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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Cost estimates for growing romaine hearts and organic spinach released

Two new studies on the costs and returns of growing romaine hearts and organic spinach have been released by UC Agriculture and Natural Resources' Agricultural Issues Center.

Sample costs to produce and harvest romaine hearts and organic spinach in the Central Coast Region – Monterey, Santa Cruz and San Benito counties – are presented in these studies. 

The analysis is based upon a hypothetical farm operation of a well-managed farm, using practices common to the region. Input and reviews were provided by growers, UC ANR Cooperative Extension farm advisors and other agricultural associates. Assumptions used to identify current costs for these crops, material inputs, cash and non-cash overhead are described. 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.

The new studies are titled 2015 Sample Costs to Produce and Harvest Romaine Hearts in the Central Coast Region” and “2015 Sample Costs to Produce and Harvest Organic Spinach in the Central Coast Region.”

These two studies can be downloaded for free from the UC Davis Department of Agriculture and Resource Economics website at http://coststudies.ucdavis.edu. Cost-of-production studies for many commodities are also available.

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

Posted on Friday, February 5, 2016 at 8:13 AM

UCCE to show whole almond trees being ground up and incorporated into soil on Feb. 16

The IronWolf 700B removes almond trees measuring 15 to 25 inches in diameter east of Chowchilla.

When an orchard is removed for replanting, the trees are usually uprooted, chipped and hauled to a biomass plant. However, burning the wood in a cogeneration plant removes carbon from the orchard and biomass plants are becoming fewer and farther from farms.

One alternative is grinding up the trees and incorporating the wood into the soil in the orchard. UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) scientists have been studying the effects of incorporating the wood chips into the soil since 2008.

“A lot of growers feared if we added that much carbon to the soil, the microbes breaking down the organic matter would tie up nitrogen and the trees would be stunted,” said Brent Holtz, UC ANR Cooperative Extension advisor. “But the research results suggest that the trees will do just as well or better in the presence of the additional organic matter.”

For the 2008 study, an IronWolf machine was used to grind up whole stone fruit trees and bury the organic matter in the soil in some plots. For comparison, the researchers burned trees and spread the ashes in the soil of other plots. Holtz compared the nutrient availability in the soil and health of trees planted in the research plots.

In a new study, Holtz hopes to compare the effects of using the IronWolf to recycle an almond orchard to using a large tub grinder, which leaves much finer particles of wood.

Holtz invites growers and other interested people to watch the IronWolf 700B, a newer version of the machine used in 2008, grind up almond trees in Chowchilla on Feb. 16 at 10 a.m.

“There has been increased interest in the project because of the closure of many of the biomass plants statewide. They used to take the debris of removed orchards,” said Holtz. “The purpose of this demonstration is to see if this method of orchard removal will be competitive with the tub grinding process, and become an economically viable alternative that improves soil organic matter and fertility.” 

WHO: UC ANR Cooperative Extension advisors, growers, IronWolf equipment representatives.

WHAT: Watch a 100,000-pound machine push, grind and incorporate whole almond trees into the soil.

WHEN:  10 a.m., Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2016

WHERE: AgriLand Farming, 20875 Avenue24, Chowchilla, CA 93610

Posted on Tuesday, January 26, 2016 at 3:55 PM
Tags: Almonds (4), Brent Holtz (1), orchard removal (1)

Scientific consensus says U.S. Forest Service should implement proposed forest treatments

Scientists say there is a great need for forest restoration and fire hazard reduction treatments in Sierra Nevada forests.
After conducting extensive forest research and taking into consideration all aspects of forest health – including fire and wildlife behavior, water quality and quantity – a group of distinguished scientists have concluded that enough is now known about proposed U.S. Forest Service landscape management treatments for them to be implemented in Sierra Nevada forests.

“There is currently a great need for forest restoration and fire hazard reduction treatments to be implemented at large spatial scales in the Sierra Nevada,” the scientists wrote. “The next one to three decades are a critical period: after this time it may be very difficult to influence the character of Sierra Nevada forests, especially old forest characteristics.”

The scientists' recommendation is in the final report of a unique, 10-year experiment in collaboration: the Sierra Nevada Adaptive Management Project (SNAMP). A 1,000-page final report on the project was submitted to the U.S. Forest Service at the end of 2015. In it, scientists reached 31 points of consensus about managing California forests to reduce wildfire hazards and protect wildlife and human communities.

“SNAMP was founded on a desire to work collaboratively to protect the forests of the Sierra Nevada,” said John Battles, professor of forest ecology in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management at UC Berkeley and SNAMP principal investigator. “The challenges are multifaceted with a huge diversity of perspective among the public, among managers, and among scientists. SNAMP tried to bring all these interests and talents together to safeguard a vital resource and a natural wonder."

SNAMP was created to help develop a collaborative management and monitoring plan consistent with the Sierra Nevada Forest Plan Amendment, signed by regional forester Jack Blackwell on Jan. 21, 2004. The amendment called for the use of fuel reduction treatments – such as prescribed burning, mechanical chopping of underbrush, and harvesting certain trees – in strategically placed areas to slow down potential wildfires and improve forest health.

Because of disagreements over forest treatments in the past, which often led to lawsuits that languished in court for years, the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the California Natural Resources Agency decided to take a new approach in 2005. They asked the University of California to provide unbiased scientific assessments of the impacts of the proposed treatments. UC was also charged with engaging the public concerned about repercussions of the forest treatments on wildlife habitat and water quality.

The scientific efforts and the forest treatments were all conducted in an open and transparent process. To ensure the greatest number of stakeholders were taking part, SNAMP included a public participation team of social scientists and UC Cooperative Extension outreach professionals to conduct and study the collaboration process.

Susan Kocher, UC Agriculture and Natural Resources Cooperative Extension forestry advisor in the Central Sierra, was a member the project since 2008 and served as the leader of the public participation team during the final two years, succeeding Kimberly Rodrigues, a UC forestry scientist who is now the director of the UC Hopland Research and Extension Center in Mendocino County. Kocher said having outreach and public participation included as a funded part of a science project is unusual.

“We were able to make great strides in getting everybody on the same page,” Kocher said. “That's what our data shows, too.”

A large volume of new scientific information was generated by the science team, and was published in 46 journal articles. The science spread fast and far, according to citation analysis conducted by the public participation team.

“We found that the average time it took for a SNAMP publication to be cited in another journal was about seven months,” Kocher said. “Citations to our articles came from all over the United States and around the globe.”

In addition, SNAMP science-based information was immediately useful to forest managers, according to a 14-page response to the SNAMP final report by the Forest Service, Fish and Wildlife and the California Natural Resources Agency. For example, an excerpt of the response submitted by California Fish and Wildlife noted that “SNAMP proved successful at modifying treatment methodology to meet the ever-changing reality of forest management.”

“The results were able to prove useful for managers past and future regarding how management can be implemented, in the face of wildfires while still retaining important owl nesting/roosting and foraging habitat features in and near owl activity features,” the document said.

SNAMP – funded with $15 million in grants mainly from the U.S. Forest Service, with support from U.S. Fish and Wildlife, California Natural Resources Agency and University of California – ran from 2007 to 2015. The project ended with the submission of the final report that contains details about the study areas, the treatment processes and reports from each of the six science teams. The science teams and their final reports are:

A key chapter in the publication is titled Integrated Management Recommendations. In it, the 31 points of consensus are outlined.

“The integration in this project is also unique,” Kocher said. “Scientists tend to work in their own focus areas, but we can learn a lot from each other's research projects.”

Working together, the scientists looked at all the research outcomes. The first 18 recommendations in the chapter are the direct result of scientific research conducted in SNAMP projects; the remainder of the recommendations are based on other scientific work and research.

Each of the recommendations is linked to a management goal. Some goals may conflict with achieving one or more of the other management goals. This approach to organizing the recommendations was taken to demonstrate that, while many of the management recommendations do not clash, a few may. For example, suggesting treatments across a landscape in a way that minimizes the negative effects on wildlife might reduce the efficiency of treatments aimed at reducing wildfire behavior and impacts.

The next steps are for the U.S. Forest Service to consider and adapt the SNAMP results and recommendations to continue to restore and protect the natural resources at risk in the Sierra.

“My hope is the SNAMP will be seen as a promising first try to apply adaptive management in the Sierra Nevada,” Battles said. “We gained important new insights about the ecology of these forests and we learned how to conduct applied research in an inclusive manner that engages not only scientists from multiple disciplines but also managers and the public."

Posted on Tuesday, January 5, 2016 at 8:53 AM
Tags: John Battles (2), SNAMP (3), Susan Kocher (2), wildfire (11)

UC workshops on IPM and proposed EPA cancellation of chlorpyrifos

UC workshops to help farmers deal with proposed chlorpyifos cancellation.
New pesticide regulations and integrated pest management (IPM) decision-making will be featured in a series of UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) workshops in January and February 2016.

A critical part of the workshops is the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's proposal to cancel the pesticide chlorpyrifos in agricultural production. EPA is accepting public comment on the proposal until Jan. 5.

Chlorpyrifos is a widely used pesticide and part of integrated pest management in many crops. Under the trade names Lorsban, Lock-on and in generic formulations, chlorpyrifos is used to control ants, stink bugs, aphids, whiteflies and other pests.  A 2014 report coordinated by the UC ANR Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program concluded the pesticide is an important tool for California producers of alfalfa, almonds, citrus and cotton.

At the workshops, growers, pest control advisors, UC scientists, state and local regulators and members of the local agricultural community will discuss chlorpyrifos permit conditions and the proposed regulations as well as IPM approaches to managing critical pests.

New decision-making tools for insecticide recommendations and stewardship activities will be shared. Industry members will also have the opportunity to provide input to the California Department of Pesticide Regulation and other regulatory officials about the use of chlorpyrifos in their IPM systems.

Meeting dates, times and locations are as follows:

Jan. 7 – Almonds Central San Joaquin Valley
8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
UC Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center, 9240 S. Riverbend Ave., Parlier

Jan. 8 - Alfalfa and field crops in San Joaquin Valley
8 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
Cabral Center, 2101 E. Earhart Ave., Stockton

Jan. 12 – Citrus in San Joaquin Valley
8 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
UC ANR Cooperative Extension office, 4437 S. Laspina St., Tulare

Jan. 21 – Alfalfa in Imperial Valley
8 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
Farm Credit Services Southwest, 485 Business Parkway, Imperial

Jan. 26 – Almonds in Southern San Joaquin Valley
8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Kern County Agricultural Pavilion
3300 E. Belle Terrace, Bakersfield

Feb. 5 – Almonds in Northern California
8 a.m. to 12:00 p.m
Chico Masonic Lodge, 1110 W. East Ave., Chico

Pest control advisers will receive continuing education credit. For more information contact Lori Berger, UC IPM chlorpyrifos project coordinator, at lberger@ucanr.edu or (559) 646-6523.

An initiative to manage endemic and invasive pests and diseases is part of UC Agriculture and Natural Resources Strategic Vision 2025.

Posted on Monday, December 21, 2015 at 11:37 AM
Tags: chlorpyrifos (1), Lori Berger (1), pesticide (3)

What can California, Israel and Australia learn from each other about drought?

This vineyard is irrigated with recycled water.

Drought management experts from Israel and Australia will join U.S. scientists in California for a workshop in Modesto on Jan. 12 and 13. Growers, crop consultants, irrigation practitioners, state agency members and others are invited to participate.

The two-day event, “Proven Solutions to Drought Stress: Water Management Strategies for Perennial Crops with Limited and Impaired Water Supplies,” is designed to foster conversation on a variety of drought management aspects and strategies. The drought workshop will be held at the Modesto Centre Plaza at 1150 9th Street in Modesto.   

“California, Israel and Australia have all faced recurring drought conditions of varying severity and duration,” said James Ayars, research agricultural engineer of USDA Agricultural Research Service in Parlier, Calif., who spearheaded the event to bring together this prestigious group of scientists. “In view of more frequent and more severe recurring droughts in the years to come, it makes sense for us to pool our knowledge and plan more strategically for the future.”   

This young almond orchard uses drip irrigation.
Over the past 20 years, USDA and University of California scientists have developed several new approaches to help growers adapt to using water more efficiently. Several UC Davis, UC Cooperative Extension and California Department of Water Resources scientists will discuss their research approach and findings in California.

Other speakers include Shabtai Cohn, head of Israel's Agricultural Research Organization Soil, Water and Environmental Sciences Institute, John Hornbuckle, associate professor at Deakin University in Australia, and other researchers from Israel and Australia.

This workshop is sponsored by the USDA Agricultural Research Service, UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR), UC California Institute for Water Resources and the Israel Ministry of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Organization.

“We hope to share expertise gained from experiences in our respective countries and learn new approaches for growing crops with limited water and poor quality water under the prospect of increased climate variability and change,” said Daniele Zaccaria, UC ANR Cooperative Extension specialist in agricultural water management in the Department of Land, Air and Water Resources at UC Davis and one of the event organizers. “Although Australia and Israel have very different climatic and socioeconomic conditions, there may be drought management strategies and policies that work in California that they can apply, and they may have practices and policies that we can adapt to address issues in California.”

CIMIS (California Irrigation Management Information System) weather stations provide data for calculating crop water requirements.
The workshop will include breakout sessions to discuss water management strategies for specific crops including grapes, almonds, pistachios, citrus and avocados.

Registration is $80 and includes lunch for both days. Dec. 18 is the deadline for early registration. After Dec. 18, registration is $120 until Jan. 1, 2016, and $150 after Jan. 1. There will be no on-site registration.

Certified crop advisers can earn continuing education units: Soil & Water Management 12.0 CEU and Crop Management 0.5 CEU.

To see the agenda and to register, please visit http://www.droughtmgt.com.

Lodging is available next to the Modesto Centre Plaza at the DoubleTree Hotel at 1150 9th Street in Modesto.

Posted on Thursday, December 10, 2015 at 11:46 AM

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