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Could more dryland farming be in California's future?

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  • California farmers seem slower in adopting the same conservation tillage practices that hold soil moisture when compared to their counterparts elsewhere in the U.S.. Could water issues in California change that mindset?
     

 

The premise behind dryland farming comes at a time when drought awareness has increased, though not entirely in practice as California lawns remain watered and cars are washed in driveways.

While dryland farming has its challenges, maybe it’s time for modern agriculture to consider the benefits of the water-thrifty practice and tackle the challenges with all the fervor of a sergeant told by his lieutenant “that can’t be done!”

While dryland farming is utilized to a small extent in California, its close cousin could be the no-till practices recommended by researchers Jeff Mitchell of the University of California.

Mitchell continually promotes the benefits of no-till and strip-till conservation practices that help hold in soil moisture and provide a host of other benefits to growers. He’ll readily admit there are challenges under California’s current farming systems.

While farmers elsewhere in the U.S. successfully employ the practice, California farmers seem reluctant to do the same.

Still, Mitchell works with California growers to employ conservation tillage practices that work and to transform machinery used in standard farming practices to achieve results.

Since Mitchell works with UC Cooperative Extension, his efforts move beyond the purely academic to the practical.

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As California agriculture continues to seek ways to be as water thrifty as possible, and new technologies are developed to meet those ends, we need not be so quick to say “that won’t work” and instead embrace ideas that right now might only be a “what-if” conversation between a third-year undergrad and her college Ag professor.

Follow me on Twitter @ToddFitchette or reach me at tfitchette@farmpress.com

 

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