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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Too wet outside to work? Watch a drought video

'Groundwater and surface water interactions under water shortage,' Thomas Harter's presentation, has been viewed nearly 1,400 times.
Rain has begun falling, but California continues to operate under severe water scarcity from low precipitation over the past three years.

“California will need about 150 percent of normal rainfall this winter to end the drought,” said Doug Parker, director of UC California Institute of Water Resources. “Although the rains have come, we can't afford to let our attention drift away from carefully managing our water supply.”

The UC California Institute of Water Resources, with support from the California Department of Water Resources, has recorded presentations by scientists in the UC system and other organizations on a variety of topics related to water management and drought. “Insights: Water and Drought Online Seminar Series” is accessible by computer or mobile device.

The online seminars enable UC Cooperative Extension and the other scientists to share their knowledge with a larger audience than those who can attend meetings in person, said Daniele Zaccaria, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in agricultural water management in the Department of Land, Air and Water Resources at UC Davis.

“Farmers, landscape professionals, land managers, irrigation consultants, resource managers from water districts and others can view the half-hour video presentations on YouTube whenever it is convenient for them, obtaining science-based information that stems from applied research conducted by several scientists over the last 10 to 15 years,” said Zaccaria, who coordinates the speaker series.

Lynn Ingram's presentation on 'Climate change and paleoclimatology: 2013/2014 in perspective' has been more than 800 times.
Topics include drought impacts on natural resources, drought preparedness, water management in urban landscapes during a drought and crop management with limited water.

Currently 39 videos addressing drought and water management in different settings are available, and more talks will be added in the coming months. The videos are also being used by Cooperative Extension in other states and have been viewed hundreds of times. “Groundwater and surface water interactions under water shortage,” by Thomas Harter, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Land, Air and Water Resources at UC Davis, has been viewed nearly 1,400 times and “Climate change and paleoclimatology: 2013/2014 in perspective” by Lynn Ingram, professor in the Department of Earth and Planetary Science at UC Berkeley, has been more than 800 times.

The following titles have recently been added:

Water resources management in the Pajaro Valley, California
Brian Lockwood, senior hydrologist, Pajaro Valley Water Management Agency

Managing corn under California's drought conditions
Mark Lundy, UC Cooperative Extension advisor in Sutter, Yuba and Glenn counties

Droughts, climate change, and dams: Reconciling a future for California's native inland fishes
Peter Moyle, professor in the Department of Wildlife, Fish & Conservation Biology at UC Davis

Managing landscapes on limited water
Loren Oki, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Plant Sciences at UC Davis

Drought - An insidious stress on wildlife
Greg Giusti, UC Cooperative Extension advisor, forests and wildland ecology in Mendocino County

Agricultural water management practices under limited water supply: Lessons from recent droughts
James E. Ayars, agricultural engineer, USDA-ARS

Soil moisture monitoring and utilization during a drought
Dan Munk, UC Cooperative Extension advisor, irrigation, soils and cotton in Fresno County

Land subsidence along the Delta-Mendota Canal and neighboring areas
Michelle Sneed, California Water Science Center, US Geological Survey 

How to save water and beautify your landscape ... the sustainable way
Janet Hartin, UC Cooperative Extension advisor, environmental horticulture in San Bernardino and Los Angeles counties

Efficient citrus irrigation
Blake Sanden, UC Cooperative Extension advisor, irrigation and soils in Kern County

Using agroecological practices to enhance the resilience of organic farms to drought
Miguel A. Altieri, professor in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management, UC Berkeley

The drought videos are available at http://ucanr.edu/insights and https://www.youtube.com/UCANR.

Posted on Monday, December 15, 2014 at 10:16 AM

Farmers get a taste of the possibilities of value-added farm products

Merrilee Olson shows products made from growers' excess peaches and tomatoes.
When you're in a jam because you've grown more apricots than you can sell before the fruit quality deteriorates, what do you do? Make apricot jam!

Farmers, food artisans, agricultural support organizations and representatives from Sonoma County agencies recently gathered to share ideas for creating small-batch and artisanal “value-added” products featuring locally grown fruits and vegetables. On Nov. 3, UC Cooperative Extension hosted “Taste the Possibilities: Adding Value to Your Ag Business” in Sonoma County.

“Value-added production is an emerging food trend with the potential to help grow the local economy and support farmers' livelihood by tapping new revenue streams from preserving the peak of harvest and farm seconds that may otherwise go to waste,” said Julia Van Soelen Kim, UC Cooperative Extension advisor for the North Bay Area.

Farmers shared their inspiring success stories and business people provided insight on sourcing local produce, using commercial kitchens and co-packers, obtaining the right permits and registrations, and leveraging best practices in business planning and marketing.

Farmers and food entrepreneur share ideas for making value-added products with local produce.
There are new and emerging opportunities for value-added production including Cottage Food Operations, which allow individuals to prepare and package certain shelf-stable foods in home kitchens, and the recent Sonoma County zoning-code change that allows small-scale agriculture processing on farms.

But not everyone has the time, interest or ability to make the products themselves, said Merrilee Olson, a specialty food producer who participated in the workshop.

Her business, PRESERVE Sonoma, does custom co-packing services and private labels for growers and food entrepreneurs. As a co-packer, Olson makes value-added products in her commercial kitchen and cannery. She also helps food entrepreneurs connect with farmers and other sources of local produce.

“I started this business to help farmers get value-added products made,” said Olson, who opened in 2011, before the cottage food law passed. At that time farmers were losing money to overproduction and they didn't have very many options.

When a farmer found himself with an extra 1,500 pounds of ripe apricots, Olson turned them into apricot jam, which he is selling at the farm's store and farmers markets. Some people come to her with old family recipes and their own ideas for products. For tomato growers, she has made pasta sauce, salsa, tomato soup and bloody mary mix. “The bloody mary mix was the farmer's idea, and that will be on Whole Foods shelves,” Olson said.

“The idea of value-added products is well-known to farmers, but they may not know they don't have to do it themselves,” Olson said. “Some farmers don't really want to make the product, they want to farm. Even if you have a well-equipped home kitchen, making cottage foods isn't for everyone and you need insurance so it's easier to pay someone else to do it. We are a licensed cannery, which means we can make products like pickles, which are not covered in the cottage food law. ”

Olson thinks of the value-added farm products as preserving a way of life as well as food.

“Many farmers weren't aware of the range of options for value-added production that can help them use the abundance of their harvest, diversify their operations and generate new income for their ag businesses,” said Karen Giovannini, UC Cooperative Extension agricultural ombudsman in Sonoma County who helps local farmers expand their agriculture enterprises and navigate the regulations and permitting needed to do so.

“These emerging opportunities support farmers and food entrepreneurs, as well as regional economic development, and help to build a more robust local food system,” said Van Soelen Kim, who specializes in food systems for Sonoma County as well as Marin, Mendocino and Napa counties.

The workshop was offered as part of the “Opportunities in Ag Business” series presented by UC Cooperative Extension and Sonoma County Department of Health Services and was sponsored by American AgCredit. The educational workshop series aims to help make family farming economically viable, inspire the next generation of farmers, and support the development of a vibrant local food system.

Posted on Tuesday, December 2, 2014 at 8:22 AM

UCCE researcher seeks more colorful sweetpotatoes

Scott Stoddard holds Bellevue sweetpotatoes, a new variety identified in an evaluation trial that is a joint effort of UCCE, LSU and NCSU.
Americans draw their cuisine from a vast array of cultures, but on Thanksgiving most of us will sit down to eat essentially the same foods: roast turkey with cranberry sauce, stuffing, mashed potatoes with gravy, green bean casserole, dinner rolls and sweetpotatoes topped with melted mini marshmallows, followed by pumpkin pie for dessert.

Although you may call them candied yams, if they were grown in the U.S., the soft, orange roots you've smothered in butter and brown sugar are sweetpotatoes. If you don't add butter and sugar, sweetpotatoes are a healthful sweet treat, loaded with vitamins A, B-6, C and E and potassium and manganese.

In California, sweetpotato classes come in four colors:

  • Tan Jewell with orange flesh
  • Light yellow Jersey with white flesh
  • Purple Oriental with white flesh
  • Red Garnet with deep orange flesh

LSU professor Don LaBonte makes notes on sweetpotato varieties harvested in Merced County.
Scott Stoddard, UC Cooperative Extension advisor who evaluates sweetpotato varieties for production in California, is trying to identify lines with red and purple skin that grow and store well. It is a high priority for the industry because the Garnet class dominates many markets throughout the state. "Apparently, Californians like well-tanned sweetpotatoes, especially in Southern California," said Stoddard, who is based in Merced County.

“It's the same eye appeal as when people choose peaches,” Stoddard explained. “People tend to choose peaches with more red blush to the skin. Just as we tend to choose more colorful peaches, red-skinned sweetpotatoes are very popular, even more than the traditional tan skin sweetpotatoes that dominate in the rest of the United States.”

“The red variety is in high demand in LA, the Bay Area and Seattle markets,” said Jason Tucker, a grower and vice president of the CA Sweetpotato Council. “With our climate and sandy soil, we can grow any variety in California. It gives us so much flexibility and we're looking for new varieties. We can grow distinctive varieties, such as the Oriental variety, to meet demands even in other countries like Korea and Japan.”

Louisiana State University and North Carolina State University have the only two sweetpotato breeding programs in the U.S. For more than 50 years, UC has collaborated with the two universities in the National Sweetpotato Collaborators Trial, in which varieties are grown and evaluated in several states. Because the breeders are mainly interested in sweetpotatoes with light-colored skin, they used to discard the others. In 1998, Stoddard began screening their castoffs for high yields and sweet flavor in other colors.

Murasaki is a purple skin, white flesh sweetpotato cultivar introduced in 2008.
“Sweetpotatoes are expected to be on shelves 12 months a year so we need one that will store up to a year,” said Stoddard. Sweetpotatoes are harvested from July through October so he is looking for a red-skinned sweetpotato that offers better nematode resistance and holds up in storage longer. “The white ones and Orientals store well, but the reds break down in June and July.”

In addition to high yields and consistent flavor in a variety, Tucker said, “We are looking for varieties that maintain a high level of sugar, or sucrose levels, smooth skin and a consistent shape with a distinct color – purple, red or white.”

Before Stoddard introduces a new variety to a California field, he has the plant material virus-tested by Foundation Plant Services at UC Davis.

A purple sweetpotato with white flesh called Murasaki is a variety that emerged from Stoddard's test plots in 2008 and is now being grown commercially. Burgundy, released in 2014, is the first variety with red skin and orange flesh released in 30 years.  While Burgundy has better nematode resistance and improved storage characteristics, yields have failed to reach the numbers necessary to be commercially successful.

Burgundy is a red-skin, orange flesh variety released in California in 2014.
Sometimes when looking for a new red-skin cultivar, the UC Cooperative Extension advisor finds other desirable qualities. Stoddard is most excited about a tan-skin sweetpotato that he named Bellevue, after a road near the field where the variety was first evaluated and connects Atwater and Merced. “This variety has shown excellent yield potential combined with superior shape and skin quality in numerous test locations around the world, including North Carolina, Senegal, Israel and Australia,” he said. “It also has high nematode resistance and nice color.  But it's not red, though ironically it came out of the red-skin trial.”

“It takes a few years to see if they will be successful,” Stoddard said. “Things always show up once you move from a small plot to millions of plants, that's when their true personality comes out. We'll see how they do in different soil and in different areas. All varieties have their own personality.”

About 300 acres of Bellevue were grown in California in 2014. Although it may only be grown in California, Bellevue is patented by LSU. The varieties are patented by LSU and NC State to provide funding for their breeding programs.

“Scott is a highly valuable asset to Merced County growers, he provides all of our sweetpotato research,” said Tucker. “He brings new varieties from North Carolina and Louisiana to California to find a new variety that works well in our soil and climate. He analyzes them so we can make better decisions about which varieties we will grow.”

About 90 percent of the estimated 20,000 acres of sweetpotatoes grown in the state are in Merced County, around Atwater and Turlock, where the soils are sandy.

Posted on Tuesday, November 25, 2014 at 5:04 PM

Save water, but also save trees during drought

Drought-stressed trees are more prone to damage from diseases and insects.
Even as California enters the rainy season, the state is still in a drought. To avoid excessive landscape watering, we need to adjust the irrigation settings for our yards. At the same time we're trying to save water, we should also try to save our trees.

“Mature fruit trees and landscape trees are worth saving!” said Janet Hartin, UC Cooperative Extension advisor. “Recognizing early signs of drought stress is important because irreversible damage can occur that no amount of watering will correct.”

Two seasons without enough water can result in severe drought stress and even kill a tree, warned Hartin, who serves San Bernardino, Riverside and Los Angeles counties. Also, drought-stressed trees are more prone to damage from diseases and insects than non-stressed trees. 

Common symptoms of drought stress include

  • Wilting or drooping leaves that do not return to normal by evening
  • Curled or chlorotic (yellow) leaves that may fold or drop
  • Foliage that becomes grayish and loses its green luster
  • New leaves that are smaller than normal

“One or two deep irrigations with a garden hose several weeks apart in spring and summer will often keep these valued plants alive, especially if their roots are relatively deep,” she said.

Plants in full sun need more water.
For more precise water management, Hartin prefers micro-irrigation systems. “Drip irrigation is a wonderful tool for your ornamentals to apply the water directly to the root zone of the plant and reduce soil evaporation,” she said.

“An important thing to consider when you're trying to conserve water in the garden and landscape is that plant water requirements vary,” said Hartin, an expert in environmental horticulture. “Water needs are directly related to the evapotranspiration rate of each particular plant. To meet the water needs of plants, you have to replace the water used by the plant and the moisture that evaporates from the soil surface.”

Besides differences among water requirements among plant species, microclimates within a climate zone affect how much water a plant will need and how often a plant should be watered, as well.

“Landscape plants in urban heat islands surrounded by asphalt parking lots may require 50 percent more water than the same species in a park setting,” Hartin said.

Also, soil type plays a large role in how often landscape and garden plants should be irrigated. Sandy soils drain faster and take water in faster than those containing clay and require more frequent irrigation. Water can soak down 12 inches in 15 minutes in sandy soil, whereas the water may take 2 hours to reach the same depth in clay soil and will spread out more horizontally.

Plants that receive more shade require less water than the ones nearby in the sun.
Hartin, who works with UC Master Gardeners, suggests getting your hands dirty to determine when to water.

“Dig into the roots,” she said. “Take a handful of soil and squeeze it. That'll give you a good idea of whether the soil is really dry and crumbly, which means it's not holding any water, or if it's medium, where it's just starting to crumble, but still holding together fairly well. We recommend waiting to irrigate until the soil just starts to crumble.”

To see a video of Hartin's presentation “How to Save Water and Beautify Your Landscape the Sustainable Way,” visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MN4b5DML-bs. For water-saving gardening tips in Spanish, visit http://bit.ly/1uZ6Ztq and http://bit.ly/1xHNwQo. You can also consult the UC Master Gardeners in your community for advice. Check http://camastergardeners.ucanr.edu to find the nearest UC Cooperative Extension office to speak with a Master Gardener.

The evapotranspiration rate of the same plant variety can vary in different parts of the state.
For more information about dealing with the drought, visit the UC California Institute for Water Resources website at http://ucanr.edu/drought.

Factors involved in irrigation scheduling

  • Plant water use 
  • Soil water holding capacity
  • Water infiltration rate
  • Plant rooting depth
  • Irrigation system output
Posted on Monday, November 24, 2014 at 12:04 AM
Tags: drought (13), garden (3), Janet Hartin (1), landscape (3), Master Gardeners (2)

UC students receive fellowships to study food issues

November 19, 2014

Pam Kan-Rice, (510) 206-3476, pam.kanrice@ucanr.edu

UC students receive fellowships to study food issues

Jacqueline Chang
Three University of California students will be working with scientists in the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources (ANR) to study food security, nutrition education and agricultural research and extension as part of the UC President's Global Food Initiative Student Fellowships.

UC Berkeley senior Jacqueline Chang, UC Davis graduate student Samantha Smith and UC Berkeley doctoral candidate Kevi Mace-Hill each have been awarded a $2,500 fellowship.

The fellowships are supported by the UC Global Food Initiative, which UC President Janet Napolitano, together with UC's 10 chancellors, launched in July in an effort to help put UC's campuses, the state and the world on a pathway to sustainably and nutritiously feed itself. The UC Office of the President is providing $7,500 to each UC campus, ANR and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory for the fellowships, which will be awarded to both undergraduate and graduate students, with funds allotted at each campus's discretion in three $2,500 portions.

Samantha Smith
"Student involvement is critical to carrying forward UC's work to improve food security for UC students and others in California and beyond," said Barbara Allen-Diaz, UC vice president for Agriculture and Natural Resources. "These Global Food Initiative Student Fellowships will enable UC students Jacqueline Chang, Kevi Mace-Hill and Samantha Smith to work with UC scientists who study the food system and provide the latest research findings to farmers and consumers. Working together, we can continue improving access to nutritious foods."

Jacqueline Chang, UC Berkeley
Chang will work with Lorrene Ritchie, director of UC ANR's Nutrition Policy Institute, on a food security research project. The UC Berkeley senior, who is majoring in nutritional science with an interest in food insecurity, will assist in developing and conducting a survey to assess the prevalence of hunger and inadequate access to food among UC students across all 10 campuses. She will write a report and present the survey findings to Napolitano in the spring. Chang, a native of the Southern California community of San Marino, has worked with the Berkeley-based organization Feeding Forward to raise awareness of hunger, food insecurity and food waste.

Samantha Smith, UC Davis
Smith, a public health graduate student at UC Davis, with direction from Connie Schneider, director of UC ANR's statewide Youth, Families and Communities Program, will interview UC scientists about their research and extension efforts in agriculture, food and nutrition statewide and capture their stories to share with the public via blogs and social media. Smith, a native of Pleasanton, earned a bachelor's degree in psychology from Sonoma State University and is a California Wellness Foundation Fellow.

Kevi Mace-Hill
Kevi Mace-Hill, UC Berkeley
Mace-Hill will lead a group of graduate students that organizes seminars and workshops for students interested in careers in Cooperative Extension. Their goal is to improve graduate student preparedness for extension, outreach and applied research. Her fellowship will support the UC Berkeley graduate student-led Cooperative Extension Showcase.

The annual event brings UC Cooperative Extension advisors and specialists who conduct research and extension in nutrition, youth development, agriculture and natural resources to the Berkeley campus to discuss their work and network with graduate students. At the showcase in the spring, students will have an opportunity to meet potential mentors. Mace-Hill, a native of LaVeta, Colo., earned her bachelor's and master's degrees in biology at Wesleyan University in Connecticut and is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in biological pest control at UC Berkeley.

Through its Global Food Initiative, UC is building on existing efforts and creating new collaborations among its 10 campuses, affiliated national laboratories and ANR to improve food security, health and sustainability.

GFI fellows
GFI fellows

Posted on Wednesday, November 19, 2014 at 3:06 PM

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