Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources
Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources
Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources
University of California
Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources

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UC releases new cost studies for growing almonds

Almonds growing on the tree.
UC Agricultural Issues Center has released three new studies on the cost and returns of growing almonds in the Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys. One study focuses on organic production of almonds.

The cost analyses are based on hypothetical farm operations of well-managed orchards, using practices common to each region. Growers, UC ANR Cooperative Extension farm advisors and other agricultural associates provided input and reviewed the methods and findings of the studies. Two studies estimate the costs for establishing and producing almonds grown in the northern San Joaquin Valley and Sacramento Valley using micro-sprinkler irrigation. These are multi-year studies, estimating costs from previous crop (orchard removal) through orchard establishment and the production years.

The study for organic almonds takes into consideration growing conditions in the northern San Joaquin Valley and complying with the National Organic Program. This study is based on an orchard that began the transition period and certification as organic after the second year of establishment. The trees in this study are in production and at full bearing. This organic almond orchard uses a solid-set sprinkler system.

The economic life of the orchards used in this cost analysis is 25 years. The authors describe the assumptions used to identify current costs for the almond crop, material inputs, cash and non-cash overhead. A ranging analysis table shows profits over a range of prices and yields. Other tables show the monthly cash costs, the costs and returns per acre, hourly equipment costs, and the whole farm annual equipment, investment and business overhead costs.

Almond orchard in bloom.
The new studies are titled as follows:

  • Sample Costs to Establish an Orchard and Produce Almonds in the San Joaquin Valley – North- 2016
  • Sample Costs to Establish an Orchard and Produce Almonds in the Sacramento Valley – 2016
  • Sample Costs to Produce Organic Almonds in the San Joaquin Valley - North - 2016

Free copies of these studies and other sample cost of production studies for many commodities are available. To download the cost studies, visit the UC Davis Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics website at http://coststudies.ucdavis.edu.

The cost and returns program is funded by the UC Agricultural Issues Center, which is part of UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, and the UC Davis Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics.

For additional information or an explanation of the calculations used in the studies, contact Don Stewart at the Agricultural Issues Center at (530) 752-4651 or destewart@ucdavis.edu, or Christine Gutierrez at (530) 752-1520 or cagut@ucdavis.edu

Posted on Friday, April 29, 2016 at 2:16 PM

It's not just climate change: Study finds human activity is a major factor driving wildfires

Beyond climate change, humans contribute another set of factors that influence wildfires, including where structures are built, and the frequency and location of ignitions from a variety of sources—everything from cigarettes on the highway, to electrical poles that get blown down in Santa Ana winds.
A new study examining wildfires in California found that human activity explains as much about their frequency and location as climate influences. The researchers systematically looked at human (anthropogenic) behaviors and climate change together, which is unique and rarely attempted on an area of land this large.

The findings suggest many models of wildfire predictions do not accurately account for anthropogenic factors and may therefore be misleading when identifying the main causes/drivers of wildfires. The newest model proportionately accounts for climate change and human behavioral threats and allows experts to more accurately predict how much land is at risk of burning in California through 2050, which is estimated at more than 7 million acres in the next 25 years.

Climate change affects the severity of the fire season and the amount and type of vegetation on the land, which are major variables in predicting wildfires. However, humans contribute another set of factors that influence wildfires, including where structures are built, and the frequency and location of ignitions from a variety of sources—everything from cigarettes on the highway, to electrical poles that get blown down in Santa Ana winds. As a result of the near-saturation of the landscape, humans are currently responsible for igniting more than 90 percent of the wildfires in California.

“Individuals don't have much control over how climate change will effect wildfires in the future. However, we do have the ability to influence the other half of the equation, those variables that control our impact on the landscape,” said Michal Mann, assistant professor of geography at George Washington University and lead author of the study. “We can reduce our risks by disincentivizing housing development in fire-prone areas, better managing public land, and rethinking the effectiveness of our current firefighting approach.”

The researchers found that by omitting the human influence on California wildfires, they were overstating the influence of climate change. The authors recommend considering climate change and human variables at the same time for future models.

“There is widespread agreement about the importance of climate on wildfire at relatively broad scales. At more local scales, however, you can get the story quite wrong if you don't include human development patterns,” said co-author Max Moritz, UC Cooperative Extension fire ecology specialist whose lab is at the University of California, Berkeley. “This is an important finding about how we model climate change effects, and it also confirms that getting a handle on where and how we build our communities is essential to limiting future losses.”

Between 1999 and 2011, California reported an average of $160 million in annual wildfire-related damages, with nearly 13,000 homes and other structures destroyed in so-called state responsibility areas - fire jurisdictions maintained by California, according to Mann. During this same period, California and the U.S. Forest Service spent more than $5 billion on wildfire suppression.

In a model from 2014 that examined California wildfires' destruction over the last 60 years, Dr. Mann estimated that fire damage will more than triple by mid-century, increasing to nearly half a billion dollars annually. “This information is critical to policymakers, planners, and fire managers, to determine wildfire risks,” he said.

The paper, “Incorporating Anthropogenic Influences into Fire Probability Models: Effects of Human Activity and Climate Change on Fire Activity in California,” published Thursday in PLOS ONE.

Press release written by Emily Grebenstein, George Washington University, emgreb@gwu.edu, 202-994-3087

Posted on Thursday, April 28, 2016 at 1:19 PM
  • Contact: Jeannette Warnert, (559) 240-9850, jewarnert@ucanr.edu
Tags: Climate Change (6), Max Moritz (4), wildfire (12)

WIC food improves preschool children’s diet quality

UC researchers found that half of WIC kids had eaten green vegetables the previous day, in contrast to only one in five non-WIC children.
In the U.S., where one of five children entering elementary school is overweight, a healthy diet is critical for preschool children, who are setting their eating patterns for the future.

In 2009, more fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat milk were included in the food package provided by USDA's Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC). As a result, the quality of diets improved for the roughly 4 million children who are served by WIC, according to a study by researchers at UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital in Oakland, UC San Francisco and UC Agriculture and Natural Resources' Nutrition Policy Institute.

“Although the findings only showed significant improvement for consumption of greens and beans, the other areas for which WIC has put in important efforts – increased consumption of whole fruits rather than fruit juice, increased whole grains – all show trends in the right direction,” said lead author June Tester, a physician at UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital Oakland, “and there is opportunity for further study in the future when more years have passed after this landmark change in the WIC package.”

Diets of children age 2 to 4 compared

For the UC study, which will be published in the May issue of Pediatrics journal, researchers analyzed the diets of 1,197 children, ages 2 to 4 years, from low-income households before and after the 2009 change in the food package.

The researchers used the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) to compare a nationally representative sample from 2003 to 2008 with diets in 2011 to 2012. The researchers calculated the Healthy Eating Index (HEI-2010), which is a score with 100 possible points measuring adherence to dietary guidelines, from two 24-hour diet recalls. For children in households using WIC, this score increased from 52.4 to 58.3 after the policy change. After adjusting for characteristics in the sample and trends in the comparison group, the researchers showed that there was an increase of 3.7 points that was attributable to the WIC package change. This represents important evidence of an improvement in the diets for these children in WIC households.

Children don't eat enough green vegetables

“Vegetables are part of a healthful diet, but in general, children don't eat enough of them,” Tester said. Using the Healthy Eating Index, the researchers calculated the Greens and Beans score, which counts dark green vegetables and includes any legumes, such as beans and peas, that were not already counted as protein foods on a different score. 

After the food package was changed, the Greens and Beans score increased for children in WIC but not for their counterparts. Roughly half of the children in WIC households had eaten some vegetables, whereas only one in five non-WIC children had consumed any green vegetables at all in the two days their parents were surveyed.

Important policy change

The change in the WIC food package is an important policy change in the effort to improve the quality of diets of young children, said Tester, a pediatrician.

Tester noted that the results of this study will be useful to the Institute of Medicine committee that is reviewing and assessing the nutritional status and food needs of the WIC-eligible population and the impact of the 2009 revision to WIC food packages. The committee will make recommendations for changing the food packages.

Establishing healthy eating patterns

“Increasing consumption of nutritious foods such as green leafy vegetables and whole grains in the low-income children served by WIC will help them establish healthier eating patterns for their future,” said co-author Patricia Crawford, UC Cooperative Extension nutrition specialist with UC ANR's Nutrition Policy Institute.

The switch from whole milk to low-fat milk was​ ​well received by the clientele and did not result in decreased milk consumption among the preschoolers, noted Tester, Crawford and co-author Cindy Leung, postdoctoral scholar at UCSF Center for Health and Community.

This study is the first to report on the significant improvements in diet quality in young children associated with the WIC package change using a nationally representative sample, and the first to do so with the updated Healthy Eating Index (HEI-2010). The National Institutes for Health funded this study.

Para leer la versión en español de este artículo, visite http://ucanr.edu/sites/Spanish/Noticias/?uid=6735&ds=199.

Posted on Wednesday, April 6, 2016 at 9:00 PM

Registration is open for the 2016 California Naturalist Conference

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Certified California Naturalists and all Californians with an appreciation for the state's diverse natural ecosystems may now register for the second biennial California Naturalist Conference, from Sept. 9-11 at Pali Mountain Retreat and Conference Center in Running Springs. The early registration discount ends July 1.

“The beautiful mountain setting is the ideal place for California Naturalists to come together to enhance their skills and connect with fellow naturalists,” said Adina Merenlender, co-director of the University of California's California Naturalist Program and conference chair. “We promise a captivating weekend for observing nature, fostering partnerships with other naturalists and organizations, and planning for global climate change.”

The conference features a full slate of presenters that include an award winning environmental journalist and science writer, an internationally renowned conservation scientist, a Latino educator and visionary, and a Southern California leader developing community green spaces in underserved neighborhoods.

Early registration for the conference is $150 for certified California Naturalists; for non-certified participants registration is $175. Room and board at Pali Mountain is $165 per person. Those not staying at Pali Mountain pay a $90 food and beverage fee. On July 1, conference registration increases by $20 per person. For more information and to register, visit the conference website.

Conference attendees may also register for optional advanced training courses that take place on Friday, Sept. 9. The advanced training topics are:

  • California's Venomous Animals: Fact & Fiction
  • Acoustic Recording and Analysis of Natural Sounds
  • How to Draw like a Naturalist
  • iNaturalist 202: Monitoring, Exporting Data, Best Practices for Projects
  • Smartphone GPS and Mapping Skills Development Workshop
  • The Power of Direct Engagement with Nature: Outdoor Science Instruction
  • Facilitating Forest Ecotherapy
  • Facilitation and Collaboration Skills for Naturalists
  • The California Phenology Project: Tracking the Effects of Climate on the Seasonal Cycle of Wild Plants

Optional field trips are offered in conjunction with the conference. An overnight field trip at the Tejon Ranch Conservancy precedes the conference on Thursday and Friday, Sept. 8-9. The remaining field trips will be at the end of the conference, on Sunday, Sept. 11. The field trips are as follows:

  • From Mountain to City: Tour of the Santa Ana Watershed
  • UC Riverside Botanic Gardens
  • Unique Plant Communities and Geology of Bear Valley
  • Global Change in the San Bernardino National Forest
  • The National Children's Forest
  • Explore the Wild Side of Riverside at the Ameal Moore Nature Center
  • Transitional Plant Communities at Oak Glen Preserve and the Montane Botanic Garden
  • A River in the High Desert: Tour of Whitewater Preserve
  • Palm Oases, Sand Dunes, and Desert Shrub lands of the Coachella Valley

*Photo credit: CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 Chuck Rogers, The Early Bird

Posted on Tuesday, April 5, 2016 at 9:27 AM

Spring in California is time to inspect citrus trees for Asian citrus psyllid

Inspect the new flush on citrus trees to see whether the tree is infested with Asian citrus psyllid. (View a four-minute video below.)
View a four-minute video.

A tell-tale sign of spring in California is a flush of new leaf growth on citrus trees. Because the feathery light green leaves are particularly attractive to Asian citrus psyllids (ACP), the leaves' emergence marks a critical time to determine whether the pest has infested trees.

“We encourage home citrus growers and farmers to go out with a magnifying glass or hand lens and look closely at the new growth,” said Beth Grafton-Cardwell, UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) citrus entomologist. “Look for the various stages of the psyllid – small yellow eggs, sesame-seed sized yellow ACP young with curly white tubules, or aphid-like adults that perch with their hind quarters angled up.”

Pictures of the Asian citrus psyllids and its life stages are on the UC ANR website at http://ucanr.edu/acp. If you find signs of the insect, call the California Food and Agriculture (CDFA) Exotic Pest Hotline at (800) 491-1899.

Asian citrus psyllids are feared because they can spread huanglongbing (HLB) disease, an incurable condition that first causes yellow mottling on the leaves and later sour, misshapen fruit before killing the tree. ACP, native of Pakistan, Afghanistan and other tropical and subtropics regions of Asian, was first detected in California in 2008. Everywhere Asian citrus psyllids have appeared – including Florida and Texas – the pests have found and spread the disease. A few HLB-infected trees have been located in urban Los Angeles County. They were quickly removed by CDFA officials.

“In California, we are working hard to keep the population of ACP as low as possible until researchers can find a cure for the disease,” Grafton-Cardwell said. “We need the help of citrus farmers and home gardeners.”

Grafton-Cardwell has spearheaded the development of the UC ANR ACP website for citrus growers and citrus homeowners that provides help in finding the pest and what to do next. The site has an interactive map tool to locate residences and farms that are in areas where the psyllid has already become established, and areas where they are posing a risk to the citrus industry and must be aggressively treated by county officials.

The website outlines biological control efforts that are underway, and directions for insecticidal control, if it is needed. An online calculator on the website allows farmers and homeowners to determine their potential costs for using insecticides.

There are additional measures that can be taken to support the fight against ACP and HLB in California.

  • When planting new citrus trees, only purchase the trees from reputable nurseries. Do not accept tree cuttings or budwood from friends or relatives.
  • After pruning or cutting down a citrus tree, dry out the green waste or double bag it to make sure that live psyllids won't ride into another region on the foliage.
  • Control ants in and near citrus trees with bait stations. Scientists have released natural enemies of ACP in Southern California to help keep the pest in check. However, ants will protect ACP from the natural enemies. Ants favor the presence of ACP because the psyllid produces honeydew, a food source for ants.
  • Learn more about the Asian citrus psyllid and huanglongbing disease by reading the detailed pest note on UC ANR's Statewide Integrated Pest Management website.
  • Assist in the control of ACP by supporting CDFA insecticide treatments of your citrus or treating the citrus yourself when psyllids are present.
  • Support the removal of HLB-infected trees. 

Spanish version.


Posted on Monday, March 7, 2016 at 8:19 AM

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