Mineral Wells Index, Mineral Wells, TX

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December 26, 2012

Under-cover Operation

Rebounding from drought is hard work, but can be done

By DEE ANN LITTLEFIELD

CLAY COUNTY – Clay County, Texas farmer Tommy Henderson may not know everything about farming, but he’s got more than the basics covered.

Drought. Got it covered.

Excessive heat. Got it covered.

High winds. Got it covered.

In the middle of one of the worst ongoing droughts in Texas history, how can Henderson remain so optimistic about his dryland winter wheat crop?

Because he’s got it covered.

Over the last two years Henderson has only received half of the average annual rainfall that would water his crops.

“Yeah, I need rain,” he admits, but then looking across the fence line adds, “But I think my neighbors need it a little worse than I do.”

Change on the Horizon

On this December morning a breeze gusting through the Red River Valley swirls dust as it blows across the neighboring land. His neighbors are conventional farmers, plowing their fields over many times to prepare a seedbed for their wheat crop. With less than an inch of rain falling since the beginning of October, many wheat crops in the area are beginning to fail.

Not Henderson’s. Three years ago he took a leap of faith and made a drastic change in his farming operation. With encouragement from the USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) and other sources, he became a no-till farmer.

This meant instead of spending countless hours on the tractor plowing his land multiple times, Henderson would now only make one trip to plant the seeds with special no-till equipment and one trip to fertilize. Because of his history of conservation efforts on his land, Henderson was awarded a Conservation Stewardship Program  contract from NRCS in 2009. This provided him with some financial assistance that made it feasible for him to purchase the no-till equipment.

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