- Author: Jeannette E. Warnert
University of California students are taking a long journey through California to trace the state's complicated and critical water supply. The recent graduates and upper-division co-eds from UC Merced, UC Santa Cruz, UC Berkeley and UC Davis are part of the UC Water Academy, a course that combines online training with a two-week field trip for first-hand knowledge about California water.
The tour began June 18 at Lake Shasta, the state's largest reservoir, and followed the water's course to the Sacramento Valley, through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and south along the Delta-Mendota Canal. Since a key water destination is agriculture, the UC Water Academy toured the UC Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension June 23, where research is underway to determine how the state's water supply can be most efficiently transformed into a food supply for Americans.
“You're visiting a place ideal for growing high-quality fruits and vegetables, because of the Mediterranean climate and low insect and disease pressure,” said Jeff Dahlberg, director of the UC KREC.
UC Cooperative Extension water management specialist Khaled Bali joined the students next to his alfalfa research plot, where different irrigation regimens are compared to determine the maximum yield that can be harvested with the minimum amount of water.
“It used to be that the No. 1 objective was to maximize yield,” Bali said. “But with the limited supplies and the cost of water, now the No. 1 objective is to get the maximum economic return. Growers might be better off selling some of their water to other jurisdictions.”
A water tour wouldn't be complete without an introduction to drought research. A recently planted sorghum trial provided the backdrop.
“California is a great place to study drought tolerance,” Dahlberg said, “because you can induce a drought by withholding irrigation.”
The sizable field contains 1,800 plots with 600 sorghum cultivars under three irrigation schemes: one irrigated as usual, one in which water is cut off before the plants flower, and the final one where water is cut off after the plants flower.
“Every week, a drone flies over to collect data on the leaf area, plant height and biomass,” Dalberg said. “Hopefully we will get associations with gene expression and this phenotype data."
Dahlberg and his collaborating researchers believe identifying the genes responsible for drought tolerance in sorghum will help scientists find drought-tolerant genes in other cereal crops – such as wheat, corn, rice and millet. “This will go a long way to feeding the people of the world,” he said.
There is still much to learn about sorghum drought tolerance – is it conferred by the plant's waxy leaves, the way stomata are controlled, accumulation of sugar in the leaves, or a mechanism in the roots?
“These are all questions you will have to answer to feed the world,” Dahlberg said. “That's why I would encourage you to continue studying water. There's a lot for you to get into.”
A third-year earth science student at UC Santa Cruz and a member of the academy, Denise Payan, said the sense of responsibility for the future is not daunting, but encouraging.
“It makes me feel like I can make a difference,” she said. The tour through California is shaping her plans for the future, which may include a career at the intersection of geology and biology.
“This has opened my eyes to a lot of issues,” she said.
The next stop for the UC Water Academy is the vast Tulare Lake basin to learn about groundwater recharge before heading east to the Owens Valley and the shores of Mono Lake. From there the academy turns to the Sierra Nevada to visit San Francisco's water supply, which is collected by Hetch Hetchy Dam. The field trip ends with a two-day rafting trip on the American River.
The UC Water Academy is offered through UC Water and led by UC Merced professor Joshua Viers and UC Cooperative Extension water management specialist Ted Grantham. In addition to the two-week tour, students participated in weekly online meetings and complete a project on communicating California water issues to public stakeholders. Students receive 1 unit of academic credit.
- Author: Stephanie Parreira
Bees are the most important pollinators of California agriculture—helping us grow field crops, fruits, nuts, and vegetables. Honey bees receive most of the credit for crop pollination, but many other kinds of bees play an important role as well. There are 1600 species of bees in California! Take time during Pollinator Week to learn about the different kinds of bees and what you can do to help them flourish.
Why should I care about other kinds of bees?
Bees other than honey bees contribute significantly to crop pollination. For example, alfalfa pollination by alfalfa leafcutter bees is worth $7 billion per year in the United States. Other bees can also boost the result of honey bee pollination—in almond orchards, honey bees are more effective when orchard mason bees are present. The more bee species, the merrier the harvest!
While growers often rent honey bee colonies to pollinate their crops, some wild bees pollinate certain crops even better than honey bees do. For instance, bumble bees are more effective pollinators of tomato because they do something honey bees do not: they shake pollen out of flowers with a technique known as buzz pollination. Likewise, native squash bees are better pollinators of cucurbits—unlike honey bees, they start work earlier in the day, and males even sleep in flowers overnight.
How can I help honey bees and other bees?
When it comes to land management and pest management practices, some bees need more accommodations than others. That's why it is important to know what bees are present in your area and important to your crop, and plan for their needs. Use this bee monitoring guide from the University of California to identify the bees present on your farm.
You can help all kinds of bees by using integrated pest management (IPM). This means using nonchemical pest management methods (cultural, mechanical and biological control), monitoring for pests to determine whether a pesticide is needed, and choosing pesticides that are less toxic to bees whenever possible. Check out the UC IPM Bee Precaution Pesticide Ratings to learn about the risks different pesticides pose to honey bees and other bees, and follow the Best Management Practices To Protect Bees From Pesticides.
Bees also need plenty of food to stay healthy and abundant. Plant flowers that provide nectar and pollen throughout the year. See the planting resources below to find out which plants provide year-round food for specific types of bees.
Like honey bees, native bees need nesting areas to thrive. Bumble bees, squash bees, and other bees nest underground. Ground-nesting bees may require modified tilling practices (such as tilling fields no more than 6 inches deep for squash bees) or no-till management to survive. For aboveground nesters like carpenter bees and mason bees, consider planting hedgerows or placing tunnel-filled wooden blocks around the field. See the habitat resources below for more information about native bee nesting in agricultural areas.
Enjoy your “beesearch!”
Bee Habitat Resources
- Habitat for Bees and Beneficials
- Managing Wild Bees for Crop Pollination
- Native Bee Nest Locations in Agricultural Landscapes
- Farming for Bees: Guidelines for Providing Native Bee Habitat on Farms
- Hedgerow Planting for Pollinators: Central Valley, Central Coast, Southern California
- Conservation Cover for Pollinators: Central Valley, Central Coast, Southern California
- The Integrated Crop Pollination Project: Tools for Growers
- Insect Pollinated Crops, Insect Pollinators and U.S. Agriculture: Trend Analysis of Aggregate Data for the Period 1992–2009.
- Native bees are a rich natural resource in urban California gardens. (PDF)
- Honey bees are more effective at pollinating almonds when other species of bees are present.
A very diverse and large group of farmers, consultants, public agency, and private sector folks participated in a highly successful training session on the benefits of soil management for farming systems at the site of the long-term USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture National Research Initiative (NRI) Project field in Five Points on Tuesday, June 6th. The overflow crowd took in discussions by farmers Scott Park, Jesse Sanchez, Alan Sano, and Tom Willey; UC Davis researchers Randy Southard, Rad Schmidt, Howard Ferris, Sloane Rice; and KARE's own Jeff Mitchell. Attendees also participated in a number of demonstrations of soil function that were provided by NRCSers Sheryl Feit and Kabir Zahangir and were also able to view soil profiles of two of the tillage and cover crop systems that have been evaluated at the site for over 17 years with soil pit trainers, Phil Smith and Rafael Ortiz of NRCS and Randy Southard of UC Davis. The training event was organized to provide evidence and experiences related to the benefits that might be achieved through a dedication to reduced disturbance management and soil biology.
Take-home messages from the training event emphasized the fact that no-till has now been shown to be a successful seeding technique for a range of crops in California, that deliberate and sustained attention to sustaining soil biology through practices such as reduced disturbance, cover crops and compost amendment applications may have functional benefits to farming systems, and that there are great opportunities for expanding the application of such practices to good advantage particularly in Central Valley annual crop systems.
Handout informational materials were provided and may be requested by writing to Jeff Mitchell at email@example.com. Educational videos summarizing progress that has been made at the NRI Project site over the years are also available through CASI.
In addition, tour visits of the long-term site can be scheduled by contacting Mitchell at (559) 303-9689. Now is a particularly good time to visit the site as there are two no-till crops, garbanzos and sorghum, growing simultaneously throughout the entire study field.
As many folks at KARE already know, the California Farm Demonstration Network was recently formed and formally launched in a MOU signing ceremony that was held May 5th at the Winters, CA orchard of Russ Lester. The Network is a partnership of several groups including the California Farm Bureau Federation, the USDA NRCS, the California Association of Resource Conservation Districts, the California Department of Food and Agriculture, UC ANR, and the UC Davis College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences, plus many farmers, local farmer associations, and other private and public sector affiliates. The attached You Tube link provides a brief introductory overview of a small part of the Network's initial efforts.
Since UC ANR is a formal signatory to the MOU that launched this effort and because many of us in ANR are already and will hopefully be involved with the Network's efforts in the future, we would like to actively encourage participation of any and all ANR colleagues who'd like to become involved with the Network in any capacity. At this point, for instance, we welcome your involvement in everything from service on the Network Steering Committee (or other technical and advisory committees that are now being formed) to hands-on collaboration with any of the various farm demonstrations that are going to be started and that you'll have direct roles in starting yourselves. This is frankly a great time for everyone to step up and to register their interest in becoming involved. The overall purpose of the Network is to increase adoption of conservation agriculture, soil health, and climate-smart systems in California. Its goals emphasize the development of water-, climate-, and nutrient-smart systems for California's diverse crop production environments and its focus areas include, but are not limited to the following: participatory learning resulting in the adoption of improved management practices grounded in sound science and experience-based principles, the public, voluntary showcasing of innovative systems developed by experienced farmer leaders, a program of farm demonstration evaluations that employ monitoring, data collection, and analysis of findings, and the use of proven, creative methods for sharing, discussing, and communicating results and findings to scale-up even broader adoption of improved systems.
We sincerely welcome your support of and interest in the Network and hope that colleagues throughout the Division will become involved with it and in particular, if anyone would like to help by serving on the Network's Steering Committee as a delegate of ANR, please step forward and let us know.
The introductory video was edited and produced by two students in the Soils and Biogeochemistry Group at UC Davis, Jessica Chiartas and Irfan Ainuddin.
- Author: Laura J. Van der Staay
The Citrus Research Board and UC Agriculture and Natural resources have partnered to present a sprayer calibration and coverage training for improved California red scale control in citrus. The training will be at Lindcove Research and Extension Center (LREC) Tuesday, June 13, 2017, 7:30 am - 1pm. Four hours of continuing education hours have been requested. The agenda includes: California red scale control issues; spray calibration basics; a field demonstration on the differences in coverage based on two ground speeds; a field demonstration based on two fan settings; calibration measuring flow rate and land rate; the the future of spray technology. The meeting will include lunch. Presenters will include Ali Pourreza, UCCE Advisor, Kearney Ag REC (KARE); Beth Grafton-Cardwell, Dept of Entomology UCR, and KARE, and Director of LREC; Lynn Wunderlich, UCCE Central Sierra Farm Advisor; Matt Strmiska, Adaptiv; and Franz Niederholzer, UCCE Colusa County Farm Advisor.
To register, please contact the Citrus Research Board at 559-738-0246 or register online by June 9th. The cost is $30 per person, and seats are limited to 80 people; 4 hours of other have been approved by CDPR.