Yolo County ResourceConservation District
Published by the Yolo County Resource Conservation District
Continued on page 2
Inside this edition:Inside this edition:Inside this edition:Inside this edition:Inside this edition:
Fritz Durst in no-till field after corn harvest.
Volume 11Issue 3
Fritz Durst Conservation Profile
Tamarisk-eating Leaf Beetles Help Out
New Grant for Capay Valley
Looking for Ponds
On-Farm Conservation Field Meetings
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by Diane Crumley by Diane Crumley by Diane Crumley by Diane Crumley by Diane Crumley
A willingness to field-test innovative, sustainablepractices comes naturally to Fritz Durst, fifth genera-tion Yolo County farmer and rancher; diversifying hisoperations is one strategy for combating the inherentrisk associated with agriculture. On a recent Septem-ber afternoon, I rode along with Fritz and had a chanceto see some of the challenges and solutions firsthandin the context of his diverse operation. We started onthe steep, rugged eastern face of the Capay Hills whereFritz grazes cattle that are later sold to a grass-fed beef cooperative. The next stop is down through the up-lands where Durst has planted grapes, and has usedno-till production techniques for over 20 years grow-ing grains, oilseeds, and legumes. To the south, wepass minimum-till organic fields for raising seed crops,asparagus, grains and alfalfa hay produced for organicdairy-feed. Next we head east, through the dry, roll-ing Dunnigan Hills where he has many acres of highlyerodible land currently out of production, and enrolledin the Conservation Reserve Program. This land wasformerly used for cattle grazing and dryland grain pro-duction. We end the tour in the flat, floodplains of ricefields near the Sacramento River and Colusa County line,where rice is nearing harvest, and great blue heron andAmerican white pelicans fly overhead.
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Fritz has always enjoyed the challenges of agricul-ture and began accompanying his father around theranchland and fields by age five. Not long after graduat-ing from UC Davis witha degree in agriculturaleconomics, Fritz and hisfather turned their atten-tion toward the problemof persistent soil erosionoccurring on the up-lands of the Capay Hillsand the foothills nearDunnigan. They investi-gated no-till techniquesfor their small graincrops that involvedplanting directly intothe residue of the previ-ous crop. No-till andother conservation till-age methods had longbeen used in the Midwest to combat severe wind ero-sion, but in California it was still considered a new anduntested technique.As with any farm practice there are benefits and draw-backs. The most immediate benefit Fritz realized was asignificant reduction in soil erosion. In 1985, after one