By Greg Cluff, LeAnn Riley, & Julie Beechinor, Bakersfield College Agriculture Faculty
The Bakersfield College Agriculture Farm Laboratory has been undergoing extensive modernization for the last five years with funding from Strong Workforce, and large donations from local agriculture industries and organizations. Many of the projects are either completed or nearing completion and will be used as teaching tools this coming fall semester.
Some of the more educationally important plant and food science projects include the replacement of old grape vines and trellis systems with the most modern varieties and systems, the replacement of old citrus trees with the most modern varieties, development of a modern olive orchard using the new hedgerow management technique for olive oil production, planting of almond and pistachio orchards with the newest varieties, and development of a larger area for the production of seasonal crops such as vegetables and small grains.
Some of the more educationally important animal science projects include the installation of a new year-around pasture area with an automated solid-set sprinkler system, installation of new automated drinking troughs with environmentally safe critter ramps, and installation of new industry standard dairy and beef cattle processing, palpation, and breeding chutes. We have also added outside horse runs with shade for stock for our equestrian courses and BC Rodeo team.
Of particular interest in this time of unprecedented drought is the complete modernization and mechanization of our irrigation/fertigation system. The new system is completely automated with each section or block being monitored for soil moisture content and being independently programmable to irrigate when the content reaches predetermined levels. Part of the system is an automated weather station that measures air and soil temperature, relative humidity, precipitation, evaporation, wind speed, solar radiation, and soil salinity in real-time and sends the data via Wi-Fi to either computers or smartphones. The irrigation itself can be monitored and controlled using computers and/or smartphones. Using this system, we intend to demonstrate to our students some of the most advanced irrigation systems and practices such as the use of subsurface drip and “on-demand” seep tape as well as the use of established furrow and sprinkler systems.
Looking toward the future, we plan to continue to modernize the farm and keep up with fast-changing industry standards for the better education of our students. For example, plant science needs to purchase mechanized vegetable planters for nursery propagated plants, GPS-directed fertilizer applicators, and robotic cultivators for our row crops. Also, animal science has plans to add a mobile hen house for the pasture where poultry can feed and lay eggs in a cage-free environment, a manure collection and composting site so that organic fertilizer can be used as a regenerative product for pasture production, and modernize the pre-existing barn with an embryology and artificial insemination laboratory where students can study animal reproduction in more detail.
If you would like more information visit BakersfieldCollege.edu/Agriculture.