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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Drought is the central theme of the 2015 Turfgrass and Landscape Field Day at UC Riverside

UC ANR turfgrass specialist Jim Baird speaks at a previous turfgrass and landscape field day.
Scientists planted plots of common turfgrass species and other groundcovers at the Turfgrass Research Facility at UC Riverside last spring, then cut off the water when the weather got hot. The drought resistance of the plants will be evident for visitors to see at the annual UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) Turfgrass and Landscape Field Day, 7:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Sept. 17. The research facility, site of the field day, is at 1060 Martin Luther King Blvd., Riverside.

The drought trial, which simulates the outcome when a homeowner or business is completely out of water for summer irrigation, includes buffalograss, rosemary, honeysuckle, lantana, salvia, red apple, a sedum mix, juniper, native geranium, star jasmine, a compact thyme, salt bush and St. John's wort.

“I think a few will survive, but I don't know if their appearance will be acceptable in a landscape,” said Dennis Pittenger, UC ANR Cooperative Extension area environmental horticulturalist. “We'll learn a lot about the drought resistance of these plants. Many commonly used groundcovers have more drought resistance than people realize.”

The session on groundcovers is one of 12 to be presented by UC ANR and UC Riverside horticulture experts at different stops at the research facility. Registrants can pick 8 of the 12 stops. The program ends with a barbecue lunch.

Registration is $90 before Aug. 28, $100 on or after Aug. 28 and $120 onsite. The event is intended for turfgrass and landscape professionals, but open to any registrant interested in research findings related to home and business landscape plants. The complete agenda, registration form and previous research reports can be found on the field day website.

For more information contact Saundra Wais, UC ANR program support unit, (530) 750-1260, sjwais@ucanr.edu.

Following are the topics to be discussed at each of the tour stops:

Stop #1: Effects of fungicides and wetting agents on drought stress and recovery from aeration on a creeping bentgrass putting green

Tyler Mock, graduate assistant

Stop #2: Groundcovers and buffalograss under extreme deficit irrigation

Don Merhaut, UC ANR Cooperative Extension specialist, Department of Botany and Plant Sciences, UC Riverside

Dennis Pittenger, Area Environmental Horticulturalist, Department of Botany and Plant Sciences, UC Riverside

Stop #3: Evaluation of natural and hybrid turf for water conservation

Jon Montgomery, graduate assistant

Stop #4: Research update: Minimum irrigation requirements of large publically and privately maintained landscapes

Janet Hartin, UC ANR Cooperative Extension advisor, San Bernardino County

Lorence Oki, UC ANR Cooperative Extension specialist, Department of Plant Sciences, UC Davis

Dave Fujino, director, California Center for Urban Horticulture, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, UC Davis

Bill Baker, Wm Baker & Associates, LLC

Stop #5: NTEP cultivar trials: tall fescue, fine fescue, bentgrass fairway, bermudagrass, zoysiagrass

Jim Baird, UC ANR Cooperative Extension turfgrass specialist, Department of Botany and Plant Sciences, UC Riverside

Stop #6: Best management practices for turf under drought or water use restrictions

Marco Schiavon, postdoctoral scientist

Stop #7: Evaluation of products for alleviation of salinity and drought stress

Marco Schiavon, postdoctoral scientist

Stop #8: Plant growth regulators for bermudagrass management

Pawel Petelewicz, graduate assistant

Stop #9: Preemergence control of crabgrass in bermudagrass

Jim Baird, UC ANR Cooperative Extension turfgrass specialist, Department of Botany and Plant Sciences, UC Riverside

Stop #10: Evaluation of fungicides for control of anthracnose on annual bluegrass putting greens

Tyler Mock, graduate assistant

Stop #11: UCR turfgrass breeding project

Adam Lukaszewski, Professor, Department of Botany and Plant Sciences, UC Riverside

Stop #12: Effects of biochar and biosolid soil amendments on tall fescue under deficit irrigation

Milt McGiffen, UC ANR Cooperative Extension specialist, Department of Botany and Plant Sciences, UC Riverside

Jon Montgomery, graduate assistant

Posted on Thursday, July 23, 2015 at 10:51 AM

UC ANR scientists urge citrus farmers and backyard growers to be vigilant in face of new disease find

The tree in Hacienda Heights with HLB disease.
Now that two additional backyard citrus trees in Southern California were found to be infected with the bacterium that causes Huanglongbing (HLB) disease, UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) Cooperative Extension advisors and specialists are encouraging all citrus owners to monitor for disease symptoms and report trees suspected to be infected with HLB to the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) hotline, (800) 491-1899.

This month, a lime tree and a kumquat tree with HLB were identified in residential areas of the San Gabriel Valley. In March 2012, an infected multi-grafted citrus was found in a Hacienda Heights backyard.

“So far, the bacterium that causes HLB has been found infecting only three trees, which have all been destroyed,” said Beth Grafton-Cardwell, UC ANR Cooperative Extension citrus entomology specialist. “However, it is highly likely there are other infected trees in California. It will be critical for all Californians to assist with efforts to reduce psyllids and detect and remove infected trees to prevent this disease from devastating California citrus.”

Leaf blotches on citrus symptomatic of HLB. (Photo: CDFA)
An early symptom of Huanglongbing disease is yellowing of leaves on an individual limb or one sector of the tree's canopy, according to a UC ANR Integrated Pest Management Program Pest Note. Leaves that turn yellow from HLB will show an asymmetrical pattern of blotchy yellowing or mottling of the leaves. The Pest Note includes color pictures and detailed symptom descriptions.

HLB disease is spread from tree to tree by Asian citrus psyllid, an invasive insect first identified in California in 2008. ACP has become established in many Southern California communities and is seen occasionally in the state's San Joaquin Valley and Central Coast commercial citrus production areas. Locations where ACP are found are quarantined by CDFA. No untreated or unprocessed citrus fruit and no citrus trees may be moved from these areas. UC ANR maintains an online map that delineates the quarantined locations. The map also shows the area quarantined because of the recent HLB find.

Once a tree is infected with the bacterium that causes HLB, there is no cure. To prevent HLB infections, citrus owners in areas where Asian citrus psyllids are found may wish to treat their trees with insecticides.

“We believe about 60 percent of Californians have at least one citrus tree in their yard, so HLB could have a devastating effect on the California residential landscape,” Grafton-Cardwell said. “There are safe and effective ways to reduce the ACP population, which reduces the chances of losing a tree to HLB.”

Grafton-Cardwell developed a website for farmers and residents with detailed information on managing Asian citrus psyllid. In some urban areas, a natural enemy of ACP, Tamarixia radiata, has been released. In those areas, Grafton-Cardwell recommends the use of “soft” insecticides that will reduce the number of psyllids and allow the Tamarixia to control the rest.

A tamarixia wasp attacks an ACP nymph.
If Tamarixia are not in the area, the website gives information on broad spectrum insecticides to reduce the number of psyllids. The website provides the names of the pesticides, their costs, the duration of control and the effectiveness of the pesticides against ACP.

To help California residents and commercial citrus growers deal with the ACP and HLB citrus threats, UC ANR, UC Davis and UC Riverside scientists are conducting research on a number of possible solutions.

For example, Abhaya Dandekar, professor in the Department of Plant Sciences at UC Davis, and his colleagues are studying gene fusion, which fuses two immunosuppressive genes that attack HLB in different ways to make the plant more effective at fighting the disease. 

Mikeal Roose, a professor in the Department of Botany and Plant Sciences at UC Riverside, is working with researchers in Florida to sequence a rootstock that has some natural resistance to HLB and locate the gene or genes that cause HLB resistance.

Mark Hoddle, UC ANR Cooperative Extension biocontrol specialist at UC Riverside, has identified a second natural enemy of ACP from the Punjab, Pakistan. (The first one was Tamarixia radiata.) Populations of Diaphorencyrtus aligarhensis have also been released in urban areas and Hoddle is monitoring the insect's ability to attack ACP.

Because it is important to remove trees infected with HLB as soon as possible to reduce spread, UC scientists are also studying ways to identify trees with the disease before visual symptoms occur.

For example, Hailing Jin, professor in the Department of Plant Pathology at UC Riverside, has identified small RNAs that are induced by the bacterium that causes HLB and could be used for early diagnosis.

Carolyn Slupsky, professor in the Department of Food Science and Technology at UC Davis, has identified metabolites that change in concentration when citrus is infected with the bacterium that causes HLB. She is working with the Citrus Research Board (CRB), CDFA, Texas A&M, and USDA to validate her results and determine how quickly the disease may be detected once the tree has been exposed to the pathogen. She is also part of a USDA collaborative grant to study the vector that transmits the disease to help find ways to stop transmission.

Wenbo Ma, professor in the Department of Plant Pathology Microbiology at UC Riverside, has developed antibodies against proteins secreted by the HLB pathogen – revealing whether the plant is infected. These antibodies have been evaluated in California, Florida and Texas for HLB detection.

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

This story is also available in Spanish.


Author: Jeannette Warnert

Posted on Wednesday, July 22, 2015 at 9:05 AM

Replenishing California groundwater may be done by flooding farm fields in rainy years

Fallow fields could be used as percolation basins for groundwater recharge.
As much as 3.6 million acres of California farmland could be used to recharge groundwater.

As farmers pump groundwater to keep their crops alive during the California drought, many of the state's aquifers are being drained rapidly. UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) researchers are working on a new approach to replenish these critical underground supplies once the rains return: using farm fields as recharge basins during winter months.

Already, a number of water agencies around the state deliberately recharge groundwater supplies by spreading water on open land and allowing it to percolate into aquifers. But dedicated sites for this type of recharge are scarce. So the UC ANR team decided to figure out if some of the California's millions of acres of farms and ranches could be brought into service.

"We wanted to see if we could support a more sustainable groundwater supply," said Anthony O'Geen, a UC ANR Cooperative Extension  specialist  (UCCE) in the Department of Land, Air and Water Resources at UC Davis and the lead author of a peer-reviewed article on the topic in the current issue of California Agriculture journal.

Integrating data on the physical properties of soil, salinity, topography and the tolerance of crops to standing water, O'Geen and his colleagues developed an index of the suitability for groundwater recharge of land in all agricultural regions in California. One finding: As much as 3.6 million acres of agricultural land statewide has good potential for groundwater recharge.

In dry years, groundwater can account for more than half of the irrigation water used in the state. But few groundwater basins are actively recharged. Instead, they are replenished naturally -- and at an uncertain rate -- by, for instance, percolation of rainwater into soil and seepage from rivers and lakes as well as water supply canals and irrigation ditches.

Deliberately recharging groundwater allows aquifers to be managed more like surface reservoirs, and has the potential to increase the state's water storage capacity by millions of acre-feet. During periods like the current drought, there's little or no extra water available for groundwater recharge. But in wet years, it may be possible to devote substantial volumes to replenishing aquifers.

Just how much extra water might be recharged, and on what kinds of fields, are two questions the UC ANR researchers are pursuing now.

Helen Dahlke, an assistant professor in the Department of Land, Air and Water Resources at UC Davis and a co-author on O'Geen's paper, has been conducting field experiments to evaluate two main variables: How much water can be recharged over a period of several weeks, and whether all that water hurts the crops planted in the field.

So far, the results are very promising.

Over a six-week period in February, March and April, Dahlke oversaw a test in Siskiyou County in which 140 acre-feet of water were applied to 10 acres of alfalfa. That's well over twice the amount of irrigation water the field typically gets in an entire year.

"It was just pouring into the ground," Dahlke said.

The water percolated readily into the earth and the groundwater table in the vicinity of the farm rose quickly. Just as important: by June the alfalfa field that had been watered so heavily was just as healthy as a control plot. Alfalfa is known to "drown" if watered very heavily in summer months, but it appears that the winter dormancy of alfalfa is helping the crop to tolerate saturated soils for some time. Field trials near the UC Davis campus have corroborated the Siskiyou County results, Dahlke said, though additional tests in more soil types and warmer climates (e.g. the southern Central Valley) are needed.

At least two similar tests in almond orchards in the Central Valley are planned for the coming year, as are additional alfalfa trials.

Groundwater recharge on farm fields is still several big steps away from becoming widespread, O'Geen and Dahlke said. In addition to the physical and biological parameters of the practice, UC ANR researchers are also investigating infrastructure, policy and institutional barriers. The first results from that work should be available later this year, Dahlke said.

To read the groundwater study in California Agriculture, visit http://californiaagriculture.ucanr.edu.


California Agriculture is a peer-reviewed journal of research in agricultural, human and natural resources published by UC ANR. For a free subscription, visit californiaagriculture.ucanr.edu, or write to calag@ucanr.edu.


Posted on Tuesday, July 21, 2015 at 9:12 AM

Social networks are an important source of agricultural knowledge

UC ANR Cooperative Extension farm advisor Paul Verdegaal (right) discussing trellising systems with Lodi winegrape grower Joseph Spano.
Farmers rely on personal interactions with their peers, field crews, agricultural professionals and UC Cooperative Extension farm advisors for new knowledge more strongly than the information picked up through formal pathways, such as workshops, meetings and publications, according to research published in the current issue of California Agriculture journal.

These research results have broad implications for UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR), which employs academic professionals in Cooperative Extension offices in all California counties to share science-based agricultural production information with farmers. The study suggests that education strategies that focus on farmers' social learning preferences may result in greater application of new, often more environmentally sound, production methods.

“Agriculture is a knowledge-intensive industry,” said Matthew Hoffman, the lead author of the new study. “But in the UC Cooperative Extension system, a bottleneck in the knowledge sharing network exists because of the limited number of advisors. UC Cooperative Extension is nevertheless in a great position to nurture social learning strategies and alleviate the bottleneck.”

Hoffman, who holds a doctorate from UC Davis in geography, is the grower program coordinator for the Lodi Winegrape Commission, a winegrape marketing, research and grower outreach association in San Joaquin County. Hoffman conducted the research with Mark Lubell, professor in the Department of Environmental Science and Policy at UC Davis, and Vicken Hillis, a postdoctoral researcher in Environmental Science and Policy at UC Davis.

The study's lead author Matthew Hoffman, agextensionist@gmail.com.
To understand farmers' most-valued information resources, the researchers surveyed three groups of California winegrape growers – growers in Napa Valley, Lodi and the Central Coast. They asked the farmers to rate the usefulness of 21 information resources for learning about vineyard management. The list of information resources included everything from their own personal observations to advice from UCCE farm advisors, pest control advisers, trade journals, newspapers and the Internet. Each of the 21 information resources was organized into one of three learning pathways: “social” (such as peers and family, pest control adviser, and UCCE advisor); “experiential” (such as personal observations in the field, trial and error, and observations of other vineyards); and “formal” (university publications, viticulture texts, and trade journals.)

The researchers found that the 11 highest-ranked information resources were social and experiential sources. No formal learning resource was on any region's top 10 list.

“Across all regions, respondents reported that observations of their own vineyard was the most useful learning resource,” the article said. “PCAs, vineyard field crew and other winegrape growers (not family) – all social learning resources – were the second, third and fourth most useful learning resources, respectively, across the regions.”

These results indicate that grower learning is grounded largely in personal experience and knowledge-sharing relationships. Hoffman coined the term “network-smart extension” for the extension strategies that take advantage of farmers' social learning preferences. The approach, he said, capitalizes on the social process of knowledge sharing that naturally takes place among a community of growers.

“Folks are going to share information with one another regardless, the trick is knowing how to accelerate this process by leveraging the network so that those with questions can get in touch with those who have solutions,” Hoffman said. “Network-smart extension can also be defined by its underlying principles. For example, one of the principles is that growers must know what others know. Before people can start asking around for advice about a particular agricultural problem they have, it helps to know who has the expertise they are seeking.”

(The California Agriculture journal article contains a detailed description of network-smart extension.)

In collaboration with Rodrigo Gallardo from the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, the UC ANR Cooperative Extension poultry specialist at UC Davis, Maurice Pitesky, recently consulted with Hoffman to use network-smart extension to share poultry health information. Raising backyard chickens has become increasingly popular. Since the birds are susceptible to poultry diseases, such as avian flu, Exotic Newcastle disease and Salmonella, which can threaten the health of people and of commercial poultry, it is imperative they have sources of accurate chicken health information. But with no ANR poultry advisors in California counties and over 100,000 backyard poultry premises in California, the information must be sent through other channels.

A barred rock chicken in a backyard coop.
With a grant from the California Department of Food and Agriculture, Pitesky and Gallardo organized 2-day “train the trainer” sessions in northern and southern California in 2015 for 4-H advisors, UCCE advisors, agricultural commissioners, feed store managers, veterinarians and others. As part of the grant, Pitesky and Gallardo are working with Hoffman to learn social network analysis, the same method used to collect the knowledge-sharing network data from winegrape growers, to identify the network of collaborations among backyard poultry professionals in California. This network data will help identify those positioned to spread science-based backyard poultry information.        

“The goal is to create a network of people who have some knowledge of poultry, who can then connect with their social networks and disseminate the latest information about nutrition, food safety, welfare, poultry health and biosecurity,” Piteskysaid.

Pitesky also created a poultry website to help backyard poultry producers find connections.

“There is a flow diagram, so if you have a food safety question, or a question about ectoparasites, you know who to contact,” Pitesky said. “It's hard to find veterinarians who treat backyard poultry. Our site has a list of 12 veterinarians in six California counties that treat poultry. The goal is to list vets in every county who can treat those birds.”

The scope of Pitesky and Gallardo's network-smart extension is much larger than the scope of a typical farm advisor nurturing connections between PCAs, farmers, consultants and allied industries. Hoffman offers some suggestions of how those connections can be encouraged.

One simple practice is regularly providing nametags for participants at extension field days and meetings.

“The principle is that you have to reduce the barriers to social interactions,” Hoffman said. “I'm less inclined to introduce myself if I don't know their name or I'm embarrassed because I talked to them before, but don't remember their name. Nametags grease the skids for social interaction.”

Another approach Hoffman has used in the Lodi Winegrape Commission's blog called the “Coffee Shop.”

“I have been very intentional about introducing the authors in our blog and newsletters in a way that's as personal as possible, including a photo of the author and contact information,” Hoffman said. “Even though it's not a face-to-face interaction, readers will know the name and face of the person and can contact that person if they have questions.”

A third simple approach is providing meeting flyers with a duplicate copy for a neighbor.

UC Cooperative Extension specialist Matthew Fidelibus uses Facebook to connect with growers.
“The same people tend to come to every single meeting,” Hoffman said. “I'm trying to tap into the network by using people who already trust us to encourage others to come to meetings.”

UC ANR Cooperative Extension viticulture specialist Matthew Fidelibus uses Facebook and Twitter to enhance the social network. He recently posted a picture of a withered grape cluster at the UC Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center on the San Joaquin Valley Viticulture Facebook page, which has 757 followers.

“Seems like I am seeing more bird damage than normal at Kearney this year,” he commented. “Anyone else noticing this?”

Among the responses, “Starlings and blackbirds will take whole berries. If you see broken berries and skins left, could be finches.”

Fidelibus advertised his upcoming grape field day on his Twitter feed, which has 1,474 followers.

Generally, Hoffman said, engaging in network-smart extension isn't about individual specific practices, but an overriding principle of the program that emphasizes building relationships among practitioners and encourages their engagement within their agricultural community.

“There may be no single or best way to accelerate the natural process of social learning, but extension programs must be adaptive, creative, experimental and flexible in design and execution,” the article said. “Extensionists should be willing to step outside of conventional thinking about how programs can be designed.”


Posted on Monday, July 20, 2015 at 8:38 AM

Free workshops to help farmers use USDA’s Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program

A web-based decision tool can help determine crop eligibility.
UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) is hosting workshops in July and August to help producers of specialty crops in California understand and apply for the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP) from USDA. 

The workshops will outline buy-up options and provide an overview of the web-based decision tool to determine crop eligibility and estimate fees, premiums and payments.

NAP provides financial assistance to producers of noninsurable crops to protect against natural disasters that result in lower yields or crops losses, or prevents crop planting. Eligible causes of loss include damaging weather (drought, freeze, hail, etc.) and adverse natural occurrences (earthquake, flood, plant disease, insect infestations, etc.)

NAP was reauthorized by the 2014 Farm Bill with some changes. Producers now have the option to cover up to 65 percent of yield and 100 percent of the price compared to the old program, where coverage was only available at 50 percent of yield and 55 percent of price.

Assistance covering the premiums and service fee waivers are available to those who qualify.

The workshops will be as follows:

July 17, 9:30 a.m. to 12 noon
UC ANR Cooperative Extension office in Monterey County
1432 Abbot St., Salinas

(Spanish) July 17, 1:30 to 4 p.m.
UC ANR Cooperative Extension office in Monterey County
1432 Abbot St., Salinas

July 20, 9:30 a.m. to 12 noon
UC ANR Cooperative Extension office in Fresno County
550 E. Shaw Ave., Fresno

(Hmong) July 20, 1:30 to 4 p.m.
UC ANR Cooperative Extension office in Fresno County
550 E. Shaw Ave., Fresno

July 22, 9:30 a.m. to 12 noon
Radisson Hotel
3455 Skyway Dr., Santa Maria

(Spanish) July 22, 1:30 to 4 p.m.
Radisson Hotel
3455 Skyway Dr., Santa Maria

July 28, 9:30 a.m. to 12 noon
UC Riverside Extension
1200 University Ave., Riverside

August 4, 9:30 a.m. to 12 noon
Cracchiolo's Banquet Hall
1320 E. Main St., Woodland

August 6, 9:30 a.m. to 12 noon
UC ANR Cooperative Extension office in Sonoma County
133 Aviation Blvd., #109, Santa Rosa

August 13, 9:30 a.m. to 12 noon
Elks Lodge
150 S. Shasta St., Willows

Registration is free. Register for the workshops online at http://ucanr.edu/nap. For more information, email anrprogramsupport@ucanr.edu or contact Rachael Anders, (530) 750-1258; or Lauren McNees, (530) 750-1257.

UC ANR is offering the workshops in conjunction with the USDA Farm Service Agency.

Nap workshop 2
Nap workshop 2

Posted on Tuesday, July 14, 2015 at 11:10 AM
Tags: workshops (1)

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