No-Till Could Save Huge Amounts of Water with California’s Drought Conditions, But it’s Still a Tough Sell in its Highly Diversified Cropping Areas

As of early spring, growers in California’s highly productive San Joaquin Valley didn’t expect to receive a single drop of surface irrigation water this year. That’s because of the “0 irrigation water allocation” posted by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation due to a lack of snow in the state’s mountain areas that would normally end up in canals as extremely valuable irrigation water.

“These are truly unprecedented times with tremendous suffering and hardship here in California,” says Jeff Mitchell, a plant scientist at the University of California, Davis, and a long-term proponent of no-tillage.

Water Concerns Growing

He says this is the first time in more than 50 years that the California canal system won’t be providing growers with irrigation water. For 2015, Mitchell says more California ground is listed under the “exceptional drought” category than was the case during last year’s serious drought. While limited water is already a major concern on the West Coast, farmers in other states are also concerned about the depletion of underground water supplies.

“Needless to say, the overall toll of these extreme water shortages is nothing short of wrenching to thousands of farms, farmers, farm workers and local economies,” says Mitchell. “Here in California, huge amounts of land are being left fallow and crop production is drastically reduced. There are increasing tolls on groundwater pumping, land subsidence and the eventual loss of groundwater storage capacity.” The 2014 drought resulted in a crop loss of $810 million, added underground water pumping costs of $454…

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Frank Lessiter

Frank Lessiter has served as editor of No-Till Farmer since the publication was launched in November of 1972. Raised on a six-generation Michigan Centennial Farm, he has spent his entire career in agricultural journalism. Lessiter is a dairy science graduate from Michigan State University.

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