1998-1999 Biologically Integrated Farming Systems Grants
Highlights of BIFS Projects
Integrating Dairy Manure Management and Forage Crop Production Systems
Stuart Pettygrove, UC Cooperative Extension soils specialist in the Department of Land, Air and Water Resources at UC Davis, is the project leader for this integrated animal-forage crop production system. Demonstration farms will show how application of liquid manure can be metered and timed to coincide with crop nutrient demands, and thus use fewer applications of commercial nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium and protect ground water quality in the Central Valley. Dairy operators pump the dilute, nutrient-containing water from settling basins through their irrigation systems to adjoining cropland, most commonly used for forage, which is hayed or green chopped and used as feed in the same dairy. These forage cropping systems can be designed explicitly to recycle dairy manure and be coupled with improved manure nutrient monitoring and irrigation techniques to create a more sustainable dairy manure management system.
Integrated Pome Fruit Production in Contra Costa County
Janet Caprile, UC Cooperative Extension farm advisor, is leading this project which focuses on reducing the use of controversial, broad-spectrum insecticides in pome fruits (apples and pears). Rapid urbanization around Contra Costa County apple and pear orchards has increased concerns about pesticide use in this region. A key component of the project is the use of mating disruption (MD) to reduce the numbers of codling moth, the most critical pest in apple and pear production. During this three-year project, a team of growers, pest control advisors and UC researchers will be using supplemental codling moth sprays in addition to MD to reduce codling moth populations to very low levels.
Biologically Integrated Farming Systems in Rice
Priorities in the rice project include summer water depth management, winter flooding, drill seeding, and the use of winter cover crops. Randall Mutters, Butte County farm advisor and BIFS Rice project leader, is collaborating with UC Davis faculty and extension researchers, an agronomist/pest control advisor for the Butte County Rice Growers Association, and eight rice farmers, including Don Murphy and Bryce Lundberg of Richvale. Rice farmers are eager to try new methods: they recognize the need to improve water quality, and increased weed resistance to herbicides and more regulations have raised their production costs.
San Joaquin Walnut BIOS (Biologically Integrated Orchard Systems) Project
Under the direction of Joseph Grant, San Joaquin County farm advisor and project leader of the walnut BIFS, the project will extend practices from the similarly designed Biologically Integrated Orchard Systems project to walnut farmers in the San Joaquin valley. The use of less disruptive pesticides in combination with pheromone mating disruption and biological control with Trichogramma wasps is expected to help the project effectively control codling moth while reducing the use of chemical pesticides. At the same time, the project is working to incorporate cover crops and intensive monitoring into the farming practices of BIFS participants. Outreach to area farmers, including a newsletter and field days, will be coordinated through a collaboration with the Community Alliance with Family Farmers. Ten farmers have enrolled 230 acres in the walnut BIFS project.
Biologically Integrated Production Systems for Prunes
Gary Obenauf, project leader of the prune BIFS project, is project manager for the California Prune Board and has been involved for several years with the Biological Prune Systems (BPS) program in the Upper Sacramento Valley as well as with the UC Cooperative Extension’s Ecologically Sound Prune Systems (ESPS). The prune BIFS project is a part of the larger Integrated Prune Farming Practices Program working with 22 prune growers in 10 counties in the Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys. The project focuses on reducing the use of dormant season organophosphate pesticides, increasing orchard monitoring activities, and reducing applications of synthetic nitrogen fertilizers.
Biologically Integrated Citrus Orchard Management
Under the direction of C. Thomas Chao, UC Riverside Extension Horticulturalist and project leader of the citrus BIFS, the project is working with citrus growers on the eastern side of the San Joaquin Valley. Responding to regulatory interests in further protecting ground water, the project focuses on careful monitoring and the use of economic action thresholds to guide pesticide and fertilizer applications. Eight farmers have enrolled a total of 223 acres in the third year of the citrus BIFS project.
Biological Agriculture Systems in Strawberries (BASIS)
This project, lead by Carolee Bull (USDA/Agricultural Research Service), works with growers in Santa Cruz and Monterey Counties, a region that produces 50 percent of California’s strawberries. Working with eight strawberry growers, the project focuses on testing and demonstrating alternatives to the soil fumigant methyl bromide and introducing beneficial organisms such as soil inoculants and beneficial arthropods. The strawberry BIFS project also examines non-chemical weed control methods, including the use of hot water treatments to kill seeds and seedlings, and the application of different mulches.
These two projects were the first BIFS proposals selected for funding. Each project completed the third and final year in 1998.
Lodi-Woodbridge Winegrape Commission’s "Winegrape BIFS"
The winegrape BIFS program, led by project manager Clifford Ohmart, started with 30 BIFS grower cooperators and 37 vineyards; by the third year, 43 BIFS growers were working with 60 demonstration BIFS vineyards totaling 2,370 acres. These growers manage about 50 percent (25,000 acres) of the vineyards in the Lodi-Woodbridge Winegrape Commission (LWWC) region. Highlights include:
- Cover crops are used in over 70 percent of BIFS vineyards.
- Intensive in-season pest and beneficial species monitoring was conducted in 100 percent of BIFS vineyards.
- A computer database was developed to manage all grower, crop, pest and pesticide information.
- The proportion of BIFS vineyards sprayed for mites or leafhoppers declined from 54 percent in 1996 to 28 percent in 1998.
- Additionally, 73 percent of the BIFS acreage has been converted to drip irrigation, up from 57 percent in the first year of the program. This technology can reduce nitrogen use by 50 percent.
- In 1998, a comprehensive grower survey was sent to more than 600 LWWC growers, managers and PCAs. Among other things, survey results show that 94 percent of the growers have read the BIFS newsletter, 65 percent had attended a BIFS neighborhood grower meeting, and 66 percent reported monitoring their vineyards more frequently since 1992. This suggests that the Lodi-Woodbridge BIFS program has had a significant impact on the entire districts’ implementation of biologically integrated farming practices.
West Side BIFS On-Farm Demonstration Project
This project led by Jeff Mitchell, UC Cooperative Extension vegetable crops specialist, was designed to facilitate information exchange among area farmers, consultants and researchers on soil-building practices and options for reduced reliance on agrichemicals. By the end of the third year of the West Side BIFS project, 11 farm managers were participating and had each dedicated at least one field site of 80 acres or more to side-by-side comparison plots of BIFS vs. conventional farming practices—a total of 1,600 acres in 16 field sites. The BIFS cooperators manage a total acreage of approximately 90,000 acres in the San Joaquin Valley. Highlights include:
- 75% of BIFS side-by-side plots received either compost, a cover crop, or were left fallow in all three years in the program; three years of physical, chemical and biological data have been collected and analyzed to monitor the impacts of this biologically intensive soil management and will be used to develop a soil quality index.
- Participating growers have been introduced to the potential of conservation tillage.
- In weed management, the project promotes the application of the herbicide Treflan at variable rates; this enabled BIFS growers to reduce their use by 20 percent and could reduce use up 60 percent.
- Intensive cotton pest and beneficial arthropod monitoring was demonstrated.
- A comparison of cotton, tomato and garlic yields has shown no difference between alternative BIFS plots and conventional plots.
- Farmer and management team participant surveys reveal that all of the ten respondents deemed the project successful, with over half responding "very successful."