BIFS Workgroup Overview


The University of California - Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) provides funding and institutional support for workgroups to facilitate collaborative planning and coordination of research and extension on emerging and continuing priority issues. The Biologically Integrated Farming Systems (BIFS) Workgroup was ratified in 1999 and re-ratified in 2004 and operated until 2010.

Purpose

The BIFS Workgroup focused on the dynamics of biologically integrated farming systems and how they are manifested in on-farm demonstration projects. Through annual plenary meetings and the BIFS email listserve, workgroup members worked to achieve the following objectives:

  1. Provide a forum to share results and lessons learned from participatory research and demonstration projects focused on encouraging adoption of integrated farming systems, including both the natural and social sciences.
  2. Establish and strengthen networking of UCCE researchers and extensionists with non-ANR cooperators to facilitate potential collaborations and new funding opportunities.
  3. Explore how BIFS and BIFS-like projects can respond to changes in our food system, including state and national policies.

Outcomes

  1. Increased understanding of agroecologically based farming systems by both workgroup members and the agricultural community.
  2. Continued and additional funding for BIFS and BIFS-like projects.
  3. Increased information sharing between social scientists and natural scientists interested in sustainable food and agriculture systems.
  4. Plans for new collaborative initiatives that would assist California farmers in protecting the environment while managing economically viable farming systems.

Who participates

BIFS Workgroup membership included UC ANR staff and faculty, UCCE researchers and extensionists, pest control advisers, representatives from commodity boards, governmental agencies, and nonprofit organizations such as Community Alliance with Family Farmers and The Nature Conservancy.

Topics addressed

The BIFS workgroup addressed the following key issues relevant to agricultural research and extension:

  • Alternatives to using organophosphate and carbamate pesticides
  • Alternative management of animal wastes to minimize impacts on the environmment
  • Reduction of nitrate leaching
  • Confined animal feeding operations
  • Air quality
  • Nutrient management/organic inputs
  • Nonpoint source pollution and total maximum daily loads
  • Watershed management and threats to anadromous fish

The BIFS Workgroup focused on a whole farm approach to achieve desirable results in these areas. Discussions revolved around such varied topics as biological and cultural control of pests, monitoring practices, reduced reliance on agricultural chemicals, soil building practices, habitat management on-farm to reduce pest problems and conserve natural resources. Workgroup members were also concerned about extension and outreach, so they addressed issues of information dissemination, communication with industry and commodity boards and farmworker safety.

The workgroup also followed and reported on long-term evaluations. Pesticide use trends, grower surveys, economic surveys, project management issues and impact evaluation of BIFS projects were all considerations of the BIFS Workgroup.