John BrittUnion City, TN
Obion County Soil Conservation District
Union City, Tennessee
John Britt is a fourth-generation farmer who inherited the land from his father in 2002 and runs a 1,400-acre operation of corn, wheat and soybean. As his grandfather began utilizing no-till in the 1970s, John grew up with a conservation mindset.
Britt utilizes multiple soil health practices. His operation has been 100 percent no-till for several years, although he has needed to use vertical tillage to fill in ruts from time-to-time. He began planting cover crops because he wanted to enhance the benefits of his no-till system. His current cover crop mix is triticale, wheat, vetch, Austrian winter pea and crimson clover. Instead of more traditional nutrient management, Britt uses chicken litter to fertilize most of his fields.
He has seen numerous benefits from his practices, including yield increases. Weeds, including Mare’s Tail and Palmer Amaranth, have been severely suppressed, allowing him to reduce his herbicide usage. Water infiltration has improved, helping mitigate short-term droughts. Soil organic matter has increased, creating an increase in water holding capacity. Britt says that due to his soil being able to take in water better, he can get into the field earlier. He also believes his enhanced soil structure has improved germination.
These benefits are extremely visible on fields that he recently acquired. Britt bought a field in Kentucky that had been frequently tilled and was very compacted. After three years of planting a cereal rye cover crop, the soil had become aggregated and was no longer compacted.
Moving forward, Britt hopes to move from aerial seeding to drilling his cover crops. He wants other farmers beginning their cover crop journey to know that it takes time to regenerate and/or improve soil function, so they need to be in for the long-haul. The numerous benefits are well worth the wait.
Updated July 2019.