cereal rye, crimson clover, vetch, Austrian winter pea and Daikon radish.
Matlock originally started using cover crops due to their ability to improve water infiltration and soil structure. Since implementing them, he has seen these benefits and many others. Cover crops have reduced the need for residual weed control in his corn and soybean fields. Soil erosion has been reduced significantly and water infiltration has improved. He has also seen his soil structure improve, becoming more aggregated with increased earthworms and biodiversity. Water running off his fields following storms is also much clearer.
These benefits are a stark contrast to the new field he acquired in 2018, whose surface is rough from previous deforestation. Matlock needed to till this field once, which he said resulted in planting problems. The soil in this field is crusty, with lots of erosion and runoff. This comparison has further emphasized the importance of utilizing no-till practices and cover crops on all his acres.
Of his 1,800 acres of cropland, Matlock has planted cover crops on 1,500. Weather patterns and late-maturing annual crops have prevented their implementation on all his cropland acres. He hopes to one day, however, have cover crops on all his fields.
Updated June 2019.