'Conservation agriculture' gaining favor with California farmers

Sep 4, 2012

A desire to reduce fuel and water use is leading some farmers in the Central Valley to operate in new, more sustainable ways, reported Alice Daniel on KQED's The California Report this morning.

For the five-minute story, Daniel interviewed Jeff Mitchell, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Plant Sciences at UC Davis, and Dino Giacomazzi, a Hanford dairy farmer. These new farming systems, they said, aren't straight forward and require a steep learning curve.

Sometimes they find themselves wondering, "What is happening out here?" Mitchell says. "And all your built-up experience base flies out the window."

In the last seven years, Giacomazzi has dramatically changed the way he grows cattle feed. He has reduced the number of times he tills the field from 14 to just 2 times a year. Despite documented savings in fuel and reduction in dust emission, conservation agriculture has not been implemented widely in the Central Valley. Farmers like innovation, Giacomazzi notes, but many are reluctant to take the risk associated with changing long-held farming practices.

"It's very difficult to make money farming," Giacomazzi said. "You're only going to get one shot each year to make it."

Those interested in learning more about conservation agriculture systems are invited to the annual Twilight Conservation Agriculture field day, 4 p.m. Sept. 13 at the UC West Side Research and Extension Center. For more information, see the meeting announcement. Register for the free event here: http://ucanr.edu/TwilightReservation.

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By Jeannette E. Warnert
Author - Communications Specialist