June 2006

Sustainable farming systems field day June 22

Tomato sampling at CIFS/SAFS research site

DAVIS – A 19-year-old farming comparison project at the UC Davis Russell Ranch, which has shown that cover crops and conservation tillage are useful techniques for developing sustainable agricultural systems, will be in the spotlight at an annual field day and open house, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. June 22.

The Russell Ranch, seven miles west of the main campus, is home to long-term agriculture studies and provides a living laboratory for students and UC Davis' new Agricultural Sustainability Institute.

Hay wagons will transport participants through the research site to see a variety of presentations.

Will Horwath, principal investigator of the Center for Integrated Farming Systems (CIFS) sustainable farming systems project and UCD professor of land, air and water resources, will share data that indicates winter cover crops and conservation tillage may help growers increase yields while improving soil quality and reducing water runoff from their fields. Horwath, graduate student researcher Aaron Ristow and project supervisor Sam Prentice will give updates on water management and conservation in different farming systems. Yolo/Solano/Sacramento counties farm advisors Kent Brittan and Gene Miyao, and LTRAS director Steve Kaffka will present information on conservation tillage in tomato, corn and wheat production.

The researchers are looking at the tradeoff between ecological benefits and economic costs in a sustainable system, Horwath said.

Rick Roush, director of the statewide UC Integrated Pest Management Program and interim director of the statewide UC Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program, will be the field day keynote speaker. He will discuss long-term sustainability issues, including the critical role cheap energy has played in agriculture, controversies about the future of biodiesel and ethanol, and the ways integrated pest management, reduced tillage and reduced reliance on fertilizer can affect energy costs.

Field day visitors on haywagon listening to CIFS/SAFS researchers

"Energy sustainability on the farm must become a priority, lest we end up being forced to depend solely on horse-drawn plows," Roush said. "We have much to gain by supporting projects like the CIFS sustainable agriculture farming systems research, which will help us adapt to whatever the future brings."

Karen Klonsky, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the UCD agricultural and resource economics department, will present information on the profitability of alternative farming systems and their resource use.

Research manager Z. Kabir will talk about weed management in low-input and organic farming systems. Entomology junior specialist Corin Pease will focus on insect problems, researcher Sukhwinder Kaur will talk about the plant diseases in various farming systems, and postgraduate researcher Joern Seigies will discuss the canopy cover of cover crops and field crops, and compaction problems in different tillage systems.

Nematologist Howard Ferris will discuss the soil food web in no-tillage farming systems, while Horwath, graduate student researcher Cynthia Kallenbach and LTRAS associate director Dennis Bryant will talk about carbon sequestration in conservation tillage, drip irrigation, and cover cropping systems.

Pre-registration for the field day is requested by June 16. The $10 registration fee (free for growers and students) covers the cost of lunch and refreshments. PCA and CCA continuing education units will be offered. Registration and directions are on the Web at http://safs.ucdavis.edu. For more information, contact Z. Kabir at (530) 754-6497, Kabir@ucdavis.edu.

Media contacts:
Will Horwath, UC Davis Department of Land, Air & Water Resources, (530) 754-6029, wrhorwath@ucdavis.edu
Rick Roush, UC IPM/UC SAREP, (530) 752-4762, rtroush@ucdavis.edu
Lyra Halprin, UCSAREP, (530) 752-8664, mailto:lhalprin@ucdavis.edu