American Journal of Alternative Agriculture

Selected Papers from the Conference on Science and Sustainability, Seattle, Washington, October 24–26, 1993

An interdisciplinary, experiment station-based participatory comparison of alternative crop management systems for California's Sacramento Valley

Steven R. Templea1, Diana B. Friedmana2, Oscar Somascoa3, Howard Ferrisa4, Kate Scowa5 and Karen Klonskya6

a1 Extension Agronomist and coordinating principal investigator, University of California, Davis, CA 95616.

a2 Current and past research managers, Department of Agronomy and Range Science, University of California, Davis, CA 95616.

a3 Current and past research managers, Department of Agronomy and Range Science, University of California, Davis, CA 95616.

a4 Department of Nematology, University of California, Davis, CA 95616.

a5 Assistant Professor, Department of Land, Air and Water Resources, University of California, Davis, CA 95616.

a6 Extension Agricultural Economist, University of California, Davis, CA 95616.

Abstract

In 1989, a group of researchers, farmers and farm advisors initiated an interdisciplinary study of the transition from conventional to low-input and organic management of a 4-year, five-crop rotation. Crop yields initially varied among systems, but now appear to be approaching each other after a transition period that included the development of practices and equipment most appropriate for each system. Farming practices and crop production costs are carefully documented to compare the various systems' economic performance and biological risks. Supplying adequate N and managing weeds were challenges for the low-input and organic systems during the first rotation cycle, and experiments are being conducted on an 8-acre companion block to find solutions to these and other problems. Leading conventional and organic growers provide a much-needed farmer perspective on cropping practices and economic interpretations, because we try to provide “best farmer” management of each system. Research groups within the project are focusing on soil microbiology, economics, pest management, agronomy and cover crop management.