Tim and Tommy Colbert

Tim (left) and Tommy (middle) Colbert on their farm with NRCS District Conservationist Brad Denton.

Tim and Tommy Colbert

Chester County Soil Conservation District


Tim and Tommy Colbert began farming near Jack’s Creek and Plainview in Chester County in 1973. Like most other West Tennessee farmers, they grow row crops – wheat, soybeans, corn and cereal rye – on their 1,700 acres. 2015 was the first year they did not grow cotton, a staple from the previous 29 years.

In the 1970s and 1980s, the brothers constructed terraces on their farms. This decision reduced the gully and rill erosion on their farm and paved the way for more soil health practices in their future. The Colberts became one of the earlier adopters of no-till in their county. Just over 10 years ago, the brothers also switched to their diverse conservation crop rotation. In 2014, they added annual cover crops to their farm to give them continuous root growth. With technical assistance from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and financial assistance from the NRCS, Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), the Colberts planted 560 acres of a five-way cover crop mixture in the fall of 2014.

Since implementing these soil health practices, they have seen their soil organic matter (SOM) improve significantly. Their SOM average is 2.5-3 percent – a jump from the one percent measured about 15 years ago. Their long-term no-till has improved their soils’ infiltration, causing water to come out clear at the ends of their terraces. They have also noticed that they can enter their fields two or three days earlier following a weather event than their neighbors that still till.

The brothers have also invested in Global Positioning Systems (GPS), yield monitoring and variable soil testing. They test their soils every three years and apply their lime and nutrients in variable rates depending on the results. Their new technologies allow them to drive straighter rows, leading to increases in yield.

They routinely attend their NRCS District Conservationist Brad Denton’s soil health round-table discussions which, they say, motivated them to want more from their farming operations. They also attend regional conferences on cover crops and soil health, continuously wanting to learn more about conservation and what they can do on their farm.

Updated August 2019.

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