June 2007

UC sustainable farming systems field day June 22

Taking tomato samples at SAFS plots. (Photo by Z. Kabir)

DAVIS--Soil, water and energy on the farm are the focus of the 19th annual field day of the UC Davis Sustainable Agriculture Farming Systems (SAFS) project. The event takes place this year on a cooperating grower's farm in Woodland.

Project team members representing more than 20 faculty, Cooperative Extension researchers, graduate students and growers participating in SAFS experiments will highlight research results at Muller and Sons Farm on June 22.

The SAFS field day sign-in is at 8 a.m. Participants will board buses to tour fields with subsurface drip irrigation, water runoff research equipment, and corn and tomatoes. Researchers will discuss the soil food web, weed management in conservation tillage, water management and runoff, carbon management, the economics of alternative farming systems, and Yolo County crop production.

A grower panel, one of the event's traditional highlights, will address energy and water use on the farm before lunch. Keynote speaker Tom Tomich, director of the UC Davis Agricultural Sustainability Institute, will talk about "Agricultural sustainability in action: Farmers as part of the team." The field day is scheduled to adjourn at 1 p.m.

The SAFS main project site is UCD's Russell Ranch Sustainable Agriculture Facility, which is also home to the campus Long-Term Research in Agricultural Systems experiment. Both experiments are part of the UCD College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences' new Agricultural Sustainability Institute.

"The SAFS project is an example of the strong collaborations between UC's excellent research staff and the extraordinary farmers of California," said Tomich, who is also the director the UC Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (UC SAREP). The sustainable agriculture farming project began in 1988 with funding from UC SAREP.

William Horwath, SAFS project leader and UC Davis professor of land, air and water resources, noted that the original SAFS project, which compared conventional, low-input and organic management systems in traditional Central Valley rotations, developed a much clearer understanding of the economic opportunities for sustainable management. Some of the most important results from the original SAFS project showed how growers can reduce synthetic fertilizer inputs; how to manage cover crops, crop residue and soil organic matter; and how to manage weeds and pests with fewer pesticides, Horwath said.

"The project now has a different focus," Horwath said. "We're comparing the effects of conservation tillage and cover cropping on the way sediment, nutrients and pesticides are transported off conventional, cover-cropped and organic farming systems. We're also looking at the tradeoff between ecological benefits and economic costs in a sustainable system. It is vital that we share our results with farmers and the broader agricultural community."

Horwath said the project continues to rely on input from growers and farm advisors on the research team. The geographic scope of the project has expanded, with researchers taking measurements at farms in Yolo and Stanislaus counties to identify relationships between management practices and runoff in different areas. CALFED and Water Resource Board grants are funding a major portion of the work, with additional support from the Kearney Foundation of Soil Science, California Department of Food and Agriculture and Unilever-Best Foods.

The $5 fee (growers and students are free) includes local fruit and a seasonal lunch catered by the Buckhorn Steak & Roadhouse. PCA and CCA Continuing Education units are pending. Registration and directions are on the Web at http://safs.ucdavis.edu, or call (530) 754-6497, or e-mail sama@ucdavis.edu.

Media contacts:
Will Horwath, UC Davis Department of Land, Air & Water Resources, (530) 754-6029, wrhorwath@ucdavis.edu
Tom Tomich, UC Davis ASI/UC SAREP, (530) 752-2379, tptomich@ucdavis.edu
Lyra Halprin, UC SAREP/SAFS/ASI, (530) 752-8664, lhalprin@ucdavis.edu