Oklahoma farmers may have gotten a late start on adopting no-till production practices, but they’re catching up quickly.
Chad Godsey, assistant professor in soil and plant sciences at Oklahoma State University, said Oklahoma farmers indicated only 10 percent of their acreage was in no-till production in 1994. The latest survey, taken in 2007 and 2008, shows no-till acreage has increased to 33 percent.
“Our farmers are going to no-till at about the same rate as farmers across the country,” Godsey said during the No-till Oklahoma Conference in Oklahoma City. “We just got started about 10 years later than states to the north.”
He said survey results show that farmers have a fairly good knowledge of no-till practices. On a scale from 1 to 10, with 10 representing the highest level of knowledge about no-till, respondents indicated a 5.96 average.
By crops, respondents have the largest percentage of soybeans in no-till production at 77 percent. Just 9 percent of soybean farmers responding to the survey still use conventional tillage and 14 percent have converted to minimum till.
Godsey said minimum till systems assume at least 15 percent cover remains on the soil, but less than 35 percent cover. No-till means no soil disturbance other than for planting.
Grain sorghum producers have 60 percent of their acreage in no-till production with 19 percent in minimum tillage and 9 percent in conventional. Cotton farmers have just 29 percent of their fields in no-till and 35 percent in minimum tillage and 36 percent in conventional.
Corn farmers devote 68 percent of their acreage to no-till, 17 percent to minimum tillage and 15 percent to conventional tillage methods. Wheat farmers are fairly evenly divided with 33 percent in no-till, 29 percent in minimum till and 38 percent tilled conventionally.
For all crop acreage, no-till comes in at 33 percent; minimum till comes in at 29 percent and conventional tillage hit 38 percent.
“We’ve made a good jump since 1994,” Godsey said. “From 10 percent to 33 percent is amazing. At 33 percent, we’re now ahead of the U.S. average, which runs from 27 percent to 28 percent. I hope we continue to increase no-till acreage.”
Godsey said 50 percent of all Oklahoma row crop acreage in no-till is a realistic goal.
Benefits, he said, are significant. “We save labor, fuel and wear on equipment. We reduce soil erosion and conserve soil moisture.”
He said no-till reduces runoff and wind erosion, thereby improving air and water quality.
He said producers list lack of research as a key concern about no-till production. They also cite concern about weed and insect pressure, increased management demands and possible reduced returns from no-till production as obstacles.
“We’ll follow up on this survey every few years to judge progress,” Godsey said.