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Interest is Increasing in No-Till Farming in Oklahoma

Interest is Increasing in No-Till Farming in Oklahoma

No-Till conference organizers

No-Till Conference co-organizers (l to r) Chad Godsey, Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service cropping systems specialist, Larry Wright, Great Plains Resource Conservation & Development Council Coordinator, and Jeff Edwards, Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service small grains specialist.

Attendees listen to Professor Scott Staggenborg

Beaver County Conservation District board member Lonnie Bailey (center) and another conference attendee listen while Scott Staggenborg (left), Kansas State University professor of agronomy, talks about the benefits of no-till conservation.

No-till Conference speaker Todd Vincent

No-till Conference speaker Todd Vincent farms wheat and cotton in Canyon, Texas using no-till methods. Todd and his brother, Brian, were rewarded as one of the Conservation Security Program (CSP) recipients for 2005 in Texas.

Psychologist Dr. Val Farmer was a featured speaker at the No-Till Conference.

Psychologist Dr. Val Farmer was a featured speaker at the No-Till Conference. Dr. Farmer specializes in issues and opportunities presented to America's farming and ranching families on a daily basis. 

Rising fuel costs, increased labor costs and natural resource concerns are on the minds of many farmers across Oklahoma. Many are searching for a different way to do business � one that that can save time, money and natural resources, if possible.

It is for all of these reasons that no-till farming has been quickly catching on in other states. Now Oklahomans are opening up to the idea.

A total of 275 individuals attended the first-ever �No-Till Oklahoma� statewide two-day conference February 11-12, 2008 at the Clarion Convention Center in Oklahoma City. Farmers from across Oklahoma and surrounding states received information on  the no-till philosophy, key considerations for crop rotation, disease, weed, and insect management; equipment-essentials for no-till, overcoming obstacles and no-till wheat, cotton, and grazing systems.

Conservation practices such as no-till can save farmers 217 million gallons of fuel and up to $480 million per year, while other conservation practices such as irrigation water management can reduce diesel consumption by 80 million gallons and save farmers up to $180 million per year. In addition to energy savings, these practices provide obvious benefits to the environment.

The USDA-NRCS has an �Energy Estimator� website to help individual farmers compare potential energy savings between conventional tillage and alternative tillage systems based on crops and input costs in their specific area.

In addition to a lot of practical information from university and USDA presenters, attendees also received no-till testimonies and perspectives from farmers who have been no-tilling for many years.  No-till information and experiences were provided by No-Till producers, such as Todd Vincent (Texas), Jimmy Kinder (Oklahoma), Keith Thompson (Kansas), Jay Franklin (Oklahoma) and Tony Kodesh (Oklahoma).

No-till farmer Todd Vincent from Canyon, Texas told the audience how fourteen years ago, he and his brother Brian were farming over 2,000 acres with conventional methods.

�We were the laughing stock of the county,� Vincent said. �We were always behind. We were always the last ones to get our crop in and we could just never catch up. We were run ragged and never had time for our families. We just knew there had to be a better way.�

That�s when they looked into no-till farming. The Vincent�s father, Jack, was skeptical at first, but gave them the freedom to try something new. They found the switch to no-till farming to be a life-changing experience.

�We actually have free time now,� Vincent said. �We get to go to our kid�s ball games and spend time with our families.

�Our production is the same; it just costs a lot less money to do it this way,� he added.

Crop rotation is a key in the success of no-till farming. The Vincents have found rotating cotton and wheat to work very well in their area. According to Todd, cotton is the high value cash crop in the rotation and the wheat crop was grown to produce crop residue to plant the cotton crop into.

�This rotation has a two fold benefit for the cotton with extra organic matter laying on the soil to help increase soil tilth and productivity. The stubble also provides protection for the cotton when it is in its most tender stages of development,� he explained.

Although each producer speaking at the conference has approached no-till in a different manner, with different equipment, crop rotations, cover crops and pest management, each one is having success with no-till and improving their crop diversity, soil quality and economic stability.  Each of the producers that spoke agreed that switching to No-Till has lessened time in the field, reduced stress and improved family relations, providing a more satisfying lifestyle.

The conference was sponsored by NRCS, Oklahoma Conservation Commission, High Plans Journal, and Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service. The Great Plains RC&D assisted with the organizing and marketing the conference. This state-wide no-till conference was a fulfillment of a goal set by the Great Plains RC&D and the Southern Plains Agricultural Resources Coalition during area wide planning sessions that began four years ago.

By Dee Ann Littlefield, public affairs specialist, Waurika, OK
NRCS February 2008

Last Modified: 04/15/2008

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