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

Gov. Brown proposes a balanced budget

California Gov. Jerry Brown's proposed $97.6 billion general fund budget for fiscal 2013-14  boosts spending on education, implements health care reform and eliminates what was a $25 billion state deficit when the governor took office, reported Tim Hearden in Capital Press.

The governor's proposal increases funding for both public schools and higher education, adding $250 million for the University of California and California State University systems. The increases come after voters approved higher income and sales taxes in Proposition 30 in November, bringing relief to UC Cooperative Extension officials who feared further cuts if the measure hadn't passed, the article said.

The budget proposes a multi-year stable funding plan to strengthen the California higher education system, ensure affordability and reduce student indebtedness, according to the news release issued by Gov. Brown's office.

Posted on Friday, January 11, 2013 at 10:25 AM
Tags: budget (32)

Trending: Urban agriculture in California

Working edibles into landscapes is a growing trend.
Volunteers are turning a food desert green in the Los Angeles Del Aire neighborhood as they plant more trees that will bear fresh fruit for the community, said an article in the LA Weekly Fruit and Vegetable Blog.

Twenty-eight fruit trees and eight grapevines were planted in Del Aire park, near the intersection of freeways 105 and 405. A sign declares, "The fruit trees in this park are public. They are for everyone, including you."

The story noted that UC Cooperative Extension is part of the urban agriculture trend. Writer Chris Chiao reported that the Fruit and Flowers Freedom Act passed unanimously in 2010 by the L.A. City Council, with the help of the Urban Farming Advocates and Councilman Eric Garcetti, and that UC Cooperative Extension launched the Grow L.A. Victory initiative earlier that year, designed to teach Angelenos gardening skills.

Posted on Thursday, January 10, 2013 at 2:22 PM

Catching up on UC Cooperative Extension news over the holidays

The Redding Appeal Democrat reported in December that the ranks of U.S. farmers is dwindling. Said Sutter County almond grower Mat Conant, "Pretty soon we'll be such a small minority nobody will listen to us."

Fewer farmers means there are fewer lawmakers with first-hand knowledge of agricultural production.

"You can go to Washington, D.C., and talk about agriculture, but it doesn't have the same impact if you practically experience it," said Christopher Greer, UC Cooperative Extension director for Yuba and Sutter counties.

Lawmakers, like the people they represent, can be lulled into believing that America will always benefit from food costs significantly lower than in Europe, Greer added.

"Everyone gets a little complacent," Greer said. "We expect food to be available at a fairly reasonable price."

Historical Society presents a 'Centennial Celebration'
(Eureka and North Coast) Times-Standard

A meeting at the historical society on Jan. 5 began a year-long celebration of three Humboldt County agricultural organizations that are celebrating 100 years of service in the community: the University of California Cooperative Extension, Humboldt County 4-H Clubs and the Humboldt County Farm Bureau.

Speakers at the event, including Yana Valachovic, UCCE director in Humboldt County, were slated to highlight the roles of each of these organizations in working with youth, commodity producers and the community over the last 100 years. Many events and presentations throughout 2013 will celebrate the local agricultural community.

Far West High Cotton winner committed to finding better ways
Harry Cline, Western Farm Press

Third-generation Merced County farmer Chad Crivelli received this year's Farm Press/Cotton Foundation High Cotton Award for the Western States.

Pete Goodell, UC Cooperative Extension advisor in integrated pest management, was quoted in the Western Farm Press article announcing Crivelli's award.

"Chad meets with people during field trips to share the story about sustainable cotton," Goodell said. "He is a great spokesperson for urban folks who don’t understand what’s going on in cotton industry. He represents the cotton industry incredibly well, and the High Cotton Award is a well-deserved honor for Chad."

Crop issues test Coachella Valley vegetable producers
Cary Blake, Western Farm Press

Jose Aguiar, UC Cooperative Extension advisor in Riverside County, recounted a surprising problem with Coachella Valley peppers in 2012 at the recent Desert Crops Workshop in El Centro.

“This problem threw us for a loop,” Aguiar said. “The bell pepper had a silvering appearance on the fruit exterior. It was not found inside the fruit. It was strictly a cosmetic issue.”

Riverside County is the largest bell pepper producer in California. The Coachella Valley has about 5,000 acres of bell peppers with a farm gate value of about $90 million.

UCCE advisor Richard Smith of Monterey County has found a similar problem in red pepper fields in the Salinas Valley. After testing, Smith’s first guess is the problem could be caused by the fruit rubbing against a branch. There are no holes in the fruit which eliminates the idea of insect damage.

Victor Gibeault named 2013 USGA Green Section Award Recipient
Cybergolf

Victor Gibeault, UC Cooperative Extension specialist emeritist in the UC Riverside Department of Botany and Plant Sciences, received the 2013 USGA Green Section Award in recognition for distinguished service to golf through his work with turfgrass.

"I am both pleased and honored to have been selected to receive the USGA Green Section Award," said Dr. Gibeault. "Now retired, I have been fortunate to spend my career as a University of California Cooperative Extension specialist, and in that role, I have worked on turfgrass research issues and educational projects and programs. My activities with the golf course industry have been enjoyable, fruitful, and have given me a sense of personal accomplishment, for which I am grateful."

Gibeault holds the U.S. patents for two zoysiagrass cultivars, De Anza and Victoria, and one buffalograss cultivar, UC Verde. Additionally he co-edited the 1985 book, "Turfgrass Water Conservation."

Posted on Tuesday, January 8, 2013 at 11:13 AM

Beyond manifesto: How to change the food system

Mark Bittman, cookbook author and New York Times food writer, used the occasion of New Year’s Day to throw down the gauntlet for real and permanent change to the U.S. agricultural system. “We must figure out a way to un-invent this food system,” he says in a Times opinion column. He likens the scale of the task to tectonic cultural strides like abolition, civil rights, and the women’s vote.

As to how we go about achieving this goal, Bittman speaks in broad terms. He appeals for patience, invoking the pioneers of those transformative movements, who had the perspective that their progress is not just for now but for future generations. He names the culprits of sugary drinks and poor livestock conditions as key points of attack. He calls for goals. Well reasoned approaches, to be sure, but they aren’t a blueprint for specific action.

UC Berkeley researchers have been working on some specifics for several years now, researching the agricultural, policy, and social practices that would make possible the type of systemic change Bittman is advocating. In a special multi-article feature devoted to "diversified farming systems," or DFS, for the December issue of the journal Ecology & Society, scientists from Berkeley, Santa Clara University, and other institutions lay out a comprehensive scientific case that biologically diversified agricultural practices can contribute substantially to food production while creating far fewer environmental harms than industrialized, conventional monoculture agriculture—that is, large swaths of land devoted to growing single crops using chemical inputs.

DFS are different from the narrow definition of organics, and the research shows that, unlike industrial agriculture, biologically diversified agriculture tends to generate and regenerate ecosystem services such as soil fertility, pest and disease control, water-use efficiency, and pollination, which provide critical inputs to agriculture. The research also found that DFS support globally important ecosystem services, including substantially greater biodiversity, carbon sequestration, energy-use efficiency, and resilience to climate change. 

But changing America’s agriculture system is more complex than just changing farming techniques, according to Alastair Iles, assistant professor of environmental science, policy, and management, and co-director of the Berkeley Center for Diversified Farming Systems.

“If diversified farming systems are to thrive in the United States, policies and preferences must evolve to reward the environmental and social benefits of sustainable farming and landscape management,” Iles says. “Policies supporting ecological diversification are underdeveloped and fragmented compared with conventional agricultural policies.” 

In one Ecology & Society article, Iles and co-author Robin Marsh, also of UC Berkeley, consider several obstacles that prevent or slow the spread of diversified farming practices, such as the broader political and economic context of industrialized agriculture, the erosion of farmer knowledge and capacity, and supply chain and marketing conditions that limit the ability of farmers to adopt sustainable practices.

“To transform agriculture, we need to understand these obstacles and develop and test solutions, such as peer-to-peer learning, recruitment and retention of new farmers through access to credit and land, and compensation for ecological services provided by ranchers, for example,” Iles says.

Other key facets of a sustainable agricultural system include attention to its social dimensions, such as human health, labor, democratic participation, resiliency, diversity, equality, and ethics, according to special issue co-editor Chris Bacon of Santa Clara University. In an article with colleagues, Bacon proposes creating partnerships with institutions that could address issues like immigration, food access, and worker health. 

But first and foremost, the farms themselves have to produce enough to remain profitable and to feed a growing population. Conservation biologist Claire Kremen, also a UC Berkeley professor and co-director of the Berkeley DFS Center with Iles, says that more work is needed to build on what is already known about biologically diversified agriculture, to make them these methods even more productive.

“To date, the amount of research and development investment in this type of agriculture is miniscule compared to what’s been invested in conventional agriculture,” Kremen said. “There may be substantial potential to increase food production from biologically diversified, sustainable agriculture that we have not yet tapped into. With research support to study and improve on sustainable farming systems, we can tap that potential. Growers want to utilize sustainable practices if they can, but they need to know it won’t hurt their bottom line.” 

So, DFS scientists might argue, Bittman’s New Year’s manifesto, which ends with a call for “energy, action — and patience,” could be amended to include “a comprehensive scientific, political, and sociological approach, and putting dollars behind the right kinds of research.”

Read more about diversified farming systems research at UC Berkeley.

Posted on Tuesday, January 8, 2013 at 8:24 AM
  • Author: Ann Brody Guy

California rice growers reduce greenhouse gas emissions

Rice contributes about a tenth of 1 percent of the GHG emissions from California’s agriculture sector.
California rice grower Tom Butler is dry seeding his crop to reduce irrigation and draining the fields earlier than before when preparing for harvest. These new practices conserve water and may help the environment by reducing greenhouse gas emissions from his farm, according to an article by UC Davis science writer Brad Hooker. The story was picked up by Western Farm Press.

Butler is participating in a pilot program funded by the Environmental Defense Fund. Though it’s too early to measure, he has seen promising signs from the project.

“We’ve had good results with yield and water conservation, which really was our goal,” says Butler. “We’re happy that greenhouse gases go down as a result of that, but they weren’t the initial reason why we do that.”

Of the global GHG accumulation for all sectors, 0.001 percent comes from California rice fields, according to data compiled by Luis Espino, UC Cooperative Extension rice farm advisor for Colusa County.

“It’s such a new issue I don’t think much has been done in that area,” says Espino. “Right now UC Davis is doing the research, doing the modeling, trying to understand what goes on in the soil.”

Cass Mutters, UC Cooperative Extension advisor for Butte County, noted that California rice growers realize that being environmentally sensitive is part of their responsibility. Since the 1980s, changes in irrigation management and other practices have led to a 98 percent reduction in pesticide residues entering public waterways from rice fields. Along with water quality, the rice industry supports an air quality monitoring network that enables the Air Resources Board to model how many acres can be burned without exceeding federal air quality standards.

Posted on Monday, January 7, 2013 at 2:40 PM

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