Conservation agriculture news
August 8, 2019
Right off an intensive two-month internship with South Dakota Hall of Famer, Dwayne Beck, University of Bordeaux agricultural engineering student, Mazarine Foustel, took part in a whirlwind tour of a number of California agricultural sites and met with a number of CASI Workgroup members on August 8th before heading off to the Grand Canyon and her return to France later this month (Figure 1). Foustel is from Brittany in western France where her family has a dairy farm. She searched out the internship with Dwayne Beck through his worldwide reputation in conservation and regenerative agriculture and because of the huge impact he has had on improving food production systems around the world. While at the Dakota Lakes Research Farm these past two months with Beck and his team, Foustel conducted a wide range of duties including helping with the daily moving of cattle that have been integrated into Beck's cropping system research and also learning about how Beck and farmers in his area have been working to implement soil care practices now for several decades.
While in California, she stayed initially with a family in Sacramento that had first hosted her back when she was in high school. Then, she took part in an ambitious tour with CASI's Jeff Mitchell that included visits to the UC Davis campus and the field laboratory site that is being prepared for this fall's PLS111 agronomy students (Figure 2), the Century Experiment at the site of the Long-term Research on Agricultural Sustainability just west of campus (Figure 3), a very nice visit with CASI farmer, Rich Collins at his farm southwest of Davis (Figure 4), and then Mitchell hosted her a few days later down at the NRI Project field in Five Points, CA. While in Five Points, she also visited the local West Side San Joaquin Valley farms of CASI Workgroup members, John and Justin Diener and Scott Schmidt, and saw broadacre farm processing tomato and garlic harvests underway. We thank Mazarine Foustel for spending time with us a we wish her all the very best as she now returns to France to complete her studies!
Mazarine Foustel visiting CASI’s longstanding NRI Project in Five Points, CA that is comparing reduced disturbance and biodiverse cover crop systems versus standard tillage and no cover crop approaches now for twenty years
Mazarine Foustel (center) visiting PLS111 field lab that is being set up for this fall’s agronomy students on the UC Davis campus. Hosting her are Lab Teaching Coordinator, Ryan Eadry (left), and Derrick Lum (right), Manager of the Department of Plant Sciences field headquarters at UC Davis.
French agricultural engineering student and Dwayne Beck summer intern, Mazarine Foustel, visiting the Century Experiment at the LTRAS long-term study site on the UC Davis campus
CASI farmer member and CAFF (Community Alliance with Family Farmers) Board of Director member, Rich Collins, hosting Mazarine Foustel at his farm just west of Davis, CA
August 10, 2019
Drs. Amelie Gaudin (UC Davis Department of Plant Sciences) and Sarah Light (UC ANR Sutter County) have stepped up and will serve as California representatives on the newly-forming Western Cover Crops Council, a group from the 18 western states that is trying to gear up information development and exchange activities throughout the broad region. Gaudin is a Professor of Agroecology at UC Davis and Light is an Agronomy Advisor with UC ANR in Sutter County. Both are currently conducting broad and comprehensive cover crop research work. Gaudin specializes in permanent cropping systems with a strong emphasis on almonds and Light works in annual cropping systems. The mission of the WCCC is to facilitate and enhance communication and collaboration among farmers/growers, agents, researchers, and other agricultural professionals to transfer information and technology that promotes the successful adoption and integration of cover cropping into Western U.S. agricultural systems. The WCCC Planning Team currently consists of about sixteen member representing several western states. They meet about monthly via televideo conference call and are now in the process of creating goal statements and means for better linking educational activities about cover crops throughout the region. We applaud Gaudin and Light for stepping up to be California's communicators with this group!
Dr. Amelie Gaudin (left) visiting the no-till dairy silage field of Turlock, CA farmer, Michael Crowell
Dr. Sarah Light sampling cover crop biomass in one of the CIG reduced disturbance cover crop fields in Guinda, CA
July 31, 2019
A group of about six members of California Ag Solutions along with CASI's Jeff Mitchell were treated to a simply fantastic and very eye-opening tour of the Bottens Family Farm on July 31st near the small northwestern IL town of Sherrard, IL by long-time Workgroup member, Monte Bottens. The visit included in-depth looks at the very sophisticated and state-of-the-art no-till planting and strip-till equipment that has been developed at the farm and also a number of the very creative new frontier marketing endeavors that Monte and his family farm colleagues are involved with including integrating beef cattle grazing into no-till production systems and a broad line of locally-marketed beef products. Monte also presented a very interesting discussion, “Ready, set, strip-till: Proving first-year payback,” at the 6th Annual National Strip-till Farmer Conference that was held in Peoria, IL, about an hour from his family's farm. Monte is part of a growing new wave of farmers who're deliberately looking to better connect with consumers and to also diversify their markets through innovative cropping and creative approaches to farming.
CASI’s Monte Bottens, President of ANP in Moline, IL, and farmer with his dad, Bob Bottens, at Bottens Family Farm in Sherrard, IL hosting a group of California Ag Solutions visitors and Jeff Mitchell on July 31, 2019
Recently-harvested wheat field with 14-way cover crop no-till planted directly into it at Bottens Family Farm in Sherrard, IL
Emerging cover crop in no-till planted wheat field at Bottens Family Farm in Sherrard, IL, July 31, 2019
August 2, 2019
The 6th Annual National Strip-tillage Conference took place last week August 1st and 2nd in Peoria, IL and attracted a crowd of over 300 farmers who were mostly from the IL, IA, WI, MN, and OH region. However, a strong contingent of folks from CA including Cary Crum, Silas Rossow, and two colleagues from California Ag Solutions in Madera, and two Kings County dairy farmers, along with CASI's Jeff Mitchell, also took part. The way this conference series (as well as the National No-till Farmer Annual Conferences) is organized with plenary, classroom and roundtable discussion sessions tends to provide a very nuts and bolts opportunity for the overwhelmingly farmer audience to actually talk with each other about very practical and important issues that they have encountered in their quest to move to strip-tillage. This year's event had a very strong current of interest in cover crops which were quite commonly used among the farmers in attendance. Another fairly prominent theme that was addressed by several of the plenary session speakers was about the importance of speaking out and telling the story of ag to everyone and to more and more people. Other fairly ‘cutting edge' techniques that were discussed were interseeding cover crops into standing cash crops and variations on the “planting green” theme which means planting crops directly into green standing cover crops. As well, there was a relatively large interest among participants in organic strip-till systems. The importance of these sorts of events and learning activities is maybe not so much that they provide information and thinking that is directly or immediately relevant to our particular conditions or systems in CA, but rather that they offer us the chance to learn about what folks in other regions are doing and why they're doing what they're doing to grapple and achieve the improved performance systems that they're seeking to achieve. Reducing disturbance, maintaining surface residue cover, improving soil function, improving ROI, and diversifying markets were all overriding themes that were addressed by many participants, - and these are largely quite universal goals of many farmers. Additional information about the conference and the ongoing outreach efforts of the National Strip-Till Farmer Magazine is available at https://www.striptillfarmer.com/
CASI’s Jeff Mitchell delivering presentation on “Changing the production landscape with smarter strip-till practices” at the 2019 National Strip-till Farmer conference in Peoria, IL, August 1st and 2nd 2019
Article about CA strip-tillage innovations that appeared in the Summer 2019 issue of Strip-till Farmer magazine
July 19, 2019
Two junior-year students at Washington Union High School in Easton, CA, Sophia Garcia and Lilliana Ruiz, successfully completed their two-week internship with the Wonderful Company at UC ANR's Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center. The Wonderful Company is headquartered in Los Angeles, CA and has now for the past two years conducted part of their summer intern program with mentors at the KARE Center. The interns worked with UCCE Cropping Systems Specialist, Jeff Mitchell, on studies that are being conducted at the NRI Project in Five Points and at the KARE Center in Parlier, CA. Ruiz and Garcia are part of the four-year Wonderful Company's intensive program that provides career preparatory training and life skills exposure and reinforcement to students in a number of San Joaquin Valley high schools. As part of their two-week assignment with Mitchell, the two students capped off their experience by preparing and presenting short videos that captured their learning and work to about twenty staff members of the KARE Center on Friday afternoon, July 19, 2019. We wish these two outstanding students all the best in their senior years and beyond and we expect great things from both of them!
Lilliana Ruiz (left), Jeff Mitchell, and Sophia Garcia, following the video presentation by Ruiz and Garcia to twenty staff members of the Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Parlier, CA, July 19, 2019