SAME DAY STRIP-TILLING, CORN PLANTING. With a GPS guidance system, wheat forage residue ground is strip-tilled and planted to corn on the very same day at the large-scale dairy operation of Mike and Brian Faria at Tipton, Calif.

Attitude Is The Most Important Prerequisite For No-Till Success

Environmental issues including air quality with dust and diesel fuel emissions are driving the move to less tillage in California.

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Name: Jeff Mitchell

Position: Cropping Systems Specialist And Chairman, California Conservation Tillage Workgroup

Location: University of California, Davis

Years of No-Tilling: 10

No-Tilled Crops: Tomatoes and other vegetables, silage corn, cotton, small grains, forage crops, cover crops.

California has long been one of the most productive agricultural areas of the world. Partly for that reason, growers there are often understandably reluctant to try new farming methods, especially when rising fuel and labor costs and market competition are shrinking profit margins.

In the fertile Central Valley, very few fundamental changes in tillage management have been made in the half century since the opening of the California Aqueduct in the early 1960s. Some California conventional farming systems require 9 to 11 tillage operations for pre-plant field preparation alone.

It is thus encouraging that a growing number of innovative growers are taking first — or second — looks at conservation tillage (CT) practices such as no-till, strip-till and ridge-till to reduce or eliminate tillage passes.

In addition to economic factors, environmental issues including air quality (dust and diesel fuel emissions), water, nutrient and pesticide runoff, water shortages and rising carbon dioxide levels are some of the other driving factors behind these pioneering efforts with CT.

Not that we’re looking at a landslide. CT is currently being used on less than 1 percent of California farmland. But we are building enough evidence through research and practical farming experience to be able to build a strong case that CT is generally a…

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Jeff Mitchell

Jeff Mitchell is a Professor of Cooperative Extension and Cropping Systems Specialist at the Department of Plant Sciences at the University of California-Davis.

Ross ron

Ron Ross

Ron Ross pioneered the “What I’ve Learned from No-Tilling” series that has appeared in every issue of No-Till Farmer since August of 2002. He authored more than 100 of these articles.

A graduate of South Dakota State University’s agricultural journalism program, Ross spent most of his career as a writer and editor.

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