University of California


October 2018 News Clips (10/16 - 10/31)

Researchers studying cover crops near almond orchards

(Western Farm Press) Tim Hearden, Oct. 31

University of California Cooperative Extension researchers have started field trials to analyze the benefits and trade-off of planting cover crops near or within almond production systems.

Trials in Tehama, Merced, and Kern counties are replicating conditions in almond orchards with micro-irrigation systems, according to a UC newsletter. The scientists are watching the performance of two cover crop mixes, different termination dates, weed population shifts, beneficial and plant parasitic nematodes, frost risk, water usage, and other factors.

Labor Challenges in Sweet Potatoes

(Cal Ag Today) Mikenzi Meyers, Oct. 31

Harvest for sweet potatoes is in full swing, which means long hours and high labor expenses for producers. Scott Stoddard, of the UC Cooperative Extension in Merced County, knows the difficult task at hand in managing time and money.

With new overtime laws in place, the extended work days during harvest can be costly to farmers. With insight into several operations, Stoddard explained, “Everybody is crunched and trying to get as much as they possibly can get done in a day.”

Region's Innovation Ecosystem Showcased to International Leaders

(Valley Vision) Tammy Cronin, Oct. 31

The tenth Americas Competitiveness Exchange arrived in Sacramento on Thursday, following five days of exploring sites across Northern California representing a broad swathe of the Megaregion's robust innovation ecosystem.

Before arriving in Sacramento, the delegation of 50 high-level decision makers representing 23 different countries across the Western Hemisphere and beyond, visited multiple sites in San Francisco, Silicon Valley, Santa Cruz, Monterey, Salinas, Los Banos and Fresno. The purpose of the ACE program is for participants to make connections with the local community and explore opportunities for ongoing partnerships in research, trade, economic development, and more. Valley Vision‘s strong connections to federal partners through AgPlus and other initiatives were key to Northern California being the location of the exchange, with Valley Vision and UC Agriculture and Natural Resources serving as organizers and hosts (see the Capital Region Program Brief for a snapshot of the action-packed program).

How agtech is changing farming in California

Technology holds tremendous promise for the California agricultural industry, however there are challenges that must be better understood and managed, wrote Damon Kitney in an article distributed to participants in an invitation-only Global Food Forum hosted by the Wall Street Journal in San Francisco on Oct. 2. Glenda Humiston, Mark Bolda and Laura Tourte are quoted in the article.

This Northern California mountain lion is a serial killer — of horses

(Los Angeles Times) Jaclyn Cosgrove, Oct. 29

…Local ranchers who believe this part of rural Modoc County has too many wild horses for the local ecology must, grudgingly, tip their hats to the mountain lion. They wish more of the area's cougars had a gift for mowing down horses.

…“It's just one mountain lion that we know of, and they say it is eating about one horse a week,” said Laura Snell, Modoc County director at UC Cooperative Extension. “But even at those numbers, we're not even making a dent really at all in the population.”

Climate-Smart Agriculture Endorsed by CDFA and UC ANR in New Partnership

(AgNet West) Oct. 29

A new partnership to advance climate-smart agriculture was made official in Sacramento after UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) Vice President Glenda Humiston and California Secretary of Agriculture Karen Ross signed a memorandum of understanding.  The partnership will make funding available to bring on additional personnel to assist with the implementation of more sustainable farming and ranching practices.

Yes, eating meat affects the environment, but cows are not killing the climate

(The Conversation) Frank M. Mitloehner, Oct. 25

As the scale and impacts of climate change become increasingly alarming, meat is a popular target for action. Advocates urge the public to eat less meat to save the environment. Some activists have called for taxing meat to reduce consumption of it.

A key claim underlying these arguments holds that globally, meat production generates more greenhouse gases than the entire transportation sector. However, this claim is demonstrably wrong, as I will show. And its persistence has led to false assumptions about the linkage between meat and climate change.

CRB and UC create $1 million endowment for US citrus research

(Morning Ag Clips) Oct. 24

The Citrus Research Board and UC Agriculture and Natural Resources have established a $1 million endowment to fund the Presidential Researcher for Sustainable Citrus Clonal Protection at the UC Lindcove Research and Extension Center. The endowed researcher will provide a UC Cooperative Extension scientist a dedicated source of funds to support scholarly activities focused on the long-term sustainability of the citrus industry.

“I wish to thank the Citrus Research Board for establishing the Presidential Researcher for Sustainable Citrus Clonal Protection at LREC endowment,” said UC ANR vice president Glenda Humiston. “This gift, coupled with the $500,000 match from the UC Office of the President, will help to ensure the long-term success of exemplary research focused on the California citrus industry.”

Projects evaluate recharge on cropland

(Ag Alert) Christine Souza, Oct. 24

… In Northern California, professors from UC Davis are working on a small-scale study with the Scott Valley Irrigation District to recharge groundwater during winter months, in order to support added streamflow and fisheries, such as chinook salmon, during the summer. 

… UC Davis professor Thomas Harter said the Scott Valley project examines storing winter runoff underground in order to support late-summer streamflow.

Why cows are getting a bad rap in lab-grown meat debate

(The Conversation) Alison Van Eenennaam, Oct. 24

A battle royal is brewing over what to call animal cells grown in cell culture for food. Should it be in-vitro meat, cellular meat, cultured meat or fermented meat? What about animal-free meat, slaughter-free meat, artificial meat, synthetic meat, zombie meat, lab-grown meat, non-meat or artificial muscle proteins?

Then there is the polarizing “fake” versus “clean” meat framing that boils this complex topic down to a simple good versus bad dichotomy. The opposite of fake is of course the ambiguous but desirous “natural.” And modeled after “clean” energy, “clean” meat is by inference superior to its alternative, which must logically be “dirty” meat.

California Votes on More Space for Farm Animals ... Again.

(KQED) Lesley McClurg, Oct. 23

“People spend 50 to 100 dollars a year on eggs,” says UC Davis economist Dan Sumner. “It'll go up to $100 to $150.”

Though another factor could also be at play in egg prices: an uncertain future. 

“The concern for the people investing in these new standards is that it's not at all clear that they're going to last very long,” says Sumner.

Fuel Matters: Why Wildfire Behavior Depends on What's Burning

(KQED) Allie Weill, Oct. 23

... In the Bay Area and coastal Southern California, shrublands, grasslands, and forests come together in a patchwork of fuel types. Managing these lands for wildfire hazard, ecology, and resource value can be a challenge. When it comes to managing fire in the coast ranges, “there's no one-size-fits-all,” said UC Berkeley fire scientist Scott Stephens at a symposium in May.

Proposition 12: Cage-free eggs, more room for farm animals on ballot

(Mercury News) Paul Rogers, Oct. 22

…But Proposition 2 didn't provide specific square-feet limits. After it passed, farmers argued that they could still keep chickens in cages. A UC Davis study concluded that it would wipe out California's egg industry because it only applied to farmers based in California and farmers from other states would flood California stores with eggs produced more cheaply. So state lawmakers passed a new law in 2010 requiring that it apply to all eggs, veal and pork sold in California, even if it came from other states.

…Some of the decline would have happened anyway, said economist Daniel Sumner, director of the UC Davis Agricultural Issue Center.

“The egg industry has been declining for decades in California,” Sumner said. “Raising eggs is about converting corn and soybeans to eggs. It's expensive to haul corn and soybeans around. And we don't grow corn and soybeans in California.”

But Sumner predicted if Prop 12 passes, it will raise the price of some types of eggs, perhaps by as much as 50 percent, and the price of veal and pork by about 20 percent.

Tickets for agri-business tour available

(Chico Enterprise-Record) Laura Urseny, Oct. 21

Tickets for the Agri-Business Bus Tour that is part of the annual Farm City Celebration are on sale, but the tour usually sells out quickly.

Hosted by the Butte County Farm Bureau and University of California Cooperative Extension, the Nov. 7 bus tour will take guests to four businesses and a government office that make up Butte County's agricultural economy.

Thousands attend Dairyville Orchard Festival

(Red Bluff Daily News) Julie Zeeb, Oct. 21

Music filled the air and the sun was shining Saturday for the 21st annual Dairyville Orchard Festival with thousands expected to peruse the various items available at booths spread throughout the field behind Lassen View School.

Rick Buchner, retired as the Tehama County UC Cooperative Extension director, was one of many volunteers helping at the event. Wearing a name tag with Friend of the Festival listed as his title, he has been involved in it since the beginning.

…Joni Samay, a community education specialist with UC CalFresh, was at the event to offer information and sunflower seeds as a healthy snack option.

Why farm-worker migration is booming

(The Economist) Oct. 20

Foreign workers are self-regulating, points out Philip Martin, who studies migrant labour at the University of California, Davis, "Because there are usually more willing migrants than farm jobs, and because workers tend to be hired in groups, they have a strong incentive to behave impeccably and ensure that others do, too."

Trump orders fewer ‘regulatory burdens' for diverting water to CA farms

(SF Chronicle) Melody Gutierrez, Oct. 19

The timing of Friday's announcement was not lost on Doug Parker, director of the California Institute for Water Resources, a University of California research organization.

“This has a lot to do with the upcoming elections and helping their base,” Parker said. “It's a feel-good move.”

However, he said, it's unlikely to accomplish much.

“Major changes to move water for agriculture will be caught up in courts, so this won't likely lead to any action,” Parker said.

Ranchers, vineyards reeling from summer wildfires

(Western Farm Press) Tim Hearden, Oct. 19

…University of California scientists have said they don't expect a significant economic impact on Northern California wine regions because only a small percentage of wines may have been affected by fires and smoke. Horiuchi agrees, noting that while the situation is tough on individual growers, Lake County vineyards represent only about 1 percent of California's industry.

…In Mendocino County, properties in the path of the River Fire included the University of California Hopland Research and Extension Center. On July 27 and 28, the fire burned about 3,000 acres of the facility's 5,358 acres, and destroyed three research structures, two storage sheds, and spring boxes that capture water for wildlife and water storage tanks, says Pamela Kan-Rice, spokeswoman for the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources. Sheep at the facility were moved to safety before the fire.

Automakers Sell Performance, but Consumers Want Fuel Economy and Safety

(Consumer Reports) Jeff Plungis, Oct. 19

The industry is six times as likely to make emotional appeals—such as emphasizing the macho nature of a pickup truck or the wilderness-stomping abilities of an SUV—over promoting good fuel economy or safety, according to an analysis by [Gwen Arnold] researchers at the University of California, Davis commissioned by Consumers Union, the advocacy division of Consumer Reports.

Landscapes that work for biodiversity and people

(Science) Claire Kremen, Adina Merenlender, Oct. 19

As the human population has grown, we have taken and modified more and more land, leaving less and less for nonhuman species. This is clearly unsustainable, and the amount of land we protect for nature needs to be increased and preserved. However, this still leaves vast regions of the world unprotected and modified. Such landscapes do not have to be a lost cause. Kremen and Merenlender review how biodiversity-based techniques can be used to manage most human-modified lands as “working landscapes.” These can provide for human needs and maintain biodiversity not just for ecosystem services but also for maintenance and persistence of nonhuman species.

How do wildfires affect wine? UC Davis begins study

(KCRA) Vicki Gonzalez. Oct. 18

…KCRA's Vicki Gonzalez talked with UC Davis extension enologist Anita Oberholster about the study and what it could mean:

Q: What's the difference between smoke and smoke taint?

Oberholster: Having a smoky character in wine is not anything new. It's something some people actually go for. But, too much of a good thing is not a good thing anymore. And then, you can get this smoky, ashy aftertaste, and that's usually what's the most unpleasant thing for people.

Imperial County Farm Bureau celebrates more than a century of service

(Imperial Valley Press) Brea Mohamed, Oct. 18

This year, Imperial County Farm Bureau is celebrating more than 100 years of its dedication to Imperial County agriculture.

By March of the following year, all of the plans were finalized and the organization that has grown to play such a huge role for agriculture in the Imperial Valley was up and running. The Farm Bureau played a unique role in the agricultural community; it acted as a rural chamber of commerce, a social gathering place, and an educational organization where one could learn about agricultural experiments from the USDA and UC Cooperative Extension.

Have bedbugs taken flight in Boston?

(Boston Globe) Christopher Muther, Oct. 18

…“During the flight I did see a very small insect on my shoulder, it looked like a tiny roach,” said Kelleher, who lives in Cambridge and flew from Boston to Paris on American Airlines. “I flicked it off. What I should have done was call the flight attendant. But later when I looked up bedbugs online, the pictures matched the bug on my shoulder.”

…Entomologist Dong-Hwan Choe of the Department of Entomology at the University of California said although bedbugs can be found in areas where people tend to spend extended periods of time sleeping, resting, or sitting, such as airplanes, he agreed that photos alone would not be enough to tell if the bites came from the blood-feeding pests.

How do you build a safer city after California's worst wildfire? Santa Rosa officials say the answer may have to wait

(Los Angeles Times) Laura Newberry, Oct. 18

…But fire safety experts say that mere encouragement isn't enough. The county should consider enforcing strengthened building and landscaping regulations, especially in neighborhoods that aren't flagged as fire hazard zones but could ultimately succumb to an unpredictable weather event like the Tubbs firestorm, said Max Moritz, a wildfire specialist at UC Santa Barbara.

Take, for example, Coffey Park, which lost more than 1,300 homes in the blaze, but is not in the wildland-urban interface.

“As a researcher, I see lots of strong evidence supporting the idea that we should have more science-based regulatory constraints on how we build,” Moritz said. “Yet we shy away from that.”

Researcher who introduced a variety of new wine grapes to Lodi among inductees into Ag Hall of Fame

(Stockton Record) Bob Highfill, Oct. 17

The Lodi American Viticultural Area boasts close to 100 wine grape varieties currently in production.
Lodi likely wouldn't have the diversity it enjoys today were it not for Richard “Rip” Ripken and his desire to learn and experiment.

Among his numerous accomplishments, Ripken helped introduce Lodi to a host of new wine grapes through his own research and with the University of California Cooperative Extension.

…Ripken, along with wine grape grower and vintner Stephen Borra, agriculture advocate and educator Laura Wheeler Tower, former San Joaquin County Viticulture Farm Advisor Paul Verdegaal and former Pomology Farm Advisor Donald Rough (posthumous) will be inducted at the 34th annual San Joaquin County Agricultural Hall of Fame Awards banquet presented by the Greater Stockton Chamber of Commerce at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at the Robert J. Cabral Ag Center in Stockton.

When Does Smoke Actually Result In Tainted Wine Grapes? It's Complicated. (AUDIO)

(Capital Public Radio) Julia Mitric, Oct. 17

Certain foods are prized for their smokiness: think of Gouda cheese or paprika. But when California winemakers talk about smoke taint, they're not talking about wines with smoky notes.

“[Wine] is only tainted when you get that really negative, cold campfire, old ashtray aftertaste,” says Anita Oberholster, an enologist with the UC Davis Extension.

She says no serious winemaker would ever consider releasing a wine with these flaws. But lately, the enologist fields a lot of calls from vintners who want her to taste their wines and weigh in on whether she detects even the slightest trace of taint from smoke exposure.  

Researchers offer ways to curb shot hole borer damage

(AgAlert) Padma Nagappan, Oct 17

…Akif Eskalen is a plant pathologist with UCANR in Riverside and one of the experts on this pervasive beetle species.

"We've identified the species now, and agricultural crops have shown they can resist it better than natural vegetation," he said, delivering good news.

..."The Fusarium is very damaging, but it didn't hurt avocados as much. We haven't seen any avocado trees die, although there has been branch dieback," Eskalen said. "Once growers cut off the branches, then the tree survives."

The Family Niche

(Comstock's magazine) Laurie Lauletta-Boshart, Oct. 16

… To become better versed in raising and breeding lambs, Polis and Ethan took a class on lamb management and reproduction through the University of California Cooperative Extension, a free program that serves as a bridge between the university and farmers, offering a combination of research, extension and outreach. Polis and his son got direct training from the UCCE instructors on banding sheep testicles and docking tails. They also witnessed an ewe giving birth to a breech baby.

The Cost Of Your Favorite Beer Could Double Due To Climate Change, Study Suggests

(Capital Public Radio) Ezra David Romero, Oct. 16

Konrad Mathesius is a farm advisor with the UC Cooperative Extension in Yolo County. He says if climate climate change prevents barley from being grown in wet climates California farmers could once again give it a try.

"It's never really fetched a great price, and that's why all of a sudden climate change is threatening it, but if it's grown on irrigated land as part of a rotation then, yeah, it's a strong contender,” Mathesius said.

Mathesius is working on a project to see how barley grows under different conditions in California. The barley is being malted in Oregon and he says Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. will brew it.

“They're all going to be blonde ales,” Mathesius said, adding that he, brewers and the public will evaluate the beers.

Sudden oak death diminishes after dry winter, but infection remains rampant 

(The Press Democrat) Guy Kovner, Oct. 16

...Since the mid-1990s, sudden oak death has killed up to 50 million trees from Big Sur to southwest Oregon and is entrenched in the woodlands, spreading rapidly after wet winters and slower during dry years.

…“We know there's a lot of disease out there,” said Matteo Garbelotto, director of the forest pathology and mycology laboratory at UC Berkeley, which has organized annual sudden oak death surveys, known as the SOD Blitz, since 2008.

… Steven Swain, a UC Cooperative Extension farm advisor, said he surveyed the Sonoma Coast region from Jenner to the Mendocino County line in May and found a significant outbreak in an area where sudden oak death has been present for years.

“There's a lot more of it than there was five or six years ago,” he said.

Sudden oak death was first detected in Sonoma County at Fairfield Osborn Preserve on Sonoma Mountain in the early 2000s, said Kerry Wininger, UC Coop Extension staffer in Santa Rosa.

The disease is a “neighborhood issue” in the county, she said.

Fighting fire with fire: forestry experts call for more controlled burning in B.C.

(Global News) Doris Maria Bregolisse, Oct. 16

…Lowering the wildfire risk with controlled burns requires patience, according to University of California Berkeley fire science Prof. Scott Stephens.

Forests build wildfire resiliency after three controlled burns completed over 20 years, he said.

“Not surprisingly, in the first fire, we killed a lot of trees,” Stephens said.


Posted on Thursday, November 1, 2018 at 6:21 PM
Focus Area Tags: Agriculture

October 2018 News Clips (10/1 - 10/15)

Chico State Hosts "Wildcats Vote" Campaign Forum

(Action News Now 12/24) Cecile Juliette, Oct. 15

… Ryan Cleland, 4-H Community Education Specialist, said voting is the best way to make a point.  

"You don't have to engage in the conversations at Thanksgiving or the arguments on TV," Cleland said. "You can quietly vote and make your voice heard."

Don't Blame Storm Victims for This 

(Gizmodo) Maddie Stone, Oct. 15

… Faith Kearns, a scientist at the California Institute for Water Resources, says she's seen victim shaming based on ideology become “increasingly common” as we wrestle with how to talk about climate change after a disaster. As an example she pointed to the massive wildfire that tore through Fort McMurray in 2016, which brought out the worst on social media, with some, including former New Democratic Party candidate Tom Moffatt, calling it “karmic” that a town in the Canadian oil-sands was devoured by a blaze likely exacerbated by climate change. A brief scan of responses to the recent Guardian article reveals there are indeed jerks who saw citizens of the red-leaning Florida Panhandle getting what they deserve when Hurricane Michael struck last week.

New outbreaks of sudden oak death in Marin despite drier weather

(Marin Independent Journal) Richard Halstead, Oct 12 

New areas ripe for infection with sudden oak death have been identified in Marin County despite drier conditions that have helped check the spread of the disease statewide, according to a new survey by citizen scientists.

This is the 11th such survey conducted since Matteo Garbelotto, a forest pathologist with the University of California at Berkeley Forest Pathology and Mycology Laboratory and one of the foremost experts on sudden oak death, organized the so-called sudden oak death blitzes in 2008 using volunteers.

UC grad students picked to help Global Food Initiative

(Western Farm Press) Pamela Kan-Rice, Oct. 12

Two University of California graduate students have been selected by UC Agriculture and Natural Resources as UC Global Food Initiative (GFI) fellows for 2018-19. Graduate students Melanie Colvin at UC Berkeley and Maci Mueller at UC Davis will work with ANR academics and staff to conduct and communicate about UC research for improved food security and agricultural sustainability.

Fighting fire with fire

(Calaveras Enterprise) Davis Harper, Oct 11 

Landowners heard from personnel from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection personnel and the Stanislaus National Forest, in addition to foresters, ecologists and retired firefighters Oct. 4 during a prescribed burn workshop at Ebbetts Pass Fire District in Arnold.

The event was hosted by University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) – Central Sierra (El Dorado, Amador, Calaveras and Tuolumne Counties) Natural Resources Advisor Susie Kocher.

UC Davis geneticist Alison Van Eenennaam: The science advocate anti-GMO groups love to hate

(Genetic Literacy Project) Joan Conrow, Oct. 11

In the contentious arena of livestock breeding and biotechnology, Dr. Alison L. Van Eenennaam has emerged as a tireless advocate for getting the science right.

Whether she's conducting research in her role as a cooperative extension specialist in the Department of Animal Science at the University of California, Davis, where she runs the Animal Genomics and Biotechnology Laboratory, or crossing the globe to talk about the implications of her work, Van Eenennaam is committed to ensuring that scientific facts inform both her work and the surrounding conversation.

UC agriculture experts offer a webinar series

(Morning Ag Clips) Oct. 9

Continuing education credits required by the California Department of Pesticide Regulation will now be available from UC Cooperative Extension by participating in live webinars.

“Everybody is busy,” said Beth Grafton-Cardwell, UCCE citrus entomology specialist. “It's hard for people to get to meetings. Now, they can get some of the hours they need for updating their professional licenses from home or work, or even on their smartphones.”

2018 Wine Industry Leaders

(Wine Business Monthly)

…Anita Oberholster, cooperative extension specialist in enology, UC Davis

Making wine research useful

Dr. Anita Oberholster joined the UC Davis Department of Viticulture and Enology in 2011. Her research focuses on the influence of viticulture practices and environmental factors on grape ripening and wine quality. Dr. Oberholster has been effective in keeping current with fellow researchers and getting new research findings into the hands of practitioners who can make use of it. She earned her Ph.D. from Adelaide University in Australia.

…Hall of Fame: Linda Bisson, former professor, UC Davis Department of Viticulture & Enology

Advanced what we know about fermentation

Dr. Linda Bisson retired from the viticulture and enology faculty at the end of 2017. Through extension courses and professional organizations like ASEV, where she has been the science editor of the AJEV for many years, her research in yeast genetics is a scientific legacy that will not be surpassed easily. Most of the teaching material she used for the initial UC Davis Extension winemaking class is accessible to all and can be found on the UCD V&E website.

Moringa, the next superfood

(WaPo UC Davis sponsored content) Amy Quinton, Oct. 9

…“Moringa compared to other crops does very well in the Central Valley because of its drought tolerance,” said Ruth Dahlquist-Willard, a small farms and specialty crops advisor with the University of California Cooperative Extension in Fresno County.

Dahlquist-Willard is working with Xiong and other farmers to find an efficient way to dry and grind the moringa leaves into a powder. That would allow the farmers to sell year-round and tap into the growing health food market for moringa in the U.S.

Clean Water Act Dramatically Cut Pollution in U.S. Waterways, UC Researchers Say

(Sierra Sun Times) Kara Manke, Oct. 9

The 1972 Clean Water Act has driven significant improvements in U.S. water quality, according to the first comprehensive study of water pollution over the past several decades, by researchers at UC Berkeley and Iowa State University.

…“Water pollution has declined dramatically, and the Clean Water Act contributed substantially to these declines,” said Joseph Shapiro, an associate professor of agricultural and resource economics in the College of Natural Resources at UC Berkeley. “So we were shocked to find that the measured benefit numbers were so low compared to the costs.”

OPINION: Legalized Eco-Bullying Crosses The Pond

(The Daily Caller) Henry Miller, Oct. 8

… USRTK has abused freedom of information laws to demand that academic institutions across North America turn over the emails of faculty members who have a positive attitude toward modern agricultural technologies.

…  Other eminent academics, such as University of Illinois Professor (Emeritus) Bruce Chassy, University of Oklahoma Law Professor (Emeritus) Drew Kershen, Washington State University nutrition professor Michelle McGuire, University of California Davis animal geneticist Alison van Eenennaam, Cornell University Alliance for Science director Sarah Evanega, science writer extraordinaire Jon Entine have also been targeted.

California water and land use leaders aim to protect state's groundwater

California Economic Summit, Oct. 8

Since 2011, California has seen the whipsaw effects of drought and flood—from dam and levee failures and flooded neighborhoods to dry wells, parched fields, and trucked water programs to meet basic human needs. While experts predict that these fluctuations are the new norm, smart water leaders are considering new ways to slow down, capture, and store rainy day flows for the inevitable dry days that follow.

Last month, water and land use leaders met at the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources Center in Davis to discuss opportunities and challenges for protecting and increasing groundwater recharge.

Why This Town Is Rebuilding One Year After a Destructive Wildfire—Knowing Another Fire Will Likely Come

(TIME) Jennifer Calfas, Oct. 8

… “It's not our place to say you can't [rebuild],” says Max Moritz, a wildfire specialist at the University of California's Cooperative Extension. “But as a society we need to have a discussion about how much exposure we feel it's safe to have our citizens living in.”

…“Let's build in a way that is going to accommodate that inevitable occurrence,” says Moritz, the wildfire specialist. “Our land use planning should have all of this knowledge — we don't, but we could. That's the future.”

California Growers Adjust Safety Practices After Last Year's Deadly E. Coli Outbreak (AUDIO)

(Capital Public Radio) Julia Mitric, Oct. 5

A group that oversees food safety programs for big California lettuce growers has changed its protocols in the wake of an E. coli outbreak last spring which caused five deaths and sickened more than 200 people across 36 states. 

The outbreak was linked to romaine lettuce grown in Yuma, Arizona. It was a deja vu moment for food safety specialists says Erin DiCaprio, a Food Virologist with the University of California Cooperative Extension.

“The romaine lettuce outbreak triggered some old memories of some past outbreaks,” says DiCaprio.

Moringa touted as next ‘super food'

(Capital Press) Padma Nagappan, Oct. 5

When researchers from the University of California's Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources found local Asian farmers growing it, and understood the nutritional value of this humble plant, they began to look for ways to promote it, so more farmers could grow it, and the public could learn how to use it. With the help of a state-funded grant, they're testing how much protein, iron and vitamins it contains, and have developed recipes in which the leaves and pod can be used.

“We found there was a market for the value-added product as a powder used in smoothies, savory dishes, oatmeal,” said Lorena Maria Ramos, new crop research associate with the small farms program at UCANR in Fresno. “It's versatile.”

In farmers' markets in the Fresno area, its leaves are sold for $1 a bundle. With encouragement and education from Ruth Dahlquist-Willard, a small farms advisor at UCANR who first recognized the potential of moringa, and help from Ramos, more local growers are beginning to plant and sell it.

4-H advisor to be inducted into national Hall of Fame

(Western Farm Press) Jeanette Warnert, Oct. 5

Richard Mahacek, UC Cooperative Extension 4-H youth development advisor in Merced County from 1976 to 2012, will be inducted into the National 4-H Hall of Fame on Oct. 19 for his lifetime achievements and contributions to 4-H.

…The crowning achievement of his career was the development of the 4-H Junk Drawer Robotics curriculum in 2011. The curriculum shows how to engage children in building robotic devices with rubber bands, Popsicle sticks, medicine dispensers and bamboo skewers – the kinds of things people already have around the house. The robotics program develops skills that go beyond science and engineering. The children learn communications, teamwork and critical thinking.

UC Cooperative Extension works in local communities to help Californians adapt to climate change

Valley News, Oct. 5

Californians received bleak news last month when the state released its fourth assessment of climate change in California. The report predicts severe wildfires, more frequent and longer droughts, rising sea levels, increased flooding, coastal erosion and extreme heat.

“It's great to be living in a state where science and facts around climate change are valued,” University of California Cooperative Extension specialist Adina Merenlender said. “But the recent forecasts may make you want to devour a quart of ice cream in a pool of salty tears.”

Modern civilization has changed the world climate, and even dramatic reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions at this point won't turn back the clock, according to Igor Lacan, UC Cooperative Extension adviser in the Bay Area of California, who said the warming now predicted by Cal-Adapt is likely already “baked in,” even with the best mitigation efforts.

L.A. councilman wants the city to take another look at its coyote policy

(Daily Breeze) Donna Littlejohn, Oct. 3

…“Wildlife relocation is not generally considered a good wildlife practice,” said Niamh Quinn, a coyote researcher at the University of California Cooperative Extension, in Orange County. “The relocation of coyotes could result in the death of that coyote.

“It would ultimately be more humane to euthanize the coyote.”

Late Season Pests Can Be a Challenge

(Cal Ag Today) Patrick Cavanaugh, Oct. 3

The 2018 cotton harvest will be starting in the southern part of the Central Valley later this month, and some growers will be facing pressure from pests.

California Ag Today recently spoke about the topic with Dan Munk, a UC Cooperative Extension Farm Advisor in Fresno County specializing in irrigation crop nutrient management and cotton production systems.

“The crop looks very good and loaded with cotton bolls. We don't have a lot of boll losses, and that's a real positive thing, so very excited about the potential for fairly high yields in the 2018 season. The biggest concern right now is pest management, press pressures as we approach the latter part of the season,” Munk explained.

Rain won't disrupt Sonoma County grape harvest  

(The Press Democrat) Bill Swindell, Oct. 1

Sonoma County growers are nearing the halfway point of the 2018 grape harvest as light rainfall over the weekend has not so far disrupted picking.

The rain that fell in Santa Rosa, measuring only 0.11 of an inch, and a storm that's forecast to enter the area on Monday night should not cause significant problems with the harvest, local vintners said.

Rain can become a problem during the annual county grape harvest when it lingers and grapes aren't allowed enough time to dry, which could lead to fruit rot, said Rhonda Smith, viticulture farm advisor for the UC Cooperative extension in Sonoma County.

“It's significant rainfall that doesn't have a break on it,” Smith said of poor conditions that could lead to bunch rot.

Robots Head for the Fields

(Wall Street Journal) Jennifer Strong, Daniela Hernandez, Oct. 1

…“Each would do a task it's best suited for. So it's a symbiotic relationship” between people, crops and machines, says David Slaughter, an agricultural engineer, who heads the Smart Farm Initiative at the University of California, Davis. Right now, artificial intelligence alone “can't completely deal with the natural complexity of a farm,” he adds.

…Commercial orchards are moving “to very structured and geometric architectures that might look more like a factory in the future,” says Stavros Vougioukas, an associate professor of biological and agricultural engineering at the University of California, Davis.



Posted on Wednesday, October 31, 2018 at 6:32 PM
Focus Area Tags: Natural Resources

Agtech is changing farming in California

Technology holds tremendous promise for the California agricultural industry, however there are challenges that must be better understood and managed, wrote Damon Kitney in an article distributed to participants in an Oct. 2 technology conference in San Francisco.

Using artificial intelligence to speed up genetic selection is one area where technology is evolving in the laboratories of the Silicon Valley. Glenda Humiston, the vice president for UC Agriculture and Natural Resources, was quoted extensively in Kitney's article about the potential of AI and other technologies in agriculture.

"Artificial intelligence is extremely difficult in agriculture because of the huge amount of variability in environmental conditions across a single field," Humiston said. "This requires many sensors, complex algorithms and large real-time data processing - all integrated and working together to inform decisions and actions."

Humiston said the ability to pull together an array of data - from drones, robots, sensors and genomics - and use it for informed decision making will require significant improvements in how 'big data' is managed. Point solutions are being developed by universities, startups and corporate innovators, but few are integrated to provide real-life solutions for farmers.

"Integration will be a key factor in making these technologies affordable and available to most farmers," she said. "Many startup technologies for agtech are hitting the market with glossy websites, pitch events and marketing materials that appeal to investors, but the science behind them is dubious."

Berries are soft fruit, so robotic harvesting is unlikely. The industry is looking to agtech to reduce the amount of labor needed and make it easier for farmworkers to pick and harvest the fields. (Photo: Pixabay)

A key issue covered in the article is the cost and availability of labor in berry production. About 60 percent of the costs associated with berries are labor. At times, a significant portion of berries are lost when farmers can't find labor to get them picked.

Despite the effort to find technology to cut labor needs, human labor in the field will never be replaced, according to Mark Bolda, UC Cooperative Extension strawberry and caneberry advisor for Santa Cruz County.

"It's not realistic to see robots as the full solution for our labor issues, rather more success will be found in berries by combining robots with already existing labor of humans," he said.

Berries are very soft fruits. Technology to find them, pick them and put them in a box does not exist, Bolda said. Robots of the future will likely transport full boxes out of the field, bring in new boxes, monitor the rate of picking and charting field issues.

UCCE farm management advisor Laura Torte concurs.

"Humans bring sensory attributes to agriculture that robotics and mechanization has not - yet - been able to perfect," she said.

Posted on Tuesday, October 30, 2018 at 9:33 AM
Focus Area Tags: Agriculture

Prop 12 builds on food animal welfare initiative passed 10 years ago

Proposition 12, a measure on California's Nov. 6 ballot, builds on the successful ballot measure Prop. 2, which 10 years ago required veal calves, breeding pigs and egg-laying hens to be kept on farms that allowed them to turn around freely, lie down, stand up and extend their limbs, reported Paul Rogers in the Mercury News.

However, CDFA issued guidelines that said chickens could still be kept in cages and be in compliance with the law. That prompted sponsors - including the Humane Society, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and other groups - to propose Prop 12, which will tighten the law. If passed by a simple majority, the new proposition would require 43 square feet of space for each calf raised for veal by 2020, 24 square feet for each breeding pig by 2022 and one square foot per hen by 2020, with all egg-laying hens required to be cage-free by 2022 — in other words, allowed to roam around a barn or large coop. Farmers from other states would also have to comply with these dimensions to sell their products in California.

Since Prop 2 went into effect, egg prices increased by 9 percent. California is also producing fewer eggs. In 2007, 5.3 billion eggs were laid by California chickens, with a value of $346 million. By 2015, California chickens laid 3.5 billion eggs with a value of $210 million. 

Some of the decline would have happened anyway, said economist Daniel Sumner, director of UC Agriculture and Natural Resources' Agricultural Issue Center.

“The egg industry has been declining for decades in California,” Sumner said. “Raising eggs is about converting corn and soybeans to eggs. It's expensive to haul corn and soybeans around. And we don't grow corn and soybeans in California.”

But Sumner predicted if Prop 12 passes, it will raise the price of some types of eggs, perhaps by as much as 50 percent, and the price of veal and pork by about 20 percent.

“People spend 50 to 100 dollars a year on eggs,” Sumner told reporter Lesley McClurg of KQED. “It'll go up to $100 to $150.”

Though another factor could also be at play in egg prices: an uncertain future. 

“The concern for the people investing in these new standards is that it's not at all clear that they're going to last very long,” says Sumner.

The November 2018 ballot measure, Proposition 12, would tighten guidelines for confined food animal housing. (Photo illustration: Pixabay)
Posted on Monday, October 22, 2018 at 4:22 PM
Focus Area Tags: Agriculture

Anne Schellman appointed coordinator of UC Master Gardeners in Stanislaus County

Anne Schellman has been appointed coordinator of the new UC Master Gardener program in Stanislaus County, reported John Holland in the Modesto Bee.

A Modesto native, Schellman learned about plants while working at Scenic Nursery when she was a student Modesto Junior College. She earned a bachelor's degree in horticultural science at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and a master's degree in community development at UC Davis.

Schellman is not new to UC ANR or to UC Cooperative Extension in Stanislaus County. She worked as a UCCE horticulture program representative and program manager for UCCE nutrition, family and consumer sciences. Most recently, Schellman was an urban integrated pest management educator, working at the UC ANR statewide offices in Davis. 

Schellman will be shepherding the first Master Gardener program in Stanislaus County. The first cohort of volunteers will be trained from January to June 2019. 

“It's a great way to give back to the community,” Schellman said. “Master Gardeners learn from university experts and then teach the community about important topics like using less water and reducing green waste in the landscape. They also help promote a healthier community by showing people how to plant and grow fruits and vegetables.”

Anne Schellman
Posted on Monday, October 22, 2018 at 3:06 PM
Tags: Anne Schellman (1)
Focus Area Tags: Yard & Garden

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