Documentary video on no-tillage in California being prepared
July 1, 2023
A video documentary featuring five of the CA and AZ farmers who have been part of the USDA NRCS Conservation Innovation Grant project, "No-till network for California," is in the final stages of production and will be released in the near future through the University of California's Conservation Agriculture Systems Innovation Center's You Tube channel.
The documentary will feature Eddie Sajian of Hanford, CA, Rick Adams of Laton, Paul Strojan of Farmington, Dr. Henri Carter MD of Yuma, AZ, and Cary Crum, of Fresno, CA and will show them describing details of the innovative approaches that they are working on to improve the overall performance of their agricultural production systems. The release date for the documentary is scheduled for late July 2023.
Soil health monitoring conducted at SJV reduced disturbance and cover cropped fields!
As part of the USDA NRCS Conservation Innovation Grant, Creating a no-till network in California, extensive baseline soil sampling has now been done at several San Joaquin Valley farms that are employing the soil health management practices of no-tillage, strip-tillage and/or cover crops. These farms include sites at the diversified permanent and annual crop farm of Eddie Sajian in Hanford, CA, the dairy silage fields of Rick Adams near Laton, CA, the grazing pasture lands of Paul Strojan in Farmington, CA, cotton fields at Bowles Farming in Los Banos, CA, and tomato acreage of Woolf Farming in Huron. Determinations of soil carbon, aggregation, infiltration, and % residue cover have been done at each site and findings have been discussed with partner farmers for each location. In addition, participating farmers have been encouraged to begin conducting their own ongoing monitoring by using the assay techniques shown here. They were also provided with a PVC meter square quadrat to use in sampling surface biomass and a set of sieves as shown below that are used for determinations of soil aggregate stability.
A unique - dare we say - "never before attempted in the region," effort to precede strip-tilled tomatoes with a mowed vigorous winter cover crop was conducted in one of the fieldsofWoolf Enterprises, a major tomato and other row crop farm just south of the small San Joaquin Valley town of Huron, CA in the spring of 2022. Several Woolf agronomists including Rick Blankenship and Shane Bickner, along with agronomy consultant,Cary Crum,of Agrotechnovation, oversaw the effort. The cover crop was a short-season mix that ended up being largely dominated by triticale, was mowed by a flail mower that had been fitted with a horizontally mounted circular chopper to fill in a 'skip' area in the flails behind the center of the unit. Then,an Orthman three-row 60" spacing strip-tiller followed the mowing ahead of tomato transplanting. Two short video files are linked here that show the mower and the strip-tiller in action. After this first year of trying the cover crop strip-till system, one agronomy manager at Woolf put it this way,
"There are a lot of extra management required, but worth the effort. The learning curve is steep and ridden with holes to fall into, but the soil changes behind the multispecies cover crops is impressive. I wouldn't recommend it to someone who doesn't tolerate some failure along the way. Less passes to get beautiful tomato beds behind it.
I'm not sure I've bought into the strip till on the flat tomato beds yet because of the necessary harvester adaptations or the strip till beds because of residue but I think with some more adaption we could make it work.
I really like the multi species cover crop as a rotation partner when it's green chopped early."
More to come from this exciting, innovative work soon!
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.
- Author: Jeffrey P Mitchell
August 16, 2020
Announcing the webinar, Healthy Soils for Healthy Profits - How do we get to $2.50/lb cotton in the SJV? slated for September 17, 2020 from 9:00 AM to Noon. Registration is now open at: https://ucanr.edu/sjvcottonwebinar
A short introductory video including interviews with presentingSJV farmers is available at
Sign up now!