Fifty years ago, Christian County farmer Harry Young Jr. planted the nation’s first commercial no-till crop — less than an acre of corn.

It changed agriculture forever.

This year, the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture is celebrating the anniversary of this milestone with a series of events. Young’s son, John, is the featured speaker of the S.H. Phillips Lecture in No-till Agriculture. The late Shirley Phillips was a UK field crops specialist who worked with the late Harry Young to advance the no-till movement. The lecture is at 1 p.m. EST Nov. 30 in the Cameron Williams Lecture Hall in UK’s Plant Sciences Building. It is open to the public.

“No-till is one of the top five agricultural advances of the past century,” said Lloyd Murdock, UK Extension soils specialist.

“We weren’t able to control soil erosion until no-till came along, and if the erosion had continued, Kentucky producers would not have been able to compete well with the rest of the nation because of our sloping topography and eroded soils.”

“Today, we sometimes take no-till production for granted, but 50 years ago, it was a revolutionary idea,” said Bob Pearce, UK Extension tobacco specialist and organizer of the lecture. “People like Shirley Phillips and Harry Young had the vision to see past the early problems to the potential of what no-till could be.”

John Young said his father learned about no-till production while on a 1961 farmer field trip to Dixon Springs, Ill., led by Reeves Davie, Christian County agriculture agent with the UK Cooperative Extension Service, and by reading the book, “Plowman’s Folly” by Edward H. Faulkner.

“He suspected no-till was better for labor, machine efficiency and soil conservation,” said John Young, who was 11 years old when his father planted the first no-till crop. “Having worked as a farm management specialist at UK and then returning to the farm, he thought it would be advantageous from the everyday farmer’s standpoint.”