Conservation Agriculture Systems Innovation
UC Delivers Impact Story

Conservation Tillage Workgroup Introduces New Tillage Alternatives

The Issue

Conservation tillage (CT) production systems have been developed in a number of regions around the world for crops such as corn, wheat, cotton, and soybeans . Widespread adoption of CT practices for these crops is common in South Dakota, Iowa, Georgia, Australia, and Brazil; however, CT currently is used on less than 2 percent of California's annual cropland. CT production may be a means for improving production economics of farming systems while also sustaining air, water, and soil quality; but, little research-based information and experience about CT is available that addresses California’s diverse production environments.

What Has ANR Done?

The UC Conservation Tillage Workgroup, with over 540 UC, farmer, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, private sector, and other public agency and environmental group members, develops knowledge and exchanges information on CT production systems, coordinates related research and extension programs related to CT, responds to needs for information on reduced tillage production alternatives, and conducts conferences, workshops, and training demonstrations. The workgroup conducted more than 60 different evaluations of CT practices throughout the Central Valley.

The Payoff

Workgroup extends conservation tillage information

The workgroup established “local networks” of farmers, researchers, NRCS conservationists, and private sector partners to work on CT systems. Research demonstrates the potential to reduce dust emissions by over 50 percent using certain CT systems relative to standard tillage (ST) approaches and shows the ability to reduce fuel use, lower production costs, and, in some cases, increase farm profitability. These studies identified key “barriers” to more widespread adoption of CT in California, including problems with crop stand establishment, irrigation efficiency, and weed management. The most promising CT systems are being refined further in various farm and UC research center studies. Research shows that CT dairy forage production systems reduce dust emissions typically by 60 to 90 percent, relative to conventional production approaches, and that fuel use is significantly lower in CT cotton, tomato, and dairy systems. The workgroup tracked CT adoption throughout the Central Valley, documenting a 300 percent increase in the use of CT practices from 2002 to 2004. For information or to join the workgroup, contact Jeff Mitchell at (559) 303-9689 or


Jeff Mitchell, CE Specialist, UC Davis Department of Plant Sciences,
Anil Shrestha, UC Statewide IPM Program Weed Ecologist,
Gene Miyao, CE Farm Advisor,
Steve Temple, CE Specialist, UC Davis Department of Plant Sciences,