Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources
Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources
Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources
University of California
Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources

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Winners named in ASABE ag robotics competition

Ali Pourreza, left, congratulates China Agricultural University associate professor Xin Wang and the CAU Dream Team, winner of the 2018 ASABE Robotics Student Design Competition advanced division. ASABE President Steven Searcy joins them on far right.
China Agricultural University (CAU) took home top honors in the 2018 ASABE Robotics Student Design Competition, held July 31 in Detroit. CAU teams won in both the advanced and beginner divisions.

Among the advanced teams, the University of Georgia, University of Florida and UC Davis finished second, third and fourth, respectively. Zhejiang University and Clemson University claimed those runner-up spots among the beginner teams. The beginners' race was especially tight, with the top two teams achieving perfect scores. CAU used speed to edged out Zhejiang, completing the required technical task one second faster than Zhejiang. Teams from Cal Poly (6th place) and UC Merced (7th place) also competed on the beginners board.

China Agricultural University also won the beginners division.

“All the teams incorporated innovative solutions in their robot designs,” says ASABE member Alireza Pourreza, University of California Cooperative Extension agricultural mechanization specialist, who coordinated the 2018 event.

This year's challenge involved identification, sorting, and harvesting of apples. The robots were required to autonomously harvest “apples” on a field measuring 8 feet by 8 feet. The robots identified and selected eight mature apples (red ping-pong balls), removed and disposed of eight diseased or rotten apples (blue ping-pong balls) and left eight immature apples (green ping-pong balls) on the tree.

CAU Dream Team's robot picked "apples" in two lanes at once. Photo by Michael Gutierrez.

"China Agricultural University's Dream team presents one of the more prodigious designs in competition, covering two lanes at once and picking apples flawlessly," tweeted Michael Gutierrez, a University of Florida Extension water specialist, @IrriGatorUF https://twitter.com/IrriGatorUF/status/1024285164682264577.

“The increasing interest in the ASABE robotics competition every year reflects a global response to the need of automation and robotics in agriculture,” explains Pourreza, who is based at UC Davis. “We aim to motivate young agricultural engineers to engage more with robotics and acquire an early-career experience that will prepare them for the future of agriculture and smart farming.”

Cal Poly, UC Merced and UC Davis also competed in the 2018 ASABE Robotics Student Design Competition.

Fifteen university teams from the U.S., Canada and China competed in this year's contest. Sponsored by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, the ASABE Robotics Student Design Competition allows undergraduate and graduate students to develop skills in robotic systems, electronics and sensing technologies by simulating a robotics solution to a common agricultural process.

Founded in 1907, ASABE is an international scientific and educational organization dedicated to the advancement of engineering applicable to agricultural, food and biological systems.

MORE INFORMATION: 2018 ASABE robotics competition website: https://www.asabe.org/Awards-Competitions/Student-Awards-Competitions-Scholarships/Robotics-Student-Design-Competition

Video of 2016 competition: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U1ymUiCr3Mc

Video of 2017 competition: https://vimeo.com/250379863

Posted on Friday, August 3, 2018 at 1:24 PM
Tags: Alireza Pourreza (3), robotics (1)
Focus Area Tags: Innovation

Cities in California inland areas must make street tree changes to adapt to future climate

Many common street trees now growing in the interior of California are unlikely to persist in the warmer climate expected in 2099, according to research published in the July 2018 issue of the journal Urban Forestry & Urban Greening.

“Urban foresters in inland cities of California should begin reconsidering their palettes of common street trees to prepare for warmer conditions expected in 2099 due to climate change,” said the study's co-author, Igor Lacan, UC Cooperative Extension environmental horticulture advisor in the Bay Area.

Common trees in Coastal California cities appear to be better suited to withstand the 2099 climate.

Urban foresters in inland cities of California should begin reconsidering their palettes of common street trees to prepare for climate change.

“Our research shows that some trees now lining the streets of cities like Fresno, Stockton and Ukiah are likely to perform poorly in 2099,” Lacan said. “Those cities need to look at the conditions – and trees – now found in El Centro, Barstow and Fresno respectively.”

To reach these conclusions, Lacan and co-author, professor Joe McBride of UC Berkeley, used space-for-time substitution. They compared the most common street tree species in cities representing each of the 16 California climate zones with trees in cities that currently have climates that approximate the expected warmer conditions in the 16 cities 80 years from now.

For example, Eureka can expect a climate like Berkeley's today; Fresno's climate will resemble the climate of El Centro today. (Find the complete list of cities below.) The corresponding cities were determined with climate predictions from Cal-Adapt, which synthesizes California climate change scenarios to reach a consensus view of the magnitude of climatic warming.

Igor Lancan, UC Cooperative Extension urban horticulture advisor. (Photo: Evett Kilmartin)

“We used the mid-range models,” Lacan said. “It's very reasonable to say the warming predicted by the model we used is already ‘baked in,' regardless of any mitigation efforts. While we should take measures to prevent even greater warming – mostly by reducing the use of fossil fuels – this study aims to help adapt California urban forests to the warming that can be reasonably expected to occur.”

Lacan said he and McBride were surprised to find that coastal cities and their warm equivalents contain most of the same common urban tree species, while the warm equivalents of inland cities seemed to lack most and, in some cases, all of the common trees there today.

“It's really a sharp distinction,” Lacan said. “Perhaps they were lucky, but coastal cities are better positioned for the climate of 2099 than the inland cities.”

Climate zone

City

Corresponding city
(approximates climate
in 2099)

1

Eureka

Berkeley

2

Ukiah

Fresno

3

Berkeley

Santa Ana

4

King City

Stockton

5

Santa Maria

Santa Ana

6

Santa Monica

King City

7

San Diego

Santa Ana

8

Santa Ana

Burbank

9

Burbank

Fresno

10

Riverside

Barstow

11

Yuba City

El Centro

12

Stockton

Barstow

13

Fresno

El Centro

14

Barstow

El Centro

15

El Centro

Furnace Creek

16

Susanville

Barstow

For a copy of the complete research report email Igor Lacan, ilacan@ucanr.edu.

Posted on Friday, August 3, 2018 at 8:38 AM
Focus Area Tags: Environment

Poultry owners asked to monitor their birds for virulent Newcastle disease

Commercial and backyard poultry owners are asked to be attentive to their animals' health to help prevent the spread of the lethal and contagious virulent Newcastle disease now raging in Southern California, reported Bob Rodriguez in the Fresno Bee.

Symptoms of the disease include sneezing, coughing, green watery diarrhea, neck twisting, paralysis, decreased egg production and swelling around the eyes and neck, according to Maurice Pitesky, UC Cooperative Extension poultry specialist.

He said the popularity of backyard chickens is one of the challenges to controlling the disease. He estimates there are about 100,000 homes with poultry, with each home averaging five chickens.

Raising backyard poultry is increasing in popularity.

"That is a lot more than in 2002, when we had the last outbreak (of virulent Newcastle disease)," Pitesky said. In 2002, the disease started in a backyard flock and eventually spread to 22 commercial poultry farms, killing 3.2 million birds.

"While people have the best of intentions, unfortunately a lack of biosecurity practices in people's backyards is one of the contributing factors of the disease spreading," Pitesky said.

Birds can become infected by coming into contact with other birds that are carrying the disease or by humans that carry the disease in their clothes or shoes. Pitesky said the disease also spreads when people purchase birds from a private party who may not be able to verify the bird is disease free.

He recommends buying from a hatchery or feed store that is affiliated with the National Poultry Improvement Plan, an organization that focuses on disease control.

“The goal is to be preventative,” Pitesky said.

If backyard chickens appear ill, owners should call the California Department of Food and Agriculture's State Bird Hotline at (866) 922-2473.

For more information on the disease, see the Virulent Newcastle Disease Outbreak Information and Resources page Pitesky has posted to his website, UC Cooperative Extension Poultry.

Posted on Thursday, August 2, 2018 at 11:45 AM
Focus Area Tags: Family

Thinking about going into the cattle business? New UC cost study for beef cattle operation helps ranchers plan

Beef cows and calves graze near the ocean at Swanton Pacific Ranch in Santa Cruz County. Photo by Rebecca Pulcrano

A new study on the costs and returns of a beef cattle operation has been released by the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources' Agricultural Issues Center. The estimated costs can help ranchers and land management agencies on California's Central Coast make business decisions.

“This cost study can be a valuable tool for someone who is thinking about going into the cattle business because it will help them think through the various categories of costs, and aid in developing a budget and business plan,” said Devii Rao, University of California Cooperative Extension livestock and natural resources advisor for San Benito, Monterey and Santa Cruz counties.

Based on the typical costs of a 300-head cow-calf operation, the study estimates costs of an owner-operated beef cattle operation located on leased rangeland in the Central Coast region of California. The cost calculations in this study are based on economic principles that include all cash costs and uses the rental cost per animal unit month (AUM) as a cost of pasture.

“The study can also be used by a seasoned rancher,” said Rao, a co-author of the study. The first cost table has an empty column titled, “Your Costs.” This is probably one of the most useful pages for the experienced rancher.  Producers can use this column to enter their own costs and compare them to the costs in the study. It will help them think about where they can make changes in their operation to reduce costs.”

The analysis is based upon a hypothetical cow-calf operation, where the cattle producer leases all rangeland. The “typical” ranch in the Central Coast is an owner-operated cow-calf operation using multiple private and public leases. The practices described represent production practices and materials considered typical of a well-managed ranch in the region.

Input and reviews for this study were provided by ranch operators, UC ANR Cooperative Extension farm advisors and other agricultural associates. A narrative describes the assumptions used to identify current costs for the cow-calf herd, material inputs, cash and non-cash overhead. A ranging analysis table shows profits over a range of average market prices. Other tables show the costs and revenue for production, monthly summary of costs and revenue, and the annual equipment, investment and business overhead costs.

“This study will also be of value to land management agencies that lease their lands for cattle grazing,” she said. “Many agency staff are not familiar with the different aspects of cow/calf operations. For land management agency staff, the most useful portion of the study is likely to be the Operations Calendar, which summarizes the timeline for breeding, branding, vaccinating, calving, shipping, etc.”

Sample Costs for Beef Cattle – Central Coast Region – 2018” can be downloaded for free from the UC Davis Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics website at https://coststudies.ucdavis.edu. Sample cost of production studies for many other commodities are also available at the website.

For additional information or an explanation of the calculations used in the studies, contact Donald Stewart at the Agricultural Issues Center at (530) 752-4651 or destewart@ucdavis.edu.

For information about beef cattle production in the Central Coast region, contact Rao at drorao@ucanr.edu.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted on Wednesday, August 1, 2018 at 7:45 AM

Hot weather tips for the summer garden

Most Californians don't have a desert landscape designed to withstand the limited water and high temps like the desert garden display at the UC Santa Cruz botanical garden. (Photo: Lauren Snowden)

This week much of California is under a heat advisory or excessive heat warning, with high temperatures estimated to range from 90 to 108 degrees. Many home gardeners are wondering how they can help their plants, trees or shrubs survive the intense summer heat.

“We are getting a lot of inquiries around the state from people worried about how the extreme temperatures are going to affect the plants or trees in their yards,” said Missy Gable, director of the UC Master Gardener Program. “With a little extra planning, you can help your garden beat the heat and survive the hot summer weather.”

UC Master Gardener volunteers are available to help answer gardening questions and provide advice on gardening during the hot summer months. Here are four quick and easy ways to help make sure your plants and trees not only survive, but thrive.

  1. Don't fertilize plants or trees during hot summer months 
    Fertilizers aim to increase the growth of plants and trees. When a fertilizer is applied, especially one that is high in nitrogen, a plant is triggered to produce more green growth. An increase in growth means an increase in water and nutrient needs. During hot spells, it is especially hard to keep up with plant water and nutrient needs as soils dry out quickly and water may not be readily available. Save your plants (and yourself!) from stress by stopping fertilizer application before hot weather hits.

  2. Water trees deeply and less frequently
    It sounds counter intuitive to water trees less frequently, but this is exactly what UC environmental horticulture experts recommend. “When watering trees you want to consider the roots below the tree and you want to encourage a network of deep roots. If you are only watering for short periods at a higher frequency, the roots will remain shallow since that is where the tree finds its water supply,” said Janet Hartin, UC ANR environmental horticulture advisor. “Deep roots mean a healthier tree that is less susceptible to disease.”

    How much water a plant needs depends on the specific plant, how long it has been in the ground, and the type of soil where it is planted. In general, young plants or newly planted plants require more water than older more established plants. Clay soils absorb water slowly so watering can take longer but is typically done less frequently. This is in contrast to sandy soils that moisten and drain quickly. Typically, watering sandy soils take less time but has to be done more frequently. A Landscape Irrigation Scheduling Worksheet from the California Center for Urban Horticulture (CCUH) can be used to help calculate and determine an annual irrigation schedule for one irrigation zone.

    Mulch is a beautiful compliment to your landscape – not only is it aesthetic but it provides a valuable service to your soil.


  3. Mulch, mulch, and more mulch
    When temperatures get extreme, having a good layer of mulch prevents soil from heating up excessively and loosing water to evaporation. Apply 4 inches of a medium shred bark mulch to insulate the soil. This protects the fine roots that plants use to feed from the surrounding soil. Mulch also helps maintain healthy soil ecology with earthworms and other de-composers that promote nutrients and oxygen in soil. Finally, mulch will pay for itself by maintaining a more consistent soil moisture so you can water less and have better success with your plants. Be sure to maintain the depth of your mulch to ensure you can benefit from all the services it provides.

    An important part of gardening is planning for activities in the garden for future months. When the temperatures are too hot to spend outdoors, you can always start to develop a garden or planting plan. (Photo: Melissa Womack)



     
  4. Wait to introduce new plants or trees until the fall
    In gardening, timing is everything. New plants, whether grown in ground from seed or planted in your landscape from a container, have smaller root systems than more mature plants or plants that have been growing in your landscape for some time. Because root systems on new plants are smaller and need time to develop, these plants require more water more frequently. New plants introduced into a landscape during hot summer months have a significantly higher rate of failure. In California, it is best to introduce new plants in fall when the weather gets cooler. Winter rains can help keep new plants watered so they can establish and thrive in the future when temperatures are high and rainfall is scarce.

Always remember that you should take precautions for yourself while gardening in the summer months, especially during a heat wave. Remember to drink plenty of water and always have at least one quart of water per hour of outdoor activity. Limit time spent outdoors during peak temperatures and schedule any active time during cooler portions of the day. Always wear light loose clothing, a brimmed hat, and sunscreen as protection.  

Thankfully we're not trying to garden on the surface of the sun. Unfortunately, sometimes it can feel like it for us and for our plants.  Stay cool with these tips and consider planning for the fall to be an important part of your summer gardening activity.   

Posted on Monday, July 30, 2018 at 9:05 AM
Focus Area Tags: Yard & Garden

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