Robertson County Soil Conservation District
Elvis Bellar might be new to the farming arena, starting his operation in 2005, but he is no newbie to the topic of agriculture. Bellar graduated the University of Kentucky with a Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Economics. He then went to work for American Cyanmid Chemical Company as a crop specialist for three years before working for the Montgomery County Farmers Cooperative for another 11 years.
Bellar’s operation now stretches between three counties – Montgomery County, Tenn., Robertson County, Tenn., and Todd County, Ky. He produces corn, wheat, soy and tobacco on 450 acres with another 650 acres for his cow-calf operation.
Bellar avidly utilizes soil health practices on his fields. He produces his corn, wheat and soybeans in a 100 percent no-tillage system. His tobacco is grown in a system with some, but minimal, tillage. Bellar added cover crops to his management plan approximately four years ago, following his attendance at a soil health meeting. He says he was influenced by NRCS soil health specialist Ray Archuletta and Indiana grain farmer Ray McCormick. Today, Bellar has 95 acres in cover crops, with the remaining acreage growing wheat during the winter. He uses cereal rye and crimson clover for cover.
Since implementing his cover crops, he has already seen many benefits. He finds planting to be much easier and his corn yield is about 30 bushels more per acre than Tennessee’s average . His cereal rye has helped to almost eliminate pigweed and Mare’s tail from his fields. Lastly, he has cut back on fertilizer and pesticide applications.
Bellar’s soils have also severely benefited from his soil health practices. Cover crops have helped reduce erosion and increase soil moisture levels. Soil respiration levels on his fields are higher now, indicating a high level of biological activity. He also has a large number of earthworms present, at approximately 32 per cubic foot – well over the USDA Soil Quality Kit Guide’s recommended 10 per cubic foot.
Bellar continues to learn about and utilize different soil health strategies. The benefits he has seen will further improve as he continues his practices.
Updated June 2019.