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

UC to host ecological restoration workshop on Nov. 5

Scientists count plants to assess restoration. Photo by L. Ziegenhagen

Restoration practitioners, native plant nursery employees, scientists, policymakers and others who are concerned about preventing the spread of pests, pathogens and disease through ecological restoration activities are invited to a UC Agriculture and Natural Resources workshop. The inaugural “‘Do no harm' workshop: Considerations of pathogens, pests, and plant disease in restoration activities” will be held at the UC Palm Desert Campus on Thursday, Nov. 5.

Restoration is the process of attempting to reestablish healthy plant communities and ecosystem function to a damaged or degraded habitat. Restoration can include passive measures such as the removal of grazing animals as well as active measures such as replanting trees or seeding-in native grass seed. 

“Restoration is hampered by a variety of obstacles, including lack of resources, invasive species, fire and drought,” said Elise Gornish, a UC ANR Cooperative Extension specialist based in the Department of Plant Sciences at UC Davis who is organizing the workshop with Travis Bean, UC ANR Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Botany and Plant Sciences at UC Riverside.

“One aspect we are focusing on at our workshop is the inadvertent movement of plant pathogens, pests and diseases in restoration activities,” said Gornish. “This workshop will focus on identifying and mitigating these inadvertent actions.”

In addition to presentations and networking opportunities, the one-day workshop will feature a poster session on restoration research.

For more information or to register, visit donoharm.ucdavis.edu. Registration is $45 ($25 for students) and includes lunch. Continuing education units have been approved by the International Society of Arboriculture and the California Department of Pesticide Regulation.

Posted on Wednesday, September 2, 2015 at 10:46 AM

Even without rain, the California Naturalist Program blooms in Southern California

Naturalists at Tejon Ranch Conservancy hike through oak woodland overlooking agricultural fields, two iconic California landscapes.

In the concrete jungle of Los Angeles, people sometimes forget that Southern California actually has a wealth of natural open spaces. From the Mojave desert to four National Forests, Southern California supports vast wilderness spaces, many just a stone's throw from major cities. And if one looks closely, even those urban centers are filled with recreational parks and trails in an attempt to sate our appetite to connect with nature.

Naturalists observe native species and explore the L.A. River during field trips with the USC Sea Grant/SEA Lab CalNat course.
This hungry audience is driving rapid growth of UC Agriculture and Natural ResourcesCalifornia Naturalist Program. Established programs such as those offered by Pasadena City College, the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, and the Tejon Ranch Conservancy are being joined by new and developing partners. Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority manages land in both the Santa Monica Mountains and downtown Los Angeles. MRCA incorporated the CalNat curriculum into a longer Bridge to Park Careers workforce training program, resulting in the hiring of a cadre of new rangers well-versed in California natural history.

The University of Southern California Sea Grant program and the LA Conservation Corps SEA Lab teamed up to expose young adults from underserved communities to the coastal ecosystems of Southern California and potential jobs in the environmental field. The Dominguez Rancho Adobe Museum brings together California's rich cultural and natural histories in the heart of south Los Angeles County. Additional CalNat programs will soon be popping up in Cambria, Carlsbad, Riverside, Ojai, and Big Bear, and we're working to develop partnerships in San Diego and Orange Counties and along the L.A. River.

The CalNat curriculum highlights the incredible diversity of our state; the California Floristic Province is considered one of the 25 global biodiversity hotspots. This designation means that the region is home to a huge number of endemic species (those found nowhere else), but also that it shows an alarmingly high degree of habitat loss. Our mild Mediterranean climate and varying topography contribute to a diversity of species, but these are also attractive features to humans. 

The 10 counties that define Southern California cover only a third of the state geographically, but they hold nearly two-thirds of the population, more than 22 million people. What an amazing pool of potential naturalists! And in neat symmetry with our diversity in geology and biology, perhaps no place in California exemplifies demographic diversity like Los Angeles. As our program expands, especially in the southern part of the state, CalNat is placing great emphasis on bringing our approach of “stewardship through discovery and action” to participants from a broad range of backgrounds.

A hike to the Hollywood sign lends a far-off view of downtown beyond Griffith Park.
But interpreting nature in Southern California holds unique challenges. In this arid land, agriculture and urban residents fight fiercely over scarce water (much of it imported from elsewhere), an even more contentious resource in our current drought conditions. And fire, though common throughout the state, is a particularly prickly topic in a region with so many homes.

Urban ecology is an emerging science built around the complexity of survival pressures and species interactions in human-impacted environments. In Southern California, dense human populations live cheek-by-jowl with coyotes, raccoons, rattlesnakes, bears, and mountain lions, and our habits and infrastructure influence their movements. Human development often fragments natural habitats, creating isolated islands that may not support viable populations of native species and may favor invasions by non-natives. As these environments lose functionality, we lose important “ecosystem services,” such as flood buffering by coastal wetlands.

So it's all the more important that Southern Californians take a greater interest in understanding and shaping our place in the natural world. If we can forge meaningful connections with the natural resources in the places we live, we can learn to protect those resources. This is already starting to happen, with initiatives like L.A.'s Sustainable City pLAn, the new San Gabriel Mountains National Monument, and countless Internet blogs about local hiking trails, not to mention plenty of conservation organizations that have operated in Southern California for years and often partner with CalNat to offer courses.

In 2014, nearly 200 California Naturalists from partner organizations throughout the state came together in Asilomar for a conference to appreciate our natural resources and to celebrate each others efforts in habitat restoration, citizen science, and interpretation. But our CalNat community has grown immensely, and we expect an even greater number to join us for field trips, lectures, trainings, and fun when we convene again in 2016, this time in Southern California. In the meantime, CalNat courses will continue to spring up all over the Southland, so those 22 million people won't have to fight traffic to find a class, and some nature, close to home.

Posted on Wednesday, September 2, 2015 at 9:14 AM

Second video in series helps Californians conserve more water

It's best to irrigate early in the morning. (Photo: Ricardo Bernardo)
Californians cut water use in July by 31.3 percent compared to the same month in 2013, exceeding Gov. Brown's 25 percent mandate for the second consecutive month, the California State Water Control Board reported last week.

With dry conditions forecast to continue through November, UC Agriculture and Natural Resources developed a series of videos with tips for enhancing conservation efforts in outdoor landscapes. The second video in the series, which debuts today, advises homeowners to limit outdoor irrigation to the early morning hours.

In the morning, says host Missy Gable, director of the UC Master Gardener Program, “you're not competing with sun or wind, both of which can cause water to evaporate from the soil.”

An obstacle to changing irrigation times for some Californians is a lack of familiarity with their own irrigation systems. The California Garden Web is an informative service of the UC Master Gardener Program that can help users understand the basics of irrigation controllers and irrigation system adjustment.

The website provides a link where residents can find their irrigation controller manuals online. A landscape irrigation worksheet developed by UC ANR researchers can be downloaded to finesse irrigation intervals and timing.

Much more gardening information can be found on the California Garden Web, which serves as a portal to organize and share UC ANR's vast collection of research-based information about gardening.

Following is the second video in the new series on water conservation in landscapes:

View the first video in the series, with advise on prioritizing plants when irrigation water is short.

An initiative to improve California water quality, quantity and security is part of the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources Strategic Vision 2025.

Author: Jeannette Warnert

Posted on Monday, August 31, 2015 at 10:33 AM

UC hosts conference on widely used pesticide threatened with prohibition

UC ANR expert says plant nurseries have a need for neonicotinoid pesticides.
Neonicotinoid pesticides are at the center of a global storm. Implicated in the mysterious deaths of honeybees, neonics (as they are often called for short) were banned in Europe for two years in 2014. In Canada, neonics have been banned in Ontario and several other cities and counties.

In the U.S., President Obama this year asked for a detailed report to determine the best ways to protect pollinators. His request asks the Environmental Protection Agency to assess the effect of pesticides, including neonicotinoids, on bee and other pollinator health and “take action, as appropriate, to protect pollinators.”

In California – where neonics are used widely in tree crops, vineyards, field crops, nursery plants and home gardens – growers are concerned that a safe and effective class of pesticides will be pulled from their collection of tools.

University of California researchers will explore the science-based research on neonics at a public conference from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Wednesday, Sept. 9, at the UC Davis Conference Center, 550 Alumni Lane. UC Davis professors, UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) researchers and state officials are among the presenters.

Jim Bethke, a UC ANR Cooperative Extension environmental horticulture advisor, will be part of the afternoon panel at the event to address the use of neonics at plant nurseries.

“There is a place and a need for neonicotinoid pesticides,” Bethke said. “A tremendous amount of research has been done on the impact of neonics on honeybees, and the impact is minimal. The research is showing that there may be impacts in some uses that we need to take a closer look at. But to eliminate an entire class of pesticides from all applications doesn't make sense.”

Nurseries typically use the pesticide before the plants are shipped to retail outlets. The pesticide is not applied at retail stores. Plants are then purchased by consumers and put into landscapes. By that time, the amount of the pesticide left in the plant is very small.

“Our research has shown that there is a clear decline of the product in the plants over time,” Bethke said. “The concentrations found in nectar and pollen are at such low levels, they won't have any impact on pollinators.”

For this reason, the researchers have concluded that neonics are not contributing to colony collapse disorder, the unexplained bee die-off that has plagued commercial honeybee hives during the last decade.

“Beekeepers use more toxic pesticides than the neonics on honeybee colonies to control mites in the hive, which is far more impactful than neonics will ever be,” Bethke said.

Other speakers at the conference will address pesticide regulation of neonicotinoids in California, neonicotinoid risks associated with invasive species management, and past and current neonicotinoid and bee research.

Registration for the conference is $50, including lunch and a post-conference social hour. To register, go to the California Center for Urban Horticulture website. For more information, contact CCUH representative Kate Lincoln at kmlincoln@ucdavis.edu, (530) 752-6642.

Posted on Thursday, August 27, 2015 at 8:58 AM

Nurturing culinary skills in 4-H

Julianna Payne with her gluten-free cupcakes. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Many young adults entering the workforce know little about meal preparation.

Not so for those enrolled in the foods and nutrition program in UC Agriculture and Natural Resources' (UC ANR) 4-H Youth Development Program. Youths as young as five learn how to prepare healthy nutritious food.

And yes, they learn how to make desserts, such as special treats for their family and friends at Halloween.

Former Solano County 4-H All-Star Ambassador Julianna Payne was so interested in the foods and nutrition project offered by the Sherwood Forest 4-H Club, Vallejo, she plans a culinary career.

"That's where I found my love of cooking and most especially, baking," said Payne, 19, who just completed her 14th year in 4-H, including 10 years in foods and nutrition.

4-H is administered by UC ANR Cooperative Extension offices in every California county. The program focuses on leadership and life skills.

"I believe that one of the most important life skills a person needs is knowing how to cook for themselves," Julianna said.

Payne, a 2014 high school graduate, is in her second year at Solano Community College, Fairfield. In the spring, she plans to attend an area culinary school to earn her associate degree in baking and pastry.

"During my 10 years in the food and nutrition project, I made so many things I could not even begin to count," she recalled. "I have made savory things like tamales, empanadas, raviolis, and chilis and I have made sweet things like, peppermint bark, pumpkin scones, toffees, and chocolate orange cupcakes."

Julianna, who joined 4-H at age 5, went on to serve as president of her club for three years. Her experience, enthusiasm and commitment to 4-H led to her being selected for the county's highest 4-H honor: Solano County 4-H All-Star Ambassador.

Her mother, Sharon Payne, is a former community leader of the Sherwood Forest 4-H Club and a past president of the Solano County 4-H Leaders' Council.

“4-H is a fantastic youth development organization that teaches youth life skills, leadership and citizenship,” said Sharon Payne, a 13-year 4-H volunteer.  “Within their projects, youth can learn about whatever topic that interests them, from foods to computers or animals to robotics. Project work stimulates interests and skills and can introduce youth to careers they may not have otherwise considered.”

A perfect dessert or Halloween treat. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
So it's not surprising that the youth development program (now in the midst of enrolling new members for the 2015-2016 year) nurtures interests, teaches life skills and molds careers, including culinary careers. 

Said Valerie Williams, Solano County 4-H Program representative: “The 4-H Youth Development Program has a long history of promoting healthy living among youth and their families.  Reconnecting youth to a healthy food system and teaching them how to grow and prepare fresh food is the focus of many 4-H healthy living programs.  4-H adult volunteer leaders provide mentoring to 4-H members, which plays a vital role in helping them select career paths and achieve success.”

As for Julianna Payne, she is continuing to hone her skills. She entered her gluten-free chocolate/orange cupcakes at the recent Solano County Fair, Vallejo and drew rave reviews from the judges,  staff and volunteers who sampled the cupcakes.

Soon she will be teaching other 4-H'ers as she herself was taught.

“I plan on giving back to 4-H this year by becoming a project leader myself," Julianna said. "I will be teaching a cupcake project for 5-to-8-year-olds in the Sherwood Forest 4-H Club."

Here's the recipe:

Gluten Free Chocolate Orange Cupcakes with Orange Cream Cheese Frosting, Chocolate Drizzle and Candied Orange Peel

For the Cupcakes:

2 cups sugar
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons orange zest
1 cup boiling water
1-3/4 cups all-purpose gluten free flour
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Heat oven to 350°F. Line about 30 muffin cups (2-1/2 inch in diameter) with paper or foil baking cups.

Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil, orange juice, orange zest and vanilla; beat on medium speed of mixer 2 minutes. Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin). Fill cups 2/3 full with batter.

Bake 22 to 25 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in centers comes out clean. Cool completely in pans on wire rack. Makes about 30 cupcakes.

For the Frosting:

4 ounces unsalted butter, softened
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons fresh orange juice
1 tablespoon Orange zest

In a large bowl, beat together the butter and cream cheese with an electric mixer. With the mixer on low speed, add the powdered sugar a cup at a time until smooth and creamy. Beat in the vanilla extract the orange juice and orange zest.

For the Garnish:

3 ounces semi-sweet chocolate baking bar
1 cup of water
1 cup of sugar
1 orange

Melt chocolate in a bowl over a double boiler. Drizzle over cupcakes. Peel the orange and cut into 1/4 inch slices. Boil in water until tender. Drain. Heat sugar and water in pot until dissolved. Simmer orange peels in sugar water for 30 minutes. Set on cooling rack to cool. Once cool, toss in granulated sugar and set as garnish on top of cupcakes. Enjoy.

Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey

Julianna Payne's cupcakes were a big hit at the Solano County Fair. From left are Gloria Gonzalez, superintendent of McCormack Hall; Julianna Payne; Sharon Payne, assistant superintendent; and Angelica Gonzalez, staff. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey).
Julianna Payne's cupcakes were a big hit at the Solano County Fair. From left are Gloria Gonzalez, superintendent of McCormack Hall; Julianna Payne; Sharon Payne, assistant superintendent; and Angelica Gonzalez, staff. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey).

Julianna Payne's cupcakes were a big hit at the Solano County Fair. From left are Gloria Gonzalez, superintendent of McCormack Hall; Julianna Payne; Sharon Payne, assistant superintendent; and Angelica Gonzalez, staff. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey).

Posted on Wednesday, August 26, 2015 at 8:10 PM

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