UC ANR NEWS
A 140-year-old Moreton Bay fig tree that shaded a plaza at El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument toppled suddenly during a Chinese lantern festival, reported Matthew Ormseth in the Los Angeles Times. The imposing tree was likely a victim of urbanization, according to UC Cooperative Extension horticulture advisor Don Hodel.
The commanding breed of tree with an enveloping canopy was brought to Southern California from Australia in the 1860 and 1870s to provide shade and ornamentation, Hodel said.
"Their grandeur; their size - they have an imposing habit; their root structure is incredible; the spreading nature of the branches," Hodel said of Moreton Bay figs.
However, when he last saw the fig tree and three others at El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument six years ago, "I wasn't too impressed by their health or their size, considering they're 140-something years old," Hodel said.
The fact that the tree was growing in a planter surrounded by concrete likely contributed to its early demise.
“In a well-maintained landscape — what I call ‘benign neglect,' where you give a tree some water, let the leaves fall and leave them where they lay — I imagine it could live 200 years or more,” Hodel said.
Five California leaders, including two UC Cooperative Extension scientists, were recognized for their contributions to the field of agriculture and climate change at the California Climate & Agriculture Summit at UC Davis on March 5, 2019, said a news release issued by California Climate & Agriculture Network (CalCAN).
The summit was organized by CalCAN and brought together some of the state's foremost experts in agriculture — including farmers, agriculture professionals, researchers, advocates and policymakers — to grapple with the challenges of climate change and share knowledge about the opportunities facing the industry.
At the summit, CalCAN presented the leadership award for agricultural professional to Ruth Dalquist-Willard, UC Cooperative Extension small farms advisor in Fresno and Tulare counties.
Dalquist-Willard helps keep small-scale, diversified farmers in business by providing support with marketing, regulatory compliance, processing of value-added products, water and energy efficiency, and integrated pest management. She has been a driving force behind increasing access by Hmong farmers in the Fresno area to California's State Water Efficiency and Enhancement Program (SWEEP). Dalquist-Willard has promoted the program, provided thousands of hours of one-to-one, culturally-relevant support to farmers on grant applications, and assisted with project design and installation. The farmers she has supported are now benefiting from water, energy and financial savings.
"There are large environmental problems to solve in the Central Valley, and it's time for a different conversation around farming there," Dalquist-Willard said. "I feel that there needs to be a conversation in the middle to solve problems rather than a conflict-based approach."
The leadership award for researcher was presented to Tapan Pathak, UC Cooperative Extension specialist for climate adaptation in agriculture, based at UC Merced.
Pathak is the chair of the UC Cooperative Extension Climate Change Adaptation Workgroup, which brings together scientists across the UC system to collaborate on research and extension projects related to climate change adaptation in California agriculture. Pathak is the lead author on an important and timely paper that was published in 2018 in the journal Agronomy. It synthesizes the impacts of climate change on California agriculture and offers directions for future research and implementation.
"We need more facilitated dialog with policy researchers and scientists on the science of climate change, and the implications of not taking action," Pathak said. "Given the scale of California agriculture and the pressure of climate change impacts, we need even more substantial funding for incentives for farmers and for research and tools, and we must integrate growers from the beginning of the process."
The other CalCAN leadership awards were presented to the following:
Leadership Award for policymaker: Ken Alex, former Director of Governor Brown's Office of Planning & Research
Leadership Award for farmer/rancher: Ward and Rosie Burroughs, Burroughs Family Farm (Denair, CA)
Leadership award for legislative staff: Brett Williams, Office of Assemblymember Jacqui Irwin
Despite increasing awareness of the issue of lead in drinking water, UC Nutrition Policy Institute and Harvard School of Public Health researchers found that many students in the U.S. attend public schools in states where not all taps are tested for lead, according to reports in various media outlets including The Guardian, NBC News and The Nation.
“All kids, no matter where they live, should have access to safe drinking water in school,” said Angie Cradock of Harvard's Prevention Research Center on Nutrition and Physical Activity, who led the study team. “Drinking water is important for helping kids grow up healthy, and water should be safe to drink.”
The researchers found that there is no uniformity in states' approaches to create and oversee programs to test for elevated lead in school drinking water. When collected, data are not regularly made available to guide action to reduce potential exposure to lead. About half of the country's students are at public schools in states that don't have programs or requirements to test drinking water in those schools.
Of the 24 states (plus Washington, D.C.) with a statewide program to test school drinking water for lead, only 12 states had data that could be analyzed by the research team. In these 12 states, 44 percent of all schools had at least one tap that tested higher than their state's threshold for action, and 12 percent of all samples had a lead concentration higher than the state's action level. The report also describes the features of statewide initiatives in operation between Jan. 1, 2016, and Feb. 28, 2018, in 24 states and the District of Columbia to conduct testing for lead in school drinking water.
For more information, see the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health website.
Abundant rainfall in January and February 2019 bodes well for the forthcoming Central Valley strawberry season, reported Reuben Contreras on ABC Channel 30 Action News in Fresno.
Contreras interviewed Michael Yang, small farms and specialty crops Hmong agricultural assistant with UC Cooperative Extension.
"We need the water as much as we can right now," Yang said. He said the rain will add to the groundwater supply most farmers use to grow their crops, plus it will make the strawberries sweeter.
Cool weather is also welcome.
"Strawberries need cool weather but in the summer, the hot weather with the variety strawberries will not survive the heat," he said.
In the San Joaquin Valley, strawberries are picked from late March to early June. If the wet weather pattern established in January and February continues through the spring, that could spell trouble for strawberry farmers. Wet strawberries can rot in the field.
Only an hour north of Los Angeles, one of the nation's highest-populated metropolitan centers, a vibrant farming community is actively producing millions of dollars in agricultural crops, reported Teresa O'Conner on KCET.org.
O'Conner's article features Ventura County, where farms continue to prosper despite natural disasters, encroaching housing developments, drought conditions and global competition. About $259 million worth of lemons were sold in 2017, making the citrus fruit the number-two crop for the county. The top spot belongs to strawberries at $654 million. Celery, nursery stock, raspberries, avocados, cut flowers, tomatoes, peppers and cabbage round out the rest of top ten crops. Ventura County boasts 20 additional million-dollar crops, ranging from kale, blueberries, Asian vegetables and oranges to cucumbers, spinach and lettuce.
One reason for the Ventura County agricultural industry's success is the support it enjoys from local residents. A county-wide grassroots initiative called SOAR (Save Open Space and Agricultural Resources) led to legislation that “requires a majority vote of the people in order to rezone unincorporated open space, agricultural or rural land for development." Voter-approved SOAR initiatives have been passed by the cities of Camarillo, Fillmore, Moorpark, Oxnard, Santa Paula, Simi Valley, Thousand Oaks and Ventura.
O'Conner spoke to UC Cooperative Extension advisor in digital communications Rose Hayden-Smith, editor of the UC Food Observer blog, about the connection between community food systems, the health of individuals and the survival of local farms.
“Everyone eats: everyone is a stakeholder,” Hayden-Smith said. “I would like people to be engaged with the food system, and to advocate for positive change. Think about where your food comes from and ask critical questions about the supply chain. Meet people who are involved in producing, processing, distributing and preparing the food you eat. Honor them with questions about and interest in their work.”