Posts Tagged: drought
Bigcone Douglas-fir is an evergreen conifer native to the mountains of Southern California. Repeated wildfires and drought are threatening the species' existence in its native range, reported Bettina Boxall in the Los Angeles Times.
The reporter visited a Santa Barbara County site peppered with tall, dead trees where UC Cooperative Extension fire specialist Max Moritz is studying the species' fate.
"You don't see anything," he said. "It has a fairly depressing quality to it, given the mortality and no regeneration."
The area was burned by the Zaca Fire 11 years ago, something the fire-resistant conifer can generally withstand. Moritz and research assistant Ryan Salladay found evidence that the trees survived the fire, but then died sometime later. They are trying to determine what did them in by recording the aspect of the slope, collecting tree core samples, measuring the water stress in living trees, looking for wildfire impacts, and checking for seedlings.
“The drought-following-fire issue is a total reshuffling of what might come back or survive,” Moritz said.
How they survived: Owners of the few homes left standing around Paradise, Calif., took critical steps to ward off wildfires
(Washington Post) Sarah Kaplan, Frances Stead Sellers, Nov. 30
…Though the United States spends upwards of $2 billion each year on fire suppression and billions more helping communities recover, the current budget for the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Pre-Disaster Mitigation Grant Program is just over $200 million — and it must address hurricanes, earthquakes and a host of other natural hazards as well as fires. Cal Fire provides grants for forest management and tree removal, but not structure modification.
The budget for the University of California Cooperative Extension program, which conducts fire research and outreach to homeowners, has been cut by almost half since 2000. There are now fewer than 20 extension advisers in forestry and fire serving a state with 40 million people and 15 million acres of public lands.
Opinion | To Help Prevent the Next Big Wildfire, Let the Forest Burn
(NY Times) Ash Ngu and Sahil Chinoy, Nov. 29
Before Euro-American settlement in the 1800s, fires burned about 1.5 million acres of forest each year, on average, according to an analysis of fire return intervals by Scott Stephens, a professor of fire science at the University of California, Berkeley. Skies were most likely smoky through much of the summer and fall, and most forests in California burned every five to 25 years from wildfires caused by lightning or Native American burning practices, he said.
Farmers make a “Romaine Recovery” after E. coli Outbreak
(NBC PalmSprings) Daytona Everett, Nov. 28
The FDA has now connected the Central Coast of California to 43 cases of E. coli across the country. However, romaine lettuce farmers in the Coachella Valley are just now bringing in their first winter harvest.
...The FDA now requires every package to “clearly and prominently label all individually packaged romaine products to identify growing region and harvest date for romaine; and to clearly and prominently label at the point of sale the growing region when it is now possible for romaine lettuce suppliers to label the package (e.g. individual unwrapped whole heads of romaine lettuce available in retail stores).”
“That also gets difficult because they harvest the lettuce and they stick a bunch of these in a box and then they go to a processing facility and you may be combining several different fields at once when you're processing that,” Milt Mcgiffen, an extension vegetable specialist from UC Riverside, said.
Wildfire, Landscapes and Debris Fields: Mapping Risks After Major Wildfire
(Capital Public Radio) Beth Duncan, Nov. 27
Geologist spend a lot of time creating landslide risk maps after a major wildfire happens. The slope of the landscape, amount of rainfall and underlying geology of an area all play a role in how likely an area might be affected.
Forestry Specialist William Stewart explains what geologists are concerned about as winter storms move through the areas hit by wildfire this year.
“After the wildfire, there's a lot of burnt logs and other things there, but what happens when it starts raining is it'll saturate the soil and you'll start to get soil movement. And once you get a fair bit of it moving down, it can pick up boulders and other things in the soil, and pull down whole trees. So a debris flow has both mud and water and big chunks of rocks and logs in there and that's what if it hits a bridge or a home, or commercial center, can just wipe it out. It's just a huge amount of force that just levels everything in its path.”
California Economic Summit Looks to Elevate Rural California
(AgNetWest) Brian German, Nov. 27
…“One of the things we really started digging into these last few years there, as part of our Working Landscapes Action Team and the summit as a whole, is this concept of there's two California's here,” said Vice President of UC Agriculture and Natural Resources, Glenda Humiston. “You've got predominately coastal, large, urban areas here that are doing pretty well. But then you've got the rest of California that's still really hurting. High poverty, high unemployment, not the economic opportunities that they ought to have.”
Humiston explained that at last year's summit they were able to launch the Elevate Rural California initiative, with a goal of addressing three specific areas over the next few years. “Water infrastructure, biomass, high-value biomass opportunities I want to qualify that strongly, and then the broadband, particularly rural broadband,” Humiston noted.
Why There Are Challenges To Doing More Prescribed Burns As Part Of Forest Management
(NPR All Things Considered) Ezra David Romero, Nov. 27
…But can the use of prescribed burns be expanded?
Roger Bales with the Sierra Nevada Research Institute at UC Merced says yes. “They can be scaled up as long as we can provide the financing to do them,” Bales said. “As long as we do them in a way that doesn't degrade the air quality.”
…The cost of a prescribed burn varies depending on time of year and resources. Robert York with UC Berkeley's Blodgett Forest Research Station says the warmer and drier the climate, the more expensive a burn.
Still, York supports burning year-round. “If the conditions are good, let's have lots of burns going on in the Sierra Nevada,” he said.
Field Scouting Guide: Palmer Amaranth
(Growing Produce) Karli Petrovic, Nov. 27
This month's field scouting guide concentrates on Amaranthus palmeri S. Watson (Palmer amaranth). We've reached out to weed scientists to learn how to spot and treat this weed.
Our contributors are Lynn Brandenberger, Oklahoma State University; W. Carroll Johnson, III, Ph.D., USDA-ARS; Mohsen B. Mesgaran, Ph.D., University of California, Davis; and Lynn M. Sosnoskie, Ph.D., University of California Cooperative Extension.
Who is Responsible for Burned Trees After a Wildfire?
(NPR Morning Edition) Eric Whitney, Nov. 26
…SCOTT STEPHENS: I would be very nervous about big oaks and potential for them to come down because the oaks, a lot of times, have heart rot. They have rotten material inside the center. And a lot of times a smoldering fire can burn in there for days and days and days. I've been around oaks like that. And all of a sudden, a week later - boom - it comes down.
WHITNEY: The danger can persist a lot longer than a week, Stephens says, as burned trees that are strong now continue to deteriorate.
STEPHENS: Probably by year four, five, they start to really get less structurally sound. Then, of course, you get a wind event, big storms, and they start coming down in earnest. And by year 10, they're coming down a great deal.
California dairy program celebrates 20 years
DairyBusiness, Nov. 26
…Recognizing a need to respond and be proactive, a committee of dairy producers, government agency representatives, industry leaders, and university specialists gathered to create the California Dairy Quality Assurance Program (CDQAP), ensuring high-quality milk production and continuous improvement in environmental stewardship. It was also a prime opportunity to demonstrate the commitment of the California dairy industry to producing high quality, safe products, in an environmentally friendly, animal-care conscience manner. Initial funding was provided by the California Farm Bureau Federation, California Department of Food and Agriculture and the California Dairy Research Foundation (CDRF). Dr. Michael Payne, a University of California veterinary researcher was brought on board to direct the program and Dr. Deanne Meyer, University of California Cooperative Extension specialist, was enlisted to develop educational programs. Continued CDRF funding provided an important direct tie to dairy producers through check off dollars, and industry expertise.
Are Your Vineyards Smart Enough to Beat the Heat?
(Growing Produce) Matthew Fidelibus, Nov. 24
…A number of strategies can be considered to adapt to increasing temperatures. Small increases in temperature might be mitigated by employing various cultural practices including pruning, irrigation and fertilization, canopy management, and crop protectants, which may help reduce fruit exposure and reduce crop load.
Irrigation and fertilization can be used to help establish sufficient canopy shade before heat waves occur. The possibility of having overexposed fruit during heat waves should be considered when evaluating canopy management practices such as leafing and shoot positioning. Crop protectants such as particle films may provide protection for overexposed fruit.
Fighting fire with fire via ‘pyrosilviculture'
(Davis Enterprise) Jeannette Warnert, Nov. 21
…The event also raised awareness of “pyrosilviculture,” a new forest management term coined by UC fire scientist Rob York to emphasize the importance of fire in silviculture, the management of forests for wood.
Fixing state's fire problem: Costly, complex, next to impossible
(SF Chronicle) Kurtis Alexander, Nov. 21
…Bill Stewart, a forestry specialist at UC Berkeley, said that technology has helped fire scientists pinpoint areas where wind, heat, vegetation and other factors conspire to pose the greatest threats. It's just that the risk maps aren't being used to guide development.
“We need more than an academic paper here and there on wind,” Stewart said. “The number of windy days per year should help determine new zoning policy for planners.
Actually, Even California Says Trump Is Right About the Wildfires
(RealClear Politics) Betsy McCaughey, Nov. 21
President Donald Trump's critics are belittling him for not buying the politically correct narrative that global warming is to blame for the California wildfires. Instead, Trump correctly points to decades of mistakes by state and federal forest agencies that caused the woodlands to be become overly dense and blanketed with highly flammable dead wood and underbrush.
… This multifaceted approach is too much to put in a mere tweet. But University of California forest expert Yana Valachovic concedes that Trump's "general sentiment is correct."
Living on the Edge
(Slate Magazine) James B. Meigs, Nov. 20
…But the photos tell a different story. Within Paradise itself, the main fuel feeding the fire wasn't trees, nor the underbrush Trump suggested should have been raked up. It was buildings. The forest fire became an infrastructure fire. Fire researchers Faith Kearns and Max Moritz describe what can happen when a wildfire approaches a suburban neighborhood during the high-wind conditions common during the California fall: First, a “storm of burning embers” will shower the neighborhood, setting some structures on fire. “Under the worst circumstances, wind driven home-to-home fire spread then occurs, causing risky, fast-moving ‘urban conflagrations' that can be almost impossible to stop and extremely dangerous to evacuate.” The town of Paradise didn't just experience a fast-moving wildfire, its own layout, building designs, and city management turned that fire into something even scarier.
…Of course, when fires do occur, the residents of these areas suffer the most. The question is how to provide the right incentives for people so that we limit the chances of this happening again. Looking ahead, “We need to ensure that prospective homeowners can make informed decisions about the risks they face in the WUI,” Moritz, Tague, and Anderson say.
Why California Can't Chainsaw Its Way Out Of A Raging Inferno
(BuzzFeed) Peter Aldhous, Nov. 20
…Still, supporters of thinning argue that it is a viable option in some forests, especially dry pine and mixed-conifer forests at lower elevations. Historically, forests like these burned with low intensity every decade or so, keeping them patchy and fairly sparse. There, decades of fire suppression should be countered with careful thinning to mimic the natural state, according to Scott Stephens, a forestry scientist at the University of California, Berkeley.
Stephens has compared low-elevation forests in Southern California with those over the border in Baja California, Mexico, where fire suppression didn't begin until the 1970s. The naturally patchy Mexican forests, he has found, are much more resilient: Even in the face of a four-year drought and a 2003 wildfire, only 20% of the trees died. (In the Cedar fire in San Diego County that same year, between 40% and 95% of trees in the affected areas perished.)
California's Fire Season Extends Beyond Summer Months (AUDIO)
(NPR Morning Edition) Nov. 20
Steve Inskeep talks to Lenya Quinn-Davidson, fire adviser for the University of California Cooperative Extension, about what an extended fire season means for state residents.
Santa Maria-Bonita School Districts teams up with 4H for kids career day
(KEYT) Naja Hill, Nov. 18
Santa Maria-Bonita School Districts came together for a career and leadership day at Liberty Elementary. The event, called 4H SNAC, was a collaboration between UC CalFresh Nutrition and the youth organization 4 H. SNAC stands for Student Nutrition Advisory Council.
The goal of the youth program is to advocate child development to 5th and 6th graders in underserved, low-income communities. Various guest speakers came to teach kids how to live a healthy lifestyle.
The event was 4H's 4th annual career day. One topic of focus was presentation skills. The students also got an opportunity to speak to professionals from different fields such as firefighters, a nurse, and a dentist.
Trump suggests Californians can rake their forests to prevent wildfires. (He is wrong.)
(Washington Post) Avi Selk, Nov. 18
“His general sentiment is correct — that we need to manage fuels,” said Yana Valachovic a forest adviser with the University of California's Cooperative Extension program. “And yeah, managing that pine litter adjacent to our homes and buildings is super important. … But the reality is, to manage every little bit of fuel with a rake is not practical.”
Raking is an effective way to clear light debris like leaves and pine needles away from residences, she said. It's of much less use on the forest floor, where infernos burn through swaths of brush and large debris that only heavy machinery can clear.
California's problems are complicated, she said — a combination of hot, dry climates, poor community design and “100 years of fire suppression” that helped turn forests into tinder boxes.
How Trump administration pressure to dump 4-H's LGBT policy led to Iowa leader's firing
Katherine Soule, the chair of an LGBT working group in 2016 and a leader of California's 4-H, said group leaders were asked to adapt the Obama administration's Dear Colleague letter protecting gender-identity rights for 4-H.
Soules and a group of Western 4-H leaders created a best-practices document that became the foundation of a national guidance document.
...The about-face on the LGTB policy by national 4-H headquarters left some 4-H volunteers angry and program officials confused, according to the Register's investigation.
“I feel bad for the folks at USDA,” Glenda Humiston, the vice president of the University of California's Agriculture and Natural Resources, told other 4-H leaders during a May training video. “I think they are in between a rock and a hard place.”
Lessons from Camp Fire: Staying alive in California fire country
(Mercury News) Lisa Krieger, Nov. 17
Even as smoke chokes the sky and shrouds the sun, millions of Bay Area and other California residents remain unprepared for the next inferno.
…“You can only pour so many cars into different arteries at the same time,” said J. Keith Gilless, professor and dean emeritus at UC Berkeley's College of Natural Resources.
…“Fewer than half of families in our area have taken the time to sit down, write out an emergency plan, discuss it with family members and maybe even do a practice run,” said UC Berkeley's Gilless.
Facts Matter: President's posts on wildfires misleading
(Chicago Daily Herald) Bob Oswald, Nov. 17
The current wildfires aren't forest fires and are not the responsibility of forest management, the Times said.
"These fires aren't even in forests," Max Moritz, a wildfire specialist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, told the Times.
The Camp and Woolsey fires began where communities are close to undeveloped areas, the Times said. Fires in these locations are more deadly and costly because of the proximity to homes and towns.
Why didn't PG&E shut down power in advance of deadly Camp Fire? Here's the data.
(Mercury News) Matthias Gafni, Nov. 17
…Thomas Scott, who has written about fire management in California's wildland urban interface and works with the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, wonders if the decision to keep power on may have had to do with the complaints the utility received after its October shutdown.
“Any rationale they had for keeping the lines hot has tragically backfired for everyone involved,” he said. “Can't understand what they were contemplating; perhaps they maintained power until the last possible moment because that action breeds unhappy customers and dangerous situations if power is turned off.”
Examining Jerry Brown's veto of California wildfire legislation and the criticism of it
(Politifact) Chris Nichols, Nov. 16
Bill Stewart, a forestry specialist at UC Berkeley, reviewed the bill and Brown's veto message. He said in an email, "I do not think it would have made much of a difference, as the amount of funds was not that great ($582,000 that may have just led to some hiring of consultants and a lot interaction with the communities) and, more importantly, no new advances would have been made."
Stewart, however, went on to describe the legislation as "a good shot across the bow to the (Brown) administration to do more. This area of risk assessment and mitigation has been woefully underfunded for decades."
How fierce fall and winter winds help fuel California fires
(The Conversation) Faith Kearns and Max Moritz, Nov. 16
… Fire hazard is determined by a variety of factors that include vegetation, topography and weather. Add people and homes, and you get fire risk. While wind is one of the biggest factors in fire spread, it also generates flying embers far ahead of the fire itself.
… Managing the type and amount of vegetation, or “fuel,” in an area provides a set of tools for altering fire behavior in wildland fires. But during wind-driven urban conflagrations, homes are usually a major – if not the main – source of fuel.
…As residents and researchers who have worked extensively on fire in California, we believe the state and its newly elected leadership face a formidable challenge and an opportunity to reinvest in a robust, interdisciplinary approach to wildfire risk reduction that combines the best of both research and practice. It must integrate both new (and potentially controversial) urban planning reforms as well as novel thinking about evacuation alternatives.
California Citrus Network Now Available as Grower Resource
(AgNetWest) Nov. 16
The University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) has launched the California Citrus Network as a means to address industry concerns through a collaborative approach. The new website will be another resource available to those involved with citrus production who may have questions or concerns about their operation.
“If they see something out in the field that's unusual, they can snap some pictures with their smartphone or their tablet and they can go onto the forum site,” said UCCE Area Citrus Advisor for Tulare, Fresno, and Madera Counties Greg Douhan. “Let's say you think something is some sort of disease issue, you can go in there and look on that and see if anybody else has been seeing the same thing. Or you can post a question and say, ‘hey I'm finding this unusual situation out in my field, is anybody else seeing this?' so it's just a way to communicate.”
Editorial: Horrifying infernos in California
(Providence RI Journal) Nov. 16
California deals with wildfires on an annual basis. Parts of the state were ravaged earlier this summer. But what has happened this month alone will make 2018 the worst year on record.
Five separate wildfires (named Camp, Nurse, Hill, Woolsey and Peak) in November have burned more than 245,000 acres of land.
…Max Moritz, a wildfire specialist with the University of California, told the AP that there are “so many ways that can go wrong, in the warning, the modes of getting the message out, the confusion ... the traffic jams.” He suggested local officials consider building “local retreat zones” and “local safety zones” in urban communities to protect residents from the deadly wildfires.
See how a warmer world primed California for large fires
(National Geographic) Alejandra Borunda, Nov. 15
…Over the past century, California has warmed by about three degrees Fahrenheit. That extra-warmed air sucks water out of plants and soils, leaving the trees, shrubs, and rolling grasslands of the state dry and primed to burn.
That vegetation-drying effect compounds with every degree of warming, explains Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at the University of California, Los Angeles, meaning that plants lose their water more efficiently today than they did before climate change ratcheted up California's temperatures.
…Changes in precipitation are another factor. California's summer dry season has also been lengthening. Each extra day lets plants dry out more, increasing their susceptibility to burning.
“Usually—or, I don't want to even say usually anymore because things are changing so fast—we get some rains around Halloween that wet things down,” says Faith Kearns, a scientist at University of California Institute for Water Resources in Oakland. But in the past few years, those rains haven't come until much later in the autumn—November, or even December.
Why Wildfires Are Burning So Hot and Moving So Fast
(NPR) Kirk Siegler, Nov. 15
…One recent study predicted several million homes built in the West are at immediate risk. Susie Kocher is a forester with the University of California's Cooperative Extension service here in the Sierra.
“We haven't caught up, and to retrofit our existing housing stock to fend off embers is a long-term, expensive proposition.”
Scientists' Newest Tool To Fight Agricultural Toxin: A Video Game
(KVPR) Kerry Klein, Feb. 28
It wasn't long after the invention of the internet that scientists discovered the potential for using computing power as a citizen science tool. One of the earliest examples was a computer program developed in the 1990s that allowed users to search for life on other planets. Now a new collaboration takes aim at something a little closer to home: An intersection between citizen science, health, and agriculture, with implications right here in the San Joaquin Valley.
…Aflatoxin is the most potent natural carcinogen known. It's caused by a fungus that can grow in crops like pistachios, peanuts and cotton. A single outbreak in corn in Kenya killed 125 people in 2004, while long-term exposure is responsible for tens of thousands of liver cancer diagnoses each year.
That's why Themis Michailides is grinding up pistachios to test for aflatoxin. He's studied plant diseases for almost 30 years with the University of California Research Extension in Parlier. “My emphasis is how we can manage it, how can we reduce it so that these crops are free from aflatoxin,” he says.
New study — Climate change threatens major crops in California
(Digital Journal) Karen Graham, Feb. 28
Over the last 10-years, farmers in California have experienced the symptoms of climate change — less winter chill, crops blooming earlier, more heat waves and years of drought when the state baked in record temperatures.
… The study, led by researchers from the University of California Merced and Davis also leaves us with a dire prediction — the increased rate and scale of climate change is “beyond the realm of experience” for the agricultural community, and unless farmers take urgent measures, the consequences could threaten national food security.
…By the end of this century, over 90 percent of the Central Valley will be unsuitable for agriculture. “One under-appreciated aspect of California's climate is how important our temperature envelope is to California's agricultural sector. The right temperatures at the right times are absolutely crucial,” said Faith Kearns, a scientist with the California Institute for Water Resources who was part of the team.
Climate change could decimate California's major crops, and that should concern everyone
(Think Progress) Natasha Geiling, Feb. 28
A new study, published on Tuesday in the journal Agronomy, contains a dire warning for anyone in the United States who eats: By the end of the century, climate change could wreak havoc on California's major crops, prompting a sharp downturn in the state's ability to produce things like almonds, wheat, and corn.
… The study, led by researchers from University of California Merced and Davis, looked at both past trends and potential future impacts of climate change on temperature, snowpack, and extreme events like drought, heatwaves, and flooding. Researchers then looked at how those projected changes would impact some of California's most important crops, including fruits and nuts.
Researchers Say Climate Change Could Significantly Reduce Crop Yields By 2050
(Capital Public Radio) Ezra Romero, Feb. 27
Climate change could decrease the yield of some crops in the state by up to 40 percent by 2050. That's a big deal for farmers growing more than 400 commodities.
Tapan Pathak, a UC Cooperative Extension specialist based in Merced, and his research team analyzed more than 90 studies on climate change and discovered that warming temperatures may alter where crops grow across California. Their findings were published in Agronomy Journal.
“In order to make California agriculture more sustainable we have to act now,” Pathak said.
California agriculture faces serious threats from climate change, study finds
(Desert Sun) Ian James, Feb. 27
Over the past decade, California farmers have been seeing symptoms of climate change in their fields and orchards: less winter chill, crops blooming earlier, more heat waves and years of drought when the state baked in record temperatures.
Scientists say California agriculture will face much bigger and more severe impacts due to climate change in the coming decades. In a new study, University of California researchers said those effects range from lower crop yields to warming that will render parts of the state unsuitable for the crops that are grown there today.
…“One under-appreciated aspect of California's climate is how important our temperature envelope is to California's agricultural sector. The right temperatures at the right times are absolutely crucial,” said Faith Kearns, a scientist with the California Institute for Water Resources who was part of the team. “For example, warm weather in January and February can reduce almond yields, but warm summers can reduce peach yields. So, there really is no-one-size-fits-all adaptation approach.”
Study: Climate Change Threatens Major Crops in California
(KQED) Amel Ahmad, Feb. 27
California currently provides two-thirds of the country's fruits and nuts, but according to a new study published Tuesday, by the end of the century California's climate will no longer be able to support the state's major crops, including orchards.
…The study, led by researchers from the University of California, Merced and Davis campuses, looked at past and current trends in California's climate and examined what impact record low levels of snowpack, and extreme events such as drought will have on crop yields over time.
Report: Climate Change Could Ruin California's Farming Industry
(Courthouse News Service) Nick Cahill, Feb. 27
In a study released Monday, University of California researchers predict major damage to many of California's over 400 different crops due to climate change, and outline ways for the state and farmers to brace for future climate challenges.
…Peter Gleick, founder of the Pacific Institute and one the country's foremost water experts, applauded the study sponsored by the University of California Office of the President.
“This may be the most important article on this subject I've ever seen, and I've seen them all,” Gleick tweeted.
Grain Diseases Must Be Closely Monitored
(California Ag Today) Patrick Cavanaugh, Feb. 27
Mark Lundy is a UC Cooperative Extension Specialist in grain cropping systems at UC Davis. Lundy runs trials on grain crops because California is such a diverse environment and there are different conditions from year to year so it's important to be consistent in measuring yield and crop quality, grain diseases, and agronomic traits on small grains.
Lundy's work is predominantly on California wheat, but there are many trials on barley.
“Improved varieties have been the mainstay of my work,” Lundy said. “I came at it from a water and nitrogen management background, and one of our goals is trying to disentangle the environment that you can't control from the environment that you can control. But this is the second year where we have some of those gradients in there so we are trying to maintain the attributes we have, while also trying to add some value."
Free healthy living workshops at the Placerville Library
Mountain Democrat, Feb. 27
The Placerville Library is teaming up with the University of California Cooperative Extension's UC CalFresh Nutrition Education Program to offer free workshops promoting health and reducing risk for obesity and major chronic diseases. Visit the library for these hands-on “Eat Healthy Be Active” classes with free cooking demonstrations Fridays in March from 2-3 p.m. at the Placerville Library, 345 Fair Lane.
Green thumbs not required (UC Master Gardeners on the cover of magazine)
(Central Valley Magazine) Cyndee Fontana-Ott
…Locally there are plenty of resources for the budding home gardener. One of the most valuable is the UCCE Master Gardeners of Fresno County.
Master Gardeners are specially trained and certified and also must meet requirements for volunteer hours and continuing education.
Website helps California poultry producers monitor avian flu risk
(Feedstuffs) UCANR news release, Feb 23
To reduce potential exposure to avian influenza, a new interactive website is now available to help California poultry producers, backyard poultry enthusiasts, regulators and risk managers assess the locations of waterfowl relative to poultry farms in the Central Valley, according to the University of California (UC) Division of Agriculture & Natural Resources.
Trump 'gets what you're saying': Agriculture secretary talks immigration, water and food stamps on California tour
(LA Times) Geoff Mohan, Feb. 21
"You might already know this …," Central Valley farmer Sarah Woolf offered politely, before launching on a primer on California's convoluted water system.
"No, I don't," Sonny Perdue, Trump's secretary of Agriculture, interrupted. "I need all the education I can get."
…Perdue also is a successful businessman who built a commodities trading company one grain elevator at a time.
Those are traits Trump respects in Perdue, which could give him unusual power in the Cabinet, said Dan Sumner, an agriculture and resource economist at UC Davis.
"When he says things to Trump, Trump can hear him saying, 'Be careful about your constituency. Unless you want to see Nancy Pelosi in power, you better see to the reelections in the Central Valley.' "
Put more bluntly, Trump has to ponder whether he wants Republican Congressman Devin Nunes or some Democrat leading the Russia investigation, Sumner said.
How the federal government can get biotech regulation right
(Des Moines Register) Opinion Alison Van Eenennaam and Nina Fedoroff, Feb. 20
In his speech at the recent American Farm Bureau convention, President Trump said his administration was "streamlining regulations that have blocked cutting-edge biotechnology.”
Why is this necessary? Paraphrasing New York Times columnist Paul Krugman's words on economic policy, it's because we're still living with “zombie” biotech regulatory policies that “should have been killed by the evidence … but keep shambling along nonetheless.” The time to end this “reign of error” is now.
Why now? Because the evidence is in: Biotechnology methods are safe. And because new, precise gene-editing approaches are poised to revolutionize agriculture. But for that to happen, we have to start regulating from common sense instead of fear.
California Coffee Industry Gaining Ground
(Ag Net West) Feb. 20, 2018
The California coffee industry is steadily expanding as demand for the domestically grown product shows significant promise. Last year, Frinj Coffee cooperative sold their entire crop to Blue Bottle Coffee who paid $60 per pound for the beans. Cups of the coffee cost $18 each, and sold out in less than two weeks in the cafes it was being offered in.
Most American coffee production has historically taken place in Hawaii. Farmers in California have started taking interest in producing high-value coffee beans after realizing the sub-tropical plants have the potential to thrive in the state. According to the University of California's Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, there are currently 30 farms with over 30,000 coffee trees planted. There are also more than 24 farms forecasted to start growing coffee in 2018.
Eureka! California-Grown Coffee Is Becoming The State's Next Gold Mine
(NPR The Salt) Jodi Helmer, Feb. 16
When Mark Gaskell moved to California after working in coffee-growing regions in Central America, he noticed coffee plants growing in gardens and wondered if large-scale production was an option.
In 2001, Gaskell, farm advisor for the University of California Cooperative Extension, established transplants and discovered that the sub-tropical plants could thrive in the Golden State. He recruited Jay Ruskey of Good Land Organics to help with trials, hoping coffee could be a valuable niche crop to help sustain small farms.
…Local farmers embraced the idea of California coffee and started planting their own crops. The burgeoning state industry now boasts 30 farms growing more than 30,000 coffee trees, according to the University of California's Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources.
At least two dozen more farms are expected to begin growing coffee in 2018.
Although coffee farms are scattered throughout California, the biggest concentrations are in Santa Barbara and San Diego counties. Most of the farms are fewer than five years old and their beans are just starting to mature. As that happens, Gaskell expects production to double year over year.
"The California coffee industry is growing very quickly," he says.
Lab-Grown Meat Is Coming, Whether You Like It or Not
(Wired) Matt Simon, Feb. 16
Clean meat companies claim the process will be more efficient because you're only growing the bits you need to feed people—no guts or eyeballs or brains. And without the need for massive livestock operations, you could theoretically spread out your manufacturing facilities, cutting down on transportation emissions. But few studies have looked rigorously at the environmental pros and cons of in vitro meat production.
What scientists really need is something called a life cycle analysis. It would tabulate all the things that go into making food, like water, land, and greenhouse gas emissions. “It's very easy to say, for example, ‘Well I don't know, in vitro doesn't use as much land as beef cattle production,'” says Alison Van Eenennaam, an animal geneticist at the University of California, Davis. “OK, but that's just one component of a life cycle analysis.”
When to spray fruit trees? It depends
(Sac Bee) Debbie Arrington, Feb. 16
Q: I had a helluva time with thrips in 2017, but I also did not know what they were at the time and did not spray for them either – other than my typical two- to three-time dormant spray with copper and horticultural oil. I live in San Jose and have around 35 fruit trees in my backyard orchard: cherries, peaches, apricots, pluots, apples, pears, guavas, pomegranates and citrus. I covered my backyard with weed fabric last year and it has a 3- to 4-inch layer of mulch, so virtually all of the weeds have been kept at bay (knock on wood). I can already see that several peach trees have swollen buds and bloom should start in a week or less.
“Thrips usually aren't a big problem except for nectarines, on which they cause russetting,” said Chuck Ingels, farm adviser for the UC Cooperative Extension in Sacramento County.
Rhodes grass: Forage option in California's low desert?
(Western Farm Press) Cary Blake, Feb 15
After two-and-a-half years of a University of California experimental forage field trial in the state's southernmost county, Imperial, initial trial results suggests that Rhodes grass (Rhodes gayana) could be a solid new perennial forage crop for low desert growers.
“In the trial, Rhodes grass has been highly adaptable, easy to establish, highly drought tolerant, no pest and disease issues so far, and produced large amounts of biomass with high nutrient value as a hay for livestock feed,” said Dr. Oli Bachie, director, UC Cooperative Extension (UCCE) Imperial County at Holtville.
Sec. Sonny Perdue visits World Ag Expo
(Hanford Sentinel) Chelsea Shannon, Feb. 14
Another issue was raised by Glenda Humiston, vice president of Agriculture & Natural Resources at the University of California Office of the President.
She said the current definition of rural prevents enough funding to go toward agriculture research in California. Humiston said rural counties have no cities with populations greater than 50,000, disqualifying many counties.
“If a county has one town that has 50,000 population in it, the entire county is labeled metropolitan for purposes of allocating funding,” Humiston said.
Perdue said that there is work being done to fix the definition of rural amongst different departments in the government.
World Ag Expo: Secretary Perdue takes pulse of agriculture community
(Porterville Recorder) By Matthew Sarr, Feb. 14
United States Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue was in attendance at the International Agri-Center to participate in a town hall meeting, where he offered his thoughts on California agriculture and attendees expressed their concerns and questions.
…A representative from the UC Cooperative Extension expressed the importance of federal funding for agricultural research, as well a need to make better distinctions between rural and metropolitan counties for the purposes of allocating those dollars, which drew a round of applause from the audience.
Sonny Perdue hears from California growers at World Ag Expo
(Western Farm Press) Todd Fitchett, Feb. 14
While trade, labor and regulatory issues may top the list of agricultural policy issues Perdue faces in Washington D.C., Glenda Humiston, Vice President of the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources Division of the state's Land Grant university, stressed the importance of adequate research funding and federal definitions of rural versus urban, which she said is having detrimental impacts across California on important program funding.
Humiston said that while UCANR has a “proud tradition of research in California,” the university is plagued by reduced budgets at the same time the state is plagued by a new invasive pest every several weeks. She said for the university to stay ahead of these issues and to help growers in these and many other areas, additional funding is vital.
The United States is losing the battle over agricultural research with China, which spends more in that sector, Humiston says. She continues to trumpet the idea of greater broadband access to rural areas of the state as new agriculture will demand internet upgrades for technology like sensors and driverless spray rigs.”
It's weather, not climate change, Governor Brown
(Canada Free Press) Robert W. Endlich, Feb. 14
2017 featured incredibly intense, damaging wildfires in California: first the Wine Country fires of October, and later the massive Thomas Fire in December. Each destroyed hundreds of homes, the latter in many of the affluent suburbs and enclaves northwest of Los Angeles and Hollywood.
The Thomas Fire is the largest in modern California history, with over 1000 structures destroyed. The fires and subsequent mudslides killed over 60 people and left many others severely burned or injured.
… This is exactly the situation described in a recent article that mentions October as the worst month for wildfires and quotes University of California fire expert Max Moritz, who says “By the time you get to this season, right when you're starting to anticipate some rain, it's actually the most fire prone part of the year.” Power line and other management failures increase the likelihood of disaster.
The East Bay's Future Climate Will Be Both Dry and Wet
(East Bay Express) Robert Gammon, Feb. 14
Typically, we think of dry and wet climates as being distinct. But the East Bay of the future may experience devastating aspects of both.
Many climate scientists expect California to increasingly experience intense periods of drought this century, much like the bone-dry winters from 2011 through 2015. Researchers also predict that Mediterranean climates — like that of the Bay Area — will become drier overall as global temperatures rise.
…"By 2050, it's clearly going to be drier and warmer," said Bill Stewart, a forestry specialist at UC Berkeley's Department of Environmental, Science and Policy Management. Stewart said that during the coming decades, the East Bay's landscape is expected to add more shrubland and lose forest, shifting "to vegetation that does better in drier terrain."
Lodi Honors Longtime Farm Advisor
(Wines & Vines) Ted Rieger, Feb. 13
Lodi Grape Day has long been one of the region's most informative and well attended educational meetings for grape growers. At the 66th annual Grape Day held Feb. 6, Lodi's grape and wine industry honored the man who helped organize the educational sessions for nearly half the Grape Days held to date. Paul Verdegaal, University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) San Joaquin County farm advisor for the past 31 years, officially retired Jan. 1. His longtime service was recognized as this year's Grape Day keynote speaker.
2018's Healthiest & Unhealthiest Cities in America
(Wallet Hub) Richie Bernardo, Feb. 12
What are the most important factors to consider in choosing a city that is good for your health?
Location, of course, matters. But it is important to think about not just the city, but the neighborhood – both near your home and your work (to the extent one has control over this), as these are the locations most people spend most of their time. And it is important to know what would help you make healthy choices, as this can differ between individuals. For example, a nearby tennis court is only helpful if you like to play tennis. A farmers' market nearby only works if that's the sort of market you would shop at.
Flash bloom: Warm weather has all almond varieties blooming at the same time
(Chico Enterprise-Record) Steve Schoonover, Feb. 9
The warm weather we've been enjoying has produced what's called a “flash bloom” in almonds, with all the varieties blooming at once.
…The idea is to get what Butte County UC Cooperative Extension Farm Advisor Luke Milliron called “bloom overlap.”
…Glenn County Farm Advisor Dani Lightle said the weather has been good for bee flight, with warm temperatures and little wind.
“But with the crush of flowers all at the same time, can they get to them all?” she asked.
Farmers Can Put Themselves On The Map If They Complete The U.S. Agriculture Census By February 5
(Capital Public Radio) Julia Mitric, Feb. 5
…The once-every-five-year census also paints a picture that can help the University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, which leads beginning farmer and rancher training programs.
Jennifer Sowerwine works on these programs through the UC Cooperative Extension at UC Berkeley.
"The Ag Census data is helpful in my work because we can see changes over time in the demographic profile of farmers [race, gender and size] that can help inform the type of training we offer," explains Sowerwine.
Warm and sunny winter days are no cause for celebration among the farmers, ranchers and forest managers who rely on UC Agriculture and Natural Resources' research-based information and expertise to make their work more profitable. Such is the feeling shared by UC Cooperative Extension advisor Dan Macon in his Foothill Agrarian blog. He began worrying more than a month ago about the spate of dry weather in the state.
"While I'm a worrier by nature, I think worrying about the weather is natural for anyone who relies on Mother Nature directly," Macon wrote.
"He knows his subject and he writes well about it. I read every post, but his most recent piece about Old Man Reno, one of his farm dogs, really resonated with me. Read his blog every chance you get: it will make you feel better about life," wrote Rose Hayden-Smith, the author of the UC Food Observer.
The column included a shout-out about the recent launch of a three-video series on the drought produced by UC ANR's California Institute for Water Resources (CIWR). The series opens with Cannon Michael of Bowles Farming in Los Banos. The alfalfa grower works with UCCE specialist Dan Putnam.
“There's a lot of misunderstanding about alfalfa as a crop,” Michael said. “It does take water to grow it, as with anything, but you get multiple harvests of it every year.”
Videos two and three will be launched March 2 and April 6.
The UC Food Observer also recommended a blog produced by the CIWR's Faith Kearns – The Confluence. She recently wrote about how California's idea of “natural” beauty may have shifted during the drought.
California's years-long drought is easing up, with storms delivering rain and snow that has exceeded "normal" for the state, reported Jed Kim for the Marketplace Sustainability Desk. Kim interviewed Dan Sumner, the director of the UC Agricultural Issues Center, a UC Agriculture and Natural Resources statewide program that focuses on such topics such international markets, invasive pests and diseases, and rural development.
Sumner shared a message of hope during the two-minute Marketplace clip.
"So far at least, things are close enough to normal that farmers aren't going to make drastic changes in either their planting decisions or their irrigation decisions," Sumner said.
The abundant rainfall this year will ease pressure on the state's groundwater reservoirs, which have been tapped extensively during the drought to keep crops alive when surface water was unavailable.
"What that does is give us a little cushion in terms of planning for long-term changes," Sumner said.
Kim said the state may need to plan for a future with more limited water resources, "a future that may come sooner rather than later."