Conservation Agriculture Systems Innovation
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Conservation Agriculture Systems Innovation

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UC ANR Science Communication and Presentation Skills Workshop held at UC KARE August 25th 2017!

Presentation Skills Workshop

A group of UC KARE researchers and UCCE Fresno and Madera County Advisors took part in a two-hour workshop on science communication and presentation skills at the UC KARE on Friday, August 25th.  The group included Phoebe Gordon and Rebecca Ozeran of Madera County, Shannon Mueller and George Zhang of Fresno County, Lori Berger, Andreas Westphal, Jeff Dahlberg, Themis Michailides, and Jeff Mitchell of UC KARE, Aldo Garcia of Fresno State, and key meeting presenter, Jessica Chiartas, a PhD soil science student at UC Davis.  With introductory information on some of the current thinking and ideas of effective, engaged and connected communication that was provided by Mitchell and Chiartas, the group worked through a number of improvisation and role play exercises aimed at improving the way in which we communicate to the various people and groups that we interact with in our extension education work.  In addition, the group solidified a commitment to continue to meet perhaps three or four times annually to form a peer support group aimed at continuing to learn and to explore opportunities for improving our communication skills.  Though it was but a small part of the workshop program, participants participated in a pre-workshop video interview about their work and research programs.  The video clips from these pre-workshop exercise are archived at the You Tube link      Our intent is to go back to folks who participated and conduct a follow-up video interview that might allow everyone to see if and how they've included ideas and techniques that were shared in the workshop into their ongoing work and communication.  We look forward to adding folks to strengthen the peer support communication group.  If you're interested, let Jeff Mitchell know at or 559-303-9689.  We obviously do not have all the answers, but are keen and curious, I think, in learning more and in improving what we do.

Posted on Monday, August 28, 2017 at 8:42 AM

Students showcase CASI’s NRI Project in Five Points as part of CDFA’s State Board of Food and Agriculture soil health tour on August 8th!

West Side REC, Five Points, CA. August 8, 2017.

Students from UC Davis and CSU Fresno presented summaries of work they're involved with at the long-term NRI Project study site in Five Points, CA as part of a soil health tour stop for CDFA's Board of Food and Agriculture on August 8th.  Anna Gomes, a UC Davis undergraduate student working with Drs. Daniele Zaccaria and Jeff Mitchell on her senior thesis (along with Stephanie Lew, an Environmental Sciences student also at UCD), and Aldo Garcia, a USDA-NIFA undergraduate research intern working with CSU Fresno professor, Dr. Anil Shrestha, and Jeff Mitchell, had opportunities to briefly share their research work with CDFA State Board members during their visit to the NRI Project field.  CDFA Secretary Karen Ross, Deputy Secretary Jenny Lester-Moffitt and CDFA Science Director, Dr. Amrith Gunasekara, were part of the tour group as well as a range of Board members who are appointed by the Governor.  UCCE Fresno County Advisor and long-term CASI member, Dan Munk, welcomed the group and led the presentation program at the NRI field that included an introduction to the project's outcomes and findings that was provided by Jeff Mitchell, a discussion of efforts related to reduced disturbance production practices by CASI member and Leopold Conservation Award recipient, Dino Giacomazzi of Hanford, CA, and a summary of an innovative private sector strip-till and precision planting service by Silas and Matt Rossow of California Ag Solutions of Madera, CA.  Long-term CASI member and supporter, Eric Kueneman, former Global Director of FAO's Conservation Agriculture programs in Rome, Italy, also took part in discussions with the CDFA visitors.  In addition, the group discussed opportunities for scaling up the adoption of improved performance, conservation agriculture, healthy soils and climate smart systems through efforts that are underway with the California Farm Demonstration Network. 

West Side REC, Five Points, CA. August 8, 2017
As is customary with CASI visitors to the NRI Project, the students were treated to a lunch at the legendary El Ranchero Café in Five Points before they went on to Sano Farms in Firebaugh, CA where they learned about cover crop and soil improvement efforts of Alan Sano and Jesse Sanchez. 
West Side REC, Five Points, CA. August 8, 2017

Posted on Monday, August 14, 2017 at 8:38 AM

New CASI video available

New CASI video available on "Twenty years of no-tilled double-cropped cotton and wheat in Goodyear, AZ" at


For over twenty years, Ron, Robert, and Earl Rayner of Goodyear, AZ have been perfecting a very interesting and successful system of no-tilled double-cropped cotton and wheat at A Tumbling T Ranches in Goodyear, AZ.  Their motivations and techniques for this highly innovative system, as well as the many very interesting things that they've learned over the years about how best to implement the practices that they employ are now chronicled in a 41-minute video that is available at the You Tube link above.

The video captures quite a lot of very good innovation and also sheds light on many very important aspects of conservation agriculture including risk management, the overall value of reduced disturbance residue-preserving practices, along with things that the Rayners have learned over the years related to water use efficiency, soil function, and farm sustainability. 

Special thanks to Ron Rayner for taking the time to share the many years of dedicated effort in this video.

A shorter, revised version of the video will be available later this year following the 2017 cotton harvest.


Posted on Monday, July 17, 2017 at 9:54 AM

UC Merced soil physics researchers visit NRI Project in Five Points


Teamrat Ghezzehei, Samuel Araya, Essey Afewerki, and Jing Yan, (left to right) at the NRI Project field in Five Points, July 12, 2017
UC Merced soil physics professor, Teamrat Ghezzehei, along with Post-Doc researcher, Jing Yan, PhD student Samuel Araya, and Teamrat's son, Essey Afewerki, visited the longstanding NRI Project in Five Points on July 12th to orient themselves regarding upcoming research they'll be conducting on hydraulic properties of the soils at the site.  A recently-funded DWR project, Increasing Water Use Efficiency and Drought Resilience in California Agriculture, will be the basis of the PhD research of Araya, who's starting up at UC Merced after receiving his MS degree at UC Merced and his BS at UC Davis.  The objectives of Araya and Ghezzehei's research will be to 1) compare soil hydraulic properties between conservation agriculture systems with conventional tillage with and without cover following 18 years of management in the NRI Project field, 2) quantify the changes in soil water storage with cover crops and fallow to determine the impact of cover crops on the soil water balance, 3) characterize the relationship between soil physical properties associated with soil water dynamics and water use efficiency and system resilience across multiple farm sites in the CV, and 4) to develop and implement an outreach program to disseminate the information and findings from this project to the region.  This UC Merced team will be working with others who've been involved with the study over the years including Randy Southard, Jan Hopmans, Will Horwath and Jeff Mitchell of UC Davis, Dan Munk of UC ANR Fresno County, Marsha Campbell of UC ANR Stanislaus County, Anil Shrestha of Fresno State, Jerry Hatfield of the USDA ARS National Lab for Agriculture and the Environment in Ames, IA, Robert Roy, Genett Carstensen, Joe Williams, Margaret Smither-Kopperl, Tony Rolfes, Zahangir Kabir and Brook Gale of USDA NRCS, private sector partners, Monte Bottens, Alan Wilcox, Matt and Silas Rossow, and Cary Crum of Cal Ag Solutions, local farmers, John Diener, Scott Schmidt, Jesse Sanchez, Alan Sano, Dino Giacomazzi, Michael Crowell, and Tom Barcellos, and Mitchell's mentor, Dwayne Beck of South Dakota State University and the Dakota Lakes Research Farm.  This team is eagerly awaiting the start of the project's work this fall and to the understanding that Ghezzehei and Araya will be contributing to how no-till and cover crop management have impacted soil physical and hydraulic properties in the NRI Project study.

Ghezzehei hails originally from Eritrea where he tells us, “We don't have traditional last name;  thus, my son's last name is my dad's first name just like my last name is my grandfather's first name.”  Essey is a sixth-grader at a Merced elementary school. 

Following their visit to the NRI Project field, Teamrat, Essey, Samuel and Jing joined NRI Project representative, Jeff Mitchell, for a traditional CASI hospitality lunch at El Ranchero Café in Five Points where the group had a chance to talk with local Westside farmers and learn more about the water shortage issues they face.


Posted on Monday, July 17, 2017 at 9:36 AM

Links to two short introductory videos on the California Farm Demonstration Network

Links to two short introductory videos on the California Farm Demonstration Network are now available at the CASI website

The first one is about 8 minutes long and presents a number of the farmers and features of the Network.  The second one is a shorter, 3 minute, introduction to the Network.

The California Farm Demonstration Network is an partnership between the California Farm Bureau Federation, the University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, the University of California, Davis, the California Department of Food and Agriculture, the California USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and the California Association of Resource Conservation Districts to expand the adoption of improved performance, conservation agriculture farm production practices and systems in California.  It  relies on a series of local hubs showcasing various farm demonstrations of a wide range of conservation agriculture, climate-smart, and healthy soils systems are being evaluated. 

Full video link:


Trailer Link:


Posted on Monday, July 3, 2017 at 10:41 AM

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