By Seth Nidever
Some cutting-edge farming practices have earned Dino Giacomazzi an award from the University of California and the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service.
The award, announced last week, recognizes Giacomazzi for conservation tillage on his dairy east of Hanford.
On half of the approximately 600 acres he crows feed crops on, Giacomazzi uses a system that reduces the number of tractor passes but gives the same or greater yields.
When most dairy farmers switch from winter crops to summer crops, they tear up the entire field, disc then entire field, and then prepare the entire field for planting.
Giacomazzi method is to leave the winter crop stubble on the ground and only till in narrow rows where he plants the corn.
The cost saving go with the environmental benefits of less diesel pollution and less disturbing of the soil, which is thought to release carbon that contributes to global warming.
Carbon in the soil is also tied to fertility, according to Jeff Mitchell, UC Cooperative Extension vegetable crops specialists.
The primary environmental benefit, Giacomazzi said, is less diesel emissions and less dust.
“I guess I’m honored that they thought of me for the award, but at the same time, I’m not doing it for the awards,” Giacomazzi said. “I’m doing it because there’s an economic benefit and also an environmental benefit.”
He began the practice on a small section of his farm in 2005 to see how it would work.
The next year he expanded the pilot program to include three different strip till instruments, strip-till corn varieties and different planting configurations, including double-row corn instead of single-row corn.
In 2007 and 2008, he hosted field days where he invited farmers out the see the method first-hand.
Giacomazzi called strip tillage a “radical change” from traditional farming practices.
“The systems that Dino has pioneered and refined … they’re essentially quite new for the Valley,” said Mitchell. “We’re at the very beginning of this kind of transformation.”
Factors that keep farmers from switching to the new method include traditional conservatism in ag and uncertainty about the effectiveness of the practice, according to Mitchell.
Giacomazzi has slowly expanded the practice on his acreage. He says he’s moving toward 100 percent conservation tillage.
He believed he’s helped by the inherent fertility of the soil on his farm, a dairy that’s been continuously operated since 1893.
The same system might not work as well for Westside farmers with different soil properties, Giacomazzi said.
“I hope that people will look at what I’m doing and see what the benefits are,” he said.