Lockeford researchers boost conservation efforts

Reed Fujii, Recordnet

The topics were perhaps a bit esoteric — providing habitat for pollinators, primarily native California bees, and promoting healthy soil with a balance of plant and microbial life.

But interest in such research, promising benefits to farming and conserving the environment, brought several dozen people together Tuesday at the annual open house of the Lockeford Plant Materials Center, operated by the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Born out of the Dust Bowl era and resulting federal government efforts to select, test and provide plants that helped farmers conserve soil and combat erosion, center manager Margaret Smither-Kopperal said that the agency’s focus has shifted over time.

While the 106-acre facility on the south bank of the Mokelumne River continues to cultivate, harvest and provide seed for about 30 plant varieties, much similar work is now being done by commercial seed companies. So it’s moving on to a broader range of applied research.

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