A wide variety of annual row and field crops are grown at the University Farm. These crops are either used to feed our livestock (alfalfa hay and corn), grown under contract for seed companies, or are sold as commodities on the open market. In order to provide students with appropriate experiences, we use a variety of production methods including conventional, low input, and organic.
Students in a variety of classes utilize the crops for hands-on experience. Many plant and soil science (PSSC) classes include labs at the University Farm. Our PSSC 309B course, directed work experience in field and row crops, provides students with significant experiential education as they manage the production of many of the crops grown at the farm. The agricultural experimental research (AGRI 490) class also uses the crops for a wide range of applied research projects.
Wheat is grown mainly for market although the college has an annual wheat and barley trial conducted in cooperation with the UC Cooperative Extension. Safflower is typically grown for seed or oil for Cal West Seeds, a local co-op. Corn is grown for silage and grain for on-farm use in the livestock units. Alfalfa and grain hay are grown mostly for on-farm use with a portion being marketed locally. Seed crops are produced under contract for companies such as Harris-Moran and Seminis Seed. Other crops such as sunflowers and beans are grown from time to time.
The PSSC 309 class was started in the early 1960s by Ken Bensel and later revised by Buel Mouser. Students are able to farm 5 to 15 acres and learn about the production of different commodities from the initial stages of developing a budget to planting, irrigation, pest management, harvest, and finally sale of the crop.
Currently we are working with GPS guidance and mapping in the student projects. The projects include mapping the farm, mapping problem weed areas, using GPS to guide spot treatment of weeds and collection of field/yield data.