- Author: Jeannette E. Warnert
Despite the growing interest in soil health in many parts of the country, the notion hasn't captured the imagination of most farmers in California. The Golden State's lackluster attention to soil care is likely due to “phenomenal yield increases over the past several decades, the sheer diversity of cropping systems, and widespread perception that California's environment and crop production mix doesn't lend itself to soil health improvements,” said Jeff Mitchell, UC Cooperative Extension agronomy specialist.
A series of farm visits this summer in the Central Valley prove this rationale wrong, Mitchell said. The farm visits were sponsored by the UC Conservation Agriculture Systems Innovation Center (CASI), USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service and the California Association of Resource Conservation Districts. The farm visits showcased the soil health goals and experiences of six farmers who are familiar with soil care principles across a wide range of local cropping contexts.
The series of visits demonstrated the use of no-till and minimum tillage farming, cover cropping, enhancing the diversity of above-ground species and underground soil biology, surface residue preservation, and compost applications. Read more.
- Author: JoAnne Yonemura
- Contributor: Laura J. Van der Staay
On your tour of World Ag Expo 2015, make sure to come by the University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) exhibits at Pavilion A and B (northwest corner of the Expo), clustered at booths 1411, 1412, 1512 and 1513.
Booth 1411 - UC Cooperative Extension, Tulare County office
Serving local Californians since 1913, UC Cooperative Extension (UCCE) maintains offices throughout the state through a partnership between local county governments, UC ANR, and the US Department of Agriculture. UC Cooperative Extension advisors help identify and solve local problems through research and educational programs that focus on the evolving needs of growers, youth, families, agencies, policy makers and the general public.
Staff will provide specialized programming for an Agriculture Day (Tuesday, Feb. 10), a 4-H/Nutrition Day (Wednesday, Feb. 11), and a UC Master Gardener Day (Thursday, Feb. 12).
The Research and Extension Center System (RECS), which extends from the Oregon border in the north, through the Sierra Foothills and Central Valley, and along the Pacific Coast and south to the border of Mexico, includes sites in a wide variety of California ecosystems, allowing researchers and extension educators to effectively address regional challenges and issues. It is the only UC statewide program that can provide researchers with a premier research management organization including land, labor, facilities and equipment, in a wide variety of real-world, outdoor growing environments, where they can pursue new knowledge for the benefit of agricultural and resource science, industry, and the general public.
Centers are also focal points for community participation and active involvement in finding ways to address current and relevant regional agricultural and natural resource challenges. The RECS centers support projects involving county-based cooperative extension advisors and campus-based research specialists, as well as researchers from Land-Grant institutions in other states, the California State University (CSU) system and USDA as they conduct their research and education programs.
Booth 1412 - UC ANR Kearney Agricultural Research & Extension Center (KARE)
Officially dedicated in 1965, KARE has achieved international acclaim for leadership in the development of new fruit, nut and grape varieties, innovative cultural and irrigation practices, pest and disease management techniques, and new understandings of postharvest biology. KARE plays a leadership role in maintaining the quality of California's rural environment, with programs in air, soil and water quality and mosquito management.
Booth 1512 - UC ANR Lindcove REC (LREC)
Established in 1959 by San Joaquin Valley citrus growers, Lindcove REC covers more than 100 acres growing more than 400 citrus varieties. At LREC, scientists conduct research to evaluate new varieties of citrus and improved citrus-growing techniques and new ways to manage pests. Extension educational programs carry the practical results of this research to citrus industry clientele and the general public.
Booth 1513 - University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources
Come learn more about the University of California's Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, our history, and our research and programs across the state. You can also download our Cultivating California brochure.
UC ANR is a statewide network of University of California researchers and educators dedicated to providing individuals, communities, and industries with science-based information and solutions to address the important issues California is currently facing.
- 4 Agricultural Experiment Station – UC campus-based research
- Research and Extension Centers (REC)
- 50+ UC Cooperative Extension (UCCE) County Offices
- 6 statewide programs focused on high-priority concerns
- Agricultural Issues Center (AIC)
- California Naturalist Program
- IGIS - Informatics and Geographic Information Systems
- Integrated Pest Management
- Master Gardener Program
- Sustainable Agricultural Research and Education Program (SAREP)
- Youth, Families and Communities Program
UC ANR is an engine for problem solving, working with industry to develop and improve agricultural markets, help keep a good balance in international trade, address environmental concerns, protect plant health, and provide farmers with scientifically tested production techniques and the tools necessary to maintain a safe food supply for consumers.
Other UC ANR booths:
- Outdoor booth M54 - UC Conservation Agriculture Systems Innovation (CASI) –
CASI has over 2,100 university, farmer, National Resources Conservation Service, and private-sector partners working to develop and evaluate a wide range of cropping system alternatives for California's diverse cropping sectors. The practical coupling of agricultural production and strategies for water conservation via efficient tillage and irrigation are important aspects of CASI's current work.
- Booth 6014 - UC Davis Veterinary Medicine Teaching and Research Center
- Booths 8013 & 8014 - UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences
- Author: Laura J. Van der Staay
After attending the 6th World Congress on Conservation Agriculture in Winnipeg, Manitoba, in June, Jeff Mitchell, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Plant Sciences at UC Davis, and Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center, stated, "Focusing on soil care will improve soil water intake and storage...Reducing soil water evaporation can be achieved by preserving surface residues. Together these steps reduce energy use and greenhouse gas emissions – very important goals.”
Mitchell is the chair of the UC Conservation Agriculture Systems Innovation Center. CASI is exploring options to help support the implementation of conservation agriculture in California. Read more.
- Author: Jeff Mitchell
- Contributor: Laura J. Van der Staay
A video of the soil health workshops that were held last week on Tuesday, December 10th in Davis and Wednesday, December 11th in Five Points with Jay Fuhrer, a district conservationist with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service office in Bismarck, ND and Brendon Rockey, a farmer from Center, CO is now available for viewing. These workshops attracted over 150 participants and generated many good ideas and interactions between attendees.
The Conservation Agriculture Systems Institute (CASI) thanks all who took part and also extends warm gratitude to Jay and Brendon for taking the time to share their experiences with California Ag stakeholders.
- Author: Jeannette E. Warnert
Free Twilight Field Day and bus tour 1 to 8 p.m. Sept 12, 1 pm to 8 pm September 12.
Sustainable agricultural systems involving precision irrigation and conservation tillage will be featured at the University of California Cooperative Extension's annual "Twilight Field Day," which will feature a new farm tour.
"We want to introduce more farmers to these proven technologies," said field day coordinator Jeff Mitchell, UCCE specialist in the Department of Plant Sciences at UC Davis and Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center. "We've done research here, and there's a lot of work from other areas showing that these systems work and they save water, reduce dust, store carbon in the soil and save farmers money."
Specific innovative technologies that will be presented include:
- Proper irrigation application package selection for specific soil types and conditions
- Salinity and irrigation management to avoid penetration and surface sealing problems
- ‘Innovative Boomback’ technologies for maintaining dry wheel tracks with ‘tire-to-tire’ production
- Economic comparisons of irrigation systems
- Innovative soil and crop residue management practices to improve long-term soil properties and function
The program focuses on both the potential benefits of combining these practices to achieve greater profits and resource conservation as well as specific strategies for avoiding problems.
This year, the event has been expanded to include an afternoon bus tour to three San Joaquin Valley farms where conservation agriculture systems are already being successfully implemented. Registrants will gather at 1 p.m. at the UC Westside Research and Extension Center, 17353 West Oakland Ave., Five Points, to load the buses.
The farm tour visits include:
- Johnny and Joann Tacharra Dairy in Burrel. The Tacharras will explain their plans to apply dairy waste water through an overhead irrigation system to grow forage crops.
- Armando Galvan of Five Points Ranch. Galvan will show how he refined his irrigation system to apply water to vegetable and row crops. Galvan installs special nozzles and boom configurations on his overhead irrigation drop lines that are designed to improve water infiltration and avoid ponding and crusting on the soil surface.
- Scott Schmidt of Farming 'D' Ranch in Five Points. Schmidt will discuss the new management strategies that must be applied to successfully implement new agricultural systems.
Following the tour, the participants reconvene at 4 p.m. at the UC Westside REC for a workshop on the economic and environmental benefits of conservation agriculture systems. The event continues with a free barbecue dinner, entertainment by the Wheelhouse Country Band and a keynote address by Suat Irmak, director of the Nebraska Water Center and professor of biological systems engineering. The Water Center was established at the University of Nebraska by congressional mandate in 1964. Nebraska farms currently lead the nation in adopting precision irrigation systems.
Following Irmak's presentation and discussion, Mitchell will name the 2013 Conservation Tillage Farmer Innovator of the Year award winner.
The expanded event coincides with a concerted effort by the Conservation Agricultural Systems Innovation (CASI) Center to grow the conservation agriculture movement in California. CASI is a diverse group of UC researchers, farmers, public and private industry and environmental groups formed to develop and exchange information on sustainable agricultural systems for California row crops.
"In each century, there are just a handful of times when agriculture can transform itself in revolutionary ways," Mitchell said. "There is growing evidence that today presents one of those rare chances for agriculture in the San Joaquin Valley to reinvent itself."