Last week the World Ag Expo in Tulare County marked it's 50th year, reported Luis Hernandez in the Visalia Times-Delta. UC Cooperative Extension played a role in creating the event in 1967 and in 2017 was one of 27 organizations that have been involved every year since.
The article featured a picture of Jim Sullilns, who served as director of UC Cooperative Extension in Tulare County from 1993 to 2015. He now volunteers at the World Ag Expo, coordinating educational seminars.
“We always tried to provide an educational component on what's going on in agriculture and what's being done at universities,” he said. “We wanted to make sure it was available. We always had a booth here.”
As a volunteer, Sullins said he is getting a different perspective on the selfless acts of others.
“I see how much volunteers put in out of their own dime,” he said. “I realize how much it is hands on.”
Communities in Southern California are watching their valued landscape palm trees suffer mortal damage from an invasive pest that is making its way northward from Mexico, reported Marty Graham in San Diego Reader. The South American palm weevil lays eggs in the palm tree's crown, where its grubs destroy tissue that holds the fronds.
"The first sign of infestation is seeing the crown droop and turn brown," said Mark Hoddle, UC Cooperative Extension biological control specialist at UC Riverside. In time, the crown can fall off.
"The crowns weigh a couple of hundred pounds and, if they fall on something like a car or house, they can do considerable damage," Hoddle said.
For now, the pest appears to be focusing on Canary Island palms, but have been known to lay eggs in other ornamental palms and date palms.
"I hate to think of what could happen if they reach the palm oases in the Anza-Borrego Desert," Hoddle said of the treasured California native palms that grow in Southern California desert canyons.
South American palm weevil is a relatively large pest capable of flying substantial distances.
"We've tested their flying capacity and our data suggests it can fly quite far," Hoddle said. "It's potential territory in California and the Southwest is enormous."
The only control measure at the moment is repeated treatment with pesticides.
"There are palm trees in the Mediterranean with PVC pipes up the side and a shower head at the top where a pump blasts pesticides every few months," he said. "There are also systemic pesticides you can put in the tree roots."
For more information or to report a possible South American palm weevil infestation, see the Center for Invasive Species Research website.
The peculiar actions prompted the reporter to find out why USDA must continue to communicate with the private sector and the public. He spoke to Glenda Humiston, vice president of UC Agriculture and Natural Resources, who previously served in USDA as undersecretary for agriculture and natural resources during the Clinton Administration and as California director of USDA Rural Development during the Obama Administration.
She said USDA collaborations with the university and the private sector are numerous and complex, involving satellite imagery, invasive pest control, and other issues of vital concern.
"Not only jobs could be lost, but frankly, the food supply could be put at risk," she said. "We are constantly battling pests and diseases and dealing with food safety issues and all of that requires constant communication."
As an example of the critical nature of USDA-public communication, Humiston pointed out that the USDA monitors dams, many of which are 50 to 100 years old, and, in the West, dealing with record rainfall and floods. Without transfer of data between USDA, other government agencies and the public, lives could be lost.
"This isn't just a matter of keeping reporters from doing their jobs," Humiston said. "There are real safety issues at stake here."
California farmers could have reaped substantial profits if the 12-country Trans-Pacific Partnership had become law, reported Robert Rodriguez in the Fresno Bee, but President Trump pulled the U.S. out of the deal.
According to the American Farm Bureau, California fruit and nut producers could have made $562 million in sales through lower tariffs and the elimination of tariffs. Dairy producers could have made $53 million in additional revenue.
Rodriguez spoke with Daniel Sumner, director of the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources' Agricultural Issues Center. Sumner said an outcome of Trump's decision may be for the U.S. to negotiate individual deals with Pacific nations.
"Vietnam could prove to be very useful," Sumner said. In Vietnam, a growing middle class is making the country a more attractive destination for California agricultural products.
Trump also promised during the campaign to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which Sumner said could prove difficult because Canada and Mexico are key California trade partners.
"When you unilaterally open a trade agreement that has been successful, it can be very scary," Sumner said. "It is a huge market for California."
Rising temperatures appear to be reducing the number of hours tree crops in the San Joaquin Valley are subjected to chill during the winter, a critical factor in producing a profitable yield, reported Ezra David Romero on Valley Public Radio, KVPR-FM.
Pistachios, for example, require temperatures between 32 and 45 degrees for about 700 hours each winter, but for the past four years have had less than 500 chill hours.
UC Davis researcher Hyunok Lee recently published a study about climate change impacts on agriculture in UC Agriculture and Natural Resources' peer-reviewed journal California Agriculture. The study found that winter temperatures are increasing more than any other time of year. Her modeling looks at the year 2050 in Yolo County.
“Our agriculture will continue,” Lee said. “But if you look at . . . like 20 years or 30 years. The pattern may change a little bit, crops may move a little bit north.”
Romero spoke to UC Cooperative Extension farm advisor Craig Kallsen, who holds the UC Cooperative Extension Presidential Chair for Tree Nut Genetics. Kallsen is conducting trials aimed at finding pistachio varieties with novel nut, tree growth and yield characteristics, and varieties that produce a high yield even under low-chill conditions.
"We're trying to use the other species of pistachios actually to see if we can come up with something that has a low chill requirement. It's pretty hypothetical at this stage,” Kallsen told Romero. “We made quite a few crosses this spring and we actually hope to put a trial in a low chill area.”
David Doll, UC Cooperative Extension farm advisor in Merced County, is studying other tactics to improve winter chill, such as using overhead sprinklers to cool the trees and painting them white with liquid clay to reflect sunlight.
"So this is something that could impact a lot of farmers over the next 10, 20, 30 to 40 years,” Doll said. “And in fact it's already impacting farmers on random given years across the state."