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Sustainable Agriculture In Oklahoma


Cherokee Prairie Low-Input, Small Ranch Program

A large area of northeastern Oklahoma is known as the Cherokee Prairie. This area is characterized by many small ranches and part-time producers. Many of these ranchers work in the Tulsa metropolitan area. Management practices are often detrimental to the soils, landscape, productivity, neighboring ranchers and profitability. Research has shown that these producers often inefficiently use inputs or overuse inputs. State, Area and County Extension personnel came together to generate a plan to address this issue and seek funding. The plan emphasizes reducing winter feed inputs and expenses, animal health and safety practices, reducing feed costs, rotational grazing, biological weed control, input purchases, etc.
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  • $18,000 of new grant funding was secured to conduct this project.
  • Five Cherokee Prairie newsletters have been sent out to a mailing list which contains many new users of Extension
  • Two Cherokee Prairie Conferences (two because the first booked up and a long waiting list remained) attended by 475 small ranchers in north east Oklahoma.
  • Demonstrations were begun in the fall and will be available throughout the year for educational programs.
  • An evaluation of this program to identify practices changed and impact is part of the project.

For more information on the Cherokee Prairie, go to http://www.dasnr.okstate.edu/cherokeeprairie/

IPM Helps Oklahoma Landowners Fight Invasive Thistles

Musk thistle has become a weed of considerable economic importance, especially in pasturelands. It reduces forage yields and forage quality by competing with the desirable forage plants for water, soil nutrients, and light. Musk thistle was first identified in Oklahoma in 1944, and by the end of 2001, 62 counties in Oklahoma reported musk thistle infestations. Infestations of musk thistle in improved pastures cause significant economic losses in Oklahoma. In 1998, Oklahoma legislators passed a law designating musk thistle, along with scotch and Canada, as noxious weeds in all counties of the state. Based on a 1995 pasture survey, average acreage of improved pasture for each producer in Oklahoma ranged from 40 to 160, depending on location in the state. The average cost of controlling musk thistles for 10 years using herbicides would be $5,200 per producer. There are about 7.1 million acres of improved pastures in Oklahoma. Thus, the statewide cost of controlling musk thistle with herbicides for 10 years, if all improved pastures were infested, would be $461,500,000. 


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    What Has Been Done:
    An Oklahoma IPM musk thistle control program was developed in the early 1990s and has been implemented statewide through cooperative efforts of researchers, Extension personnel, and landowners. This integrated program focuses on 1) increasing public awareness of the problem, 2) development of educational information, 3) demonstrating various control options, and 4) introducing new biological control agents. Numerous demonstration and educational meetings have been conducted. Extension educators and landowners collected approximately 62,000 musk thistle head weevils in four north central/north eastern counties in the Spring of 2002; these were released into 22 counties, primarily in the western portion of the state. In addition, 39,520 rosette weevils were also collected and released. To date, this program released 396,000 musk thistle head weevils across the state. Detailed establishment and impact of the thistle head weevil and rosette weevil in Oklahoma were documented in a Masters thesis published in 2001, and three scientific manuscripts are in press.

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A Web site was developed for OCES use, at http://ipm.okstate.edu/ipm/weeds/muskthistle.html; this site contains downloadable versions of current fact sheets and reports, PowerPoint presentations, and current information on thistle round-up activities (such as maps, directions, what to bring, etc.). Two PowerPoint presentations on integrated management of thistle were developed into slide sets, with one copy sent to each District office. As a consequence of the availability of these materials, many county and area Extension educators were able to conduct more local programming on thistle management to landowners (See Washita County program this goal). The following publications were developed in 2002: two press releases, a set of instructions (with color pictures) to accompany weevil release cups, and one brochure on thistle management throughout the year. In addition, “weevil cards” were constructed of actual rosette and head weevils, and IPM, Water Quality, NRCS, and the state Dept. of Agriculture developed durable metal signs to designate where weevils were released. In 2002, one sign was given to each participating landowner free of charge; these signs will be available for purchase thereafter.

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Landowners in NE Oklahoma have noted from 80% to 95 % decrease in number of musk thistle plants in areas where they are using an integrated approach that includes use of the musk thistle weevils. Head weevils were found on over 80% of the musk thistles checked in northeastern Oklahoma. Many landowners became concerned about controlling musk thistle after the 1998 “Thistle Law.” Significant cost saving is possible when musk thistle weevils are integrated into musk thistle management systems. Spraying of pastures could be phased out after a couple of years and no annual border spraying would be required. Cost associated with an integrated approach using weevils would be $1,600 for spraying and $200 associated with trips to collect 500 weevils (though Extension educators have collected weevils and provided them at no cost to many producers). This represents an average savings of at least $3,400 per producer over the first 10 years while at the same time significantly reducing the amount of herbicides broadcast on the land. Using the integrated approach results in a 70% reduction in herbicide use, thus reducing risk to the environment and applicator. By making landowners aware of damaging effects of musk thistle, it is expected that they will become more involved in control and preventing spread of all invasive weeds.

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Pasture Management

For more information on pasture management and pasture management organizations in Oklahoma, see the Oklahoma Forages website.

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