Tom Willey's "Down on the Farm" 88.1 FM KFCF Radio Interview with CalCAN's Renata Brillinger and CASI's Jeff Mitchell on California's GHG emissions offset programs and the California farm demonstration network
An audio archive of the KFCF 88.1 FM radio program of Tom Willey's "Down on the Farm" segment for July 1, 2016 that included interviews with CalCAN's Renata Brillinger and our own CASI's Jeff Mitchell is now posted at the CASI website. This hour-long interview included discussion of the State's GHG emissions offset programs by Brillinger and information on our farm demonstration network from Mitchell.
The radio program can be heard by clicking on this link: http://casi.ucanr.edu/video_updates/radio_updates/
We would like to let you know about the formation of the California Farm Demonstration Evaluation Network, - a grassroots, locally-based effort that has been developed by farmers throughout the State, the Conservation Agriculture Systems Innovation (CASI) Center, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, the California Association of Resource Conservation Districts, the University of California Cooperative Extension, and a variety of private sector partners to address the simultaneous goals of better farm management, greater farm profits, and increased farm productivity and sustainability.
The California network is modeled after a number of other farm networks that have been created in several states around the country as a means for providing opportunities for progress, the development of improved systems, and greater efficiency in face of the many challenges that agriculture faces today. Key elements of the California farm demonstration network are 1) participatory learning and adaptive, improved management based on sound science- and experience-based principles, 2) the public, voluntary showcasing of innovative systems developed by experienced farmer leaders, 3) a program of farm demonstration evaluations that employ monitoring, data collection, and analysis of findings, and 4) the use of proven, creative methods for sharing, discussion and communicating results and findings so as to scale up broader adoption of improved systems.
The network has a broad array of goals that it is pursuing that include the development of water-, climate-, and nutrient-smart systems for the State's diverse crop production environments. An initial series of network-sponsored farm visits that showcase innovative soil health practices of five Central Valley farmers is being conducted in June of 2016.
Information for these visits and for ongoing activities and opportunities of the network is available at the CASI website http://casi.ucanr.edu/ or by emailing or calling, Jeff Mitchell, CASI Workgroup Chair, at firstname.lastname@example.org or (559) 303-9689.
CASI farmer members, Michael and Adam Crowell of Turlock, Darrell Cordova of Denair, and Scott Schmidt of Five Points, along with Jeff Mitchell, hosted Amelie Gaudin, the new professor of Agroecology in the Department of Plant Sciences at UC Davis at their farms on January 23, 2015 to share with her information about their farms and the efforts they have made to improve their crop production systems. Each of these farmers very graciously welcomed Dr. Gaudin who has been on the job in Davis for only three weeks.
Dr. Amelie Gaudin has tremendous experience with cropping system ecology and is currently establishing her research lab in Davis that is focusing on using agroecological principles to help develop efficient and resilient cropping systems. Three current themes that she will be emphasizing in her research program of her lab group are ecological intensification, climate-smart agroecosystems, and evolutionary root ecology, - all very nicely related to the core goals of our CASI Workgroup.
- Author: Jeannette E. Warnert
Innovative soil enhancement practices are being researched and implemented around the world, but haven’t caught on yet in most of California. Free workshops at UC Davis and Five Points will feature new ways of managing soil that promise long-term sustainability, better crop quality and reduced use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
The Davis workshop is at 11 a.m. Dec. 10 in the Plant and Environmental Sciences Building 3001; the Five Points workshop is at 11 a.m. Dec. 11 at the UC West Side Research and Extension Center, 17353 W. Oakland Ave., Five Points.
The UC Conservation Agriculture Systems Innovation program (CASI) has invited nationally known proponents of soil health to share their experiences and knowledge about soil-supporting practices. Brendon Rockey of Rockey Farms in Center, Colo., will be talking about practices for which he has coined the term “biotic farming systems.”
Jeff Mitchell, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Plant Sciences at UC Davis, said Rockey is not an “organic” farmer, but an “extremely innovative” farmer. Rockey and his uncle grow 30 varieties of potatoes on 250 acres in the San Luis Valley of Colorado
“He’s somebody who is questioning and challenging the way things have always been done,” Mitchell said. “Rather than relying on heavy hammers like herbicides, fungicides, tillage and other inputs to solve problems, Rockey is helping people realize that there might be a more integrated, biological way to address problems and reduce inputs.”
For example, Rockey advocates the use of multi-species green manure, either as a winter cover crop or, in the case of his own farm, right alongside the crop during the growing season.
“We know that … diverse plant populations bring life to the soil,” Rockey shares on his website Soilguys.com. “They create an ideal environment for a variety of microbial populations, increase water uptake and retention, fix nitrogen and cycle nutrients and attract predatory insects to the field.”
“The principles of building healthy soils are the same everywhere — you have to stop tilling the soil and switch from a monoculture crop to a diversity of crops and rotations,” Fuhrer said. “But the path to soil health is different on each farm. Cover crop and cash crop selections and sequences are chosen to fit the farmer’s resource concerns and priorities, and the means available at that farm.”
For more information, contact Jeff Mitchell at email@example.com (559) 303-9689.
Farmers and others interested in new irrigation technologies and conservation agriculture can follow along on their computers in real time as research unfolds at the UC West Side Research and Extension Center. The Conservation Agriculture Systems Innovation (CASI) Center is the site of a comparison trial involving no-till wheat and minimum-till onion production with buried drip irrigation and overhead irrigation. Both crops were established with overhead irrigation.
Crop growth and development, irrigation amounts and soil water storage are being carefully monitored throughout the season. This year, the research is also looking at whether the water holding capacity of our no-till soils has actually increased, which might be another advantage of this conservation agriculture approach. Another important goal of this work is to evaluate and develop sensor-based irrigation strategies.
Two types of soil water sensors are being used: granular matrix Watermark tension sensors and Decagon ECO-5 sensors to measure soil volumetric water content.
Real-time data from these sensors in the 2013 onion field may be accessed by logging onto
with the following username and password
Sensor 5G0D1904 is for the overhead system and 5G0D1905 is the drip treatment. By clicking on the name of one of these sensors, you can follow soil volumetric water content for each of the following depths: P1 (6”), P2 (12”), P3 (24”), P4 (36”) and P5 (48”).
To access soil water tension data being collected by the Watermark granular matrix sensor, log on to
with the following username and password
Once inside this site, click on ‘Main Soil Moisture Data Page.’ Then, click ‘UC Davis 900M.’ There, you can view soil temperature and soil water tension readings for 6” (WM1 and WM2), 12” (WM3 and WM4), 24” (WM5 and WM6), 36” (WM7), and 48” (WM8).
This new window to our research follows several years of efforts to develop enhanced water and crop management systems for a range of crops commonly produced in the central San Joaquin Valley. This work has focused on the coupling of advanced sustainability technologies — such as precision overhead and subsurface drip irrigation systems with strip-till and no-till planting to achieve cheaper and more sustainable systems.
Working with colleagues at Valmont Industries headquartered in Omaha, Neb., who provided the eight-span overhead irrigation system for research and education use by the CASI Center, this team of researchers and farmers has found that the irrigation water application uniformity, or ‘Christiansen’s Uniformity,’ for the overhead system is 93 percent, indicating an excellent level of application consistency.
The Five Points research team is working to merge the many proven benefits of overhead irrigation, including labor, cost and water savings, and couple them with additional benefits derived from preserving high amounts of surface crop residues. Work conducted by the team has already shown that roughly 13 percent, or 4 inches of soil water evaporation, can be eliminated and saved in the soil during a typical summer season when a thick mat of residues is on the soil surface. Our goal, is to follow in the steps of legendary South Dakota State University researcher Dwayne Beck and the no-till farmers he works with to essentially ‘take the E out of ET,’ thereby having more water go through plant transpiration leading to crop growth rather than evaporation.