This year, Kearney had the pleasure of watching four great horned owls mature. We considered this to be a nice addition to the Kearney family. Themis Michailides indicated that owls in ancient Greece represented the bird of wisdom! In fact, when he attended high school in Greece, it was mandatory that all the students wear a hat with an owl-embroidered on the front of the hat.
Kearney staff noticed that a great horned owl was nesting in one of the trees in our north gravel parking lot. When the tree did not have very many leaves, the female parent remained vigilant in the nest with the nestlings. After the young owls became fledglings, the female parent would fly to a nearby tree to watch them. At first, we thought that there were two fledglings, and in the end, we discovered that there were four. All of them became branchers, moving out to the branches at about 6 weeks old. They started to fly about a week later and survived to be independent. Luckily, when one branchling fell out of the nest on a Friday, Gwen Conville, Tayoko Handa and Matthew Fidelibus came by to look at the owls before going home. They captured the fallen young owl and took it to a Critter Creek animal rescue volunteer, who indicated that the bird would probably be flying in a week. The three juveniles that did not fall can still be seen in different areas of Kearney. Please enjoy the following pictures that were taken by many different Kearney personnel, including but not limited to Dan Felts, Matthew Fidelibus, Larry Schwankl, and Laura Van der Staay.
April 9, 2015, Riverview 6th grade science students attended workshops on nematology, conservation agriculture strategies, and integrated pest management. Students were exposed to issues that they could work on if they chose a career pathway resulting in working in a science, technology, engineering and/or math field related to agriculture and natural resources.
Nematology workshop: Andreas Westphal, UC Assistant Cooperative Extension Specialist at UC ANR Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center and in the Department of Nematology at UC Riverside and specializing in pathogens and nematodes affecting plants, increased student awareness of the impact of nematodes. Tom Buzo and Fen Westphal assisted with the workshop. Students learned about the diversity of nematodes in the world; that there are good, bad and very bad nematodes.
Westphal works on nematodes that are bad for plants. Many of these feed on plant roots. Students used microscopes to see some easily recognizable nematodes that were dug up from the soil.
Soil Health workshop: Jeff Mitchell, Cooperative Extension cropping systems specialist at the UC ANR Kearney Agricultural Research & Extension Center and in the Department of Plant Sciences at UC Davis specializing in vegetable cropping systems, irrigation management, soil quality, organic soil amendments, extension models, and postharvest physiology provided a workshop on soil health. Students learned that we will have an additional 3 billion people by 2050. This leads to the problem that the estimated food production demand from 2010 through 2050 will be more than it was for all of history. So, just like caring about our own health, we must care about the health of our natural resources. We are in a race to see if we can improve our food production and have sufficient water to meet the demands of a larger population. Mitchell had samples from an ongoing long-term trial that compares soil quality and yields using conservation agriculture strategies versus traditional tillage practices. Students noted that the conservation agriculture soil samples had more organic matter and held its shape while absorbing water when placed in the water. They noted that the traditional tillage soil samples had low organic matter and fell apart when placed in water.
Integrated Pest Management (IPM) workshop: Laura Van der Staay, Field Research Supervisor 2 at UC ANR Kearney Agricultural Research & Extension Center, provided students with the basic concepts of IPM, with role playing to better understand how effective IPM strategies are at sustaining our food, feed, and fiber production while protecting our natural resources. One of the role playing scenarios was to see how different modes of action can help reduce pesticide resistance in pest populations. Students got the extra treat of seeing some great horned owls (part of nature's IPM) that hatched at Kearney, as well as bones and feathers in the owl pellets.
Students were also provided with a field tour to see current research plots. (photgraphs by William Bowe and KARE personnel)
(The following was taken from Jeff Mitchell's presentation.)
Jeff Mitchell, Cooperative Extension cropping systems specialist at the UC ANR Kearney Agricultural Research & Extension Center and in the Department of Plant Sciences at UC Davis specializing in vegetable cropping systems, irrigation management, soil quality, organic soil amendments, extension models, and postharvest physiology was a presenter at the 2015 STEM conference held at Reedley College on April 25, 2015. About 1300 middle and high school students from the local region came to learn about careers requiring an educational focus on science, technology, engineering, and/or math. Mitchell's workshop was called “SOIL: Get Your Hands Dirty!”
Mitchell shared how he became an extension specialist, emphasizing that broad life experiences can often help you discover your passion and lead to satisfying career choices.
Students learned that we will have an additional 3 billion people by 2050. This leads to the problem that the estimated food production demand from 2010 through 2050 will be 730 Exacal (an Exacal is 1018 calories), which is more than the demand we had over all of human history. Related problems are that we risk having a food production deficit and a water deficit. There is a linear relationship between soil organic matter (%) and available water content (%). So, if we need to increase our food production with finite resources, we need to keep our soil healthy and productive. Whichever country develops strategies and technologies that allow the soil health and soil water availability at the root zone to be maximized will be ahead in the race to feed the world.
Just like caring about our own health, we must care about the health of our natural resources. Mitchell shared that 2015 is the international year of soils with the motto, “healthy soils for a healthy life.” Innovative farmers and scientists are using the concept of soil health, which “has added principles and dimensions of soil biology and agroecology to our understanding and consideration of the overall health of the soil resource base. It is not easy to perfect a no-till or conservation agriculture tillage strategy, but once one succeeds, the soil health approach allows a farmer to “maximize profits and increase production while protecting [his or her] land.”
Students were posed the question, “Are there indications that soil function, soil quality, or soil health is declining in California?” This question can be answered by testable hypotheses, and is a good place for university/federal research support partnerships. “Is there evidence that water intake characteristics of soils might be improved? Is there evidence that the value of soil biodiversity may not be expressed or realized to some sort of optimal extent?... Is there evidence that soil water storage and movement are not what they might be for optimal water use efficiency and benefit?”
Mitchell noted that Dr. Dwayne Beck of the Dakota Lakes Research Farm commented that natural systems…
- Harvest the maximum amount of sunlight
- Leak very few nutrients, including CO2
- Have diversity
- Tend not to export nutrients
- Make maximum use of water and nutrients by having highly developed porosity and Mycorrhizae (VAM) webs
- Do not do tillage
Mitchell also noted that USDA NRCS states that managing for soil health includes…
- Minimizing soil disturbance
- Maximizing the diversity of plants in rotation/cover crops
- Keeping living roots in the soil as much as possible, and
- Keeping the soil covered with plants and plant residues at all times
… and will unlock the secrets of the soil.
Mitchell noted that there are many farmers, university scientists and USDA scientists studying conservation agriculture as a tool to meet the challenges of population growth. Conservation Agriculture
- Has developed to be a technically viable, sustainable, and economic alternative to current crop production practices
- Is gaining acceptance in many parts of the world as an alternative to both conventional agriculture and organic agriculture
- Is the integration of ecological management with modern, scientific, agricultural production
- Is not ‘business as usual,' based primarily or solely on maximizing yields
- It is based on optimizing yields and profits to achieve a balance of agricultural, economic and environmental benefits
- It advocates that the combined economic and social benefits gained from combining production and protecting the environment, including reduced input and labor costs, are greater than those from production alone.
Conservation agriculture strategies include
- Minimal soil disturbance
- Preservation of residues that provide permanent soil cover
- Diverse crop rotations
- Use of cover crops
- Integrated pest management
- Reliance on precision, highly efficient irrigation
- Controlled or limited mechanical traffic over agricultural soils
Mitchell noted that “More with less”…agriculture in the future will have to sustainably produce more food, feed, fiber and energy on less land through more efficient use of natural resources and with minimal impact on the environment in order to meet growing population demands. This will become a global imperative. In 2012, Beck stated that the USDA Agricultural Research Service National Program 216, Agricultural Systems Competitiveness and Sustainability is “The agronomic and ecological equivalent of the moon race of the 1960's…They did not achieve a successful landing by testing small incremental improvements in rocket design. They did it by having a specific goal and teams focused on developing the techniques required to achieve that goal.”
Therefore, if a student's passion is to benefit the world by ensuring that there is a sustainable, safe, affordable and abundant supply of nutritious food, feed, fiber, housing and water, then a career pathway in agricultural engineering, biological engineering, agronomy, soil science, plant science, genetics, entomology, nematology, plant pathology, agricultural economy, and other related STEM fields of study are all good choices.
Students were able to see the benefits of an ongoing conservation tillage trial that is being conducted at West Side Research & Extension Center. There were samples of conventional and conservation tillage soil. Students noted that the conservation tillage soil was able to hold its shape while soaking up water when dipped in the water, and that the conventional tillage soil dispersed into the water.
- Author: Tunyalee A. Martin
It's that time of year when volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions released from nonfumigant pesticide applications can impair air quality. Regulations are in effect that growers and pest control advisers should know about, especially for the San Joaquin Valley starting May 1.
Here are highlights from Pam Wofford, Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR), regarding the San Joaquin Valley. Pest control advisers cannot recommend and growers cannot use:
- high-VOC products containing abamectin, chlorpyrifos, gibberellins, or oxyfluorfen
- between May 1 and October 31, 2015 and again for May – Oct. 2016
- for alfalfa, almond, citrus, cotton, grape, pistachio, or walnut
Review the updated factsheet for nonfumigant regulations, available on the DPR website. Limited, specific exceptions are allowed. For exceptions, a PCA recommendation is required.
No regulations affect the use of low-VOC products. Pest control dealer requirements remain unchanged, as do fumigant VOC requirements.
Nonfumigant VOC emissions regulations for the San Joaquin Valley strive to maintain VOC emissions below the state implementation plan goal of 18.1 tons/day. In 2013, emissions increased to 18.28 tons/day from 16.26 tons/day in 2012.
View the 2013 VOC inventory for a report on all five ozone nonattainment areas on the DPR website. In addition to state implementation goals, there are VOC regulation benchmark goals to reduce emissions by 12 to 20% from emission levels in 1990. In 2013, VOC levels were reduced 11 to 88%.
- Author: Cheryl Reynolds
Spider mites, fruit moth and twig borer larvae, aphids, and bark cankers are just a few pests that can wreak havoc on stone fruit trees. With spring well underway and trees in full bloom and beginning to develop fruit, it's time to monitor and take action before these pests get out of hand.
UC IPM teamed up with UC farm advisors to develop a series of how-to videos that can help growers and pest control advisers monitor for pests and damage and determine if and when treatment is needed.
In one video, Sacramento Area IPM Advisor Emily Symmes gives a brief overview of how to monitor for webspinning spider mites. Spider mites build up in stone fruit trees as the weather warms up. Late spring through summer is the ideal time to monitor for mites and their damage, which includes leaf stippling and webbing. If mites build up too much, leaves can drop, fruit may not fully develop, and branches and fruit can be exposed to sunburn.
Shoot strikes, or dead drooping leaf tips, are often seen on young peach and nectarine trees. In a second video, UC Sutter and Yuba County Farm Advisor Janine Hasey explains how to monitor for shoot strikes and how to distinguish the culprits, oriental fruit moth and peach twig borer. Although Oriental fruit moth and peach twig borer can bore into both foliage and fruit, they cause the most devastating damage by feeding on fruit. Early season monitoring and treatment can prevent future fruit loss.
In plum and prune orchards, leaf curl aphids and mealy plum aphids cause leaves to curl and become distorted. Aphids produce honeydew, which can lead to the development of sooty mold, causing fruit to crack and blacken. Aphids are often present when leaves start to grow. In his video, Rick Buchner, UC farm advisor for Tehama County, discusses how to monitor for aphids and explains how to decide when treatment is warranted.
In a final video, UC Sacramento County Farm Advisor Chuck Ingels teaches how to distinguish Phytophthora root and crown rot from bacterial canker. The two diseases are often confused because they both cause bark cankers. Phytophthora root and crown rot is confined to the lower trunk, but when a bacterial canker infection occurs in the tree trunk, the diseases can often be confused. Bacterial canker can be confirmed by cutting away the outer bark and looking for characteristic red flecks on the inner bark. Correct identification of these diseases will help in choosing a management strategy.