Conservation Agriculture Systems Innovation
University of California
Conservation Agriculture Systems Innovation

CT innovators

Jim Couto - 2007

Jim Couto
Jim Couto
This year’s CT Farmer Innovator Award recipient is Jim Couto.

Jim is the owner and manager of Couto Farms, a diversified cotton, corn, alfalfa and wheat farming operation south of Kerman, CA in Fresno County.  During the past several years, he has excelled in developing innovative conservation tillage approaches for his farm and has become a true leader in the entire arena of CT in California’s Central Valley.  He also has become an invaluable and outspoken authority on issues related to CT and has committed his time and energy to forwarding his views via a number of public vehicles.  He is supremely deserving of our workgroup’s high public honor.

Jim is one of the most tenacious and driven examples of CT innovation that California can boast.  He singlehandedly invented and refined a custom “one-pass” cotton stalk management tool that is now widely recognized as providing considerable reduced pass potential for cotton producers.  Jim has worked hand-in-hand with Bigham Brothers, Inc. in Lubbock, TX and their California distributors to develop a “California specific” minimum disturbance subsoiler, cotton root cutter, and bed reshaper implement that performs cotton stalk management in full compliance with CDFA requirements for Pink Bollworm Management.  A video of this implement in action can be viewed at our CT Workgroup’s website

Jim hosted an extremely successful field demonstration of his Terratill implement for farmers at the end of 2003 and has been involved as a presenter and spokesperson at CT2004, CT2005, and CT2006 conferences.

In February 2006, Jim was invited to be part of a CT farmer panel at the 2006 World Ag Expo in Tulare, CA.  His presentation was quite compelling and was very well received and following it, he graciously came over to the CT Workgroup’s exhibit site and spoke with visitors for several hours.  Jim has also appeared in the CT Workgroup’s “CT in California” DVD video and video footage of his minimum tillage systems has appeared in over 100 presentations that CT Workgroup Chair, Jeff Mitchell, has made.

In addition to his formal participation in our annual CT Workgroup conferences, Jim has also developed into a very valuable contributor to the various routine planning and organizing meetings of our UC / NRCS Conservation Tillage Workgroup.  He voluntarily has taken part in all local (Five Points) meetings and is now widely seen as someone who will “speak his mind” freely and particularly with bluntness when the topic is CT.  He is quite passionate and tenacious about his desire to learn about conservation tillage and has specifically asked to receive “anything he can get his hands on” related to CT so that he might further expand his understanding and expertise. 

In 2005, Jim also committed to being a member of the CT Workgroup’s Core Adoption Group that has met three times to consider and begin addressing issues related to the more widespread adoption of CT practices in California.  Jim’s input and insights to this group have been exceedingly well received and very appreciated.  Jim has taken a prominent leadership role with respect to CT in the Central Valley.  His input has become quite useful not only to this group, but also to the NRCS in terms of their better understanding issues associated with CT practice adoption.  In August 2006, Jim took part as an invited CT farmer panelist at the 2006 International Agricultural Sustainability Conference in Sacramento.  His impassioned and highly impressive presentation on his CT systems and his vision for CT in California were extremely well received and immediately following his presentation, Jim was “cornered” for close to a half hour by CDFA Secretary A.G. Kawamura who very much appreciated Jim’s synthesis and insights.

Then, as recently as yesterday, Jim spent the entire day with agronomy students at the University of California, Davis, serving as a panelist in their Plant Sciences 110A class.

Jim is a “one-of-a-kind” type of person and the CT Workgroup has been quite fortunate to have his involvement in its various functions and activities during the past several years.  We believe that this year’s CT Farmer Innovator recognition to Jim Couto is most fitting this year.  Jim’s contributions to the field of CT go back several years and he deserves recognized for the true innovations he has created.  He is not only an outstanding innovator, but he is also one of the true pioneers and founders of everything the CT Workgroup stands for.

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