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No-Till Impact

 

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Chuck Denney, Narrator (UT Institute of Agriculture)

David Oliver grows two thousand acres of corn, soybeans and wheat in rich, Weakley County soil. Here he checks the depth of a recent planting. Almost every seed he puts in the ground is grown by no-till agriculture. Here you leave the plow in the barn, and one crop is planted on top of the residue of a past crop.

David Oliver (Weakley County Producer)
“We own some land that’s been in our family for over 100 years. We’re real proud of that. We’ve been no tilling since the mid to late 70’s. We try to be 100 percent no till now."

Chuck Denney, Narrator

No till ag was invented to build organic matter, hold moisture in place and mainly to prevent erosion. UT experts estimate that no-till saves ten tons of soil per acre, per year.

Dr. Blake Brown (UT AgResearch)

“Looking back over the last thirty years, that’s 750 million tons of topsoil, and I think that’s a conservative estimate. So yeah, I think no till has definitely been a game changer.”

Chuck Denney, Narrator

Dr. Blake Brown is superintendent of the UT’s AgResearch center in Milan, home of the no-till field day. Brown says when the idea of no-till was first proposed three decades ago, it was met with skepticism.

Dr. Blake Brown
“This was such a radical change. People thought we had to till the soil for a couple of reasons. We had to get that seed in there and we had to control weeds. We’d been doing that for thousands of years, and all of a sudden to tell people you don’t have to do that. And by not doing that, you can preserve this topsoil. It was a big, big change.”

Chuck Denney, Narrator

It wasn’t that long ago when West Tennessee was plagued by soil erosion.

Jeff Lannom (UT Extension - Weakley County)
“After a big rain, we’d go down to the creek and watch the creek run under the bridge, and it was almost like watching a milkshake go by there was that much soil washing off the land into the ditches and streams.”

Chuck Denney, Narrator

That soil loss led to no-till and today it’s the accepted practice in Tennessee agriculture, roughly covering three-fourths of row crop land.

Dr. Don Tyler (UT AgResearch)

“In my estimation, by this time had we not had no-till, a lot of the land in the last 36 years would have gone out of production. It would have continued to decline. There would have been a major problem with the environmental effects of the erosion that was continuing.”

Chuck Denney, Narrator

While it’s difficult to play the ‘what-if’ game, we did make the change to no-till. It was a gradual process, but a decision made by many farmers that had long-lasting, positive effects.

OF NOTE: The Milan No-Till Field Day was Thursday, July 24th at the UT AgResearch Center in Gibson County. You can find more information on the Milan No-Till field day Facebook page, or at http://milan.tennessee.edu.