CORVALLIS - Some Willamette Valley farmers, Oregon State University Extension personnel and others will team up on Monday, July 23, and Wednesday, July 25, to offer twilight field tours featuring conservation techniques that seem to maintain crop yields while reducing costs and improving soil quality.

The tours will feature presentations on strip-till vegetable production systems, do-it-yourself soil quality evaluation methods, and government financial support programs for conservation activities by farmers and ranchers. Also, Willamette Valley growers will share their experiences using strip-tillage and cover crops.

"We've conducted more than 25 on-farm trials over the last four years to evaluate strip-till vegetable production," said John Luna, a campus-based OSU Extension Service vegetable crops specialist. "Yields have, on average, been as good or better than conventional tillage. But there's a big savings in tillage and labor costs with strip-till, as well as improvements in soil quality."

Dan McGrath, an OSU Extension vegetable crops specialist based in Marion County, will demonstrate easy-to-use methods of assessing soil quality.

"Using these simple techniques," McGrath said, "growers can begin to see the impacts of various farming practices on their soil quality. Healthy soils produce healthy roots, which produce healthy plants. There's a real connection between soil quality, crop yield and profitability." Representatives of the federal Natural Resource Conservation Service will discuss various government programs that provide financial assistance to farmers and ranchers for soil, water, and wildlife conservation practices.

Both tours will start at 6 p.m. and end at 8:30 p.m. The July 23 tour, hosted by Stahlbush Island Farms, will be held approximately three miles east of Corvallis on Highway 34.

The July 25 tour, hosted by Country Heritage Farms, will be held about three miles south of Dayton on Highway 221 at the intersection with Palmer Creek Road. At both sites, look for the "Conservation Farming Field Day" signs.

The tours are sponsored by Oregon State University Extension, the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board, and the USDA Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program. For more information, contact John Luna, 541-737-5430 or Dan McGrath, 503-373-3759.

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John Luna, 541-737-5430