Mitchell admits not all is not positive when considering no-till conservation methods when planting cotton. One of the drawbacks is generating a stand from seed.

“Cotton is not as easy to establish by no-till methods,” Mitchell says.

Yet, no-till methods are not new to cotton elsewhere in the U.S. Cotton was one of the first no till crops in Kentucky and Tennessee in the 1950s and 1960s.

The acceptance of no-till conservation practices, says Mitchell, came about in other regions of the country due to the lack of irrigation water and a heavy reliance upon rain for crops.

California agriculture has become a successful multi-billion-dollar industry due to irrigation technologies from ground wells and the establishment of canals systems in the agriculturally rich river valleys of the state.

This is due in part to a changing political climate in California which for a number of years has siphoned off water traditionally provided for agriculture and allowed it to flow out to sea.

Pictures of dead permanent crops and fallowed, arid farm fields in California became fodder for television news features and politically-charged protests which emphasized the need for additional agronomic practices to keep farming viable and profitable in California.

Mitchell and others are trying to educate farmers about no-till practices for the economic benefits while still pointing out the positive environmental benefits.

Mitchell is a founder of Conservation Agriculture Systems Innovation, a diverse group of more than 1,800 farmers, industry representatives, UC and other university faculty, and members of various public and private agencies looking at conservation tillage practices to save input costs for farmers, all while preserving California’s rich farmland.

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