Conservation agriculture news
KARE outreach and education leader, Laura Van Der Staay, along with UCD Cooperative Extension Cropping Systems Specialist, Jeff Mitchell, had their hands full with over 300 enthusiastic Tulare County 4th graders as part of the 2017 half-day AgVentures extravaganza that was held at the International Ag Center on May 12. This is the third time the two of them have taken part in this activity that is always a big hit with the kids, teachers and parents. Students learned about soil science and research that is underway at the KARE Center related to soil function and management and also had a chance to see up close and personal how soils can change if they are managed using conservation agriculture practices. While the day is always grueling, both Van Der Staay and Mitchell departed after a hearty hamburger lunch that was provided by the event organizers with the satisfaction of having hopefully expanded horizons and inspired a new generation of science-loving students.
UC Cooperative Extension will train farmers June 6 at the UC West Side Research and Extension Center in Five Points on the benefits of soil management and a systems-oriented approach for achieving healthy soil.
The free program runs from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and includes lunch. RSVP online at http://ucanr.edu/SoilMgmt. The West Side REC is at 17353 W. Oakland Ave., Five Points.
Science-based, long-term research information as well as practical testimonies of experienced farmers are key elements of the curriculum. The program will feature discussion on all components of soil biology, including bacteria, fungi, nematodes, weeds and soil macro fauna. Reduced disturbance tillage and the use of cover crops and compost will be showcased.
The training will be conducted at the site of an ongoing, 18-year research study at the West Side REC.
“In our side-by-side research plots, we have been able to clearly demonstrate the potential economic benefits of improved soil management,” said Jeff Mitchell, UC Cooperative Extension specialist and workshop organizer. “And that isn't the only reason to focus on soil health. Healthy soil practices will store more carbon, reduce dust emissions, and contribute to a sustainable farming economy in California.”
The June 6 program will include presentations of systems management goals and practices by four farmers, results based on published research by UC and USDA study investigators, and in-field observations of changes resulting from the improved soil management practices.
“This is an opportunity for Central Valley farmers, consultants, and agency people to learn in one setting how managing a farming system from an ecological framework impacts resilience, pest management, profitability, and overall production," said Scott Park, a Meridian, Calif., a farmer who will be part of the program.
4.5 CCA CEUs and 1.0 PCA CEUs are approved for the training. Please RSVP online at http://ucanr.edu/SoilMgmt. Click here for the full program (pdf).
Learn more about the sorts of conservation agriculture systems that are being featured in this soil management training at http://www.uctv.tv/sustainable-cal/search-details.aspx?showID=32353.
About fifty people gathered at the farm of Russ Lester just west of Winters, CA on a beautiful afternoon on the 5th of May for the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding for the California Farm Demonstration Network, a major undertaking by the University of California's Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, the University of California, Davis, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, the California Association of Resource Conservation Districts, the California Department of Food and Agriculture, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, and the California Farm Bureau Federation. The purpose of the MOU is to memorialize the agreement between these parties to collaborate in support of the planning, establishment, implementation, growth, and continuance of the Farm Demonstration Network that is dedicated to the increased adoption of conservation agriculture, soil health, and climate-smart systems in California. Its many goals all aim at the development of water-, climate-, and nutrient-smart systems for California's diverse crop production environments. Focus areas of the Network include, but are not limited to the following: participatory learning resulting in the adoption of improved management practices grounded in sound science- and experience-based principles, the public, voluntary showcasing of innovative systems developed by experienced farmer leaders, a program of farm demonstration evaluations that employ monitoring, data collection, and analysis of findings, and the use of proven, creative methods for sharing, discussing and communicating results and findings to scale-up even broader adoption of improved systems.
Signers of the Farm Demonstration Network included Secretary of the California of Food and Agriculture, Karen Ross, Dean of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences at the University of California, Davis, Karen Buhr (for Paul Williams, President), Executive Director of the California Association of Resource Conservation Districts, Glenda Humiston, Vice President of the University of California, Agriculture and Natural Resources, Carlos Suarez, California State Conservationist of the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, and Paul Wenger, President of the California Farm Bureau Federation.
The signing ceremony program was emceed by Karen Buhr of the CARCD, Betsy Karle of UC ANR, Tony Rolfes of the NRCS, and Jeff Mitchell of the CASI Center. The process leading to the signing of the MOU was skillfully led by Catherine Montano, Director, Administrative Policies & Business Contracts of UC ANR with a Network Steering Committee that includes Buhr, Karle, Rolfes, Mitchell, along with Anita Brown and Zahangir Kabir of the NRCS, Wenger of the CFBF, Jenny Lester Moffitt of CDFA, and Kristen Murphy of the CARCD. This Committee, along with a new wave of partners, will begin work on achieving Network goals during the coming months. A copy of the MOU for the California Farm Demonstration Network is available at the CASI website.
Veteran CASI Workgroup member Dan Munk along with Jeff Mitchell hosted Sheila Morco of CDFA's Specialty Crop Block Grant Program for a site visit for the project, Evaluation of Trade-Offs between Winter Cover Crop Production and Soil Water Depletion in San Joaquin Valley Row Crop Fields and Orchards, that a very large team of UC researchers, farmers, and other private sector partners is working on at 7 farms throughout the Central Valley. Morco is the CDFA Grant Analyst who oversees the team's work. In addition, UC Davis Hydrology students, Alyssa DeVincentis, Sloane Rice, and Anna Gomes took part in a televideo conference call portion of the visit and provided nice summaries of the data that they've been working to compile based on the project's monitoring activities. This project is determining the biomass potential for cover crops, changes in soil water storage under these cover crops compared to fallow, and data on the carbon and nitrogen capture potential of cover crops so as to inform farmers of the true tradeoffs associated with this practice. There is considerable uncertainty surrounding cover crop water use and this has been an impediment to their wider adoption. Additional information stemming from this CDFA SCBGP Project will be shared at the upcoming major educational training event that will take place in Five Points on June 6th.
The US Manager of BCI, the Better Cotton Initiative, Scott Exo, and BCI's San Joaquin Valley Coordinator, Carlos Silva, visited the longstanding NRI Project field in Five Points, CA on March 28, 2017 as part of a tour hosted by CASI's Jeff Mitchell. BCI is a not-for-profit organization that encourages a holistic approach to sustainable and brings together people who are involved in cotton's complex supply chain, - from farmers to retailers. Initiated in 2005, BCI exists to make global cotton production “better for the people who produce it, better for the environment it grows in and better for the sector's future, by developing Better Cotton as a sustainable mainstream commodity.” Exo and Silva visited the NRI Project field to learn about the work that has been done over the years on cotton production in this field using no-tillage and cover crop practices and the benefits that stem from the use of these approaches in lower costs, fewer dust emissions, greater carbon and nitrogen storage in the soil, increased soil aggregation and water infiltration, reduced soil water evaporation, and other positive changes in soil biology that have been documented since the project was started in 1999. They also discussed with Mitchell the California Farm Demonstration Network, a broad group of partners who are working throughout the State on establishing local farm demonstrations of improved performance, conservation ag, climate-smart and healthy soils systems, and BCI's potential involvement in the network as a partner.
Better Cotton Initiative website: http://bettercotton.org/about-better-cotton/regions/usa/