Interview with Annie Dee, Alabama Soil Health Steward


(fun upbeat music) Hi, I’m Annie Dee. We’re at Dee River Ranch. This is our family farm
and we’ve been here since 1989, so 28 years. In the early ’90s, we
started using cover crops on all of our ground, mostly wheat. And then from there, maybe in 2000, we started using some
mixtures of different things and incorporating some radish, some turnip and clover and Austrian winter
peas as well as black oats. And have seen just tremendous
benefits on our farm to the soil health as
well as the plant health of the following year. One of the main benefits
I’ve seen with cover crops is the increased organic matter. It’s really given us a lot
more water holding capacity. It’s given us better soil structure. We have used no-till and
cover crops for years now. And the combination of
those two have really improved our overall soil health. The benefits is with no-till, we’ve really increased
our earthworm population. When it rains, we get out into the field, the structure will hold our
tractors up or combines up. Whereas somebody else’s
will just sink down, where there’s been a lot of rain. Because they don’t have
the same structure. They’ve destroyed their structure. We mostly fertilize for
the spring cash crop, so it would be corn or soybeans
or whatever else we choose. We fertilize in the fall at the same time as we put out the cover crop
or the past couple years, we’ve flown on the cover
crop, maybe in late July. And then harvested the
crop, and then applied the fertilizer to the top. What we have found out
is getting the cover crop under the rest of the plant
debris has really made a mat and has really allowed
that crop to come up without disturbing the soil. When we’re gonna plant
corn, we try to terminate in late January or early February. Because it’s gonna be cold and the Roundup and the other chemicals
aren’t gonna work as fast when it’s cold. So it’s gonna take us four to six weeks for most of the material to break down. So maybe late January or
the first part of February, we have to determine
when it’s gonna dry up and how long it’s gonna be dry. We have terminated too soon and then that’s taken away
our ability for that plant to take moisture out of the ground. So it’s just kind of a fine balance. And every year is a new situation. Every year is a new challenge. And then for beans, usually
about two to three weeks before we’re getting ready to plant ’em because by that time the temperature, the outside temperatures have warmed up and the chemicals will
go through the plants much quicker and they will
die down much quicker. So we do not, we wanna
make sure we get rid of those turnip and radish
before they get to seeding because then they’re very hard to kill. But they will die and mostly break down so we’ve been very satisfied. They’ll leave a real
big hole in the ground, but it doesn’t seem to make a problem with gettin’ a good plant stand. So we’ve been very happy with those. I would suggest to
farmers that are getting ready to try to move into
no-till and cover crops to do it on a small acreage
until they understand what’s gonna happen. So if they start small and they understand what their problems are,
because they’ll have some and everybody has different problems, but some of them we’ve already faced here and I’m happy to help
people to that have faced theirs. And then gradually
increase when they become comfortable with the
situation that they have. (fun upbeat music)

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