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Faith in No-Till Brings Changes to Plains Farm

No-tiller Steve Pope is working with cover crops and interseeding on the family’s Oklahoma farm to improve crop diversity, reduce weed pressure and rebuild worn-out soils.


Above photo: RISING UP. Oklahoma no-tillers Steve Pope (left) and his son, Rustin, check hard red winter wheat plants in one of their fields a few weeks before maturity. The Popes adopted no-till almost a decade ago and have been experimenting with summer-planted cover crops like sunn hemp and sorghum-sudangrass.


ABOUT A decade ago, the Pope family in western Oklahoma reached a point where the equipment they used for conventional tillage was worn out.

They also didn’t like what they were seeing in their fields, with low organic matter and falling pH levels requiring frequent gypsum and lime applications.

After reading about no-till practices in a publication, the Popes applied for and received EQIP money from the NRCS to buy a sprayer and no-till drill.

After working through challenges with no-till adoption, they now have a more established system in which they’re experimenting with cover crops and interseeding covers with wheat, to improve organic matter levels, fix nitrogen (N) in soils and increase crop production.

“This area around here, for years, has been about constantly turning that soil,” Steve Pope says. “I’d bet you organic matter in some places here is almost nothing. We had brown water running out of our fields during heavy rains, and we wanted to do something to stop that.”

The Popes are seeing positive signs from switching to no-till.

“You can come out there in the summertime after harvest, and where the mulch is heavy, you can take a shovel, dig down and there’s earthworms…

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John-dobberstein2

John Dobberstein

John Dobberstein is senior editor of No-Till Farmer magazine and the e-newsletter Dryland No-TillerHe previously covered agriculture for the Tulsa World and worked for daily newspapers in Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Joseph, Mich. He graduated with a B.A. in journalism and political science from Central Michigan University.

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