Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources
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Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources

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Be on the lookout for spotted wing drosophila

Small hole or "sting" created by by SWD on a ripe cherry. (Photo by Larry L. Strand.)
It's cherry growing season and a good time to begin looking for spotted wing drosophila (SWD), Drosophila suzukii. SWD is a small fruit fly that attacks soft-flesh fruit such as cherry, blueberry, raspberry and blackberry. It first appeared in 2010, and its damage to fruit and increased management costs led to significant economic losses to cherry growers throughout California and the Pacific Northwest.

Unlike other fruit flies that infest rotted fruit, SWD attacks undamaged fruit. As cherry fruit begins to develop and starts to change color from light green to straw, SWD lays its eggs just under the skin of fruit, creating a small scar or a“sting.” One to three larvae may develop inside each cherry, feeding on the fruit and causing it to become brown and soft. Many times SWD flies are not noticed until fruit is mature, and by that time management is not very effective.

Adult male spotted wing drosophila. Note the dark spot on the tip of its wings. (Photo by Larry L. Strand.)
Prevention is the key, and one way to prevent damage is to monitor for the pest when it first becomes active. SWD can be monitored with several types of traps partly filled with apple cider vinegar to lure the pest. Monitor traps weekly through the end of harvest, and be sure to confirm the presence of SWD, as other Drosophila spp. may be present in trap catches. SWD males have a single dark spot on the tip of its wing and females have a large ovipositor. See the UC IPM Pest Management Guidelines for identification help and a dichotomous key.

Spotted wing drosophila is still a relatively new pest, and management information continues to change. David Haviland, UC Cooperative Extension advisor in Kern County, and other researchers have been working to provide what help they can. Haviland has designed a bucket trap called the “Haviland trap” and is working with others to field-test experimental lures for SWD. He's also studying a possible biological control agent. Research has led to new grower guidelines so that early season cherries can be produced and sold internationally. Check out the 2014 Recommendations for Sweet Cherry (PDF).

For management in backyard cherries or other urban areas, see the SWD Pest Note.

For more information about UC IPM's recent work, see the 2013 Annual Report.

The Haviland trap, named after UCCE advisor David Haviland. (Photo by D. Haviland.)
Posted on Wednesday, April 16, 2014 at 8:00 AM

Cooperative Extension's Mary Bianchi receives agricultural sustainability leadership award

Mary Bianchi, UC Cooperative Extension Farm Advisor and San Luis Obispo County Director
The Agricultural Sustainability Institute (ASI) at UC Davis announced today that Mary Bianchi of the University of California's Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources is this year's recipient of ASI's Eric Bradford and Charlie Rominger Agricultural Sustainability Leadership Award.

The annual award will be presented to Bianchi tomorrow, April 15, at a ceremony featuring distinguished speaker LaDonna Redmond.

The Bradford-Rominger award recognizes and honors individuals who exhibit the leadership, work ethic and integrity epitomized by the late Eric Bradford, a livestock geneticist who gave 50 years of service to UC Davis, and the late Charlie Rominger, a fifth-generation Yolo County farmer and land preservationist.

Bianchi has worked for UC Cooperative Extension for 20 years, currently serving as Farm Advisor and County Director for San Luis Obispo and northern Santa Barbara counties. Among her achievements include the development and implementation of a water quality workshop series that required collaboration of over 100 team members and brought timely and essential information on water quality management to 2,200 growers in California.

Bianchi is quick to share her success. “I've had partners in all the efforts that I've undertaken who just wanted to find a way to get information out to people so that they can make their own decision. Sometimes that means staying within the lines, and sometimes that means stretching and taking some risks and being willing to push the envelope. Growers, industry, agencies and universities have stepped up to find a way to make our efforts work.”

Eric Bradford and Charlie Rominger are remembered for their abilities to approach major agricultural challenges with grace, honesty, and a commitment to collaboration across disciplines and interests.

Sonja Brodt, Academic Coordinator at ASI says Bianchi “does not hesitate to address the critical needs of her clientele, even if they require extending herself into new subject areas. She is down-to-earth and creates the space in collaborations for each party's concerns to be heard and valued in the process to reach viable solutions.”

Bianchi's own work ethic reflects those qualities. “I think that you do create change one person at a time by listening to what they have to say and respecting the fact that they are bringing their own successes and constraints and baggage that you don't know about,” says Bianchi.

“Eric and Charlie were a lot the same way,” she continues. “If you see that there's a need, you just find a way to make it work. And you find the people that are willing to do that with you and it happens.”

Learn more about the award on the Agricultural Sustainability Institute's web site.

After the Bradford-Rominger award is presented to Bianchi at tomorrow's ceremony, distinguished speaker LaDonna Redmond will speak on “Food + Justice = Democracy.” Redmond is a food justice activist who was inspired to fight for a fairer food system after facing limited access to healthy, organic food in her Chicago community. To facilitate her community's food access, she launched an initiative converting vacant lots into urban farms.

She is founder of the Campaign for Food Justice Now, an organization focused on social justice within the food system, creating community-based solutions and engaged advocacy.

Eric Bradford and Charlie Rominger Agricultural Sustainability Leadership Award Ceremony

5:00 p.m., Wednesday, April 15

Buehler Alumni and Visitors Center

UC Davis campus

This event is free and open to the public. Students are encouraged to attend.

Posted on Monday, April 14, 2014 at 10:01 AM

Where is food grown in your community?

Youth growing food at the Bravo Lake Botanical Garden in Woodlake, Calif.
Nutritious food is an essential part of healthy growth and a healthy lifestyle. What we eat greatly influences how we feel and how happy we are. Nearly every community in California contributes in some way to food production, from large farms to backyard gardens. But even though California is the No. 1 agricultural state in the county, many residents feel far removed from their food sources, often not even recognizing them in their own backyard.

With demand for food supplies increasing, it's becoming more important for all of us to recognize exactly where (and what) fresh food is being grown around us.

Lend a helping hand

On May 8, 2014, we need your help populating our California food map. Get outside, be a scientist, and tell us where food is grown in your community. Do you grow your own? Do you live in the heart of the Central Valley and regularly drive past acres and acres of farms? Or, does your neighbor or school have a garden?

Participating takes 5 minutes. All you have to do is go online to beascientist.ucanr.edu, and add a dot on our map marking a spot where you know there's a garden or a farm.

Together, we'll be able to have a much better understanding of our food systems in California. When we recognize where our food comes from, we tend to become healthier and more mindful eaters.

On May 8, 2014, get out there and be a scientist. Tell us where food is grown in your community. Your answers will help build a healthier future for your community, and for the state.

Join the fun

View the video:

Content created by Steven Worker, Melissa Womack, Karey Windbiel-Rojas, Marisa Neelon, Jennifer Rindahl, and Pam Kan-Rice. Video production: Alberto Hauffen.

Posted on Thursday, April 10, 2014 at 1:36 PM

Lemons are the zucchini of winter - take 2

It's early spring, and that means one thing: I am once again drowning in lemons.  This year with our tree well established, we had a bumper crop.  Even as an espalier, our tree produces more lemons than we can use.  And as anyone with a lemon tree knows - it's almost impossible to give away lemons. Lemons are the zucchini of winter.

The author's backyard lemon tree trained in espalier style.

With a pantry full of marmalade, a batch of salted lemons preserving, and all of the copper gleaming, I was looking for a new way to use my harvest.  A neighbor told me she distributed all of her lemons by having a lemoncello making contest with her friends. Lemoncello, the Italian lemon liqueur, is gaining popularity outside of Italy.  It uses a lot of lemons and is easy to make.

The basic recipe for lemoncello is the same. Lemon zest, alcohol, simple syrup, and time.  While recipes vary little, proportion and procedures are highly guarded secrets of the cognosenti.

Purists insist on using a base of grain alcohol; it imparts no flavor of its own to the lemoncello letting the lemons shine through.  Where grain alcohol is unavailable, a high quality vodka can stand in.  I chose a hand crafted corn based vodka, distilled 6 times, because corn seemed the closest to grain alcohol and it had a relatively high proof.

For my first try, I am halving the basic recipe. The first step was to zest the lemons. A lot of lemons.

A microplane is a must-have tool as you want pure zest with no pith.

Add the liquor to the lemon zest. Put it a cool, dark place. Wait. 45 days.

See you mid-May for the next step.

P.S. After the original mixing of the lemon zest and the vodka, and on an apéritif roll, we decided to make vin de pêche using the recipe from Chez Panisse Fruit.  The large glass jar photographed above was re-purposed for the vin de pêche, and the vodka and the zest were moved into the empty vodka bottle. This is probably a better solution as there is less air surface in the container.

Posted on Tuesday, April 8, 2014 at 8:57 AM

Out-of-sight groundwater is not always well understood

Groundwater is a vitally important natural resource in California.
It can be challenging to imagine the stores of water underlying California. But Thomas Harter, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Land, Air and Water Resources at UC Davis, shares a vivid vision of the state's vitally important groundwater resources.

In a videotaped presentation, Harter said California's Central Valley is like a giant bathtub; its walls are the Sierra Nevada and coast mountain ranges. Clay, silt, sand and gravel washed into the bathtub over millions of years and fresh water from streams, rivers and rainfall soaked into pores between sand and gravel pieces, between clay and silt particles, and in the fissures and cracks in rocks, where it has accumulated for eons.

Harter outlines the nature of California's groundwater situation in a 30-minute video that is part of the UC California Institute for Water Resources online video series. The series consists of presentations featuring UC and other experts speaking on topics aimed at helping farmers and all Californians better understand and cope with drought.

In the 1920s and 30s, farmers began pumping groundwater in vast quantities to grow summer crops on the flat dry surface. It wasn't long before the land began to sink, especially on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley and in the Tulare Lake Basin.

“Land surface levels declined as much as 30 feet during the 20th century,” Harter said.

In the 1970s, the state water project made surface water supplies available to farmers, allowing underground water to recover. However, in the last 10 years, as surface supplies have declined, farmers are drilling deeper wells to irrigate crops. Once again the land surface has begun to subside, Harter said.

For the most part, farmers have free reign when it comes to pumping groundwater.

“Landowners are not owners of the groundwater below them,” Harter said. “But they have the right to use the groundwater.” There is a constitutional mandate that all groundwater goes for beneficial use.

In the video, Harter reviews the tangle of regulations and agencies involved in managing the state's groundwater.

“About 42 percent of groundwater basins in California have some form of groundwater management plan,” Harter said. The plans contain some basic elements, but are lacking in terms of enforcement mandate, integration with surface water management and the power for agencies to manage demand.

“One of the biggest political questions is what are the roles of the state, local and regional agencies?” Harter said. “The State Water Control Board recently emphasized that it is pursuing a primarily local, regional management approach to groundwater management. But still it has an oversight role and defining that oversight role is something we will be looking at over the next few months and years.”

View the video here:

Posted on Monday, April 7, 2014 at 9:01 AM

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