UC launches Conservation Agriculture Systems Institute

A diverse group of public and private sector agricultural professionals are joining the University of California to form the Conservation Agriculture Systems Institute (CASI), an organization committed to making conservation agriculture a reality throughout the Central Valley.

“This is the agronomic and ecological equivalent of the ‘moon race’ back in the early 1960s,” said CASI coordinator Jeff Mitchell, a UC Cooperative Extension cropping systems specialist. “We’re not looking at small, incremental steps, but rather broad, system-wide changes that both improve the livelihoods of farmers while conserving natural resources.”

agricultureThe institute, which will be formally launched at a public meeting Jan. 27 in Clovis, merges two existing University programs – the Conservation Tillage and Cropping Systems Workgroup and the California Overhead Irrigation Alliance – into a single, broad-based initiative. The launch and informational meeting takes place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Veterans’ Memorial Building, 808 4th St., Clovis, CA.

The term ‘conservation agriculture’ enjoys broad recognition in other parts of the nation and world, but it is relatively new to California’s agricultural lexicon. In general, conservation agriculture aims to achieve both profitable and sustainable agricultural systems. These goals are met through the application of general principles that have been widely documented and demonstrated by research and experience as effective features of sustainable production systems.

What are those principals? In short, they include:

  • Minimum soil disturbance
  • Preservation of residues that provide permanent soil cover
  • Diverse crop rotations
  • Use of cover crops
  • Integrated pest management
  • Reliance on precision, highly-efficient irrigation
  • Controlled or limited mechanical traffic over agricultural soils.

CASI seeks to bring together farmers, business leaders, public agency representatives, university, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and environmental groups to chart long-term goals for sustainable agriculture in the Central Valley and develop appropriate conservation agriculture production systems to achieve those goals.

“CASI extends an invitation to all who would like to be a part of this major effort to actively take part in the developing improved agricultural production systems for the San Joaquin Valley,” said Mitchell. You can reach Mitchell with questions and to RSVP to the January 27 launch at mitchell@uckac.edu.