Conservation Agriculture Systems Innovation
University of California
Conservation Agriculture Systems Innovation

CT innovators

Tony Turkovich - 2007

Tony Turkovich
Tony Turkovich
This year’s CT Farmer Innovator Award recipient is Tony Turkovich.

Tony is a partner in Button & Turkovich Ranch, a diversified farm that produces corn, tomatoes, alfalfa, safflower, wheat, beans, various seed crops, wine grapes, prunes and oranges on about 5,000 acres near Winters, CA.  Since the mid-1980’s, he has been a pioneer in the development of minimum tillage production systems for each of these crops and today he has the greatest experience of any Sacramento Valley farmer in these conservation tillage approaches.  The innovative systems he has developed and refined save diesel fuel, time and labor and have served as very early prototypes for the various reduced till alternatives that are now gaining considerable attention in all of California’s agricultural valleys.  Long before the various economic and environmental pressures that are encouraging shifts toward minimum tillage practices today became critical, Tony anticipated the need for these systems and began developing conservation tillage options for each of the crops in his rotation.  He is by far the most knowledgeable and experienced minimum tillage farmer in the Sacramento Valley and he is supremely deserving of this high public Workgroup honor.

During the course of his developing these innovative production systems, Tony has worked with numerous UC Davis researchers and UC Cooperative Extension Specialists and Advisors on very wide-ranging research and extension education programs.  Beginning in the 1970’s, he conducted field experiments with UCCE Advisor, Mel Zobel on tomato varieties, irrigation management and new crop development.  His early work with cotton was done long before cotton was introduced into his production region.  He has continued to partner with local CE Advisors Tom Kearney, Gene Miyao, and Kent Brittan on a wide variety of studies that have tremendously enhanced the research and extension education impact of these researchers.  As recently as a couple of weeks ago, he and his son, Chris, also very graciously hosted UCD’s Plant Science 110A Agronomy class at their farm for what was nothing short of a fantastic field tour of cutting edge production systems and management.

Tony has also been a key collaborator for a number of UC Davis research teams.  In the late 1980’s, he introduced drip irrigation to parts of his ranch and began a series of studies with UCD Vegetable Crops Specialist, Dr. Tim Hartz, on opportunities for and benefits of preserving “permanent” planting beds using various sorts of reduced till implements.  Weed ecologist Dr. Tom Lanini (UCD Plant Sciences) also cooperated with Tony on cover crop strategies to work into his permanent planting bed, minimum till system.  Starting in the late nineties, he cooperated with Dr. Shrini Upadhyaya, Professor of Biological and Agricultural Engineering, on a precision farming project related to tomato production.  This cooperation led to the development of a tomato yield monitor and a soil compaction profile sensor.  More recently, because of the conservation tillage production practices that he has developed, Tony has become a major and pivotal research partner on a very large-scale on-farm study with UCD researchers Drs. Jan Hopmans, Dennis Rolston, Johan Six, Richard Plant, Chris van Kessel and K.T. Paw U, that is investigating the potential for mitigating greenhouse gas emissions of CO2 and N2O in minimum till systems.  He is also currently working with UCD soil scientist, Dr. Will Horwath and the Yolo County Resource Conservation District, on cover crop management in a reduced tillage system to evaluate the potential for reducing water runoff and nutrient, sediment and pesticide loss.  Each of these studies represents a very significant contribution on Tony’s part in terms of his supplying study fields that have had both established conservation crop production practices that are in place for a number of years, as well as examples of traditional production systems.  He also has contributed his time, equipment and management resources that enable these projects to be conducted very efficiently.

In addition to the very extensive research that has been conducted at Button & Turkovich Ranch, Tony has been very generous with his time and farm equipment that he has contributed to the Sustainable Agriculture Farming Systems (SAFS) Project on the UC Davis campus.  Since 1989, he has served as a farmer / technical advisor to this project and has provided not only guidance and insightful input, but also tractors, combines, harvesters and other CT equipment to assist at critical times.  The Long-term Research on Agricultural Systems (LTRAS) Project, also conducted on the UCD campus, has also received equipment loaned by Tony and has been gifted a trailer to be converted into a weigh scale system for the project’s field research program.

Tony also very graciously accommodates numerous large and small tour groups to his Winters farm annually and has hosted UC’s Conservation Tillage Workgroup on two of its major annual CT conferences.

Tony Turkovich is an innovative and very exemplary farmer and a major contributor to programs of the University of California, the NRCS, his local RCD, and our Conservation Tillage Workgroup. Tony’s contributions to the field of CT go back several years and he richly deserves to be publicly 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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