Soil Health Experts To Speak To
Calif. Farmers Dec. 10 - 11
Innovative soil enhancement practices are being researched and implemented
around the world, but haven’t caught on yet in most of California. Free
workshops at UC Davis and Five Points will feature new ways of managing soil
that promise long-term sustainability, better crop quality and reduced use of
chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
The Davis workshop is at 11 a.m. Dec. 10 in the Plant and Environmental
Sciences Building 3001; the Five Points workshop is at 11 a.m. Dec. 11 at the
UC West Side Research and Extension Center, 17353 W. Oakland Ave., Five Points.
The UC Conservation Agriculture Systems Innovation program (CASI) has
invited nationally known proponents of soil health to share their experiences
and knowledge about soil-supporting practices. Brendon Rockey of Rockey Farms in Center, Colo., will be talking
about practices for which he has coined the term “biotic farming systems.”
“My presentation will revolve around the idea of biotic farming, which to
me means looking at all living things, not just the crop being grown,” Rockey
said. “Once you recognize the biotic system, you then have two paths from which
to choose, antibiotic or probiotic.”
Jeff Mitchell, UC Cooperative
Extension specialist in the Department of Plant Sciences at UC Davis, said
Rockey is not an “organic” farmer, but an “extremely innovative” farmer.
Rockey and his uncle grow 30 varieties of potatoes on 250 acres in the San Luis
Valley of Colorado.
“He’s somebody who is questioning and challenging the way things have
always been done,” Mitchell said. “Rather than relying on heavy hammers like
herbicides, fungicides, tillage and other inputs to solve problems, Rockey is
helping people realize that there might be a more integrated, biological way to
address problems and reduce inputs.” For example, Rockey advocates the use of
multi-species green manure, either as a winter cover crop or, in the case of
his own farm, right alongside the crop during the growing season.
“We know that … diverse plant populations bring life to the soil,” Rockey
shares on his website Soilguys.com.
“They create an ideal environment for a variety of microbial populations,
increase water uptake and retention, fix nitrogen and cycle nutrients and
attract predatory insects to the field.”
Rockey will be joined by Jay Fuhrer, district conservationist with the USDA
Natural Resources Conservation Services, Bismark, N.D., who has addressed soil
health in speaking engagements around the U.S., in Canada, France and Russia.
“The principles of building healthy soils are the same everywhere — you
have to stop tilling the soil and switch from a monoculture crop to a diversity
of crops and rotations,” Fuhrer said. “But the path to soil health is different on
each farm. Cover crop and cash crop selections and sequences are chosen to fit
the farmer’s resource concerns and priorities, and the means available at that
Labels: Brendon Rockey, Jeff Mitchell, Soil Health Experts To Speak to Calif. Farmers, Soil Meeting Dec. 10-11 WSFS