Conservation Agriculture Systems Innovation
University of California
Conservation Agriculture Systems Innovation

Conservation agriculture news

Debating California Tillage

Alan Wilcox, left, and Jeff Mitchell debate the challenges and opportunities for conservation tillage.
UC ANR scientist debates conservation tillage practices with industry leader

Alan Wilcox of Wilcox Agri-Products and UC Cooperative Extension specialist Jeff Mitchell debated the challenges and opportunities for increased implementation of conservation tillage practices on California farms during the World Ag Expo in February, reported Alan Stenum in Farm Equipment magazine.

Wilcox said farmers are going to be resistant to anything they suspect will affect yield. Mitchell said creative innovation underway will have a big impact on some of the more challenging crops that are grown in California.

"This is a region where costs are high. The cost of doing business is high, and maximum yields on any crop are important to even break even," Wilcox said. "We're going to be intensely committed to water management and the maximum amount of water."

Mitchell said farmers in other parts of the U.S. started to switch to reduced disturbance no-till systems to conserve water.

"The recognition of the value of that opportunity to reduce soil water evaporation and have more water going through the crops through transpiration hasn't really sunk in here in California in large fashion," Mitchell said.

While Mitchell noted that water is essential to the discussion of conservation agriculture, there are other important aspects to consider.

"Biological cycling of nutrients in the soil, tightening up the system so there are fewer losses, either to the groundwater as some sort of pollution, or improving the overall soil function and nutrition provision capacity of the soil - that's not a small aspect of the overall system, nor are the opportunities for reducing costs," Mitchell said.

Wilcox said he would characterize the argument differently.

"The point is in all of our tillage strategies - and in every situation - we never compromise yield," he said.

Read the complete debate in Farm Equipment magazine.

More information about the use of conservation agriculture practices can be found on the UC Conservation Agriculture Systems Innovation website.







Posted on Thursday, June 14, 2018 at 8:36 AM

CASI holds outreach soil health presentations to Tulare County fourth-graders!

May 11, 2018

Interactive display materials for Tulare County 4th graders as part of the 2018 AgVentures! Field Day.
In what might be the sixth or seventh year in a row, CASI's Jeff Mitchell participated in the annual AgVentures! educational event for several Tulare County public schools fourth-grader classes on May 11, 2018 at the International Ag Center.  This is an annual event that is put on by the Tulare County School District in conjunction with the Tulare County Cooperative Extension and the International Ag Center and it typically involves several hundred students from the local schools.  It turns out to be the classic ‘field trip' for kids and seems to be something that brings excitement and hopefully good learning to large numbers of students.  A short video of some of the action can be seen at the You Tube site 


Posted on Monday, May 14, 2018 at 9:30 AM

First-ever pivot-irrigated processing tomatoes near Walnut Grove!

June 25, 2015

Michael Boparai, a farmer who recently bought two center pivot irrigation systems and installed them on his farmland near the Delta area town of Walnut Grove, invited a diverse group of private sector and UC Cooperative Extension supporters to the field where he's growing processing tomatoes on June 25th 2015.  The group included Dan Schueler, Senninger Irrigation Company, Rick Hanshew, Reinke Mfg., a pivot company, Brenna Aegerter, Michelle Leinfelder-Miles, Gene Miyao, and Jeff Mitchell, - all of UC Cooperative Extension, along with host, Boparai.  They discussed opportunities for managing the tomato crop as well as things to try to avoid during the upcoming season.  A follow-up article describing applications of overhead irrigation systems for several crops of the Central Valley may be found at A short video of the team meeting at Boparai's farm is available at You Tube at

Field meeting at Boparai overhead irrigation tomato field, Walnut Grove, CA June 25, 2015


Posted on Monday, May 14, 2018 at 9:22 AM

UCD student begins CDFA Healthy Soils Program project in San Joaquin Valley!

May 4, 2018


New UCD PhD student, Geoff Koch, who is working with Will Horwath on San Joaquin Valley Healthy Soils Program effort.
UCD graduate student, Geoff Koch, and former CDFA Environmental Farming Act's Science Advisory Committee Director, Don Cameron of Helm, CA.
Geoff Koch (left) meeting Mendota farmer, Gary Martin.
Geoff Koch, a brand new PhD student in the Department of Soils and Biogeochemistry at the University of California, Davis, working with soil scientist, Will Horwath, and CASI Cooperative Extension partners, Jeff Mitchell and Dan Munk, began his research project in earnest this week with a whirlwind tour of the San Joaquin Valley study sites where he'll be monitoring soil function and greenhouse emissions during the coming two and a half years.  He is working on a CDFA Healthy Soils Program project, “Securing the future of highly productive annual cropping systems in California,” that will be implemented in the longstanding NRI Project field in Five Points where he will compare impacts of reduced disturbance tillage and cover crops on soil health and at the Mendota, CA farm of Gary and Mari Martin where he'll investigate the effects of winter cover crops.  Geoff will be in charge of much of the data collection at these sites and for analysis of information that is generated by the project.  During his first week on the job, Geoff visited both sites and had chances to meet the Martins and to also meet Don Cameron, the former Director of CDFA's Environmental Farming Act Science Advisory Committee which was initially responsible for getting the Healthy Soils  and State Water Efficiency Enhancement Programs up and running.  We look forward to many very good contributions from Geoff during the coming few years and we welcome him to this exciting new project!




Posted on Friday, May 4, 2018 at 3:56 PM

No-till tomato transplanting April 23, 2018 in Five Points, CA

May 3, 2018

No till tomato transplanting. Five Points, CA. April 23, 2018.
No-till transplanter used for establishing tomatoes in sorghum, garbanzo, and cover crop residue. Five Points, CA. April 23, 2018.
A short video showing no-till tomato transplanting into sorghum, garbanzo and cover crop residues is now available at the You Tube link - .  This experimental activity took place in the longstanding NRI Project field in Five Points, CA that is evaluating a variety of cropping system efforts to reduce disturbance, promote biological diversity, decrease emissions, and improve soil function.  Several local project partners including farmers, USDA NRCS, private sector, and other agency folks have been part of this study since it was started back in 1999.  Over the years, this research has documented significant changes in a number of soil properties or characteristics including increase carbon and nitrogen, greater abundance and diversity of several biological indicators, improved infiltration and aggregation, lower fuel use and dust emissions, and reduced costs.  The study is now phasing into an effort to evaluate more vegetable crops using reduced disturbance techniques.

Posted on Thursday, May 3, 2018 at 8:04 AM

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