UC ANR NEWS
One of the forces driving agricultural experiments in California's fertile San Joaquin Valley is climate change, reported Mark Schapiro on Grist.org. Although some sources still don't feel completely comfortable with the concept.
"Whether it's carbon built up in the atmosphere or just friggin' bad luck, the conditions are straining us," said John Duarte, president of Duarte Nursery.
The state's fruit and nut orchards are taking the most heat as conditions change. A fruit or nut tree planted today may be ill-suited to climatic conditions by the time it begins bearing fruit in 5 or 10 years. Between 1950 and 2009, “chill” hours trees needed annually to reboot trees' metabolic system for the spring bloom had already declined by as much as 30 percent, according to a California Department of Food and Agriculture study.
“If trees haven't had that low-chill period when they wake up in the spring, it's like being up all night and then trying to go to work.” said Mae Culumber, a nut crop advisor with UC Cooperative Extension in Fresno County.
Researchers have already observed that cherry, apricot, pear, apple, pecan and almond trees are often less productive than they used to be.
The article said farmers may turn to pistachio trees to weather a warmer and dryer California. Pistachio trees require one-third to one-half as much water as almond trees. During droughts, pistachio tree metabolism slows and when water returns, they start producing nuts again. And they can produce nuts for 80 years or longer, almost four times the life span of an average almond tree.
For field crops, scientists are looking at improving the soil and transforming growing systems to help farmers adapt to the warming climate.
“When I drive to the Central Valley, I get goosebumps; I feel the urgency,” UC Davis agronomist Amélie Gaudin said. “I see an agriculture that is basically hydroponics. It's like a person being fed/kept alive by an IV.”
“What happens when you no longer have the sugar-water?” she adds.
Gaudin is focusing on using agroecological principles to develop efficient and resilient cropping systems. Planting cover crops and reducing tillage show promise for mitigating the impact of climate change in the valley.
Longtime local UC Cooperative Extension advisor retires
(Appeal-Democrat) Jake Abbott, June 30 [Page A1]
After nearly four decades as the Yuba-Sutter area's tree crops and environmental horticulture advisor for the UC Cooperative Extension, Janine Hasey recently announced that she would leave the position at the end of June.
Strawberry Growers Lean on Biologicals to Manage Pest
(Cal Ag Today) Jessica Theisman, June 28
California Ag Today recently met with Surendra Dara, a UC Cooperative Extension entomologist based in San Luis Obispo County. According to Dara, California strawberry growers follow many sustainable options.
“Growers are well-educated and have a support system that provides information to them very regularly,” Dara said.
Three Things Young Farmers Need To Know In Order To Harvest Success
(Forbes) Kenrick Cai, June 27
…Technology was a common theme of the panel, which featured Rotticci alongside Glenda Humiston, vice president of agriculture and natural resources for the University of California; Joe Pezzini, president and CEO of Ocean Mist Farms; and Jason Smith, president and CEO of Smith Family Winery. The quartet discussed keys to cultivating future leaders in farming. Here are their key takeaways:
… The next generation of farming leaders can succeed by being cognizant of their workforce, and one way to do that is to apply technologies in educational ways, Humiston said. She noted that many farmers are shown new technologies, but not taught how to use them. Field days, workshops, and webinars are all useful ways for agricultural leaders to make the best use of their farmers, she said.
Forbes AgTech Summit back at Salinas for fifth year
(Monterey Herald) James Herrera, June 27
…The 2019 Forbes AgTech Summit is possible with the help of Founding Partner, SVG Partners and its THRIVE Accelerator; Host Partner, city of Salinas; Innovation Showcase sponsor, Western Growers; Partner Sponsors are AgriNovus Indiana, Indiana Economic Development Corporation, Taylor Farms, UC Agriculture and Natural Resources and UC Merced, and Yamaha Motor Ventures. Califia Farms, HarvestMark, a Division of Trimble, and Santa Clara University are Supporting Sponsors. Business Leader Sponsors include Driscoll's of the Americas, Hartnell College, iFoodDecisionSciences, Motivo and Rabobank. Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy is the Official Dairy Partner. Monterey County Convention and Visitors Bureau is the Official Travel Partner.
Miocene Canal faces a murky future
(Chico Enterprise-Record) Brody Fernandez, June 27
…Butte County livestock and natural resources adviser Tracy Schohr with the UC Cooperative Extension said farmers and ranchers are highly dependent on the canal.
“What you see now are nearby springs that are dependent on the canal and a number of homes built in this area are as well,” Schohr said.
“Local orchards are suffering and local homesteads not getting water for their cattle, and horses are faces issues, too. These are significant challenges. We did an informal study last week and concluded that over 500 head of cattle benefit from the canal, primarily over the summer. Long-term challenges include efforts to reduce unneeded vegetation and fire fuels near the canal. This area has a lot of benefits which come from livestock grazing.”
FDA thwarting U.S. progress on gene editing
(Capital Press) Carol Ryan Dumas, June 27
…Gene editing is a precise and targeted technology that introduces a useful genetic variation in food animal breeding programs and is analogous to conventional breeding, said Alison Van Eenannaam, an animal genomics and biotechnology specialist at the University of California-Davis.
“At the end of the day, gene editing really opens up a new opportunity for breeders to address critical problems such as disease resistance, animal welfare traits like dehorning and resilience like heat tolerance and also product quality traits,” she said.
NPPC Launches Keep America First in Ag Campaign –
(AgWired) Cindy Zimmerman, June 26
The National Pork Producers Council(NPPC) has launched a new campaign to highlight the importance of establishing a proper regulatory framework for gene editing in American livestock. The “Keep America First in Agriculture” campaign was officially kicked off Tuesday with a media teleconference featuring leading researchers, veterinarians, producers and industry experts.
… Listen to opening remarks from the press conference with Dr. Alison Van Eenennaam, Animal Biotechnology and Genomics Extension Specialist, University of California, Davis; Dr. Kovich; Andrew Bailey, NPPC Lead Counsel for Science and Technology; and Dr. Bradley Wolter, a leading pork producer and President of The Maschhoffs.
Growers Needed for Powdery Mildew Research in Vineyards
(AgNet West) Brian German, June 26
UC Cooperative Extension is looking for grape growers statewide to help with a study looking at the powdery mildew population to help better understand how and where resistance is developing. The hope is to establish an annual rotation plan to help mitigate resistance. “What we want to do is to track the resistance that is developing in powdery mildew,” said Gabriel Torres, Viticulture Farm Advisor for Tulare and Kings counties. “We have at least five different groups, or mode of actions, and for four of them we have registered resistance. So, we want to map where the resistance is developing.”
"Elvis of E. coli" retires after 32 years
(Morning Ag Clips) –Liz Sizensky & Pamela Kan-Rice, June 26
He has been called the “Elvis of E. coli” and the “Sinatra of Salmonella,” and now Carl Winter, a UC Cooperative Extension food toxicologist for 32 years, will rock and roll his way into retirement on July 1, 2019.
Edit FDA Regulation for Genes
(Ohio Country Journal) Chris Clayton, June 26
… FDA regulations, though, treat the genes in gene-edited animals as a pharmaceutical, creating massive regulatory challenges right up to the point of incinerating research animals raised to resist a disease.
“It stretches incredulity and no other country on earth is proposing to regulate editing as a drug,” Alison Van Eenennaam, a specialist in animal genomics and biotechnology at the University of California-Davis. “It's just kind of outlying with what's being proposed in other countries.”
Concern Raised by Increased Botrytis Presence
(AgNet West) Brian German, June 25
California's abnormal spring weather has resulted in an increase in botrytis presence, particularly in the San Joaquin Valley where severe incidences have been reported in vineyards. There are some cultural practices that can be implemented, as well as various materials available that help to mitigate infection.
“There are a lot of fields affected by botrytis,” said Gabriel Torres, UC Viticulture Farm Advisor for Tulare and Kings counties. “It is something that we expected having that amount of rain that late in the season. That's like the perfect storm to develop botrytis outbreaks.”
Edit FDA Regulation for Genes
(Progressive Farmer) Chris Clayton, June 25
"It stretches incredulity and no other country on earth is proposing to regulate editing as a drug," Alison Van Eenennaam, a specialist in animal genomics and biotechnology at the University of California-Davis. "It's just kind of outlying with what's being proposed in other countries."
Can ‘Big Data' Help Fight Big Fires? Firefighters Are Betting on It
(NY Times) Jose A. Del Real, June 24
Max Moritz, a wildfire expert affiliated with the University of California, Santa Barbara, who has a long career in wildfire management, said improvements in predictive modeling are crucial for fighting fires, especially as the fires become more intense. But he noted that predictive technologies will not change the underlying factors of urban development and a warming planet that are making fires more intense.
“We need better data and better models, but we also need better preparation,” Mr. Moritz said. “We also have to make headway on all the other fronts, if we really want resilient communities in the face of climate change.”
BURN TIME! Prescribed Burners are Going to be Out in SoHum and Bridgeville This Week, Putting the Torch to Invasive Grasses
(Lost Coast Outpost) June 24
…The group is open to anyone who is interested in gaining skills in prescribed fire, and any landowners who would like to use prescribed fire on their properties. For more information, or to get involved in the Humboldt County PBA, please contact Lenya Quinn-Davidson and/or Jeffery Stackhouse, Advisors with University of California Cooperative Extension, at 707-272-0637,email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fire in Browns Valley fully contained
(Appeal-Democrat) June 24
Armed with bulldozers, helicopters, water tenders and hand crews, Cal Fire quickly struck down a grass fire started by a welding operation at the Sierra Foothill Research and Extension Center in Browns Valley Monday afternoon.
By 4:20 p.m., the fire at the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources' property on Scott Forbes Road was fully contained and had burned 81 acres, Nevada-Yuba-Placer Cal Fire Division Chief Jim Mathias said.
'Centers of Insurrection': Central Valley Farmers Reckon With Climate Change
(KQED) Mark Schapiro, June 23
…“What amazes me about these farms,” said Ruth Dahlquist-Willard, a Fresno-based Small Farms Adviser for the UC Cooperative Extension Service, “is they take these tropical things you'd never think to grow here and they figure out how to grow them.”
The farms appear, she says, to be seriously resistant to shortages of water that are
becoming ever more common in the southern end of the Valley. Many of the farms, she says, have from forty to fifty different crops on them at a time—including daikon radishes, Asian eggplants, and numerous spices including turmeric, ginger, and lemongrass.
“They know how to keep these crops going,” said Dahlquist-Willard. “They never grow the same thing on the same piece of ground right after one another. They rotate, one year squash, the next year who knows what it could be.”
Fire Prevention: Cal Fire Struggles to Meet Defensible Space Inspection Goals
(KQED Forum) Mina Kim, June 21
According to a new KQED investigation, only 17 percent of properties in territory where Cal Fire is responsible for monitoring defensible space were actually checked by their inspectors in 2018. State law requires at least 100 feet of defensible space around a property, which limits the amount of vegetation close the home. With one in four residents living in places that are at a high risk for wildfire, many Californians are wondering how to save their homes. In this hour, Forum takes questions about how to better protect property through defensible space and fire safe homes.
Lauren Sommer, science and environment reporter, KQED
Yana Valachovic, county director and forest advisor, University of California Cooperative Extension
Todd Lando, executive coordinator, FIRESafe Marin
Why deep watering may be the answer to your garden woes
(LA Times) Jeanette Marantos, June 21
…Yvonne Savio, the retired coordinator of the UC Cooperative Extension's master gardener program in Los Angeles, has a simple, low-cost approach that — judging from her lush Pasadena garden — really works.
Savio, creator of the comprehensive Gardening in L.A. blog, simply “plants” 5-gallon nursery buckets between her tomatoes and other vegetables and then a couple times a week fills the buckets with water and lets it slowly drain into the soil.
Invasive Japanese knotweed is not our friend
(Marin IJ) Martha Proctor, June 21
…The Marin Knotweed Action Team (MKAT) is a coalition of local, state and federal agencies, including UC Cooperative Extension, working to educate community members, and identify unknown patches of the weed and treat them before new infestations can arise. MKAT was formed to block the spread of this invasive pest before it is too late.
Can California avoid a third year of wildfire catastrophe? Here's what's been fixed — and what hasn't
(San Francisco Chronicle) Kurtis Alexander, Peter Fimrite, J.D. Morris and Kathleen Pender, June 20
…“We're not going to solve the problem (right away),” said Scott Stephens, a professor of fire science at UC Berkeley. “But there's hope of making a difference in the next two decades.”
… “You have to address these home vulnerabilities, and if you don't you're not going to make a lot of progress on the fire problem,” said Max Moritz, a UC Cooperative Extension wildfire specialist at UC Santa Barbara.
With access to native foods, First Nation families less likely to go hungry
(Daily Democrat) Pam Kan-Rice, June 20
“How food security is framed, and by whom, shapes the interventions or solutions that are proposed,” said Jennifer Sowerwine, UC Cooperative Extension specialist at UC Berkeley, who led the study in partnership with the Karuk, Yurok, Hoopa, and Klamath Tribes. “Our research suggests that current measures of and solutions to food insecurity in the United States need to be more culturally relevant to effectively assess and address chronic food insecurity in Native American communities.”
Advice on wildfire preparation takes on new urgency
(AgAlert) Kevin Hecteman, June 19
… Spiegel pointed to the six P's of evacuation preparation promoted by Cal Fire: people (pets), papers, prescriptions, pictures, personal computer and plastic, as in credit cards.
Susie Kocher, a University of California Cooperative Extension natural resources advisor in South Lake Tahoe, said it's never too late to work on creating defensible space, but cautioned against engaging in activities that could cause sparks, such as mowing, in times of red-flag alerts when weather conditions are ripe for rapid fire spread.
"I think the main thing we have learned is that we are all at risk," Kocher said, noting the destruction of homes in suburban neighborhoods caused by embers carried in high winds. "We all have to work together to reduce the risk."
The Environmental Downside of Cannabis Cultivation
(JSTOR Daily) Jodi Helmer, June 18
… While much of the research has focused on public health and criminalization, the environmental implications of commercial-scale cultivation have been largely ignored. Could the increases in cannabis cultivation send the environment up in smoke?
New research has linked production of the once-verboten plant to a host of issues ranging from water theft and degradation of public lands to wildlife deaths and potential ozone effects. “We have a culture and history of cannabis cultivation in remote areas that may be sensitive to environmental disruptions,” explains Van Butsic, co-director of the Cannabis Research Center at the University of California Berkeley.
In Full Bloom: Choose natives adapted to our climate to cut down on watering
(Virginian Pilot) Allissa Bunner, June 15
Mulching is also a great way to help your garden beat the heat. The University of California Cooperative Extension Center for Landscape and Urban Horticulture in a review submitted a long list of the benefits mulch can give a garden. Besides reducing weeds and increasing soil nutrients, mulch will retain moisture and lower soil temperatures by dissipating radiant heat. Organic, low density mulches like pine straw are great for this, but hardwood mulch will get the job done as well. Lay mulch thickly, around four inches deep, keeping it pulled away from plant stems or tree trunks.
Growing the red, green and black: table grape farmers work to overcome weather woes
(Bakersfield Californian) Steven Mayer, June 13, 2019
…Donald Luvisi, a Kern County farm advisor emeritus who retired from the UC Cooperative Extension in 1999, still keeps his hand in grape production, and owns a wine grape vineyard near Calistoga in Napa Valley.
The viticulture specialist said he's not surprised that harvests in Southern and Central California are being delayed, but he's not too concerned about it.
The big concern is rot, such as botrytis and similar diseases that commonly infect the grape tissue through injuries in the skin.
"When the grapes reach sugar, it can wipe out the whole bunch," Luvisi said.
California dairies experiment with milking robots
(Feedstuffs) Jeannette Warnert, June 12
Early in the 20th century, dairy operators traded their milking stools for machines to produce enough dairy products to meet growing consumer demand, according to the University of California Division of Agriculture & Natural Resources.
As Riverside County ponders spending cuts, public outcry saves 4-H, Master Gardeners
(Press Enterprise) Jeff Horseman and Matt Kristoffersen, June 11
In the grand scheme of Riverside County's $6.1 billion budget, a cut of $562,000 is little more than a nick.
But to the Master Gardeners and youths in the county's 4-H program, the idea of the county spending less on UC Riverside's Cooperative Extension was a threat to something that they say enriches their lives.
Supporters of both programs turned out in big numbers Monday, June 10, to attend a public hearing on the county budget. And many in that audience, which included teens in green and white 4-H uniforms, cheered after the Board of Supervisors voted 5-0 to restore the extension's funding, reversing a cut made as part of a larger plan to trim spending at a time when government expenses are rising faster than the county's tax receipts.
The Master Gardener program, which trains volunteers to share tips on backyard gardening and water-saving landscaping with the community, and 4-H, which uses farming and animal husbandry to teach leadership and life skills, are supported by UCR's extension, which receives almost $700,000 annually from the county.
Why planting shade trees helps reduce the temperature of urban heat islands
(Orange County Register) Janet Hartin, June 11, 2019
Why? In order to accommodate growing populations, cities have large areas of paved concrete and asphalt surfaces that create ‘urban heat islands (UHI)'. These hard surfaces absorb large amounts of heat that builds up during the day and is released at night, leading to much higher night temperatures in cities than in surrounding areas.
The good news is that trees offer many benefits that offset the impacts of UHIs. Cities with larger tree canopies are a testament to this fact and have fewer adverse impacts from UHIs than do cities with low tree canopies.
Trees reduce the impact of UHIs by releasing heat back into the atmosphere faster than do concrete and asphalt surfaces. In addition, well-placed trees produce shade that cools the surrounding environment and reduces air conditioning needs. They also cool the air through transpiration and absorb and store carbon which moderates the impacts of pollution from fossil fuels.
Riverside parent navel orange tree getting new protection
(Riverside Press-Enterprise) Ryan Hagen, June 11
…The new screen is a synthetic material made by the company Econet. The screen's lifespan is five to eight years, but it will be inspected regularly before that, said Georgios Vidalakis, professor and director of the citrus protection program at UC Riverside.
“This one will buy us a few years so the city can design a more elegant structure like you see in arboretums — maybe a wood hexagonal pavilion that will be aesthetically more pleasant,” Vidalakis said. “Unless in the next few years we find a solution.”
That's the ultimate hope: That a cure for citrus greening disease can be found and the structure removed so crowds can better admire the historic parent navel orange.
But until then, he said, protection is vital.
Surplus university property in Davis is put up for sale
(Sacramento Business Journal) Mark Anderson, June 11
Some former greenhouse and lab space once used by Monsanto's Calgene subsidiary along with bare land just off Interstate 80 in Davis is being offered for sale in a sealed-bid process.
The 6.6-acre parcel at 3031 Second St. is excess land owned by the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources Division, which is offering the land for $4.25 million.
Such space is in demand in Davis and in the region for agricultural and scientific research, said Jim Gray, a commercial real estate broker with Kidder Mathews, representing UC-ANR, along with Nahz Anvary.
LA Crawling With Rodents Even After City Cleans up Some Trash Piles
(NBC LA) Joel Grover and Amy Corral, June 10
…"I've never seen this many droppings, ever," Niamh Quinn, Human-Wildlife Interactions Advisor with University of California Cooperative Extension, told the I-Team after inspecting an area near the Produce District last Friday.
…"Rodents will eat human feces," Quinn says. "They will eat scraps."
…"Rats are everywhere," Quinn says. "And it's just not acceptable to expose people to this amount of disease."
Who's Checking Your Neighborhood for Flammable Brush? Maybe No One
(KQED) Lauren Sommer, June 10
… "We should be doing more, doing better," said Max Moritz, a wildfire specialist with the University of California Cooperative Extension, after reviewing the findings. "We need to have more people aware they live on a fire-prone landscape and taking action."
Cal Fire, for its part, says it's struggling to meet its inspection goals due to a lack of inspectors and resources.
For many Californians, a defensible space inspection will be the only exposure to wildfire planning they get.
“There's not too many other ways people will learn about the vulnerability of their own home other than having an inspector or firefighter at their property,” Moritz said.
John Garamendi: UC Davis is a hub for real impact
(Davis Enterprise) John Garamendi, June 10
…Where did all the students learn the care and feeding of sheep, goats, chickens, rabbits, and quail? From UCD graduates who became teachers, mentors, veterinarians, parents, and from the University of California's 4H program.
You bet UCD has made an impact in the community, in the economy, and in my family's life.
Name droppers: UCCE farm adviser receives sustainability award
(Davis Enterprise) Enterprise staff, June 9
UC Davis entomology alumnus Rachael Freeman Long, UC Cooperative Extension (UCCE) farm adviser for field crops and pest management for the three-county area of Yolo, Solano and Sacramento, is the recipient of the 2019 Bradford-Rominger Agricultural Sustainability Leadership Award.
Long received the award at a presentation on Tuesday, May 28 in the Alpha Gamma Rho Hall (AGR) room of the Walter A. Buehler Alumni Center.
Protecting the watershed
(Chico News & Review) Meredith Cooper, June 6
…To echo the mantra of 2017's Standing Rock protest, “Water is life.” That was what brought many people out to Chico State's University Farm Tuesday (June 4) for the daylong Camp Fire Water Resources Monitoring and Research Symposium. Organized by the University of California Cooperative Extension, it included presentations from researchers who have been studying fire's impact on ecosystems, in particular ground and surface water.
Manage forests to burn again, scientist says
(Farm Press) Tim Hearden, June 5
Forest conditions created after catastrophic wildfires like last year's Carr and Camp fires in Northern California can be conducive to another major fire in the same area just a few years later, University of California scientists say.
Along with leaving dead trees and branches and other burned debris in their wake, hot fires seed a more fire-adapted underbrush that can come back ferociously, explains Ryan Tompkins, a University of California Cooperative Extension forestry advisor.
"In the last 10 years, we've seen systems change before our eyes," Tompkins told about 100 researchers, government officials and growers at a June 4 symposium on the Camp Fire's environmental fallout. The event was held at the California State University-Chico farm.
"Restoration isn't just a one-off event," he says. "We need to play a long game."
… Throughout history, forests "adapted with fire -- frequent, low-intensity fire," Tompkins told the Chico gathering. However, after a century of fire suppression and land management, researchers notice that landscapes are re-burning sooner than imagined, he says.
For one thing, there's often a very vigorous native shrub response to the initial fire. Existing shrubs can sprout from their roots after being top-killed, and many new shrubs can germinate because the seeds in the soil are often stimulated by wildfire, UC researchers Kristen Shive and Susan Kocher write in a 2017 essay on wildfire recovery.
Scientists find little taint in wildfire runoff
(Farm Press) Tim Hearden, June 5
Winter rains quickly flushed contaminants from last year's Carr and Camp fires into Lake Oroville and other Northern California waterways, causing elevated levels of heavy metals such as aluminum and cadmium and raising hydrocarbon levels above the human health threshold, preliminary research has found.
But the good news for agriculture -- at least so far -- is that very little of the contaminants appear to have ended up in rangeland plants or soil as a result of runoff, says Tracy Schohr, a University of California Cooperative Extension livestock and natural resources advisor based in Quincy.
Scientists share on-going research at Camp Fire Resource Monitoring and Research Symposium
(KRCR) Briona Haney, June 4
…However, Tracy Schohr with the University of California Cooperative Extension program says this research will likely be a multi-year process.
"I think one of the important aspects of today is that no one is done looking at the impacts of the Camp Fire. There's a vision going forward looking at water quality long term in this community,” Schohr said.
High-flying ladybug swarm shows up on National Weather Service radar
(LA Times) Jaclyn Cosgrove, June 4
…California is home to about 200 species of ladybugs, including the convergent lady beetle, according to the University of California Integrated Pest Management Program.
In early spring, after temperatures reach 65 degrees, adult convergent lady beetles mate and migrate from the Sierra Nevada to valley areas where they eat aphids and lay eggs.
In the early summer, once the aphid numbers decline, beetles become hungry and migrate to higher elevations, according to the UC program.
Pet dog killed by coyotes south of Cedar Glen Park in Cypress
(Orange County Breeze) Shelley Henderson, June 3
The Council ad hoc committee strongly recommends that citizens report encounters with coyotes using the University of California Coyote Cacher webpage. https://ucanr.edu/CoyoteCacher/ Using this online tool allows the City to collect data on where, when, how often, and how serious encounters with coyotes are.
On Sunday, June 1, Coyote Cacher reported on an attack that took place the prior week. Multiple coyotes attacked a pet dog in a backyard. The dog was killed. The attack took place in the area south of Cedar Glen Park, between Ball Road and Cerritos Avenue.
KQED reporter Mark Schapiro discovered a "center of insurrection" at the UC West Side Research and Extension Center in Five Points, where UC Cooperative Extension cropping systems specialist Jeff Mitchell has been building soil on a research plot for 20 years.
Schapiro's story was part of a series titled "Reckoning in the Central Valley," a collaboration between Bay Nature magazine and KQED Science examining how climate change is exposing the vulnerabilities of California agriculture.
In the Central Valley, climate change is disrupting the predictability that is key to maintaining a profitable industrial agriculture system. Mitchell believes that employing practices that build soil - such as reducing or eliminating tillage and planting cover crops - will help farmers ride the wave of climate change.
It's that cover-cropped field “that is the real disruptor here," Mitchell said.
The soil in test plots where cover crops were grown are loaded with far more organic matter than soil in fields where cover crops were not grown. The organic matter improves water absorption, making the land more resilient to drier conditions. Fields with cover crops also sequester carbon and produce crops that may be more nutritious.
“What you see in Five Points,” said Daphne Miller, a physician who studies the links between the health of the foods we eat and the soil in which they're grown, “is that the plots with the greatest diversity of cover crops had the most diverse microbiome in the soil.”
As California grappled with a record-breaking heatwave last week and 236 wildfires, officials are bracing for the worst, reported Maanvi Singh in the Guardian.
The fires have been mostly fueled by grass and brush that came up during the state's especially wet winter and mild spring, according to a CAL FIRE official. UC Cooperative Extension fire advisor Lenya Quinn-Davidson said California's annual wildfire season is growing longer – beginning earlier in the spring and stretching later in the fall.
“It's not unusual for us to see this many small fires in June,” she said. “But 50 years ago, so many fires this early on – plus these extreme, high temperatures in June – would have been abnormal.”
It is difficult to predict how bad the rest of this fire season will be based on the number of fires so far, said UCLA climate scientist Daniel Swain.
"Our worst fire years aren't necessarily the years that we've had the highest number of fires,” he noted. “All it takes is one – one huge, destructive fire to ruin the whole year."