- Author: Laura J. Van der Staay
Over 30 nonprofit, educational and government organizations attended Parlier Earth Day in April, where about 2000 local residents increased their awareness of how these groups can help them. Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center provided information on how we work on integrated pest management strategies and uses for biopesticides to help ensure an abundant supply of affordable and safe food. Attendees were very interested in discussing how this work at Kearney directly helped them.
- Author: Jodi Azulai
Summer is upon us, and nothing quite says summer more than eating freshly picked blueberries or using them in delicious desserts. California blueberry growers can find an additional treat – the newly published UC IPM Pest Management Guidelines for blueberry on the UC IPM web site. California is quickly becoming a top producer of blueberries, and the new guidelines can help with management information on blueberry pests such as thrips, light brown apple moth, and spotted wing drosophila with additional information on pesticides and resistance.
It may be hard to believe but as of 1996, blueberry production was limited to colder states like Washington, Michigan, New Jersey, and Oregon, where naturally acidic soils and winter climates suit the traditional highbush varieties. As recently as 1997, California blueberries were only growing on less than 200 acres across the state. According to the latest CDFA statistics, 2012 continued to show what has been an increasing trend for California blueberries, with more than 40 million pounds harvested, $133 million sold, and plantings in more than 4,700 acres spanning San Joaquin, Tulare, Kern, Ventura, and Fresno counties.
In 1995 the University of California Small Farms Program and cooperating farmers started evaluating low-chill southern highbush varieties in San Luis Obispo and Ventura counties. They found that “low-chill” southern highbush varieties offered the most promise for extended season production on the central coast. By 1997, Kearney Agricultural Center trials found that southern highbush cultivars were also well adapted to the semiarid climate of the San Joaquin Valley. Further evaluations identified the best yielding and flavorful cultivars. Initial and ongoing UC Small Farms studies have escalated California blueberry production swiftly up the learning curve, providing California farmers of small to moderate operations a niche in a very competitive market.
Today, California blueberries are harvested from May through July in the San Joaquin Valley and January through May on the central coast. While consumer demands are on the rise and profits can be excellent, producing and harvesting blueberries in California is expensive. It can run over $10,000 per acre to prepare a field because successful cultivation in many areas necessitates soil and irrigation water acidification and adding tons of mulch per acre. Specialized equipment, labor-intensive pruning, and pests like light brown apple moth, thrips, and spotted wing drosophila can add substantially to cost. Therefore, getting the right information and planning is imperative. While the UC Small Farms Program continues to develop field and market research for blueberry production in California, growers can also turn to the newly published Pest Management Guidelines for blueberries.
- Author: Jeffery Dahlberg
UC President Janet Napolitano and the President's Advisory Commission visited KARE on April 14, 2014. The stated purpose of the visit was to meet with the PAC to discuss issues facing agriculture and to visit KARE and learn more about what we do and the importance of our research and outreach. The President learned about the work we are doing to control mosquitos (Anton Cornel), our work to support small farmers and the blueberry industry (Manuel Jimenez), the use of AF36 to control aflatoxin in pistachios (Themis Michailides), and the importance of rootstocks (Louise Ferguson). The President and her PAC were engaged and enthusiastic about their visit to the Center. We also shared information on what we are doing to conserve energy and provided a general field tour. The Fresno Bee wrote an article on the visit.
- Author: Alec Rosenberg
UC President Janet Napolitano received an in-depth briefing on California agriculture Monday (April 14), seeing firsthand the effects of the drought and learning about the university's efforts to help farmers increase water efficiency and improve crop yields.
From Oakland, Napolitano took an aerial tour over the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta and across the Central Valley, viewing how California's vast heartland faces low reservoirs, brown hills and fallowed fields.
She then met with her top agricultural advisers — the President's Advisory Commission on Agriculture and Natural Resources. They convened at the Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Parlier to discuss the impact of UC's research in agriculture and how to engage all 10 campuses in making UC the “go-to” institution in the world for all issues related to food, including sustainability and nutrition.
Napolitano acknowledged that UC already does much but can do more. California's $45 billion agricultural industry leads the nation, with UC research playing a key part: developing new crop varieties, supplying rootstock for healthy plants, providing best management practices and finding sustainable solutions to the toughest challenges.
“We are teaching the next generation of food scientists and we are researching how to make sure there is a sustainable food supply for the world,” Napolitano said.
Kearney, 15 miles southeast of Fresno, is one of nine research and extension centers run by UC's Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, serving as a base for dozens of scientists from UC Berkeley, UC Davis and UC Riverside and UC Cooperative Extension advisors and specialists. Kearney supports research on 45 crops from grapes to walnuts and studies issues from irrigation to mosquito management, with facilities including greenhouses, insectaries and postharvest labs, Director Jeff Dahlberg said.
Integral to farming
UC Cooperative Extension advisors and specialists are “a very integral part of our farming,” said Don Bransford, a rice, prune and almond grower who chairs the President's Advisory Commission on Agriculture and Natural Resources.
“I know who my advisor is — they're the experts,” he said.
The postharvest facility is “extremely important” in helping to document food safety, added commission member Joel Nelsen, president of the California Citrus Mutual.
A field tour highlighted two crops in which UC has played a pivotal role: blueberries and pistachios.
Twenty years ago, few blueberries were grown in California. Blueberries were considered a cool-weather crop, but UC Cooperative Extension advisor Manuel Jimenez had a hunch they could grow here. He tested different varieties and found that blueberries could thrive by acidifying the soils and maintaining acidic conditions in the irrigation water. California is now one of the leading producers of fresh blueberries, with growing concentrated in the Central Valley.
“Blueberries love warm weather,” said Jimenez, who retired last year but still conducts blueberry research.
Pistachios have become an increasingly important crop, valued above $1 billion a year. The United States is the world's leading pistachio producer, and 99 percent of the country's crop comes from California. Half of all pistachios in California are grown on rootstock taken from the mother pistachio tree at Kearney, said UC Cooperative Extension specialist Louise Ferguson.
UC research has helped ensure the safety of pistachios through biological controls, said Themis Michailides, a UC Davis plant pathologist based at Kearney.
Napolitano noted that she made the ANR vice president a direct report to her because agricultural issues matter to California and the world.
Dealing with drought
Those issues include the drought. UC is putting its expertise to work, hosting 35 drought workshops in the past two months alone for farmers, ranchers and homeowners, said Doug Parker, director of UC ANR's California Institute for Water Resources, who served as a tour guide for the president.
UC researchers have come up with recommendations to help farmers minimize water use while maximizing production, said UC Cooperative Extension advisor Roger Duncan. Still, it's estimated that up to 10 percent of California's farmland could be fallowed, primarily in the San Joaquin Valley.
“A lot of lower-value crops just won't be planted,” Duncan said.
The daylong briefing reinforced how UC is at the forefront of issues facing California agriculture, said Barbara Allen-Diaz, UC vice president for ANR.
“It's great to see the incredible depth and breadth of California agriculture, and show the link between UC research and extension and the development of agriculture in the state,” Allen-Diaz said./aside>/h4>/h3>/h3>
- Author: Laura J. Van der Staay
Over 3400 third-graders and 600 teachers and chaperones from nine Fresno County school districts attended Fresno Farm and Nutrition Day at the Big Fresno Fairgrounds on March 21, 2014. Over 50 stations with educational handouts, experiential workshops, presentations and displays helped increase participant awareness of nutrition and agriculture. Fresno County Farm Bureau organized the event with the help of several sponsors, volunteers and presenter groups. Three UC Agriculture and Natural Recourses units provided presentations, demonstrations and workshops.
Fresno County UC Cooperative Extension provided presentations and demonstrations on healthy habits. Most of the students are from urban areas of Fresno, and have limited opportunities to interact with the agricultural community. Fresno's community 4-H clubs brought farm animals to interact with the students. Fresno County UC Cooperative Extension also displayed Southeast Asian vegetables and discussed Southeast Asian culture with the students.
KARE provided short presentations on what it takes to be a healthy plant and what it takes to be a healthy person, followed immediately by workshops where the students planted leaf lettuce transplants to take home and enjoy. The workshops were made possible with donations and volunteers. Valley Soil & Forest Products donated soil, The Plant People donated pots, and Greenheart Farms donated lettuce transplants. Fourteen volunteers helped ensure that all of the participants were able to pot up and take home leaf lettuce plants.
The UC Davis Veterinary Medicine Teaching and Research Center's Cardboard Cow visited event as well. She came with Jennifer Crook, Adrianna "Auggie" Villarreal, and Grant Jones-Wiebe. The children learned how a veterinarian uses tests and tools to diagnose a cow's welfare. They poked "inside" Cardboard Cow to touch and see her spine (styrofoam backbone), muscle structure (pink packing "peanuts"), four-compartment stomach (small rubber-, volley-, soccer-, and basket- -balls), and even a fetus (a plush toy calf). Each child was able to palpate for the calf, and to hear their own heartbeat with a stethoscope. There were veterinary tools, models of animals and real cow bones to explore.
More information on the 9th annual Fresno Farm and Nutrition Day can be found at the following: Fresno Bee article, Fresno Bee video, Ag News Network video, UC CalFresh Fresno County blog, PBS video, AgNet West video and article, http://www.vmtrc.ucdavis.edu/blog/?cat=7, and the UCDVMTRC Facebook page.