The subject was raised recently by two University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) experts in a position paper they published on their website, the story said. Don Hodel, UC ANR Cooperative Extension advisor in LA County, and Dennis Pittenger, UC ANR Cooperative Extension area environmental horticulturist at UC Riverside, said landscapes and turf offer tremendous benefits to residents, communities and the environment.
"Nobody thought this out," Hodel said.
The LA Weekly article also quoted Loren Oki, the UC ANR Cooperative Extension specialist for landscape horticulture based at UC Davis. Among the obvious problems created by California's turf-removal program, Oki said, is "encouraging people to plant during the heat of the summer, which is the worst time" for new plants to survive in the ground. He predicts many of the low-water plants will not survive the late-summer heat.
Another UC Davis scientist, biochemistry professor William Horwath, raised the potential for turf removal to kill the "decomposition community" that lives in soil.
When cities and homeowners remove vegetation from land, that diminishes the diversity of the soil biology, especially the larger fauna such as worms, which feed off of the droppings of leaves and other materials from plants.
"If you are not growing anything, just gravel or mulch, you'll be losing a lot of worms, and you will at the same time be losing a lot of carbon from under the soil back into the atmosphere," Horwath said.
Oki was one of the authors of a recent post on the UC ANR California Institute for Water Resources blog, The Confluence, that provides practical, well-thought-out advice on drought-tolerant landscaping in California.
"A variety of options exist for gardeners implementing landscaping changes," the article says. "Trading in your turf for concrete, rock, or artificial turf are options. However, none of these selections promote healthy soils and other ecosystem services. In fact, all of these options can be problematic because they create a heat island effect and may have water infiltration or runoff issues."
The story details seven strategies for conserving water while maintaining a living landscape.
Even though California's majestic oak trees are generally considered drought tolerant, the last four years of well-below-average rainfall are taking a toll, reported the Sierra Sun Times.
"In some parts of the state, oaks are being deprived of water for as long as nine months, creating extreme water stress," said Greg Giusti, a forest and wildlands advisor for UC Agriculture and Natural Resources. Giusti is headquartered in the UC ANR Cooperative Extension office in Mendocino County.
Giusti and Kris Randal, the UC Master Gardener coordinator for Mariposa County, suggest that California residents with oaks on their property give the trees a good soaking once a month during the summer.
The water should be applied around the drip line - the area below the outstretched branches - but not near the trunk. A permeable soaker hose is an ideal tool for slow application over the wide area. Allow the water to run until it has soaked down to a depth of 12 to 18 inches, which can be detected with a long probe such as a screwdriver. "If it comes up with signs of moisture at the tip, you're good," the article says.
Randal said it is important to let the soil dry out completely between waterings, because oaks are susceptible to root fungus that can grow in warm, damp soil.
Even if water is unavailable and the leaves begin to turn brown or fall, the experts suggest waiting for spring before considering removing the tree.
"If you tree leafs out, it's still alive," Randall said. "And in this drought, give it extra time to leaf out."
- Author: Pamela Kan-Rice
Covering the ongoing drought, Peter King wrote a story in the Los Angeles Times about different approaches being taken around the state to manage with less water. From desalination facilities to solar-powered telemetry towers to help improve irrigation efficiency in an almond orchard to water storage projects, the former UCOP news director highlighted a number of efforts to plan for a drier future. He ended up at UC ANR's South Coast Research and Extension Center, looking at the landscape project built for studying plant types and urban water use.
As the drought persists, requests from municipal landscapers and private gardeners to tour the project have picked up, Tammy Majcherek, a UCCE community educator in Orange County, told King.
“I am not sure the old mindset has changed,” she said, “but I think maybe we are beginning to turn the corner.”
Members of the public will have a chance to tour the faux neighborhood on Sept. 26 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. during the Urban Landscape & Garden Education Expo at South Coast Research and Extension Center. The event is free. Visitors will get to learn about drought friendly plants and how to reduce landscape water use. For more information, visit http://screc.ucanr.edu/?calitem=272378&g=68933.
The press conference was conducted by telephone to accommodate media around the state.
Humiston said she will look for ways to expand economic opportunities for farming industries and increase the number of advisors and specialists in UC Cooperative Extension, reported Tim Hearden in Capital Press.
“I am a long-time, very strong supporter of Cooperative Extension, its mission and what it does for all the people in California,” she said. “We definitely need more advisors in the field as well as specialists on the campuses to find answers to the really complex questions (growers face)."
Humiston said she will be working on funds development and finding new resources for ANR, not just money but also new partners and opportunities for collaboration.
"We've just had some very exciting collaborations with commodity groups," Humiston said. "The rice folks have put together money for a position and we're looking at some endowed chairs. I think you're going to see us partnering more with commodity groups and stakeholders."
Humiston said she met with UC President Janet Napolitano her first day on the job, and was asked to be active on the UC-Mexico Initiative, UC Global Food Initiative and the UC Sustainability Initiative.
"I suggested I also be active on the UC Technology Initiative because of the way technology and agriculture come together," Humiston said.
Hillman spoke to Mary Bianchi, the director of UC ANR Cooperative Extension in San Luis Obispo County. She said most growers already have many components the act requires, such as their nutrient management plan and their irrigation plan.
"It's a matter of understanding what additional information they might need to be documenting on an ongoing basis and putting all the information together in one place," Bianchi said.
The FDA's Food Safety Modernization Act will likely require producers to take part in eight hours of continuing education on food safety, so UC ANR is making plans to offer the training.
"The Produce Safety Alliance from Cornell has worked with many extension people across the country to draft a curriculum that includes information we consider to be important for growers across the United States," Bianchi said. "That needs to be adapted for our growers here in California, of course, and we'll work with that information and hopefully with other agricultural organizations to make sure that our growers have access to the education that they need to comply."