The article focused on the Earth Day festivities at UC Merced, but the water-savings tips came from David Doll, UC Cooperative Extension advisor in Merced County. A large fraction of home water use happens in the yard. Doll said reducing lawn watering time and fixing broken sprinklers are important first steps to water conservation.
Grass lawn can use more water than many agricultural crops - including almonds, walnuts and tomatoes. Generally residents can cut back lawn irrigation and keep it green.
Doll shared a simple test to prevent excessive landscape irrigation. Pinch the soil between the thumb and index finger. If dirt crumbles and falls away, it needs water. But if it forms into a ribbon one-inch wide or longer, it can go another day or two without water, Miller reported.
Water conservation is part of the citizen science project being launched May 8 by UC Cooperative Extension to mark its 100th anniversary. On the Day of Science and Service all Californians are asked to report their water saving strategies. To participate, go to http://beascientist.ucanr.edu.
Mitchell, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Plant Sciences at UC Davis, took Johnson to research fields and farms to show progress being made toward more sustainable production practices in California row-crop farming. Johnson turned the visit into a 1,300-word feature that included links to conservation agriculture research Mitchell has published in California Agriculture journal.
"There's a soil scientist at Berkeley, Garrison Sposito, who says it may be just once or twice in a century that agriculture has an opportunity to re-create itself in a revolutionary way," Mitchell said. "... I think that's what's happening with conservation agriculture. It's energizing for me to wake up to that every day.”
Mitchell and his colleagues are proponents of four tenants of conservation farming:
- Don't disturb the soil
- Maximize the diversity of plants, insects, fungi and microbiota
- Keep living roots in the soil
- Keep the ground covered with plant residues
Mitchell took the writer to the UC West Side Research and Extension Center in Five Points to see research plots that have been farmed continuously with conservation techniques. The beds "have not been worked in 15 years," Mitchell said. “There's more organic material going into the soil, more carbon and more nitrogen. There's more capture of water, and the shade and residue reduces soil water evaporation.”
As the years passed, the soil improved. Instead of the farm equipment needing to break up clots of compacted soil, the researchers found they were planting into soft, fine-grained earth, continuously tilled by worms and roots and microorganisms.
Mitchell learned that residues and no-till practices can reduce irrigation water needs by 16 percent, as well as cut down dust emissions and store extra carbon in the soil.
Fitchette opened his story with the plight of ag research at the UC West Side Research and Extension Center near Five Points. Many of the farmers in the area will receive no surface water allocation this year; neither will the research center.
The facility can pull water from a deep well, but it is not enough nor is the water quality adequate for all the farming operations, said Bob Hutmacher, UC Cooperative Extension specialist and center director. He said scientists at the station must cut back their water use this year by 25 percent.
“I can speak for myself: I have about a half dozen cotton projects and a sorghum project, along with a sesame project and a couple of other things I'm working on,” he said. “I'm downsizing most of them to the greatest degree I can and I'm going to cancel one of them.”
One trial that will not go forward at West Side is an almond variety trial. However, UC Cooperative Extension advisors in other areas are working with the Almond Board to keep the research underway. UCCE advisors Joe Connell will oversee the Chico State almond variety trial, Roger Duncan the Salida trial, and Gurreet Brar the Madera County trial.
The Western Farm Press Story included drought-related ag research news from myriad UCCE academics:
- Duncan said his work with fruit and nut crops has not been negatively impacted by the drought.
- David Doll, UCCE advisor in Merced County, said the increased reliance on groundwater has ruined several orchard nitrogen trials because the groundwater in northern Merced has high rates of nitrate nitrogen, which acts as a nitrogen fertilizer.
- Dan Munk, UCCE advisor in Fresno County, said he will continue putting off alfalfa trials at the WSREC “indefinitely until a more secure water supply is available.”
- Scott Stoddard, UCCE advisor in Merced County, reports positive and negative impacts from the drought. He won't do tomato research at West Side REC, but will continue work in sweet potatoes to determine how little water they need to produce a reasonable crop.
- Chris Greer, UCCE advisor in Sutter, Yuba, Colusa and Glenn counties, said some rangeland trials were impacted by the lack of rain.
- Bruce Lampinen, UCCE specialist in the Department of Plant Sciences at UC Davis, has seen his orchard trials in Arbuckle severely impacted by the drought.
On her way to Kearney, Napolitano viewed California cropland, rivers and reservoirs that have been impacted by three years of drought.
"There are areas that clearly are being allowed to remain fallow due to drought, there are hills that should be green that are brown, and there are reservoirs where you can clearly see the water mark," she said. "Through the extension service we will work with growers throughout the state to manage this the best way possible."
Ryan Jacobsen, Fresno County Farm Bureau executive director, said growers' relationship with the UC's extension field offices has historically played a big role in the success of the Valley's agricultural economy, Furfaro reported. Advances made in the lab quickly make it to the farms, he said, in large part because of how well regional centers work with farmers.
Alec Rosenberg of the UC Newsroom filed a detailed account of President Napolitano's visit to the San Joaquin Valley. The article said she met with the President's Advisory Commission on Agriculture and Natural Resources to discuss 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 toured the Kearney REC, where she learned about UC's role in helping establish a blueberry industry in the San Joaquin Valley, efforts to preserve the safety of pistachios and other nut crops, and work underway in the center's mosquito lab.
Napolitano noted that she recently made ANR vice president Barbara Allen-Diaz a direct report to her because agricultural issues matter to California and the world, Rosenberg reported.
“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,” said Allen-Diaz, who accompanied Napolitano on the tour.
Napolitano, UC's Kearney center focus on drought relief
Benjamin Genta, UCLA Daily Bruin
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.