Conservation Agriculture Systems Innovation
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Conservation Agriculture Systems Innovation

Conservation agriculture news

Is there organized 'opposition' to conservation tillage?

A student at UC Irvine, Saumya Bhardwaj, who is working on a research project on "how to prevent soil damage from monoculture," sent a query to the Conservation Tillage workgroup about policies or interest groups standing in the way of CT implementation.

"Upon doing my research, I couldn't find any group arguing against it so I just need advice on it," Bhardwaj wrote.

"Your question is actually a bit complicated," workgroup chair Jeff Mitchell responded.

"While there is certainly no organized opposition to the broader use or adoption of conservation tillage systems and practices, there are and have been many of what we might call 'barriers.' This is a very interesting area of inquiry and I can well understand your wondering about it.

"For a number of reasons -- tradition, unfamiliarity, fear of risks, uncertainty, lack of information, unwillingness or not seeing any need to change what has been done successfully in the past, lack of 'know how' about options, and many other things -- far wider adoption of these sorts of systems is only now beginning to be taken on.  Increasingly, however, more folks are becoming interested in the potential.  And, as evidenced by the responses we've received from our events last week, there WILL be more up take in the future."

Posted on Monday, March 14, 2011 at 8:15 AM

California farmer Michael Crowell details his no-till experience

National No-till Farmer magazine has published an article by a member of the UC Conservation Tillage and Cropping Systems Workgroup, Michael Crowell.

The Crowell family has been in the dairy business in Turlock for more than 100 years. Currently, Crowell's son Adam manages Bar-Vee Dairy and milks about 700 cows. The family raises their own heifers, so in all the herd is about 1,400 head.

One way the Crowells have dealt with dairy industry volatility is growing as much of their own forage as possible. In his article, Crowell said no-till farming has allowed the family to produce three high-quality forage crops per year.

Crowell began no-till farming six years ago.

"Once I started no-tilling I’ve never missed a single National No-Tillage Conference, I read magazines and get hands-on advice from my University of California-Davis extension contact, Jeff Mitchell," Crowell wrote.

Read Crowell's full account in National No-Till Farmer magazine.
Read Crowell's full account in National No-Till Farmer magazine.

Posted on Friday, February 25, 2011 at 2:26 PM

New Horizons for Conservation Cropping in California Conferences March 9, 10 and 11

California’s Conservation Tillage and Cropping Systems Workgroup will present educational tours and programs at three locations in California March 9-11 to convey information on innovative conservation tillage crop production systems that are being developed in irrigated regions of South Dakota, Nebraska, Colorado and Washington.

In addition to sharing information about the conservation cropping systems in these states, the speakers will discuss how the principles and practices can be implemented on California farms.

The first conference will be held March 9 at the UC Davis Western Center for Agricultural Equipment. The second meeting convenes on March 10 at the SCE Ag-TAC facility in Tulare and continues in the afternoon with tours of three Central Valley farms. The final session is March 11 at the UC West Side Research and Extension Center in Five Points. The presentations at the three locations will be the same. There is no registration fee and no pre-registration necessary.

The three featured speakers, all national leaders in the practice of conservation tillage, are:

  • Dwayne Beck, manager of the Dakota Lakes Research Farm in Pierre, South Dakota. Beck has been inducted into South Dakota’s Hall of Fame for introducing cost-saving conservation tillage practices to the region’s agricultural industry when, in the early 1990s, farms were closing due to a lack of economic viability.
  • Mike Peterson, retired USDA NRCS Conservationist and currently the California precision tillage specialist for Orthman Mfg.  Throughout his career, Peterson has researched and developed information on strip-till approaches.
  • Andy McGuire, cropping systems advisor with Washington State University in Moses Lake, Washington.  McGuire has been working to evaluate and develop high-residue cropping systems for the irrigated crops of the Central Washington region.

“The main reason we invited these out-of-state experts is to learn how the conservation tillage systems they have developed relate to California,” said Jeff Mitchell, UC Davis Cooperative Extension cropping systems specialist and coordinator of the conference. “All of them come from areas where farmers practice irrigated agriculture. We are planning to very thoroughly and thoughtfully consider with them, through a series of dialogues and discussion, the relevance and application of their work on farms in California.”

Conservation agriculture systems reduce overall tillage or soil disturbance, maintain surface residues, seek make production systems more efficient, and reduce costs.  Speakers will address the integrated management of the conservation production systems.

Conference details:

March 9, 12 noon to 4 p.m.: UC Davis Western Center for Agricultural Equipment, off Hutchison on Hills Drive, just west of 113.

March 10, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.: Southern California Edison AgTAC, 4175 S. Laspina St., Tulare, Calif.

March 11, 9 a.m. to 12 noon: UC Westside Research and Extension Center, 17252 W. Oakland Ave., Five Points, Calif.

For additional information on these conferences see the Conservation Tillage and Cropping Systems Workgroup website or contact Mitchell at, (559) 646-6565.

Posted on Monday, January 31, 2011 at 8:21 AM

CT and Cropping Systems Workgroup to be at M-52 at this year’s World Ag Expo

California’s Conservation Tillage and Cropping Systems Workgroup will once again maintain a site at the 2011 World Ag Expo coming up February 8-10 in Tulare. The workgroup booth will be at site M-52, which is about 30 yards due south of the main North Gate 6 entrance.

This year, we will be providing a series of live presentations on various aspects of conservation agriculture through much of each day in addition to our other information offerings.

Presentations include:

  • Local workgroup farmer members Jesse Sanchez, Tom Barcellos, Dino Giacomazzi, and Scott Schmidt talking about their CT and irrigation systems
  • NRCS conservationists providing information on available USDA programs that support conservation agriculture systems and practices
  • UCCE advisor Dan Munk sharing information about CT cotton
  • UCCE advisor advisor Gene Miyao talking about cover crops in tomato systems
  • UC Davis soil science professor Will Horwath talking about soil carbon and GHG’s
  • Ladi Asgill and Ron Harben discussing conservation agricultural systems related to production and business models
  • Jerry Rossiter discussing overhead, mechanized irrigation systems.

The presentations will start at 10 a.m. each day and cycle through the day at the M-52 Workgroup tent.

For more information, contact Jeff Mitchell at (559) 303-9689 or

Posted on Tuesday, January 18, 2011 at 10:39 AM

An invitation to dairy silage producers to step up in 2011 and gain experience with CT production systems

If you’ve been at all interested in or curious about conservation tillage systems for silage crop production, now is the time to begin preparations and to gear up for the 2011 season.

In recent years, members of California’s Conservation Tillage and Cropping Systems Workgroup have been working directly with a number of Central Valley dairy silage producers and together they have learned how to most effectively and successfully adopt a variety of CT practices for silage production. During this time, there have been considerable gains in the overall knowledge base that is needed for successful and sustained CT silage management. There is now also a decent experience base that can help new CT farmers avoid problems and mistakes that can lead to trouble.

Through an NRCS Conservation Innovation Grant program called the “BMP CT Challenge,” dairy silage producers once again have an opportunity this year to gain experience with CT systems, to work with CT advisors, to borrow CT equipment and to secure risk management support if CT test strip yields are lower than standard till yields.

For more information and to take part in one of our workgroup’s upcoming dairy silage breakfast meetings in your region, please give any of the following folks a call or send an e-mail to them at the addresses indicated below.

Ladi Asgill
(209) 604-6554
Jeff Mitchell
(559) 303-9689
Johnnie Siliznoff
(559) 252-2192 Ext. 121

Posted on Tuesday, January 18, 2011 at 9:35 AM

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