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Fall 2007 Conservation Quarterly - Yolo County Resource Conservation District

Fall 2007 Conservation Quarterly - Yolo County Resource Conservation District

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Fall 2007 Conservation Quarterly - Yolo County Resource Conservation District
Fall 2007 Conservation Quarterly - Yolo County Resource Conservation District

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Published by: Yolo County Resource Conservation District on Dec 08, 2011
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Fall 2007
 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
EQIP Sign-ups
On-Farm Conservation Field Meetings
PrPrPrPrProfile in Conserofile in Conserofile in Conserofile in Conserofile in Conseration: Fritz Duration: Fritz Duration: Fritz Duration: Fritz Duration: Fritz Durst—Keepinst—Keepinst—Keepinst—Keepinst—Keepin g the F  g the F  g the F  g the F  g the F arararararm Alim Alim Alim Alim AlieeeeeTTTTThrhrhrhrhrough Innoough Innoough Innoough Innoough Innoation and Cration and Cration and Cration and Cration and Crop Diop Diop Diop Diop Diererererersity sity sity sity sity 
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.
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
Conservation Quarterlypage 2Fall 2007
Fritz Durst, continued from page 1
RCD DirectorsRCD DirectorsRCD DirectorsRCD DirectorsRCD DirectorsBlair Voelz,
 James Mayer,
Vice Chairman
Rudy Lucero,
David Gilmer,
Rachael Freeman-Long,
Wyatt Cline,
Associate Director 
Scott Stone,
Associate Director 
Garth Williams,
Associate Director 
Executive Director 
 Jeanette Wrysinski,
Senior Program Manager 
William Spong,
Water Quality Technician
Mark Lane,
Water Lab Manager 
Sean Kenady,
Revegetation Specialist 
 John Reynolds,
Revegetation Assistant 
Tanya Meyer,
Vegetation Management Specialist 
Sue McCloud,
Diane Crumley,
Technical Writer 
Sheila Pratt,
Administrative Assistant 
District Conservationist 
Wendy Rash,
Soil Conservationist 
Ha Truong,
Agricultural Engineer 
Nick Gallagher,
Rangeland Management Specialist 
year of no-till wheat production Durst reported a reduc-tion in annual soil loss from six tons/acre usingconventional tillage to two tons/acre in his no-till fields.Additionally, the large six foot deep gullies that appearedafter winter storms were not seen the year following thechange to no-till. During the next few years, Fritz reportedon his experiences at several no-till workshops, and re-ceived the RCD “Cooperator of the Year Award” in 1986for being a pioneer of no-till cultivation in Yolo County.Currently, there is renewed interest in conservationtillage because of its potential to sequester carbon in thesoil, thereby reducing greenhouse gasses. Additionalbenefits to air quality come from reducing tractor timeand associated diesel expense and exhaust, and from pro-ducing less airborne dust, which is regulated in someagricultural areas.No-till also tends to improve soil moisture retention,a factor particularly important to dryland farmers. Cropresidues left on the soil surface increase the ability forwater to infiltrate and reduce evaporation, conservingwater for plant growth. No-till soil quality is also im-proved through the increase in organic matter, and thelack of disruption of soil microbes and arthropods.For farmers converting fields to no-till, there can bethe added cost of equipment rental for special plantersutilizing the 20-ton drills needed for placing the seedsand fertilizer through the previous crop’s residue. Fritzwas able to offset the initial equipment cost through acost-share program with the NRCS. Another challengeis the management of weeds that can grow amongstthe stubble. Fritz sees this as a short-term cost that willbe offset in the long-term by increased yields due toimproved soil quality.
Fritz explained another change in practice that hasled to a more efficient use of resources on his range-land. After observing the timing of the growth of annualand perennial grasses on his ranchland, Fritz shifted froma fall-calving schedule to calving in January, so that bymid-February, when hungry calves are first starting tobe weaned, there is a maximum amount of tender for-age available. By switching to spring calving, it matchedthe timing of the animals’ greatest energy demand withthe rangeland’s largest supply, thus reducing the costfor hay supplementation. Durst has presented work-shops on grazing management using temporary electricfencing, and describes how effective this technique canbe, since cattle can be trained very quickly to avoidthis type of fencing, allowing for potential reductionsin the costs involved in the installation and mainte-nance of more substantial posts with multiple wires forall pasture areas. Fritz has also observed that by grazingthe foothill grasslands briefly in May after the nativeperennials have produced seed, the cattles’ hoof actionappeared to improve the yield of perennial grasses laterin the year following the rains. By timing grazing tomimic native herbivore grazing as much as possible,weeds can be reduced and native plants encouraged,slowly shifting the rangeland ecosystem closer to its origi-nal composition.
Continued on page 5 
Prescribed grazing with electric fence trained cattle and minimal fencing.
Conservation QuarterlyFall 2007page 3
Capay Valley orchard with bank erosion on Cache Creek.Leaf Beetle adult and larvae feeding on tamarisk.
YCRCD efforts to manage invasive weeds alongCache Creek in Capay Valley are now receiving someassistance from a biocontrol species, the tamarisk leaf beetle (
Diorhabda elongata 
). Beetles have been re-leased upstream of Rumsey as part of a study conductedby the USDA Agricultural Research Service and UCD’sDepartment of Entomology.Human efforts to control tamarisk remain outpacedby the weed’s rapid spread. In the 1980’s, the USDAAgriculture Research Service (ARS) initiated a searchand study for an effective natural enemy of the plantthat would not impact any crop or native plants. Re-searchers succeeded in locating tamarisk-feedingspecialist beetles that appeared to defoliate tamariskin China, Kazakhstan, Greece and Crete, and con-ducted ten years of safety tests before initiatingcontrolled/caged releases in the western U.S.Already, thousands of acres of tamarisk are beingsuccessfully defoliated by the beetle in Nevada and Wyoming, but it has taken longer for the beetles toestablish in California, partly because of the differ-ences in day-length sensitivity by the beetles from morenorthern latitudes. Tamarisk leaf beetles imported fromGreece and Crete appear to be better matched to theconditions and particular tamarisk species in California.Despite a wet year in 2006 and a very dry, coldwinter in 2007, the Cache Creek population of leaf YCRCD successfully applied for funding to support alarge-scale geomorphic and hydrological study of causesof and appropriate solutions for stream bank instabilityin Capay Valley. The grant from the CALFED WatershedProgram will be funded for $389,000 to conduct twoyears of work starting in January 2008.Kamman Hydrology & Engineering (KHE) will col-lect historic and current data on creek function to producemodels that predict the locations and future rates of ero-sion. This will aid in the selection of optimal places alongthe creek to focus (or avoid) efforts in bank stabilizationand restoration projects. KHE will also develop restora-tion designsthough collabora-tion with the localstakeholdersgroup, a watershedassessment team,the Cache Creek Watershed Forumand other YoloCounty partners.
beetles released about four years ago has expandedfrom Rumsey to Camp Haswell in the north, and tothe Guinda Bridge in the south. The affected tamariskstands appear completely defoliated and brown incolor. According to YCRCD “weed warrior” TanyaMeyer, that is all due to the feeding of the adult andlarval tamarisk beetle. The process takes about fiveyears to completely kill a stand, and beetles may pro-duce two to three generations during a season. In thewinter, the beetles won’t be visible because they seekshelter in leaf litter.Keep your eye outfor this helpful yellow andblack beetle in the CacheCreek area next springand summer, as they willagain be busy in theirbiocontrol activities. We will extend the expertise and information ob-tained through the study to develop a watershed scienceeducation program for Esparto Middle School students.The ‘STREAM’ (Student Training in Reporting for Envi-ronmental & Agricultural-Science Media) program willbegin in fall 2008 and will supplement 6th graders’ on-going studies of earth and life sciences.The Center for Land-Based Learning will offer lo-gistical support during student field visit days alongCache Creek. During field visits, students will learnphoto monitoring and measures of watershed condi-tion. Students will also be trained to use digital A.V.equipment from Davis Media Access, a communitymedia organization, to produce their own documen-taries, podcasts and websites for presentation to thecommunity each May, as part of Watershed Aware-ness Month activities. By providing students withtechniques to investigate, document and communi-cate findings about the health of their watershed, wehope that students will have an increased awarenessand long-term interest in resource stewardship withinthe local community.
TTTTTamarisk-Eatinamarisk-Eatinamarisk-Eatinamarisk-Eatinamarisk-Eatin g Leaf  g Leaf  g Leaf  g Leaf  g Leaf Beetles AidinBeetles AidinBeetles AidinBeetles AidinBeetles Aidin g W g W g W g W g Weed Manaeed Manaeed Manaeed Manaeed Mana g g g g gementementementementementNeNeNeNeNew Grant f w Grant f w Grant f w Grant f w Grant f or Eror Eror Eror Eror Erosion Controsion Controsion Controsion Controsion Control & Enol & Enol & Enol & Enol & Envirvirvirvirvironmental Education in Capaonmental Education in Capaonmental Education in Capaonmental Education in Capaonmental Education in Capa y V y V y V y V y Valleallealleallealle y  y  y  y  y 

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