Conservation agriculture news
Soil health monitoring conducted at SJV reduced disturbance and cover cropped fields!
As part of the USDA NRCS Conservation Innovation Grant, Creating a no-till network in California, extensive baseline soil sampling has now been done at several San Joaquin Valley farms that are employing the soil health management practices of no-tillage, strip-tillage and/or cover crops. These farms include sites at the diversified permanent and annual crop farm of Eddie Sajian in Hanford, CA, the dairy silage fields of Rick Adams near Laton, CA, the grazing pasture lands of Paul Strojan in Farmington, CA, cotton fields at Bowles Farming in Los Banos, CA, and tomato acreage of Woolf Farming in Huron. Determinations of soil carbon, aggregation, infiltration, and % residue cover have been done at each site and findings have been discussed with partner farmers for each location. In addition, participating farmers have been encouraged to begin conducting their own ongoing monitoring by using the assay techniques shown here. They were also provided with a PVC meter square quadrat to use in sampling surface biomass and a set of sieves as shown below that are used for determinations of soil aggregate stability.
Slide of soil health test kit materials given to network farmer participants CIG NRCS State No-till 2022
Capture aggregate stability scoring Woolf 2021
A unique - dare we say - "never before attempted in the region," effort to precede strip-tilled tomatoes with a mowed vigorous winter cover crop was conducted in one of the fieldsofWoolf Enterprises, a major tomato and other row crop farm just south of the small San Joaquin Valley town of Huron, CA in the spring of 2022. Several Woolf agronomists including Rick Blankenship and Shane Bickner, along with agronomy consultant,Cary Crum,of Agrotechnovation, oversaw the effort. The cover crop was a short-season mix that ended up being largely dominated by triticale, was mowed by a flail mower that had been fitted with a horizontally mounted circular chopper to fill in a 'skip' area in the flails behind the center of the unit. Then,an Orthman three-row 60" spacing strip-tiller followed the mowing ahead of tomato transplanting. Two short video files are linked here that show the mower and the strip-tiller in action. After this first year of trying the cover crop strip-till system, one agronomy manager at Woolf put it this way,
"There are a lot of extra management required, but worth the effort. The learning curve is steep and ridden with holes to fall into, but the soil changes behind the multispecies cover crops is impressive. I wouldn't recommend it to someone who doesn't tolerate some failure along the way. Less passes to get beautiful tomato beds behind it.
I'm not sure I've bought into the strip till on the flat tomato beds yet because of the necessary harvester adaptations or the strip till beds because of residue but I think with some more adaption we could make it work.
I really like the multi species cover crop as a rotation partner when it's green chopped early."
More to come from this exciting, innovative work soon!
June 17, 2023
CASI's Mitchell visits Low Desert no-tiller, Dr. Henri Carter MD, June 17, 2023!
Jeff Mitchell paid a very early morning visit in Yuma, AZ to the farm of retired surgeon and now no-till farmer, Dr. Henri Carter MD on Saturday, June 17, 2023, to learn about the very innovative efforts that he has been pursuing during the past several years. The visit was planned for quite some time and provided a very nice chance for Mitchell to meet Dr. Carter and to see up close and personal just what he has been up to with his no-till farming endeavors. The visit was recorded as a video case study that Mitchell will compile on innovative no-till farmers as part of a USDA NRCS project on establishing a no-till network in California.
Dr. Carter has an interesting background and evolution toward the work that he is now conducting. He started out as a student of agricultural science at Arizona State University and worked not only on his family's farm in the Yuma area when he was growing up, but also in many related jobs on farms and in packing sheds for cantaloupes, lettuce, hay, and other crops. Then, after he had the opportunity to go to medical school, he returned to Yuma where he dedicated his career to work as a trauma surgeon which was most gratifying for him. Now retired from surgery, he bought farming/range acreage just north of the confluence of the Gila and Colorado rivers where he showed Mitchell what he is trying to do in conjunction with a project he has with Arizona's Game and Fish Department to provide access to hunters on his property using the permanent cover and no-till approaches that he is pioneering. He showed Mitchell blocks of no-till, quite high surface residue sunflower and cowpeas that he successfully established this year after a number of bouts with trial and error learning.
While not the usual crop context in which we tend to imagine no-till applications, what Dr. Carter is doing is nonetheless quite intriguing and interesting.
More to come soon once the video on maverick farmers and the unusual things they're doing in CA and AZ is released!
IMG 2233 Hank Carter 2023
GOOGLE Food Lab tours Pinnacle Organically Grown Produce with Phil and Katherine Foster in Hollister, CA!
April 25, 2023
Phil and Katherine Foster host GOOGLE Food Lab for tour of Pinnacle Organically Grown Produce!
About 53 folks who were part of the GOOGLE Food Lab out of Mountain View, CA were treated to a half-day walking tour and lunch at the beautiful organic farm of Phil and Katherine just east of Hollister, CA on April 25, 2023. The GOOGLE Food Lab describes itself as "an invitation-only community of food leaders, change agents and visionaries, creating positive change across food systems." Pinnacle Organically Grown Produce was chosen to host part of the group's 2023 tour because of the farm's long-term leadership and pioneering progress on organic vegetable production systems that use a wide range of beneficial practices that contribute to the farm's diversity, soil health, employee welfare, and economic success. The multitude of the Fosters' practices including use of 'single-line' cover crops to conserve water, on-farm composting and routine field application of compost, hedgerows, and reduced disturbance tillage, were on display during the two-hour walking tours that Phil Foster along with Jeff Mitchell took the visitors on. The tour was coordinated by Eva Antczak of GOOGLE following an earlier visit to the farm by Michiel Bakker, GOOGLE's Vice President of Global Workplace Programs in 2022.
February 28, 2023
Strip-till Operation Thrives in Face of Heavy Regulation and High Costs
Tipton, CA dairyman and long-time CASI farmer member, Tom Barcellos, was featured in the Winter 2023 issue of Strip-till Farmer, a quarterly publication of the National No-till Farmer Association and Lessiter Publications. The article details Tom's 23-year history as a strip-till trailblazer right here in California's San Joaquin Valley and describes how he came to find how strip-tillage "made everything a lot easier" at his 2,000 cow dairy just east of Highway 99 in Tulare County. The Strip-till Farmer magazine article was written by Noah Newman when he came to California recently to interview Tom. A copy of the article is attached below.
Capture Strip-till Barcellos 2023 jpeg