Chuck Denney-Narrator (UT Institute of Agriculture)
Corn sprouts skyward in this field near Paris. Henry County has some of the richest soils in the state. But it’s also a place where the rolling hills of middle Tennessee haven’t quite given way to the pancake flat fields of the west.

Ranson Goodman (UT Extension-Henry County)
“It’s a beautiful county, very diversified, but it lays on this Tennessee River, and we’ve got a lot of rolling, sloping hills.”

Chuck Denney
UT Extension agent Ranson Goodman says that doesn’t mean this land can’t be farmed. Producers here use no-till techniques, where a plow never touches the soil, and the current crop is planted on top of the residue of past crops.

Ranson Goodman
“No-till has really added maybe as much to the nutrient levels, holding nutrients in and building up the soil. No-till in general has really lead us to being able to farm this land and make it productive and keep it productive through the years and cut back on our erosion.”

Chuck Denney
No-till started because West Tennessee was losing so much topsoil. UT Ag Institute experts now say no-till saves millions of tons of soil each year, and leads to higher yields and lower costs for producers.

The National Ag Statistics Service reports more than 70 percent of Tennessee’s farmers use no-till methods, and here in Henry County it’s more like 85 percent. No–till was unheard of just three decades ago, but now is considered standard practice.

Dickie Brewer raises corn, soybeans and cotton here. How much of his production – even where it’s hilly - is no-till?

Dickie Brewer (Henry County Producer)
“Bout one hundred percent.”

Chuck Denney
Mr. Brewer first tried a no-till test plot nearly forty years ago, and since then has steadily increased his no-till acreage.

Dickie Brewer
“What sold you on no-till back in those days? Well, protecting the soil. We just had so much soil erosion.”

Chuck Denney
Brewer says once you lose soil, there’s no getting it back, so no-till is the best way to keep what we have on flat or sloped ground. He also believes no-till just creates better growing conditions.

Dickie Brewer
“If you keep that cover on it, it traps that and holds the soil and also holds the moisture to where it can soak in the ground and keep the soil actually cooler in the summertime.”

Chuck Denney
No-till has been jokingly referred to as “farming ugly.” But when you’re saving soil and using all your land, it adds beauty to a farmer’s bottom line.


NOTE: It’s almost time again for one of the premier agricultural events in the southeastern U-S, and the main topic is no-till farming.The Milan No-Till field day will be Thursday, July 26th at the UT AgResearch Center in Gibson County.