Conservation Agriculture Systems Innovation
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Conservation Agriculture Systems Innovation

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CASI partners work on center pivot-irrigated tomatoes in Walnut Grove, CA

The CASI group working on pivot irrigation in tomato fields in Walnut Grove.
A group of CASI partners has been working with Walnut Grove, CA tomato farmer, Michael Boparai, this summer on his efforts to produce processing tomatoes using an automated, precision-application center pivot irrigation system. Boparai is a new tomato farmer who recently purchased two 135-acre pivots that he had been using to irrigate alfalfa and corn before deciding to use them for his tomatoes in 2015.

The CASI team includes a diverse group of UC Cooperative Extension Advisors, Gene Miyao of Yolo, Sacramento, and Solano Counties, Brenna Aegerter and Michelle Leinfelder-Miles of San Joaquin County, and Cropping Systems Specialist, Jeff Mitchell of UC Davis, along with private sector partners, Dan Schueler of Senninger Irrigation Company, Rick Hanshew of Reinke Mfg., and Jerry Rossiter of CiscoAg. Several of these supporters of Boparai's goal of successfully producing tomatoes under his pivot this year have already met out in the field on a number of occasions to help him to assess progress of the crop and to develop water and crop management strategies for completing the 2015 season ahead of his harvest.

Pivot irrigation in a tomato field near Walnut Grove
While overhead irrigation has been researched and used successfully for a number of crops that have been recently featured in several CASI peer-reviewed studies, the application of this proven irrigation technology to tomatoes in California has so far not fared well in the limited number of trails that have been conducted. A variety of reasons including the need to very carefully maintain an adequate watering regime throughout the season and to avoid falling behind in terms of recharging the soil profile so that tomato roots can adequately acquire stored moisture to meet the demand of evapotranspiration account for why overhead irrigation of tomatoes has faced problems in these past attempts. Knowing how much water is stored in the soil profile is also a key to managing irrigation of tomatoes and thus the team that is working with Boparai has recently installed soil water sensors and dataloggers in his pivot irrigation field so as to gain real-time information on soil water status that can then be used to schedule irrigations.

Because of the importance of tomatoes to many crop rotations throughout much of the Central Valley, being able to use pivot irrigation for this “anchor” crop is seen as being very important to the wider expansion of overhead irrigation systems in the region.

Additional updates and a summary of the learning that has taken place through this team effort with Boparai will be available in September.

Posted on Monday, July 27, 2015 at 8:45 AM

UC Davis hosts Rain for Rent and Reinke Mfg at Center Pivot Field in Five Points

July 16, 2015. Field Meeting in Five Points.
UC Davis Horticulture and Agronomy graduate student, Gerardo van den Hoek, hosted a group of irrigation technology suppliers from Rain For Rent (San Joaquin, CA) and Reinke Mfg. (Deshler, NE) at the field site where he is conducting the second year of his MS thesis project in Five Points, CA. van den Hoek works with a large team of UC colleagues including Dan Putnam and Jeff Mitchell of the Plant Sciences Department, Jeff Dahlberg of the Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center, Dan Munk, Kurt Hembree, and Tom Turini of UCCE Fresno County, and a number of other partners including Anil Shrestha of Fresno State, Rick Hanshew of Reinke Mfg., Dan Schueler of Senninger Mfg., Barbara Kutzner of Monsanto, Monte Bottens of California Ag Solutions, and local Five Points farmers, John Diener and Scott Schmidt. The field meeting took place on July 16.

van den Hoek and his advisory team are evaluating the performance of four corn and four forage sorghum varieties under deficit irrigation using the center pivot irrigation system as the means for imposing roughly 100%, 70%, and 40% amounts of full ET (evapotranspiration) following the application of full ET during the early part of the season. The deficit treatments were recently initiated and van den Hoek's calculations project roughly 25 inches of water being applied to the 100% system, about 20 inches going to the 70% system, and 17 inches to the 40% treatment by the end of the 2015 season. Varietal responses of the corn and sorghum crops are being evaluated in terms of growth and development, yield, and forage quality.

The team will host a public field education event later in the 2015 summer.

Additional information is available by contacting van den Hoek at, or Mitchell at

Posted on Monday, July 20, 2015 at 8:26 AM

Enhanced irrigation and crop management technologies developed in Five Points, Calif.

Fresh market onions growing under overhead mechanized irrigation in Five Points, CA.
The Issue

The need to produce more food, feed, fiber, and fuel with less water now looms as perhaps the greatest challenge ever faced by farmers worldwide. Our ability to meet this challenge may well determine not only our overall quality of life, but also our very survival in the future. Developing and adopting enhanced irrigation and crop management technologies that achieve greater water-use efficiencies is essential.

What Has ANR Done?

For the past several years, a team of researchers, farmers, and private sector partners has been working at the University of California West Side Research and Extension Center in Five Points, Calif. to develop enhanced water and crop management systems for a range of crops commonly produced in the central San Joaquin Valley. This work has focused on the coupling of advanced sustainability technologies (such as precision overhead and subsurface drip irrigation systems) with strip-till and no-till planting to achieve cheaper and more sustainable systems.

The use of overhead irrigation (sometimes called "mechanized" irrigation) is not new in many parts of the world. Overhead pivot irrigation is widely used in the Pacific Northwest, the Great Plains, and the southeast U.S. as well as in many other places around the world. It is the most widely used irrigation system in the U.S. and has been successfully adopted in those regions for decades, but it is not widely used in California.

The Five Points research team is working to couple the proven benefits of overhead irrigation, including labor, cost and water savings, with additional benefits derived from preserving high amounts of surface crop residues. "Our goal," says UC Davis researcher Jeff Mitchell, "is to follow in the steps of legendary South Dakota State University researcher Dwayne Beck, and the no-till farmers he works with, to have crops use water more efficiently."

The Payoff

Coupling precision overhead irrigation with no-tillage increases efficiencies

Working with colleagues at Valley Irrigation in Omaha, Neb., the California team found that irrigation water application uniformity for the overhead system is 93 percent. This excellent level of application uniformity allows for less water use to meet irrigation demand than systems that are less uniform, such as surface or gravity flow furrow irrigation. In addition, the team showed that 13 percent (4 inches) of soil water evaporation can be saved in the soil during a typical summer season when a thick matte of residues is on the soil surface. This research shows the potential for California farmers to reduce water use and evaporation by combining overhead irrigation and no-till practices.


Supporting Unit:

Department of Plant Sciences, UC Davis, Department of Land, Air and Water Resources, Fresno County Cooperative Extension
1. Jeff Mitchell, Department of Plant Sciences, UC Davis
2. Wes Wallender, Department of Land, Air and Water Resources, UC Davis
3. Will Horwath, Department of Land, Air and Water Resources, UC Davis
4. Dan Munk, Fresno County Cooperative Extension


Posted on Tuesday, June 30, 2015 at 11:01 AM

CASI’s Diener and Mitchell, and CalCAN’s Renata Brillinger on Drought Resilience Panel at the Berkeley Food Institute

Food Exchange Flyer




CASI members, John Diener and Jeff Mitchell, both of Five Points, CA, and Renata Brillinger of CalCAN, were part of a panel that discussed farming practices to reduce risks tied to drought that was put on by the Berkeley Food Institute on April 13.   A video recording of the panel discussion including the question and answer session that followed can be seen at the following link:

Jeff Mitchell, John Diener and Renata Brillinger head panel discussion of farming practices related to drought. Photo by Jonathan Fong.



Posted on Monday, May 11, 2015 at 9:26 AM

CASI’s Diener and Mitchell in UC Berkeley forum on “Resilience and Health of Food Systems in the Face of Drought” Monday, April 13, 2 – 6 PM

Our CASI Center's John Diener, a Five Points, CA farmer and long-term workgroup member, along with Jeff Mitchell of UC Davis, will be participating as panelists on Monday, April 13th, from 2 – 6 PM in the Tampalpais Room of the David Brower Center at 2150 Allston Way at Oxford Street in Berkeley, CA as part of the Berkeley Food Institute's Food Exchange Series on “Farming practices to reduce risk tied to drought.” 


Posted on Monday, April 6, 2015 at 9:33 AM

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