A very diverse and large group of farmers, consultants, public agency, and private sector folks participated in a highly successful training session on the benefits of soil management for farming systems at the site of the long-term USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture National Research Initiative (NRI) Project field in Five Points on Tuesday, June 6th. The overflow crowd took in discussions by farmers Scott Park, Jesse Sanchez, Alan Sano, and Tom Willey; UC Davis researchers Randy Southard, Rad Schmidt, Howard Ferris, Sloane Rice; and KARE's own Jeff Mitchell. Attendees also participated in a number of demonstrations of soil function that were provided by NRCSers Sheryl Feit and Kabir Zahangir and were also able to view soil profiles of two of the tillage and cover crop systems that have been evaluated at the site for over 17 years with soil pit trainers, Phil Smith and Rafael Ortiz of NRCS and Randy Southard of UC Davis. The training event was organized to provide evidence and experiences related to the benefits that might be achieved through a dedication to reduced disturbance management and soil biology.
Take-home messages from the training event emphasized the fact that no-till has now been shown to be a successful seeding technique for a range of crops in California, that deliberate and sustained attention to sustaining soil biology through practices such as reduced disturbance, cover crops and compost amendment applications may have functional benefits to farming systems, and that there are great opportunities for expanding the application of such practices to good advantage particularly in Central Valley annual crop systems.
Handout informational materials were provided and may be requested by writing to Jeff Mitchell at firstname.lastname@example.org. Educational videos summarizing progress that has been made at the NRI Project site over the years are also available through CASI.
In addition, tour visits of the long-term site can be scheduled by contacting Mitchell at (559) 303-9689. Now is a particularly good time to visit the site as there are two no-till crops, garbanzos and sorghum, growing simultaneously throughout the entire study field.