- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 29, 2014

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - The president of the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts is urging farmers to think twice before plowing their fields this spring and consider alternatives to cultivating the soil.

Ongoing drought in Oklahoma and Southern Plains creates the risk of dust storms and wind erosion that could be worsened by plowing, association president Kim Farber said.

“We all know wind erosion is a constant concern in Oklahoma,” Farber said in a news release.

“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,” he said.

The most recent U.S. Drought Monitor report showed the western third of Oklahoma in exceptional or extreme drought, the two most severe categories.

Farber said wheat crops that farmers are considering abandoning could be declared a total loss by crop insurance adjusters, and that farmers looking to start their spring crops should consider alternative cultivation methods such as no-till or minimum-till farming, which he says can save money by reducing fuel costs and helping the soil hold more water.

Farmer Joe Kelly, who grows cotton and wheat on about 3,000 acres near Altus, said Tuesday that no-till farming is not only less expensive, it is a better production technique.

“I use it on about 90 percent of my wheat ground, and on my cotton ground, all of it’s no-till,” Kelly said. “Moisture conservation right now is the biggest deal. We’re in a drought, a terrible drought in southwest Oklahoma, the only wheat I’ll cut this year will be no-till.”

Farber said farmers must consider not only their current crops, but the future as well.

“The bottom line is that we all need to think before we plow this year and make sure we aren’t opening ourselves up to major soil erosion problems,” he said.