Swapping ‘Jugs’ for Cover Crops Leads to Greener No-Till Future

Matt Griggs says embracing biomass in his fields has improved soil tilth and health, stabilized yields, enhanced weed control and produced a better-looking balance sheet.

When Matt Griggs decided to embark on no-till practices more than a decade ago he was already dealing with a degraded soil resource. More than 100 years of conventional tillage and a monoculture of cotton on his family’s rolling farm ground had caused erosion and stripped soils of organic matter.

Whenever it rained, the ground turned to sugar and washed off. And even after shifting to no-till, a drought in 2007 that was exacerbated by a lack of water infiltration caused him to lose $100,000 in net income.

The emergence of herbicide-resistant Palmer amaranth was another hit. 

“I knew tillage wasn’t going to be the answer. I saw what 100-plus years of tillage did to the farm. I knew we couldn’t go back to that. But I also knew chemicals weren’t going to be a long-term sustainable solution,” Griggs told attendees at the National No-Tillage Conference last January. 

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PARTING THE ROW. Matt Griggs no-tills corn and cotton into living cover crops with a Kinze 3600 planter, using row cleaners (inset) that he designed himself out of old disc openers to create a path for seeding and keep the vegetation from wrapping around planter components.

Griggs is turning the farm around now. Cover crops and no-till practices work in tandem to provide more stable yields, better water-holding capacity and more effective weed control.

Put Down the Jug

Griggs no-tills cotton, cereal grains, corn and soybeans on 1,600 rolling acres near Humboldt, Tenn., on a farm that’s been in business since 1882…

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John-dobberstein2

John Dobberstein

John Dobberstein is senior editor of No-Till Farmer magazine and the e-newsletter Dryland No-TillerHe previously covered agriculture for the Tulsa World and worked for daily newspapers in Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Joseph, Mich. He graduated with a B.A. in journalism and political science from Central Michigan University.

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