Conservation Agriculture Systems Innovation
University of California
Conservation Agriculture Systems Innovation

CT innovators

Tom Barcellos - 2006

Tom Barcellos
Tom Barcellos
Tipton farmer Tom Barcellos was named the 2006 Conservation Tillage Farmer Innovator by the University of California and USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service Conservation Tillage (CT) Workgroup at its annual conference Oct. 19 in Five Points, Calif.

An early no-till adopter, Barcellos began experimenting with no-till corn production within his conventional dairy forage production system in 2001.  He retrofitted his John Deere planter for no-till planting and simultaneous fertilizer application. Barcellos has used his no-till equipment to plant for other farmers in the Tipton area, which is now widely recognized as a “hotbed” for CT innovation in California.

In fall 2004, Barcellos purchased a 20-foot John Deere 1590 grain drill and began no-tilling his winter forage directly into his previous corn residue. In 2006, he began using the drill to “triple crop” sudan grass after a winter forage that was followed by corn, all no till. He made major presentations on these innovations at CT conferences in 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006.

“Tom speaks with commanding authority and from experience that resonates directly with other farmers,” said Jeff Mitchell, chair of the CT workgroup. “He readily acknowledges that there is a learning curve associated with transitioning to CT and that yields cannot be categorically guaranteed to be higher or equal to standard-till systems every single season.  On balance, however, his experience and success with cutting out tillage operations have enabled him to continue to pursue a range of innovative CT practices quite successfully.”

In the fall of 2003, Barcellos began voluntarily working with a group of University of California researchers who are investigating the potential for CT systems to improve air quality.

“Tom has been an extremely solid and reliable collaborator on this study, which has shown at least in preliminary fashion, dramatic reductions in particulate matter emissions under CT management,” Mitchell said. “Research at his farm has demonstrated the ability of CT systems to reduce particulate emissions by as much as 90 percent relative to standard-till corn production systems.”  (The research data are being prepared for peer-review by UC Davis Ph.D. student Nick Madden.)

The CT Workgroup established the Conservation Tillage Farmer Innovator Award to provide greater visibility to CT pioneers in California. Criteria for the award include demonstrated innovation and leadership in the development, refinement and use of conservation tillage systems in California.

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