This spring, farmers in the mid-south have been inundated with rain, seeing as much as 15 inches of rainfall in one weekend. While the wet weather has slowed production and forced some replanting, experts from the University of Tennessee say a popular conservation method probably prevented further devastation.

Ginger Trice has more from Milan, Tennessee.

Dr. Blake Brown, Director UT AgResearch & Education Center at Milan

Dr. Don Tyler, Professor, UT Institute of Agriculture

Ginger Trice

This is what the AgResearch and Education Center at Milan looked like during the May 1st flood. The torrential rains washed away two levees and deposited large amounts of sand and debris, but center director Blake Brown says remarkably overall damage to crop fields was pretty minimal.

This is probably as bad of a cut in the field as what we had. After all the rain and the flooding that we had, I really expected to see a lot worse.

The AgResearch and Education Center at Milan is known as an early developer of no-till farming. The way Brown sees it, this legendary flood was the ultimate test for the crop production technique this Center has been promoting for 30 years.

I think it was a good example of the benefits of no-till. The system worked as it was designed to do

Oh, I think it had a big effect overall.

Just down the road Dr. Don Tyler is also scouting fields at the West TN AgResearch & Education Center. Even after receiving three months of rainfall in a day and a half, portions of this corn crop still look good, which Tyler attributes to no-till.

We have measured water moving into fields at 4 inches an hour in long-term no-till compared to a tilled field being something like .2-.3 of an inch per hour

This, says Tyler, is mainly due to large populations of earthworms that thrive in no-till fields. They burrow large channels to the surface, which allows water to drain quickly. Another factor is crop residue, which formed dams that slowed the flow of floodwater.

And while No-Till couldn’t save everything, particularly fields like these that were completely submerged for several days, according to Tyler, the wide use of conservation tillage in Tennessee prevented a devastating situation from possibly becoming much worse.

It really had an impact on slowing the water down giving it more time to flow into the soil instead of off the field contributing water that was eventually flooding other fields.

In Milan, Ginger Trice reporting.