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

UC blogs

Drought talk draws ranchers, researchers and climatologists

 

“No matter what sector you’re in, you’re in dire straits,” meteorologist Brad Rippey told the crowd. “California is really ground zero at this point, really sticking out like a sore thumb.”

California's severe drought is entering a fourth year. With that, scientists met with ranchers to give background and gain feedback on a key climate indicator: the U.S. Drought Monitor.

The November 7 workshop held at the University of California, Davis, and webcast to 15 satellite locations across the state posed questions to a panel of experts who help publish the weekly analysis. UC Davis researchers also discussed new findings from in-depth rancher interviews along with strategies for maintaining the nutrition of cattle during the water shortage.

Read the full article at the UC Davis Department of Plant Sciences.

 

With 83 percent of California now in the two highest categories for drought, ranchers are seeing conditions as rare as once in a hundred years.

“We learn a lot when times are tough,” said Rick Roberti, a cattle and hay rancher who attended the workshop. “We're never going to have the water we need. So we might as well learn now how to deal with it.”

In 2012, the second year of California's drought, more than 2,500 of the nation's 3,000 counties qualified for disaster loans, due to designations made through the Drought Monitor.

(Slide: Brad Rippey)

"You see the grass that we had then and the grass that we have now and it's nothing to compare to," says rancher Antonia Suenz of Marysville, California. "The climate is changing."

(Photo: Brad Hooker/UC Davis)

California state climatologist Mike Anderson showed that only 1924 saw less rain than this year, but 2014 has had far higher temperatures: “So not only are you dealing with lack of water, you're dealing with Mother Nature increasing the demand for what water you have.”

Listen to more of this conversation with Anderson at California Drought Watch

Posted on Wednesday, November 26, 2014 at 8:38 AM

Continued vigilance needed in the fight against Asian citrus psyllid

Asian citrus psyllid is established in some urban Tulare County communities.
Two Asian citrus pysllids (ACP) were found in a trap near Exeter in November, just 10 miles away from the UC Lindcove Research and Extension Center. That brings to 29 the number of locations in the central San Joaquin Valley, from Bakersfield to Dinuba, where Asian citrus psyllids have been trapped.

Perhaps still more unsettling is the fact that reproducing populations of ACP have been found in urban areas in Tulare County, confirming that the pest is established in a county where farmers produce citrus valued at more than $1 billion annually.

“The psyllid is here, it's established, but still at low levels,” said Beth Grafton-Cardwell, director of the Lindcove REC and UC Cooperative Extension citrus entomology specialist. “We need to be very aggressive and treat it and eliminate populations as best we can.”

Asian citrus psyllids are a serious concern for California citrus producers because they spread Huanglongbing (HLB) disease. The disease causes tree decline, production of small, bitter fruit and eventually tree death. There is no cure once a tree is infected.

Around the world, once ACP arrives, HLB soon follows. Such was the case in Florida. ACP was first found in 1998, the disease followed in 2005, and by 2008 it had spread throughout the state.

“They allowed the psyllid and the disease to spread on nursery plants,” Grafton-Cardwell said. “Here, it's a different situation. We are taking many measures to reduce psyllid populations and limit their spread around the state in order to buy researchers time to find long-term solutions for HLB disease."

To date, only one HLB-infected tree has been found in California, a multi-grafted backyard tree in Hacienda Heights. It was quickly removed and destroyed. Other trees may be infected, but not yet detected. It will take a tree with HLB about a year to show visual symptoms of the disease. One goal of UC research is to identify a way to detect HLB more rapidly.

For example, scientists at UC Davis are refining a mobile chemical sensor that can detect diseased citrus trees by sniffing their volatile organic compounds. Another team of scientists is looking for changes in citrus trees' metabolism when infected with HLB.

Citrus growers can help by regularly monitoring their trees for signs of ACP and, when treating for other pests, use insecticides that are known to be effective against ACP. A chart of effective pesticides is on the interactive Asian Citrus Psyllid Distribution and Management website.

The website also contains information for residents who have citrus trees in their landscapes. Photos of the adult and juvenile insects, the distinctive waxy tubules left behind when they feed, and citrus leaves from and HLB-infected tree can aid in determining whether home trees are infested.

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

Posted on Tuesday, November 25, 2014 at 8:12 AM

What’s the difference between yams and sweetpotatoes?

Do you know the difference between a yam and a sweetpotato?

“A true yam is not grown in the U.S., it's found in South America,” says Jason Tucker, vice president of the California Sweetpotato Council. Real yams have dry, dark flesh and are not the same plant species as sweetpotatoes, he explained.

“A yam is a sweetpotato, at least for those grown in the U.S.”, says Scott Stoddard, UC Cooperative Extension advisor in Merced County. “The rest of country has predominately just one type of sweetpotato, with tan skin and orange flesh, but in California, we have four marketing classes.”

The four kinds of California sweetpotatoes are

  • Jewell, with tan skin and orange flesh
  • Jersey, with light yellow skin and white flesh
  • Oriental, with purple skin and white flesh
  • Garnet, with red skin and deep orange flesh

The red-skinned sweetpotatoes are what many people in the United States call yams.

The California Sweetpotato Council spells sweetpotato as one word because it isn't a potato, it is a different plant species.

Sweetpotato classes, from left, are Jewell, Oriental, Jersey and Garnet. Photo courtesy of the California Sweetpotato Council.
Posted on Friday, November 21, 2014 at 8:26 AM

The food vs. fuel debate: Growing biofuel in the U.S.

Studies suggest biofuel can be grown on 'marginal land,' but no standard definition of 'marginal land' exists.
In order to slow global climate change and achieve greater energy independence, Americans are showing an increasing interest in switching over to clean, renewable fuels made from home-grown crops. In fact, Congress has mandated that at least 16 billion gallons of cellulosic ethanol be added to the U.S. fuel supply by 2022.

However, estimates suggest that growing crops to produce that much biofuel would require 40 to 50 million acres of land, an area roughly equivalent in size to the entire state of Nebraska.

“If we convert cropland that now produces food into fuel production, what will that do to our food supply?” asks Maggi Kelly, UC Cooperative Extension specialist and the director of the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources Statewide IGIS Program. “If we begin growing fuel crops on land that isn't currently in agriculture, will that come at the expense of wildlife habitat and open space, clean water and scenic views?”

Kelly and UC Berkeley graduate student Sarah Lewis are conducting research to better understand land-use options for growing biofuel feed stock. They used a literature search, in which the results of multiple projects conducted around the world are reviewed, aggregated and compared. 

“When food vs. fuel land questions are raised in the literature, authors often suggest fuel crops be planted on ‘marginal land,'” Kelly said. “But what does that actually mean? Delving into the literature, we found there was no standard definition of ‘marginal land.'”

Kelly and Lewis' literature review focused on projects that used geospatial technology to explicitly map marginal, abandoned or degraded lands specifically for the purpose of planting bioenergy crops. They narrowed their search to 21 papers from 2008 to 2013, and among them they found no common working definition of marginal land.

“We have to be careful when we talk about what is marginal. We have to be explicit about our definitions, mapping and modeling,” Kelly said. “In our lab, we are trying to understand the landscape under multiple lenses and prioritize different uses and determine how management regimes impact the land.”

The research report, titled Mapping the Potential for Biofuel Production on Marginal Lands: Differences in Definitions, Data and Models across Scales, was published in the International Journal for Geo-Information.

Click here for this story in Spanish.

An initiative to improve energy security and green technologies is part of the UC Division of Agriculture and Naturalist Resources Strategic Vision 2025.

 

Posted on Friday, November 21, 2014 at 7:45 AM

Parents can make healthful eating fun for kids

Guide for parents helps teach kids healthy practices early in life.
New parents sometimes joke that they wish babies, like consumer products, would come with an instruction manual. Because, ultimately, parents want to do what's best to keep their children healthy, but what's best to do isn't always intuitive. To help to make it easier for parents, UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources offers a short guide, called “Healthy, Happy Families” to help parents teach their kids about nutrition.

Studies have shown that we develop our eating habits early in life, according to lead author Lenna Ontai, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Human and Community Development at UC Davis.

“We know that it is not enough to just teach parents what to do. We have to support them in how they can take that knowledge home and use it effectively,” said Ontai.

Healthy, Happy Families provides parents with practical information about how children develop and tips for raising a healthy and happy child. It includes fun and easy activities for parents to do with their preschool-aged children to promote healthful eating.

Children who spend more time with their parents tend to be happier and learn better, the authors write. They recommend eating together as a family to help children learn to make healthy food choices. Letting children help plan and prepare meals helps them develop new skills. Children also learn social skills during family meals such as talking and listening.

Now available in Spanish!
Each of the eight lessons is designed to take 15-20 minutes. The book includes suggestions for encouraging positive behavior and activities such as cooking together. To entice children to try new, nutritious foods, let them explore textures, tastes, colors and sounds of food. Fuzzy kiwifruit, sour apples, red peppers and crunchy celery may pique their interest.

For cooking with kids, they recommend

  • Explaining why it's important to wash our hands.
  • Setting up an area for the child that is away from the stove and oven.
  • Using a low table or safe step stool.
  • Letting the child taste.
  • Using child-sized utensils.
  • And most of all, making it fun!

In a fun way, parents can create a healthy learning environment and teach their children healthful habits that will last a lifetime.

“Helping parents tune into their children's development and supporting positive interactions around food makes a big difference as children grow,” Ontai said. 

The Healthy, Happy Families workbook is available in packages of 10 for $15 in English and is now available in Spanish as Familia sana, familia feliz in Spanish. There is also a companion publication for teachers called the Healthy, Happy Families for Teachers curriculum. All three publications can be ordered at http://anrcatalog.ucdavis.edu.

Posted on Thursday, November 20, 2014 at 8:04 AM

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