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Monthly news round up: January 2018

Woodland as ag hub topic of forum

(Woodland Daily Democrat) Jenice Tupolo, Jan. 30

Developing Woodland as an agricultural center is becoming more of a reality, even as local organizations worked together in creating a forum focused on agricultural innovation in Yolo County.

...The city of Woodland, AgStart, UC Agricultural and Natural Resources, and the city's Food Front initiative hosted keynote speaker and vice president of the UC ANR, Glenda Humiston, at the conference.

http://www.dailydemocrat.com/business/20180130/woodland-as-ag-hub-topic-of-forum

Small Farmers in Fresno Hope for Big Moringa Payoff

(KQED) Katrina Schwartz, Jan. 26

The Mouas, along with other Hmong farmers growing moringa, have been working with farm advisers at Fresno County's UC Cooperative Extension to learn how to dry, powder and store their moringa so they can expand into new markets. Most farmers sell it fresh, but most of the health food craze exists around moringa powder, often imported from India.

… “Value-added products are a great way for a small family farm to increase their income,” said Ruth Dahlquist-Willard, a small-farm adviser with the program. Many farmers are accustomed to only selling fresh produce. They plant a diverse set of crops in a small area and sell a little bit of everything. Producing a product that requires the extra step of drying, grinding and storing is a whole new world for many of them.

“I think there's a lot of opportunity there,” Dahlquist-Willard said. She's particularly excited about how a product might bring the younger generation back to their family farms. Kids who have gone off to college for business, marketing or graphic design might see a new kind of future for themselves on the family farm with a product like moringa.

https://ww2.kqed.org/news/2018/01/26/small-farmers-in-fresno-hope-for-big-moringa-payoff/

SLO County's Top 20 Under 40: Meet the 2017 award winners

Katherine Soule
(San Luis Obispo Tribune) Staff, Jan. 26

…Katherine E. Soule, 35, is director of the UC Cooperative Extension for SLO and Santa Barbara counties, where she's earned state and national recognition for improving community health and increasing diversity in youth participation.

As the extension's youth, families and communities advisor for the last several years, Soule developed new 4-H programs engaging underserved youths and promoting healthy living, leadership and social development. Her efforts nearly doubled enrollment and boosted Latino participation 26.8 percent. She's delivered nutrition education to more than 10,000 people through various partnerships.

http://www.sanluisobispo.com/news/business/article196536784.html

Flooding alfalfa for groundwater recharge

(Morning Ag Clips) Jan. 24

A rigorous field study in two California climate zones has found that alfalfa can tolerate very heavy winter flooding for groundwater recharge. The research was published online Jan. 16 in California Agriculture journal.

The alfalfa research is the latest in a series of projects studying the effects of using land planted with permanent crops – including almond orchards and vineyards – to capture and bank winter storm water. Such projects have great promise but also require collaboration across multiple jurisdictions and agencies. UC Agriculture and Natural Resources vice president Glenda Humiston has made groundwater recharge on working lands and open spaces a division priority and is working with water and land use leaders around the state to facilitate it through policy recommendations and cross-agency collaboration.

https://www.morningagclips.com/flooding-alfalfa-for-groundwater-recharge/

Band Canker Affecting Younger Almonds

(California Ag Today) Patrick Cavanaugh, Jan. 24

Brent Holtz is a UC cooperative extension Pomology Farm Advisor for San Joaquin County. He recently told California Ag Today about how the fungus band canker on almonds is becoming more prevalent in the San Joaquin Valley.

“I've seen a lot more band canker, which is caused by a pathogenic fungus, Botryosphaeria dothidea, and we're seeing it on young orchards, especially in in San Joaquin county," said Holtz.  "We've seen that a lot out in the delta and we've seen it in eastern San Joaquin county where the soils tend to be a little heavier, maybe old dairy ground and richer and we don't really know why."

https://californiaagtoday.com/band-canker-affecting-younger-almonds/

CCOF Annual Conference to Focus on Organic Hotspots

AgNet West) Jan. 22

Registration is available for the California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF) annual conference, Organic Hotspots: Revitalizing Rural America.  The event is scheduled for February 22 and 23 at the Sheraton Grand Sacramento Hotel in Sacramento.…

The event will focus on organic hotspots and how rural economies can potentially be stimulated by organic production.  Topics will include partnerships between elected officials and the organic community, the role of education and research, along with the process of growing organic produce in local communities.  The event will conclude with a keynote speech from Glenda Humiston, Vice President of the University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

http://agnetwest.com/ccof-annual-conference-organic-hotspots/ 

California Today: 100 Million Dead Trees Prompt Fears of Giant Wildfires

(New York Times) Thomas Fuller, Jan. 19

The more than 100 million trees that died in California after being weakened by drought and insect infestations have transformed large swaths of the Sierra Nevada into browned-out tree cemeteries. In some areas more than 90 percent of trees are dead.

This week a group of scientists warned in the journal BioScience that the dead trees could produce wildfires on a scale and of an intensity that California has never seen.

…“It's something that is going to be much more severe,” said Scott Stephens, a professor of fire science at Berkeley and the lead author of the study. “You could have higher amounts of embers coming into home areas, starting more fires.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/19/us/california-today-100-million-dead-trees-prompt-fears-of-giant-wildfires.html

Winter's good time for gopher control in nut crops

(Western Farm Press) Cecelia Parsons, Jan. 17, 2018

Tree nut growers who are plagued by gopher invasions in their orchards need to stick with effective control measures if they want to minimize tree losses.

Pocket gophers are common in most nut production areas, says Joe Connell, University of California Cooperative Extension Farm Advisor Emeritus in Butte County. In the absence of cover crops or weeds, they will gnaw on tree roots and trunks, and the hungry vertebrate pests can even girdle — and kill — older trees. Trees with root damage and girdling will lose production, and will be susceptible to crown gall, which weakens their structural strength.

http://www.westernfarmpress.com/tree-nuts/winter-s-good-time-gopher-control-nut-crops

Bloomington nursery's citrus trees to be destroyed by California agriculture department

(ABC7 KABC) Rob McMillan, Jan. 17, 2018

Roxana Vallejo was 12 years old when her parents opened up Santa Ana Nursery in Bloomington. Wednesday, the California Department of Food and Agriculture will be at her business to destroy almost all of their citrus trees. Vallejo said the combined value of the trees is almost $1 million.

"They're all fine, and look at all the new growth, it's pretty good," Vallejo said.

The reason they're being cut down is huanglongbing, or HLB, one of the world's worst citrus diseases. The insect that spreads HLB has taken a strong foothold in Southern California.

"It's estimated that the citrus industry may go commercially extinct unless they can get a handle on this problem," said Mark Hoddle, UC Cooperative Extension specialist at UC Riverside, more than one year ago.

http://abc7.com/food/ie-nurserys-citrus-trees-to-be-destroyed-by-ca-agriculture-department/2959173/

OPINION: Ranchers give thanks

(Ventura County Star) Beverly Bigger, president of the Ventura County Cattlemen's Association, Jan. 16, 2018

Matthew Shapero
The majority of attention and sympathy have rightly gone toward those who lost their homes in the Thomas Fire, but I would like to take a moment to highlight the story of others who have suffered as well. They are largely invisible, hidden among the hills and canyons, but their contribution to the county is significant.

Ventura County is home to a robust and historic cattle industry, one that makes up a $2 million portion of Ventura County's agricultural sector. Ranchers play an important role in land management as well, their grazing operations clearing overgrown brush, reducing the fuel available to wildfires and protecting nearby communities.

In the space of 12 hours, the Thomas Fire ripped through vital grazing land that cattle rely on for their daily feed. Sadly, some animals were also lost to the fire.

With feed and fencing gone, many ranchers had hard decisions to make regarding the future of their operations, and some were not prepared for this kind of disaster. Thankfully, we have dedicated public servants who stepped up to help the cattle industry.

Ventura County Agricultural Commissioner Henry Gonzales, Matthew Shapero from the UC Cooperative Extension, and Donna Gillesby and Bryan Bray of Ventura County Animal Services all reached out to ask what they could do to help.

An emergency program was put in place to supply five days of hay until ranchers could get on their feet. The UC Extension also provided a one-stop location where ranchers could meet with representatives from multiple agencies to apply for assistance programs.

The assistance of these agencies was very much appreciated. We want to thank and recognize them for helping us in our time of need. We look forward to returning to our passion: managing and improving the land and continuing Ventura County's ranching heritage.

http://www.vcstar.com/story/opinion/readers/2018/01/16/ranchers-give-thanks/1038625001/

Farm advisor tests strategies for controlling horseweed

(Ag Alert) Bob Johnson, Jan. 10, 2018

One morning last summer, University of California Cooperative Extension vineyard weed control advisor John Roncoroni displayed a horseweed plant that had grown to more than 10 feet tall in a Yolo County vineyard.

Horseweed, which is widely seen on the sides of the state's highways, is among the glyphosate-resistant weed pests that can develop healthy populations in even well managed vineyards.

"We're really having problems with weeds coming in the fall that are resistant to Roundup," Roncoroni said. "Willow herb is tolerant; it's never been completely controlled by glyphosate."

http://www.agalert.com/story/?id=11460

Pomegranate returns not so wonderful but largest grower says otherwise

(Hanford Sentinel) By John Lindt, Jan. 11, 2018

A few years ago Central Valley pomegranate growers appeared to be riding a rising tide of popularity for pomegranates spurring optimism about the crop's future. Growers, including those in Kings County, enjoyed prices of over $1,700 a ton as recently as 2011.

After a significant planting of new trees, by 2015 pomegranate tonnage was fetching just $450 a ton in Fresno County and falling to $362 a ton in Tulare County according to its 2016 crop report.

…UC Farm Adviser Kevin Day says it's simple economics. “We are seeing both overproduction and lack of demand for pomegranates despite expectations to the contrary."

http://hanfordsentinel.com/news/local/business/another-ag-co-will-relocate-to-make-room-for-hsr/article_bb81b0e9-ef28-55d9-b80f-f352bea38466.html

Western Innovator: Promoting sustainable ranching

Tracy Schohr
(Western Farm Press) Tim Hearden, Jan. 9, 2018

Tracy Schohr has devoted much of her career to promoting sustainability in ranching.

While at the California Cattlemen's Association, she put on an annual “rangeland summit” that brought ranchers together with environmental experts and climate change policymakers.

She also worked on a program to limit ranchers' risk of facing Endangered Species Act violations if they created habitat on their land.

After going back to school to earn her master's degree at the University of California-Davis, Schohr has become a UC Cooperative Extension livestock and natural resources adviser based in Plumas, Sierra and Butte counties. http://www.capitalpress.com/California/20180108/western-innovator-promoting-sustainable-ranching 

Weed Control with Brad Hanson UC Cooperative Extension Weed Specialist at UC Davis 

(California Ag Today) Patrick Cavanaugh, Jan. 8, 2018

“Weeds are probably one of the year-in, year-out problems that growers face,” said Brad Hanson, UC Cooperative Extension, who discussed herbicide resistance with California Ag Today.

https://californiaagtoday.com/podcasts/brad-hanson-uc-cooperative-extension-weed-specialist-at-uc-davis-on-weed-control/ 

Building blocks for tending flocks

(Auburn Journal) Julie Miller, Jan. 7, 2018

Counting sheep is no longer for the tired and sleepy.

Shepherding has become a booming industry in Placer County. At last count, there are 9,000 head of sheep registered with the county, said Dan Macon, livestock and natural resources advisor for University of California, for Placer and Nevada counties. And there may be more sheep that have not been registered, perhaps because they are in a smaller flock of 10 to 15, he said.

Sheep have proven to be versatile. Not only raised for the meat and milk, but also wool fibers, plus, they can help reduce fire danger by eating away tall grasses and shrubs.

http://www.auburnjournal.com/article/1/06/18/building-blocks-tending-flocks#

After a recent outbreak of E.coli, is it safe to eat romaine lettuce? Experts differ

(Fresno Bee) Robert Rodriguez, Jan. 5, 2018

If you are staying away from romaine lettuce because of an outbreak of E.coli, it's understandable. But at least one food safety expert says it may not be necessary.

…But University of California food safety expert Trevor Suslow said it's unlikely the lettuce you buy at the grocery store these days is going to do you any harm. That's because the illnesses happened from Nov. 15 through Dec. 8. Lettuce sold during that period wouldn't be around anymore.

“It's not going to last that long, it's gone,” Suslow said.

http://www.fresnobee.com/living/food-drink/article193301924.html

Cattle Ranchers Join Conservationists To Save Endangered Species And Rangelands

(Forbes) Diana Hembree, Jan. 5, 2018

…California has a strong incentive to preserve its 18 million acres of ranchland: Cattle and calves are the state's fourth-leading agricultural commodities (milk and cream are No. 1), according to state agricultural data. But in a Duke University survey of the state's ranchers, more than half said they were “more uncertain than ever” that they would be able to continue ranching. California is losing an estimated 20,000 acres of rangeland each year, according to the Nature Conservancy, and on any given day ads for the sale of cattle ranches dot the Internet. The median age of California ranchers is 58 to 62, and more are aging out of the business with no children interested in taking over the ranch.

But this trend can be reversed, according to Lynn Huntsinger a professor of environmental science and rangeland ecology at UC Berkeley. To preserve these landscapes for future generations, ranchers need payment and recognition for their ecosystem services “in order to preserve these working landscapes for future generations,” Huntsinger writes.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/dianahembree/2018/01/05/cattle-ranchers-join-conservationists-to-save-endangered-species-rangelands/#56c2400f220d

Months after Wine Country fires, damaged vineyards face uncertainty

(SF Chronicle) Esther Mobley, Jan. 4

…“No one knows what's the real threshold for heat damage,” says Rhonda Smith, the Sonoma County-based viticulture farm adviser for the University of California, who has come to Gilfillan to consult on its rehabilitation.

Much of the conventional wisdom about how fires interact with vines — that vines can't burn, because of their high water content, for instance — didn't turn out to be true for every vineyard, she says.

“In 99 percent of cases, vines were fire breaks,” says Smith. But if there was dry vegetation, if there was wood mulch on the ground, if the soil was especially dry — if, if, if — then they weren't.

http://www.sfchronicle.com/wine/article/Months-after-Wine-Country-fires-damaged-12474309.php

Progress reported on robotic weeders for vegetables

(Ag Alert) Bob Johnson, Jan. 4

The next generation of computer-controlled, automated cultivators will be able to use cameras to remove weeds in the seed line as close as 1 inch from young tomato or lettuce plants, without damaging the crop.

“It must be more than half the lettuce acreage that is already using the automated thinners,” said Steve Fennimore, UC Cooperative Extension vegetable weed specialist.

Fennimore is supervising the Salinas lettuce trials of “marking” the crop in order to make this technology practical for weeding as well.

“The weeders already out there tend to be prototypes that people are still experimenting with,” he said.

http://www.dailydemocrat.com/article/NI/20180104/NEWS/180109957

2017's natural disasters cost American agriculture over $5 billion

(New Food Economy) Sam Bloch, Jan. 4, 2018

Over a period of 10 months in 2017, America experienced 16 separate, billion-dollar weather and climate-related disasters. Those weather events carved paths of destruction straight through some of the most fertile and productive regions of the country, wreaking havoc on beef cattle ranches in Texas, soaking cotton and rice farms in Louisiana, orange groves in Florida, and burning up vineyards in California. And that was all before Southern California's still-active Thomas fire, which began on December 4, and then closed in on the country's primary avocado farms. It's now the state's largest-ever, in terms of total acreage.

  • Acres of cherimoya trees in Santa Barbara County destroyed by the Thomas fire: 100
  • Total dollar value of Santa Barbara cherimoya fruit damaged by fire: $5,000,000
  • Acres of avocado fields in Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties threatened by wildfire: 5,260
  • Estimated pounds of Hass avocados in Ventura County lost to wildfire: 8,060,000
  • Total dollar value of that lost harvest: $10,175,750
  • Approximate percentage of American avocado crop threatened by wildfire: 8
  • Expected effect of wildfire on avocado prices in America, due to reliance on imports: 0
  • Winegrape acreage in Napa and Sonoma Counties: 104,847
  • As a percentage of total California winegrape acreage: 22
  • Estimated dollar value of unharvested Cabernet grapes in those counties, before the wildfires: $175,000,000
  • Estimated dollar value of those grapes, now tainted by smoke: $29,000,000
  • Bottles of 2016 Napa Cabernet you can buy for the price of two 2017 vintages, due to winegrape scarcity: 3

California wildfire data from Daniel A. Sumner, Ph.D. of UC Agricultural Issues Center, USDA NASS, Ben Faber, Ph.D. of UC Cooperative Extension Ventura.

https://newfoodeconomy.org/2017-natural-disasters-agriculture-damage-5-billion/

There Is No “No-Fire” Option in California
(Bay Nature) Zach St. George, Jan. 2, 2018

As the use of prescribed fire by Cal Fire declined in recent decades, its use also declined with private landholders, says Lenya Quinn-Davidson, director of the Northern California Prescribed Fire Council, who leads prescribed burning workshops across the state. Scott Stephens, the UC Berkeley professor, concurs. Decades of suppression left the western U.S. with relatively few people trained to carry out the work: “We just don't have that experience to pass on.” But it's important not to let the current enthusiasm pass, he says—as climate change continues to push conditions toward extremes, as wildfires consume more and more of fire agency budgets, and as the wildland-urban interface expands, it will only become more difficult to bring fire back.

https://baynature.org/article/no-no-fire-option-california/

Scientist discusses working on Food Evolution movie

(Brownfield Ag News) Larry Lee, Jan. 1

A scientist involved in a movie about genetically modified food says many don't understand what GM is, let alone the benefits.  Alison VanEenennaam says, “Really, it's a breeding method, and I think the public sector applications for things like disease resistance have very compelling societal benefits that I think most people can relate to.  I don't think we want plants and animals getting sick, and if we can solve that problem genetically rather than using chemicals, I think people get that.”

VanEenennaam is a geneticist at the University of California.  She tells Brownfield there is a lot of unnecessary fear about eating genetically modified food.  “The safety around GM (Genetically Modified) has been established and is, you know, agreed on by every major scientific society in the world and yet we've got the vast majority of consumers that don't believe that.”

https://brownfieldagnews.com/news/scientist-discusses-working-food-evolution-movie/

Urban Edge farm program offers immersion-style learning

(East Bay Times) Lou Fancher, Jan. 1, 2018

After operating a pilot version of the ambitious program, a $200,000 grant from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture's Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program is a launch pad for the immersive learning experience.

For the first cohort of students, many of them women and/or people of color, immigrants, refugees, veterans or farmers-to-be with limited resources, the land is a classroom. Instruction comes from First Generation and experts from the National Center for Appropriate Technology and UC Cooperative Extension. Participation in the program represents opportunity and fulfills dreams the first-time farmers hold of agricultural avocation, economic stability, families, homesteads and permanence.

https://www.eastbaytimes.com/2018/01/01/urban-edge-farm-program-offers-immersion-style-learning/

Tribute to Paul Verdegaal – one of Lodi's “men behind the curtain”

(Lodi Wine blog) Randy Caparoso, Jan. 1, 2018

This coming February 6, 2018, Lodi winegrowers will get together for their 66th Annual LODI GRAPE DAY. They will also mark the occasion with a celebration of the retirement of Paul Verdegaal, who has been working full-time as San Joaquin County's viticulture, bush berry and almond Farm Advisor under the auspices of UCCE (University of California Cooperative Extension) since 1986.

http://www.lodiwine.com/blog/Tribute-to-Paul-Verdegaal---one-of-Lodi-s--men-behind-the-curtain-

UCCE helps farmers increase revenue by creating value-added enterprises

San Joaquin Valley production of moringa, a purported superfood that is typically imported to the United States from the tropics, might open the door for small scale farmers to break into a value-added business, reported Katrina Schwartz of KQED News.

Moringa is a fast-growing, drought-resistant tree native to the southern foothills of the Himalayas in northwestern India. It's young seed pods, roots and leaves are used as vegetables, says an article on Wikipedia

Ruth Dahlquist-Willard, the UC Cooperative Extension advisor to small-scale farmers in Fresno and Tulare County, believes the product lends itself to value-added because it can be dried, ground and stored for later use as a nutritional supplement.

"I think there's a lot of opportunity there," Dahlquist-Willard said. 

Typically, small scale farmers only sell fresh produce. But adding value - processing, preserving, cooking, etc. - can boost the bottom line. Dahlquist -Willard said expanding a farm's activities in this way may also make the family business more attractive to the younger generation. 

"Kids who have gone off to college for business, marketing or graphic design might see a new kind of future for themselves on the family farm with a product like moringa," the KQED story said.

With this in mind, Dahlquist-Willard organized a free value-added workshop in Fresno for small-scale farmers, to be held Jan. 31 at the UC Cooperative Extension office, 550 E. Shaw Ave., Fresno. The workshop brings together local agencies that offer financing, small business resources and services for local small-scale farmers that will allow them to create a value-added enterprise on their farms. The event runs from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., with real-time adaptation in Hmong and Spanish. Partners include Central Valley AgPlus Food and Beverage Manufacturing Consortium, Fresno State, San Joaquin County Rural Development Center, the Agricultural Sustainability Institute, Small Farm Program, and the Farm Credit Agency.

 

The seed pods and branches of a moringa tree. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 40)

 

Posted on Friday, January 26, 2018 at 2:21 PM
Focus Area Tags: Economic Development

Ventura ranchers thank UC Cooperative Extension

The Ventura County Cattlemen's Association publicly thanked UC Cooperative Extension and other organizations for their support during the devastating wildfires of late 2017.

In the space of 12 hours, the Thomas Fire ripped through vital grazing land that cattle rely on for their daily feed. Some animals were also killed in the fire. In a letter to the Ventura County Star, Beverly Bigger, president of the Ventura County Cattlemen's Association, said UCCE livestock and range advisor Matthew Shapero, the Ventura County agricultural commissioner and representatives of Ventura County animal services established an emergency program to supply five days of hay until ranchers could get on their feet.

UC Cooperative Extension also served as a one-stop location where ranchers could meet with representatives from multiple agencies to apply for assistance programs.

"We want to thank and recognize them for helping us in our time of need. We look forward to returning to our passion: managing and improving the land and continuing Ventura County's ranching heritage," Bigger wrote.

When rangeland burns, ranchers must scramble to feed their cattle. In Ventura County, UC Cooperative Extension stepped in to help after the Thomas Fire. (Photo: Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Posted on Wednesday, January 17, 2018 at 10:49 AM
Tags: cattle (9), Matthew Shapero (2), rangeland (12), wildfire (71)
Focus Area Tags: Economic Development

No need to pass on the Caesar's salad

At least 58 people have been sickened, and two — one in California and one in Canada — have died because they contracted E. coli O157:H7 in November and December, believed to be related to eating romaine lettuce or other leafy greens. In the United States, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control has linked at least 17 reports of illness in 13 states to the outbreak. 

That has many people passing on Caesar's salad. But UC Cooperative Extension specialist Trevor Suslow said it is unlikely that romaine now at grocery stores is contaminated, reported Bob Rodriguez in the Fresno Bee.

"It's not going to last that long, it's gone," Suslow said.

The CDC is conducting whole genome sequencing on samples of bacteria making people sick in the U.S. and Canada to determine whether they are related. Preliminary results show the type of E. coli is closely related genetically, the CDC reported

Officials believe romaine lettuce contaminated with E. coli O157:H7 is responsible for recent illnesses and two deaths in the U.S. and Canada. (Photo: Creative Commons 3 - CC BY-SA 3.0)

 

Posted on Tuesday, January 9, 2018 at 10:06 AM
Tags: food safety (25), Trevor Suslow (6)

Monthly news roundup: December 2017

2017 top story: Wet start to 2017 brought end to 5-year drought
Bill Hicks, Daily Republic, Dec. 30, 2017
Even though wildfires have dominated the headlines at the end of 2017, the Daily Republic selected the end of the drought as its top story of 2017. The deluge of rainfall was nearly a case of too much of a good thing. “The dose is the poison,” said Gene Miyao, a UC Cooperative Extension advisor for Yolo and Solano counties. “Dose in farming often relates to timing. Rain days after planting tomatoes, for instance, is good, but days before planting can delay the season.”

What will the Thomas Fire burn zone look like in the future?
Emily Guerin, 89.3 KPCC (SoCal Public Radio), Dec. 25, 2017
Ventura and Santa Barbara counties' countryside is scorched, but with normal rainfall, wildflowers will cover the hillsides in the spring. If it is a dry winter, many of these new seedlings won't survive. And without healthy adult chaparral on the landscape, fast-growing invasive grasses will soon move into to take their place, said Max Moritz, UC Cooperative Extension wildfire specialist in Santa Barbara.

Labor unions see organizing California marijuana workers as a way to grow
Associated Press, Los Angeles Times, Dec. 25, 2017
The United Farm Workers, Teamsters and United Food and Commercial Workers are looking to unionize the tens of thousands of potential workers involved in legal marijuana production. Cannabis in California is already a $22-billion industry, including medical marijuana and a black market that accounts for most of that total, according to UC ANR agriculture economics researcher Philip Martin.

California ranchers will need vet's prescription to use livestock antibiotics
Julia Mitric, Capital Public Radio, Dec. 22, 2017
UC Cooperative Extension advisor Dan Macon said the new California requiring a veterinarian prescription for livestock antibiotics doesn't require a vet to be on site for each animal that needs treatment. But there will need to be a "veterinary-client-patient relationship." "Where the vet knows the operation, knows the rancher and has some idea of the types of animals and types of issues the rancher may be dealing with," Macon said. "And so it does require some semi-annual check in with the vet at the ranch."

How local farmers are coping with the devastating Thomas fire
Gillian Ferguson, Los Angeles Times, Dec. 19, 2017
Two weeks of unrelenting wind stoked wildfires that severely damaged avocados and other crops in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. The wind also spreads smoke damage, according to Ben Faber, UC Cooperative Extension advisor. "There are a lot of gases in the smoke like ethylene that is a ripening agent," Bender said. "I was out looking at a cherimoya orchard in Carpinteria on Friday, and it didn't get hit by fire or heat, but there were a lot of cherimoyas on the ground."

Farmers who lost crops in  the Lilac Fire seek advice from experts
Jaime Chambers, Fox 5 News, Dec. 19, 2017
Dozens of farmers whose citrus and avocados were burned in the Lilac Fire gathered to hear advice from UC Cooperative Extension experts. “The first thing I tell farmers is not to panic,” said Gary Bender, UC Cooperative Extension advisor in San Diego County. “When the fire burns hot and fast, that means the leaves will be burned but the tree might be fine.”

‘Defensible space' couldn't keep Thomas Fire from burning Ventura County
Emily Guerin, KPCC Public Radio, Dec. 19, 2017
The Thomas Fire in Ventura County surprised firefighters by destroying so many homes the first day after it broke out. UC Cooperative Extension specialist Max Moritz, who lives in Santa Barbara, said that defensible space isn't enough to protect structures during a wind-driven firestorm. “Defensible space has a very specific use. It's to provide a place for firefighters to do their work. It doesn't actually necessarily in and of itself protect the home from ignition,” he said. “We also have to think of the structure itself. What if nobody is there to defend it?” Homeowners must take precautions to keep flying embers from landing on flammable objects in and around the home and igniting a fire.

Lilac Fire resources for crop growers
Laura Acevedo, ABC 10 News, Dec. 19, 2017
The University of California Cooperative Extension and the USDA Farm Service Agency hosted an information meeting to provide agricultural assistance after the Lilac Fire. Some growers lost millions of dollars and thousands of pounds of fruit. UCCE advisor and county director Eta Takele spoke on estimated tree loss and advisors Sonia Rios and Gary Bender were also on the program.

Google Earth helps researchers map environmental impact of cannabis
Hana Baba, KALW Public Radio, Dec. 19, 2017
In Humboldt County, a team of researchers have been using satellite images to study cannabis grow sites for three years. “We were surprised by the location of the grows, the fact that most of the grows are in areas that are really bad for agriculture,” said Van Butsic, UC Cooperative Extension specialist. “There's good places to hide.” Butsic said the landscape will be really different in a year, and really different in five years.

California wildfire 45% contained, but devil winds persist
Mark Chediak, Bloomberg, Dec. 18, 2017
In CalFire terminology, 45 percent containment means that about that much of a hot zone is penned in by physical barriers, either roads, waterways or bulldozed or hand-shoveled clearings. “The problem is, when winds shift, the line of containment can be breached and embers can create spot fires,” said Max Moritz, a fire specialist for the University of California Cooperative Extension. “That's what we see with these wind-driven events.”

Are real or artificial Christmas trees better for the environment?
Jessica Roy, Los Angeles Times, Dec. 14, 2017
There's a common misconception about where real trees come from. Lynn Wunderlich, who works with Christmas tree farmers in her role as farm advisor for the University of California Cooperative Extension, said many people assume the trees are cut down in forests and stolen from nature. In reality, Christmas trees are grown on farms in California, Oregon, Washington, Michigan, North Carolina, Tennessee and other states, and they are meant to be cut down.

Climate change may shift vineyard planting
Dan Berger, Santa Rosa Press Democrat, Dec. 12, 2017
The warming climate is already having an impact on North Coast wines. UC Cooperative Extension viticulture advisor Glenn McGourty said “heat storms” before the 2017 harvest may result in satisfactory wines, but occasionally such conditions will produce characteristics that are atypical: “It's contrary to our handcrafted image of wines made from exquisitely grown fruit. If you're a pinot noir grower and all of a sudden the temperatures rise to 100 degrees for several days in a row, well, that's not the kind of wine you want to make. It's not what you signed up for.”

The invasive, flammable plants making California's fires worse
Jacob Margolis, Los Angeles Public Radio, 89.3 KPCC, Dec. 12, 2017
Dense amounts of grasses have squeezed in between the native coastal sage brush and chaparral. "The invasive grasses have had a major role in most of the fires this year," said Richard Minnich, AES researcher and UC Riverside earth sciences professor. "The fires have largely been at low elevations where exotic annual grassland is most abundant. And the amount of grass and biomass was unusually high this year because of the heavy rains last winter."

How to protect your house from a wildfire with plants
Kurt Snibbe, Orange County Register, Dec. 12, 2017
On average, about 1,445 structures are destroyed by wildfires each year in California. There have been more than 8,000 damaged and destroyed in California this year. UC Agriculture and Natural Resources is a source for science-based methods to reduce the likelihood a home will go up in flames during a wildfire event.

Why (and how) to cut down your own Christmas tree
Natalie Brunell, KCRA News, Dec. 12, 2017
Many national forests in California offer a limited number of tree permits for people to cut down their own Christmas trees. "You definitely would not necessarily expect perfection," said Susie Kocher, the forestry adviser for the UC Cooperative Extension in the central Sierra Nevada. "Farmed trees (in lots) are tended by farmers who prune them to get the perfect shape. Natural trees are going to look a little different than farmed trees."

California avocados hit with triple whammy of fire, wind and ash
Dan Whitcomb, Reuters, Dec. 8, 2017
The Ventura County wildfire destroyed much of the region's avocado crop not just with flames, but also with fierce Santa Ana winds and a thick blanket of ash. Avocados are planted in hillside groves because of their shallow roots, said Ben Faber, a UCCE farm advisor in Ventura. The fruit, typically harvested in February or March, is full-sized and a heavy fruit by December, held by a long stem. Those factors make avocados more vulnerable to the whipping winds than the lemon orchards dotting the flatlands of Ventura, Faber said.

California's climate emergency
Eric Holthaus, Rolling Stone, Dec. 8, 2017
As holiday music plays on the radio, temperatures in Southern California have soared into the 80s, and bone-dry winds have fanned a summer-like wildfire outbreak. Southern California is under siege. As California-based scientist Faith Kearns writes in Bay Nature magazine, "The admission that our best efforts may not always be enough opens a small window to shift how we think about disasters."

Pioneering practice could help California reverse groundwater depletion
Michelaina Johnson, Water Deeply, Dec. 6, 2017
A 2015 University of California study identified 3.6 million acres of farmland where farmland can be used to recharge the aquifer. “I think it is safe to say that if infrastructure were in place we could begin to replenish what is typically pumped from groundwater in most years if floodwaters are available,” said Toby O'Geen, UCCE soil resource specialist. Some of the regions with the worst groundwater overdraft and best suitability for on-farm recharge, like the Tulare Basin, have no access to surface water, according to UC Davis hydrologist Helen Dahlke.

In California fires, a starring role for the wicked wind of the West
Anne C. Mulkern, Science Magazine, Dec. 6, 2017
UC Cooperative Extension specialist Max Moritz said the state needs to incorporate wind corridors into its fire hazard severity zone maps. Stricter building codes apply in places designated as high-risk.

Bugs in the Christmas Tree? Shake, Relax, Decorate
Kathleen Doheny, WebMD, Dec. 6, 2017
Live Christmas trees could shelter some bugs, but commercial trees are probably pretty clean, said UCCE advisor Lynn Wunderlich. But consumers need not worry. “You aren't going to find black widows or brown recluse spiders in Christmas trees," Wunderlich says. Those spiders prefer to hang out in more protected surroundings, she says, such as the corner of your dark garage or shed.

2017 is California's worst year for wildfires on record
Jill Replogle, KPCC 89.3, Dec. 6, 2017
The 2017 fire season has been the most severe on record, due to a combustible combination of drought, rains, and especially, wind. “What really makes big years in terms of acres burned is essentially how many really windy days we have,” UCCE forestry specialist Bill Stewart. Last year's wet winter, which led to increased vegetation, and this year's record-breaking heat waves aren't as indicative of fire danger as Santa Ana winds, known in Northern California as Diablo winds, Stewart said. “It's always dry. There's always fuel,” he said.

California's massive fires reveal our illusion of control over disasters
Faith Kearns, Bay Nature, Dec. 6, 2017
"Unstoppable" is a word the firefighters have used to describe both the Tubbs Fire in northern California and the Thomas Fire in the southern part of the state. This is a marked change from top-down, command-and-control institutions like CAL FIRE. While it's scary, recognizing the reality that we aren't always in control when it comes to disasters also invites us to re-imagine how we can live with them.

Ali and the drones
Nick Papadopolous, CropMobsterTV, Dec. 5, 2017
Alireza (Ali) Pourreza travelled from Iran to Florida then to the UC ANR Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Parlier, Calif. He's a music-loving precision ag specialist working to help address some of the most vexing challenges facing agriculture.

Hillside berry farms trigger erosion, speed flooding on central coast
Sarah Derouin and Emma Hiolski, Santa Cruz Sentinel, Dec. 4, 2017
Strawberries are one of California's most profitable crops, but the plastic row covers that protect berries from cold and pests also increase water runoff and erosion on hillside fields. UCCE advisor Mark Bolda estimates that one inch of rainfall onto a 30-acre plastic-covered farm could send enough water downhill to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool. And the hills' sandy soil only exacerbates the problem. Nevertheless, he said, “It's not an option to not use plastic” in commercial strawberry farms.

Posted on Tuesday, January 2, 2018 at 9:47 AM

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