Conservation tillage jumps in Central Valley

January 17, 2012 11:54am
Comment Print Email

•  Annual survey finds major switch

•  ‘Conservation tillage isn’t just talk. It’s the real deal’

Central Valley farmers, especially those in the San Joaquin portion of the Valley, are switching to conservation tillage at a furious pace an annual survey of farmers finds.

The increase is good news for the Central Valley, as the region continues to struggle with a sluggish economy and some of the dirtiest air in the countrym says the organization Sustainable Conservation.

Between 2008-2010, Central Valley farmers switched to conservation tillage on nearly 1 million acres used to grow row crops like corn and wheat silage according to a new study published Tuesday by an alliance of university, farming and environmental leaders.

That’s more than 1,500 square miles and represents nearly 15 percent of all row-crop acreage in California.

Conservation tillage is more than making a furrow in the ground. It includes a suite of low-impact cultivation practices such as leaving crop residue (like corn stalks) in fields and planting new crops on top.

It significantly decreases the number of tractor passes needed to prepare fields for planting, resulting in lower fuel, labor and maintenance costs for farmers – and less dust and diesel pollution in the air.

Statewide, the amount of farmland under conservation tillage in 2010 grew by nearly 20 percent compared to a similar survey conducted in 2008, and by nearly 50 percent since surveying began in 2004, says Sustainable Conservation.

Nearly half of all row-crop acreage in the San Joaquin Valley, the nation’s most productive agricultural region, is farmed using conservation tillage.

“There’s a lot of talk these days about ‘win-win solutions’ -- those that are good for ag and the environment,” says Hanford dairy farmer Brian Bergman. “I’m here to say to my fellow farmers that conservation tillage isn’t just talk. It’s the real deal.”

Farmers using conservation tillage report reductions in operating costs between 30 percent and 40 percent each year, says Sustainable Conservation. In 2010 alone, the practice saved farmers $35 million, it says. Since 2004, farmers have saved more than $75 million.

Conservation tillage also produces beneficial organic material which improves the soil’s ability to retain water and increases its quality. It also protects soil from being blown into the air after planting, the organization says.

“With the Central Valley and its citizens hard hit year after year by some of the nation’s worst air quality, the growth of conservation tillage is very encouraging,” says Ashley Boren, executive director of Sustainable Conservation, which co-authored the study. “We hope more California farmers adopt the practice to not only boost their bottom lines, but to help strike the Central Valley from the bad-air list.”

Statewide, conservation tillage could cut dust and diesel pollution from agriculture in half, the Modesto-based organization says.

“Breathing in particle pollution increases the risk of early death, heart attacks, strokes and emergency-room visits for asthma and cardiovascular disease,” says Bonnie Holmes-Gen, executive director of air quality and public health at the American Lung Association in California. “Particle pollution also may affect how children’s lungs grow and function.”

The popular Best Management Practices (BMP) Challenge has helped drive the growth of conservation tillage in California. Co-sponsored by Sustainable Conservation, American Farmland Trust and AgFlex, the BMP Challenge rewards farmers for trying conservation tillage by reimbursing them for potential crop and income loses. That way, farmers have nothing to lose in promoting clean air. In 2011, 16 farmers in five counties enrolled nearly 1,200 acres in the program – with many farmers experiencing increases in crop yields. Enrollment in the 2012 BMP Challenge is underway, says Sustainable Conservation.

Methodology notes

The 2010 survey, led by Sustainable Conservation and the Conservation Tillage and Cropping Systems Workgroup, was conducted as an ongoing comparison of annual row-crop acreage farmed under a variety of tillage methods in nine Central Valley counties – including Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, Merced, Sacramento, San Joaquin, Tulare and Yolo counties. Crops surveyed included silage, grains, tomatoes, cotton, dry beans and melons.

The survey received input from area farmers, agricultural specialists from the University of California and experts from the Natural Resources Conservation Service, which supports landowners in natural resource conservation and enhancement. Results were based on acreage totals from 2010 County Agricultural Commissioner assessments, and were compared with similar surveys conducted in 2004, 2006 and 2008.


» For more information :

Comment Print Email

  • How to compete against Wal-Mart
  • Stockton mom turns a need into a business
  • The entrepreneur is in
  • Writing her own success story
  • Growing a small business the family way
  • The future pencils positive for this company
  • Niche marketing -- Italian style
  • Sipping success with niche marketing
  • Roasting a business out of his passion
  • Success as an independent consultant takes more than expertise
  • Avoiding the traps of employee law violations
  • Cracking the voice-over market
  • The American Dream realized, one package at a time
  • Female winemaker plunges into business
  • A new take on nurse education
  • Family sees moving business success
  • STEM thrives in pockets of education innovation
  • STEM goes solar in Stockton
  • Quick! There’s a robot in my pool
  • Retiring seniors can mean new business
  • Predawn biotech class trains next generation of science workers
  • Staying ahead of the competition the old fashioned way
  • Central Valley sees mismatch between high-tech jobs and job seekers
  • STEM starts young
  • Get ready – the future is here now
  • STEM Education: Growing the Valley's Future
  • They’re low power in wattage only, not ideas
  • Thinking success spawns Successful Thinkers
  • Small business success can mean finding the right niche
  • This franchise has real muscle behind it
  • Getting the scoop on small business success
  • Reshoring could rebuild America's manufacturing
  • Marketing that’s deliberately anchored to the past
  • Guitar artist plays his way to success
  • Paralysis no handicap for this entrepreneur
  • Boost sales with better communication
  • Making sandwiches sexy with a franchise
  • Going solar without spending a lot of money
  • They’re cute and cuddly. But are they a business?
  • Opportunity sails forth in the Delta
  • How bad etiquette on the job could kill your career
  • Growing their way out of hunger and poverty
  • Finding small business success from floor to ceiling
  • Why he’s public enemy #1 – for gophers
  • Running a home-based business successfully
  • Your boss needs a vacation – really
  • Couple makes transition from big corporations to small business
  • Carving a small business niche with a better idea
  • Calm is the goal of computer service and education franchisor
  • Developer squeezing new life into downtown with juice franchise
  • Signs of a recovering economy
  • How to keep a family business in the family
  • Ford dealership expands despite the Great Recession
  • Utility Telephone connects with customer service
  • Crowdfunding basics
  • The roar from crowdfunding is getting louder
  • California water wars’ bulldog
  • Water wars heat up in California
  • Helping businesses grow with a stronger STEM
  • How to retain your best employees
  • Small business runs success up the pole
  • Winery expands in Lodi
  • Lodi wineries tapping into growing Chinese market
  • Has the jobs picture brightened for the Valley for 2012?
  • The right education will be needed for 21st Century jobs
  • Where new jobs for San Joaquin will come from
  • Developing jobs for San Joaquin – Part 2
  • Developing jobs for San Joaquin
  • Fruits of his labor
  • Helping grow food security in the Valley of plenty
  • Doing a business turnaround despite the recession
  • Keeping customers loyal helps build her business
  • Expo exposes businesses to utility contracting ideas
  • Drink mix maker taps expertise to blend success
  • Entrepreneur finds success in a basket
  • Tips for catching resume fraud
  • There’s no checking out for this small business owner
  • Entrepreneurs take Valley sports play-by-play to the world
  • Starting a winery from scratch
  • Job hunting tips for the long-term unemployed
  • In the Central Valley, opera isn’t always the Grand Ole Opry
  • Branding ideas for small businesses
  • The ump’s not blind, but the players are
  • Finding success by tapping your brain in a new way - Part Two
  • Finding success by tapping your brain in a new way
  • Machines talking to machines is the future
  • Getting involved in the fight against AIDS
  • Franchised divorce says it’s a better way
  • Small business owner is brewing a success story
  • To beat the Great Recession, they’ve expanded
  • Taking a swing at strokes
  • Alert your taste buds – here comes Taste of San Joaquin
  • This franchise has real muscle behind it
  • Passion for his city drives him
  • Vicente Fox speaks out on U.S.-Mexico relations
  • Give your support staff recognition and reap top performance
  • Central Valley baker gets top honors for Royal Wedding pie
  • Asparagus Festival ends on high note
  • Stockton close to annual ‘tipping’ point
  • Framing small business success
  • Small business sees Affordable Care Act helping its bottom line
  • What you eat – and when – helps local restaurants
  • Coping with the aftermath of foreclosure
  • How to raise charming children
  • Central Valley grad school goes all-iPads
  • Solution to Delta water wars voiced
  • Making sure your personal bottom line is covered
  • Small California winemaker is all family
  • Small winery relies on family and innovation to compete
  • Central Valley company says it has a better way to store solar power
  • What’s wrong -- and right -- about local TV news
  • What planning means to small business success
  • Making the leap to small business
  • Out of work at middle age? Experts offer advice
  • Small business marketing, one article at a time
  • Congress on your corner as it’s supposed to be
  • Central Valley city’s heritage rediscovered
  • Central Valley school is building students’ foundations
  • Job tips from the expert
  • Long-term jobless worker re-invents himself
  • Building a new power plant means jobs for Central Valley
  • Sacramento reaches for the stars with new science center
  • Lodi Chamber opens China’s doors to small business
  • Writing books for fun – and sometimes profit
  • Black Friday shopping? How to protect yourself from scams
  • California winemakers can find added rewards overseas
  • Wine makers tap overseas markets from Lodi
  • A new revenue stream for Central Valley small businesses
  • Food bank seeks more business support
  • Tips for finding a job in the Great Recession
  • State may solve some of its prison woes with new Stockton facility
  • A solution to underwater mortgages
  • Should public libraries be managed by private firms?
  • Central Valley moves ahead with critical water project
  • Dee Dee Myers and the increasing impact of women on small business
  • How women are growing their small businesses
  • A market with a mission
  • Retailer 'paints' solutions to cash flow challenge
  • An answer for the unemployed – return to school
  • A ‘golden’ small business success story
  • Central Valley winegrapes blessed
  • Rubbing out the recession with a franchise
  • Surviving the recession as a small business
  • It’s personal, union says of Stockton fire cuts
  • How old it too old to start a new business?
  • They've found the recipe for small business success
  • MBA students help revive Central Valley farmers market
  • Classic wooden yachts anchor in Stockton for weekend
  • Foreclosures, short sales – a bank president comments
  • The strength of family helps this small business compete
  • Festival spears success in Central Valley
  • Social media helps keep family business prospering
  • Central Valley students get training in ‘green’ futures
  • Knives readied as Valley cities slash services
  • Central Valley jobless picture still grim
  • Delta residents told to ready for water war
  • Opportunities outlined for Central Valley small businesses
  • Rewiring your brain for success
  • Central Valley no longer ‘shell shocked’ by recession
  • To fix California’s government, look to London
  • Taking your sales pitch to the next level