California farmers take home conservation awards

Farmers Jim Couto, Kerman, Calif. and Tony Turkovich, Winters, Calif. have received the 2007 Conservation Tillage Farmer Innovator Award.

The award is presented annually by the University of California and Natural Resources Conservation Service Conservation Tillage Workgroup for innovation and leadership in the development, refinement, and use of conservation tillage systems in California.

“Jim has excelled in developing innovative conservation tillage approaches for his farm and has become a true leader in the entire arena of Conservation Tillage in California's Central Valley,” said Jeff Mitchell, UC Cooperative Extension vegetable crops specialist, the workgroup chair.

Couto invented and refined a custom “one-pass” cotton stalk management tool. He worked with Bigham Brothers Inc., of Lubbock, Texas, and their California distributors to develop a minimum disturbance subsoiler, cotton root cutter, and bed reshaper designed specifically for California agricultural systems.

Couto is a member of the Conservation Tillage Workgroup’s Core Adoption Group, which meets periodically to address issues related to the more widespread adoption of conservation tillage practices in California.

Turkovich is a partner in Button & Turkovich Ranch, a diversified 5,000-acre farm that produces corn, tomatoes, alfalfa, and other crops.

”Tony has been a pioneer in the development of minimum tillage production systems for a wide variety of crops,” Mitchell said.

Involved in conservation tillage production since the mid-1980s, Turkovich is the most experienced conservation tillage farmer in the Sacramento Valley, Mitchell said.

“Long before economic and environmental pressures that encourage shifts toward minimum tillage practices, Tony anticipated the need for these systems and began developing conservation tillage options for each crop in his rotation,” Mitchell said.

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