UC ANR NEWS
Across the United States, Americans are buying and growing plants as a pick-me-up during the COVID-19 crisis, reported Lisa Irizarry in Newsday. The paper focused its story on Long Island, N.Y., its area of local circulation, but turned to UC Cooperative Extension emeritus advisor Rose Hayden-Smith for commentary about the trend.
Hayden-Smith is the author of "Sowing the Seeds of Victory - American Gardening Programs of World War I" and now serves as the educational technology fellow for eXtension, an organization that helps extension professionals generate a more visible and measurable local impact. Hayden-Smith said plants can have a calming effect in stressful times. Increases in gardening occurred during the 1918-19 influenza pandemic and during World Wars I and II.
"We always turn to gardening during times of crisis in this country. The last big surge of gardening interest was during the last economic crisis," she said.
In the current environment, people are gardening for a family activity, to grow healthy food and acquire new skills, as reflected in the rise of other home arts, such as baking.
"It's earth-friendly and connects people with nature," Hayden-Smith said. "It's restorative and a way to be physically active. It feels as if it's something we take positive action on."
Considered among the most important agricultural innovations in the world, drip irrigation has been researched for decades. UC Cooperative Extension weed management advisor Aliasghar Montazar has taken a close look at its application in organic spinach cultivation, reported Matthew Grassi in Growing Produce.
Not only does drip irrigation use less water than irrigation with sprinklers, the slow emission of water near plant roots also diminishes the crops' susceptibility to disease. Growers believe that ongoing issues with downy mildew is at least partially caused by moisture that sprinklers leave in the plant canopy.
“Being certified organic, there is really nothing they can use as fungicide; so it is a big problem,” Montazar said. “So, we said ‘Let's try drip (irrigation) in spinach.'”
Early results are promising. Montazar has analyzed enough field data from the plots to directly correlate a four- to five-times reduction in downy mildew disease in plots grown with drip irrigation compared to sprinkler-irrigated plots.
“The other thing to note is there is a nice savings on energy as well,” Montazar said. “Another grower reported he saved $200 an acre on energy savings from getting off the sprinklers. Because with drip, there is less pressure needed, so it consumes less energy (to pump water).”
Coronavirus's next victim: Big Meat
(Grist) Nathanael Johnson, April 30
“It's going to cause price spikes somewhere downstream,” said Rich Sexton, an agricultural economist at the University of California, Davis. But the average shopper might only notice empty shelves rather than higher prices, because “big grocery chains don't like to jack up prices, especially in times like this.”
…“There is going to be even more of a rush to automate farmwork and slaughterhouses,” Sexton said.
As meat plants idle, California has no shortage of fish, dairy
(NBC News) Dennis Romero, April 29
…California produces about 20 percent of the nation's milk and has a large poultry processor in Foster Farms, but is otherwise dependent on the Midwest for pork and much of its beef, according to Daniel Sumner, director of the University of California's Agricultural Issues Center.
The state slaughters dairy cows for hamburger and raises calves for beef. But the 1-year-old livestock is sent to the Midwest for corn and soy feeding before being processed for beef there, he said. "We've never produced any hogs to speak of," Sumner added.
California producers fill nearly half the state's chicken and egg demand, he said.
1-In-4 San Diegans Unemployed From Pandemic, North County Wants Businesses To Reopen, San Diego Sees Drop In Homelessness, And Online Learning Nightmare For Vets
(KPBS Midday Edition) Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon, April 29
An estimated 25% of San Diegans are out of work because of the pandemic, according to a new SANDAG report. Plus, a handful of North County mayors want businesses in their towns to reopen sooner rather than later. Also, homelessness in San Diego is seeing a decline, according to the latest homeless count. Also, it's not just young students who are having a hard time with distance learning, veteran students are also dealing with the challenges of virtual classrooms. ... Finally, growing your own veggies? Some gardening tips from a master gardener. [UC Master Gardener Sommer Cartier discusses a new website to help gardeners https://www.mastergardenersd.org/lets-grow-together-san-diego/.]
Virus-related food shortages will be temporary in U.S., experts say
(Farm Press) Tim Hearden, April 29
…“Every economist agrees that the massive hit to the world economy and trade will likely cause millions of very poor people to be out of work and with no income,” said agricultural economist Daniel Sumner, director of the University of California's Agricultural Issues Center. “This is a consequence of the disease, but also of the policy of shutting down the economy.
“In poor countries, when the economy is shut down, the poorest people get even more hungry and people die, especially the kids,” Sumner said in an email.
'We're in pretty good shape' | Northern California unlikely to see meat shortage
(ABC10) Lena Howland, April 29
… Despite the ad Tyson Foods released over the weekend, saying the food supply chain in America is breaking, UC Davis Professor Daniel Sumner said we could expect to see some higher prices, but he doesn't expect to see shelves being wiped out anytime soon.
"If you want to have some very specialized meat product, you may find that in short supply in your local market on the day you're shopping, if you went back the next day, it may be there, but I don't think anybody has to worry about the supply chain in America, we're in pretty good shape," Sumner said.
And he said the only way we will see a shortage is if people panic buy, just like they did with toilet paper.
"As we've learned in the past month or two, you could certainly create a shortage in the sense that consumers can altogether if we all ran out and decided to stock up every freezer space that we have with steaks and pork chops," Summer said.
Nature And The Coronavirus: As Humans Continue Lockdown, Wildlife Creeps Back In
(On Point NPR) Brittany Knotts and Meghna Chakrabarti, April 29
Humanity in lockdown. Wildlife creeps back into cities around the world. We look at the pandemic from the animal kingdom's point of view.
Scientist at work: Trapping urban coyotes to see if they can be 'hazed' away from human neighborhoods
(Conversation) Niamh Quinn, April 29
After weeks of sleepless nights spent scrutinizing grainy images relayed from our remote cameras, mostly of waving grass and tumbling leaves, finally, there it is. A live coyote with a loop around its neck. On October 8, 2019, my colleagues and I caught the first member of the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources pack, #19CU001.
Coronavirus: Should California brace for a meat shortage? Not exactly, say industry experts
(SF Chronicle) Esther Mobley, April 28
… There's not a shortage, exactly, say industry experts, though interruptions to the supply chain mean that it's taking a little longer than usual for meat to get from a farm to your grocery store shelf.
“We will have a short period where we have fewer packages of meat in the case,” said Daniel A. Sumner, director of the University of California Agricultural Issues Center. It will be an inconvenience, he said: “Let's say you like thin-cut pork chops, I like thick-cut pork chops. Well, one of us will be disappointed if we shop late in the day.”
Carbon Sequestration in Vineyards
(AgInfo) Tim Hammerich, April 27
...However, Extension Specialist Kaan Kurtural and his team at the Oakville Experiment Station are currently evaluating the impact cover crops can have on carbon sequestration in vineyards.
Kurtural…”Growers came to us. A couple of the questions they had was how can we sequester the carbon and how can we mitigate the amount of greenhouse gases we emit from the vineyards? So that was some background work done on it. Cover crops do sequester carbon and will store it in the soil. But as you till them, if you till the row middles, all this stuff is release back into the atmosphere. So we worked with a couple of private companies and we were able to get this new type of cover crop using a perennial system. Meaning that it doesn't have to be tilled or mowed, it just goes dormant. So we're comparing now till versus no-till systems using perennial and annual cover crops. So that's how that began.”
Covid-19 has forced large-scale farms that supply institutions to dump produce they can't sell. Why can't it just feed hungry people ? We've got answers.
(Counter) Lela Nargi, April 27
… To get a clearer understanding of where institutional food comes from, why kinks at the center of the supply chain make rerouting a challenge, and what's being done to change that, I talked to a variety of agriculture experts.
…Dr. Gail Feenstra, deputy director, Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program, University of California Davis: Our food system generally is built for global distribution. Now that's suddenly cracked, people are going back to more local food systems, where [important middle-tier components] like storage facilities [for meat and grain] aren't available.
…Feenstra: In California, some new food hubs are starting up to make the connection between small- and mid-scale famers with excess, and consumers who use CalFresh/SNAP. There's also work being done to figure out how to change CSAs to direct delivery or drop-off. Who is making these connections are co-op extension service agents, in every county in the U.S. They can share resources and research, and have access to grant monies. One agent told me she worked with county board supervisors to keep farmers' markets open, then with market managers to reorganize to keep the markets safe.
COVID-19 outbreak causing possible meat shortage across US
(KRON4) Dan Thorn, April 26
…“That doesn't seem to be on the horizon yet… but we have had some disruptions,” Daniel Summer said.
Those disruptions, says Daniel Sumner — a U.C. Davis agricultural economist — will not create a shortage of meat.
Even after the country's largest meat producers including Tyson, along Smithfield and JBS have recently shuttered processing plants.
“You and I may see our favorite supermarket low on something but there will be plenty of meat –beef, pork and chicken that we all like there will be plenty of meat in the supermarkets,” Summer said.
Marin farm sector struggles as virus cripples food services
(Marin IJ) Richard Halstead, April 26
… Randi Black, a University of California Cooperative Extension dairy adviser for Marin County, said, “We're kind of lucky where we are. We haven't been impacted quite as much as some of the eastern U.S. dairies have been. That's where we're seeing a lot of milk dumping.”
Black said that is because processors who buy Marin dairy farmers' milk sell most of their milk to grocery stores, while processors in the east rely more heavily on the food-services industry, which includes restaurants, hotels and airlines.
Want to save your citrus trees? Start a full-fledged insect war
(Los Angeles Times) Jeanette Marantos, April 25
…In citrus-loving California, some 60% of homes already have one or more citrus trees in their yard, said UC Riverside entomologist Elizabeth Grafton-Cardwell, director of the Lindcove Research and Extension Center in Exeter. (That's a statewide average, with fewer in Northern California and more in Southern California, she said.)
…But Mark Hoddle, a biological control specialist at UC Riverside, sees things differently. Hoddle and his entomologist wife, Christina Hoddle, also at UC Riverside, went to Pakistan in 2010 looking for natural enemies of the Asian citrus psyllid, and there they found Tamarixia radiata, tiny parasitoid wasps that lay their eggs on the backs of psyllid toddlers (a.k.a. nymphs).
Even as new technologies revolutionize farming, not everyone has access
(Sac Biz Journal) Emily Hamann, April 24
Technology could hold the key to solving growers' issues both around labor and water.
George Zhuang, a farm adviser with the UC Cooperative Extension, works with wine grape growers in the Fresno region, where machines have largely taken over the job of growing grapes.
“Most newly established vineyards go to 100% mechanization,” Zhuang said.
Amid rising costs and limited availability, farmers struggle to find enough workers
(Sac Biz Journal) Emily Hamann, April 24
…Wine grapes are known for being especially labor intensive. Grape harvesters have been commonplace in vineyards in the San Joaquin Valley for decades, but vines still needed maintenance, including pulling leaves and trimming shoots, by hand. Now that's changing as well, said Kaan Kurtural, viticulture specialist at the UC Davis.
…“We have a lot of consolidation in our business,” Kurtural said. “Vineyards are getting larger as farmers are getting old and their kids don't want to do this anymore, so they're selling their holdings.”
A Strained Food Chain
(Health in all Matters) Michael Joyce, April 24
COVID-19 has drastically disrupted the way food is produced, distributed, and available in the U.S. and around the world. The toll of the virus on those who plant, pick, buy, sell, and, at times, go hungry, is increasing. In this episode, we explore the vulnerabilities of a complex and interconnected food system and the inevitable bright spots along the way.
Guest: Daniel Sumner
Farmers face new challenges in their ongoing quest for water
(Sac Biz Journal) Emily Hamann, April 24
…“Almond trees are actually pretty resilient,” said Katherine Jarvis-Shean, a Sacramento-area orchard farm advisor with the University of California Cooperative Extension.
While the trees themselves can live through a drought year, insufficient water will reduce yields for the present season and seasons into the future, Jarvis-Shean said.
But this year growers can also rely on groundwater pumped from wells drilled into a patchwork of underground aquifers.
“One year with low precipitation is not a problem with groundwater,” Jarvis-Shean said. “The problem is if we continue to have dry winters.”
Protecting The Valley's Vulnerable Populations From COVID-19
(KVPR) Kathleen Schock, April 24
COVID-19 is disproportionately hurting vulnerable communities like seniors, ag workers and the homeless. To learn about efforts to protect these at-risk populations, FM89's Kathleen Schock spoke with Lisa Blecker, pesticide safety education program coordinator for the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Laura Moreno, chair of the Fresno Madera Continuum of Care, and Kristen Beall Watson, CEO of the Kern Community Foundation.
Too celebratory for a pandemic, California's farmed oysters and caviar lose their markets
(San Francisco Chronicle) Janelle Bitker, April 24
…California's aquaculture industry, which includes farmed trout, clams and mussels in addition to higher-end abalone and oysters, represents about $200 million in annual sales, according to Jackson Gross, an aquaculture specialist at UC Davis.
…“Are people willing to pay for a premium local product?,” Gross said. “They're doing that at restaurants, but they're getting the frozen stuff from the big chain stores.”
Stop stable flies from biting into profits
(Progressive Dairy) Julia Hollister, April 23
It only takes five stable flies biting on the front legs of a cow to reduce weight gains and milk yields, according to Alec Gerry, a University of California – Davis veterinary entomology specialist.
Gerry, who spoke at the 2020 Golden State Management Conference in Modesto, California, has been researching flies for over 25 years. His most recent studies are in collaboration with researchers at the Veterinary Medicine Teaching and Research Center in Tulare, California.
In The Quiet Of Sheltering In Place, Have You Encountered Wildlife Differently?
(KPCC ) Larry Mantle, April 23
As the quarantine continues, residents surrounding Griffith Park have shared that they're noticing more wildlife activity - hawk nests, deer in the hills, opossums on the roads.
According to the Los Angeles Times, some wildlife biologists are saying what's changed isn't animal behavior but our own. We finally have the time and the patience to notice the wildlife around us.
Oakland Schools Use Gardening to Help Families
(KCBS radio) Matt Biglar, April 23
Canned food... diapers... tomato plants?
As KCBS Radio's Matt Bigler reports, Oakland schools are helping families get food and supplies and also get into gardening.
The plant giveaway came out of the Contra Costa Master Gardeners spring fundraiser, which unfortunately withered and died this season.
“But with the shelter in place order, we were unable to hold our plant sale.” Dawn Kooyumjian said, they decided to donate their seedlings to nearly 50 organizations, including Oakland Unified.
“People are able to come, pick up their necessities that the school district is providing, and also take home a vegetable plant that will allow them to have a little bit of food security in their home.
The Great Potato Giveaway
(NPR) Stacey Vanek Smith, April 23
…Daniel Sumner is an agricultural economist at the University of California, Davis. He says the problem boils down to two things.
DANIEL SUMNER: How streamlined and specialized things are.
...SUMNER: The farmer will be linked directly to the restaurant customers and grow for that restaurant in San Francisco or New York City or somebody growing exactly the kind of lettuce that McDonald's needs for their hamburgers. That's been a great system.
Lockdown silver linings: For a Sacramento family, baby chickens bring meaning, solace
(Sac Bee) Diana Williams, April 22
…Imagine my delight in stumbling across a backyard chicken census online. It's overseen by Maurice Pitesky, a veterinarian and epidemiologist at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine-Cooperative Extension.
Pitesky's best guess is there are about 100,000 backyard flocks in California. Sacramento probably has about 11 percent of them, making ours the third-highest backyard chicken region in the state, behind Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Volunteer program donates over 30,000 plants to community gardens in Contra Costa
(KRON4) Omar Perez, April 21
A volunteer program donates thousands of vegetable plants to local undeserved communities in the Bay Area free of charge. Over the last few weeks volunteers for The Contra Costa Master Gardeners Program donated more than 30,000 plants to local school and community gardens.
…“Because of COVID-19 they were not able to have the sale so they quickly decided they would distribute the plants for free to local communities, elderly and schools,” Bay Area Program Director Frank McPherson said.
Coyotes, falcons, deer and other wildlife are reclaiming L.A. territory as humans stay at home
(LA Times) Louis Sahagun, April 21
Similarly, research scientist Niamh Quinn, who serves as human-wildlife interactions advisor for UC Cooperative Extension, said none of the five collared coyotes she is studying in the cities of Hacienda Heights, Roland Heights, La Verne and Chino Hills “have changed their behavior yet.”
“I do believe, however, that human behavior has been altered significantly by the lockdown in ways that are closing the gap between us and what's wild around our own homes — and that's great, up to a point,” she said.
She worries that animals may be pushed into closer conflicts with humans. “We have to interact with wildlife from a distance. That is because we still do not know all the diseases that, say, coyotes and rats carry with them.”
A century later, victory gardens connect Americans again
(AP) Kristin M, Hall, April 21
… Creating a victory garden now can be, as it was during World Wars I and II, a shared experience during hardship and uncertainty.
“World War I, to me, is a pretty stark parallel,” said Rose Hayden-Smith, a historian and author of “Sowing the Seeds of Victory: American Gardening Programs of World War I.” “Not only was there a war, but there was an influenza pandemic.”
… “So these gardening posters and food preservation posters would appear in literally dozens of languages,” said Hayden-Smith....“We don't have poster art, but we have Instagram,” she said.
Empty Grocery Shelves and Rotting, Wasted Vegetables: Two Sides of a Supply Chain Problem
(Inside Climate News) Georgina Gustin, April 19
"In terms of resilience and nimbleness, they seem to be able to pivot and figure out new supply chains quickly," said Gail Feenstra, deputy director of the University of California-Davis Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (SAREP). "They're always struggling because of the competition that comes from the global food system. It puts many of them at a disadvantage. But now that system is in complete disarray. It allows these regional food systems to emerge. They're the ones that are bringing relief to communities."
… "This is more than a dress rehearsal. This is it," said Feenstra, of UC-Davis, referring to the disruptions caused by the pandemic. "This is going to be here for a while and it isn't the last time this will happen. This is an opportunity for our policy makers to invest in small and mid-scale businesses."
Is your tree on death's door? Here's how to tell
(LA Times) Jeanette Marantos, April 19
Climate change, invasive species and even international trade are taking a serious toll on California trees. An estimated 150 million trees died during the drought that started in December 2011, according to Smithsonian Magazine, and the stressed trees that survived became more vulnerable to attack by a host of newcomer pests, said Philippe Rolshausen, subtropical tree specialist for the Cooperative Extension office at UC Riverside.
"There are lots of invasive pests everywhere because of global warming and the movement of plant materials in general," he said.
Fresh Produce and Milk Go to Waste Even as People Need Food Amid Coronavirus Pandemic
(KQED Forum) Michael Krasny, April 16
Even as food banks are seeing more demand than ever, some California farmers are dumping milk and letting produce rot. The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted how we eat and in turn, how food is distributed. The closure of many restaurants, venues, and schools is leaving many food suppliers with excess perishables. Meanwhile, retailers and food banks are scrambling to keep food in stock. We talk with experts about how California's food supply chain has been disrupted, how it's adapting, and what to expect in the months to come.
Guests: Dan Sumner, professor of agricultural and resource economics, UC Davis
Pandemic And Wildfire: California Is Preparing For A Crisis Within A Crisis
(CapRadio) Ezra David Romero, April 15
…To protect human health, prescribed burns are not allowed for the time being on Forest Service land. But Ryan Tompkins, a forest advisor with the UC Cooperative Extension for Plumas, Sierra, and Lassen counties, says it's still early enough to prepare for wildfire with other tools like thinning and in some cases burning.
“It is really difficult because of the concerns about smoke and COVID, but sort of now is our chance to be prepared,” said Tompkins.
…“We know the agencies are going to have maybe limited capacity, limited resources, they're going to have other strains on their organizations while dealing with this crisis,” Tompkins said. “So, I think it emphasizes in a silver lining way that we all have a piece to play or a role to play.”
Susie Kocher, a forest adviser for the Lake Tahoe region with the UC Cooperative Extension, is concerned about a triple threat of COVID-19, wildfires, and power shutoffs.
“These two potential situations just could stack on top of the uncertainty of what people need to do,” she said.
Pandemic Crisis Got You Planting a Garden? Join the Club. (18:23)
(BYU Radio) April 14
Guest: Rose Hayden-Smith, PhD, Kellogg Food and Society Policy Fellow, Emeritus Professor of Agriculture and Natural Resources for the University of California, Author of "Sowing the Seeds of Victory: American Gardening Programs of WWI"
The pandemic has sparked a moment of “crisis gardening” among Americans. It's not much different from the Victory Gardens that sprung up in yards around the country during World War I, and then again in World War II.
New fungicide approved for Calif. tree nuts
(Farm Press) Tim Hearden, April 14
… University of California, Riverside plant pathologist Jim Adaskaveg helped develop data to validate the efficacy of ManKocide for California tree nuts and says the product has advantages, including ease of use.
It is also highly effective against copper-resistant bacteria in California, Adaskaveg said in an email.
“The product has efficacy against the walnut blight and bacterial spot of almond pathogens and suppresses fire blight on pome fruit and bacterial blast on almond,” he said.
Adaskaveg said he is unaware of other products that have this combination as a premixture,
People are rushing to plant 'pandemic gardens' and seed companies say they can't keep up with the surge in demand
(Business Insider) Michelle Mark, April 14, 2020
…It's not the first time economic crises have led Americans to grow their own food. One food historian told HuffPost that the trend began during WWI and WWII.
"Crisis-gardening is not new," Rose Hayden-Smith, the author of "Sowing the Seeds of Victory," told the outlet.
4-H searches for locals to serve on sponsoring committee
(San Benito Link) Devii Rao, April 14
We are looking for a few local people to serve on a sponsoring committee to keep 4-H active and strong in San Benito County. The sponsoring committee will organize events such as letter writing campaigns, barn dances, dinners, silent and live auctions, fireworks booths, having 4-H youth sell treats at the fair, or your other creative ideas! Sponsoring committee members are not required to have any affiliation with 4-H. We are looking for business leaders and other people who are well connected in the community and who are motivated to provide educational and leadership opportunities to our youth.
California dairies dump milk, crops may be left to wither as coronavirus pandemic disrupts food system
(SF Chronicle) Kurtis Alexander, April 12
…“Everybody's scrambling. The whole food system is scrambling,” said Daniel Sumner, an agricultural economist at UC Davis. “I don't see a big supply-side issue for agriculture. It's really an issue with the food (delivery) system.”
Widespread shutdown order slams California dairy farmers, ‘You can't turn off the cows'
(Sacramento Bee) Michael Finch II, April 10
…“Like every part of the food system, there are complications. The issue for milk is you can't turn off the cows,” said Daniel A. Sumner, an agricultural economist and professor at UC Davis. “What's becoming more of a problem is the slightly longer-term outlook where we have a massive recession (coming).”
Dairy prices are regulated by the federal government and fluctuate on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. So the price of large quantities of milk, cheese, whey and milk powder is set based on data from the prior month, Sumner said.
In January, milk traded at nearly 18 cents per pound and by March the amount fell nearly five cents. Sumner said this suggests there is a price shock to come in the summer.
Grocers Serving Low-Income Neighborhoods Pinched by Shortages, Rising Prices
(KQED) Farida Jhabvala Romero, April 10
…“This hoarding behavior is unfortunate,” said Richard Sexton, a professor of agriculture and resource economics at UC Davis. “We can understand why people do it, but it is what's causing these disruptions.”
… The current shortages could deepen disadvantages for family-owned neighborhood stores, said Sexton, the UC Davis economist.
“The little guys, the small chains of just a few stores, could get the short end of the stick in this situation because food manufacturers and distributors are going to probably prioritize their biggest and best customers,” he said.
Private Grant Will Support New UC California Organic Institute
(Organic Farmer) Marni Katz, April 10
A $1 million endowment will establish the University of California's first institute for organic research and education within the UC's Agriculture and Natural Resources division (UC ANR), expanding the UC Cooperative Extension's research and outreach capacity to target organic growers in California.
UCANR points to help for Californians amid crisis
(Farm Press) Mark Bell, April 10
…In response to these pressing needs, UC Agriculture and Natural Resources, like many other universities and extension organizations across the country, are moving quickly to get more information online. While I haven't seen the actual numbers, we know millions of students (both high school and university) are quickly transitioning to online classes.
Scientists Worry Agency Plan to Prevent Fires Could Do Opposite
(Bloomberg) Bobby Magill, April 9
…Controlling wildfire in the region depends on how many firefighters the federal government has on the ground—and they'd have to be in the right place at the right time for the fuels reduction plan to work, said Max Moritz, a wildfire specialist at the University of California, Santa Barbara studying how wildfire affects broad landscapes.
As the climate changes, the effectiveness of fuels reductions projects and fuel breaks begins to fade, he said.
“Climate change seems to be priming the landscape for fires to ignite more easily, spread more easily, to burn hotter and larger—so all of these aspects of climate change would make one suspect that fuel breaks have a harder and harder time doing their job,” Moritz said.
The wildfire program is an “expensive large-scale experiment,” he said.
The real reason we're seeing more wildlife during the pandemic
(Pop Sci) Ula Chrobak, April 9
…In those cases, additional sightings might be due to simple behavior changes. But a less charismatic creature may be also on the rise due to an increased human presence at home. Niamh Quinn, a human-wildlife interactions advisor with the University of California, thinks that rat populations may be increasing in New Orleans and elsewhere. That's because people are cooking, storing, and disposing of at home, drawing rats away from closed restaurants and toward residences.
…Quinn agrees. Late last year, she radio-collared five coyotes in Los Angeles for a research project. She says that her coyotes haven't changed their routines since the shelter-in-place order went into effect, staying in their respective territories, which include areas near a shopping mall and golf course. Quinn adds that while the number of coyotes reported in San Francisco on the Coyote Cacher website isn't unusual, they could be moving about during the day more. “People are just at home noticing more things,” she says. “Especially in California, we're not all spending five hours a day on the freeway [now], you know?”
HLB spreads slowly, confined to residential citrus
(Capital Press) Padma Naggapan, April 9
…”It's slower than we expected, compared to Texas and Florida,” said Elizabeth Grafton-Cardwell. “In the Central Valley, homeowners and growers have been able to eradicate the pest, although it's been much more challenging in Southern California. But growers are doing an outstanding job of controlling the psyllids.”
Almond Update: Maximizing Yields and Sustainability from Start to Finish
(AgNet West) Taylor Hillman, April 9, 2020
Setting an orchard up for maximum yield and sustainability is a long game for producers. There are lots of variables, and some are unpredictable such as mother nature. But UC Cooperative Extension Tree Crop Advisor Franz Niederholzer said growers can do several things in the life of an orchard to stay in the game. He believes the most sustainable plan in every aspect of growing is to not focus on hitting home runs but instead have constant attention on management to help them avoid making outs.
Soil health practices show benefits
(Morning Ag Clips) Jeannette Warnert, April 9, 2020
A group of California organic farmers is sharing information about their efforts to combine reduced tillage with the use of cover crops, which they have been planting on their vegetable farms for decades to protect soil while adding carbon and diversity to their production systems.
“Every one of the pioneering farmers has seen tremendous benefits from the practices,” said Jeff Mitchell, UC Cooperative Extension vegetable crops specialist. “These are the very growing practices that we have demonstrated over two decades of research to benefit soil health, environmental conservation and the bottom line on plots near Five Points in Fresno County.”
Why are eggs getting so expensive? Blame coronavirus demand
(LA Times) Samantha Masunaga, April 8
…“Eggs are naturally, very often, one of the most price variable products in the supermarket,” said Daniel Sumner, UC Davis professor of agricultural economics and director of the UC Agricultural Issues Center.
…Egg prices could remain elevated for at least a few months, Sumner said. And the demand for eggs has been historically strong during tougher economic stretches. Eggs are a relatively cheap source of protein and aren't seen as a luxury food item.
“It may take longer to get back to normal for the egg business,” he said. “We can build supply, but it takes a few months.”
Rock Front Ranch permanently conserved for wildlife, grazing by Rangeland Trust
(Santa Maria Times) April 7
“To have this ranch be up against and abut to tens of thousands of acres of public lands is an indispensable connection to have in perpetuity,” said Matthew Shapero, livestock and range adviser in Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties for the University of California Cooperative Extension.
Nutrition experts fear 'dirty dozen' produce list will put off consumers
(UPI) Jessie Higgins, April 7
…"Our typical exposure to pesticides is far lower than levels of health concern," Carl Winter, an emeritus cooperative extension specialist in food and science technology at the University of California-Davis, said in an email.
"A graduate student and I published a paper in 2011 relating dietary exposure to toxicity for the 10 most frequently detected pesticides found on the EWG's 2010 Dirty Dozen list," he said. "Estimated exposures were far below levels of toxicological concern. Recommending consumers reduce their consumption of conventional fruits and vegetables on the Dirty Dozen list is unwarranted."
How to grow a vegetable garden, according to legendary chef Alice Waters
(Fast Company) Aimee Rawlins, April 7
… It's natural to want to go big and plant everything. But it's important to be realistic and start small, and not just because the productivity trap can be debilitating at a time like this.
“Right now we have enough on our plate. Start modestly and in a way that you can manage it,” says Missy Gable, director of the University of California's Master Gardener Program. “If you've never done this before, don't transform a quarter acre.”
… Because soil quality and composition varies depending on region and location, Gable recommends looking up your local master gardener extension program. These programs, which exist in all 50 states, offer classes and resources for home gardeners as well as knowledgable volunteers who are plugged in to local climate and soil particulars. Right now, some master gardener programs, like the one at Oregon State University, are also offering virtual classes. (OSU waived its fee for April and already has more than 17,000 participants.)
Pistachio Rootstock Options Today: Seedlings and Clones
(Pacific Nut Producer) Matthew Malcolm, April 6
Pistachio growers have more options today when it comes to varieties and rootstocks to plant with. Watch this brief interview with UCCE Farm Advisor Elizabeth Fichtner as she shares some of the characteristics of rootstocks currently available to growers and some of the pros and cons to planting on a seedling vs. clone. Read more in Pacific Nut Producer Magazine.
UC urges cattle producers to take precautions
(Farm Press) Larry Forero, Sheila Barry, Josh Davy, Gabrielle Maier, April 6
The COVID-19 pandemic has much of the California population staying home in an effort to reduce the spread of the virus. Across the state, many grocery stores have had shelves emptied of food and other day-to-day necessities as people have stockpiled these essentials.
Coronavirus hit California's cut-flower industry at the worst time
((LA Times) Geoffrey Mohan, April 4
…Cut flowers are a $1.3-billion industry nationwide, though most of that revenue comes from the sale of imported flowers, predominantly from Colombia, according to the UC Davis Agricultural Issues Center. Domestic growers account for about 27% of national sales, down from 37% roughly a decade ago. California-grown flowers account for three-quarters of the national domestic sales, according to the UC Davis researchers.
How The Coronavirus Pandemic Has Led To A Boom In Crisis Gardening
(Huff Post) Jodi Helmer, April 3
… Even though food supplies may be currently secure, said Rose Hayden-Smith, a food historian and author of “Sowing the Seeds of Victory,” understocked supermarket shelves are forcing shoppers to think about the source of their food, especially fruits and vegetables, often for the first time. And their fears have led them straight to the garden center.
“It's helpful to be productive and connect with nature and it's something that's within our control in a situation that feels entirely out of control,” she said.
Gardening during a pandemic
(Appeal Democrat) Chris Kaufman, April 3
Since the toilet paper panic-buying subsided, another item quietly flew off the shelves: garden seeds.
Springtime weather combined with shelter-in-place orders and empty shelves at stores has spurred a spike in seed sales, according to some gardening experts.
“I've seen an increase in seed sales because I've been looking around to see what people are doing and anticipating what kind of questions we will get once we open up again,” said Jan Kendel, a master gardener with the Sutter-Yuba University of California Cooperative Extension. “We've had some calls and emails from people wanting to know if it's a good time to plant tomatoes.”
Spotted Lanternfly is an Invasive Pest
(AgInfo) Tim Hammerich, April 2
The spotted lanternfly is a colorful insect pest that has been infesting vineyards and orchards in the eastern U.S. So far, we have been effective in our efforts to keep the pest away from California's multi-billion-dollar ag industry. But we must remain diligent in these efforts, says Dr. Surendra Dara, Entomology and Biologicals Advisor in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Counties.
“Spotted lanternfly is an invasive pest because of the reason we don't have any natural enemies that can suppress their populations in a natural way in a new environment," said Dara. "And it can actually infest grapes and several other hosts in California of commercial importance. So it is important for us to be aware of the potential impact and do the need to prevent the damage."
The Moment for Food Sovereignty is Now
(Civil Eats) Katie Brimm, April 2
… “People are thinking, ‘If I can't get toilet paper, am I going to be able to get food?'” said Rose Hayden-Smith, a longtime community gardener and a Victory Garden historian, who recently retired from the University of California.
… Hayden-Smith notes that, despite the fact that the coronavirus pandemic came on much more suddenly than either World War, individuals and communities are once again turning to gardening to create food security.
California's truffle industry could be poised for growth if top hunter helps find path
(Sac Bee) Becky Grunewald, April 1
… Her dining companion is a tall scientist with a gentle demeanor, Scott Oneto. Although he didn't command the attention of this room, his work could be key to whether truffle cultivation becomes big business in local farming, or just a flash in the (frying) pan.
Oneto, a sixth generation California farmer with a background in weed science, had to be coaxed into the project, according to O'Toole. Oneto said after a few years of requests, it took a much-needed sabbatical, at which he could “really dive into research” to catch him at the perfect point to start their (hopefully) fruitful collaboration.
An Aggie through-and-through, Oneto got both his bachelor's and master's degrees at UC Davis, and works for Agriculture and Natural Resources. ANR is an unsung arm of the University of California, with the mission to bring the latest in agricultural science to the California community. Oneto not only bridges the gap to farmers by translating academic science research into in-person workshops and handouts, he also tailors research to local needs.
“When I have a farmer or rancher who is presented with problems, whether it be a new pest, weed, pathogen, or the effects of climate change, we help them solve those problems so they can continue to be successful in agriculture,” Oneto said.
Humboldt Using Satellite Tech Against Illicit Cannabis
(TechWire) Carl Smith, April 1
…“Local zoning, permitting and enforcement is probably more important than state-level initiatives, although collaboration across units of government is also key,” said Van Butsic, co-director of the Cannabis Research Center at the University of California, Berkeley.
In fact, every available strategy is needed as California works to implement the “robust standards” that it envisions for cannabis cultivation. For one thing, growers who are willing to play by the rules still face competition from illicit operations. In 2019, sales of illegal cannabis products in California were expected to hit $8.7 billion, more than twice the total for legal sales.
“Larger producers have been able to navigate the system,” said Butsic. “Many smaller growers are going out of business or staying illegal.” Costs are also part of the equation. “The illegal market is competitive because legal marijuana is so expensive to produce under Prop. 64,” Dale Gieringer, director of Cal NORML, told The Los Angeles Times.
GMOs Are an Ally in a Changing Climate
(Wired) Emma Marris, April 1, 2020
In Davis, California, 190 miles from Terranova, I met up with Pamela Ronald, a plant geneticist at UC Davis who has worked to solve this problem. Climate change is making floods worse in parts of South Asia, and in 2006, Ronald helped create a kind of rice that can survive submersion in water. By 2017, some 6 million farmers in Bangladesh, Nepal, and India were growing this rice. We talked in her cozy office, where a painting hangs on the wall of a man under a deluge of rain struggling to plow a field.
College farms still functioning amid shutdowns
(Farm Press) Tim Hearden, April 1, 2020
…Most employees for the UC's Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources are working remotely during their normal business hours and visiting sites in person for essential duties such as feeding animals, officials said. All the UC Cooperative Extension's in-person seminars and workshops scheduled for April were cancelled.
At the research centers, UC leaders are considering which projects should continue and which ones could be postponed, said Mark Lagrimini, UCANR's vice provost of research and extension.
“With the research that can go forward, we're making sure that protection is provided for the workers and students,”Lagrimini said. “We do have staff out there working right now. We have over 500 projects going on. We're in the process of going through 500 projects and making sure they are all able to be conducted safely. It's a big job.
Like flour, yeast, toilet paper and hand sanitizer, all over the country there's been a run on chicks, wrote Diana Williams in a article published by the Sacramento Bee. The author and her family adopted four chicks, and as they grew, so did her thirst for information on raising chickens at home.
"Imagine my delight in stumbling across a backyard chicken census online," Williams wrote.
Pitesky said there are about 100,000 backyard flocks in California. Sacramento probably has about 11 percent of them, making it the third-highest backyard chicken region in the state, behind Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Raising backyard chickens seems to be another somewhat senseless hoarding practice taking place during the COVID-19 crisis. Williams admitted that, "this isn't exactly logical if you consider it's about half a year until chicks lay eggs." She speculated that a search for meaning, purpose and connectedness during COVID-19 uncertainty is another driver of chicken adoption, along with suddenly having more time at home.
"So the prospect of being able to have new life inside our house – life that's warm, fuzzy and unfolding in a new way every day – that seemed more than inviting. It felt essential," Williams wrote.
Industry producers are concerned about the trend.
“We don't like all these people getting into backyard birds,” said Bill Mattos, president of the California Poultry Federation. “People start out trying to grow their own eggs and find out it's not so much fun. Instead of trying to get rid of them properly, people turn them loose and they develop a disease. That's what scares the commercial industry.”