I recently made the long trip down to Arkansas for my first soil sampling trip for Continuum Ag. It was an action-packed trip, leaving a trail through Missouri, Tennessee, Mississippi and finally, Arkansas. After being stuck in an elevator in our first night’s hotel stay, it could only get better! An appointment with a bottle of Bourbon was long overdue. After being stuck in icy Iowa, it was time to get out in the field and get some sun.
I knew nothing about Arkansas before heading down besides soil health practices being few and far between. Well, that was the case for sure. It wasn’t all bad, though. With the likes of Adam Chappell, as well as our guys that we sampled, there was plenty of good stuff to see for sure. The most interesting for me was visiting the Arkansas River valley where we met Nick Moore, a new farmer to our RightWay program. Part of a family run business at 3BF Partnership, we met with him to learn that they had been implementing soil health practices since 2017. It was clear as day to see as the worms, small invertebrates and residue on the fields were full up.
I thought I’d ask him some more about what he’s seen by implementing soil health practices. A few main things stood out for me. The first being the weed control, and second the drought resistance in soybeans. Also, I should probably mention the increased yields in the cover crop fields! In the beginning, he planted strips of covers to get started. Winter weeds are generally a large problem down there, so the aim was to try and reduce the weed pressure. The bare strips were full up with winter weeds, whereas the cover crop had way less weeds. This was the case across the whole farm. There were 3-4 of these strips. The soybean yields increased by 4-5 bushel on the strips.
In drought and on poor ground, yields weren’t predicted to be high as exposed plants take a hit in those times. This was visually obvious when Nick had a very dry year. However, his field that contained cover crops was harvested as normal, but the next-door field with no covers barely even saw the combine! The lower soil temperatures recorded in the cover crop fields were definitely the saving grace.
Going forward, it will be great to follow the Moore’s journey down this path. A goal for the covers is to get as much out there as possible to get that biomass! Who knows, maybe he can get those cows in and take this to the next level. The last take I have was when we were leaving, he said “I wish I had started this stuff 10 years ago!”.