No-tillers and cover-crop users are more prepared to handle El Niño this winter than those not using conservation practices, The Porterville Recorder in Porterville, Calif., reports. 

According to The Porterville Recorder:

Farmers who have managed their soil with cover crops and conservation tillage are in better shape to weather El Niño this winter than those who have used traditional soil management methods, says Jeffrey Mitchell of UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR).

“The soil-water interaction under various soil management practices will be quite clear if we do get the increased rainfall this winter that has been forecast,” Mitchell said. “Soil high in organic matter and covered by plant residue will allow increased water infiltration and storage, less water runoff and, on a large scale, increased groundwater recharge.”

Mitchell, a UC ANR Cooperative Extension specialist based at the UC Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center, has researched conservation agricultural practices for nearly 20 years. He is chair of UC ANR’s Conservation Agriculture Systems InnovationCenter (CASI), a collaborative organization involving researchers, farmers and industry partners who aim to increase the use of conservation practices in California.

Most farmers in the San Joaquin Valley till their land after harvesting row crops believing they have to create clean planting beds for seeding and establishment of subsequent crops. The practice, Mitchell said, is influenced mainly by tradition.

Research at the UC West Side Research and Extension Center that has been ongoing since 1999 has documented striking changes in plots after sustained cover cropping and no-till management. In addition to improved soil properties, the plots managed with conservation agriculture practices have comparable or in some cases higher yields, less soil water evaporation, lower dust emissions and, because of the higher soil organic matter, sequestered more carbon than adjacent plots managed using conventional practices.

To read the full story, visit the article on