Project: Bringing No-till and Direct Seeding Technology to San Juan Island Farms

Project Manager:San Juan County Conservation District No-till Direct Seed Soil Health Project
San Juan Conservation District PO Box 1728
Friday Harbor, WA 98250
(360) 378-6621


To introduce a No-till Direct Seed Program to the San Juan County agricultural community. The District will provide on-site technical assistance, using a no-till drill purchased by the District, to at least 10 local farmers. Cover crop seeds and rotation education will be provided as part of the project to ensure that soil will remain covered at all times during the three-year project, with maximum plant diversity. Results will be shared on tours and field days.

Project Update: Winter 2018
The program has been designed with a landowner packet that explains how to implement the new no-till practices, including the cover seed trials that will keep the ground covered. The packet is ready to be sent to the 20 landowners who have expressed an interest.

Using small one or two-acre test plots on ten to twenty farms on four ferry-served islands, we will begin testing soils this spring and later will test yields for experimental cover crops planted using the No-till direct seed drill. We expect to add a level of experimentation with both native seeds and biochar. All results will be carefully monitored, with before and after soil testing. Given the wide variation in soil types in the islands, this project is designed to be site-specific, tailored to the soil type and micro-climate of the individual farms. Working with a local business, Natural Plant Solutions, LLC, we hope to be able to provide San Juan County farmers and livestock managers with a suite of successful cover crops and soil amendments for a range of soil types.


Bruce Gregory, SJICD conservation planner, left, and Andrew Borner, Managing Partner, Natural Plant Solutions LLC, right.

Project Update: Late Spring 2018 to Summer 2018
Spring planting was a bit delayed due to excess field moisture on most sites. By the time sites had dried out and could take the weight of a tractor and drill we were into late May, early June. The annual dry out cycle hit with a vengeance quickly thereafter.

The number of cooperators for the spring sessions was eight. These were spread over three of the main islands, San Juan, Orcas, and Lopez.

Due to the late arrival of drill purchase funds from our other grant with DOE, a sub-contractor based out of Shaw Is., Andrew Borner (Natural Plant Solutions, LLC) was recruited under a sub-contract amendment to plant on the eight sites. Andrew offered a custom blend he developed that mixed a perennial grass blend with a white clover and a mix of organic pellet fertilizer with biochar added in that several of the cooperators used due to the short timeline.

Conservation District staff coordinated with the cooperators and Andrew Borner. In one situation staff attended the planting to gather video and still photographs for future outreach and begin to get up to speed on drill configuration, setup, and calibration. Additional video interviews with several cooperators, Andrew Borner and C.D. staff were collected in July for a video production that we are producing and will release for the SJC Fair and other venues. Several types of seeding were done. Barley, various grass seed species, clover, Birdsfoot trefoil, Plantain, Chicory and in one field on Lopez some forage radish was in the mix.