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
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
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,