- Author: Jeffrey P. Mitchell
October 11, 2021
Students in the agronomy class of Dr. Ranjit Riar at Fresno State University had a rare opportunity to visit a working no-tillage research field as part of a field trip that they took to the NRI Project field at the University of California's West Side Research and Extension Center in Five Points, CA. On what was the windiest day of the year, the students braved the uncomfortable and blistering wind to see not only equipment that is used for reduced disturbance production, but also no-till soils and residues, as well as live demonstrations of soil aggregation and water infiltration. Jeff Mitchell of the Conservation Agriculture Systems Innovation Center at UC Davis hosted the group along with fellow CASI members Joy Hollingsworth and Dan Munk.
No-tillage is still very much in its infancy in California, but continuing research by the group in Five Points that includes farmers, university, NRCS and private sector partners has shown that it is possible to produce several annual crops that are part of Central Valley production rotations successfully with the reduced disturbance approach. In addition, the researchers have documented several positive changes in soil properties and function when the combination of no-tillage and cover crops is used consistently over time.
Students in Dr. Riar's class learned about the “3 E's of farming” – equipment, economics, and ecology, during their visit to the field station and they saw no-till drills and planters and strip-tillage implements. They learned how to determine % residue cover over the soil and compared residue cover under no-tillage with cover crops versus standard clean tillage. Dr. Riar mentioned how surprised he was when he first came to California to learn how little of the practice is actually currently used in the state.
Despite the horrendous wind, the field trip was a huge success and gave students much to think about as they carefully drove back to the Fresno State campus.