August 13, 2018
Kelly O’Neill (left), Patrick O’Neill (center) and Jeff Mitchell (right) visiting the CASI NRI Project field in Five Points, CA on August 13, 2018
Patrick O'Neill, certified crop and soil health advisor in the San Luis Valley in Colorado, took time from his busy travel schedule in California to stop by the NRI Project study field and talk with Jeff Mitchell on August 13th
2018. He works in CO with a group of 15 farmers who are themselves trying to evaluate opportunities for improving soil function through the use of what they call “fungal-dominated compost” and cover crops in the largely potato, onion and grain food production systems that they have. This is a region that is in many respects like California's San Joaquin Valley in terms of water availability and farmers there have had to constrain the actual amount of land that they now farm due to water allocation cutbacks. Surprisingly perhaps and in contrast to what is commonly seen in the SJV, many farmers in the San Luis Valley are now using cover crops on lands that are fallow due to restrictions in irrigation water allocations as means to stabilize them and to keep some measure of soil biology active for when they rotate back to these fields for their cash crops. We have invited Patrick to take part in future information exchanges with us in the new NRCS Conservation Innovation Grant and we look forward to very informative exchanges between him and folks in his region and the core group of farmers who are now working on this CIG effort. Patrick took part in the “Health from the Soil Up – Bridging the Silos of Health and Agriculture” three-day conference that just concluded in Berkeley and Paicines, CA along with CASI's Jeff Mitchell. This forum of folks from agriculture and the medical professions is now working together to look at creative ways to improve not only soil health, but also human health and opportunities for improving the overall health of the soil as well as the health of humans. Much more will come from these sorts of collaborations and we welcome Patrick to being part of our work in California!
July 31, 2018
Uzbek visitors tour the UC CASI NRI Project field in Five Points, CA
Sixteen farmers from the Fergana and Jizzakh regions of Uzbekistan visited five farms and toured the NRI Project in Five Points, CA July 30th
as part of a project sponsored by the World Bank to improve wheat and cotton production in their country through the use of no-till and conservation agriculture approaches. The tour group was hosted by CASI's Jeff Mitchell who was asked by John Bradley, formerly of the University of Tennessee's legendary Milan Research Center and Monsanto, to coordinate the tour. Bradley had visited CASI back in the early 2000's when he spoke to us regarding the advances that farmers in Tennessee had made with no-till systems.
Soil aggregation demonstrations provide to Uzbek visitors in the CASI NRI Project field in Five Points, CA
The Uzbek farmers were hosted by Danny Royer of Bowles Farming in Los Banos, Gary and Mari Martin in Firebaugh, Don Cameron in Helm, Mark and Connor McKean in Riverdale, and John Diener in Five Points. They also took part in a presentation/discussion on conservation agriculture and a field tour of the NRI Project at the Five Points field station that was hosted by Jeff Mitchell and Geoff Koch, a graduate student at UC Davis who is working with the Martins in Firebaugh and Mitchell in Five Points on a new CDFA Healthy Soils Project study of cover crop impacts on soil function.
Uzbekistan has a very similar climate to California's San Joaquin Valley and thus, the tour group visited largely arid regions of the US including stops in Lubbock, TX, Goodyear, AZ and Five Points, CA. The World Bank is working with Uzbek farmers with the transition to no-till cotton systems and technologies as a means of invigorating the private sector agricultural economy.
Uzbek farmers with Danny Royer at Bowles Farming, Los Banos, CA
Don Cameron of Helm, CA hosts farmers from Uzbekistan July 31, 2018
Mark McKean, Riverdale, CA, showing Uzbekistan farmers his cotton fields
Uzbekistan tour group visiting John Diener of Red Rock Ranch in Five Points, CA
CASI's Dan Munk, UC Advisor in Fresno County, and Jeff Mitchell, Cropping Systems Specialist out of the Department of Plant Sciences, UC Davis, shared knowledge and experience that they've developed over the years with a highly engaged and interactive group of cotton farmers on July 24th at a public field day hosted by Sustainable Cotton at Pikalok Farms in Mendota, CA. Gary and Mari Martin of Pikalok graciously hosted the educational event that turned out to be a quite-animated and instructive, frank exchange among all participants. Sustainable Cotton has been active in the San Joaquin Valley as a convener of information on alternative practices and approaches to cotton farming that use less chemical inputs. Munk provided a thorough discussion of important mid-season crop and water management topics and Mitchell challenged the group with respect to opportunities for using reduced disturbance and soil health techniques. The session was also part of the outreach and educational program of a California Department of Food and Agriculture Healthy Soils Program project, Securing the future of highly productive annual cropping systems in California, that involves monitoring sites at Pikalok Farms in Mendota and the longstanding NRI Project in Five Points. A follow-up summary of Mitchell's presentation and discussion on the under-valued importance of soil care in most annual cropping systems in California today will be posted at the CASI blog site during the coming days.
Veteran UC Cooperative Extension Advisor, Dan Munk, of Fresno County, leading discussion of mid-season cotton crop and water management, at the July 24th public field day at Pikalok Farms in Mendota, CA.
July 10, 2018
UC ANR Vice President Glenda Humiston (left), Fresno County Advisor and CASI member Dan Munk (center), and ANR Associate Vice President, Wendy Powers (right)
The Conservation Agriculture Systems Innovation (CASI) Center received this year's Award of Excellence from the Western Extension Directors Association (WEDA). CASI's Dan Munk received the recognition on behalf of our Center on July 10 following a presentation he delivered on our goals and accomplishments at the group's annual conference in Guam.
WEDA is made up of the following states and territories: Alaska, American Samoa, Arizona, California, Colorado, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Micronesia, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Northern Mariana Islands, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming. Their annual Awards of Excellence Program was created in 2005 to recognize Extension outreach education programming that has achieved outstanding accomplishments, results, and impacts in addressing contemporary issues in one or more of the 13 Western states and Pacific Island US Territories.
The group that submitted our application for consideration for this year's recognition included Brenna Aegerter, Howard Ferris, Amelie Gaudin, Temarat Ghezzehei, Kurt Hembree, William Horwath, Louise Jackson, Betsy Karle, Sarah Light, Mark Lundy, Dan Marcum, Milt McGiffen, Glenn McGourty, Michelle Leinfelder-Miles, Jeff Mitchell, Gene Miyao, Dan Munk, Tapan Pathak, Samuel Sandoval-Solis, Gary Sposito, Scott Stoddard, Tom Turini, Amber Vinchesi, Jeannette Warner, and Daniele Zaccaria.
Congratulations to all and special thanks to Dan Munk for making the trip to Guam on our behalf!
June 27, 2018
(L to R) Rob Roy, Allen Curry, Geoff Koch, Dan Munk
The NRCS Soil Scientist for Mississippi, Allen Curry, who is on a two-month detail visiting the Fresno Area Office with Area Agronomist and long-time CASI Workgroup member, Rob Roy, visited the CASI NRI Project in Five Points, CA and engaged in a lively discussion with Dan Munk, Geoff Koch and Jeff Mitchell at the study site. Curry is working with Roy on a number of efforts and is having the opportunity to see how the NRCS operates in California as part of his training exchange. The group observed the tomato and garbanzo plots before heading to El Ranchero Café in Five Points for a sumptuous luncheon that many CASI visitors in the past have also experienced. A warm CASI welcome to Allen Curry!