Conservation Tillage Forage Production in California's San Joaquin Valley

Project Overview

Project Type: Professional + Producer
Funds awarded in 2006: $9,400.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2007
Region: Western
State: California
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Jeff Mitchell
University of California, Davis


  • Agronomic: general hay and forage crops, grass (misc. perennial), hay
  • Animal Products: dairy


  • Animal Production: feed rations, feed/forage
  • Crop Production: conservation tillage
  • Education and Training: display, extension, farmer to farmer, networking, on-farm/ranch research, participatory research
  • Production Systems: general crop production
  • Soil Management: green manures, soil quality/health


    We evaluated two years of strip-till silage corn production following winter wheat forage in connection with our 600-head Jersey cow dairy in Hanford, CA. In 2006, we had problems due to the irrigation pump in our production field breaking down and our thus being unable to apply early-season irrigations in a timely manner. We compared traditional tillage, strip-tillage and no-tillage. We used a Case DMI Ecolo-Till 6-row 30” strip-tiller and a John Deere 1730 no-till planter for the corn. Adequate plant stands were achieved in the traditional and strip-tillage systems, however, lower populations resulted from no-tillage seeding. In addition to difficulties with irrigation, weeds in the no-till sections of the field also reduced corn productivity in the first year. We also evaluated a Sunflower 15 ft. no-till drill for a late planting of oats into a standing, but waning, alfalfa field. Productivity from this overseeded field was fair to good.

    In 2007, we conducted a side-by-side comparison of strip-tillage corn versus conventionally tilled corn. Each block was roughly 20 acres in size. We used a Schlagel 30” 6-row strip-tiller that was followed by a planter and compared this CT system with our conventional clean-till 40” bed production practice. Plant populations of 28,474 + 1,831 per acre for the conventional tillage field, and 32,287 + 896 per acre for the strip-till field were achieved. Weed populations were also determined to be roughly equal in both tillage systems. With two other farmer partners on this project, Dino Giacomazzi and Ryan Camara, - both also of Hanford, CA, we hosted a strip-till field day that attracted over 100 participants on June 29 of 2007. The information that the three of us generated has been shared at over twenty public events with over 300 attendees during the past year.

    Project objectives:

    The goals of this proposed project are:

    1) to evaluate and refine strip-till and no-till planting systems for forage production at the San Joaquin Valley dairy of Larry and Daniel Soares in Hanford, CA in terms of crop establishment, weed control and profitability

    2) to determine whether the CT production practices enhance the quality of life of dairy producers in the region as measured by the net profitability and the extent to which the alternative management systems ease time and labor constraints at the dairy, and

    3) to disseminate information, experience and knowledge resulting from these evaluations widely to other Central Valley dairy farmers via farmer hosted field days, farmer/researcher presentations at CT Workgroup Conferences, newsletters and press released through the California Dairy Council and the Western Dairymen’s Associations, and a peer-reviewed DVD video on CT forage production that will be produced by the end of the study.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.