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Adoption of conservation tillage in California: current status and future perspectives

J. P. Mitchell A G , K. Klonsky B , A. Shrestha A , R. Fry C , A. DuSault D , J. Beyer E and R. Harben F

A University of California, 9240 S. Riverbend Avenue, Parlier, CA 93648, USA.

B Agricultural & Resource Economics, University of California, One Shields Avenue, Davis, CA 95616-8512, USA.

C USDA NRCS, 430 G Street, Davis, CA 95616, USA.

D Sustainable Conservation, 121 Second Street, 6th Floor, San Francisco, CA 94105, USA.

E USDA NRCS, 4974 E. Clinton Way, Suite 214, Fresno, CA 93727, USA.

F California Association of Resource Conservation Districts, 4974 E. Clinton Way, Suite 114, Fresno, CA 93727, USA.

G Corresponding author. Email:

Australian Journal of Experimental Agriculture 47(12) 1383-1388
Submitted: 6 February 2007  Accepted: 24 August 2007   Published: 16 November 2007


While there have been several similarities between the development of cropping systems in Australia and California (including climate, the need for irrigation and very diverse, highly specialised crop rotations), the historical patterns of conservation tillage development in the two regions have been quite different. Current estimates indicate that conservation tillage (CT) practices are used on less than 2% of annual crop acreage in California’s Central Valley. Tillage management systems have changed relatively little since irrigation and cropping intensification began throughout this region, more than 60 years ago. The University of California (UC) and United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) CT Workgroup is a diverse group of UC, NRCS, farmer, private sector, environmental group and other public agency people. It has provided wide-ranging services aimed at developing information on reduced tillage alternatives for California’s production valleys. In a short span of 7 years, the CT Workgroup has grown to over 1000 members and has conducted over 60 demonstration evaluations of CT systems. While CT is still quite new in California, a growing number of farmers has become increasingly interested in it, for both economic and environmental reasons. They are now pursuing a wide range of activities and approaches aimed at developing sustainable CT systems. As successful CT systems continue to be demonstrated, the rate of adoption is expected to increase.


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