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“Over the course of the last five years or so we’ve gone from conventionally tilling the creekbottom grounds and the wetter ground and no-tilling the rolling ground to cover cropping basically 100% of the farm, whether it be creek bottom, rolling ground, the entire farm is now a multi-species cover crop. Every year we incorporate the corn and soybeans into the green standing cover crop about four years ago.”

  • Brad Reddick

 

Brad and Joel Reddick, with help from Brad’s wife, Amy, received the 2022 Kentucky Leopold Conservation award for their tenacious pursuit of regenerative practices, including cover crops, no-till, and grazing integration on their operation in Carlisle County, Kent. They turned hard into cover crops starting in 2018 after decades of straight no-tilling.

The prestigious award — which includes a $10,000 prize — is jointly presented by the Sand County Foundation and the Kentucky Agricultural Council in the name of conservationist Aldo Leopold, who called for an ethical relationship between people and the land.

For this episode of the No-Till Farmer podcast, brought to you by SOURCE by Sound Agriculture, Brad and Joel joined Cover Crop Strategies podcast host and editor Noah Newman to cover the basics of their operation, how they came to add on additional practices to no-tilling.

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Full Transcript

Brian O'Connor

Welcome to the No-Till Farmer podcast, brought to you by Sound Agriculture. I'm lead content editor, Brian O'Connor. This week's edition, the podcast is a rebroadcast of an episode from our sister program, the Cover Crop Strategies podcast. We wanted to hear from National No-Tillage Conference fixtures, the Reddick family of Bardwell, Kentucky, and their recent Leopold Conservation Award win. Brad and Joel Reddick spoke to Strategies' podcast host and Cover Crop Strategies editor, Noah Newman, about their journey into regent ag and winning the Leopold Award.

Brad Reddick

My name is Brad Reddick, Bardwell, Kentucky. We're in the western-most part of the State of Kentucky along the Mississippi River. We farm primarily rolling hills and creek-bottom ground. We have corn, soybeans, wheat, occasionally, grain sorghum, and we have four broiler barns that were contracted with an integrator. We also have an 80-cow beef cow herd, commercial beef cow herd. I've been involved in farming my entire life. I was raised here on this farm. My wife and I have been actively farming for about 25 years, but I've been involved in cattle and tobacco and row crop my entire life.

Noah Newman

I know your son Joel is joining us as well.

Joel, introduce yourself and tell us how heavily involved are you in the operation?

Joel Reddick

Hi. This is Joel Reddick. I'm Brad and Amy's son. I'm 25, and I've been here on the farm full time for four or five years now after I got out of college and got done doing that. I'm involved every day. Some days, it's just as small as picking up feed trays in the chicken houses. Some days, it's helping make big decisions on how we're going to manage entire fields and entire crops. It's got a lot of variability, but I enjoy that. There's lots of curve balls. We've certainly had a curve ball this last month with record heat and record drought, but we're dealing with that as best we can.

Noah Newman

What college did you go to, and did you always want to be involved in farming, or is this something that, while you were in college, you had an epiphany and you want to do it, or is this something you've always wanted to do, Joel?

Joel Reddick

I was involved in FFA and things like that in high school, and that piqued my interest and got me engaged with some off-farm agricultural experiences, and I decided to go to Murray State University. I spent four years there, graduated with a degree in agronomy, and that ag science degree has really helped strengthen my background so I can contribute more meaningfully in the farm today. I've always wanted to farm since I've been an adult. I guess that interest started in high school for me.

Noah Newman

Gotcha, and I saw that Reddick Farms just won the Kentucky Leopold Conservation Award, so congratulations to you guys for that. Tell us about that honor and what it means to you guys.

Brad Reddick

We were honored to receive that award, to be recognized for the changes that we've made in our farming operation over the course of the last five years or so. We've gone from conventionally tilling the creek-bottom fields and the wetter ground and no tilling the rolling ground to cover cropping basically a hundred percent of the farm. Whether it be creek bottom, rolling ground, the entire farm is now a multi-species cover crop every year. We incorporated planting the corn and soybeans into the green standing cover crop about four years ago, and we've been learning how to deal with that ever since then. It's been a learning experience.

We're the pioneers in this county and, basically, in Western Kentucky of planting green into multi-species cover crop. We don't really know of anybody else that's doing it, so we rely on the network of people on the internet and speakers that we hear at conferences to share our experiences and learn from their experiences. We were just grateful to receive that award and be recognized for what we're doing and to also share with the public what we're doing and our successes and failures through that endeavor. In fact, every year is different and every year there's a new unexpected outcome. We're just glad to be able to share those experiences with someone else that might be wanting to help their environment that they live in.

Noah Newman

Yeah, that's one of the great parts of social media is just being able to interact with people from all over the country. I saw there's a Facebook group, Everything Cover Crops. I don't know if you've seen that, but they have some great stuff on there if you haven't checked that out or if someone listening right now to check that out, but anyways, so when did you start implementing these conservation practices on your farm? Was there a certain moment where just the light bulb went off and you wanted to try it? Just tell us about your journey getting into the conservation practices.

Brad Reddick

I began cover cropping I think in, I'm going to say, 2015. It might have been before that, but I started utilizing EQIP Cover Crop programs about 2015, and, of course, then we established the cover crop after harvest and then let it grow through the winter and then burn it down in the spring and plant corn or soybeans into it, was having some difficulties with that with killing the cover crop and with slugs. What really turned the table for us was attending the National No-Till Conference in Louisville in 2018 and meeting some... Adam Daugherty, I think, was the first speaker at that conference, and we really took to heart what he was doing down in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.

I was really having some challenges with the cover crop up until then, and that was a light-bulb moment to try to plant green. We're now mechanically terminating as much as we can and then following up with herbicides where needed. Attending that conference and listening to the speakers at that conference was what turned the table for and made us go the direction that we're continuing today.

Noah Newman

Now, are you guys a hundred percent no-till, or how does that work?

Brad Reddick

Yes. We don't own any full-width tillage equipment anymore. We've traded it for no-till drills and equipment that will help with planting green and planting into the big cover crop. I think the biggest disc I've got right now is about 14 feet. We use it very sparingly, just where we have to do some maintenance or something, but we don't have any vertical tillage, rotary harrows, anything anymore. We've traded all that for equipment that's going to help us with planting corn and soybeans into the cover crop, and so, yes, we're a hundred percent no-till.

Noah Newman

Joel, I'll ask you this. What kind of improvements or benefits have you started to see ever since you guys switched to no-till and using cover crops on 100% of your acres now?

Joel Reddick

The improvements, there's a few things that are constant. Where we live, we get about 50 inches of rain a year, and it doesn't always come when we need it like most places. The last month, we've been incredibly dry, but April and May are usually too wet and frequently cold as well. There are some things in farming that are certain in our geography, and nobody I've talked to yet in this area has yet to see a dry April. Aprils are always muddy. There's flooding in the creek bottoms. There's really wet conditions that prevent us from planting when we would like to.

One of the first improvements you can see when you start no-till and cover cropping is a reduction in erosion with those heavy spring rains. I mean, it's not uncommon for us to get three, four, five inches a day and a couple of rain events every single spring. Everybody else's fields around tend to wash out pretty bad. The water is very muddy and has a lot of sediment in it. Our area is blessed with good ground, its good, silty ground. It's very productive, but that silt is not as sticky as the clays up north, so it is prone to erosion. One of the first things that you can see implementing no-till and cover crops the way that we have is a tremendous reduction in erosion.

Noah Newman

You mentioned off top how you recently had a curve ball. It was really dry there recently, so how much did cover crops help combat that, the dry spell that you guys went through?

Joel Reddick

That remains to be seen. If you call back in October, we'll be able to tell you a little bit better. I think our fields did weather that better. I'm not going to say we're immune to it. I think June ended up being about the 15th hottest in the last 100 years and the 7th driest. It's definitely been the hottest and driest since the drought of 2012 in this area, so it's the biggest drought in the last decade, and we are not immune to it by any means. This isn't a silver bullet, but it definitely lets us take steps in the right direction. We have other people that we've followed on social media and met through conferences and things that have been doing this longer than we have, and they're seeing even better results than we are. The longer you implement this system, the more soil you save, the more your ecosystem improves and then the more resilient your ecosystem is in the event of these drastic weather changes.

Noah Newman

Gotcha. Yeah. Well, we'll definitely have to check back in the fall, but let's talk about the species of cover crops that you guys are using and how did the cover crop mixes... How are they custom matched for each field's crop rotation?

Joel Reddick

Right. We've had a shotgun-blast approach the last several years trying to figure out what species work the best for different scenarios going into corn. We like to plant a lot of legumes, brassicas as well, to try to scavenge nitrogen that the beans may have left and also let the legumes fix the nitrogen. Nitrogen in our area this year is about a dollar a unit. Having those legumes out there has never been more helpful in that department.

We do put a few grasses in, a little bit of cereal rye, oats, barley, similar cereal grains like that to help pump some carbon into the ground and maintain soil structure and things like that. Growing the soybeans, we like a lot more grasses. Usually, about a bushel to the acre of total cereal grains is sufficient when you're letting it go planting green like this. The cover crops are going to get five or six feet tall before we plant. We don't like to plant them too heavy because we are not burning down, we're not tilling them under, so they do get quite a bit of size to them. Even with 60 pound of acres, 70 pound of acres seeding rate, we see good results in soybeans with that, and then every acre that doesn't get a cover crop gets wheat. We've had wheat in the rotation in the last couple years, taking advantage of economics in the wheat.

Noah Newman

You mentioned how you're the only ones that are planting green there in your area. Correct?

Joel Reddick

In our immediate area, yeah. We're not aware of anybody right now that's planting green like this. A lot of people do cover crops. That seems to be increasingly common the last three or four years, but most people will burn down around April 1st if it's not too wet, and that'll be approximately ankle to knee tall, depending on the planting date and the species. That's becoming more normal, and that's a great start. We would encourage our neighbors to start like that on 50 acres to get acquainted with it.

It can be dangerous if you're planning on planting green the first time. There's a lot of mistakes that can very easily be made, and we know because we've made them in part, but it definitely helps to start small if you don't have any experience, but if you can learn at these conferences and on Everything Cover Crops group, those are both fantastic resources, you can learn from other people's experience. The agriculture community especially it seems with the cover cropping world is very generous with information and helping each other, so we would definitely encourage people to utilize resources like your magazine puts out and help take advantage of that.

Noah Newman

Definitely. A wise man once said, "You always learn more from mistakes than successes." Well, Brad, I'll ask you this. What were some of those challenges and maybe mistakes that you guys made when you first started planning green, and what kept you going and how did you guys eventually correct those?

Brad Reddick

Well, it was pretty easy to start planting soybeans, green. At that time, the soybeans seemed to do better right off the bat. We were struggling with corn in the early years of planting green primarily because I didn't have fertilizer on the planter. I think we bought a different planter in 2018 that was equipped with fertilizer. At that time, we weren't using as many legumes, we were using more cereals, and the cereals were taking up a lot of the nitrogen that was available like they're supposed to, but there wasn't anything there for the young corn seedling. The first hurdle was getting nitrogen on the planter and learning how to use it and get the right number of units of nitrogen out there to help the corn crop get started. If the weather didn't cooperate, wasn't able to get the cover crop terminated timely, and that also caused a yield drag on the corn.

Like I said before, since then, we've gone to mechanically terminate the cover crop as much as we can on the corn plant. We actually have a cover crop crimper on the corn planter now. We're trying to get the corn, the cover crop rolled down to where it's not blocking the sunlight and it's not taking up as much nutrients. I think that's been the biggest hurdle is establishing a corn crop and a cereal grain cover crop.

Ever since we started, we've had to fight slugs and, now, we're fighting voles in the soybeans. It seems like every field we've got this year has got patches in it where the voles have destroyed the soybean crop. It's a constant battle, but we definitely see more benefits of what we're doing than we do negatives just with the erosion control and the weed control and the reduction of inputs.

Noah Newman

Yeah. Going into more detail, if you could just take us through the process of planting green, so when you plant, and then how quickly do you terminate? Do you terminate immediately after or do you wait a little bit, or how does that work?

Brad Reddick

We've decided that we don't need to start planting corn or soybeans until the first of May. Weather conditions are just too adverse in April. We like to let our cover crop get as big as we can to get maximum utilization out of the cover crop for shading the ground and preventing weed germination and preventing moisture loss, so we typically start around the 1st of May planting corn and soybeans. We're putting about 60 units of nitrogen on with the corn planter as we plant and doing some biologicals in-furrow. We've got a cover crop crimper attached to the corn planter so that it's rolling everything down flat and terminating as many species as possible at that growth stage.

Then, this year, we didn't come right back behind the planter before pre-emergence with the herbicide. I feel like, as dry as we've gotten, we probably would've benefited a little bit from completely terminating that cover crop earlier, but we never know what's going to happen. In hindsight, our corn probably suffered a little bit from having the green competing cover crop out there while it was getting established. There's primarily the oats. Everything seemed to crimp pretty good, except for the oats, and they were just too short and didn't crimp well, but, typically, we come back when the corn is V4 to V6 stage and put down a post-emergence herbicide application. The last two or three years, the corn has been one pass of herbicide, and we've had pretty good control.

Noah Newman

What type of herbicide do you use?

Brad Reddick

This year, I use Halex and Atrazine, Halex GT and Atrazine, on the GMO corn. We have about 570 acres of corn this year, and about 250 of it was non-GMO corn. We've been expanding our non-GMO acres the last two or three years and doing more test strip trials and test plots with the non-GMO seed. On the non-GMO, I used Accent and Impact and Atrazine.

Brian O'Connor

We'll get back to the Reddicks in a moment. First, I want to thank our sponsors, Source by Sound Agriculture. Today, nutrients cost more, and it could be hard to get when you need them. Thankfully, there's a better source of plant nutrition. It's your soil. Source from Sound Agriculture unlocks more of the nitrogen and phosphorus in your fields. Learn more about Source at www.sound.ag. Now, back to the Reddicks.

Noah Newman

All right. Well, let's talk about the role that animals play in your farm. I know you implemented a rotational grazing program. Tell us a little bit about that.

Brad Reddick

We've only got one farm that we're able to graze cover crop at the present time. That farm has perennial pasture and row crop acres on it, and so I've been managing grazing on the cover crop acres in the spring, March and April, on that farm. The rest of our grazing management is on perennial pasture. Basically, we're just moving polywire and the water source every day or every two days and trying to give the previous grazed ground 20 to 30 days rest.

In May, when it's cool season, forages are growing strong. I think it's helped this year with that's turning out so dry. It's prolonged our grazing, but we reached a point in mid-June when there wasn't enough moisture for the grass to regrow. We're feeding some stored feed right now at some... one farm, and they're still grazing at the other farm, but our grasses have not grown back because we just didn't have any moisture in June. The grazing management definitely helped us into the dry spell. When we do start getting some moisture, not letting the cattle roll over the whole pasture will help us out this fall grass reestablishing.

Noah Newman

Now, do you use manure as a fertilizer?

Brad Reddick

Yes. We utilize all of the poultry manure that we have on the farm in primarily our row crop acres. We do use it on pasture and hay as well, but a hundred percent of what we take out of our broiler barns is used for fertilizer. We also buy poultry manure from different farms around the area to cover the acres that we can't produce manure for.

Noah Newman

How does that work? When do you apply it, and how much do you apply?

Brad Reddick

We typically apply two to three tons prior to a wheat crop or prior to a corn crop. We apply it to the wheat in September and October, a ground that we're going to be establishing wheat in in October. Before corn, we typically apply it January through Marc. We have our own tandem axle spreader truck and loaders and stuff like that to handle manure once we get it into the field with semis. On the cattle manure, we don't handle any cattle manure.

I've started unrolling my hay in the winter when I feed hay in the winter. I've started unrolling it out in the pasture, which helps to fertilize the pasture, but the remaining hay residue is incorporated back into the soil and helps with receding and with fertilizing the pasture and also keeping the cattle more or less grazing hay there. It's a more natural way of the cows fertilizing the pastures than confining them in a specific area or feeding hay in a specific area all winter. We see much better growth in the spring by unrolling the hay out in the pasture and spreading out all the manure from the cattle as they basically graze the hay.

Noah Newman

Gotcha. All right. Well, back to you, Joel. I wanted to ask you about the equipment. What kind of equipment are you guys using for each crop?

Joel Reddick

The air drill puts in a lot of time here. The air drill will seed all the soybeans typically on 7.5 inch rows, which is a little bit abnormal for our area. We're currently only farming about 1,600 acres, so it's difficult to justify having a 30-inch corn planter, an air drill and a 15-inch soybean planter. The 15-inch soybean plant would be more normal for our area. It's what most of our neighbors use to plant soybeans. The air drill does get used quite a bit because it'll plant all the soybeans, all the wheat and all the cover crops. On a 1,600 acre farm, it's going to have, on any given year, over 2,000, 2,300 acres, depending on the rotation, so it gets a lot of use, but that helps us plant no-till.

The air drill does a great job. It's a Case IH 500T. It was equipped from the factory pretty well. It just required some aftermarket closing wheels from our friends over at Needham Ag. That's what we use for soybeans, wheat and cover crops, and then we've got a 30-inch dedicated corn planter that has in-furrow and two-by-two fertilizer on it with the roller crimpers. It helps get the corn in the ground well. There's no amount of biomass that we've grown that this particular corn planter can't handle. It's got Yetter's cover crop devastators on the front with Steve Martin's razor row cleaner wheels. It's got hydraulic down force and Steve Martin's razor closing wheels as well, with in-furrow and two-by-two fertilizer. It's quite the machine for planting through biomass. We've certainly put it through its paces. It seems like, every year, there's one or two fields that just get outrageously big just due to the chicken litter. Putting it helps increase the cover crop biomass.

There's a lot of organic nutrients that are readily available. With the corn crop, we usually put nitrogen on. In the wintertime, it's actually my favorite. In January, the ground is typically frozen on the surface, especially in the early mornings. I'll get out there at 6:00 AM, 7:00 AM while the ground is frozen. The equipment seems to like the frozen ground, and we're not usually very busy in January, February timeframe, and then, as soon as it thaws, there's cover crops there to take up those nutrients, so we're not worried about any nutrient loss applying raw manure and no-till.

A lot of people would like to incorporate that litter. That's what some of the traditional manure handling would advise you to do is to incorporate that litter, but we feel that applying a no-till into a cover crop as soon as it's warm enough, February, March, the cover crop breaks dormancy, and then it's got a lot of chicken litter right there, ready to recycle those nutrients. We do see pretty thick growth in our cover crops going to corn where we put the chicken litter, so it does require the planter to be fairly heavily modified. It's pretty far from a factory Kinze planter with the roller crimpers, the aftermarket row cleaners, downforce and closing wheels and fertilizer as well. There's not much on it that Kinze brought from the factory anymore.

Noah Newman

Do you guys perform soil tests and, if so, what are they revealing?

Joel Reddick

We've been using conventional tests. I probably first started grid sampling most every acre in a rotation when I was in high school. Most of our fields here that we've been farming the longest have had five or six different rotations in conventional testing. We've definitely seen the conventional tests stabilize. I'm not going to say that they're that much better, but reducing the erosion does seem to help increase our phosphorus and potassium numbers, because the only way phosphorous and potassium leaves the field is through the combine or with rain in the form of runoff and erosion. If we can eliminate the water erosion that our farm sees especially in the hill ground, we're maintaining quite a bit of that P and K that... because our nutrients are fairly stratified, and long-time no-till farmer listeners will probably know what that means, but we're surface applying our chicken litter.

We're not working that ground at all. Our nutrients are much more concentrated in the upper layers of the soil profile, and that can be risky if you expose your soil to wind and rain, but when we are no-tilling perennially and maintaining cover crops every single season, our ground is never exposed to the harmful aspects of rain and wind. We're maintaining those nutrients, and we have seen that reflected in the conventional tests.

We've also been using some of the newer soil health tests with the Haney tests and the PLFA. We've been using Lance Gunderson there at Regen Ag Labs. They've been very helpful helping us understand how to interpret those. We're still figuring out how to use them as far as making big management decisions. Right now, it's just tracking progress and comparing the farms that we may have been managing longer that have had more cover crop history, more chicken litter history.

We're still using it to compare farms that are less mature as far as a soil health perspective to the farms that we feel are more mature due to the better management and the longer tenure being there. We use a lot of different soil tests and trying to figure out how to put them all together is a fun puzzle. It's a lot of information, and especially the new soil health tests are new, and then we're still learning as a community how we can utilize those fully. We're always attending different seminars and webinars and just getting any information we can about those new tests. I really feel that they are great tests. We're just trying to figure out how to use them most effectively.

Noah Newman

Yeah. I want to ask you about wildlife, too. I have to imagine you get a lot of wildlife there in Kentucky. Have you noticed more on your property since you've used cover crops, or do they play any role in your operation?

Joel Reddick

Absolutely. I cannot tell you how many rabbits I have seen this year planting green, it's got to be over 200 rabbits planting 6, 700 acres of soybeans, and deer. Deer really love to bed down in the cover crops. It's a great place to have their fawns and get a lot of good high quality forage there. We see more turkeys. They like eating the worms. We've cut out using liquid insecticides, and that really helps balance the insect community. I think the turkeys really appreciate having a better insect diet as well as protection. I mean, it's hard for a coyote or some kind of predator to find a turkey in that jungle of a cover crop because they can get out there and roost on... They don't normally roost on the ground, but there's so much cover that they can make a nest on the ground in the cover crop and lay their eggs there rather than in a tree.

It's typical around here for turkeys to roost in a tree. Sad to say, I've run over several because they like to protect their nests on the ground. They don't typically like to fly away, so you definitely know when you found a turkey nest with a roller crimper.

Noah Newman

200 rabbits? That's a lot of rabbits.

Joel Reddick

It's more than I can count. I'm just shooting from the hip there. If I plant a 50-acre field, I'll see a dozen, 20 even. It's more than I can count.

Noah Newman

What do you think that says about just, well, the impact of using cover crops and conservation practices that's bringing this much wildlife to your farm?

Joel Reddick

Well, you're seeing the macro fauna, that's the deer, the turkey, the rabbits. We had four infant, juvenile hawks that were born. It must have been this spring because they'd been really small. We're seeing predator birds. Last summer, we had ospreys. I had never heard of an osprey, but it is a predator. It's similar in size to an eagle. It is large, but the coloring is different, but they typically live around wetland areas, lakes, rivers. We are near lakes and rivers, but that's a new bird.

We're seeing predator species, the birds in particular, really thrive, and the turkeys and the deer, and that tells you that the community is increasing, because for every rabbit that you see, there's got to be 10 things that rabbits eat and, for every one of those things, there's got to be more and more as you go down that pyramid of hierarchy of animals. It is good to see new predator species and the birds especially because they're going to eat the voles. They're going to help balance the ecosystem in the long haul, and that tells us that we're moving in the right direction.

Noah Newman

Yeah. Absolutely. Brad, I wanted to ask you what are the average yields for your crops, and have you noticed the yields changing at all since you started adopting the conservation practices?

Brad Reddick

Yes, we have noticed the change, not always for the better, but we've been pretty consistent over this time period that we've been implementing cover cropping and green planting. We've been pretty consistent with soybeans, around 60 bushels per acre. The corn yields have been a little more of a roller coaster because, as I indicated earlier, that early on I was struggling with corn, with planting a grass corn crop into a grass cover crop, so, typically, I'd say we're at about 160 on corn over the last five years. When I was just no-till farming, we were seeing a little higher yields than that, but by using the cover crop, we've been able to decrease the amount of inputs that we're putting into a corn crop.

We're still seeing good ROI. It's just that we're not setting a record in this area on corn yields, but I think it's proof that we can be successful, that we're still in business without spending a whole lot of money on the fertilizer and herbicides. We have struggled with corn, but we're slowly overcoming it, except for maybe this drought year, but that's not a reflection upon us or the cover crop. That's just the hand that we've been dealt this year.

Noah Newman

Now, if I were to ask you what are your favorite cover crop species are in terms of just which ones you've gotten the most bang for your buck out of, what would you say?

Joel Reddick

Well, that depends entirely on where you're going to put it. Balansa clover has been really awesome. It fixes a tremendous amount of nitrogen, and it's extremely roller crimpable. The stems of Balansa clover are like a straw. They are extremely hollow. If I had to pick one legume, it would probably be that one. We've planted it early and it survives the winter. We've planted it late. We've planted it wet. We've planted it too deep, and it just seems to keep coming. It's a little more expensive compared to Hairy Vetch or an Austrian winter pea, but it's performed very well for us year in, year out.

Grasses, it would probably just be cereal rye. Find a variety that overwinters well, that suits your management. Cereal rye has never not survived a winter here. It's always dependable for its winter hardiness. In Kentucky, our normal average low temperature in the wintertime is probably around zero degrees or five degrees, so we're fairly moderate compared to most of your listeners I expect, but we do have trouble with some legumes overwintering, so we do have to be fairly picky with that. If I had to pick a grass, it would be cereal rye. If I had to pick a legume, it would be Balansa clover.

Noah Newman

Gotcha. Brad, would you agree with those?

Brad Reddick

Yes. I was going to say cereal rye would probably be my favorite and my go-to. We plant it just about on every acre every year. I think it's been instrumental in our erosion control and our weed control over this period of time. You can't beat the biomass because we let it get big so that it is crimpable. We've had a lot of falls where we've had a lot of volunteer cereal rye in the corn and soybeans, and so it's one that we go to every year.

Noah Newman

Have you noticed more farmers in your area start to think about using cover crops, or are more people doing it?

Brad Reddick

Yes. I think, overall, there are more people using cover crops in Western Kentucky. There's not many willing to let it get as big as we do, but we just took a leap of faith in 2018 and started planting into the green, letting it get big and cutting out the commercial fertilizer out of the operation. Overall, there are a lot more acres of at least cereal rye in the area than there was five years ago.

Noah Newman

Yeah, cereal rye, that always seems to be the popular one. Before I let you guys go, is there anything else you guys want to add or want people to know about your operation or just the impact these conservation practices could have?

Joel Reddick

It's important that people take advantage of podcasts like this and resources like this. There's a lot of unknown factors when you start farming like this. A lot of it is not new. People have been using green manure for a long time as a fertilizer source. The principles are not old, but adapting it to modern farming is still new, so it's important to find resources like this and utilize them because you don't need to go at this alone. You'll probably fail. If you fail in the first year, let's say you plant grain with corn, you don't have the right fertilizer set up, you plant cereal rye and you lose 50 bushels an acre, you're not likely to try that again very willingly, so it's important that people do their homework, utilize resources like the No-Till Farmer Magazine, the No-Till Conference and the Facebook groups and YouTube videos.

There's a whole world full of information and people that have experience. I guarantee you there's somebody, if you're listening to this, in your neck of the woods that has done this before. Use the resources at your disposal. Do some Google searches. If nothing else, make some phone calls. Don't try this alone. Use the wisdom that the community has collectively.

Brad Reddick

Yes. I would say the same thing. If it hadn't been for the resources that we had available to us, we would've probably given up, or I would've probably given up. In seeing other people doing the same thing and listening to them and seeing the outcomes that they were sharing with us, it was easier for me to make these changes, so I would just reiterate what Joel said. Utilize every resource at your disposal. In my mind, it's definitely worth the outcomes that we have seen just not having to fix the erosion that we typically have to fix in this area because of the heavy spring rains. Like I said before, the benefits definitely outweigh the negatives that you have to deal with from time to time. It's not always the same. We learn something new every year on our own farm, but there's somebody else out there that has experienced it also. We just plan to stay the course and keep expanding on what we're doing. We're not trying to invent the wheel here. We're just trying to do something a little different.

Brian O'Connor

Once again, we'd like to thank our sponsors, Source by Sound Agriculture, for helping to make this No-Till Podcast Series possible. More podcasts about no-till farming are available over at www.no-tillfarmer.com/podcasts. You can also subscribe to us wherever you listen to podcasts.

If you have any feedback on today's episode, please feel free to email me at boconnor@lessitermedia.com or call me at 262-777-2413. You also keep up on the latest no-till farming news by registering online for our No-Till Insider daily and weekly email updates and Dryland No-Tiller E-Newsletter. Be sure to follow us on Facebook or Twitter.

For Noah and our entire staff here at No-Till Farmer, I'm Brian O'Connor. Thanks for listening, and farm ugly.