Increasing Sustainability of Southern Great Plains’ Agriculture Through No-till Production Systems

2006 Annual Report for LS06-189

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2006: $183,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2008
Region: Southern
State: Oklahoma
Principal Investigator:
Jeff Edwards
Oklahoma State University

Increasing Sustainability of Southern Great Plains’ Agriculture Through No-till Production Systems


Experiments to evaluate conventional-till and no-till wheat production systems were initiated in the fall of 2006 at two locations in Oklahoma and two locations in TX. Data collection for our research objectives has just begun and all project research components are proceeding in a satisfactory manner. Extension / outreach initiatives began in the fall of 2006 with two extension educator in-service trainings, a new no-till fact sheet, on-farm demonstrations, and a series of no-till workshops.

Objectives/Performance Targets

  • Our long-tem objective is to increase the sustainability of farming and ranching operations in the southern Great Plains by increasing the adoption of no-tillage production practices and decreasing the reliance on commercial fertilizer sources. This project will move us closer to this long-term goal by addressing the following objectives:

    Determine the impact of switching from conventional to no-till production practices on fall forage production and yield components of winter wheat in grain-only and dual-purpose wheat production systems.

    Monitor the incidence and severity of wheat diseases as well as the presence and abundance of insect pests and their natural enemies in conventional and no-till, dual-purpose wheat production systems.

    Determine if sensor-based nitrogen recommendations developed for conventional tillage systems are valid in no-tillage, dual-purpose wheat production systems.

    Determine the economics of no-till versus conventional tillage for dual-purpose wheat under both conventional fall nitrogen application with rates based upon yield goals and field-specific spring nitrogen application with rates based upon yield potential as measured in late winter by optical reflectance technology.

    Educate southern Great Plains wheat producers on how no-tillage production practices can enhance both grain-only and wheat/stocker-cattle integrated production systems.


Research plots were initiated at El Reno and Homestead, OK and Abilene and Prosper, TX in the fall of 2006. Crop establishment was successful at all locations and research apparatuses (pitfall traps, rain gauge, soil moisture sensors, etc.) were successfully implemented in October of 2006. At the time of this report, only preliminary research data have been collected. At the time of our 2007 annual report, we will have gathered data from a complete cropping season and will be able to provide more information on progress towards our research objectives.

Report of Activities and Findings for Objective 2

Our primary goals are to (1) compare aphid numbers and their estimated impact on forage and grain yields between no-till and conventional plots, (2) compare natural enemy numbers and their estimated impact on aphid populations between no-till and conventional plots, and (3) compare the diversity of natural enemies between no-till and conventional plots.

As described in our protocol, we have sampled Oklahoma and Texas plots for aphids. Aphid numbers have been low region-wide, and counts were not initiated until aphid presence was observed. No aphids were detected at Okeene (OK) and Abilene (TX) during sampling. When aphids were present, populations were higher in Conventional Tillage Plots. For example, conventional-till plots at El Reno averaged 6.6 aphids per 14 inches of row, while no-till plots at the same location averaged only 1.4 aphids per 14 inches of row. These data are very promising and support our hypothesis that aphid numbers will be reduced by no-till farming practices. We are continuing to sort and count aphid and natural enemy samples, and plan to resample each location during the spring.

At the El Reno (OK) location for each replication, in the center of subplots of selected wheat cultivars, a conical pitfall trap (filled with environmentally safe antifreeze) were placed in the ground to monitor more cryptic ground dwelling predators. We are sorting samples and will continue to monitor species diversity in no-till and conventional tillage plots.

Extension and outreach efforts have been met with great enthusiasm by our stakeholders. Specific accomplishments for 2006 include:

A no-till advisory group was created in the fall of 2006. This group includes representatives from Oklahoma Cooperative Extension, NRCS, OK Soil Conservation Service, and no-till farmers. Three large-scale no-till grower meetings were held in the fall of 2006 with a combined attendance of over 750 stakeholders. In addition, several county-level meetings were held. This cooperation dialogue among cooperative extension, NRCS, and the state soil conservation service is a new phenomenon in Oklahoma and has proven very effective thus far.

We conducted six hands-on, no-till planter adjustment and calibration clinics for farmers and extension educators. Dr. Taylor organized these clinics in response to concerns among new no-till farmers regarding equipment selection and set-up.

We conducted three in-service training sessions for extension educators. The first two were on no-till production systems and a combined total of 52 educators were in attendance. The second was on sensor-based nitrogen recommendations and approximately 35 educators were in attendance. Similar in-service trainings will be conducted in future years and data gathered from the research objectives will be disseminated.

Information on sensor-based nitrogen recommendations was delivered to an audience of over 300 farmers in Abilene, TX.

We hosted a group of farmers at the El Reno, OK location to evaluate advanced experimental wheat lines in no-till and conventional-till dual-purpose wheat systems. OSU wheat breeder Dr. Brett Carver conveyed information on critical plant attributes that help ensure success in no-till wheat production systems. Growers then evaluated advanced experimental lines for these attributes and discussed their findings.

We published several newsletter articles and one no-till fact sheet:

Edwards, J., F. Epplin, B. Hunger, C. Medlin, T. Royer, R. Taylor, and H. Zhang. 2006. No-till wheat production in Oklahoma. OSU Extension Facts, No. 2132. Oklahoma State Univ., Coop. Ext. Service, Stillwater, OK.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

This research will make the dual-purpose wheat production enterprise more sustainable by answering critical questions about genotype performance, nitrogen management, and insect pests and their natural enemies in no-till production systems. Information gathered will help change the opinions and practices among dual-purpose wheat farmers in the region and result in an increase in no-till production practices on the 13 million acres of wheat sown annually in the region.


Kristopher Giles
Oklahoma State University
225N Noble Research Center
Stillwater, OK 74078
Office Phone: 4057446298
Randy Taylor
Extension Agricultural Engineer
Oklahoma State University
111 Ag Hall
Stillwater, OK 74078
Office Phone: 4057445277
Jeff Bedwell
Major County Cooperative Extension Agent
Oklahoma State University
500 E. Broadway
Suite 3
Fairview, OK 73737
Office Phone: 5802273786
Mark Gregory
Southwest Area Agronomist
Oklahoma State University
1309 W. Ash
Duncan, OK 73533
Office Phone: 5802553674
Brad Tipton
Canadian County Agriculture Extension Agent
Oklahoma State University
Box 519, Fairgrounds
El Reno, OK 73036
Office Phone: 4052620155
Brook Strader

Strader Farms
Okene, OK
Roger Gribble
Northwest Area Agronomist
Oklahoma State Unviversity
316 E. Oxford
Enid, OK 73701
Office Phone: 5802377677
Francis Epplin
Agricultural Economist
Oklahoma State University
416 Ag Hall
Stillwater, OK 74078
Office Phone: 4057446176
Don Bornemann

Bornemann Farms
El Reno, OK
Gaylon Morgan
Small Grains Extension Specialist
Texas A&M University
349B Heep Center
5474 TAMU
College Station, TX 77843-2474
Office Phone: 9798452425