Memorial Internship Established to Honor Legacy of No-Till Pioneer


Don Tyler at the West Tennessee AgResearch and Education Center

Don​ Tyler is pictured standing in the oldest continuously no-tilled research plot in Tennessee. Tyler's research, particularly in no-till production, revolutionized farming. Tyler was 66 at the time of his passing. Photo by G. Rowsey, courtesy UTIA. Download image​.

UPDATED 5/22/2017

JACKSON, Tenn. – Don Tyler, professor emeritus with the University of Tennessee Department of Biosystems Engineering and Soil Science (BESS), passed away at his home on Sunday, May 7. He was 66.

Tyler had retired in June 2016 following a nearly 40-year career with the UT Institute of Agriculture. He was an internationally recognized expert in the field of soil science. He traveled the world educating other scientists and agriculturists, and his work was featured in numerous books and scientific journals.

Tyler devoted his life work to improving soil health in Tennessee and beyond, and is considered a pioneer of no-till farming. No-till is a sustainable planting method that drastically reduces soil erosion and run-off pollution. His no-till research and educational efforts eventually saved millions of acres of Tennessee topsoil.

He was the recipient of numerous honors and accolades. His research was once featured in
National Geographic. More recently, Tyler was recognized by President Barack Obama as a White House Champion of Change for Sustainable Agriculture, an honor bestowed upon a select group of extraordinary Americans.

“This is a great loss for the scientific community, as well as those who knew him,” says Julie Carrier, professor and head, BESS. “We are certainly grateful for his devotion to the advancement of agricultural science.”

Tyler was one of four children raised on a tobacco farm in western Kentucky. Growing up around this labor-intensive crop no doubt shaped his strong work ethic. Tyler remained nostalgic about tobacco farming, leading a very popular presentation on 18th century tobacco production every year at the Ames Plantation Heritage Festival.

After completing his Ph.D. in Soil Chemistry from the University of Kentucky in 1978, Tyler joined the faculty at UTIA. He was stationed at the West Tennessee AgResearch and Education Center in Jackson, although he traveled the state conducting field experiments in soil management.

A strong advocate for experiential learning, Tyler was a practical scientist who loved teaching students about the loess soils of West Tennessee. To honor his legacy, co-workers have established the Don Tyler Memorial Internship at the West Tennessee AgResearch and Education Center. This internship will be available to students desiring a hands-on experience in soil management and will provide them an opportunity to work with soil scientists throughout West Tennessee.

To contribute visit​

For more information, contact Bob Hayes at 731-425-4769.