Small Farm Blogs
Unprecedented Study Discovers what Urban Coyotes Really Eat
(Care2) Laura Goldman, March 30
Hiking boots, avocados, candy wrappers and fast-food containers. These aren't a few of my favorite things, but they are some of the items found inside the stomachs of dead urban coyotes in Los Angeles and Orange counties.
…Since the study began over a year ago, the researchers, led by Dr. Niamh Quinn, the human-wildlife interactions advisor for the University of California Cooperative Extension, have discovered that cats make up only about eight percent of a coyote's diet.
Red blotch grape virus confirmed in Calaveras
(Calaveras Enterprise) Jason Cowan, March 29
Red blotch virus, a DNA infection that decreases a grape's sugar levels on the vine, has been confirmed in Calaveras County, officials said last week.
After confirmed cases of the virus were located recently in El Dorado and Amador county vineyards, University of California Cooperative Extension Farm Adviser Lynn Wunderlich saw what she thought were symptoms of the virus in Calaveras and recommended farmers test for red blotch.
The results came back positive.
(Daily Democrat) ANR News release
Californians who raise poultry outdoors are invited to get their eggs tested for contaminants.
To find out if harmful substances on the ground that are eaten by hens get passed along in the eggs they lay, Maurice Pitesky, UC Cooperative Extension poultry specialist at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, is providing free egg testing.
“We're trying to understand the connection between the environment that backyard poultry are raised in and the eggs they are producing,” Pitesky said.
Here's what trade tariffs could mean in Merced County, where nuts are big business
(Merced Sun-Star) Thaddeus Miller, March 28
China has threatened retaliatory tariffs on a select group of exports from the U.S. following President Donald Trump's plan to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum imports.
China's tariffs would first hit U.S. products such as avocados and nuts, with 15 percent duties. Beijing, if officials deemed it worthwhile, could also place 25 percent tariffs on American-made goods such as pork and aluminum.
…"It doesn't really matter which one it is, whether it's alfalfa, almonds or wherever it may go," said David Doll, a farm adviser with the Merced County UC Cooperative Extension. "They're as much political as they are anything else."
Nuts are big business in Merced County, where almonds are the second largest commodity at $578.5 million, according to the 2016 Merced County Crop Report, the most recent available. Almonds, pecans and pistachios bring in tens of millions of dollars more.
Out of every dollar made on a farm in the Central San Joaquin Valley, half pays for salaries and 40 cents goes to pay for supplies, Doll said, citing UC cooperative studies.
"Farms are businesses, and if they aren't profitable they're not going to stay in business," Doll said.
A film you may want your favorite doctor, trainer, chef and lawmaker to see
(Farm Week Now) Mike Orso, March 28
In the documentary “Food Evolution,” scientist Alison Van Eenennaam captures a smartphone selfie image of her with Bill Nye, the “Science Guy,” following a spirited forum in New York City on genetically modified organisms or GMOs. That was three years ago. Now, Van Eenennaam has young people coming up to her asking for selfies.
“If we can engage this next generation with critical thinking skills and trying to get to the bottom of what actually is true, I think we will have accomplished our job,” said Van Eenennaam, a University of California-Davis Extension specialist and one of several scientists featured in the film.
Scientists say regulation stifles many new biotech traits
(Agri-Pulse) Jim Weber, March 28
Federal regulation of agricultural biotechnology needs to be based on risk and not on process, a wide range of scientists and food industry executives agreed at the Agri-PulseAg and Food Policy Summit. Coincidentally, a similar message was delivered a day later by a Council on Agricultural Science and Technology (CAST) task force.
“Scientists have been screaming that for 30 years,” said Alison Van Eenennaam, a cooperative extension specialist in animal genomics and biotechnology at the University of California-Davis. “That's where regulation should be.”
…Although the USDA, universities and small businesses have developed dozens of GE crops – with improved traits ranging from healthier and less allergenic to safer and more environmentally sustainable – and carried many through safety and pre-market testing, almost all have been denied commercial release mainly because of U.S. regulatory obstacles,” according to the CAST task force, led by Alan McHughen, who chairs the Department of Botany and Plant Sciences at California-Riverside.
If China Strikes Back On Tariffs, California Tree Nut Exports Could Take A Hit
(CapRadio) Julia Mitric, March 27
California agriculture could find itself caught in the middle of the U.S. — China trade dispute.
After President Trump ordered a 25 percent tariff on imported steel and a 10 percent tariff on imported aluminum last week, China hit back, announcing it may impose a 15 percent tariff on agricultural exports from the U.S.
The U.S. faces competitors for every agricultural product it exports. California wines, for example, compete with wines from New Zealand and Chile. If China hits the U.S. with a 15 percent tariff on wine, that's a problem, explains Dan Sumner, Director of the University of California Agricultural Issues Center.
"We may think California wine is special, but not everybody does,” Sumner said. "And if it's 15 percent more expensive than it used to be because of the tariff, there'll be a substantial reduction in how much gets sold in China."
State senator to honor UC 4-H program
(Morning Ag Clips)
California State Senator Ben Hueso will honor California and Baja California 4-H with a resolution in the State Senate at 2 p.m. April 2 to recognize the cross-border team that established a 4-H Club in Mexicali, Baja Mexico, in January 2017.
Last year, UC ANR Vice President Glenda Humiston signed a memorandum of understanding with the Baja California Secretary of Agriculture Development, Manuel Vallodolid Seamanduras, to offer UC's 4-H expertise to youth south of the border. The agreement increases the academic, scientific, technological and cultural cooperation that are part of UC President Janet Napolitano's Mexico Initiative.
Building an IPM Program to Fight Fruit Flies
(Growing Produce) David Eddy, March 26
When faced with spotted wing drosophila (SWD), it's critical for growers to keep in mind this is almost certainly unlike any pest they have dealt with before. That's because it's one of two species — out of a potential 1,500-plus — that feeds on healthy, not rotting, fruit.
That's certainly not the end of growers' difficulties with SWD, says Jhalendra Rijal, University of California Cooperative Extension Area IPM Advisor, Northern San Joaquin Valley. It's tricky because vinegar flies — the tiny flies often found circling above fruit bowls on kitchen tables — are so ubiquitous. Even the oh-so-common name, “fruit flies,” indicates the pests' omnipresence.
Stallion Springs 4-H Swine Group visits local swine breeder
(Tehachapi News) Olivia Loyd, March 24
Tim Sturm, owner and operator of California Swine Services, farrowed approximately 600 piglets this year which will be shown all over California by 4-H and FFA members who take them to fairs and jackpot shows.
Sturm, who has a passion for teaching today's youth about raising swine, allowed the members of the Stallion Springs 4-H swine group to come to his facility on March 17 to learn to process one-day-old piglets. The kids learned to ear notch, dock tails, administer shots and clip needle teeth. Members learned why these processes are necessary, how to do them cleanly and correctly, and last were actually able take part in the process. They also learned valuable information about pig breeding and husbandry.
World Water Day
(KCAA) Water Zone, March 22
For World Water Day, Glenda Humiston discusses UC water research and what UC is doing to help ensure farmers and other Californians and the environment get the water they need. She also explains the Farm Bill. Humiston is introduced around the 30 min mark.
Small Farms Must Include Marketing
(Cal Ag Today) Jessica Theisman, March 22
Mark Gaskell is with the University of California cooperative extension as a small farm and Specialty Crop Advisor for San Luis Obispo County. Gaskell recently told California Ag Today about his work with growers and small farms in the county since 1995.
“Part of my job has to do with applied research and educational programs, and this case related to keeping small farms viable and successful,” Gaskell said. “These activities include troubleshooting problems, helping growers develop new crops and develop new market opportunities that make them more competitive.”
How Biocontrols Fit into a Traditional Pest Control Program
(Growing Produce) Carol Miller, March 21
One of the great strengths of using biocontrols is that it allows growers to use traditional chemistries less often, says Surendra Dara, Strawberry and Vegetable Crop Advisor with the University of California Cooperative Extension. Dara was speaking to a packed room at the Biocontrols USA West conference in Carlsbad, CA, hosted by Meister Media Worldwide, the parent company of American Vegetable Grower.
Has the California dairy industry gone sour?
(Agri-Pulse) Tyler Ash, March 21 (Subscription only)
Rumors are circulating that a stampede of California dairy producers is heading toward greener pastures in other states. But why?
Experts in the nation's No. 1 milk-producing state have been ruminating on this dilemma for over a decade now, and it seems to stem from the same problems that are plaguing farmers all over America. Typical of the ag industry in general, mom-and-pop farms are going by the wayside and more large-scale farms are increasing production. So, the production seems to truck along but the number of players in that production does not.
“I remember being a kid, driving up I-5 and there were dairies all over the darn place,” said Jeff Stackhouse, livestock adviser for the University of California Cooperative Extension in Humboldt and Del Norte counties. “Now there's one.”
Statistics from the California Department of Food and Agriculture back him up. According to the agency, the state had 1,563 dairies in 2012 and four years later the number was 1,392, an 11 percent decline. The drop was 4 percent from 2015.
...Frank Mitloehner, professor of Animal Science at UC-Davis and a UC Cooperative Extension specialist, said California has lost approximately one fourth of its dairies over the last 15 years. His research focuses primarily on air quality related to livestock production and specified that the number of dairy cows in California hasn't actually decreased, just the number of dairies. He confirmed that most of the dairies that have closed were relatively small and weren't as competitive in today's market.
“The small ones often have a harder time in a strongly regulated environment,” Mitloehner said. “Large dairies generally hire some consultants to deal with air and water regulations to get their dairies to comply, but many small folks lack resources.”
According to Betsy Karle, dairy farm adviser for the University of California's Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR), the primary regulation that significantly affected California dairy producers was the General Order of Waste Discharge Requirement that was implemented by the Regional Water Quality Control Board in 2007, which affected approximately 1,400 dairies in California's Central Valley.
'Buy local' food programs deceive consumers and are rarely enforced, a USA TODAY Network investigation finds
(The Republic) Robert Anglen, March 20
As local-food sales grow into a $20 billion industry, a USA TODAY Network investigation found that state-branding programs designed to inform consumers and support local farmers are deceptive and virtually unregulated.
These "buy local" programs purport to connect shoppers with food from their states by affixing logos and stickers.
…"The word local is chic; it sells things," said Cindy Fake, horticulture and small-farms adviser for the University of California Cooperative Extension. "So it's used by everybody and anybody."
Fake said the word "local" has no clear definition and consumers are easily misled.
"They are likely to be deceived," she said. "Consumers are thinking one way and the marketers know that. They know consumers want local, so they say it's local."
… "There is a huge diversity across states about what is local," said Gail Feenstra, deputy director of the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program at the University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources.
Feenstra said there is more transparency on fresh produce because it's easier for consumers to identify where it came from and recognize regional products on store shelves.
But shoppers need to do their research, she said.
Roof Rat Damage Causing Concern for Growers
(AgnetWest) Brian German, March 16
Typically more of a problem in urban areas, roof rat damage is causing significant concern for farmers. According to University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources (UCANR) scientists, roof rats are appearing in considerable numbers this year. Researchers suggest monitoring fields for rodent activity and using bait stations before the growing season to prevent problems from developing further.
Valley farmers welcome rainstorms
(KFSN-TV) Reuben Contreras, March 15
Rain in the valley and snow in the Sierra from the last few weeks is adding to the water supply local farmers count on to grow their crops.
…"During the strawberry season if you have too much rain it is going to cause the fruit to rot," said Michael Yang of the UC Cooperative Extension Fresno County. "So during the full harvest, we don't want any rain."
Yang works with smaller growers in Fresno County. He says almost all of them rely on groundwater and wells to grow Asian specialty crops sold at farmer's markets.
Pedestrian Orchards Will Reduce Injuries
(California Ag Today) Jessica Theisman, March 14
California Ag Today recently spoke with Becky Phene with the University of California out of the Kearney ag center. She's working alongside Kevin Day, UC tree fruit advisor in Tulare County, on development of pedestrian orchards.
"My background is irrigation. I got asked to participate in the pedestrian orchard with Kevin because he wanted to demonstrate multiple technologies that would be beneficial not just now, but in the future,” Phene said.
Day has combined his pedestrian orchard with subsurface drip irrigation. The pedestrian orchards are by design kept short so that there is no usage of ladders. Eliminating the usage of ladders can help prevent on the job accidents.
“The pruning lets the tree grow quickly and fill in as quickly as possible in the first couple of years, and then he develops the shape of the canopy and the shape of the leaders,” Phene said.
Whole orchard recycling has promise for new almond plantings
Western Farm Press) Tim Hearden, March 14
When it comes time to push out old almond orchards, grinding them into the ground will improve soil nutrients for the next planting, a University of California Cooperative Extension researcher has concluded after years of studying the practice.
Whole orchard recycling increases soil organic matter and carbon, soil nutrients, and microbial diversity, leading to better productivity for the new trees planted in the old orchard's place, says Brent Holtz, pomology farm advisor in the UCCE office at Stockton, Calif.
California Almonds Are Back After Four Years of Brutal Drought
(Bloomberg) Alan Bjerga, Donna Cohen and Cindy Hoffman, March 14
After dropping during the drought, the 2017 almond crop rebounded to a record 2.14 billion pounds of shelled nuts. That's more than triple the amount of walnuts, the No. 2 U.S. nut, and more than four times that of pistachios, which are emerging as a serious competitor for California acreage. Almonds are “incredibly versatile,” said Daniel Sumner, an economist at the University of California, Davis. “And California is the best place to grow it. Where else can the weather be hot and dry and perfect, but you also have a system where you can bring water from mountains full of snow?” Almond-picking is also highly mechanized, which attracts farmers concerned about migrant-worker labor shortages, and its long history in the state creates a level of expertise competitors can't match, he said.
International delegation will be looking for trade, research partners
(Sacramento Business Journal) Mark Anderson, March 13
Subscription only. Article based on ANR news release http://ucanr.edu/News/?blogpost=26598&blogasset=44547.
The What, When, and Why of Using Microbials on Your Farm
(Growing Produce) Robin Siktberg, March 12
Why should microbial controls be a part of an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program? The first, and main one, is that research shows that they work. Many microbial products in the market today are backed by trial data that shows when used correctly, microbials can be a very effective way to improve plant health, suppress pest pressure, and improve yields.
“Microbials are very powerful tools,” says Dr. Surendra Dara, Strawberry and Vegetable Crops Advisor at University of California Cooperative Extension. “They have a number of benefits for the grower. Microbial control agents are either very specific (as with some viruses or Bt) or can attack a broad range of pests (as with fungi). They can have multiple modes of action, which prevents development of pest resistance. They are very safe for workers and consumers, and are a sustainable control option.”
(Fresno Bee) Robert Rodriguez, March 12
Roof rats, a common problem for city dwellers, are migrating to California farms and nibbling on everything from avocados to irrigation tubing.
University of California scientists say last year's wet weather created a perfect environment for the quick-breeding rats to flourish.
…"Rodents are everywhere and they are opportunists," said Rachel Long, a University of California, cooperative extension adviser. "They move in from their surrounding urban habitats to take advantage of any food source they can find. And once that food source disappears they search for food elsewhere."
Do Backyard Chickens Need More Rules?
(KQED) Menaka Williams, March 12
…It was easy to welcome another chicken, partly because Oakland's local policies for keeping poultry aren't that restrictive. Roosters aren't allowed, and hens just have to be housed at least 20 feet from any house. That's it. No rules about the number of birds, their coops, slaughter or care. Bare-bones local laws around chickens are really common, says Catherine Brinkley, a veterinarian and urban planner at the University of California, Davis.
Brinkley says these policies tend to focus on limiting nuisances, like early morning cock-a-doodle-dos or eyesore coops — leaving a gap in codes when it comes to health and safety. "They're not at all focused on public health considerations, like [requiring] training for new owners in washing hands and selling eggs, nor do they think about if somebody is hoarding chickens or other awful things that, quite honestly, happen with animal welfare," Brinkley says.
OPINION Farm Bill must include climate change adaptation
(Redding Record Searchlight) Marty Walters, March 9
A new study published by a group of University of California researchers led by Tapan Pathak, published in the journal Agronomy, provides a whole new level of analysis in the ways that California's agriculture will change and be stressed by our changing climate, and it recommends ways to reduce some of the negative effects.
OPINION The self-inflicted economic damage to American agriculture
(The Hill) Daniel Sumner, March 9
Agriculture is so fully integrated into world markets that consumers everywhere take for granted that ripe peaches will be available to everyone, everywhere in January, while Zinfandel, Shiraz and Prosecco are universally available. Likewise farmers all over the world use tractors made in America, and tomato processors use equipment from Italy.
Study indicates that climate change will wreak havoc on California agriculture
(LA Times) Michael Hiltzak, March 9
The California we know is the breadbasket of the nation, producing more than two-thirds of the country's fruits and nuts, including almonds, pistachios, oranges, apricots, nectarines and prunes, and more than a third of its vegetables, including artichokes, broccoli, spinach and carrots. It's all valued at more than $50 billion a year.
Precise gene technology impacts GMO debate
(Capital Press) Tim Hearden, March 8
Precise gene-editing technology is bringing the debate over genetically modified crops into a new era, researchers and experts say.
While the use of GMOs has ignited a high-pitched public debate for years, the ethical and socioeconomic debate over the newer techniques “seems to be keeping pace with the science,” observes Neil McRoberts, a University of California-Davis associate professor and plant pathologist.
Trade war could spark food fight, California growers fear
(LA Times) Geoffrey Mohan, March 2
Steel and aluminum may be the intended quarry of a trade war that President Trump has said would be "good" for the U.S. economy, but the casualties of the conflict could be food, agricultural economists warn.
… No state has more at stake than California, which leads the country in agricultural revenue. Farmers and ranchers in the Golden State are twice as dependent on foreign trade as the country as a whole. World leaders also likely know that Trump enjoyed deep support in rural, agricultural areas, including much of the Central Valley, said Dan Sumner, an economist who directs the Agricultural Issues Center at UC Davis.
"The word 'local' is chic; it sells things," said Cindy Fake, UC Cooperative Extension advisor in Placer and Nevada counties. "So, it's used by everybody and anybody."
Fake said "local" has no clear definition and consumers are easily misled.
"They are likely to be deceived," she said. "Consumers are thinking one way and the marketers know that. They know consumers want local, so they say it's local."
The reporter also spoke with Gail Feenstra, deputy director of UC ANR's Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program.
"There is a huge diversity across states about what is local," Feenstra said
There is more transparency on fresh produce because it's easier for consumers to identify where it came from and recognize regional products on store shelves.
Feenstra said shoppers need to do their research.
While serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in Venezuela, Mark Gaskell got his first experience with thriving coffee plantations. Years later, as a UC Cooperative Extension advisor to small-scale farmers in California, he wondered whether coffee could be a viable specialty crop for Central Coast farmers.
Gaskell established transplants in 2001 and discovered that the sub-tropical plants could thrive in the Golden State, reported Jodi Helmer on Valley Public Radio's The Salt.
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.
California coffee is selling for as much as $60 per pound. "A single cup sold for $18. The coffee sold out within two weeks," the VPR story said.
Farms that sell only fresh produce are dependent on buyers for markets and pricing. The UC Cooperative Extension small farms team in Fresno and Tulare counties believes farmers can earn more money by taking production a step further, by adding extra value to their products with processing, preserving and packaging the produce.
UC Cooperative Extension small farms advisor Ruth Dahlquist-Willard, the UC Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program, and Fresno State's Office of Community and Economic Development brought a group of small farmers together for a workshop in January to learn about resources available to help them develop value-added businesses.
“Value-added products can improve the bottom line of a small family farm by bringing in additional income and diversifying production,” Dahlquist-Willard said. “We wanted to connect beginning farmers and Southeast Asian farmers to programs that could help them develop and market value-added products from their farms.”
The value-added workshop included presentations from a farmer with a successful value-added business, government agencies and non-profit organizations. Alternative lenders such as Fresno Madera Farm Credit, who provided funding for the workshop, also presented on loans available for small-scale farms. UCCE agricultural assistant Michael Yang translated the presentations into Hmong.
Kingsburg organic farmer Paul Buxman opened the workshop with his personal journey into value-added production. Buxman's story begins in 1994 when a spring hail storm swept through his farm.
“The hail marked all my fruit. I had 100,000 pounds of plums, peaches and nectarines I could not sell. What could I do?” Buxman said. “An idea came to my head like a lightbulb. Take the fruit, cut off the scar, cook it and make jam.”
The new venture wasn't an instant success. Buxman found himself delivering unsold jam that first year to a Bay Area homeless mission, pulling up right behind a bread truck.
“Man does not live by bread alone,” he said with a laugh.
But each year he and his wife improved their product, and the market grew.
“This jam is so addictive, it's barely legal,” Buxman said. His “Sweet Home Ranch Homemade Preserves” costs $2 per jar to make, and sells for $5 each.
Buxman suggested the farmers at the UCCE workshop to try making a value-added product. The new products could be spices, food, cleaning products, handicrafts, and even experiences, such a teaching a skill.
“You have so much more to offer people than you realize,” Buxman said.
During the subsequent panel discussion, Kiel Schmidt outlined the support that Food Commons Fresno can provide. An important element is the opportunity to rent the organization's commercial kitchen to create value-added merchandise to health department specifications. Patti Chang of Feed the Hunger Foundation said her organization provides technical assistance and loans to new ventures that can carry out their mission of reducing hunger and helping people out of poverty.
“We worked with two Oaxacan women in Madera who didn't want to be field workers anymore,” Chang said. “They wanted to make a product from their culture: mole. They became a certified business, opened a bank account at Wells Fargo and opened a small restaurant in a grocery story. We helped them negotiate the lease.”
Eduardo Gonzalez of Fresno State's San Joaquin Valley Rural Development Center said his facility can help small businesses with marketing, website design and getting value-added products to market.
Dawn Goliik of the U.S. Small Business Administration said the organization can help small farmers start, grow and run businesses with training, mentoring and counseling.
“It's all free to you,” Golik said.
The UCCE small farms team also has a marketing associate, Lorena Ramos, who is available for farmers to contact regarding value-added product development.
Presentations and one-on-one consultations were offered by a variety of organizations that can loan funds, including Fresno Madera Farm Credit, Access + Capital, Northern California Community Loan Fund, California FarmLink, USDA Farm Service Agency and Valley Small Business Development Corporation.
The workshop ended with a presentation on California's Cottage Food Law, which allows residents to process and prepare foods in their own home kitchens to sell to the public. Some of the home-prepared products the law permits are jams, jellies, cookies, cakes and fudge, dried fruit, vegetables and spices. A complete list of approved foods is on the state website.
The Cottage Food Law is for businesses with a gross annual income below $50,000, which have no more than one employee (not including household members).
“There is no charge, just paperwork to fill out,” said Matthew Gore with Fresno County Environmental Health. “This isn't difficult, and we're here to help you with the forms.”
Dahlquist-Willard said an important part of her UC Cooperative Extension program is the connections she and Yang can help farmers make with the myriad services available to them.
“We encourage small farmers to contact us in our Fresno office,” she said.
Woodland as ag hub topic of forum
(Woodland Daily Democrat) Jenice Tupolo, Jan. 30
Developing Woodland as an agricultural center is becoming more of a reality, even as local organizations worked together in creating a forum focused on agricultural innovation in Yolo County.
...The city of Woodland, AgStart, UC Agricultural and Natural Resources, and the city's Food Front initiative hosted keynote speaker and vice president of the UC ANR, Glenda Humiston, at the conference.
Small Farmers in Fresno Hope for Big Moringa Payoff
(KQED) Katrina Schwartz, Jan. 26
The Mouas, along with other Hmong farmers growing moringa, have been working with farm advisers at Fresno County's UC Cooperative Extension to learn how to dry, powder and store their moringa so they can expand into new markets. Most farmers sell it fresh, but most of the health food craze exists around moringa powder, often imported from India.
… “Value-added products are a great way for a small family farm to increase their income,” said Ruth Dahlquist-Willard, a small-farm adviser with the program. Many farmers are accustomed to only selling fresh produce. They plant a diverse set of crops in a small area and sell a little bit of everything. Producing a product that requires the extra step of drying, grinding and storing is a whole new world for many of them.
“I think there's a lot of opportunity there,” Dahlquist-Willard said. She's particularly excited about how a product might bring the younger generation back to their family farms. Kids who have gone off to college for business, marketing or graphic design might see a new kind of future for themselves on the family farm with a product like moringa.
SLO County's Top 20 Under 40: Meet the 2017 award winners
…Katherine E. Soule, 35, is director of the UC Cooperative Extension for SLO and Santa Barbara counties, where she's earned state and national recognition for improving community health and increasing diversity in youth participation.
As the extension's youth, families and communities advisor for the last several years, Soule developed new 4-H programs engaging underserved youths and promoting healthy living, leadership and social development. Her efforts nearly doubled enrollment and boosted Latino participation 26.8 percent. She's delivered nutrition education to more than 10,000 people through various partnerships.
Flooding alfalfa for groundwater recharge
(Morning Ag Clips) Jan. 24
A rigorous field study in two California climate zones has found that alfalfa can tolerate very heavy winter flooding for groundwater recharge. The research was published online Jan. 16 in California Agriculture journal.
The alfalfa research is the latest in a series of projects studying the effects of using land planted with permanent crops – including almond orchards and vineyards – to capture and bank winter storm water. Such projects have great promise but also require collaboration across multiple jurisdictions and agencies. UC Agriculture and Natural Resources vice president Glenda Humiston has made groundwater recharge on working lands and open spaces a division priority and is working with water and land use leaders around the state to facilitate it through policy recommendations and cross-agency collaboration.
Band Canker Affecting Younger Almonds
(California Ag Today) Patrick Cavanaugh, Jan. 24
Brent Holtz is a UC cooperative extension Pomology Farm Advisor for San Joaquin County. He recently told California Ag Today about how the fungus band canker on almonds is becoming more prevalent in the San Joaquin Valley.
“I've seen a lot more band canker, which is caused by a pathogenic fungus, Botryosphaeria dothidea, and we're seeing it on young orchards, especially in in San Joaquin county," said Holtz. "We've seen that a lot out in the delta and we've seen it in eastern San Joaquin county where the soils tend to be a little heavier, maybe old dairy ground and richer and we don't really know why."
CCOF Annual Conference to Focus on Organic Hotspots
AgNet West) Jan. 22
Registration is available for the California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF) annual conference, Organic Hotspots: Revitalizing Rural America. The event is scheduled for February 22 and 23 at the Sheraton Grand Sacramento Hotel in Sacramento.…
The event will focus on organic hotspots and how rural economies can potentially be stimulated by organic production. Topics will include partnerships between elected officials and the organic community, the role of education and research, along with the process of growing organic produce in local communities. The event will conclude with a keynote speech from Glenda Humiston, Vice President of the University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources.
California Today: 100 Million Dead Trees Prompt Fears of Giant Wildfires
(New York Times) Thomas Fuller, Jan. 19
The more than 100 million trees that died in California after being weakened by drought and insect infestations have transformed large swaths of the Sierra Nevada into browned-out tree cemeteries. In some areas more than 90 percent of trees are dead.
This week a group of scientists warned in the journal BioScience that the dead trees could produce wildfires on a scale and of an intensity that California has never seen.
…“It's something that is going to be much more severe,” said Scott Stephens, a professor of fire science at Berkeley and the lead author of the study. “You could have higher amounts of embers coming into home areas, starting more fires.”
Winter's good time for gopher control in nut crops
(Western Farm Press) Cecelia Parsons, Jan. 17, 2018
Tree nut growers who are plagued by gopher invasions in their orchards need to stick with effective control measures if they want to minimize tree losses.
Pocket gophers are common in most nut production areas, says Joe Connell, University of California Cooperative Extension Farm Advisor Emeritus in Butte County. In the absence of cover crops or weeds, they will gnaw on tree roots and trunks, and the hungry vertebrate pests can even girdle — and kill — older trees. Trees with root damage and girdling will lose production, and will be susceptible to crown gall, which weakens their structural strength.
Bloomington nursery's citrus trees to be destroyed by California agriculture department
(ABC7 KABC) Rob McMillan, Jan. 17, 2018
Roxana Vallejo was 12 years old when her parents opened up Santa Ana Nursery in Bloomington. Wednesday, the California Department of Food and Agriculture will be at her business to destroy almost all of their citrus trees. Vallejo said the combined value of the trees is almost $1 million.
"They're all fine, and look at all the new growth, it's pretty good," Vallejo said.
The reason they're being cut down is huanglongbing, or HLB, one of the world's worst citrus diseases. The insect that spreads HLB has taken a strong foothold in Southern California.
"It's estimated that the citrus industry may go commercially extinct unless they can get a handle on this problem," said Mark Hoddle, UC Cooperative Extension specialist at UC Riverside, more than one year ago.
OPINION: Ranchers give thanks
(Ventura County Star) Beverly Bigger, president of the Ventura County Cattlemen's Association, Jan. 16, 2018
Ventura County is home to a robust and historic cattle industry, one that makes up a $2 million portion of Ventura County's agricultural sector. Ranchers play an important role in land management as well, their grazing operations clearing overgrown brush, reducing the fuel available to wildfires and protecting nearby communities.
In the space of 12 hours, the Thomas Fire ripped through vital grazing land that cattle rely on for their daily feed. Sadly, some animals were also lost to the fire.
With feed and fencing gone, many ranchers had hard decisions to make regarding the future of their operations, and some were not prepared for this kind of disaster. Thankfully, we have dedicated public servants who stepped up to help the cattle industry.
Ventura County Agricultural Commissioner Henry Gonzales, Matthew Shapero from the UC Cooperative Extension, and Donna Gillesby and Bryan Bray of Ventura County Animal Services all reached out to ask what they could do to help.
An emergency program was put in place to supply five days of hay until ranchers could get on their feet. The UC Extension also provided a one-stop location where ranchers could meet with representatives from multiple agencies to apply for assistance programs.
The assistance of these agencies was very much appreciated. We want to thank and recognize them for helping us in our time of need. We look forward to returning to our passion: managing and improving the land and continuing Ventura County's ranching heritage.
Farm advisor tests strategies for controlling horseweed
(Ag Alert) Bob Johnson, Jan. 10, 2018
One morning last summer, University of California Cooperative Extension vineyard weed control advisor John Roncoroni displayed a horseweed plant that had grown to more than 10 feet tall in a Yolo County vineyard.
Horseweed, which is widely seen on the sides of the state's highways, is among the glyphosate-resistant weed pests that can develop healthy populations in even well managed vineyards.
"We're really having problems with weeds coming in the fall that are resistant to Roundup," Roncoroni said. "Willow herb is tolerant; it's never been completely controlled by glyphosate."
Pomegranate returns not so wonderful but largest grower says otherwise
(Hanford Sentinel) By John Lindt, Jan. 11, 2018
A few years ago Central Valley pomegranate growers appeared to be riding a rising tide of popularity for pomegranates spurring optimism about the crop's future. Growers, including those in Kings County, enjoyed prices of over $1,700 a ton as recently as 2011.
After a significant planting of new trees, by 2015 pomegranate tonnage was fetching just $450 a ton in Fresno County and falling to $362 a ton in Tulare County according to its 2016 crop report.
…UC Farm Adviser Kevin Day says it's simple economics. “We are seeing both overproduction and lack of demand for pomegranates despite expectations to the contrary."
Western Innovator: Promoting sustainable ranching
Tracy Schohr has devoted much of her career to promoting sustainability in ranching.
While at the California Cattlemen's Association, she put on an annual “rangeland summit” that brought ranchers together with environmental experts and climate change policymakers.
She also worked on a program to limit ranchers' risk of facing Endangered Species Act violations if they created habitat on their land.
After going back to school to earn her master's degree at the University of California-Davis, Schohr has become a UC Cooperative Extension livestock and natural resources adviser based in Plumas, Sierra and Butte counties. http://www.capitalpress.com/California/20180108/western-innovator-promoting-sustainable-ranching
Weed Control with Brad Hanson UC Cooperative Extension Weed Specialist at UC Davis
(California Ag Today) Patrick Cavanaugh, Jan. 8, 2018
“Weeds are probably one of the year-in, year-out problems that growers face,” said Brad Hanson, UC Cooperative Extension, who discussed herbicide resistance with California Ag Today.
Building blocks for tending flocks
(Auburn Journal) Julie Miller, Jan. 7, 2018
Counting sheep is no longer for the tired and sleepy.
Shepherding has become a booming industry in Placer County. At last count, there are 9,000 head of sheep registered with the county, said Dan Macon, livestock and natural resources advisor for University of California, for Placer and Nevada counties. And there may be more sheep that have not been registered, perhaps because they are in a smaller flock of 10 to 15, he said.
Sheep have proven to be versatile. Not only raised for the meat and milk, but also wool fibers, plus, they can help reduce fire danger by eating away tall grasses and shrubs.
After a recent outbreak of E.coli, is it safe to eat romaine lettuce? Experts differ
(Fresno Bee) Robert Rodriguez, Jan. 5, 2018
If you are staying away from romaine lettuce because of an outbreak of E.coli, it's understandable. But at least one food safety expert says it may not be necessary.
…But University of California food safety expert Trevor Suslow said it's unlikely the lettuce you buy at the grocery store these days is going to do you any harm. That's because the illnesses happened from Nov. 15 through Dec. 8. Lettuce sold during that period wouldn't be around anymore.
“It's not going to last that long, it's gone,” Suslow said.
Cattle Ranchers Join Conservationists To Save Endangered Species And Rangelands
(Forbes) Diana Hembree, Jan. 5, 2018
…California has a strong incentive to preserve its 18 million acres of ranchland: Cattle and calves are the state's fourth-leading agricultural commodities (milk and cream are No. 1), according to state agricultural data. But in a Duke University survey of the state's ranchers, more than half said they were “more uncertain than ever” that they would be able to continue ranching. California is losing an estimated 20,000 acres of rangeland each year, according to the Nature Conservancy, and on any given day ads for the sale of cattle ranches dot the Internet. The median age of California ranchers is 58 to 62, and more are aging out of the business with no children interested in taking over the ranch.
But this trend can be reversed, according to Lynn Huntsinger a professor of environmental science and rangeland ecology at UC Berkeley. To preserve these landscapes for future generations, ranchers need payment and recognition for their ecosystem services “in order to preserve these working landscapes for future generations,” Huntsinger writes.
Months after Wine Country fires, damaged vineyards face uncertainty
(SF Chronicle) Esther Mobley, Jan. 4
…“No one knows what's the real threshold for heat damage,” says Rhonda Smith, the Sonoma County-based viticulture farm adviser for the University of California, who has come to Gilfillan to consult on its rehabilitation.
Much of the conventional wisdom about how fires interact with vines — that vines can't burn, because of their high water content, for instance — didn't turn out to be true for every vineyard, she says.
“In 99 percent of cases, vines were fire breaks,” says Smith. But if there was dry vegetation, if there was wood mulch on the ground, if the soil was especially dry — if, if, if — then they weren't.
Progress reported on robotic weeders for vegetables
(Ag Alert) Bob Johnson, Jan. 4
The next generation of computer-controlled, automated cultivators will be able to use cameras to remove weeds in the seed line as close as 1 inch from young tomato or lettuce plants, without damaging the crop.
“It must be more than half the lettuce acreage that is already using the automated thinners,” said Steve Fennimore, UC Cooperative Extension vegetable weed specialist.
Fennimore is supervising the Salinas lettuce trials of “marking” the crop in order to make this technology practical for weeding as well.
“The weeders already out there tend to be prototypes that people are still experimenting with,” he said.
2017's natural disasters cost American agriculture over $5 billion
(New Food Economy) Sam Bloch, Jan. 4, 2018
Over a period of 10 months in 2017, America experienced 16 separate, billion-dollar weather and climate-related disasters. Those weather events carved paths of destruction straight through some of the most fertile and productive regions of the country, wreaking havoc on beef cattle ranches in Texas, soaking cotton and rice farms in Louisiana, orange groves in Florida, and burning up vineyards in California. And that was all before Southern California's still-active Thomas fire, which began on December 4, and then closed in on the country's primary avocado farms. It's now the state's largest-ever, in terms of total acreage.
- Acres of cherimoya trees in Santa Barbara County destroyed by the Thomas fire: 100
- Total dollar value of Santa Barbara cherimoya fruit damaged by fire: $5,000,000
- Acres of avocado fields in Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties threatened by wildfire: 5,260
- Estimated pounds of Hass avocados in Ventura County lost to wildfire: 8,060,000
- Total dollar value of that lost harvest: $10,175,750
- Approximate percentage of American avocado crop threatened by wildfire: 8
- Expected effect of wildfire on avocado prices in America, due to reliance on imports: 0
- Winegrape acreage in Napa and Sonoma Counties: 104,847
- As a percentage of total California winegrape acreage: 22
- Estimated dollar value of unharvested Cabernet grapes in those counties, before the wildfires: $175,000,000
- Estimated dollar value of those grapes, now tainted by smoke: $29,000,000
- Bottles of 2016 Napa Cabernet you can buy for the price of two 2017 vintages, due to winegrape scarcity: 3
California wildfire data from Daniel A. Sumner, Ph.D. of UC Agricultural Issues Center, USDA NASS, Ben Faber, Ph.D. of UC Cooperative Extension Ventura.
There Is No “No-Fire” Option in California
(Bay Nature) Zach St. George, Jan. 2, 2018
As the use of prescribed fire by Cal Fire declined in recent decades, its use also declined with private landholders, says Lenya Quinn-Davidson, director of the Northern California Prescribed Fire Council, who leads prescribed burning workshops across the state. Scott Stephens, the UC Berkeley professor, concurs. Decades of suppression left the western U.S. with relatively few people trained to carry out the work: “We just don't have that experience to pass on.” But it's important not to let the current enthusiasm pass, he says—as climate change continues to push conditions toward extremes, as wildfires consume more and more of fire agency budgets, and as the wildland-urban interface expands, it will only become more difficult to bring fire back.
Scientist discusses working on Food Evolution movie
(Brownfield Ag News) Larry Lee, Jan. 1
A scientist involved in a movie about genetically modified food says many don't understand what GM is, let alone the benefits. Alison VanEenennaam says, “Really, it's a breeding method, and I think the public sector applications for things like disease resistance have very compelling societal benefits that I think most people can relate to. I don't think we want plants and animals getting sick, and if we can solve that problem genetically rather than using chemicals, I think people get that.”
VanEenennaam is a geneticist at the University of California. She tells Brownfield there is a lot of unnecessary fear about eating genetically modified food. “The safety around GM (Genetically Modified) has been established and is, you know, agreed on by every major scientific society in the world and yet we've got the vast majority of consumers that don't believe that.”
Urban Edge farm program offers immersion-style learning
(East Bay Times) Lou Fancher, Jan. 1, 2018
After operating a pilot version of the ambitious program, a $200,000 grant from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture's Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program is a launch pad for the immersive learning experience.
For the first cohort of students, many of them women and/or people of color, immigrants, refugees, veterans or farmers-to-be with limited resources, the land is a classroom. Instruction comes from First Generation and experts from the National Center for Appropriate Technology and UC Cooperative Extension. Participation in the program represents opportunity and fulfills dreams the first-time farmers hold of agricultural avocation, economic stability, families, homesteads and permanence.
(Lodi Wine blog) Randy Caparoso, Jan. 1, 2018
This coming February 6, 2018, Lodi winegrowers will get together for their 66th Annual LODI GRAPE DAY. They will also mark the occasion with a celebration of the retirement of Paul Verdegaal, who has been working full-time as San Joaquin County's viticulture, bush berry and almond Farm Advisor under the auspices of UCCE (University of California Cooperative Extension) since 1986.