Conservation agriculture news
Reduced disturbance organic farming group takes part in cover crop workshop at Paicines Ranch, February 7th – 9th, 2019!
February 17, 2019
About fifteen members of the CIG (Conservation Innovation Grant) Project on organic reduced disturbance farming systems took part in a very stimulating three-day workshop on cover cropping that was sponsored by Paicines Ranch February 7th to 9th. The group in attendance consisted of about 100 farmers from all over California and from many other states and countries. CASI members who took part included Scott Park, Kelly Mulville, Patrick O'Neill, Tom Willey, Monte Bottens, Jesse Sanchez, Rich Collins, Paul Muller, Andrew Brait, Daphne Miller, Phil Foster, Jessica Chiartas, Cindy Daley, Lee Altier, Tim LaSalle, Peter Donovan, Cary Crum, Silas Rossow, Seth Rossow, Rosie Burroughs, and Jeff Mitchell. In addition, other CASI associates including Eric Brennan, Jim Leap, and Darryl Wong also took part in the CIG Project's planning meeting on the 7th of February that preceded the cover crop program on the other two days. The workshop was extremely stimulating and provided much for our CASI group to consider and to learn more about. Scott Park was a program presenter along with Green Cover Seed's Keith Berns, Ian and Diane Hagarty of Western Australia, and Christine Jones, also of Australia. Much of the content that was showcased and discussed by program speakers consisted of their experiences and thoughts related to achieving improvements in soil function deriving from specific practices and attention to soil biology. Needless to say, there will be an awful lot for the CIG group to consider in the future related to what they saw and heard in this workshop!
Jessica Chiartas and Tim LaSalle talking about what they’ve heard during the cover crop workshop at Paicines Ranch, February 7th through 9th
CIG team that took part in the project planning discussion at Paicines Ranch on February 7th 2019, ahead of cover crop workshop
Monte Bottens and Jesse Sanchez in Paicines Ranch pasture as part of a field walk during the February 8 and 9 cover crop workshop
Paicines Ranch cover crop workshop participants examining soil health in Paicines Ranch pasture
Pamela Rodriguez of CDFA’s Organic Program visits CASI’s NRI Project field site as part of Friday Open House educational series in Five Points!
February 15, 2019
Pamela Rodriguez, a Special Investigator with CDFA's Organic Program in Fresno, took time to visit CASI's NRI Project field on Friday, February 15th as part of the ongoing open house program showcasing soil health that is underway through June of 2019. Rodriguez works out of the Fresno CDFA office and has major responsibility for inspections of organic farms throughout much of the State. She was hosted by CASI's Jeff Mitchell, who took her out to the long-term NRI Project field where he showed her changes that have been detected in soil function and appearance due to twenty years of soil care management that includes the use of cover crops and no-tillage. Then, Mitchell also provided her with a presentation of the history of the NRI Project and a summary of the project's primary outcomes and findings since it was initiated in 1999. CASI is very grateful to Pamela Rodriguez for taking time to visit our site in Five Points!
Pamela Rodriguez of CDFA’s Organic Program in Fresno, CA visited CASI’s NRI Project field in Five Points, CA on February 15, 2019
February 15, 2019
CASI's long-term NRI Project was the site of a very nice visit on February 15th by two USDA ARS soil scientists as part of the site's ongoing Friday Public Open House program. The two visitors were Drs. Suduan Gao and Lauren Hale of the San Joaquin Valley Water Management Research Laboratory in Parlier, CA. Gao is a veteran soil chemist at the Lab and Hale is a recently-hired soil microbiologist who began her work in November of 2018. They met with CASI's Jeff Mitchell for a tour and examination of the NRI Project field and then the three also had a very good discussion of possible future collaborations that might stem from the long-term study. Gao and Hale were also invited to become a part of several groups that Mitchell is working with including the CIG organic no-till farmer group and Mitchell's ongoing work on cover crop water use at California orchards and tomato farms. CASI welcomes Gao and Hale as new Workgroup members and looks forward to very good interactions and collaborations with them in the near future!
USDA ARS Water Management Research Lab soil scientists, Suduan Gao (left) and Lauren Hale, visit CASI’s NRI Project field in Five Points, CA February 15, 2019
CASI’s Jeff Mitchell (right) showing ARS soil microbiologist, Lauren Hale, evidence of enhanced soil biology in diverse multi-species cover crop that is part of the no-till cover crop system in the NRI Project in Five Points, CA
CASI once again paired with the California NRCS to host an outdoor display and information site at the 2019 World Ag Expo in Tulare, CA from February 12th through the 14th. This year's joint sponsorship of the display presence was by far our best year ever as measured by the sheer number of passersby we attracted and the total number of live soil health demonstrations that we provided. The CASI / NRCS educational event was coordinated by Sheryl Feit, NRCS Associate State Soil Scientist in the Davis, CA State Office, along with Brook Gale of the Fresno Area Office, Mira Dick, DC of the Merced Office, Caleb, Conservation Planner in Kern County, and Javier, an NRCS Earth Intern also in the Kern County office. Jeff Mitchell was also on hand from UC's CASI Center and Dan Munk and Scott Stoddard, also UCCE CASI members, contributed to our Workgroup's presence at the UC ANR site at the Tulare show.
Over 80 individual demonstrations of various aspects of soil health and soil care were provided during the three-day event. Roughly thirty new Workgroup members were added to our ranks and good educational information, not to mention good dialogues and interactions were also provided to a diverse array of folks who stopped by. A video showing some of the activity at the show is available at https://youtu.be/6kxUJQxZhHM
Family visiting the CASI / NRCS information display site at the 2019 World Ag Expo in Tulare, CA
Mira Dick, USDA NRCS Merced (far left) and Sheryl Feit, USDA NRCS Davis (far right) conduct soil health demonstation at the joint CASI and NRCS display site at the 2019 World Ag Expo in Tulare, CA
UCCE's Mohammad Yaghmour, UCCE Kern County (second from right) and Jaime Solorio, UC West Side REC, Five Points, CA (far right) visit the CASI / NRCS display site at the World Ag Expo in Tulare, CA - February 13, 2019
UC Cooperative Extension cropping systems specialist Jeff Mitchell is issuing a standing invitation to the public to visit the site of an ongoing conservation agriculture research project and see for themselves the results of long-term soil-building practices.
“Every Friday morning from 9 o'clock till noon, beginning in February and going through June, I invite folks to come to the project site to see up close and personal just what soil health means,” Mitchell said.
The project, funded by the National Research Initiative, compares plots that have been managed for more than 20 years in an annual rotation of cotton, processing tomatoes and more recently sorghum, garbanzos, and melons, under four different treatments: no-tilled plus cover crops, no-tilled with no cover crops, conventionally tilled with cover crops and conventionally tilled without cover crops.
“What we've got at this site is a very long-term example of exactly what implementation of a small set of soil care, or soil health, principles really means for soil function and management,” he said.
Mitchell says that the study site in Five Points is a valuable resource for the people of California because of its dedicated adherence to principles that are widely touted to improve production efficiencies, reduce emissions, cycle nutrients more tightly, and reduce inputs over time.
“I recently heard about the value of publicly showcasing long-term sites such as the one we've got in Five Points. It's being done in several other places, including the Dakotas and in Europe,” Mitchell said. “It just seems to make sense to open up our field more widely to folks who might be interested in seeing the remarkable changes we've seen and monitored for a long time.”
According to Mitchell, the NRI Project field is already “the most visited research field in the state,” but with this new invitation, he is hoping to have an even broader and wider impact. “We've got a simply amazing resource here and I want folks to see it,” he says. The study has also been selected as one of the monitoring sites of the North American Project to Evaluate Soil Health Measurements that has been initiated by the Soil Health Institute of Morrisville, NC.
More than 30 peer-reviewed scientific articles have been published based on work done in this study field.
The NRI Project is located at the University of California's West Side Research and Extension Center, 17353 W. Oakland Ave., in Five Points.
“I promise to be out there every Friday morning from Feb. 15 through June 26,” he said.