From the UC Blogosphere...
Madera County organic farmer Tom Willey weighed in yesterday with what I would describe as cautious appreciation for the decision to dedicate 10 acres at the UC Kearney Research and Extension Center to research on organic farming. Willey’s comments were published in the weekly newsletter “What’s Growin’ On,” which accompanies the boxes of fruit and vegetables that go to his farm’s “subscribers.”
Willey runs a Community Supported Agriculture program, in which consumers pay a monthly subscription to receive a weekly box of fruit and vegetables. Here's a link to his farm's Web site. Since I am a subscriber, I receive the delicious fresh produce and the newsletter, which includes an update on the farm, recipes featuring fruit and vegetables in the box, and Willey’s column, “Farther Afield.” In the column, he notes that, when asked to comment about the land newly designated for organic research, he has “weighed my words judiciously.” “California’s organic farmers . . . over the last quarter century have conducted their own ‘bootstrap’ research and shared it through a uniquely open network. A conundrum with organic research is that wholistic growing systems mimic the multilayered complexity of natural ecologies and resist simple analysis for single input response so common to conventional agriculture’s inquiry.” He closes: “Let’s hope that tenacious local farm advisor Richard Molinar’s little plot at Kearney is a harbinger of an equally rapid growth of the too long dormant partnership between California’s great university and the burgeoning organic community.”
Click here for more on Kearney's organic research plot.
Only die-hard Tom Cruise fans really like risky business. Specialty crop growers can find ways to make their operations less risky by attending a workshop May 22 at the Yuba City Veteran's Building. The workshop is a collaborative effort of specialty crop bargaining associations for commodities, UC and USDA's Risk Management Agency. Registration and lunch is $25 ($35 after May 13.) Click here for more information.
Last week's flavor workshop at UC Davis was well attended by professionals in fruit and vegetable industries. They were challenged to begin contemplating the flavor nuances of their products in the same way wine producers have for decades. New technology is giving them objective tools, but the scientists agree nothing replaces human flavor testers.
For more on the flavor workshop, click here.
On Wednesday of this week (May 2), farmers will gather at the Nickels Soil Lab in Arbuckle for the 30th annual Nickels Field Day, one of the most popular annual field day events held by UC Cooperative Extension.
The Nickels Soil Laboratory was created by Arbuckle farmer Leslie J. Nickels. When he passed away in 1959, Nickels had no heirs or close family. He made provisions to donate his estate for agricultural research, specifically naming the Regents of the University of California and the Colusa County Water District as administrators.
The primary crop on the 200-acre research facility in Arbuckle is almonds. Numerous research projects have been conducted on variety selection, nutrition and pest control, but the predominant breakthrough was in the application of drip irrigation.
During the field day, researchers will make eight presentations, on such topics as organic almond production, selecting rootstocks, new almond varieties and weed control strategies. After lunch, participants will see a mechanical tree planting demonstration. Click here for an event flyer that includes a map to the Nickels Soil Lab.
National Public Radio reported this morning that a judge in San Francisco will today consider whether to extend a temporary ban, imposed in February, on planting and selling of Roundup Ready alfalfa. U.S. District Court Judge Charles Breyer ruled that the USDA didn’t follow federal laws when it approved Roundup Ready alfalfa without conducting a full Environment Impact Statement.
To provide accurate, scientific information about biotechnology, the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources biotechnology workgroup crafted 15 fact sheets outlining the basics on the production and safety of genetically engineered crops, foods, animal feed and animals. The fact sheets were a first step in helping farmers opposed to the technology and those in favor of it to step back from the controversy and successfully produce and market their crops in the way they personally see fit.
“A debate is being fueled by the perception that there has to be a choice between either organic agriculture or genetic engineering,” said Alison Van Eenennaam, a University of California Cooperative Extension specialist in animal genomics and biotechnology. “This ignores the possibility that different production systems can coexist alongside each other.”