Oklahoma Agricultural Experiment Station
Wes Watkins Agricultural Research and Extension Center
Two hundred and seventy three acres were purchased in Atoka County in 1984 for the purpose of building a research and extension center, jointly funded and operated by both Oklahoma State University and USDA/ARS. The station is jointly referred to as the Lane Agricultural Center, and consists of the Wes Watkins Agricultural Research and Extension Center, operated by OSU, and the South Central Agricultural Research Laboratory, operated by USDA. The purpose of the joint venture was to advance the study and promotion of alternative cropping systems in the southeastern part of Oklahoma as well as adjoining regions and states. Emphasis was placed on investigating horticultural crops as possible replacements for lower-profit agronomic crops. Over two decades, most but not all research efforts have been focused upon vegetable crops.
Current programs emphasize alternative cropping systems that are sustainable and that have low environmental impact. For many years, the primary research emphasis was upon cucurbit crops, primarily watermelon, but also including cantaloupes, cucumbers, and squash. While crop diversity is emphasized at the center, a current emphasis is upon sustainable and organic cropping systems. Crops currently being tested include but are not limited to various cucurbits, tomatoes, southern peas, sweet corn, green beans, peppers, onions, herbs, and forage crops that are grown in rotation with vegetables. Current emphasis is upon crops that can be marketed with the Farm-to-School program, crops that can be used for biological fuels and biological disease control programs, crops with nutraceutical values, and cover crops that can be used for soil improvement. The Lane Agricultural Center is the only state or federally owned property in Oklahoma that has land that is certified as organic according to the guidelines of the USDA National Organic Program. Most research projects at the Center have elements that support the concept of organic and/or sustainable agriculture.
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Size and Location
The station consists of 273 acres and is located at Lane, Oklahoma, 10 miles east of Atoka and 23 miles west of Antlers on state Hwy 3. The center lies on the northern -most part of the Southern Coastal Plain just south of the Ouachita Mountain region. Facilities include modern offices, laboratories, greenhouses, shop buildings, equipment, and 100+ acres of improved and irrigated land.
The soils on the center were formed from unconsolidated to weakly consolidated, sorted and stratified loamy to clayey sediments of the Cretaceous age. Natural erosion has carved these once flat lying sediments into rolling topography of smooth broad ridges and side slopes. The moderate slope on much of the area makes erosion hazard a major limitation to cultivated crops.
The soils are dominated by clayey subsoils and loamy to sandy surface horizons. Permeability is slow because of the clay subsoil textures. Shallow seasonally perched water tables are found during extended periods of high rainfall. Several centimeters of rainfall occur in every month averaging 105 cm annually. April through June, and September and October usually receive 13 cm monthly and are the wettest months. This poorly drained character is a major limitation to crop production on several of the soils at the center.
The average air temperatures are 80 degrees during the summer months and 40 degrees during the winter months. The growing season is long, normally extending from April until November. However, large variations in wind, temperature and rainfall can occur throughout the growing season. The soil and climatic conditions at Lane are representative of a large acreage in the southern plains. Thus, cropping systems that are developed at the Lane Agricultural Center are applicable to a wide range of farms throughout southern Oklahoma as well as other representative states in the southern plains.