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Nickels Soil Lab Projects

Leslie J. Nickels Trust

Nickels Soil Laboratory in cooperation with The University of California

Arbuckle, California


The Nickels Soil Laboratory (NSL) began operating in the 1970s, initiated by UC Farm Advisor Tom Aldrich, with the support of the Colusa County
Board of Supervisors and the Directors of the Colusa Irrigation District on land provided by The Leslie J. Nickels Trust throught the bequest of Mr. Leslie Nickels.  This private research farm emphasizes soil and irrigation technologies.  Early projects included the introduction of drip irrigation and the evaluation of almond varieties and rootstocks. An MOU was signed in 1982 between the Nickels Trust and the University of Pomology Farm Advisor cooperates with the farm manager to coordinate research activities and farming practices. A half-time manager and two full time employees work for The Leslie J. Nickels Trust.  Primary funding for the operation comes from crop sales with additional support from the Almond Board of California and various agricultural businesses.

The NSL is the largest almond research facility in the United States with 110 acres of almonds, 17 acres of walnuts, 3 acres of olives and 40+ acreas of open land. The facility is southest of Arbuckle, CA about 35 miles north of the UCD campus. The facitlity includes permanent buildings, gravel roads, microirrigation systems and orchard equipment. A complete weather station is on site and accessible via UCIPM website.  Twelve research and/or demonstration projects are currently in progress.

The UCCE Regional Director for the Central Valley apppoints a Research Advsiory Committee that reviews research proposals and makes recommendations to the Nickels Trustees for final approval. Yearly progress reports are required by Dec. 1st for each project.


Since drip irrigation was introduced to the region by NSL, local 50,000 acres of local almonds have switched from 90% sprinkler use to 90% microirrigation. Substantial expansion of almond acreage has occurred thoughout the west side of the central valley, in part due to NSL management techniques for almond production on class II-IV soils. Other projects have documented the effective use of B.t. bioinsecticide for peach twig dorer control, supported cost saving pruning practices in almond and walnut, developed walnut production methods for marginal soils and proven the feasibility of subsurface drip irrigation systems for almonds.

The lab also exists to take on challenging research questions that aren't attractive to commerical operations. "Can commerical almond trees survive if not irrigated for a year?" "What happens if pheromones that attract damaging bettles are place in walnut trees?"

The Annual Nickels Field Day is held each May and attracts 100-200 growers from throughtout the state. Over the Lab's 30-year history and working with UC and local partners, Nickels has developed a sound reputation for both the developemnt and the demonstration of useful research-based information for local, regional and statewide agriculture.


Opportunities are available to UC faculty, Farm Advisor and students and USDA scientists for field research on a yearly or long-term basis. Land, crop production requirements and labor are available for approved projects. Researcher are invited to submit proposals using a simple, two-page form.

Submit Research Proposals forms to: Franz Niederholzer, NSL RAC Chair, UCCE Farm Advisor, P.O. Box 180, Colusa, CA 95932. fjniederholzer@ucanr.edu

Here you will find information and forms regarding the Call for Proposals for the Nickels Soil Lab.

Call for proposal

NSL Proposal Form

History Of Nickels