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From the UC Blogosphere...

Non-lethal predator wildlife control helps keep livestock safe

A coyote very near one of HREC's main pastures that holds lambs. (Photo: Robert J. Keiffer)
Five guard dogs are part of the team protecting sheep at a UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) research center in Mendocino County. The director of the UC Hopland Research and Extension Center (HREC) Kim Rodriguez is optimistic the dogs and other non-lethal wildlife control efforts being used at the station will allow peaceful grazing animals to share land with natural predators, reported Sarah Reith in the Ukiah Daily Journal.

Rodrigues initiated a new standard operating procedure (SOP) at Hopland early this year for predator animal control. The policy involves guard dogs, improved fencing and pasture management to protect sheep from coyotes, rather than shooting the predators. Jim Lewers, senior animal technician at HREC, said the "losses have declined" since the new policy was put in place. 

Hannah Bird, HREC community educator, said 10 sheep at the center were killed by coyotes in 2015, while 43 were killed in 2014.

Rodrigues told the reporter that it is hard to attribute declines in animal deaths to a single strategy. She hopes to eventually make Hopland a hub for research and information sharing with local landowners on wildlife control.

That effort begins next week. On Dec. 1 and 2, HREC will offer two separate workshops on wildlife management. The first day will include representatives from USDA Wildlife Services, the California Dept. of Fish and Wildlife, and Defenders of Wildlife. On the second day, local ranchers and UC ANR representatives will speak about their chosen methods of wildlife management. Registration is $30 per day. Registration for the two days is separate, and the deadline is Saturday, Nov. 28. 

Click here to register for the Dec. 1 workshop.

Click here to register for the Dec. 2 workshop.

Posted on Wednesday, November 25, 2015 at 9:20 AM

Passage of TPP would boost California ag exports to Asia

Daniel Sumner is director of the UC ANR Agricultural Issues Center. (Photo: CAES)
President Obama won support from Congress in October for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a proposed trade deal that would boost California agricultural exports by billions of dollars, reported Ken Wayne of KTVU TV in San Francisco. A vote on the deal is expected in Congress next summer, but may be delayed until after the 2016 election.

If passed, the TPP would open up ag trade with countries like Vietnam, Japan, Australia and Malasia, who are clamoring for California fruit, vegetables, nuts and wine. China is not part of the proposed trade deal.

Wayne's story featured clips from a lengthy interview with the director of the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) Agricultural Issues Center Dan Sumner, who explained why Pacific rim countries want to purchase California agricultural products.

"We're good at it," Sumner said. "They want our stuff. The governments get in the way. The more we can get the governmental barriers out of the way, the more their consumers can take our stuff."

The vote last month gave the president the ability to "fast-track" negotiations with the Pacific Rim countries. Congress can still reject the deal.

Sumner said it is a shame that the $9 billion dairy industry was left out of the TPP. 

"Asia and other Pacific rim countries want our products," he said. "We left some barriers in place that should have come down further."

Sumner said California farmers and their allies are pushing to get TPP approved.

Posted on Tuesday, November 24, 2015 at 3:46 PM

UC IPM Online Pesticide Safety Course Survey

From Lisa Blecker, Pesticide Safety Education Coordinator for UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management program (UC IPM):

We want your opinion on CE units! You could win a $25 Visa gift card and will get 25% off your next book purchase.

Please provide your input on online courses for continuing education (CE). We'll use your feedback to improve our learning environment for continuing education units offered through UC IPM.

After you have completed the survey, the confirmation page will include a promotion code that you can use it to get 25% off retail orders placed through our online catalog ( Hurry! The promo code ends on December 31, 2015.

Leave your email address to be entered into a drawing for a $25 Visa gift card. Drawing will be held on December 31, 2015 as well.

Take the survey now before time runs out:

If you need more information or have comments, please contact Lisa directly:

Lisa Blecker
Pesticide Safety Education

Posted on Monday, November 23, 2015 at 12:33 PM

Valley farmer honored by White House for conservation practices

Farmer Jesse Sanchez hosted an agricultural tour from Afghanistan at Sano Farms last year as part of his involvement with UC ANR's Conservation Agriculture Systems Innovation Center.
Jesse Sanchez, a farm manager for Sano Farms near Firebaugh and Mendota, was honored by the White House as a "Champion of Change" last month for his commitment to building healthy soils, reported Megan Ginise in the Fresno Bee.

Sanchez is an active member of the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) Conservation Agriculture Systems Innovation Center (CASI), a diverse group of UC researchers, farmers, and representatives of public agencies, private industry and environmental groups that work together to develop knowledge and exchange information on conservation-oriented production systems in California. 

In 2009, CASI named Sanchez and his employer, Alan Sano, its "Conservation Agriculture Innovators of the Year." The 2015 honor from the White House is another recognition for efforts to make soil health a priority on the 4,000-acre farm that produces garbanzo beans, garlic, processing and fresh market tomatoes, along with pistachios and almonds.

Jeff Mitchell, UC ANR Cooperative Extension specialist and CASI chair, said the White House's acknowledgment, which honors 'everyday Americans who are doing extraordinary things,' is a very fitting recognition for Sanchez and all of Sano Farms.

"They're very much pioneers, very innovative and persistent as well," Mitchell said. "What they've done through the vision they have had, sticking with it, learning step-by-step how to improve the system how to adjust things."

A story about Sanchez' White House honor also appeared on the USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service website

The NRCS article noted that Sanchez and Sano have long shared their work with Mitchell, and through Mitchell with other farmers interested in conservation agriculture systems. 



Posted on Monday, November 23, 2015 at 9:24 AM

Are Bermudagrass Lawns Forever?

The dreaded Bermudagrass
all pix UC
Client's Request: I'd like to replace 250 square feet of grass - Cynodon dactylon (i.e., Bermudagrass), Paspalum digitatum (Dallisgrass) and a touch of Ehrharta erecta (veldtgrass) with Festuca rubra ‘Molate' (i.e., Red Fescue). I live in western CCC flatland. The soil is an abominably compacted clay, and the "lawn" is in crummy shape (compacted, drought affected and invaded by a host of other weeds). I've been told by a few nurseries that now is the time to seed F rubra (though I wonder if rains occur and persist into spring when days are lengthening again, whether THAT might be the best time - ...). I've read about the various methods of lawn removal, know the challenges of physical measures for Bermuda grass, and have successfully replaced a front lawn 5+ years ago for shrubs (contrary to common wisdom, we just rototilled it, put down newspaper, covered with compost/mulch, and planted other materials with amazingly little return of the Bermuda grass). So, I am considering a composite of methods, as follows:
1) rototill what's left of the current lawn and remove as many grass clods and rhizomes as I can gather up in this process
2) add (rototill in) compost

3) cover with newspaper
4) cover that with more soil (excavated from a large bed elsewhere in the yard; clean and much better structure) and compost 
5) poke holes into the paper to plant some F. rubra plugs I bought (prematurely) and overseed with F. rubra seed.
6) cover with mulch.

Client's Reasoning
- the soil is so compacted that it NEEDS some cultivation, despite the risk of chopping up rhizomes (besides existing grass is not very healthy); I'm loathe to put off cultivation till spring because if we get El Nino type rain that could just exacerbate the clay soil structure (ie, further compaction)
- newspaper will accomplish sheet mulching
- I can plant the grass plugs now through the newspaper
- F. rubra seed can take advantage of early rains now and newspaper will hopefully rot by spring so new grass seedlings can tap the underlying soil then when days lengthen, temps rise and growth rate increases 
- If El Niño rains come, this approach will prevent excessive pooling and muddy bog conditions.
The other option is rototilling and sheet mulching now and composting and seeding in March or so.

I'd appreciate your thoughts and comments. Thanks very much for your time.

Help Desk Response:  Thank you for contacting the Master Gardener Help Desk concerning your lawn conversion from Bermudagrass to red fescue. 

Bermudagrass can be pretty tough to eliminate. The best methods include the following (summarized from very detailed University of California information located at

1. Herbicide such as Roundup™, during spring and summer. Herbicide will only be effective if applied when the Bermudagrass is growing vigorously, meaning it should be applied during spring and summer. Stolons may not be completely killed by herbicide, so cultivation may also be required, as further described below.
2. Withholding water during summer. This tactic is usually combined with cultivation, also further described below.
3. Shading. Sheet mulch with overlapping cardboard sheets, covering the cardboard with at least 3 inches of mulch. Mulch alone will not be effective. More information on sheet mulching, including a "how to" slide show, can be found here 
Fescue rubra 'Molate'
4. Cultivation. While withholding water, cultivate the area two or three times during the summer months. This brings rhizomes to the surface where they dry out and die. Hand removal of rhizomes and stolons will also help. If water is applied during the process or it happens to Brain, the remaining Bermudagrass will regrow. Either applying herbicide one week before cultivation, or following cultivation with sheet mulching, will be more effective than cultivation alone.

Based on the above, you can see that summer is the best time to effectively eradicate Bermudagrass by using a combination of methods. Herbicides will not be effective during late fall and winter because the Bermudagrass will not be growing vigorously. If you decide to cultivate and hand remove rhizomes and stolons, followed by sheet mulching, that is probably your best bet this time of year. However, we would recommend that you wait to plant the fescue plugs until you are confident the bermudagrass has been killed. If you do not, there is the potential that the bermudagrass will grow through the planting holes.

It is true that fall is the best time to seed Festuca rubra to take advantage of the rains. Festuca rubra is a low water use plant according to WUCOLS However, even plants that are classified as "low water use" require supplemental water for the first year or two to get their root systems established and are drought tolerant only thereafter. You may want to keep this in mind when deciding when, and how much, to plant, in case landscape watering restrictions continue next year.

General advice from the University of California about establishing and maintaining lawns can be found here, including information on pre-plant fertilizer  We do also recommend that you have your soil tested to determine if certain nutrients are lacking so that you can fertilize and amend appropriately. A list of soil testing laboratories can be found at The soil testing labs' websites have instructions on how to collect samples and submit them for analysis, but you should contact the lab first to get their specific requirements for you situation. A basic soil test should include the major nutrients of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium (N, P, K) as well as pH and organic matter. pH will tell you whether your soil is neutral, acidic or alkaline - this is important because pH can impact nutrient availability. Ideally you will want the soil pH to be between 5.5 to 7.5. 5% organic matter is considered ideal; our clay soils usually have much lower than ideal levels, but can usually be improved with the addition of compost.

Good luck with your ambitious project. I hope that this information is helpful. Please do not hesitate to contact us again if you have any further questions.

Editor's Addendum: A relatively new development on the California turf scene is that at least one sod grower, and probably others as well, are now providing ready-to-install sod that consists primarily of native grasses and also touting significant reduction in water use. Your circumstances might warrant consideration of such sod. Details on feasibility and costs should be available at most retail nurseries or online.
Help Desk of the UC Master Gardeners of Contra Costa County (JL)

Note: The  UC Master Gardeners of Contra Costa's Help Desk is available year-round to answer your gardening questions.  Except for a few holidays, we're open every week, Monday through Thursday for walk-ins from 9:00 am to Noon at 75 Santa Barbara Road, 2d Floor, Pleasant Hill, CA  94523. We can also be reached via telephone:  (925) 646-6586, email:, or on the web at MGCC Blogs can be found at You can also subscribe to the Blog (

Posted on Monday, November 23, 2015 at 12:04 AM

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