As the rains fall…

As the rains fall from December through March I do not worry much about my fields.  25% of them are planted into canola or wheat and the crops look thick and lush.  Some erodible hillsides are planted in wheat as a cover crop.  The rest of my fields have natural winter annuals growing in them because I don’t practice “winter fallow” residual spraying to keep the weeds down between crops.  My field waterways and roadside ditches may run full in a big rain, but are lined with thick grass sod that I maintain so as to not color the water with suspended mud washing from my fields into the rivers.

Near the end of a heavy rain is a perfect time to scout for soil conservation problems.  Here are some images from recent scouting after heavy winter rains. Over all, I consider my work and practices successful because this water is clean.

The water in the image below is running down a grass waterway that is planted at the base of some of the steepest slopes that we will plant.  The field and grassed waterway are holding together nicely.  The rock structure in the foreground is where the grass waterway empties into a culvert to go under the road.  The large rock slows the water down and causes it to travel on top so it will not wash out a ditch.  No ditch = no erosion.

Clear runoff from 8-12% slopes after a three inch rain.

Below, this is NOT my field washing across the road. It is the topsoil from a neighbor’s field who plants after conventional tillage with a disk.  We sold our disk years ago and I’ve never experienced this kind of destruction of land.  Some of this valuable loam will end up in the Mississippi River and be carried down to the estuary at New Orleans.

NOT my field

When culverts aren’t able to carry the full load of water, sometimes I get washes across the road too.  This is my field with clear water running across the road. There is an area of about 45 acres draining into this area with slopes of up to 8%.

Clear Road wash

Here is runoff on top of controlled runoff at the end of a 10″ pipe carrying water from a terrace in a grassed waterway about 400′ above this ejection point at the road culvert. It is running full force with clear water draining about 60 acres. There is no erosion in my fields from this 3″ December rain!

clear pipe ejection


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A seventh generation farmer of good soils in Henry County Tennessee, I take seriously my responsibility to care for what has been entrusted to me for this life and to teach my children diligently.

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