The University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture will host the Milan No-Till Crop Production Field Day on Thursday, July 26, 2018 at the AgResearch and Education Center at Milan. The event will offer 45 research-based presentations led by academic experts. Sessions will cover optimum strategies for no-till crop production, including resistance management, nutrient management, cover crops and precision agriculture.
2018 marks the 30th Milan No-Till Field Day, which is always held on the fourth Thursday of July in even-numbered years. The field day began as an annual event in 1981, but transitioned to every other year in the early 2000s.
“When the field day began, our focus was how to ‘no-till,’ but over the years this event has progressed into teaching producers to incorporate the latest technologies into a no-till system,” says Blake Brown, director of the AgResearch and Education Center at Milan. “One constant theme for each of our 30 field days is our passion for promoting sustainable agricultural practices.”
No-till farming is a practice that eliminates plowing before planting. The technique is proven to reduce both soil erosion and greenhouse gas emissions, while improving farm efficiency and the organic matter in farm soils.
Visitors to the Milan No-Till Field Day can hear presentations on research involving corn, cotton and soybeans. Due to growing interest in cover crops, two tours (eight total presentations) will be devoted to that topic. New this year, a tour devoted to managing resistance to crop protectants, a tour on fragipans, and a producer-led panel discussing personal experiences with precision agriculture technology.
Additionally, visitors can participate in a hands-on community service activity titled, “Farmers vs. Hunger.” Participants will package meals to be distributed at local food banks. At the 2016 Milan No-Till Field Day, volunteers packaged more than 27,000 meals.
The event is free and open to the public. Gates open at 6 a.m. with presentations and an agricultural trade show beginning at 7 a.m. The field day will conclude at 2 p.m. More information, including a list of presentations, is available here.
The AgResearch and Education Center at Milan is known as the birthplace of no-till farming in Tennessee. When the Center opened in 1962, West Tennessee farmers were facing a soil erosion crisis, losing, on average, 40 tons of soil per acre per year.
Years of research and the launch of the Milan No-Till Field Day helped persuade farmers that they could park their plows without reducing crop yields. Today, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service, Tennessee farmers use no-till practices on more than 70 percent of their acres, while farming an additional 20 percent with some type of conservation tillage. Nationally, more than 60 percent of cropland is planted using no-till or conservation tillage.
A measurable impact of no-till adaptation is a dramatic reduction in soil erosion. In Tennessee, erosion levels have decreased by approximately 80 percent in the last 50 years. Meanwhile, agricultural efficiency has greatly increased. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, an average farmer today feeds 155 people annually, compared to just 61 people in 1960.
“The no-till farming movement changed the way we grow food and fiber,” says Brown, “but agriculture will continue to change, especially with the demands of a growing world population. That’s why agricultural research and educational field days are so valuable.”
In 2016, the Milan No-Till Field Day drew more than 2,600 visitors from 18 states.