- Author: Jeannette E. Warnert
Dairy feed production is particularly amenable to conservation agricultural practices, according to four dairy operators featured in Part 4 of the Conservation Agriculture documentary series, released today on the Conservation Agriculture Systems Innovation website. (The video is also posted below.) Planting equipment for production of winter small grains like wheat and triticale and summer corn and sorghum are readily available and production processes have been widely used.
“We’re producing more crops with less input,” says Hanford dairy farmer Dino Giacomazzi in the video. “That’s a win-win.”
Giacomazzi said one of the most important things he has learned in converting from conventional farming to conservation agriculture is that it’s a whole new system and requires a whole new way to think about farming.
Farmers willing to share their experiences with conservation agricultural systems will be part of the annual Twilight Conservation Agriculture field day, to be held at 4 p.m. Sept. 13 at the UC West Side Research and Extension Center, 17353 W. Oakland Ave. in Five Points. To register, go to: http://ucanr.edu/TwilightRegistration. For more information about the field day, see the field day announcement.
View the video here:
Earlier episodes of the Conservation Agriculture Systems Innovation documentary series are available on the table of contents.
- Contributor: Western SARE From the Field Profile
While this requires considerable tillage and seed-bed preparation ahead of each successive crop, the production systems lend themselves to conservation tillage approaches developed in other regions. Adopting these approaches could:
- Reduce the time between the harvest of one crop and the planting of the next
- Lower costs
- Lessen dust by as much as two-thirds
To address these issues, Jeff Mitchell, UC Cooperative Extension advisor in the UC Davis Department of Plant Sciences, was awarded a Western SARE Professional + Producer Grant for $9,400 to evaluate and refine strip-till and no-till planting systems for corn forage production and no-till drill winter forage planting at the San Joaquin Valley in terms of crop establishment, weed control and profitability (Conservation Tillage Forage Production in California‘s San Joaquin Valley, FW06-308).
The work, conducted on the Larry and Daniel Soares dairy in Hanford, also sought to determine whether conservation tillage practices could enhance the quality of life of dairy producers as measured by profitability and the easing of time and labor requirements.
The project team evaluated strip-till silage corn production following wheat for-age at the 600-cow dairy. In 2006, the trials evaluated conventional, no-till and strip-till in replicated strips, each 10 acres, in an 80-acre field. After the 2005-06 winter wheat forage crop was chopped in April 2006, a 6-row 30-inch Case DMI Ecolo-Till strip-tiller was used to subsoil to 12 inches and clear soil for planting. The traditional tillage strips were disked and listed before planting.
In 2007, because of irrigation pump challenges, the demonstration was moved to two fields, where an 8-row 30-inch Schlagel strip-tiller was used for the strip-till comparison.
The results for 2006 were compromised by irrigation challenges, but in the 2007 demonstration, corn plant populations were higher in the strip-tilled fields, and weed populations and yields were roughly equal in both fields.
On the whole, said Mitchell, the results were positive and encouraging.
Indeed, since the project started in 2005, interest in conservation tillage has increased markedly in the San Joaquin Valley. Growers have learned that strip-tillage involves less intercrop tillage than normally employed following winter wheat chopping in preparation for spring corn silage planting.
By converting to strip-tillage, a typical dairy producer could eliminate four to five tractor passes. With high fuel costs, fewer passes across the field are better not only for the field but also for the dairy producer.
It has also been shown that strip-tillage and no-tillage for forage production can reduce particulate matter emissions by 50-90% compared with traditional tillage.
“We estimate a reduction in costs of $50 an acre by using strip-tillage instead of traditional tillage,” said Mitchell. “However, it is important to understand that strip-tillage may not work in all soil types; heavier soils may be more difficult than coarser soils.”
Mitchell offers these thoughts for producers considering strip-tillage:
- When strip-tilling, having some moisture in the soil precludes bringing up large clods
- Timely weed management is needed – time herbicide applications close to planting (within a week)
- Using the same GPS system for both the strip-tilling and planting operations will keep the planter on the strip-tilled area
Improved strip-tilling could enable triple-cropping – the sequential growing of three crops in a year – which could help San Joaquin dairy producers manage manure nitrogen with minimal risk of losses. Mitchell is currently assessing this in a Western SARE Research and Education Grant, Triple-Cropping Dairy Forage Production Systems through Conservation Tillage in California‘s San Joaquin Valley (SW08-060).
Want more information? See the related SARE grant(s) FW06-308, Conservation Tillage Forage Production in California‘s San Joaquin Valley, and SW08-060, Triple-Cropping Dairy Forage Production Systems through Conservation Tillage in California‘s San Joaquin Valley.
- Author: Jeannette E. Warnert
If you’ve been at all interested in or curious about conservation tillage systems for silage crop production, now is the time to begin preparations and to gear up for the 2011 season.
In recent years, members of California’s Conservation Tillage and Cropping Systems Workgroup have been working directly with a number of Central Valley dairy silage producers and together they have learned how to most effectively and successfully adopt a variety of CT practices for silage production. During this time, there have been considerable gains in the overall knowledge base that is needed for successful and sustained CT silage management. There is now also a decent experience base that can help new CT farmers avoid problems and mistakes that can lead to trouble.
Through an NRCS Conservation Innovation Grant program called the “BMP CT Challenge,” dairy silage producers once again have an opportunity this year to gain experience with CT systems, to work with CT advisors, to borrow CT equipment and to secure risk management support if CT test strip yields are lower than standard till yields.
For more information and to take part in one of our workgroup’s upcoming dairy silage breakfast meetings in your region, please give any of the following folks a call or send an e-mail to them at the addresses indicated below.
(559) 252-2192 Ext. 121