August 15, 2019
Mike Titley and David Vernon, two vegetable farming consultants and farmer network coordinators in Australia, had a wonderful visit on August 15th with Jesse Sanchez in Firebaugh and Phil Foster in Hollister, after having first met and toured CASI's NRI Project field in Five Points. They were quite keen to meet Sanchez and Foster and to dig into their soils and see the simply spectacular crops that both are producing this summer. The two of them work with a very wide-ranging group of Australian vegetable farmers literally all across the vast country who themselves are working on developing some of the very same new, reduced disturbance and cover crop-based systems that our CIG group in CA is working on. To say that they were “blown away” by the very impressive crops and soils that they saw at both Phil's and Jesse's farms would be an understatement. I know that they both very much appreciated the very kind and generous hosting that Phil and Jesse provided.
It is becoming very interesting and reinforcing, I think, to see and meet people from various places who're quite keen and interested in what we are all doing in the CIG effort. Titley and Vernon were in particular interested in our group's strip-till vegetable efforts and how we are proceeding in this general direction. They'll be joining our CIG Collaborative Tools network and may have things to ask about and share in the future. Meanwhile, sincere thanks go out to Phil Foster and Jesse Sanchez for their very gracious and kind hosting of Mike Titley and David Vernon!
August 13, 2019
Samuel Araya is a new PhD at UC Merced! On August 13, 2019, in the Science and Engineering 2 building on the UCM campus, he successfully defended his PhD research before a review committee of four professors and about thirty well-wishers who took part in the public seminar part of his defense. Very hearty “Congratulations” go out to Dr. Samuel Araya on this wonderful and very well-earned accomplishment!
For the past five or so years, Dr. Araya has worked with his mentor professor, Dr. Teamrat Ghezzehei, on a very wide range of quite interesting topics that have addressed soil hydraulic properties and function, machine learning models, conservation agriculture management impacts on soil structure and water relations, as well as modelling of landscape hydrology using UAS and machine learning. The seminar that he presented and the sheer body of work that he has completed were most impressive and he received a very nice recognition by the assembled audience following his research overview presentation.
Both Drs. Araya and Ghezzehei have worked on CASI's NRI Project field in Five Points, CA during the past few years and one of the three areas of work that were reported on by Dr. Araya included a summary of this work. For CASI folks who are familiar with the NRI Project, let me just say that there are going to be some very interesting findings that will be released in the very near future stemming from this work of Araya and Ghezzehei.
August 8, 2019
Right off an intensive two-month internship with South Dakota Hall of Famer, Dwayne Beck, University of Bordeaux agricultural engineering student, Mazarine Foustel, took part in a whirlwind tour of a number of California agricultural sites and met with a number of CASI Workgroup members on August 8th before heading off to the Grand Canyon and her return to France later this month (Figure 1). Foustel is from Brittany in western France where her family has a dairy farm. She searched out the internship with Dwayne Beck through his worldwide reputation in conservation and regenerative agriculture and because of the huge impact he has had on improving food production systems around the world. While at the Dakota Lakes Research Farm these past two months with Beck and his team, Foustel conducted a wide range of duties including helping with the daily moving of cattle that have been integrated into Beck's cropping system research and also learning about how Beck and farmers in his area have been working to implement soil care practices now for several decades.
While in California, she stayed initially with a family in Sacramento that had first hosted her back when she was in high school. Then, she took part in an ambitious tour with CASI's Jeff Mitchell that included visits to the UC Davis campus and the field laboratory site that is being prepared for this fall's PLS111 agronomy students (Figure 2), the Century Experiment at the site of the Long-term Research on Agricultural Sustainability just west of campus (Figure 3), a very nice visit with CASI farmer, Rich Collins at his farm southwest of Davis (Figure 4), and then Mitchell hosted her a few days later down at the NRI Project field in Five Points, CA. While in Five Points, she also visited the local West Side San Joaquin Valley farms of CASI Workgroup members, John and Justin Diener and Scott Schmidt, and saw broadacre farm processing tomato and garlic harvests underway. We thank Mazarine Foustel for spending time with us a we wish her all the very best as she now returns to France to complete her studies!
August 10, 2019
Drs. Amelie Gaudin (UC Davis Department of Plant Sciences) and Sarah Light (UC ANR Sutter County) have stepped up and will serve as California representatives on the newly-forming Western Cover Crops Council, a group from the 18 western states that is trying to gear up information development and exchange activities throughout the broad region. Gaudin is a Professor of Agroecology at UC Davis and Light is an Agronomy Advisor with UC ANR in Sutter County. Both are currently conducting broad and comprehensive cover crop research work. Gaudin specializes in permanent cropping systems with a strong emphasis on almonds and Light works in annual cropping systems. The mission of the WCCC is to facilitate and enhance communication and collaboration among farmers/growers, agents, researchers, and other agricultural professionals to transfer information and technology that promotes the successful adoption and integration of cover cropping into Western U.S. agricultural systems. The WCCC Planning Team currently consists of about sixteen member representing several western states. They meet about monthly via televideo conference call and are now in the process of creating goal statements and means for better linking educational activities about cover crops throughout the region. We applaud Gaudin and Light for stepping up to be California's communicators with this group!
July 31, 2019
A group of about six members of California Ag Solutions along with CASI's Jeff Mitchell were treated to a simply fantastic and very eye-opening tour of the Bottens Family Farm on July 31st near the small northwestern IL town of Sherrard, IL by long-time Workgroup member, Monte Bottens. The visit included in-depth looks at the very sophisticated and state-of-the-art no-till planting and strip-till equipment that has been developed at the farm and also a number of the very creative new frontier marketing endeavors that Monte and his family farm colleagues are involved with including integrating beef cattle grazing into no-till production systems and a broad line of locally-marketed beef products. Monte also presented a very interesting discussion, “Ready, set, strip-till: Proving first-year payback,” at the 6th Annual National Strip-till Farmer Conference that was held in Peoria, IL, about an hour from his family's farm. Monte is part of a growing new wave of farmers who're deliberately looking to better connect with consumers and to also diversify their markets through innovative cropping and creative approaches to farming.