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Celebrating 30

Milestone Milan No-Till Field Day offers farmers latest research on variety of conservation topics
Story and photos by Sarah Geyer 8/29/2018


Attendees to the 30th No-Till Field Day enjoy a leisurely wagon ride to their choice of 16 tours held on the grounds of UT’s AgResearch and Education Center. More than 2,200 people representing 63 Tennessee counties, 14 states, and two foreign countries attended this year’s milestone event.
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On July 26, the University of Tennessee’s Institute of Agriculture hosted the 30th Milan No-Till event at the AgResearch and Education Center in Milan. This milestone emphasizes the continued importance of the event recognized as the South’s longest-running premier farm show. 

The concept of no-till farming was new to those attending the first field day in 1981. Today, largely due to the efforts of UT’s researchers and Milan’s field days, Tennessee farmers are leading the nation in no-till acreage. The United States Department of Agriculture estimates nearly 80 percent of the state’s cropland is farmed using no-till practices. Add cropland farmed with other conservation tillage systems and the acreage amount increases to 96 percent statewide.

By the early 2000s, the practice was widely used and considered the conventional method of row crop farming.  At that time, the event’s organizers decided to transition the annual event into a bi-annual, more diversified farm show with presentations on agritourism, livestock forages, wildlife habitats, and farm safety.

“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,” said Blake Brown, director the center. “One constant theme for each of our 30 field days is our passion for promoting sustainable agricultural practices.”

This year, the field day program offered attendees 16 tours and featured 45 educational and informational sessions presented by nearly 70 university researchers and industry leaders.

A special emphasis was placed on cover crops at the event. Two tours and eight presentations offered attendees in-depth information about incorporating the practice into a no-till system. Topics focused on cover crops included planting methods, timing of planting, impact on crops yields, following cover crops with corn, insect management, and choosing planter attachments for higher biomass.

“We’ve been working with cover crops for many years,” said Brown. “But we’ve seen a renewed interest. We expect that interest to continue to increase thanks in part to the NRCS’s cost-share programs.”

Other new tours added to the program for 2018 included research on resistance management, a presentation on dealing with fragipans, and a producer-led panel discussion on precision ag technology.

Attendees also had the opportunity to view demonstrations on crop varieties and forestry log grading and sawing and to help the community by assembling meals for local food banks.  In 2016, field day attendees packaged more than 27,000 meals.

Visitors also spent time between tours walking through the West Tennessee Agricultural Museum and visiting the event’s tradeshow, featuring 16 educational institutions and agencies and 42 vendors, including Tennessee Farmers Cooperative.

“Tennessee Farmers Co-op has been a part of the Milan No-Till Field Day since the early days,” says Alan Sparkman, TFC’s agronomy marketing manager. “The University of Tennessee AgResearch does a great job organizing the event and presenting valuable information to growers.”

According to Brown, attendance for the 2018 field day was nearly 2,300, with visitors hailing from 63 Tennessee counties, 14 states, and two foreign countries.

“Overall, I was very pleased with this year’s event,” he said. “The Center looked great due to the efforts and hard work of my staff over the past few weeks, and we got to see a lot of old friends that we sometimes only see every couple of years.  But most importantly, I think we got a lot of good, useful, up-to-date information into the hands of the producers who need it.  Ultimately that is our only product, and I think we did a good job of transferring that information.” 

The AgResearch and Education Center at Milan is one of 10 research facilities operated by the UT Institute of Agriculture. In addition to its agricultural research programs, UTIA also provides instruction, research, and public service through the UT College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, the UT College of Veterinary Medicine and UT Extension offices in every county in the state.

The 31st Milan No-Till Day is scheduled for July 28, 2020.

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