It’s been 50 years since the University of Tennessee opened the “Milan Field Station,” marking the beginning of an agricultural research facility that pioneered a new method of farming.

“It may not have been realized at the time, but UT made history when they opened this facility in 1962,” says Blake Brown, the current director. “This center was a catalyst for the no-till farming movement, which has changed the way we grow our food and fiber.”

The original goal of the Milan Field Station was to study crop production on full-sized fields with machinery comparable to what area farmers used. However, Thomas McCutchen, the station’s first superintendent, convinced some researchers to orient their investigations in the direction of a new concept: conservation tillage. McCutchen hoped to find the most cost-effective way to control the growing problem of erosion and maintain soil productivity.

By the 1970s, research at Milan concentrated on no-till technology. The first No-Till Field Day was held in 1981, and Milan later became known as the birthplace of Tennessee No-Till. Today a majority of the state’s producers use no-till methods to grow their crops, a transition that has made farming more environmentally friendly and more efficient.

In 2005 the name was changed to the AgResearch and Education Center at Milan. Currently the center supports more than 100 research projects, many of which still focus on no-till crop production.

“Numerous scientists investigate all aspects of crop production,” says Brown. “Our goal is sustainable, profitable agriculture production that also maintains the quality of our environment.”

Additionally, the AgResearch and Education Center at Milan has made a substantial impact on the City of Milan and Gibson County. The center pumps nearly $1.5 million into the local economy annually. And, as local leaders will attest, the center’s outreach programs have served as an educational tool.

“School children learn how their food and fiber is grown on one of the many field trips hosted by the center,” says Milan Mayor Chris Crider. “Families learn about the cultural heritage of the region at the annual Fall Folklore Jamboree. And as we pass the center each day, we are all reminded of the significance of agriculture to our community and our world.”

UT will commemorate the 50th anniversary at the Milan No-Till Crop Production Field Day on Thursday, July 26. No-Till Field Day is a free event that is open to the public. Registration begins at 6 a.m. and research tours will begin at 7 a.m.

The anniversary will also play a role in the theme of this year’s Cotton Fashion Show, “UT –  50 Years in Milan.” Cotton fashions of the past 50 years will be modeled during this lunch program presented by the National Cotton Women’s Committee. The Cotton Fashion show begins at 11:30 a.m. on Thursday, July 26, at the Milan Elementary School. There is no admission fee, but reservations are required in advance by calling 731-686-7494 or 731-686-7362.

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.