Conservation Agriculture Systems Innovation
University of California
Conservation Agriculture Systems Innovation

CASI hosts no-till pioneer, Francis Akolbila, of Ghana's Center for No-till Agriculture!

August 30, 2018

CASI hosts no-till pioneer, Francis Akolbila, of Ghana's Center for No-till Agriculture!

August 27 – 28, 2018


A number of CASI Workgoup members graciously hosted a true pioneer in no-tillage conservation agriculture systems, Francis Akolbila of the Center for No-till Agriculture in Ghana ( this past week at their farms here in California.  Francis is a dynamic, very passionate and dedicated leader of conservation agriculture in Africa.  He is in California for an 6-month internship that he will soon be completing at Singing Frogs Farm in Sebastopol, CA with Paul and Elizabeth Kaiser before moving on to spend two months this fall at the Dakota Lakes Research Farm with Dwayne Beck in Pierre, SD.  It was a pleasure and great honor for many of us to host him and we had great interactions with him in what turned out to be a whirlwind set of visits throughout California's Central Valley.

Francis first had a chance to meet and talk with local UC Cooperative Extension Soil and Water Advisor, Dan Munk, along with NRCS Fresno Area Conservationists Brook Gale and Rob Roy, for a lunch discussion at the legendary Five Points, CA “El Ranchero Café”  (Figures 1 and 2).  He explained what the Center for No-till Agriculture does and he shared with the group how it developed from the vision of Director Kofi Boa and with the support of the Howard Buffett Foundation.

Figure 1. CASI Workgroup members hosting Francis Akolbila of Ghana’s Center for No-till Agriculture in El Ranchero Café in Five Points, CA (left to right, Sara Rosenberg (Singing Frogs Farms, Sebastopol, CA), Francis Akolbila, Rob Roy, Derek Riley (Ag Engineering intern from Fresno State working with Rob and Brook in the NRCS Fresno Area Office), Dan Munk and Brook Gale


Figure 2. Local Fresno County CASI Workgroup members hosting Francis Akolbila in El Ranchero Café in Five Points, CA

 Following this very nice visit with local Fresno County folks, Francis toured the longstanding NRI no-till project in Five Points where he saw up close and personal our Workgroup's research and development work with no-till systems (Figure 3).  He also had a very nice opportunity to ride in a tractor with field station no-till expert, Jaime Solorio, and he learned about GPS guidance systems that were being used for the project's tillage work in the standard, conventional high disturbance tillage systems (Figure 4).  

Figure 3. UC Five Points field station staff Tracy Waltrip (left) and Jaime Solorio (right) hosting Francis Akolbila (center) at the NRI Project field


Figure 4. Francis Akolbila riding in the Five Points field station tractor with Jaime Solorio and learning about global positioning systems (GPS) guidance

Francis was then hosted by Jesse Sanchez of Sano Farms out in Firebaugh, CA.  While there, he saw Jesse and Alan Sano's cover crop fields and he learned how they extract drip tape from fields after seven or eight years of use.  He also had the opportunity to learn how Jesse is now using a new fixed-wing drone to help with field management and irrigation at Sano Farms (Figures 5 and 6).

Figure 5. Francis Akolbila learning about new fixed-wing drone that Jesse Sanchez now uses at Sano Farms in Firebaugh, CA


Figure 6. Sano Farms’ Jesse Sanchez showing Francis Akolbila how he uses images from drone flights to decide when to replace drip irrigation tape in his fields

Next, Francis headed up to the Madera, CA farm of Tom and Denesse Willey, where he met with Tom and Madera County NRCS Conservationist, Priscilla Baker (Figure 7).  While there, Francis learned of the reduced disturbance work that Tom is planning as part of the new NRCS Conservation Innovation Grant project that he's involved in with a group of pioneering reduced disturbance farmers throughout California.  Francis, Tom and Priscilla also discussed cover crop options and how they're being used to good effect in Ghana. 

Figure 7. Priscilla Baker (NRCS Madera) (left), Francis Akolbila (center) and Tom Willey (left) at T & D Willey Farms in Madera, CA

Very early the next morning, Francis made the trek up to Turlock, CA where he met with long-time no-tillers, father and son farming team, Michael and Adam Crowell, at Bar Vee Dairy (Figure 8). 

Figure 8. Adam Crowell, Michael Crowell and Francis Akolbila having breakfast in Huckleberry Restaurant in Turlock CA

There, Michael and Adam showed Francis their recently-planted double-crop no-till corn crop and the three of them talked at good length about no-till equipment and techniques (Figure 9).  The visit was not complete without Michael getting down on his hands and knees and showing Francis his soil (Figures 10 and 11). 

Figure 9. Francis Akolbila, Michael Crowell and Adam Crowell (left to right) viewing no-till double-crop corn cropping at Bar Vee Dairy in Turlock, CA
Figure 10. Francis Akolbila, Michael and Adam Crowell (left to right) inspecting no-till soil at Bar Vee Dairy in Turlock, CA
Figure 11. Michael Crowell, Adam Crowell, and Francis Akolbila at Bar Vee Dairy in Turlock, CA

 Finally, Francis had a chance to stop by the PLS110 vegetable production class field laboratory on the University of California, Davis campus for a short visit with field Jim Jackson, Rich Peltzer, and Derrick Lum of the University's Department of Plant Sciences (Figure 12).  He learned about the field prep work that these guys are doing to get ready for the fall class that will evaluate aspects of conservation agriculture systems in their cropping systems comparison demonstration field. 

Figure 12. Francis Akolbila (center) discussing no-till conservation agriculture systems with Rich Peltzer (left), Derrick Lum (next to Rich), and Jim Jackson (right) at PLS110 class demonstration field on the University of California, Davis campus

CASI was honored to host Francis Akolbila this past week and we wish him all the very best as he now completes his internship and returns to Ghana for his very important and pioneering work with conservation agriculture systems there with Kofi Boa.  We thank Dwayne Beck for encouraging this meeting with Francis and we look forward to staying in touch with him into the future!

Posted on Thursday, August 30, 2018 at 9:17 AM

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