UC Merced soil physics professor, Teamrat Ghezzehei, along with Post-Doc researcher, Jing Yan, PhD student Samuel Araya, and Teamrat's son, Essey Afewerki, visited the longstanding NRI Project in Five Points on July 12th
to orient themselves regarding upcoming research they'll be conducting on hydraulic properties of the soils at the site. A recently-funded DWR project, Increasing Water Use Efficiency and Drought Resilience in California Agriculture,
will be the basis of the PhD research of Araya, who's starting up at UC Merced after receiving his MS degree at UC Merced and his BS at UC Davis. The objectives of Araya and Ghezzehei's research will be to 1) compare soil hydraulic properties between conservation agriculture systems with conventional tillage with and without cover following 18 years of management in the NRI Project field, 2) quantify the changes in soil water storage with cover crops and fallow to determine the impact of cover crops on the soil water balance, 3) characterize the relationship between soil physical properties associated with soil water dynamics and water use efficiency and system resilience across multiple farm sites in the CV, and 4) to develop and implement an outreach program to disseminate the information and findings from this project to the region. This UC Merced team will be working with others who've been involved with the study over the years including Randy Southard, Jan Hopmans, Will Horwath and Jeff Mitchell of UC Davis, Dan Munk of UC ANR Fresno County, Marsha Campbell of UC ANR Stanislaus County, Anil Shrestha of Fresno State, Jerry Hatfield of the USDA ARS National Lab for Agriculture and the Environment in Ames, IA, Robert Roy, Genett Carstensen, Joe Williams, Margaret Smither-Kopperl, Tony Rolfes, Zahangir Kabir and Brook Gale of USDA NRCS, private sector partners, Monte Bottens, Alan Wilcox, Matt and Silas Rossow, and Cary Crum of Cal Ag Solutions, local farmers, John Diener, Scott Schmidt, Jesse Sanchez, Alan Sano, Dino Giacomazzi, Michael Crowell, and Tom Barcellos, and Mitchell's mentor, Dwayne Beck of South Dakota State University and the Dakota Lakes Research Farm. This team is eagerly awaiting the start of the project's work this fall and to the understanding that Ghezzehei and Araya will be contributing to how no-till and cover crop management have impacted soil physical and hydraulic properties in the NRI Project study.
Ghezzehei hails originally from Eritrea where he tells us, “We don't have traditional last name; thus, my son's last name is my dad's first name just like my last name is my grandfather's first name.” Essey is a sixth-grader at a Merced elementary school.
Following their visit to the NRI Project field, Teamrat, Essey, Samuel and Jing joined NRI Project representative, Jeff Mitchell, for a traditional CASI hospitality lunch at El Ranchero Café in Five Points where the group had a chance to talk with local Westside farmers and learn more about the water shortage issues they face.