May 24, 2005
Sustainable farming systems field day June 23
Student research assistants install storm runoff monitoring equipment in a UCD
test plot. (Z.Kabir/S. Prentice)
Conservation tillage updates, water quality research data and a grower panel will be showcased
at the 17-year-old farming comparison project at UC Davis' Russell Ranch on June 23. The
Russell Ranch is home to long-term agriculture studies and provides a living laboratory for
students and the new Agricultural Sustainability Institute at UC Davis.
Carol Whiteside, president of the Great Valley Center, will be the field day keynote speaker.
Whiteside, a former mayor of Modesto, founded the Great Valley Center to focus on the economic,
social and environmental health of California's Central Valley.
"The campus' long-term experiments are addressing farm management questions as well as
environmental and social issues critical to California agriculture," said William Horwath,
the project leader and UC Davis professor in the Department of Land, Air and Water Resources.
"We're emphasizing reduced tillage, and the use of cover crops to improve soil and water
quality in typical California cropping systems," he said. More than 20 faculty, Cooperative
Extension researchers and growers are participating in experiments at the site. Participants
are working with UC's statewide Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (SAREP)
Hay wagons will transport participants through the research site, stopping for presentations
on 2004 cropping season results at individual plots. Karen Klonsky, UC Cooperative Extension
(UCCE) economist, will present information on the profitability of alternative farming systems
and their resource use.
UCCE Yolo County farm advisors Kent Brittan and Gene Miyao, and crop production manager Dennis
Bryant will present yield results for corn and tomato conservation tillage systems at
corn/tomato plots. Horwath, research manager Z. Kabir, graduate student Aaron Ristow and
researcher Sam Prentice will give updates on water management and conservation in cover
cropped and organic systems. Weed management in conservation tillage and organic farming
systems is the focus of a field discussion by UCCE weed specialist Tom Lanini and Kabir.
UCCE vegetable crops specialist Jeff Mitchell, International Agricultural Development
graduate student Cynthia Kallenbach and UC Davis agronomist Steve Temple, will present
information on carbon sequestration in conservation tillage, drip irrigation and cover
cropping. Howard Ferris, UC Davis nematology professor, and Kate Scow, UC Davis soil
microbial ecologist, will present information on the soil food web and plant nutrition
at a field plot. Pest management in organic and conservation farming systems will be the
focus of UC Davis entomologist Frank Zalom's and UC Davis postgraduate researcher
Sukhwinder Kaur's field presentation.
The sustainable farming project began in 1988 with funding from SAREP.
"Now we are focusing on reduced tillage to cut input costs, and cover crops to improve soil
quality," Horwath said. "Additionally, we are examining ways to reduce and enhance the
quality of agriculture runoff during the rainy season and summer irrigation."
Project researchers are looking at the tradeoff between ecological benefits and economic
costs in a sustainable system, he said. "We continue to make it a priority to share research
results with farmers and the broader agricultural community," Horwath said.
Project collaborators include growers and farm advisors. Researchers take measurements on
farms to identify relationships between management practices and runoff areas across soil
types and farming practices. A CALFED grant is funding a major portion of the work, with
additional support from the California Department of Food and Agriculture and UC Kearney
Foundation of Soil Science.
In addition to the plots at the Russell Ranch, the project includes a 14-acre area for
companion studies designed to refine management practices for successful use of conservation
tillage and cover cropping.
The field day gets under way with a 7:30 a.m. sign-in. Participants begin the tour of the
research site at 8:45 a.m. A grower panel discussion, the traditional highlight, is the
final event of the day at 12:45 p.m. Events are scheduled to adjourn at 2 p.m.
Pre-registration is requested by June 16. The $10 registration fee ($5 for students) will
cover the cost of lunch and refreshments. PCA and CCA Continuing Education units are
Registration and directions are on the Web at http://safs.ucdavis.edu. The site is located
seven miles west of the main UC Davis campus on Russell Blvd., 1/2 mile west of County Road
95. For more information, contact Z. Kabir at (530) 754-6497 or