They've established a quarantine zone within a five-mile radius of the ACP find and monitoring has been stepped up in the area. Officials are concerned because of the psyllid's ability to spread huanglongbing disease, should the disease make its way into California. (So far, only one backyard tree has been found in California infected with huanglongbing.)
“If you don't have a vector like a psyllid, no big deal, but when you have a vector alive and moving around, then you have a big problem,” said Beth Grafton-Cardwell, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Entomology at UC Riverside.
The psyllid is established in some areas of Southern California and has been found in commercial orchards in the San Joaquin Valley, where an eradication plan is underway. In San Luis Obispo County, the main focus is on residential areas.
“It's so tiny that people don't even know they have it,” Grafton-Cardwell said. “It's very difficult to completely eradicate it because 60 percent of California [residences] have a citrus tree in their yard, so it can hop, skip, and jump.”
Comprehensive information about Asian citrus psyllid and huanglongbing disease is available on the UC ACP/HLB Distribution and Management website.
Ranchers rely on unirrigated rangeland to feed cattle through the winter. This year, a lack of rain required ranchers to bring in supplemental feed and cull their herds early.
Theresa Becchetti, UC Cooperative Extension advisor in Stanislaus County, said much of the grass growth on rangeland has slowed and is going to seed, though there are some grass species still growing that “can take advantage of the rain we have had," Holland reported.
Becchetti and other experts are collecting vegetation samples in the region, which could be used in requests for federal disaster aid.
A UC research station in Yuba County offers a glimpse of what could be found around much of the state, the story said. As of March 1, dry matter in grasses averaged 400 pounds per acre, compared with a historical average of 685 pounds and a high of 1,590 in rainy 1997.
Hearden based his story on a videotaped presentation by Lynn Ingram, professor in Department of Earth and Planetary Science at UC Berkeley that is part of an online video series offered by the UC California Institute for Water Resources.
“The 20th Century was a wetter century, but this is when all our water development, population growth and agricultural industry took place,” Ingram said.
In order to help farmers cope with the historically low rainfall the last three years, UC scientists, with support from the California Department of Water Resources, have recorded video presentations on high-priority drought topics. Currently 18 videos are available representing nearly 10 hours of research-based information that can be accessed 24/7 from computers and mobile devices. Below is the 17-minute Lynn Ingram video:
But mining water that has been underground for thousands of years has many deeply worried.
"It's our savings account, and we're draining it," said Phil Isenberg of the Public Policy Institute of California, a former Sacramento mayor and assemblyman. "At some point, there will be none left."
Pumping groundwater is unregulated in California. Even Kansas and Texas prevent unlimited pumping, but most California farmers and developers consider well-drilling a private property right, Krieger wrote. They blame environmental laws, such as the protection of endangered fish and the government's unreliable water shipments, for their desperate situation. To reduce groundwater use, they say, more dams are needed to store water to help them get through dry years.
However, the article said, an increasing number of farmers concede that local, regional or state pressure might be the only way to preserve groundwater.
“Groundwater has always been a resource to fall back on when things are tight. But that's not what is going on now,” said David Doll, UC Cooperative Extension advisor in Merced County. “Operations have become more reliant on it.”
One of the reasons farmers have become so dependent on groundwater is a move away from annual crops growing on land that can be fallowed in dry years, to permanent crops like almonds that need water year-round every year. For farmers, the nut crops are more profitable.
The profit from a single acre of almonds can deliver $3,510 a year, Doll said. From 2000 to 2010, the price per pound jumped from 97 cents to $1.67, and the number of acres planted in almonds increases by 20,000 to 30,000 acres every year, according to the Almond Board of California.
The story, which featured USDA plant pathologist Carolee Bull, detailed one of her recent investigations, conducted with Steve Koike, UCCE advisor who specializes in plant pathology. They sought to determine what pathogen was putting spots on broccoli raab and other cruciferous crops in the Salinas Valley.
Once the correct identification and classification of the pathogen was completed, an environmentally sound and affordable way of dealing with it could be developed.
“We create our own puzzles,” Bull said, “and then we solve them.”