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

News stories

UC ANR scientist debates conservation tillage practices with industry leader

Alan Wilcox of Wilcox Agri-Products and UC Cooperative Extension specialist Jeff Mitchell debated the challenges and opportunities for increased implementation of conservation tillage practices on California farms during the World Ag Expo in February, reported Alan Stenum in Farm Equipment magazine.

Wilcox said farmers are going to be resistant to anything they suspect will affect yield. Mitchell said creative innovation underway will have a big impact on some of the more challenging crops that are grown in California.

Alan Wilcox, left, and Jeff Mitchell debate the challenges and opportunities for conservation tillage. (Photo by Farm Equipment magazine, used with permission)

"This is a region where costs are high. The cost of doing business is high, and maximum yields on any crop are important to even break even," Wilcox said. "We're going to be intensely committed to water management and the maximum amount of water."

Mitchell said farmers in other parts of the U.S. started to switch to reduced disturbance no-till systems to conserve water.

"The recognition of the value of that opportunity to reduce soil water evaporation and have more water going through the crops through transpiration hasn't really sunk in here in California in large fashion," Mitchell said.

While Mitchell noted that water is essential to the discussion of conservation agriculture, there are other important aspects to consider.

"Biological cycling of nutrients in the soil, tightening up the system so there are fewer losses, either to the groundwater as some sort of pollution, or improving the overall soil function and nutrition provision capacity of the soil - that's not a small aspect of the overall system, nor are the opportunities for reducing costs," Mitchell said.

Wilcox said he would characterize the argument differently.

"The point is in all of our tillage strategies - and in every situation - we never compromise yield," he said.

Read the complete debate in Farm Equipment magazine.

More information about the use of conservation agriculture practices can be found on the UC Conservation Agriculture Systems Innovation website.

Posted on Thursday, June 14, 2018 at 8:46 AM
Focus Area Tags: Agriculture

National Pollinator Week: Open house at UC Davis Bee Garden

June 18-24 is National Pollinator Week.

Do you know where your pollinators are? Think bees, birds, butterflies, bats and beetles.

And think flies. Especially syrphid flies, also known as "flower flies" and "hover flies."

The UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology is hosting an open house during National Pollinator Week from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at its bee garden, Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven on Bee Biology Road, west of the central UC Davis campus.

Here's what you can expect to see or do:

  • learn how to catch and observe bees up close
  • see honey bees at work in an observation beehive
  • learn about bee diversity and identification
  • learn about what and how to plant for bees
  • learn about growing and good pollination in home fruit gardens
  • see easy-to-grow bee plants and solitary bee houses available for a donation to the garden.

The Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, installed in the fall of 2009 and located next to the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road, off Hopkins Road, is a half-acre garden devoted to bee pollinator conservation and education. It was founded and sprang to life during the term of interim department chair, Professor Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology, who coordinated the entire project. Kimsey was singled out for her work when the Pacific Branch of the Entomological Society of America honored her and four others – "The Bee Team"– with the 2013 outstanding team award. 

A Sausalito team – landscape architects Donald Sibbett and Ann F. Baker, interpretative planner Jessica Brainard and exhibit designer Chika Kurotaki – won the design competition. The judges were Professor Kimsey; founding garden manager Missy Borel (now Missy Borel Gable), then of the California Center for Urban Horticulture; David Fujino, executive director, California Center for Urban Horticulture at UC Davis; Aaron Majors, construction department manager, Cagwin & Dorward Landscape Contractors, based in Novato; Diane McIntyre, senior public relations manager, Häagen-Dazs ice cream; Heath Schenker, professor of environmental design, UC Davis; Jacob Voit, sustainability manager and construction project manager, Cagwin and Dorward Landscape Contractors; and Kathy Keatley Garvey, communications specialist, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.

Others with a key role in the founding and "look" of the garden included the UC Davis Art/Science Fusion Program, founded and directed by the duo of entomologist/artist Diane Ullman, professor and former chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology, and self-described "rock artist" Donna Billick of Davis. Miss Bee Haven, a six-foot long worker bee sculpture, the work of Billick, anchors the garden. The art in the garden is the work of their students, ranging from those in Entomology 1 class to community residents. Eagle Scout Derek Tully planned, organized and built a state-of-the-art fence around the garden.

Why are pollinators so crucial? Take it from the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation:

"Pollinators are essential to our environment. The ecological service they provide is necessary for the reproduction of over 85 percent of the world's flowering plants, including more than two-thirds of the world's crop species. The United States alone grows more than 100 crops that either need or benefit from pollinators, and the economic value of these native pollinators is estimated at $3 billion per year in the U.S. Beyond agriculture, pollinators are keystone species in most terrestrial ecosystems. Fruits and seeds derived from insect pollination are a major part of the diet of approximately 25 percent of all birds, and of mammals ranging from red-backed voles to grizzly bears. In many places, the essential service of pollination is at risk from habitat loss, pesticide use, and introduced diseases."

So, on Saturday, June 23, you won't see any red-backed voles or grizzly bears. But you'll see bees, butterflies, birds and beetles.

And flies. Syprhid flies.

For more information on the open house, access https://hhbhgarden.ucdavis.edu/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/Pollinator-week-flyer-2018-1.pdf

A honey bee foraging on a blanket flower, Gallardia, in the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

 

A male Valley carpenter bee, Xylocopa varipuncta, nectaring on a California native, foothill penstemon, Penstemon heterophyllus. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

The Western tiger swallowtail, Papilio rutulis, was a frequent visitor to the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven during the early years. Note the spider lurking beneath the zinnia blossom. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

This sculpture of a six-foot long worker bee, titled "Miss Bee Haven," anchors the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven. It is the work of self-described "rock artist" Donna Billick (pictured) of Davis. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A syprhid fly, aka "flower fly" or "hover fly," foraging on Echium wildpretii, the "tower of jewels." (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Tuesday, June 12, 2018 at 2:29 PM
Focus Area Tags: Yard & Garden

UC Cooperative Extension farm advisors launch “Growing the Valley” podcast

A new UC Cooperative Extension podcast that focuses on growing orchard crops in the San Joaquin and Sacramento valleys is now available free at http://growingthevalleypodcast.com, Apple iTunes and Google Play Music.

The hosts are Phoebe Gordon, UCCE orchard systems advisor in Madera and Merced counties, and Luke Milliron, UCCE orchard systems advisor for Butte, Tehama and Glenn counties. The pair conduct research and extension programs that cover tree crops, with a focus on almonds, pistachios, walnuts, prunes, figs and cling peaches.

The podcast is a new extension format for UCCE. Podcasts are essentially audio files posted on the internet that can be downloaded and heard at the listener's convenience.

“Many of us in the ag world spend a lot of time in our trucks and it's a great time to learn new things,” Gordon said.

UCCE advisors Phoebe Gordon, left, and Luke Milliron are the hosts of the new 'Growing the Valley' podcast.

The podcast will feature brief research reports and timely topical information from the hosts, plus interviews with other UCCE farm advisors, specialists and professors, researchers from the USDA, other universities and industry representatives. It is intended for current and future farmers, pest control advisors, industry representatives and the public.

The first full-length episode is a 20-minute segment with veteran UCCE weed science advisor Kurt Hembree. Hembree, who is based in Fresno County, discusses herbicide resistant weeds that are a concern in orchard systems.

“As things get going, we'll be experimenting with podcast length and format,” Milliron said “We'd like to hear from listeners about the sorts of things they are interested in.”

Milliron and Gordon have posted a survey where listeners can weigh in about their content preferences and program length. In time, the dialog between the hosts and listeners will be expanded on the website to allow for questions and comments from the audience.

“Who knows, we might even set up a voice mailbox for people to call in with questions, too,” Milliron said.

Posted on Wednesday, June 6, 2018 at 9:37 AM
Focus Area Tags: Agriculture

UC Master Food Preserver volunteers in tribal communities

Throughout Humboldt and Del Norte counties, the UC Master Food Preserver Program is actively engaging with tribal members. In fact, the UC Master Food Preserver volunteers have been “jamming it up” since 2017 with over 15 workshops for tribal community members.

UC Master Food Preserver Lena McCovey prepares candied orange peels. (Photo Barbara Goldberg)

Kella Roberts, of United Indian Health Services, has helped more than 280 community members improve their health and wellness - one jar, one dehydrator, one freezer bag at a time. Their workshops support existing efforts in the tribal communities to empower individuals, families, tribes, and the community to make healthy choices.

Roberts, along with her fellow UC Master Food Preserver volunteers, deserve recognition for coordinating and delivering food preservation classes to new audiences. They've adopted methods to help those with diabetes by limiting the sugar in recipes, and taught four workshops on ginger zucchini orange marmalade and strawberry jam using pectin. 

Adults and youth learn how to make strawberry jam. (Photo: Barbara Goldberg)

Over 130 youth and adults across four workshops went through the hands-on process of mashing and drying berries to make strawberry and beet fruit leather. 

Community members learn how to make strawberry jam. (Photo: Barbara Goldberg)

Roberts kept the crunch going by teaching workshops on kosher dills, pickled green beans and pickled beets. Kale chips were another crunchy treat with healthful benefits that were highlighted at a Hands on Health Conference workshop. Other healthy food preservation workshops included smooth applesauce and fruit dehydration. 

Making kale chips (Photo: UC Master Food Preserver Program)

To increase participation, these workshops were held at sites where tribal members already meet and live, including the Bear River Band of Rohnerville Rancheria, Big Lagoon Rancheria, Blue Lake Rancheria, Cher-Ae Heights Indian Community of the Trinidad Rancheria, Elk Valley Rancheria, Resighini Rancheria, Wiyot Tribe, Tolowa Dee-Ni' Nation, and the Yurok Reservation. 

UC Master Food Preserver volunteers perform outreach at tribal communities. (Photo: Barbara Goldberg)

Find a UC Master Food Preserver Program near you to get involved in sharing home food preservation techniques with your community. The program uses research-based methods to deliver home food preservation methods to Californians.

Posted on Tuesday, June 5, 2018 at 8:44 AM
Tags: Native American (2)
Focus Area Tags: Food

During California Invasive Species Action Week, learn about invasive species

Californians can help in the fight against invasive species by learning and participating during California Invasive Species Action Week, June 2–10.

During the week, the UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program invites the public to spend lunch learning about invasive tree killing pests, aquatic nasties like quagga mussels and nutria, and how the invasive weed/wildfire cycle is altering our ecosystems. http://ucanr.edu/sites/invasivelunch/

The invasive species killing trees is causing sugar volcanoes to erupt on avocado trunks and branches that might be infected with Fusarium dieback. Fusarium dieback is a invasive, beetle-vectored disease that causes damage on avocado and more than 39 other tree species. The disease has spread in urban forests and wild lands in the Los Angeles basin since early 2012, and in Orange and San Diego counties since early 2013 and Ventura County in 2015.

The symptoms — staining, sugary exudate, gumming and beetle frass — are often noticed before the tiny beetles (1.5–2.5 mm) are found.

As its name suggests, these beetles bore into trees. Near or beneath the symptoms, you might notice the beetle's entry and exit holes into the tree. The female tunnels into trees forming galleries, where she lays her eggs. Once grown, the sibling beetles mate with each other so that females leaving the tree to start their own galleries are already pregnant. Males do not fly and stay in the host tree.

Shothole borers have a special structure in their mouth where they carry two or three kinds of their own novel symbiotic fungi. Shothole borers grow these fungi in their tree galleries. It's these fungi that cause Fusarium dieback disease, which interrupts the transportation of water and nutrients in the host tree. Advanced fungal infections will eventually lead to branch dieback.

Early detection of infestations and removal of the infested branches will help reduce beetle numbers and therefore, also reduce the spread of the fungus.

  • Chip infested wood onsite to one inch in size or smaller. If the branch is too large to chip, solarize them under a clear tarp for several months
  • Avoid movement of infested firewood and chipping material out of infested area

Avocado is one tree host. Shothole borers successfully lay eggs and grow fungi in many tree hosts, with some of these trees susceptible to the Fusarium dieback disease. For more information about tree host species, where the shothole borer is in California, and what symptoms look like in other tree hosts, visit the UC Riverside Eskalen Lab website or the Invasive Shot Hole Borers website.

Content in this post taken from the UC IPM Avocado Pest Management Guidelines. Faber BA, Willen CA, Eskalen A, Morse JG, Hanson B, Hoddle MS. Revised continuously. UC IPM Pest Management Guidelines Avocado. UC ANR Publication 3436. Oakland, CA.

Posted on Monday, June 4, 2018 at 1:04 PM
Focus Area Tags: Agriculture

Next 5 stories | Last story

 
E-mail
 
Webmaster Email: jewarnert@ucanr.edu