- Author: Jeffrey P. Mitchell
November 10, 2021
Sobering findings in reduced soil disturbance organic vegetable production farm evaluations
For the past three years, a group of experienced organic vegetable farmers along with several University and private sector partners has been evaluating a host of reduced tillage or soil disturbance approaches for the highly-prized crops that they grow at several California farm locations. To date, the group has come face-to-face with several sobering realizations about just how hard it is going to be for them to alter too much the tried-and-true tillage practices that they have come to rely upon over the years to produce their healthy vegetables.
In a recent project progress discussion get-together, the group gathered to hash out how things have been going and several sources of trouble were identified. Terminating winter cover crops using a roller-crimper and without herbicides, having seedlings devoured by a host of insect pests, uncertainties regarding whether nutrient (particularly nitrogen) availability needs are being met within reduced disturbance systems, and other as yet unspecified causes of yield drag were all identified as challenges that have not yet been overcome. The 'hits' that these farmers have had with respect to low yields have been considerable and are not seen as something that can be taken on as replacements of their traditional tillage approaches.
Farmers and partners in the group are now gathering their thoughts in preparation for a daylong pre-conference workshop as part of the 2022 ECOFARM event on Wednesday, January 19, in Asilomar, CA. Information about the pre-conference and registration materials are available at the ECOFARM website