This could be a good year to park the plow, according to an Oklahoma conservation official.

Kim Farber, President of the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts (OACD), says the persistent drought across Oklahoma and the Southern Plains, should encourage farmers to think long and hard before rushing into their fields to plow up acres where wheat is being abandoned or where farmers are considering growing summer crops.

“We all know wind erosion is a constant concern in Oklahoma,” Farber said.  “With the coming summer months being the hottest and typically driest of the year and with the national weather service already issuing blowing dust warnings for areas of the state as far east as Kingfisher and Garfield Counties, we have to be careful that we not open ourselves up to the specter of soil loss and dust storms due to the volatile mixture of high velocity winds and dry soils.”

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According to Farber, weather conditions this year present circumstances that raise concerns of wind erosion and blowing dust.  Drought conditions in parts of western and central Oklahoma, combined with the freeze that struck the Southern Plains in mid-April, has created the potential for many Oklahoma wheat acres to be declared a total failed crop and be “zeroed out” by crop insurance adjusters.  Other acres will be harvested, but due to poor growing conditions the harvest will be short.

Many producers will consider planting a summer crop on these acres and may, as part of their production practices, till the soil to prepare for planting, removing residue and exposing soil to the wind, increasing the danger of excessive wind erosion on acres that have been tilled extensively.  These conditions, coupled with a prediction of above normal temperatures and below normal precipitation in western and central Oklahoma, can create a recipe for extreme soil loss and blowing dust.  Already some cotton farmers in parts of Southwest Oklahoma and West Texas have tilled dry land cotton acres for spring planting, exposing the soil to the wind.