Chuck Ingels, UC Cooperative Extension advisor in Sacramento County.
“Landscape irrigation represents well over half the water use in the average household,” Ingels said. “There are many proven ways to reduce high summer landscape water usage and these strategies will be especially critical this year due to the unprecedented drought in California.”
An expert in environmental horticulture, Ingels has maintained research and education programs for the University of California for 22 years on water conservation, deficit irrigation, sustainable landscaping and alternative turfgrass species. He also coordinates the UC Master Gardener program in Sacramento County.
In the spring, when the air temperature is in the 70s in much of California, lawns need about one-half to three-quarters of an inch of water per week, Ingels said. In the heat of the summer, water needs increase to about 1 inch to 1.5 inches per week. Knowing how much water to apply is half the battle. The other half is figuring out how much water is delivered by your irrigation system.
To calculate your home sprinklers' output, Ingels recommends conducting a catch can test. Place small cans with straight sides, like pet food or tuna cans, on the lawn in several places and run the sprinklers for 20 minutes. Use a ruler to measure the water in each can and determine the average. Multiply by three to get an hourly irrigation rate. Detailed information about various lawn species' water needs in different parts of California is outlined in the free UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources online publication Lawn Watering Guide for California. The document gives watering guidelines for warm season and cool season grass species growing in 10 climate regions in the state.
Loren Oki, UCCE specialist in the Department of Plant Sciences at UC Davis, a landscape horticulture expert, has conducted research on a wasteful but common residential lawn-watering problem in California: runoff.
“Much of the water that is applied to lawns runs directly into the gutters,” Oki said. “Not only is this wasted water, but we have found that the runoff carries pollutants – including pesticides and fertilizers – into the gutters and, eventually, into waterways. The problem is that typical sprinkler systems apply water faster than the soil can absorb it, which leads to runoff.”
To prevent runoff, use “cycle and soak,” a setting available on many irrigation controllers.
“This means the sprinklers come on for short periods with breaks in between to allow water to move into the soil,” Ingels said. “You'll still want to apply the full amount of water each of the days you're allowed to water, but you'll need a few hours between waterings to be sure it all soaks in.”
Sprinklers that spray a mist over lawns are another cause of water waste. Much of the water evaporates before it reaches the ground.
“You can save water by converting to rotary nozzles,” Ingels said. “The nozzles shoot out streams of water that provide very uniform watering. They have been shown to improve efficiency by 10 to 20 percent.”
In landscape borders, homeowners can save water by using a drip irrigation system. Drip irrigation will target water directly where the plants are growing, so no water is wasted wetting ground in areas where plant roots cannot reach. For optimal efficiency, the system must be carefully monitored throughout the growing season.
“Drip can be a great water saver, but it can also waste water if the system is poorly designed, if it's allowed to run too long, or if lines are accidentally cut with a shovel or other tool,” Ingels said.
Another water-saving strategy is preventing evaporation at the soil surface. Ingels suggests topping the soil with bark, wood chip, straw or other mulch.
“Bark and wood chips provide a long-lasting barrier to water evaporation from the soil,” he said. “Straw mulch works well in vegetable gardens. It saves water, keeps down weeds, and helps cool plant roots in the heat of the summer.”
Whatever irrigation system is used, Ingels said it is essential to check soil periodically throughout the year to determine how wet or dry it is and adjust the irrigation schedule as needed. The easiest way to check soil moisture, he said, is using a screwdriver.
“Just push a screwdriver down into the soil,” he said. “When the soil is moist, it will go all the way down. If the soil is moist only a few inches, the screwdriver will only go down that far.”
A more expensive soil sample tool, which pulls out a soil core, can be purchased at some nurseries and irrigation supply stores. Soil sampling provides more information about the soil, which is useful for making irrigation decisions.
UC Cooperative Extension and its Master Gardener program have abundant information on water conservation in the landscape:
- UC Guide to Healthy Lawns http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/TOOLS/TURF/
- Water use on Turfgrass and Landscape Plant Materials http://ucanr.edu/sites/UrbanHort/Water_Use_of_Turfgrass_and_Landscape_Plant_Materials/
- Drought: Gardening Tips http://cagardenweb.ucanr.edu/Drought_/Drought_Gardening_Tips_/
- Drought: Irrigation Tips http://cagardenweb.ucanr.edu/Drought_/Drought_Irrigation_Tips_/
- California Master Gardener programs (by county) http://camastergardeners.ucanr.edu/California_Counties_MG_Websites/
University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources is celebrating 100 years of UC Cooperative Extension researchers and educators drawing on local expertise to conduct agricultural, environmental, economic, youth development and nutrition research that helps California thrive.
- Chuck Ingels, UCCE advisor, Sacramento County, (916) 875-6527, cell (916) 835-7458, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Loren Oki, UCCE specialist, Department of Plant Sciences, UC Davis, (530) 754-4135, email@example.com
Depending upon local conditions and near-term weather, irrigation may not be needed for a month or more.
"We can reap twice as much from the latest storms if people take full advantage of the natural precipitation and shut off sprinklers," said Department of Water Resources Director Mark Cowin. "Three dry years in a row have left our major reservoirs low, and we need to conserve those supplies in case drought conditions persist into the next rainy season. There's no need to water lawns, parks, median strips, or any landscaping already soaked by these recent storms."
On January 17, Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. declared a drought emergency in California and called on all residents to conserve water by 20 percent in their homes and businesses. Typically more than half of the water used by homeowners is used outdoors. Californians can go a long way toward meeting the governor's goal by shutting down sprinklers until soil several inches deep appears dry or plants appear stressed. People who resume landscape irrigation should do so only according to the water schedules set by their local water districts. More than 100 such districts around the state have imposed voluntary or mandatory conservation measures that restrict the days and times when residents can run sprinklers.
Tom Gohring, executive director of the Water Forum, a diverse group of Sacramento regional interests working to resolve water issues, hosted the event at his home and switched off the sprinkler system controller in his garage to encourage others to do the same.
"Many people think they use more water in their house than they do in their yard," said Gohring. "The opposite is typically true. In the Sacramento region, about 65 percent of water used by homeowners goes to irrigate landscaping. We always want people to adjust their sprinklers based on the season and weather, but now, after a record dry year, there's real urgency."
While recent storms have boosted the Sierra Nevada snowpack and runoff into reservoirs, it would take half an inch of rain every day of March from Redding to Bakersfield to bring the state to average precipitation for the year in the watersheds that supply much of California's drinking and irrigation water. Even average precipitation would not be enough to avert water shortages, because major reservoir storage is now so far below typical storage for this time of year.
“Storms in the last couple of weeks have delivered a couple of inches or more of precipitation to most parts of California,” said Chuck Ingels, UC Cooperative Extension advisor in Sacramento County. “Trees, shrubs, flowers, and lawns naturally use less water in winter's cool temperatures, and so an inch of rain provides enough moisture to forego the need for sprinklers for up to several weeks depending on temperatures.”
Sprinkler systems are controlled by a device, called an irrigation controller, that triggers the irrigation system when to turn on and off. People who do not know how to program their controllers can get links to manuals published by major manufacturers at the Save Our H2O website, saveourH20.org. Look under the "Sprinklers 101" section of the website: http://www.saveourH20.org/sprinklers101
Sacramento residents can find their water provider, information on the latest water restrictions, and water-saving tips at the Regional Water Authority's “Be Water Smart” website at http://www.bewatersmart.info/residential-customers/.
University of California master gardeners offer tips for gardening during a drought at http://cagardenweb.ucanr.edu. The California Center for Urban Horticulture, UC Davis, also has information for conserving water in the landscape, http://ccuh.ucdavis.edu, as does the UC Davis Arboretum http://publicgarden.ucdavis.edu/public-garden/drought-resources.
Other smart watering tips detailed at the Save Our H2O website:
- Water only in the early morning or late evening. Cooler temperatures reduce evaporation.
- Check your sprinkler system frequently and adjust so that you are not watering the hose, sidewalk, or street.
- Put mulch around trees and plants to cool soil and reduce evaporation.
- Consider installing a drip irrigation system, which applies water precisely, with less waste.
- Choose plants based on their adaptability to your climate. Check the Sunset Plant Finder to learn about water-wise plants that thrive in your region: plantfinder.sunset.com/plant-home.jsp.
- If you find yourself walking on your lawn only to mow it, consider replacing it with water-wise landscaping that reduces the need for water and maintenance.
- Check with your local water district for a free visit from a water conservation specialist, rebates on water-wise appliances, or "cash for grass" incentives to replace lawn with water-wise landscaping.
With California facing one of the most severe droughts on record, Governor Brown declared a drought State of Emergency last month and directed state officials to take all necessary actions to prepare for water shortages, and the governor, joined by legislative leaders, announced legislation to immediately help communities deal with the devastating dry conditions affecting our state and to provide funding to increase local water supplies.
Governor Brown met with President Obama about crucial federal support during the ongoing drought earlier this month, and the state continues to work with federal partners to ensure coordinated drought monitoring and response. Governor Brown and the administration have also expressed support for federal legislation introduced by Senators Feinstein and Boxer and Representatives Jim Costa, Tony Cárdenas and Sam Farr.
Across state government, action is being taken. The Department of General Services is leading water conservation efforts at state facilities, and the California State Architect has asked California school districts and community colleges to act on the governor's call to reduce water usage. The Department of Transportation is cutting water usage along California's roadways by 50 percent. Caltrans has also launched a public awareness campaign, putting a water conservation message on their more than 700 electronic highway signs.
In January, the state took action to conserve water in numerous Northern California reservoirs to meet minimum needs for operations impacting the environment and the economy, and recently the Department of Water Resources and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation announced they would seek the authority to make water exchanges to deliver water to those who need it most. The State Water Resources Control Board announced it would work with hydropower generators and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to preserve water in California reservoirs. Recently the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the California Fish and Game Commission restricted fishing on some waterways due to low water flows worsened by the drought.
The state is working to protect local communities from the dangers of extreme drought. The California Department of Public Health identified and offered assistance to communities at risk of severe drinking water shortages and is working with other state and local agencies to develop solutions for vulnerable communities. CAL FIRE hired additional firefighters and is continuously adjusting staffing throughout the state to help address the increased fire threat due to drought conditions. The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) launched a drought website to help farmers, ranchers and farmworkers find resources and assistance programs that may be available to them during the drought.
Even as the state deals with the immediate impacts of the drought, it's also planning for the future. Recently, the California Natural Resources Agency, the California Environmental Protection Agency and CDFA released the California Water Action Plan, which will guide state efforts to enhance water supply reliability, restore damaged and destroyed ecosystems and improve the resilience of our infrastructure.
Governor Brown has called on all Californians to voluntarily reduce their water usage by 20 percent, and the Save Our Water campaign launched four public service announcements encouraging residents to conserve, and has resources available in Spanish. Last December, the governor formed a Drought Task Force to review expected water allocations and California's preparedness for water scarcity. In May 2013, Governor Brown issued an Executive Order to direct state water officials to expedite the review and processing of voluntary transfers of water.
Farrell was born Jan. 17, 1927, in South Mountain, Ontario, Canada, and grew up on a small farm. After graduating high school, he became a high school teacher in a one-room school in Ontario. He went on to enroll in college at the University of Toronto–Ontario Agricultural College at Guelph, where he earned a bachelor's degree in agricultural economics. He later earned his master's degree and Ph.D., both in agricultural economics, from Iowa State University.
In 1957, Farrell joined UC Cooperative Extension, working on agricultural marketing and agricultural policy with the Giannini Foundation at UC Berkeley. He also undertook a variety of administrative assignments focused on strengthening Cooperative Extension. His work was punctuated the following decade by a year's study at the University of Naples (Italy) on a Fulbright Fellowship and several short-term assignments with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
He left UC in 1971 to head the USDA Economic Research Service in Washington, D.C. In 1981, he left federal service to found the National Center for Food and Agricultural Policy at Resources for the Future in Washington, D.C. Funded by the Kellogg, Ford and Rockefeller Foundations, the center was a first-of-its-kind independent, nonpartisan group devoted to the analysis of national agricultural and natural resource policy issues.
In his role as a UC vice president from 1987 to 1995, Farrell oversaw the Agricultural Experiment Station, located on the Berkeley, Davis and Riverside campuses, and Cooperative Extension, located statewide in California counties.
“Ken Farrell was a person of rare integrity and courage,” said Henry Vaux, Jr., who served as associate vice president to Farrell. “His successful efforts to decentralize Cooperative Extension and to make the research and outreach activities of the Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources more seamless benefited California's citizens and its agricultural sector enormously. His leadership proved crucial in positioning the Division to remain effective in the subsequent era of declining resources.”
Over the course of his career he authored more than 100 professional papers and articles on his work in agricultural policy, natural resources, international trade and marketing. He received many honors, including elections as president of the Agricultural and Applied Economics Association in 1977 and as fellow in 1980. In 1992 he was elected fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and in 2004 his undergraduate alma mater, the University of Guelph–Ontario Agricultural College, established the Kenneth R. Farrell Distinguished Public Policy Lectureship in his honor.
“Ken was a leader among his peers. He always stood his ground,” said Gordon Rausser, Robert Gordon Sproul Distinguished Professor of Agricultural and Resource Economics and former dean of the College of Natural Resources at UC Berkeley.
In retirement, Farrell consulted for the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the World Bank, assignments that took him to Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan. He also organized “People-to-People” trips to study agriculture in Cuba, Peru, Chile, Australia and New Zealand, and two such trips to China.
Farrell's wife of over 60 years, Mary, preceded him in death in 2013. He is survived by six children, eight grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
A memorial gathering in honor of Farrell will be held at Creekside Clubhouse, 1010 Stanley Dollar Drive, Rossmoor, Walnut Creek, at 3 p.m. on Saturday, March 8. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to Heifer International (http://www.heifer.org), a charity focused on ending hunger and poverty and promoting food security, or to a charity of choice.
Analysis for the crop is based upon hypothetical farm operations using practices common in Ventura County. Data regarding production practices, inputs and prices were collected from growers, UCCE farm advisors, agricultural institutions, and supply and equipment dealers.
The studies describe the assumptions used to identify current costs for the crop, material inputs, cash and non-cash overhead, and profitability analysis. 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 four new cost studies are:
- Costs and Profitability Analysis for Bell Pepper Production in the Oxnard Plain, Ventura County 2012-13, Bell Pepper Production for Fresh Market, by E. Takele, O. Daugovish, M. Vue
- Costs and Profitability Analysis for Bell Pepper Production in the Oxnard Plain, Ventura County 2012-13, Bell Pepper Production for Processing, by E. Takele, O. Daugovish, M. Vue
- Costs and Profitability Analysis for Cabbage Production in the Oxnard Plain, Ventura County 2012-13, E. Takele, O. Daugovish, M. Vue
- Costs and Profitability Analysis for Celery Production in the Oxnard Plain, Ventura County 2012-13, by E. Takele, O. Daugovish, M. Vue
These cost studies and cost of production studies for other crops are available online at on the UC Davis Cost Study website, at UC Cooperative Extension offices and by calling (530) 752-3589.
Study suggests air pollution is harming native plants, increasing fire risk in Santa Monica Mountains
The researchers measured atmospheric nitrogen deposition levels at ten sites throughout the Santa Monica Mountains and found significantly higher pollution levels in the eastern end, closer to Los Angeles.
Generally attributed to vehicle emissions in the Santa Monica Mountains, nitrogen deposition is the air pollution from industry, agriculture and transportation that settles out of the atmosphere and onto the earth’s surface.
The study is helping the scientists better understand how high nitrogen levels affect native vegetation and what that might mean for fire risk in such a fire-prone region.
“Invasive annual grasses from the Mediterranean have a greater growth response to nitrogen than most native species, and are crowding out native plants,” says Edith Allen, a professor of plant ecology and Cooperative Extension specialist at UC Riverside, and the principal investigator for the study. “Grasses also produce fine, flashy fuels that cause more frequent and larger fires, promoting vegetation-type conversion from native shrubland to exotic annual grassland.”
The preliminary results are from the first year of a three-year study undertaken by Allen, Irina Irvine, a restoration ecologist for Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, and Andrzej Bytnerowicz and Mark Fenn of the U.S. Forest Service.
At the two sites with the best air quality, the researchers added various levels of nitrogen fertilizer into experimental plots of coastal sage scrub to simulate pollution levels found throughout the mountains. They found that the higher levels of nitrogen led to a decline in native shrub seedlings and an increase in nonnative grasses.
“The recent fire of May 2013 burned our research plots, but provides an opportunity to learn how invasive grasses compete with native seedlings establishing post fire under nitrogen deposition,” Allen said. “The data will enable us to determine critical loads of nitrogen deposition to help set clean air regulations to protect native ecosystems.”
Coastal sage scrub once covered much of coastal California and is now an endangered habitat type, primarily due to development.
Funded by the National Park Service’s Air Resources Division, the $100,000 study will help the scientists better determine the “critical load” when vegetation shifts, causing alterations to the structure and functionality of ecosystems.
For more information, please visit: http://ucrtoday.ucr.edu/20098