- Author: Jeffrey P Mitchell
August 30, 2018
CASI hosts no-till pioneer, Francis Akolbila, of Ghana's Center for No-till Agriculture!
August 27 – 28, 2018
A number of CASI Workgoup members graciously hosted a true pioneer in no-tillage conservation agriculture systems, Francis Akolbila of the Center for No-till Agriculture in Ghana (https://centrefornotill.org/#home) this past week at their farms here in California. Francis is a dynamic, very passionate and dedicated leader of conservation agriculture in Africa. He is in California for an 6-month internship that he will soon be completing at Singing Frogs Farm in Sebastopol, CA with Paul and Elizabeth Kaiser before moving on to spend two months this fall at the Dakota Lakes Research Farm with Dwayne Beck in Pierre, SD. It was a pleasure and great honor for many of us to host him and we had great interactions with him in what turned out to be a whirlwind set of visits throughout California's Central Valley.
Francis first had a chance to meet and talk with local UC Cooperative Extension Soil and Water Advisor, Dan Munk, along with NRCS Fresno Area Conservationists Brook Gale and Rob Roy, for a lunch discussion at the legendary Five Points, CA “El Ranchero Café” (Figures 1 and 2). He explained what the Center for No-till Agriculture does and he shared with the group how it developed from the vision of Director Kofi Boa and with the support of the Howard Buffett Foundation.
Following this very nice visit with local Fresno County folks, Francis toured the longstanding NRI no-till project in Five Points where he saw up close and personal our Workgroup's research and development work with no-till systems (Figure 3). He also had a very nice opportunity to ride in a tractor with field station no-till expert, Jaime Solorio, and he learned about GPS guidance systems that were being used for the project's tillage work in the standard, conventional high disturbance tillage systems (Figure 4).
Francis was then hosted by Jesse Sanchez of Sano Farms out in Firebaugh, CA. While there, he saw Jesse and Alan Sano's cover crop fields and he learned how they extract drip tape from fields after seven or eight years of use. He also had the opportunity to learn how Jesse is now using a new fixed-wing drone to help with field management and irrigation at Sano Farms (Figures 5 and 6).
Next, Francis headed up to the Madera, CA farm of Tom and Denesse Willey, where he met with Tom and Madera County NRCS Conservationist, Priscilla Baker (Figure 7). While there, Francis learned of the reduced disturbance work that Tom is planning as part of the new NRCS Conservation Innovation Grant project that he's involved in with a group of pioneering reduced disturbance farmers throughout California. Francis, Tom and Priscilla also discussed cover crop options and how they're being used to good effect in Ghana.
Very early the next morning, Francis made the trek up to Turlock, CA where he met with long-time no-tillers, father and son farming team, Michael and Adam Crowell, at Bar Vee Dairy (Figure 8).
There, Michael and Adam showed Francis their recently-planted double-crop no-till corn crop and the three of them talked at good length about no-till equipment and techniques (Figure 9). The visit was not complete without Michael getting down on his hands and knees and showing Francis his soil (Figures 10 and 11).
Finally, Francis had a chance to stop by the PLS110 vegetable production class field laboratory on the University of California, Davis campus for a short visit with field Jim Jackson, Rich Peltzer, and Derrick Lum of the University's Department of Plant Sciences (Figure 12). He learned about the field prep work that these guys are doing to get ready for the fall class that will evaluate aspects of conservation agriculture systems in their cropping systems comparison demonstration field.
CASI was honored to host Francis Akolbila this past week and we wish him all the very best as he now completes his internship and returns to Ghana for his very important and pioneering work with conservation agriculture systems there with Kofi Boa. We thank Dwayne Beck for encouraging this meeting with Francis and we look forward to staying in touch with him into the future!