Nut Grower Uses Cover Crops to Improve Soil Health and Bottom Lines | Local

DURHAM, Calif. – “Sustainability. It’s the big buzzword right now, and farmers have always been sustainable,” said Dax Kimmelshue, producer of Durham Walnut.

The Durham nut grower is planting cover crops this month to help his young trees.

“It’s called a mixture of nuts; brassica – it’s mustard and radishes, peas, vegetables, beans and oats,” Kimmelshue said.

The tiny seeds quickly turn into a cover crop.

Planting cover crops is a growing regenerative agricultural practice.

“It’s more and more a science. We have all been trained in this either by doing it all our lives or in college. But we’re still learning,” Kimmelshue said.

It’s extra work, but Kimmelshue says it adds various microbes to the soil depleted by monoculture.

“These orchards in Durham Region have been in the ground for a hundred years, they’re not the same trees, but they’re turning over from generation to generation,” Kimmelshue said.

The Chico State Center for Regenerative Agriculture wants to inspire more local growers to regenerate the soil – for their own good.

Professor Cynthia Daly claims that every 1% increase in soil organic matter improves its water-holding capacity by 2,000 gallons per acre.

“We think it’s worth our investment, we’ve been doing it for six or seven years and we’re very happy with it – benefits the soil and the brassica, mustard and radish is actually a naturally growing pesticide,” Kimmelshue said. .

He says that in the spring, when they cut the cover crop and grind it into the soil, some plants ward off nematodes – a type of worm.

For those who need an extra boost to get on board, new help is available.

Chico State secured a $7 million grant through the Natural Resources Conservation Service to boost regenerative practices including composting, crop rotation and managed grazing.

“Everything changes over the years. Every year there are new things that come out and you think, ‘ok, how can I make this work for me,'” Kimmelshue said.

This NRCS grant is expected to be available to local growers by January 2022.

KK&R Ranch will also hold a cover crop demonstration for olive growers on January 6, from 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m.

For more information on the NRCS, click here.

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