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!
February 28, 2023
Strip-till Operation Thrives in Face of Heavy Regulation and High Costs
Tipton, CA dairyman and long-time CASI farmer member, Tom Barcellos, was featured in the Winter 2023 issue of Strip-till Farmer, a quarterly publication of the National No-till Farmer Association and Lessiter Publications. The article details Tom's 23-year history as a strip-till trailblazer right here in California's San Joaquin Valley and describes how he came to find how strip-tillage "made everything a lot easier" at his 2,000 cow dairy just east of Highway 99 in Tulare County. The Strip-till Farmer magazine article was written by Noah Newman when he came to California recently to interview Tom. A copy of the article is attached below.
August 21, 2022
Madera, CA long-time organic farmer and key farmer member of California's CIG reduced disturbance organic vegetable project, provided a recorded copy of the presentation that he gave at the 2022 Annual Conference of the Soil and Water Conservation Society in Denver, CO on August 2nd. The video can be viewed at the You Tube link
Tom's video presentation goes into the history of the CIG effort and summarizes challenges that the group has faced.