Holt and Randal TappSomerville, TN

Holt and Randal Tapp

Fayette County Soil Conservation District

Somerville, Tennessee

Holt and Randal Tapp run a 2,100-acre operation, on which they grow a corn and soybean rotation. They grow both dryland and irrigated corn and utilize a multi-species cover crop mix that consists of cereal rye, crimson clover, wheat, purple top turnip and Daikon radish.

Their soil health journey began in 1990, when they began to reduce their tillage by adopting a no-till system for their soybeans. At the time, they grew cotton and continued to do several tillage passes to suppress weeds on those fields. However, in 1994 they changed to 100 percent no-till practices due to labor, economics and erosion. This switch alone has saved them $26,000 in fuel savings.

Eventually, they decided to take another step in their soil health journey by introducing cover crops to their operation to improve their soil and reduce erosion. Their County District Secretary and former NRCS District Conservationist were the ones who influenced them to make this change.

The brothers now use a multi-species cover crop mixture, recognizing that diversity above the ground provides diversity in the soil. By further improving the quantity of their soil biology, their soils perform better, heightening the benefits of their cover crops.

Benefits have been seen to their bottom line, due to the reduced need for maintenance and repair work on their terraces. The Tapp brothers have also noticed yield increases in both the dry and wet seasons. Their soils have become better aggregated, with a strong, earthy smell produced by the organic compounds within them. Weeds, such as Mare’s tail and Palmer Amaranth, have been suppressed. Wildlife has increased on their farm, as rabbits, turkeys and quail now frequently visit.

Their successes in their soil health journey have, however, not come without challenges. Their transition to cover crops was bumpy, as the height of their soybean covers made it difficult for them to plant. However, they have learned from their experiences and are thoroughly happy they made the change. The Tapp brothers continue to be enthusiastic to learn more about what their practices are doing for them and how they can be improved further.

Updated June 2019.

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