- Author: Diane Nelson
“The website helps growers interpret what their trees and vines are trying to tell them,” said Brooke Jacobs, associate director of the Fruit and Nut Center. “It lets them easily see whether their plants' water-stress levels are normal, or whether they are starting to get thirsty.”
Good water management is vital to crop production, as growers struggle to conserve water, control weeds and make sure nutrients like nitrogen don't get washed away from the orchards they feed. Most growers irrigate when it's hot outside and the soil is dry, which can lead to overwatering.
“Just because the soil is dry, doesn't mean plants are suffering,” explained UC Davis plant physiology professor Ken Shackel, whose research led to routine use of pressure chambers to measure plant water stress in the early 1990s.
Pressure chambers directly measure a plant's water needs by gauging how hard the plant is working to pull moisture from the soil. Researchers and industry leaders promote the use of pressure chambers, and growers who use them often sing their praises.
“Pressure chambers are a fantastic tool for making sure you're watering your trees only when they need it,” said Jerry Sneed, field representative for Crain Ranch, a walnut producing and processing operation in Los Molinas, Calif. “I have total faith in them. They've never steered us wrong.”
“They're great,” agreed Rob Baker, ranch manager at Paramount Farming Co. in Bakersfield, Calif., the world's largest grower and processor of almonds and pistachios. “We've been using them for about 20 years, and we believe they provide the most accurate reading for when to irrigate.”
Still, less than one-third of California growers use pressure chambers to schedule irrigation. As the drought wears on, more growers are making the $1,200 to $3,000 investment in pressure chambers, but some of those new users are having trouble interpreting the water-stress readings.
“All plants will register some level of stress, even when they are fully watered and happy,” said Jacobs, who built the site — “Irrigation Scheduling Using Stem Water Potential Measurements” — along with Shackel and Charlie Turner at UC Davis Academic Technology Systems. “So it can be confusing if you don't know what is considered ‘normal' stress for your plant under similar conditions.”
That's where the website comes in.
As Shackel explained, “Measuring water stress, or what we call stem water potential, at midday is like taking a blood pressure reading during exercise. When the weather is hot and dry, it's normal for the plant to be working harder to pull water, even if the soil is wet. The website calculates stem water potential expected for a plant in wet soil, under the weather conditions for that day. We call that the ‘baseline' value.
“If your tree's stem water potential is close to the baseline value,” Shackel continued, “adding water to the soil won't change how your tree is feeling.”
Another thing: Baseline values vary among species because different plants can handle different levels of stress. “Normal” stress readings for almonds would be considered severe stress for grapes and deadly for walnuts.
To understand all the variables, UC Cooperative Extension advisors provide training and reference charts. This website provides an additional, interactive tool.
“When you enter the date, the time, and the closest weather station, you get a baseline water-stress reading for a similar crop under similar conditions,” Jacobs said. “It takes out all the guesswork, because you can see how thirsty your trees and vines are compared to those in fully wet-soil conditions.”
The new site is good news for growers like Bill Chandler, owner of Chandler Farms in Selma, Calif. He just purchased a pressure chamber to help manage irrigation on his 250 acres of nectarines, plums, grapes and almonds.
“I was always an old-fashioned guy who liked to go out with my shovel and test the dryness of the soil with my hands,” Chandler said. “But if a pressure chamber can improve water management, why not give it a try?”
The website currently provides baseline values for almonds, walnuts, prunes and grapes. With further research, baseline values for other crops may be developed, as well.
Want to see how a pressure chamber works? Here's a video link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8G9DjQxFkkY
You can read more about how pressure chambers operate here: http://fruitsandnuts.ucdavis.edu/pressure_chamber/
The new website is located at this link: http://informatics.plantsciences.ucdavis.edu/Brooke_Jacobs/index.php
For more information, contact the UC Davis Fruit and Nut Research and Information Center at 530-754-9708 or firstname.lastname@example.org
To mark its centennial anniversary, UCCE is hosting a Day of Science and Service to engage all Californians in creating an extensive statewide dataset on pollinators, food and water. Farmers may attend any of the myriad public celebrations on May 8. Computers will be available at the events for participation in the citizen science project. Or, if their schedules do not permit, they can quickly link in on their own computers or smart phones to record their efforts.
To participate, farmers can open http://beascientist.ucanr.edu. Click on the icon for water and find the farm on the map or search by address. The survey is set up for all California residents to record their water-saving in the household, garden and landscape. Farmers can click on the boxes that reflect their agriculture operations' water-saving strategies:
o Using drip/micro irrigation
o Scheduling irrigation efficiently
o Changing to drought-tolerant crops
o Using deficit irrigation
o Managing the soil
The system also allows users to upload a related photo. The whole process takes about a minute. No registration is necessary and the system doesn't collect email addresses. Twitter users can tweet about their participation in the Day of Science and Service using the hashtag #beascientist.
In addition to providing a better understanding of ongoing water-saving efforts, the Day of Science and Service aims to raise awareness about water conservation on farms and in households. Given the size of California, small savings across the board add up to a significant amount of water.
“Right now California is experiencing one of the worst droughts on record,” said Darren Haver, UCCE advisor in Orange County. “Some communities may run out of water in the next 10 years. If everyone in the state saves at least 10 gallons a month, we will be able to save over four and a half billion gallons a year.”
“One of the most profound ways in which UC touches people's lives is through the work of Cooperative Extension.” – Janet Napolitano, President, University of California
On May 8, 1914, the president signed an act of Congress to channel scientific advances from university research to everyday people working and living in the United States. On May 8, 2014, California residents will collaborate on a dataset that further connects public higher education with community.
“UC Cooperative Extension is all about science and service,” said Barbara Allen-Diaz, UC vice president for the Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, which administers Cooperative Extension in California. “To celebrate the anniversary of Cooperative Extension, we are asking Californians to help us collect scientific data so that all of us will better understand our natural, agricultural and urban communities.”
Everyone in California is invited to take part. To participate, go to http://beascientist.ucanr.edu and record your observations on three questions:
- How many pollinators do you see?
- How do you conserve water?
- Where is food grown in your community?
Many UC Cooperative Extension county offices are holding special events on May 8 where the public may join in the celebration of science and service. Computers will be available to allow participants to record their observations to the science questions.
10 a.m. to 1 p.m. – Open house at the Garden of the Sun, 1750 N. Winery Ave., Fresno. The event includes an opening ceremony and proclamation from the Fresno County Board of Supervisors, presentations by representatives of all UCCE programs in Fresno County, prizes and refreshments. More information: Shannon Mueller, UCCE county director, (559) 241-7527, email@example.com
12 noon to 1:30 p.m. – Mini educational workshops on water conservation, pollination and local food at Redwood Roots, a small farm at Wood Duck Lane and Fellowship Way, in the Jacoby Creek Valley in Bayside.
6 to 7:30 p.m. – ‘Day of Science and Service' participants share the results of the day's data collection at the Redwood Acres Fairgrounds, 3750 Harris St., Eureka. More information: Yana Valachovic, UCCE county director, (707) 445-7351, firstname.lastname@example.org
Los Angeles County
3 to 6 p.m. – Science and Service Fair at the Dominguez Rancho Adobe Museum, 18127 S Alameda St., Compton. The event includes workshops on nutrition, food preservation and gardening, special activities for kids and healthy after-school snacks. A.G. Kawamura, former California Department of Food and Agriculture secretary, will be a guest speaker. More information: Drusilla Rosales, UCCE advisor, (626) 586-1948, email@example.com
2 to 6 p.m. – Day of Science and Service open house with information about 4-H, Master Gardeners and weed control on rangeland at the UC Cooperative Extension office, 5009 Fairgrounds Rd., Mariposa. Participants are also invited to visit a native plant garden on the fairgrounds. More information: Fadzayi Mashiri, UCCE county director, (209) 966-2417, firstname.lastname@example.org
3 to 5 p.m. – Booth at the Merced Mall, 851 W. Olive Ave., Merced, where passersby can bring questions to Master Gardeners, a nutrition educator, 4-H leaders or the farm advisor, and participate in the Day of Science and Service. More information: Maxwell Norton, (209) 385-7403, email@example.com
10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. - Open house at the UC Cooperative Extension office, 1432 Abbott St., Salinas. Tours of the facility, laboratories and greenhouses. Participants may use a computer kiosk to take part in the citizen science surveys. More information: Maria de la Fuente, (831) 759-7358, firstname.lastname@example.org
5:30 to 7:30 p.m. – A free family event includes ‘lunch for dinner' provided by Sierra Harvest, plus prizes, demonstrations and food-related activities at Bell Hill Academy, 342 S. School St., Grass Valley. More information: Molly Klumb, UCCE program representative, (530) 889-7350, email@example.com
San Diego County
10 a.m. to 1 p.m. – The general public is invited to the County Operations Center commons area, 9335 Hazard Way, San Diego, for booths with displays and handouts about UC Cooperative Extension, plus a wildfire prevention presentation that includes a live demonstration structure burn. More information: James Bethke, (760) 752-4715, firstname.lastname@example.org
Santa Cruz County
3:30 to 6:30 p.m. – Open house at the UC Cooperative Extension office, 1432 Freedom Blvd., Watsonville, where the public can meet UCCE academics and staff, see demonstrations and learn about UCCE research. More information: Mark Bolda, (831) 763-8025, email@example.com
2 to 5 p.m. – Community open house at the Hansen Research and Extension Center, 14292 W. Telegraph Rd., Santa Paula. More information: Rose Hayden-Smith, strategic initiative leader, (805) 645-1466, firstname.lastname@example.org
4:30 to 6:30 p.m. – Open house at the UC Cooperative Extension office, 70 Cottonwood St., Woodland. Participants to take part in activities, learn about UCCE programs and history, and enjoy refreshments. More information: Rachael Long, UCCE county director, (530) 666-8734, email@example.com
Detailed conference information is at http://ucanr.edu/CalNat2014
The event is designed to bring together the state's certified California Naturalists and others who share their appreciation for California's unrivaled state and national parks, coastal areas, mountains, wetlands, foothills and forests.
The conference will provide a forum for the growing ranks of California Naturalists to discuss new research and developments in natural history, citizen science, global (climate) change, environmental education and nature interpretation.
The California Naturalist program, sponsored by UC Cooperative Extension and modeled after the Master Gardener Program, is recruiting and training those passionate about nature to form a statewide corps of active and educated environmental stewards. Currently there are 500 California Naturalists certified by the program.
California Naturalist operates in partnership with nature preservation, appreciation and conservation organizations or institutions around the state. A love of nature and a desire to share the sentiment prompt people to donate their time to becoming and serving as California Naturalists. Together with the partnering organization, California Naturalists champion the state's unique ecology and engage in stewardship and study of California's natural world.
Early registration for the first-ever California Naturalist conference is $250 for certified naturalists and $325 for all others. Registration fees will go up on July 1. Lodging is separate. Registration fees are higher for those not staying two nights at Asilomar. Conference and Asilomar accommodation reservation forms are available on the California Naturalist Conference website, http://ucanr.edu/CalNat2014.
Registration includes a full agenda of presentations, poster session, exhibits and receptions. A limited number of scholarships are available to help offset the registration, room and board and travel costs of certified California Naturalists and naturalists-in-training. Make lodging reservations at Asilomar by Sept. 17 for discounted accommodations in the beautiful park setting, increased opportunities to connect with fellow naturalists and all meals.
The California Naturalist Conference begins on Friday, Oct. 17, with optional small-group advanced training programs. Two of the courses, “Drawing birds” and “Nature Drawing” will be taught by acclaimed naturalist, educator and artist John Muir Laws. A complete list of six advanced training sessions is available on the conference website. Advanced training classes are offered for an additional $30 fee and expected to reach their maximum capacity quickly.
The Saturday agenda follows two tracks: “people, parks and diversity” and “global change and biodiversity.” For the keynote session, two renowned naturalist authors will speak on the role of citizen scientists in preventing species extinction.
Mary Ellen Hannibal will discuss the role of citizens in scientific discovery and conservation. She is the author of The Spine of the Continent, which chronicles the efforts of everyday citizens to create a wildlife corridor from the Yukon to Mexico. She is working on a new book to be titled Citizen Scientist.
Anthony Barnosky, a professor of Integrative Biology at UC Berkeley, will talk about strategies for avoiding species extinction in the face of global change. Barnosky is the author of Heatstroke: Nature in the Age of Global Warming. His new book, Dodging Extinction: Power, Food, Money and the Future of Life on Earth, will be published in September.
Saturday's program also includes a reception and a poster session detailing nature research and conservation efforts by California Naturalists around the state.
The conference wraps up on Sunday with optional field trips, offered for a $25 fee. Field trip destinations include the Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve, the Fort Ord National Monument, Point Lobos State Natural Reserve and the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
Complete registration, agenda, presenter, pre- and post-conference event, and facility information are on the California Naturalist Conference webpage, http://ucanr.edu/CalNat2014. For more information contact Brook Gamble, (707) 744-1424, Ext. 108, firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Author: Pamela Kan-Rice
The annual Ag Day at the Capitol event, held Wednesday (March 19) in Sacramento, honored the University of California Cooperative Extension for its centennial. California Department of Food and Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross presented a proclamation to Barbara Allen-Diaz, UC vice president for Agriculture and Natural Resources, who oversees UC Cooperative Extension.
“I want to commend my good friend Barbara Allen-Diaz and Cooperative Extension,” said Ross. “You help us take all that great knowledge from the UC System and extend it directly to farmers and ranchers. It is a circle of innovation that sets us apart. It is absolutely crucial to our future and I'm really happy to be here to celebrate 100 years with you.”
UC Cooperative Extension, which has offices in counties throughout California, will be holding local celebrations throughout 2014. For more information about the UCCE centennial, visit http://ucanr.edu/100.