News Releases

July 21, 2004

UC to host Western States 2004 Conservation Tillage conference in Five Points

The focus of the University of California's annual Conservation Tillage Conference, Sept. 8 and 9 at the UC Westside Research and Extension Center near Five Points, integrates the farmers' bottom line with preservation of California's natural resources.

For years, UC scientists have touted the potential economic benefits to farmers for reducing the number of times a tractor drags through an agricultural field.  Reduced tillage promises to save money by conserving water, cutting down on tractor fuel and wear and tear expenses, and reducing pesticide and fertilizer requirements.  This year, however, the conference links economics with what conservation tillage can do for air, water and soil quality.

CT 2004 marks other changes for the long-running annual affair. The conference draws speakers and materials from across the Western states, rather than just California, and is lengthened to two days, allowing for more comprehensive presentations, equipment demonstrations and field tours.

"We have a cluster of conservation tillage workgroup members who are farmers in close proximity to the Five Points area," said Jeff Mitchell, UC Cooperative Extension vegetable crops specialist and CT workgroup chair. "They are superb in the advances they are making in reduced tillage production. They'll be our featured speakers and hosts for the farm tours."

Conservation tillage has been called agriculture's new frontier. UC and other scientists have finessed production of many crops to the point where they believe only very small, incremental improvements are now possible. Then along came CT. A practice more common in the eastern United States, where fierce summertime rainstorms can wash away the rich top layer of unprotected soil, conservation tillage is generating interest in California for its potential to eek out more profits from farms by making marginal lands productive and by cutting costs. Now, scientists are realizing it also holds promise for reducing dust, cutting back on contaminated drainage water and creating healthful soil tilth on lands where previously an impenetrable hard surface could only be laboriously cracked into rock-like dirt clods.

The event starts with a broad view of successful conservation tillage applications presented by scientists from Oregon State University, the University of Arizona and University of California, a farmer from Washington State and a USDA researcher with experience in the Southeast United States and Brazil. During the afternoon, a range of concurrent sessions and equipment demonstrations are held.

On Thursday participants may select tours to the local farms of Bob Prys, Andy Rollin, Tom Barcellos, Scott Schmidt and John Diener. The conference is from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. each day.

"There will be an awful lot going on during the conference," Mitchell said. "Presentations, sessions, equipment demonstrations and farm tours are spaced out to give opportunities for keenly interested folks to learn about what's important to them. But since there are so many optional activities, the better prepared participants are ahead of time, the more instructive and efficient experience they will have."

Mitchell encourages participants to carefully review the program to decide what sessions they wish to attend. The program is online at http://groups.ucanr.org/ucct. Registration is $10 per person. To register, send a check payable to "UC Regents" to Diana Nix, UC Kearney Research and Extension Center, 9240 S. Riverbend Ave., Parlier, CA 93648. The conference is at the UC Westside Research and Extension Center, 17353 West Oakland Ave., at the corner of Lassen and Oakland avenues about five miles south of Five Points. Overnight accommodations are available in nearby Coalinga at Harris Ranch Inn, (559) 935-0717, Motel 6, (559) 935-1536, and Best Western Big Country Inn, (559) 935-0866.

For more information, contact Jeff Mitchell at (559) 646-6565, mitchell@uckac.edu.