2016 Dickson County Farm Tour


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Farmers will have to grow as much food in the next 26 years as they have grown in the previous 1,500 years. That’s because by then world populations are expected to exceed 9 billion.  With land for crop and livestock production at a premium and greater weather variability, we must now “do more with less”.

Famers need to be looking at ways to improve yields and reduce the cost of producing these yields. As researchers look for new varieties of crops to boost yields and improve extreme weather resilience, producers must do their own research in figuring out ways to cut costs.

Cover crops have become a major topic in many agriculture meetings, publications and other media outlets to help combat this issue. Research has shown that cover crops can increase yields, reduce inputs, improve water infiltration and reduce the impacts of extreme weather.  This can only be achieved with proper planning, application and management of cover crops.

Cover crops are not a “quick fix”, most benefits may not been seen for 3-10 years. Producers need to be thinking about cover crops at least 6-12 months in advance of planting.  Producers must ask themselves, “What cash crop will be planted next spring? What are my objectives for the cover crops? What cover crop varieties do I want to plant?  How will I terminate the cover crop before the next cash crop is planted?” Just to name a few.

Cover crops alone will not solve the issue agricultural producers have in front of them, but with the implementation of practices such as cover crops, precision nutrient management and advances in technology will hopefully help us reach this goal in the coming years.

Row crop producers are not alone in this “dilemma”, livestock producers must also find ways to reduce input costs as well. One way this can be accomplished is by setting up rotational grazing systems.  When cross fences and water sources are strategically placed and grazing management plan is followed, inputs can be reduced as the plan is implemented.  When cattle are frequently rotated between paddocks, manure and urine are more uniformly distributed throughout the pasture and forage in other paddocks are allowed to re-grow quickly.  Once fertility levels are raised through various sources, a rotational grazing system can help to reduce the amount of fertilizer applied and reduce or possibly eliminate hay being fed in the winter.

All of these management systems improve soil health, which in turn can reduce the need for external inputs and improve crop and livestock production. This can only be achieved from a commitment from the producer.                  -Nathan Hicklin, Soil Conservationist

For more information on cover crops, nutrient management, rotational grazing systems or other ways to reduce inputs contact us at:

USDA-NRCS & Dickson County Soil Conservation District

Wynne Luter, District Conservationist

305  Henslee Drive

Dickson, TN  37055

615-446-2449 ext 3


Corn planted into residue from 5 species cover crop mix (May 29th)

Cover Crop Planting in Peas-oats

Cover Crop Planting in Peas-oats

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2016 Dickson County Farm Tour! Sign up NOW!

Reservations are being accepted for the 42nd annual Dickson County Farm Tour, which is scheduled for Wednesday, July 13th. Sponsored by the Dickson County Soil Conservation District and the Dickson County Chamber of Commerce Agriculture Committee, the tour is open to ages 12 and up and is $10 per person. The annual day-long tour highlights a variety of agriculture-related operations and practices across Dickson County. The 2016 tour departs from Dickson County High School at 8 am with registration beginning at 7:30am.

Farm Tour 16 poster

The tour will travel the lower south stopping at Ron Kimbro’s Farm to learn more about Tennessee Department of Agriculture ARCF BMP projects of cross fencing and feeding pads, use of Tennessee Agriculture Enhancement Building, TAEP grants, Dickson County SCD’s Lime Spreader & a Fencing Demonstration by Richard Jones, Triple J Fencing. The tour then goes to ZMAC Farm to see how Zac McClung grows Hydroponic Lettuce he sells to local restaurants. The next stop is the Bird Armstrong Farm where Vickie Witcher with U.T. Extension will speak about Pond Weed Control and Wynne Luter with NRCS on EQIP Forestry Practices.  The tour will stop for lunch at the Tennsco Community Center for lunch prepared by the Dickson County Livestock Association. After lunch the tour moves to The Dickson Livestock Center for updates at the sale barn.  The tour’s final stop is the Dickson County Farmers Market where vendors will have a variety of produce for sale and participants can enjoy watermelon provided by Dickson Farmers Coop. The tour returns to DCHS around 4 pm. The Dickson County Farm Tour is limited to 200 participants and registration is required. To reserve a spot on the tour, call Amy Clifton at 615-446-2449/615-446-0250 extension 3 or email amy.clifton@tn.nacdnet.net. Tour participants are urged to dress appropriately for the weather and to wear comfortable shoes for walking.  All tour participants must ride on the buses provided by the Dickson County Board of Education. No private vehicles are allowed.  Water, beverages and light snacks will be provided at each stop by Farm Credit, Stewart Lumber Company & Dickson County Farm Bureau. For more details on the 42nd annual Dickson County Farm Tour, visit dicksonscd.wordpress.com or find us on facebook.

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2016 “Epic” Soil Health Day

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2016 Dickson Farm Home & Garden Show

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2016 Tree Give Away


Dickson County Soil Conservation District  2016 Tree Give Away with TN Division of Forestry

The Dickson County Soil Conservation District and TN Division of Forestry came together and gave away over 2000 trees including Southern Crabapple, American Plum, various Oaks, Pines and many more at the 2016 Dickson Farm, Home & Garden Show this year. Over 1200 participants attended the show and many were very excited to receive free trees! The Soil Conservation District buy trees each year to give away to local landowners to promote conservation and help beautify the landscape in the county.

This year we were happy to have “Sammy Soil”, the Soil Conservation District Mascot join us. Sammy was there to greet show attendees and spread some Soil Health Awareness. Special Thanks to everyone who participated in any way and our workers/Earth Team Volunteers: Randy Simpkins, SCD Vice President, Benny Noland, SCD Board Member, Rhonda Madden, SCD Advisory Board Member, Wynne Luter, NRCS District Conservationist, Amy Clifton, SCD District Secretary, Stanton Clifton, Seth Clifton, Tom Loose, Tennessee Forestry Association and Tennessee Department of Forestry: Matt Washburn, Nick Baggett & Patrick Bradford. See our website for more pictures dicksonscd.wordpress.com.

NRCS and the Dickson County SCD are an Equal Opportunity Employer and Provider


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I have been a conservationist for 28 years now and one of the most striking movements I have witnessed in all these years is the push to improve soil health with cover crops. I remember starting my career in West Tennessee and witnessing the transition from conventional till crops to no-till crop production, but remember conventionally tilled fields that needed grass waterways to reduce erosion in field gullies and areas of concentrated flow. We would treat the gully or the aftermath of water running off of the fields due to rain falling on bare ground and “crusting over” the soil and not allowing it to soak in where roots of the crop plant could utilize it. These days we want to keep water in the field and not let it run off and cause a gully. The best way to do that is to keep a living plant’s roots in the soil all year long using cover crops.

Corlewsoilhealthcover crop2015Multi species cover crops planted between cash crops, have roots of different lengths that grow down into the soil and create pore spaces for water infiltration. After a few years of fields having cover crops growing, farmers are finding that the water that was running off is now staying in the field providing moisture for crops instead of running off. This is important in dry years. Another benefit of multi species cover crop plants is the fact they cycle nutrients. Carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus plus many more, are stored and cycled in the soil to be used by cash crops. This saves farmer’s money due to less fertilizer inputs over time. The increased carbon and organic matter provided by cover crops including grasses, forbs, and legumes provide food for the millions of worms, insects, and other micro-organisms which excrete “glues” that improve soil structure and its ability to hold together. A healthy soil will bind together and not be as susceptible to erosion. To observe this, take a shovel full of soil from a field that has not been disked or disturbed for a long time and compare it to a shovel full of soil from a continuously cropped field. The cropped sample will be sterile and blocky compared to the minimally disturbed field sample. This one will be darker and full of microscopic life, earthworms, and crumbly. Signs of healthy soil.

cover crop worms n rootsSoils that have been tilled lose their ability to hold together because the living ecosystem has been destroyed that holds it together. No-till systems are the only allowable way to plant that minimally disturbs soil so that its structure is not destroyed.  Soil quality is the soils ability to function as a living ecosystem that sustains plants, animals, and humans.

The Natural Resources Conservation Service offers cost assistance programs that can help with the cost of planting cover crops on cropland.

Cover crop after corn 205 corn yieldA requirement is that there can be no tillage done on selected fields other than no till planting. The cover crop seed can be no tilled following the harvested crop or aerially seeded. A minimum of 5 species of covers must be planted for up to three years. For more information contact the office at 305 Henslee Drive. The phone number is 615-446-2449 ext. 3. NRCS and the Dickson County Soil Conservation District are equal opportunity employers and providers.

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