Jesse CastlemanNewbern, TN
Dyer County Soil Conservation District
Jessie Castleman farms in the hill-lands of Newbern, Tenn. He took over his dad’s farming operation in 2015 and grows grain crops in a corn-soybean rotation.
Castleman began planting cover crops with his father in 2014. As most of their fields have a slope of two to five percent and are prone to wind erosion, they wanted to plant cover crops to help control erosion and keep their soil in place.
Castleman and his father have indeed seen the benefit of reduced erosion and much more. The soil organic matter is slowly improving and soil biology is increasing both above and below the surface. The water cycle has returned to the farm, as water is infiltrated more readily. Castleman’s soils are softer and less compact. Weeds that were once prominent on the fields, especially Marestail, are now practically non-existent. Any runoff is now clear, instead of muddy and murky.
Castleman has seen financial benefits as well, saving $17-$25 per acre due to the reduction in herbicide treatments.
Currently, Castleman’s cover crop mix consists of cereal rye, crimson clover, Austrian winter peas, Bob oats and tillage radishes. This multi-species mix has added benefits of mimicking nature and increasing diversity on his fields. Recently, he has been drilling in his cover crop seeds.
To others hoping to embark on a soil health journey, Castleman and his father advise them to start small by learning how to plant in residues first. Then, they suggest trying something different each year to work up to a multi-species system.
Updated July 2019.