The Soil Health Institute presented a series of virtual meetings as part of its Healthy Soils for Sustainable Cotton project.
The goal of the project is to increase adoption of soil health management systems. The “Healthy Soils for Sustainable Cotton Farmer Showcase” featured cotton producers and soil health specialists across the United States discussing the challenges and successes they have encountered on their journey to improve soil health. Each state’s speakers summarized how producers are making essential soil health practices like no-till and cover crops work under local soil and climate conditions.
Soil Health Challenges in the Delta: What Works and What Doesn’t
February 2, 2021
Spotlight on Mississippi
- Mr. Sledge Taylor, Farmer, Como, Mississippi
- Mr. Parker Frew, Delta F.A.R.M. Program Manager
This showcase featured Como, MS farmer Mr. Sledge Taylor as he talked about his journey to improve soil health in the Mississippi Delta. Mr. Taylor began experimenting with no-till cotton in the 1990s. He planted 90% of his cotton using no-till in 2020 and seeded cover crops on half of his 4,500-acre farm. After seeing increased soil organic matter and better water infiltration, Mr. Taylor said cover crops have “supercharged” the whole process. Joining the conversation was Parker Frew, Delta F.A.R.M.’s soil health specialist. He provided insights from ongoing soil health, cover crop and no-till demonstrations occurring throughout the Mississippi Delta.
Soil Health in Texas: Lessons from Long-term Study Sites
February 9, 2021
Spotlight on Texas
- Dr. Murilo Maeda, Texas AgriLife Assistant Professor & Extension Cotton Specialist
- Dr. Jourdan Bell, Texas AgriLife Associate Professor and Extension Specialist
- Dr. Emi Kimura, Texas AgriLife Assistant Professor and Extension Agronomist
- Dr. Josh McGinty, Texas AgriLife Associate Professor and Extension Agronomist
- Dr. Katie Lewis, Texas AgriLife Associate Professor Soil Fertility and Chemistry
- Dr. Paul DeLaune, Texas AgriLife Professor Environmental Soil Science
- Dr. Jamie Foster, Texas AgriLife Professor Forages
- Mr. Jeremy Brown, Farmer, Dawson County, Texas
- Mr. Barry Evans, Farmer, Hale-Swisher Counties, Texas
This showcase featured results from long-term study sites in the High Plains, Rolling Hills and South Texas cotton regions. An overview was provided by Texas AgriLife Extension specialists Dr. Murilo Maeda, Dr. Jourdan Bell, Dr. Emi Kimura and Dr. Josh McGinty. Challenges, benefits, and lessons learned from long-term study sites were summarized by Texas AgriLife research scientists Dr. Katie Lewis, Dr. Paul DeLaune, and Dr. Jamie Foster. In addition, a roundtable discussion with farmers experienced in using these practices was included. Producers involved include Mr. Jeremy Brown and Mr. Barry Evans from the High Plains region.
Soil Health in Arkansas: Is it Profitable?
February 16, 2021
Spotlight on Arkansas
- Dr. Bill Robertson, University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture Cooperative Extension Cotton Agronomist
- Mr. Matt Fryer, University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture Cooperative Extension Soil Instructor
- Mr. Adam Chappell, Farmer, Cotton Plant, Arkansas
- Mr. Wes Kirkpatrick, Farmer, Dumas, Arkansas
- Mr. Jesse Flye, Farmer, Trumann, Arkansas
This showcase was a roundtable discussion moderated by Dr. Bill Robertson, University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture Cooperative Extension Cotton Agronomist and Mr. Matt Fryer, University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture Cooperative Extension Soil Instructor, with three Arkansas cotton farmers. The farmers brought varying levels of experience using cover crops, no-till and other soil health promoting practices. Mr. Adam Chappell, Cotton Plant, AR, has been using no-till and cover crops on his 9,000-acre farm for more than 10 years. He raises cotton, corn, soybeans, and rice. Besides increases in soil organic matter, Mr. Chappell said he has seen reduced pest pressures because of his cover crop use. He attributed this to providing a diverse habitat for beneficial insects. Reducing input cost is one of Mr. Chappell’s primary goals. Mr. Wes Kirkpatrick, Dumas, AR, said he is happy with his soil health management system (SHMS) that includes no-till and use of cereal grains as his primary cover crop. His SHMS has improved water infiltration and reduced weed pressure. Mr. Jesse Flye, Trumann, AR, is new to cover cropping but not to cotton. He’s interested in expanding his cover crop acreage and hopes to achieve many of the benefits that Mr. Chappell and Mr. Kirkpatrick have seen.
Improving Soil Health in a Dry Climate
February 23, 2021
Spotlight on California
- Dr. Jeff Mitchell, Cropping Systems Specialist at University of California, Davis
- Mr. John Teixeira, Farmer, Firebaugh, CA
- Mr. Gary Martin, Farmer, Mendota, CA
- Mr. Cary Crum, California Ag Solutions Crop Consultant
This showcase centered around the challenges posed by managing water and improving soil health in California’s Mediterranean climate where most of the rain comes during the winter. Dr. Jeff Mitchell, Cropping Specialist with the University of California, Davis, lead a discussion with several cotton producers in the San Joaquin Valley who are using cover crops and compost to help. Mr. John Teixeira, Firebaugh, CA raises organic cotton and understands the challenges that this poses in managing cover crops. Mr. Gary Martin, Mendota, CA, has benefited from use of soil amendments like poultry litter and compost to improve his soil health. Mr. Cary Crum, Madera, CA, a private crop consultant, has worked with silage growers in California to include cover crops and no-till to improve soil health.
Soil Health in a Cotton and Peanut Rotation
March 2, 2021
Spotlight on Georgia
- Mr. Peyton Sapp, Burke County Georgia Extension Coordinator
- Mr. Burton Heatwole, Farmer, Millen, Georgia
This showcase focused on how to improve soil health in a rotation that includes cotton and peanuts. Mr. Peyton Sapp, Burke County Georgia Extension Coordinator, presented some preliminary results from the long-term crop rotation plots at the Southeast Georgia Research farm near Midville, GA. In addition, Mr. Burton Heatwole, Millen, GA, discussed his use of multi-species cover crops to address soil health issues on his farm.
Soil Health: View from the Cotton Gin
March 9, 2021
Spotlight on North Carolina/Virginia
- Mr. Robbie Waters, Edwards Cotton Company, Scotland Neck, North Carolina
- Mr. Zeb Winslow, Farmer, Scotland Neck, North Carolina
This showcase included views from Mr. Robbie Waters, Scotland Neck, NC, who manages the Edwards Cotton Company, on how focusing on soil health provides benefit to the cotton industry. Mr. Waters is also a cotton producer who is starting to use cover crops. He was joined by Mr. Zeb Winslow, Scotland Neck, NC, who has been using no-till, cover crops and nutrient management to grow his cotton for the past 8 years. Mr. Winslow has learned that getting his cover crop planted and terminated successfully and in a timely manner are keys to his soil health management. In 2020, he used a split row planter to seed all of his 750 acres of cover crops that will be terminated using a roller crimper in the spring.
Lessons from 8 Years of Regenerative Agriculture
March 16, 2021
Spotlight on the Carolinas
- Dr. Buz Kloot, Research Associate Professor, University of South Carolina
- Mr. Jason Carter, Farmer, Eastover, South Carolina
- Mr. Doug Newton, Farmer, Clio, South Carolina
This showcase featured a presentation by Mr. Jason Carter, Eastover, SC covering lessons learned while implementing cover crops, no-till and nutrient management on his 800-acre farm operation on the coastal plain soils of South Carolina during the past 8 years. He benefits from increased soil organic matter, reduced weed pressure and a robust nutrient cycle that has allowed him to reduce fertilizer use. Mr. Doug Newton, Clio, SC has seen an increase in beneficial insects because of his soil health practices.
Why Soil Health is Important to the Future of U.S. Cotton
March 23, 2021
Spotlight on Regenerative Ag Leaders
- Dr. Jesse Daystar, Vice President and Chief Sustainability Officer, Cotton Incorporated
- Dr. Gary Adams, President and Chief Executive Officer, National Cotton Council
- Mr. Greg Bohrer, Director, Natural Capital, Walmart.org
- Dr. Wayne Honeycutt, President and Chief Executive Officer, Soil Health Institute
This showcase featured representatives from the Walmart Foundation, Cotton Inc. and the Soil Health Institute discussing the importance of soil health and regenerative agriculture to the future of U.S. cotton. Questions dealing with increased consumer interest in sustainably grown food and fiber, the “Cotton Trust Protocol,” and the science supporting soil health principles was covered.
Cotton Farmer Showcase is part of the Healthy Soils for Sustainable Cotton project, which provides farmer-focused education and training events delivered by Soil Health Institute scientists, partnering with local soil health technical specialists and farmer mentors who have implemented successful soil health management systems. The project aims to increase the adoption of soil health management systems among cotton producers while documenting environmental and economic benefits.
Healthy Soils for Sustainable Cotton is supported through the generosity of the Wrangler® brand, the VF Corporation Foundation and the Walmart Foundation. For more information about the project and to sign up for the webinars, visit https://soilhealthinstitute.org/soil-health-training/.