What is in this article?:
- California farmers slow to adopt conservation tillage
- Conservation tillage discovery
- Productivity drives sustainability
- CT consumes less energy and labor, thereby reduces costs, reduces environmental impacts, increases soil carbon content and improves soil tilth, fertility and overall organic matter, according to CT apostles.
- California farmers are proving slow-to-reluctant to adopt Midwest-style conservation tillage (CT) farming practices.
Dino Giacomazzi, left, Hanford, Calif., dairy farmer, was the keynote speaker of the CASI media event moderated by Bob Wample, center, Clovis, Calif., consultant, and organized by Jeff Mitchell, UC cropping system specialist.
Conservation tillage discovery
Giacomazzi took a circuitous route back to the farm after graduating from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. He became a music promoter after college. He turned 30 on the road as a manager of a rock band. In 1998, he started a software company in San Francisco in the midst of the dot.com boom.
Thirteen years after he left the farm, he returned when his father became ill.
He said he had to “re-learn” and discover farming technology. One discovery was conservation tillage.
This season represents his eighth year of using strip-till. He has reduced tillage to one dirt moving pass from more than a dozen in conventional tillage, a major cost savings. He has increased his silage yields by more than 15 percent. However, he says he is the only CT farmer in Kings County and among the rare 1 percent statewide.
“If you can save money and get more yield, what is the hold up?” he questioned.
“The last conversation I had with my dad was on a Sunday morning before he died the next day,” said an emotional Giacomazzi. “He tore into me — he hated the way I farmed” even though conservation tillage yielded 5 tons per acre more silage than with conventional tillage, which took as many as 12 dirt-moving passes compared to just one farming strip-till.
“And that one pass with a disk is to incorporate manure from the dairy,” said the young Giacomazzi.
What the young Giacomazzi encountered with his father, he believes, is why most farmers are reluctant to change. Most California farmers see no need to change because the system that has been in place for decades has been very productive.
He said traditional farming methods are ingrained, and it is difficult to change what has been successful. “I had undone what my father had done for years,” he said.
It was not easy getting to where Giacomazzi is today with CT. “When other farmers ask me about conservation tillage, my answer is always the same; understand every step of the process before you start; getting water off the field, handling weeds, irrigating — understand the whole process. Strip till does not work in a conventional tillage system. It failed with me.”
The last couple of farm bills have raised the political priority bar on conservation and conservation tillage. Direct payments are expected to be eliminated in the next farm bill, in favor of more financial support for conservation.
This federal emphasis on conservation has farmers fearful the government will “start telling them how to farm.”