- Author: Jeannette E. Warnert
The story is based on an announcement from the non-profit organization "Sustainable Conservation," based in San Francisco. Sustainable Conservation is providing funding to implement two new "Best Management Practices Challenges" to California farmers.
One is aimed at helping farmers try conservation tillage practices on their farms. The other will help dairy operators accurately manage nutrients being applied to their feed crops. In short, Sustainable Conservation will absorb the financial risk to farmers who are willing to try new, environmentally friendly practices.
Reporter John Holland interviewed UC Cooperative Extension farm advisor Marsha Campbell-Mathews for the story. Campbell-Mathews is one of the scientists involved in the technical aspects of the dairy nutrient management initiative.
"If people are going to try it, to have the risk taken away is huge," Mathews is quoted in the Bee story.
Campbell-Mathews told me this morning the program couldn't be a better fit for Central Valley dairy operators. In 2012, dairies will be required by the Regional Water Quality Control Board to limit nutrient inputs (manure, lagoon water, etc.) onto their crops to 1.4 times the amount removed in the crop. She said she knows of only two ways to do that: install an expensive sprinkler system on fields to control nutrient leaching or use a brand new, but as yet untested, computer modeling software program developed by Campbell-Mathews and UC Riverside environmental science professor David Crohn.
The Sustainable Conservation support means farmers who try the new software program will be reimbursed if they suffer financial losses by following the practices indicated by the computer model.
Campbell-Mathews said the software program could be a "silver bullet" for dairies overwhelmed with a seemingly impossible task of complying with the new regulation.
"Is the dairy industry sustainable? If this works, then yes," Campbell-Mathews said. "The Nutrient Management Challenge lets dairies try it with no risk."
For more information on Campbell-Mathews' work helping dairy operators address new environmental regulations, see Dairy farmers save money, prepare for regulations using manure as fertilizer.
Farmers who enroll in the Challenge for Reduced Tillage will implement conservation tillage practices on their farms with the financial safety net.
Conservation tillage involves planting a new crop in a previous crop's residue to minimize soil disturbance. CT reduces the number of tractor passes required to prepare a field for planting, reducing dust and diesel emissions, and fuel, maintenance and labor costs.
More on UC's conservation tillage program can be found here: California farmers see conservation tillage success stories