California Gov. Jerry Brown has included $7.5 million in the 2017-18 budget to launch the Healthy Soils Initiative, reported Bob Gore in a commentary on Techwire.net.
The story said CDFA secretary Karen Ross announced the development at a recent meeting, saying "We're starting from the ground up."
Carlos Suarez of the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service was also quoted in Gore's story. Suarez said the funding puts "soils back into the forefront of agriculture. Feeding the people is the real issue. We have to take care of our soils."
Jenny Lester Moffitt, CDFA deputy secretary and walnut farmer, is the point person for the Governor's Healthy Soils Initiative, which formally starts Jan. 19. Moffitt said the $7.5 million will fund research and demonstration projects so the "UC Ag and Natural Resources engine will rev up."
California's Healthy Soils Action Plan notes that the new initiative will "provide boots-on-the-ground" research, education and technical support to the agricultural industry.
"Utilizing partners such as Natural Resource Conservation Services, University of California Cooperative Extension and Resource Conservation Districts, (the initiative will) enhance and expand technical assistance and outreach activities to distribute new and existing management practice information to farmers and ranchers," the action plan says on Page 5.
When people don't think about the impact of their decision-making on others, it can ultimately lead to tragedy - the tragedy of the commons, said UC Agriculture and Natural Resources researcher Mark Lubell during an interview on Jefferson Public Radio. Lubell, director of the Center for Environmental Policy and Behavior at UC Davis, studies human decision-making in the context of the environment.
"People think about what happens on their private land and make their private decisions, but they don't think about how their private decisions affect others," Lubell said. "You see this all the time with human decision-making."
An example he uses with his students is how they and their roommates manage their shared kitchens.
"When one person's dishes pile up, it impacts the others," Lubell said. "I ask how they would make rules to solve the problem."
Lubell said the parties need to collectively develop a policy that is mutually beneficial.
"If we didn't have that capacity, we would be in big trouble," Lubell said.
Cooperation tends to be the norm, however the media is more likely to cover cases of conflict, so they tend to get more attention.
Despite hot summers and cold winters, UC Cooperative Extension specialist Mary Lu Arpaia believes the San Joaquin Valley could be home to expanded California avocado production, reported Gregory Barber on Wired.com.
Currently, most of the state's avocados are grown in the mild coastal areas of San Diego and Ventura counties, where consumer-favorite Hass avocados flourish. But high land value and low water quality are limitations on the industry. The vast and fertile San Joaquin Valley beckons, but summer temperatures that frequently top 100 degrees and occasional winter freezes aren't ideal for Hass.
Arpaia has planted a variety of avocado cultivars at the UC Lindcove Research and Extension Center in eastern Tulare County to determine which trees produce creamy, nutty avocados, and maintain other desirable traits - such as high yield and small tree size - while subjected to the valley's climate extremes.
The California Avocado Commission funded the orchard's establishment.
"The industry wasn't really too keen about me putting a site here (at Lindcove)," Arpaia said. "But I'm stubborn and that's why it's here."
Each year three new avocado varieties are planted in the orchard. Though the breeding process is slow, Arpaia dreams that one day avocados will be sold in supermarkets much like the wide variety of apples.
"We're probably 20 years behind the apple industry at this point," Arpaia said. "Do we have anything out here that's going to achieve that dream?"
Finding an avocado variety ideal for valley temperatures has other benefits. It would give citrus farmers another option should their industry be threatened by Huanglongbing (HLB) disease. Already, the pest that spreads HLB, Asian citrus psyllid, is established in some parts of the valley and spreading. Once a tree is infected with HLB, it cannot be cured.
“Growers have made good money on avocados,” Arpaia said. “In the San Joaquin Valley, water is relatively cheap and we have better water quality than San Diego County. There are good, well-drained soils. Avocados' frost sensitivity is similar to lemons. If farmers have property where they can grow lemons, they could try avocados.”
Feral cats are thought to be responsible for the extinction of no less than 20 native Australian mammal species, reported Weston Williams in the Australia edition of the Christian Science Monitor. The population density is smaller than the density in North America and Europe, but their impact on the wildlife Down Under is of grave concern.
Australia is not alone. A 2013 study found that cats kill as many as 3.7 billion birds and 20.7 billion small mammals in the U.S. every year.
"All outdoor cats can pose risks to wildlife," said Niamh Quinn, UC Cooperative Extension human-wildlife interactions advisor based at the UC South Coast Research and Extension Center in Irvine. "Keeping cats indoors limits their risk to native species."
According to the story, many conservationists consider cats to be an invasive species and "tough measures" are required protect native animals from their carnivorous habits.
"Currently, trap-neuter-return (TNR) programs are not effective at curbing the population," Quinn said. "Mathematical models of feral cat populations indicate that 71 to 94 percent of a population must be neutered for the populations to decline, assuming there is no immigration . . . Current TNR programs are not operating at this rate."
In Australia, the federal government plans to cull 2 million cats over five years.
California's years-long drought is easing up, with storms delivering rain and snow that has exceeded "normal" for the state, reported Jed Kim for the Marketplace Sustainability Desk. Kim interviewed Dan Sumner, the director of the UC Agricultural Issues Center, a UC Agriculture and Natural Resources statewide program that focuses on such topics such international markets, invasive pests and diseases, and rural development.
Sumner shared a message of hope during the two-minute Marketplace clip.
"So far at least, things are close enough to normal that farmers aren't going to make drastic changes in either their planting decisions or their irrigation decisions," Sumner said.
The abundant rainfall this year will ease pressure on the state's groundwater reservoirs, which have been tapped extensively during the drought to keep crops alive when surface water was unavailable.
"What that does is give us a little cushion in terms of planning for long-term changes," Sumner said.
Kim said the state may need to plan for a future with more limited water resources, "a future that may come sooner rather than later."