Posts Tagged: Amber Vinchesi
UC Cooperative Extension to investigate healthy soil practices with CDFA grants
Six UC Cooperative Extension research projects were awarded funding ranging from $100,000 to $250,000 each from the California Department of Food and Agriculture Healthy Soils Program. The grants are designed to fund implementation and demonstration of on-farm soil health practices that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and store carbon.
One of the grant recipients, John Bailey, director of the UC Hopland Research and Extension Center in Mendocino County, will use the $100,000 award to establish a perennial hedgerow at the center. Hedgerows are not traditionally part of standard ranching practices in Mendocino County, where in the past the center's 5,400 acres of rangeland and surrounding areas were grazed by large flocks of sheep.
“At Hopland, we have pivoted our operation to reflect the current state of the sheep industry in California, with reduced overall sheep numbers and decreased individual flock size, so we will use this project to show our smaller-scale sheep owners how they can enhance the ecosystems of their properties,” Bailey said.
Bailey expects the hedgerow to offer many educational, ecological and practical benefits, including enhancing soil health, increasing soil carbon sequestration, and providing habitat and food sources for beneficial organisms, such as pollinators and birds.
There may also be economic benefits to using sustainable practices in raising sheep. The project will explore the financial costs of implementing hedgerows as well as the opportunity for producers to enter a niche fiber market by offering sustainably produced wool to textile companies and consumers willing to pay a premium to support the ecological benefits of Healthy Soil Projects.
“I'm excited about this opportunity to combine the latest knowledge on environmental sustainability practices with the older traditions of livestock grazing in Northern California,” Bailey said. “This is a progressive step that ties in ecological knowledge that can benefit the livestock ranching model by both enhancing their properties and creating new markets for their products.”
The following projects were also funded by CDFA Healthy Soils Program in 2020:
Integrated sustainable nitrogen management in vegetable cropping systems, $250,000
Maria de la Fuente, UCCE county director and advisor, Monterey and Santa Cruz counties
The implementation of climate-smart agricultural practices within intensively managed vegetable cropping systems is extraordinarily challenging. Often conservation practices cannot be effectively implemented due to operational barriers, resulting in very low rates of adoption.
By demonstrating nutrient management strategies in partnership with a large influential vegetable grower in the Salinas Valley, the project aims to encourage broad scale practice adoption.
Recent research has indicated the addition of organic amendments in combination with nitrogen fertilizers potentially reduces nitrogen-derived greenhouse gas emissions and nitrate leaching while increasing soil carbon stocks. These outcomes will generate significant climate benefits in agroecosystems experiencing heavy tillage and fertilizer inputs.
This project has the potential for statewide impact as the researchers are currently working with the developers of COMET-Farm to provide data and coordinate outreach within vegetable cropping systems. Through direct engagement the team will make integrated sustainable nitrogen management more feasible and agronomically favorable for producers.
Using hands-on COMET-Farm-focused field days and a webcasted sustainable nitrogen short course, the project will provide producers with additional tools to make nutrient management planning decisions that have positive climate and soil health outcomes.
Evaluation of compost application to processing tomato fields in the Sacramento Valley, $100,000
Amber Vinchesi-Vahl, UCCE vegetable crops advisor, Colusa, Sutter and Yuba counties
The project will demonstrate compost applications on two farms in two Sacramento Valley counties, Colusa and Sutter. The researchers will work with Westside Spreading LLC and compare two plant-based compost rates to a control (no compost) over three years. Soil health parameters – such as total carbon and nitrogen, pH, EC, organic matter and fertility analyses relevant to tomato crop production – will be measured.
The benefits of compost applications vary depending on how often they are used, how much is applied, crop rotation, and other management decisions, such as whether compost is incorporated or left on the soil surface. Vinchesi-Vahl expects that over time the compost implementation evaluated in this project will result in lower input costs and improved soil function.
Compost application may reduce the need for fertilizer inputs for some of the rotational crops and provide benefits to the microbial community, thereby improving soil structure and reducing heavy conventional tillage needs.
By improving soil health, the research expects plant health will also be improved, leading to better tolerance to pest pressure from diseases and weed competition.
The two demonstration sites will showcase compost applications and their impact on processing tomato production and annual production soil health. These focused demonstrations will be extremely important in showcasing this soil health practice in the local Sacramento Valley region, providing information to growers from the experiences of collaborators at the two sites.
Evaluation of winter cover crop species for their ability to mitigate soil compaction in an annual rotation, $100,000
Sara Light, UCCE agronomy advisor, Sutter, Yuba and Colusa counties
This project has three components:
- Replicated research plots in which three cover crop varieties are evaluated for improvements in soil structure, specifically subsurface soil compaction
- Fieldscale demonstration plots in which varieties thought to reduce soil compaction are planted and visually assessed for performance in the Sacramento Valley
- Small, single-row hand planted plots in the buffer area, in which a wider number of both summer and winter cover crop varieties will be planted for outreach and demonstration purposes
Combined, these components will enable growers to make more informed decisions about cover crop selection and encourage wider adoption of cover cropping. The outreach objective for this project is to reduce barriers to cover crop adaption among regional growers by increasing knowledge and information about varietal selection and field-scale cover crop management, as well as opportunities to improve soil structure using cover crops.
Healthy soils demonstration project with Cardoza Farm, $100,000
Ruth Dahlquist-Willard, UCCE small farms advisor, Fresno and Tulare counties
This project will demonstrate compost application, hedgerow planting, and application of mulch generated from cover crop residue in a vineyard producing organic raisin grapes. Mulch will be applied directly under the vines, providing ground cover that will conserve soil moisture and decrease weed pressure. Generating the mulch on-farm eliminates the need to transport materials from outside sources.
Currently, production of organic raisin grapes involves frequent tillage under the vines. The cover crop between rows and the mulch under the vines will reduce the need for tillage for weed control and increase soil organic matter. These practices will be showcased at field days that will include bilingual training for small-scale, socially disadvantaged farmers in the San Joaquin Valley.
Application of compost to alfalfa to improve soil structure and fertility, $250,000
Kate Scow and Radomir Schmidt, UC Davis Department Land, Air, Water Resources and UCCE advisors Michelle Leinfelder-Miles and Rachael Long
This project will demonstrate compost application to alfalfa for improving soil structure and fertility. Compost is not typically applied to alfalfa; however, manure application to alfalfa is common in the state's dairy regions.
The over half a million acres of alfalfa in California could represent an important repository for compost, for which a large land base of spreading may be needed as municipalities convert organic waste management streams to diversion from landfills.
Alfalfa has the ability to immobilize large amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus, nutrients of concern in the concentration of organic wastes due to their potential to contribute to water pollution. Furthermore, alfalfa growers are interested in the potential of compost to improve soil structure in their alfalfa fields, as many growers report suffering from the large cracks that form in soils during the wet-dry cycles of alfalfa surface irrigation management.
Compost application has been anecdotally reported to alleviate soil cracking in another perennial crop, almond orchards in the Central Valley, but soil structure improvement via management practices like compost application has received little research attention thus far. Westside Spreading LLC is collaborating on this project.
December news clips
Franz Niederholzer - 2019 New Year's Profile
(Appeal-Democrat), Dec 31
Keeping Up with Navel Infections
(Dairy Herd Management) Emre Gürdal and Noelia Silva del Rio, Dec. 31
How Do Wildfires Start?
(Live Science) Donavyn Coffey, Dec. 28
…In other words, "a source [of heat] hits receptive fuel that's dry enough to burn," said Lenya Quinn-Davidson, a fire analyst for the University of California Cooperative Extension forestry program in Northern California. In the right conditions, those three factors are all it takes to set a wildfire in motion.
…However, ignition is only the beginning. For a spark to grow into a sustained wildfire, there must be a perfect combination of factors, such as "dry conditions and really strong winds," Quinn-Davidson told Live Science. And because of climate change, dry conditions are lasting longer and, in turn, causing longer fire seasons.
Analyzing The Use of Selective Dry Cow Therapy
(Dairy Herd Management) Fernanda C. Ferreira and Emmanuel Okello, Dec 27
Private woodlands lost to California wildfire — and may not be replaced
(SF Chronicle) Peter Fimrite Dec. 25,
…It costs about $400 per acre to reforest land, said Bill Stewart, a forestry specialist at UC Berkeley who has studied forest restoration programs after fires.
“A lot of (small property owners) ... don't have the cash or professionals to do the job,” he said. They “take a big financial hit when their forests are caught in a wildfire.”
…Max Moritz, a wildfire specialist at the University of California Cooperative Extension, said wholesale clearing is not always necessary. The rush to clear the land, he said, can result in healthy trees being cut down.
“Many trees can survive pretty bad crown scorch, so there's generally no urgency to get them out, or there shouldn't be, anyway,” said Moritz, an adjunct professor at UC Santa Barbara. “This is especially true of species that resprout, like several of the oaks and also redwoods.”
Get to know your wasps: University of California entomologist addresses misconceptions
(Press Democrat) Kate Frey, Dec. 21
Rachael Long, a University of California Cooperative Extension entomologist and crop adviser, recently told me a story about three wasps that people frequently encounter around their homes and often have misconceptions about.
Gene Editing Finds its Way to the Farm
(Dairy Herd Management) Clinton Griffiths, Dec. 21
…Alison Van Eenennaam, animal geneticist, University of California-Davis, says edits that create polled herds will soon be common.
“It's kind of like a pair of molecular scissors, if you will, that you can tell to go and cut the DNA at a very precise location in the genome,” Van Eenennaam explains. “What that enables you to do is go in and very precisely alter one particular gene of the thousands of genes that make up the genome, and you can introduce useful genetic variations.”
Farm Bill Set to Bring Several Benefits to California Growers
(AgNet West) Brian German, Dec. 19
...“There's some really good stuff in it for California, I mean first of all, getting a farm bill is fantastic,” said Vice President of UC Agriculture and Natural Resources Glenda Humiston. “Some really good things for beginning farmers and ranchers, and veterans' efforts in ag. One thing that's really potentially exciting for California in the rural development title is increasing the eligibility of communities up to 50,000 for some of the programs.”
Gene-edited farm animals are coming. Will we eat them?
(Washington Post) Carolyn Y. Johnson, Dec. 17
...“Right now. This is exciting, right this minute,” animal geneticist Alison Van Eenennaam said as she waited for a tiny blob of a fetus to materialize on a laptop screen on a recent afternoon at the Beef Barn, part of the University of California at Davis's sprawling agricultural facilities for teaching and research.
Commentary: Is Atascadero prepared?
(Atascadero News) Ray Weymann, Dec. 14
…But often, even 10 feet from a house takes one into a neighbor's property. Whether this means mandating more aggressive tree and brush clearing, and reevaluation of building codes for new and existing structures, is something the new council should consider, availing themselves with input from our local fire department but also from people like Jack Cohen. Another wildfire expert, Max Moritz, suggests that governments must be more aggressive in not allowing development in areas especially vulnerable to wildfire.
Ceres Imaging unveils cumulative stress index
(Successful Farming) Laurie Bedord, Dec. 14
...“Findings over the last four years show that the average Ceres Imaging conductance measurement from its imagery over the season has provided the best correlation with applied water,” says Blake Sanden, a Kern County University of California Cooperative Extension farm adviser. “While there's no perfect predictor of final yield, Ceres Imaging aerial sensing of canopy plant stress has a significant relationship with final yield.”
New Farm Bill Provides Funds For Research In California ‘Ag,' But No Big Boons
(Capital Public Radio) Julia Mitric, Dec. 13
…"What's fascinating about the Farm Bill is, after all that hyper-partisan debate … it's really a lot of the same of what we already had," said Glenda Humiston, vice president of University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources.
Humiston is pleased that California will get an increase of $25 million a year for research of specialty crops, agricultural jargon for fruits, vegetables and nuts, as opposed to commodity crops like soybeans, corn and wheat. Those federal grants will cover many areas, from adapting farming to the effects of climate change to finding cures for California's many invasive pests, Humiston said.
Can California Improve Forest Management And Prevent Wildfires Without Going Broke?
(Capital Public Radio) Ezra Romero, Dec. 13
...But can California expand programs like forest-thinning and controlled burns and manage its forests on the cheap?
UC Berkeley forestry specialist Bill Stewart says yes. “There's certain areas that it is going to cost you $700 an acre, but other acres you can treat for $50 or $100 an acre,” Stewart said.
Technology advances impact production efficiency
(AgriNews) Martha Blum, Dec. 13
“I'm passionate about genetics and sticking up for technology because if we don't stand up for it, we're not going to have access to it,” said Alison Van Eenennaam, Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Animal Science at University of California, Davis.
“The livestock industry doesn't have access to GMOs because of the debate around plant GMOs,” Van Eenennaam said during a presentation at the 2018 American Agri-Women Convention.
Lindcove squeezes 100 citrus varieties into one tasting
(Sun Gazette) Dec. 12
The University of California citrus research center swings open its doors this week to give farmers and the public the opportunity to view and taste more than 100 varieties of citrus.
Can Rakes Save Forests? Yes, As Long As You Have A Drip Torch In The Other Hand, UC ANR Says
(Sierra Sun-Times) Susie Kocher, Rob York, and Lenya Quinn-Davidson, Dec. 12
Have shears, will travel
(California Bountiful) Ching Lee
…Sheep owners, particularly those with small flocks, have had trouble finding shearers for years—and the smaller their flock, the harder it is to get someone to shear for them because shearers are paid by the number of animals they shear, said John Harper, a UC livestock and natural resources advisor who has run the annual shearing program for nearly 25 years.
Could legalizing cannabis help the environment?
(Physics World) Kate Ravilious, Dec. 11
Using high resolution satellite imagery for the years 2012 and 2016, Van Butsic from the University of California, Berkeley and his colleagues found a boom in cultivation of cannabis in Mendocino and Humboldt Counties. By zooming right in, the researchers could identify the distinctive shape of the cannabis plants, the regular pattern in which the crop is planted, and the greenhouses perched in unusual places.
...“The chances of environmental damage are much greater in these regions because of the high potential for erosion, which threatens water quality, high potential for using water directly from headwaters, and the need to build roads to access these farms,” says Butsic.
What Does It Take To Defend Your Home Against A Mega Wildfire Like The Camp Fire? Here's How One Couple Survived
(Capital Public Radio) Ezra David Romero, Dec. 11
...Earlier this year, University of California system forest advisor Yana Valachovic toured the Carr Fire burn area in Redding.
“What surprised me there was how many of the stucco homes were lost and they were surrounded by green lawn,” Valachovic recalled. “What the mechanism of entry was is that they had a ring of vegetation right around the outside of their house.”
Susie Kocher, a forest adviser for the Lake Tahoe region with the UC Cooperative Extension, often works with homeowners that live within the Angora Fire burn area. That blaze destroyed about 250 homes in Lake Tahoe in 2008. A decade later, Kocher said people still aren't properly preparing their homes.
“There's still a lot of flammable plants planted right under picture windows,” Kocher said, adding that people have almost set themselves up for failure, “perhaps in the mistaken belief that they are kind of safe now because there's no big trees.”
Wildfire scientists brace for hotter, more flammable future as Paradise lies in ashes
(CNN) Bill Weir, Dec. 10
…"Well, my colleague Katharine Hayhoe says climate change is like gravity," says Dr. Faith Kearns. "Climate change doesn't really care if you believe in it or not. It's reality. We have gravity, we have climate change."
Are Your Bananas at Risk?
(BYU Radio) Top of Mind, Dec. 10
Guest: Norman C. Ellstrand, Distinguished Professor of Genetics, Department of Botany and Plant Sciences, University of California, Riverside
...Here in the US, there's only one kind of banana in the supermarket – sweet, yellow, no seeds, about as long as your hand. It's a variety called Cavendish and it dominates the international banana market. Which turns out to be a big problem.
Jeff Mitchell: Conservation No-Till Is One Option For Water Conservation
(Cal Ag Today) Patrick Cavanaugh, Dec. 10
Jeff Mitchell is a Cropping Systems Specialist at UC Davis, based at the Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Parlier. He has devoted his 19 years to improving nitrogen and water use efficiencies in food, feed, fuel and fiber in no-till cropping systems.
Solano 4-H schedules Fairfield open house
(Fairfield Daily Republic) Susan Hiland, Dec. 9
The Solano County 4-H Youth Development Program will host a 4-H open house from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday on the first floor of the University of California Cooperative Extension Office, 501 Texas St.
California State Fair Extra Virgin Olive Oil Competition opens Jan. 8
(Lake Co News) Dec. 8
…The California State Fair is proud to announce the head judge for the 2019 competition, Mr. Paul Vossen. Vossen will employ his expertise and experience at the California State Fair olive oil judging to lead the team of 15 Judges and ensure a fair and ethical judging process.
With more than 30 years of experience in the field as a University of California Cooperative Extension Farm Advisor in Sonoma County, Paul Vossen offers practical advice to large commercial ventures and hobby farmers alike for clients around the world.
Getting the Facts Straight on Dairies
(California Dairy) Dec. 7
The inaugural California Dairy Sustainability Summit in Sacramento last month was a big hit. Conference presentations not only focused on what California dairy producers can do to increase their sustainability efforts, but also on how producers can better share their stories and correct some of the common misconceptions that have been circulating the public. Check out this video with Frank Mitloehner, Air Quality Specialist from the Department of Animal Science at UC Davis, who shared the facts, and read more about it in California Dairy Magazine.
Why Californians Were Drawn Toward the Fire Zones
(Wall St Journal) Jeffrey Ball, Dec. 7
…Lax building codes are at the base of the problem. Even in California, which has some of the toughest such rules in the country, they often aren't adequate or adequately enforced. The codes often dictate the use of fire-retardant materials in house construction but typically say nothing about how a development must be situated on the landscape—and that can help determine whether that development will burn in a fire, says Max Moritz, a cooperative-extension wildfire specialist at the University of California, Santa Barbara. “So the developers are able to come in, propose something, and often, without too much oversight, walk away after having built something in a dangerous place,” he says. “And we pick up the tab.”
Cutting down Christmas trees on public land is good for forest management: expert
(KTVU) Lisa Fernandez, Dec. 7
A forestry advisor for the University of California is a big proponent of cutting down Christmas trees on public land as an inexpensive, family-friendly holiday ritual and a way to thin the forests of excessive small trees.
Susie Kocher, who works for the UC Cooperative Extension, has been trekking to the U.S. Forest Service land for the last two decades -- saw and $10 permit in hand -- to cut down her own white fir.
Researchers study how to enrich soil
(Appeal-Democrat) Ruby Larson, Dec. 6
Soil health and research on using cover crops were discussed by farmers, researchers and others at the University of California Cooperative Extension's Soil Health and Cover Crop Field Day on Thursday morning.
Dozens gathered for a presentation on the Healthy Soils Project, which the local UCCE is participating in. The project focuses on managing soil health, changes in soil carbon and reducing greenhouse gases.
…Amber Vinchesi and Sarah Light, agronomy adviser for UCCE Sutter-Yuba, gave a demonstration on how they would test for greenhouse gasses during the course of the project.
Climate Extremes: the New Norm
(Santa Barbara Independent) Laura Capps, Dec. 6
...“We need to change our perspective to one of co-existing with fire instead of fighting it,” said Dr. Max Moritz, a University of California wildfire scientist. “Fire isn't going away anytime soon. We need to locate and build our communities accordingly so that we reduce our vulnerability over the long term to this essential and inevitable natural process that is wildfire.”
Will More Permits To Chop Down Christmas Trees Help Thin California Forests And Prevent Wildfires? (AUDIO)
(Capital Public Radio) Ezra David Romero, Dec 5
In a patch of forest a few miles from Lake Tahoe's shore, Susie Kocher and her family are crunching through the snow to find a Christmas tree.
…"It's a great win-win solution,” said Kocher, who is also a forest advisor for the University of California Cooperative Extension for the Lake Tahoe area. “You get the public out in the forest, you do good work reducing the density of the trees."
Wildland fire research and impacts on nut orchards
(Western Farm Press) Logan Hawkes, Dec 5
..So far, tree nut damages or other agricultural losses in the deadly Camp Fire are unknown according to UCANR Sustainable Orchard Farm Advisor Luke Milliron in Butte County.
Fruit tree owners get free lesson in pruning
(The Californian) John Karlik, Dec 5
Even those with the greenest thumbs may need some guidance when it comes to pruning trees. The University of California Cooperative Extension office is here to help again with its annual fruit tree pruning demonstrations on Dec. 12 and 13.
Starting at noon both days in the orchard of the cooperative's office, ag adviser Mohammad Yaghmour will show attendees how to trim back trees including apple, apricot, cherry and almond as well as grapevines.
Camp Fire Impacted Local Prescribed Fire Training
(My Mother Lode) Tracey Petersen, Dec 5
...The 20 participants were to get hands-on fire experience to better understand the art and science of fire management and ecology. However, organizer and Natural Resources Advisor at the University of California Cooperative Extension – Central Sierra Susan Kocher relays that due to the explosion of the Camp Fire no flames could be ignited for the training because the required back up resources were called to battle the mega blaze. She adds it is an ongoing problem regarding using prescribed burns for fire prevention. “I really think it shows just our exact dilemma. It's hard to get ahead of disasters because you're busy responding to disasters,” advised Kocher. “So, we just need to do everything we can to try and burn at all times of year to try to get ahead of these tragic wildfires that are happening.”
The New Abnormal: A Town Hall on California's Fires and the Future
(Commonwealth Club) Dec. 4, 2018
… To address some of these critical and urgent questions, please join The Commonwealth Club for a special free town hall on California's fires and what can be done in the short and long term to prepare for them.
J. Keith Gilless, Chair, California Board of Forestry and Fire Protection; Professor of Forest Economics, UC Berkeley
Thom Porter, Chief of Strategic Planning, California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE)
Kurtis Alexander, Water, Wildfire and Climate Writer, San Francisco Chronicle
Maggi Kelly, Professor and Cooperative Extension Specialist in the Environmental Science, Policy and Management
Valley's Gold: Food Safety
(Valley's Gold) Dec. 4
Learn about the economic engine that drives the region, Agriculture. With host Ryan Jacobsen
UC CalFresh Nutrition Education Specialist Elizabeth Lopez shares food safety tips and tools in this PBS episode starting at the 18:32 mark.
San Diego County wants to build 10,000 new homes in fire-prone areas
(San Diego Union Tribune) Joshua Emerson Smith, Dec. 3
…What these building codes and other rules don't take into account is whether a particular project should be built at all, said Max Moritz, a cooperative extension specialist in wildfire at the Bren School at UC Santa Barbara.
“There's all these hazards that we use to guide our building and our zoning from floods to landslides, and fire is not one of them,” Moritz said.
“In the end, the taxpayer is left holding the bill for all this,” he added. “The developer may do a really good job at designing and convincing everybody that it's the right thing to do, but after they walk away, the public is left doing fuels maintenance for decades, and the public picks up the bill when there's a disaster.”
California is managing its forests — but is the president managing its federal lands?
(NBC News) James Rainey, Dec. 2
...Scott Stephens, a University of California, Berkeley professor of fire science, said the fire cataclysms of the last two years seem to have ended a long era of inattention.
“We will start to change the trajectory,” he said, “so we won't have tragedies like we had in Paradise.”
Subfreezing temperatures predicted for early Monday in Modesto area
(Modesto Bee) Deke Farrow, Dec. 2
...The University of California Cooperative Extension in Sacramento County offers more
Organic farmers and researchers strive to advance soil care
Organic farmer Phil Foster has developed a creative way to nurture the soil on his 200-acre farm near Hollister. He plants cover crops in a single line at the top of the planting bed, saving water and seed while keeping the furrows clear for irrigation.
"We were finding we couldn't use cover crops because of water," Foster said. The narrow strip makes the best use of the limited water supply, while garnering the benefits of cover crops - which buffer soil temperatures, inhibit weeds, increase soil microbial activity, improve water infiltration and add nutrients. Growing cover crops prepares the soil for the production of high-quality vegetables.
Foster is one of eight organic vegetable growers who are working with researchers at Chico State, Fresno State and UC Agriculture and Natural Resources on a project funded with a USDA grant designed to make significant improvements in soil care in organic production systems. He guided project participants around his farm, equipment yard and compost operation in early November to share the techniques he and his staff have developed over three decades to promote soil health.
Tour participants marveled at the soil characteristics, admiring tiny pores and roots in clods of dirt, evidence of the soil's capacity to move water and nutrients. They studied the plant and soil conditions after farm manager Efrain Contreras pulled a carefully crafted implement for rolling down the cover crop across the field with a tractor.
Foster credited Contreras, a 30-year employee, for his role in building the soil on the farm. Labor, Foster said, is his biggest cost. He has 50 full time staff, many with 5 to 20 years of experience.
"They are the key to to the success of the ranch," Foster said.
Minimizing and, eventually eliminating, soil disturbance can be combined with organic groundcover, year-round root growth and robust biological activity in the soil to further promote soil health. Following the tour, the farmers talked about ways to attain the goal on their farms of no-till organic vegetable production.
Foster said he will experiment with reducing soil disturbance to determine whether doing so will maintain or increase yields. Another farmer in the project, Scott Park of Meridian, Calif., 50 miles north of Sacramento, said he will dedicate eight acres of his organic farm to comparing the results when the cover crop is chopped and left on the soil surface to chopped and incorporated with tillage.
Paul Muller and Andrew Braitt of Fully Belly Farm in the Capay Valley suggested the researchers could help the farmers by identifying optimal, effective cover crop rolling techniques. Retired organic farmer Tom Willey of Madera suggested grant funds be used to purchase appropriate scale cover crop seeders for on-farm experimentation.
"We're making great progress," said project coordinator Jeff Mitchell, UC Cooperative Extension vegetable crops specialist. "By getting together regularly, we're seeing opportunities for moving further toward reduced-disturbance on the farms, identifying the equipment needs and establishing effective channels of communication."
Over the project's three-year term, the farmers and researchers will continue to experiment with soil-building techniques and share results.