Conservation agriculture success story at Rollin Valley Farms!
Fifteen years of stunning conservation agriculture success at Rollin Valley Farms in Burrel, CA!
June 22, 2020
Andy Rollin, along with his brother, Donny, are dairy farmers near the small western San Joaquin Valley town of Burrel, CA. Their farm, Rollin Valley Farms, milks over 2,000 cows and has about 700 acres of silage crops including alfalfa, corn, oats, wheat, and sudangrass. About 15 years ago, they began some of the earliest efforts to develop reduced disturbance production techniques for their silage crops (see video below). They pioneered the successful development of strip-till corn way back in 2003 and 2004 and then a few years later, began working with Monte Bottens and Cary Crum of California Ag Solutions (CAS) in Madera, CA, to further improve their production systems. Monte and Cary helped them with state-of-the-art planter improvements, an Orthman 1-tRipR strip-till implement and also the use of CAS's Landoll no-till grain drill. (See Picture 1). In addition, the Rollins have in recent years added a late-summer multi-species silage “cover crop” which has now augmented their annual forage production over their prior double-cropping practices. Strip-till corn yields at their farm are up about 2 to 3 tons/acre over prior production rates and there have also been 10 to 15% improvements in their feed quality that have resulted from the coupled, innovative efforts that they have made.
The Rollins were also involved with a research study back in 2004 and 2005 with CASI's Nick Madden, Randy Southard, and Jeff Mitchell to determine the impacts of their reduced disturbance practices on air quality. (See Picture 2.)This work showed that over 85% of dust emissions were reduced by strip-till compared to their previous standard till system (see the attached article by Madden et al. 2008). (See Picture 3).
The Rollins are now firmly behind their transition to strip-till and no-till cover crops and small grain seeding schemes and attribute an early spring savings of about 10 days to their reduced disturbance corn planting systems. They now have switched to watering up their strip-till corn following the very minimal soil work they do following winter small grain chopping and harvesting. In recognition of their innovative and steadfast progress, they were Finalists in the 2018 Leopold Conservation Award Program. The following short video shows one of their strip-till corn fields this spring. (See Picture 4.)
Here is a link to a You Tube video of this project: https://youtu.be/mq8itVs3Iak
Picture 1. Strip-till planted corn at Rollin Valley Farms, June 20, 2020
Picture 2. Randy Southard, Rob Roy and Nick Madden discussing dust monitoring plans at Rollin Valley Farms, 2004
Picture 3. Particulate matter sampling tower located in silage production field of Andy and Donny Rollin, 2004.
Picture 4. Strip-till planted silage corn using soil health principles of reduced disturbance, residue preservation, and diversity at Rollin Valley Farms, June 20, 2020