Karl and Alex Forsbach
Hardin County Soil Conservation District
Karl and Alex Forsbach, a father and son duo, farm 3,300 acres of corn, soybeans, milo (grain sorghum) and wheat in Hardin County, Tennessee. Approximately 900 of their acres are irrigated with a center pivot system.
Their operation lies just below the Pickwick Dam. This location provides a unique challenge to their operation, as their ground is saturated when the Tennessee Valley Authority decides to flood the lands due to excess rain. The threat of floods causes many farmers in the area to be apprehensive about no-till and cover crops, as these seasonal floods might move crop residues and drown out their cover crops and cash crops.
The Forsbachs, however, didn’t let these threats stop them. They’ve been utilizing no-till for many years and have been utilizing cover crops for over five years. Their cover crops are drilled in, after harvest, by October 15. Rye grass is a key component of their multi-species cover crop mixture, as it handles flooding the best. They terminate the cover crops two weeks before planting with two passes of Roundup and one time with Gramoxone.
In just two years of using cover crops with their no-till system, they saw their soil organic matter move from less than one percent to an average of 2.5 percent. Their soil structure has also become more aggregated, showing improved soil biology. Another big benefit they’ve seen has been improved infiltration. Even after heavy rainfall, their fields have less standing water.
Their soil health practices have also provided some financial benefits. While they still spray fungicides in corn, they have been able to reduce their sprays on soybeans. On acres where they do not spray, they save $17-$25. The duo also claims to see move yield stability in drier years when their neighboring farmers see yield losses.
The Forsbachs are looking to continually improve their soil health regimen and are interested in acquiring a roller crimper and planting green.
Updated May 2020.