Valley farmers profiled for sustainability
Published on 12/19/2013 – 1:42 pm
Written by Business Journal staff
Giacomazzi Dairy uses conservation tillage to reduce erosion, water runoff and particulate matter.Giacomazzi Dairy uses conservation tillage to reduce erosion, water runoff and particulate matter.Four Valley farms were among 45 profiled in a report by the American Farmland Trust on how agricultural producers in California have improved the environment through conservation practices.
The report, “California Agricultural Vision: Strategies for Sustainability,” aims to show how farmers can use efficient irrigation and other sustainable practices to reduce water, chemicals and energy use while fostering habitat restoration and cleaner air.
Growing around 4,000 acres of grapes, almonds, spinach and other vegetables, Red Rock Ranch in Five Points has combatted high selenium levels in the soil through the use of a subsurface drain tile system.
Farmer John Diener uses the method, dubbed the Integrated On-Farm Drainage Management System, to remove salt from the soil with water, which is reused to irrigate salt tolerant plants and then reused again in a solar evaporator or pond with brine shrimp to produce fish food or animal feed.
The 4,000-acre Sano Farms in Firebaugh was highlighted for its conservation tillage and drip irrigation system for tomatoes.
Implemented at the farm around five years ago, co-owners Alan Sano and Jesse Sanchez first plant barley, used for its high root biomass, and then terminate the crop with an herbicide that is allowed to infuse deep into the soil while leaving a crop residue that reduces soil erosion and water runoff.
The prepped field then only requires two tillage passes—resulting in a 75 to 80 percent reduction of fuel usage—before being ready for tomatoes that are transplanted using a conventional 5-row transplanter.
The farm additionally relies on GPS guidance during tillage to preserve undisturbed crop growth zones where long-term buried drip tape used in its drip irrigation system lies.
Giacomazzi Dairy southeast of Hanford also uses conservation tillage in corn production to reduce particulate matter by an estimated 90 percent.
Farmer Dino Giacomazzi provides extensive outreach for the environmental benefits of conservation tillage through his blog, social media posts and authoring a handbook titled “A Systems Approach to Conservation Tillage of Forage Crops,” which serves as a practical guide for other farmers.
Terranova Ranch in Helm was recognized for its On-Farm Flood Flow Capture process, which determines an exact water budget needed for crops like alfalfa, wine grapes and pistachio and uses the rest of what’s captured during flood flows for groundwater recharge.
For the wine grapes and pistachio fields specifically, about 50 to 75 percent of water applied was calculated going into direct recharge.
Farmer Don Cameron was also praised in the assessment for his hard work since 1981 in turning the once white and nutrient-poor soil into a rich site where now 26 different crops on 7,000 acres, 600 of those brought into organic production free of chemical fertilizers.
Cameron also converted all 39 of his irrigation pumps from natural gas to electricity in 2008 and began using drip irrigation on his tomatos in 2009, with the goal of watering all his crops with a drip system in coming years.