October 11, 2021
Students in the agronomy class of Dr. Ranjit Riar at Fresno State University had a rare opportunity to visit a working no-tillage research field as part of a field trip that they took to the NRI Project field at the University of California's West Side Research and Extension Center in Five Points, CA. On what was the windiest day of the year, the students braved the uncomfortable and blistering wind to see not only equipment that is used for reduced disturbance production, but also no-till soils and residues, as well as live demonstrations of soil aggregation and water infiltration. Jeff Mitchell of the Conservation Agriculture Systems Innovation Center at UC Davis hosted the group along with fellow CASI members Joy Hollingsworth and Dan Munk.
No-tillage is still very much in its infancy in California, but continuing research by the group in Five Points that includes farmers, university, NRCS and private sector partners has shown that it is possible to produce several annual crops that are part of Central Valley production rotations successfully with the reduced disturbance approach. In addition, the researchers have documented several positive changes in soil properties and function when the combination of no-tillage and cover crops is used consistently over time.
Students in Dr. Riar's class learned about the “3 E's of farming” – equipment, economics, and ecology, during their visit to the field station and they saw no-till drills and planters and strip-tillage implements. They learned how to determine % residue cover over the soil and compared residue cover under no-tillage with cover crops versus standard clean tillage. Dr. Riar mentioned how surprised he was when he first came to California to learn how little of the practice is actually currently used in the state.
Despite the horrendous wind, the field trip was a huge success and gave students much to think about as they carefully drove back to the Fresno State campus.
September 3, 2021
Michiel Bakker, the Vice President for Global Workplace Programs for GOOGLE, along with Douglas Gayeton, the creative leader for The Lexicon of Sustainability (https://www.thelexicon.org/ ), spent a full day on September 3, 2021 first visiting the NRI Project field in Five Points, CA and then the farms of John Diener right up the road, and of Phil Foster in Hollister, CA. The purpose of their visit was to learn about and see efforts that are being made to realize conservation (or more recently, “regenerative”) agriculture systems here in California. CASI's Jeff Mitchell coordinated the day's tour that also included retired Madera, CA organic farmer, Tom Willey.
While at the NRI study site, the group looked at several reduced disturbance pieces of equipment and also witnessed the increased aggregation of long-term no-till and cover cropped soils in the NRI field compared to that of standard tillage.
At Red Rock Ranch, the Five Points farm of Diener, the group along with John's son, Justin, talked about water issues that California is facing as well as efforts the Dieners are making to address water shortages. They also learned what goes into the large organic tomato fields that they visited and learned about the minimum pass tillage practices that they use.
At Pinnacle Organically-Grown Produce, the Hollister, CA farm of Foster, the visitors saw a variety of Phil's innovations including his on-farm compost production techniques, his use of strip-tillage, and his development of the use of single-line cover crops that economize greatly on seed and water.
September 30, 2021
Our CASI Workgroup hosted Dr. Paul Sebesta, Instructor/Director, Agriculture and Natural Resource Initiatives in the Cochise (AZ) Community College system at the longstanding NRI Project field in Five Points on Friday, September 24. His visit was part of the evaluation process for his application to serve as the new joint Director of both the Kearney Research and Extension Center and the West Side Research and Extension Center. CASI's Jeff Mitchell hosted him for his short visit to our 22-year old study and fielded his questions.
- Author: Jeffrey P Mitchell
April 6, 2021
Four California organic farmers, Phil Foster of Hollister, Paul Muller of Guinda, Scott Park of Meridian, and Tom Willey of Madera, will participate in an hour-and-a half online workshop session on April 6, 2021 from 12:00 PM through 1:30 PM about the reduced disturbance work that they are conducting as part of an NRCS CIG project aimed at investigating and refining organic reduced disturbance techniques in California. The workshop will feature a Q & A session that follows a panel presentation that the four farmers made as part of the 2021 ECOFARM Conference in January. The workshop will be moderated by CASI Workgroup member, Dr. Cindy Daley of Chico State. An audio summary introduction to the workshop that ran on Don York's "Ag Report" radio program on KMJ580 on April 6th is linked below.
- Author: Jeffrey P Mitchell