Jason CarterEastover, SC
Eastover, South Carolina
Richland Soil and Water Conservation District
Jason Carter has been farming for 27 years, and currently, he farms 1,000 acres of corn, wheat, and soybean in Eastover, South Carolina.
Like many producers, Carter strives for what works best for his operation. He makes improvements that build healthy soils, decrease inputs, and maintain or increase yields – all helping his bottom line. Carter plants no-till and uses multi-species cover crops. One hundred percent of his corn is planted into a green cover crop. While planting his corn, however, he terminates his cover crop using a roller crimper and herbicide application. For the past 10 years, Carter has planted cover crops on 100 percent of his acreage. Half of the soybeans are planted after the wheat crop is harvested. The other half of the soybean crop is planted into a terminated cereal rye cover crop. His wheat is planted into a frost-killed summer cover crop that is planted after the corn is harvested.
Carter says most farmers in South Carolina subsoil strip-till and plant at the same time. His originally intention was to roll the cover crop, subsoil, and plant at the same time. However, this plan didn’t work out as anticipated. The lush cover crop of clover, vetch, and radishes that he planted the corn into was so slick that he couldn’t get enough traction to pull the subsoiler. He managed to get one pass across the field, and without any other options, he instead removed the subsoiler and planted no-till into the green cover. At the end of the year, his yields were the same where he had subsoiled versus no-till. What Carter thought was going to be a problem turned out to be one of the greatest lessons learned.
According to Carter, most full season soybean farmers in South Carolina plant a group 7 soybean. This puts harvest in November and delays cover crop planting into shorter, cooler days. Cover crop biomass isn’t as heavy in later planting dates, so he switched to a group 5 soybean that is harvested the first of October. This gives Carter’s cover crops thirty more days of growth, ensuring a heavier cover crop. For the past ten years, Carter has been using covers to build organic matter, reduce commercial fertilizer and pesticide, and promote soil organisms. When starting out, Carter used legume covers as a source of nitrogen and to build organic matter.
For the past three years, he has been experimenting with planting untreated corn seed. Carter says most corn seed today comes with an insecticide, fungicide, and nematicide seed treatment. When comparing a naked seed to a treated seed, he hasn’t experienced any yield decreases, except when he plants through areas of the field that tend to hold water. For these areas, he still needs a fungicide treated seed, which only makes up 10 percent or less of a field. For the 2022 season, he set up a planter that has two compartments per row. In one box is untreated seed and the other box is fungicide treated seed. He enters a prescription into the planter computer which will then have the planter switch between the treated and the untreated seed using GPS as he plants across the field.
To date, here are some additional advancements Carter has noted:
- No Glyphosate use for the past two years
- No fungicide application for the past seven years
- No commercial phosphorus, potassium, or lime use for the past eight years
- Chicken litter rates reduced by 50 percent
- Herbicide usage reduced by 50 percent
- Insecticide application reduced by 75 percent
- Synthetic nitrogen reduced by 75 percent
- Organic matter increased from .6 to 1.8
Carter has been collaborating with Dr. Robin “Buz” Kloot from the University of South Carolina for the past nine years on soil health research. In 2019, they traveled to South Africa to talk to farmers about their experience in regenerative agriculture. This year, Dr. Kloot and Carter, in collaboration with the South Carolina Forage and Grazing Lands Coalition, started a research project integrating livestock into row crop operations.
Updated November 2022