ANR news blog
Climate change is only partly fueling the catastrophic fires in California. Fire scientists also lay blame on the tendency of land use planners to allow the construction of houses and businesses in areas where wildfires are a natural part of the ecosystem.
Last week Gov. Brown forecast a rise in the number, intensity, and cost of fires, warning of “the new normal that we will have to face," reported Martin Kuz in the Christian Science Monitor.
Wildfire experts say its not a new normal but has become normal because lawmakers have avoided prodding local officials, developers, and residents toward an approach to land use planning that restricts housing growth in fire-prone areas.
Max Moritz. “But there's no bill in the legislature about that.”
Tomorrow's tinderboxes can be seen all over the Bay Area — from the new multi-million dollar dream homes packed along the edges of San Jose's Almaden Quicksilver County Park and Mount Diablo State Park to older residences, both modest and opulent, on peaks of the Santa Cruz Mountains and Oakland and Berkeley hills, reported Lisa Krieger of the Bay Area News Group. Similar growth is taking place in natural areas in other parts of the state, including the Sierra Nevada and Southern California.
An analysis by geographer Stephen Strader of Villanova University, published this spring in the journal Natural Hazards, found a 1,000 percent increase in the number of western U.S. homes at risk from wildfire over the past 70 years — from about 607,000 in 1940 to 6.7 million in 2010.
Housing near wildlands makes it harder to do controlled burns — one of the most effective fire suppression techniques — because of smoke concerns. Until the 1970s, fire suppression tended to minimize fire spread.
“If homes are sprinkled through the landscape, you take that key tool off the table,” Moritz said.
And as people develop rural areas, they're also more likely to ignite fires. In early California history, lightning was the major cause of wildfires. Now humans are the dominant cause of fires, from downed power lines, smoking, sparks from equipment and more.
“Now is the time to do smarter, stronger land use planning,” Moritz said, “so our future communities are not as vulnerable.”.
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.
"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.
California's Wildfires Are Spreading Faster and Burning More This Year. Experts Say It 'Can Only Get Worse'
(TIME) Jennifer Calfas, July 31
…Rising temperatures aren't the only reason fires have grown in size and aggression, though scientists are quick not to place blame entirely on climate change. Urban development in vulnerable areas can make fires more devastating, and many of the state's most destructive fires were started by humans including the Carr Fire. Max Moritz, a specialist in cooperative extension at the University of California's Division of Agriculture and Natural Resource, says hotter temperatures have made fire seasons longer, too. Scientists see a direct link between rising temperatures and the amount of dry brush and ample fuel, which makes the fires fast-moving and often more explosive.
“There's good, solid research linking temperature increases to trends in fire activity,” says Moritz. “But it's really long-term trends.”
Alfalfa & forage research grants awarded
(Morning Ag Clips) July 31
The California Alfalfa and Forage Research Foundation (Foundation), formed in 2015, is pleased to announce that it has awarded its first round of research grants….
EVALUATION OF WEED MANAGEMENT IN CONVENTIONAL SEEDLING ALFALFA
submitted by Mariano Galla, UCCE Agronomy & Weed Science, Butte and Tehama Counties
EVALUATION OF WEED MANAGEMENT IN ESTABLISHED ALFALFA
submitted by Thomas Getts, UCCE Weed Ecology and Cropping Systems Advisor – Lassen, Modoc, Plumas and Sierra Counties
REDUCING WEED PRESSURE DURING STAND ESTABLISHMENT USING PRE-PLANT WEED GERMINATION FOLLOWED BY MECHANICAL OR CHEMICAL CONTROL
submitted by Sarah Light, UCCE Agronomy Advisor, Sutter, Yuba and Colusa Counties
Agricultural practices showcased at IREC Field Day in Tulelake
(Siskiyou Daily) Danielle Jester, July 30
An inside look at agricultural research being done at the Intermountain Research and Extension Center in Tulelake was given to those who attended the IREC's Annual Field Day on July 26.
Firefighters Are Focused on Flames, Not Climate Change
(Scientific American) Kelsey Brugger, July 30
Climate change has exacerbated wildfires throughout America, and it's testing the people who fight them.
…Scientists are careful not to attribute any one wildfire to global warming, “but it sure looks like climate change,” said Max Moritz, a wildfire specialist in the Environmental Science, Policy, & Management Department at the University of California, Berkeley.
How California copes with Asian citrus psyllids
(Capital Press) Padma Nagappan, July 27
Huanglongbing, also known as citrus greening disease, has devastated the Florida citrus industry, and researchers and growers are working to prevent its spread to California's commercial groves.
…The disease is still confined to residential trees, but is spreading throughout Southern California — in Orange, Los Angeles and Riverside counties.
“That picture could easily change this fall, there's a lag time from when trees are infected and when we can tell that they're infected,” said Elizabeth Grafton Cardwell, an entomologist at the University of California-Riverside and the director of the San Joaquin Valley research center.
Portugal, the government is relying on an ancient firefighting technology: goats
(Christian Science Monitor) July 26
Portugal, the government is relying on an ancient firefighting technology: goats.
Last year deaths from wildfires in Portugal reached a record high of 106. This summer, however, hundreds of goats are being deployed to eat underbrush and dry vegetation that can serve as kindling. Working with goats “allows you to treat areas that are difficult to reach otherwise,” Dan Macon, a University of California Cooperative Extension livestock and natural resources adviser, told accuweather.com.
Phylloxera can also appear on own-rooted vines
(Western Farm Press) Tim Hearden, July 25
A University of California Cooperative Extension farm advisor cautions that even own-rooted vines can be susceptible to grape phylloxera, a tiny aphid-like insect that feeds on roots.
Lynn Wunderlich, a UCCE advisor based at Placerville, says some growers in her area are taken aback by the discovery of phylloxera in their own-rooted vines that are declining. The insect is thought to feed on certain rootstocks, stunting growth of vines or killing them, but it also can affect vines that are not grafted onto rootstock.
Minimize dust in vineyards for effective weed control
(Western Farm Press) Tim Hearden, July 25
In the hot summer months, activities in vineyards — as well as orchards and other farm fields — can kick up a lot of dust. And aside from causing soil erosion, tissue damage, reduced photosynthesis, and other troubles, wind-blown dust can complicate weed control, a University of California Cooperative Extension advisor says.
That's because dust can reduce the efficacy of glyphosate, which is an important tool for the management of weeds in vines and elsewhere, according to Lynn Sosnoskie, agronomy and weed science advisor based at Merced.
Family of mountain lions visits research center in Hopland Monday
(KRCR) Marissa Papanek, July 24
According to the Hopland Research and Extension Center, a family of mountain lions were captured on camera strolling down a Hopland trail Monday.
HREC said via Facebook that it uses trail cameras to understand local wildlife populations and their movement and behavior. Those cameras caught some of the area's largest inhabitants Monday, including adult and young mountain lions.
USDA Awards UC and Karuk Tribe $1.2 Million for Research and Education
(Native America Today) July 24
...Jennifer Sowerwine, UC Cooperative Extension specialist at UC Berkeley and co-founder of the Karuk-UC Berkeley Collaborative, and Lisa Hillman, program manager of the Karuk Tribe's Píkyav Field Institute, will co-lead the xúus nu'éethti – we are caring for it research project.
UC advisor Blake Sanden retires after decades of research in almonds and pistachios
(Ceres Imaging) July 24
Blake Sanden, a University of California advisor for almond and pistachio growers since the 1990s, officially retired as of June (for more on Blake's career achievements, see this blog on the UC site).
Could Coffee Be California's Next Cash Crop?
(San Francisco Magazine) Luke Tsai, July 24
The story of California's coffee experiment begins with Jay Ruskey...
In the many online videos you can find of Ruskey, who is 45 years old, he's charismatic and good-looking, with floppy hair, a toothy grin, and a distant resemblance to the actor John Krasinski. He isn't the first person to try to grow coffee in California, but he is the first to preach the gospel convincingly and to make a serious attempt on a commercial scale. It's an effort that stretches back more than 15 years, to when Mark Gaskell, a small-farm adviser with the UC Cooperative Extension program, handed Ruskey nearly 40 Central American coffee plants and helped him figure out how to get them to grow.
Karuk cultural food and plants to be studied
(Siskiyou Daily News) July 20
The USDA recently awarded a $1.2 million Agriculture and Food Research Initiative grant to UC Berkeley and the Karuk Tribe to increase resilience of cultural food and other plant resources.
According to a press release from UC California's Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, the university and the Karuk Tribe will “learn more about stewarding native food plants in fluctuating environmental conditions.” All project activities will take place in the Karuk Tribe's Aboriginal Territory in the mid Klamath River Basin.
High-speed Wi-Fi at ag research center may be blueprint for rural communities
(RCR Wireless News) Susan Rambo, July 20
Outside the small San Joaquin Valley town of Parlier, 20 miles south of Fresno, California, the University of California's Kearney Agricultural Research and Education Center looms over farmland. Much more impressive in person than on Google street view, the center looks like a mini university campus — which is how KARE describes itself. Researchers have studied agriculture in this location since 1965, when local farmers pitched in to buy the land and donate it to the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR). KARE is one of nine research and extension centers (RECs) under the umbrella of UC ANR around the state, one of which is nearby Lindcove (LREC).
… “I've been in Africa recently and the mobile coverage there was better,” said Dr. Jeffery A. Dahlberg, director of KARE, referring to some rural areas around the center. “It's embarrassing,” he said, given the relative wealth of United States.
(KCAA Water Zone) Inge Bisconer, July 19
Glenda Humiston was interviewed on ecosystem services on working landscapes. Humiston is introduced at 12-minute mark, followed by audio tech difficulties. At 16 minutes, Humiston begins talking about the Elevate Rural California project's efforts to encourage biomass development, broadband connectivity and water infrastructure to create more business and jobs opportunities. One activity that Stephanie Larson, UC Cooperative Extension director in Sonoma County, is working on is building markets for ecosystem services such as groundwater recharge, oxygen produced by plants, flood protection, wildlife habitat and open space.
Humiston also encouraged listeners to participate in the California Economic Summit being held in Santa Rosa on Nov. 15-16. She noted that summit participants look for triple bottomline solutions and get things done.
This year's almond spurs produce next year's crop
(Ag Alert) Dennis Pollock, July 19
You may not readily see it, but healthy spurs on this year's almond trees set the table for optimizing yields next year. And it could be a mistake to weigh in with a heavy hand when it comes to pruning trees.
Elizabeth Fichtner, University of California Cooperative Extension farm adviser in Tulare County, and Bruce Lampinen, UC walnut specialist with UC Davis, addressed those topics at a Central California Almond Day event in Fresno.
“All buds in the current year were formed the prior summer,” Fichtner said.
Extreme heat in the garden: How to keep plants healthy with water, shade and mulch
(LA Daily News) Sandra Barrera, July 19
“In Southern California, Sunset zones are preferred over USDA zones due to their greater accuracy,” said Janet Hartin, an environmental horticulture advisor for the University of California Cooperative Extension in San Bernardino, Riverside and L.A. counties.
Wireless smart farming to keep frost away from citrus
(RCR Wireless News) Susan Rambo, July 17
Computer science researchers from the University of California Santa Barbara are using the internet of things to prove that smart farming can be a farm implement as basic as the tractor and plough.
…Dr. Beth Grafton-Cardwell, research entomologist, an integrated pest management (IPM) specialist and Lindcove's director remembers sorting fruit by hand.
What is meat, anyway? Lab-grown food sets off a debate
(Wired) Matt Simon, July 16
…There could also be a middle ground here: marketing the new product as meat, but qualifying that designation. So “cultured meat,” or “lab-grown meat”—people have even thrown around “cell-based meat” (though technically speaking, all meat is cell-based). You can't, after all, just call your soy milk plain old milk. “Almond milk is obviously not the lactate of a mammary gland,” says animal geneticist Alison Van Eenennaam of UC Davis. “So I think probably there's going to have to be some other distinguisher so it's not mislabeled, because the FDA rules on labeling is it can't be false or misleading.And if it's labeled ‘meat,' you could make an argument that that's misleading.”
Parasite-borne illness spurs McDonald's to pull salads from 3,000 restaurants
(Los Angeles Times) Geoffrey Mohan, July 13
…“We are seeing more of these outbreaks popping up,” said Erin DiCaprio, a cooperative extension assistant specialist at the UC Davis' Department of Food Science and Technology.
The parasites are specific to humans and tend to spread through poorly processed sewage that may find its way into irrigation sources, DiCaprio said. “It's usually associated with produce that's from outside the United States,” she said.
There is no routine testing for presence of the parasite in the U.S. produce industry, in part because it has been difficult to develop a test in the laboratory, DiCaprio said. Many physicians also overlook testing ill patients for the parasite, according to the CDC.
Is It Safe to Eat Local Produce After a Wildfire?
(Pacific Standard) Sophie Yeo, July 13
…But the story could be different for another popular product of small-scale farming: eggs. Another study being undertaken by scientists at the University of California–Davis is examining how the ash distributed by the fires could have affected poultry and the eggs they produce. This group, too, has just received its first batch of data.
"Chickens are unique in that they spend 25 percent of their waking time eating off the ground. It's a worst-case scenario, where they really are products of the environment because they spend so much time ingesting it. Eggs are particularly worrisome because yolks are very fatty, and a lot of these chemicals are very fat soluble," says Maurice Pitesky, a veterinarian and epidemiologist working on the study. "It's a bit of a different risk factor from some produce. I would be very surprised if we didn't find something."
California Today: Here's What's Been Different About Fires This Year
(New York Times) Thomas Fuller, Matt Stevens, July 13
…Firefighters for decades were accustomed to seeing fires slow down considerably at night, said Scott L. Stephens, a professor of fire science at the University of California, Berkeley. But a number of recent fires have continued to advance rapidly through the night.
“Many times now in the evening fires are burning at night almost as active as they are in the day,” Professor Stephens said. “Things are happening here in California that 10 years ago I never heard about.”
Firewise: Wildfire Preparedness Goes Beyond Horse Evacuation
(Paulick Report) Denise Steffanus, July 11
Dr. Kate Wilkin, forest and fire adviser for the University of California Cooperative Extension, said farm owners can take advantage of equine grazing habits — eating grass down to the nub — to protect the safety zone.
“Having heavy grazing around your structures and then feathering it out as you go farther away from the structures is one way to protect the property,” she said. “Of course, you want to be careful not to destroy that forage by overgrazing that will cause erosion.”
SAD story: Sugar disorder causes mid-season grape shrivel
(Western Farm Press) Tim Hearden, July 11
Among the most common headaches that grape growers encounter as their crop is developing is sugar accumulation disorder, or SAD, say University of California advisors.
Field studies involving E & J Gallo Winery and UC researchers have been under way near Clarksburg, Calif., to find solutions for SAD, which causes poor berry coloration and low sugar accumulation. It is triggered after veraison, according to Chuck Ingels of the UC Cooperative Extension in Sacramento County.
Amid trade turmoil, olive industry eyes U.S. market
(Western Farm Press) Tim Hearden, July 11
…As the state's tree nut sectors are advocating vociferously for a resolution to the budding trade war with China, the European Union and other countries, one crop that is largely unscathed by all the turmoil is olives.
That's because unlike most Golden State commodities, olive exports are minimal while import competition is robust, University of California-Davis agricultural economist Daniel Sumner notes.
“Olives are in a different situation,” Sumner said during a recent grower meeting in Orland, Calif. “The big difference for olives is they're not an export crop for the United States.”
Effects of China's tariffs on California agriculture
(KPFA) UpFront, July 9
Beginning at the 50:00 mark, Daniel Sumner discusses the effects of China's tariffs on California agriculture.
It doesn't need to escalate to take a hit. You have the direct hits of what's happening now, you also have the threat of future things happening. As you know, business including agriculture operates on expectations. I would say the biggest thing listeners should keep in mind is that as much as we focus on the announcement of the day, the announcement of tariffs on Chinese goods and the Chinese long-planned retaliation, those lists were put together months ago. Businesses were hoping it wouldn't happen, but planning for that.
7 Smart Irrigation Watering Tips
(My Motherlode) Rebecca Miller-Cripps, UCCE Master Gardener
We have been lucky, in terms of water, in Tuolumne County in 2018. Late snow and rain in March and April helped offset a dry early winter and temperatures have remained fairly mild so far this summer.
…Celebrate “Smart Irrigation Month” by using some of the watering tips from the University of California Integrated Pest Management program,http://ipm.ucanr.edu/TOOLS/TURF/ …
The Spoon @ FOOD IT: Gabe Youtsey of UCANR, July 7
The Spoon partnered with the Mixing Bowl to interview some of the thought leaders at the FOOD IT event. This interview is with Gabe Youtsey, Chief Innovation Officer of the University of California, Agriculture and Natural Resources (UCANR).
Central Valley farmers brace for fallout from tariffs
(Bakersfield Californian) John Cox, July 7
Dan Sumner, an agricultural economist at UC Davis, sees trouble on many fronts. Whenever farmers install vineyard trellises or irrigation piping, he said, they're being hit by price increases resulting from new U.S. tariffs on imported steel.
5 reasons California jobs are vulnerable to the China tariffs
(ABC 10) Eric Escalante, July 6
…In contrast, UC Davis Agricultural and Resource Economics Professor Daniel Sumner reasons that most jobs in farming are low wage and many others are seasonal.
“Farm employment may fall slightly, but the crops are in the ground and being harvested so for this year labor impacts are smaller,” said Sumner in an email. “The longer it lasts it will begin to have significant impacts as economic growth is reduced. But farm employment effects overall will be moderate at most.”
Five UC Cooperative Extension advisors retired on June 28
(Fruit Growers News) July 4
At the end of June, the distinguished careers of five UC Cooperative Extension advisors concluded when they retired. The new retirees are:
Mark Gaskell, UCCE small farms advisor for San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara county
Gene Miyao, UCCE vegetable crops advisor for Yolo, Solano and Sacramento counties
Kim Rodrigues, director of the Hopland Research & Extension Center and UCCE forest advisor
Black Sanden, UCCE irrigation, soils and agronomy advisor in Kern County
Steve Tjosvold, UCCE horticulture advisor for Santa Cruz and Monterey counties
Pruning wounds can lead to cankers, UC specialist warns
(Western Farm Press) Dennis Pollock, July 3
To paraphrase Shakespeare, almond pruning can be the unkindest cuts of all. They can open the way to a range of almond canker damage, says Florent Trouillas, assistant University of California Cooperative Extension specialist at the Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center.
Wildfires are burning across the country—here's how to prepare
(Popular Science) Mary Beth Griggs, July 3
…“Know that under conditions of mandatory evacuation, you will encounter traffic, frightening conditions, highly limited visibility due to smoke, etc., so being ready and leaving early is really important,” says Sabrina Drill, the Natural Resources Advisor for UC Cooperative Extension in Los Angeles and Ventura Counties. Cooperative extensions are a great place to get local information about how to prepare for wildfires in your particular area of the country.
Five things you probably never knew about California's wildfires
(Mercury News) Patrick May, July 3
…Travis Bean writes in UC Weed Science blog that despite all the news coverage of last year's wildfires, “almost no source has identified the actual fuels involved for this most recent fire season or any other. As a weed scientist, this is a particularly alarming omission, especially when it's highly likely that invasive plants may have been partially responsible for exacerbating the intensity and spatial scale of many, if not most, of 2017's fires.”
When unusually hot weather is in the forecast, it's time irrigate, shade and mulch plants to protect your plants, reported Sandra Barrera in the Los Angeles Daily News.
The story was prompted by a heat spike in Southern California recently, when temperatures soared above 110 degrees in many areas.
"While most plants can endure triple-digit temperatures, they suffer when heat comes on suddenly," the article said.
- When a plant is dry, it's already stressed, so give it a good soaking before temperatures rise.
- A patio umbrella, bed sheets or landscape shade cloth suspended on the sunny side of a plant will shade tender growth on hot days.
- A three- to four-inch layer of mulch around plants will cool roots and hold moisture.
One of the best ways to avoid heat damaged trees and plants is by planning a garden for the climate.
"In Southern California, Sunset zones are preferred over USDA zones due to their greater accuracy," said Janet Hartin, UC Cooperative Extension environmental horticulture advisor for San Bernardino, Riverside and Los Angeles counties.
California Native Plant Society's Calscape and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo's SelecTree for information on plants adapted to the climate and specific conditions, such as sun, shade, near buildings or swimming pools or in urban heat islands.
The American Horticultural Society also has a Heat Zone Map to select plants adaptable to inland and desert climates. The map has 12 zones searchable by city. Each zone designates the average number of days per year temperatures exceed 86 degrees, which is considered by the point at which most plants begin to suffer heat stress.
"The numbers are relatively conservative and many plant enthusiast experimenters are already finding that many plants - under the right conditions and a little shade - do just fine outside of their listed heat zone," Hartin said.
A population of 700,000 horses call California home and many of them live in areas susceptible to wildfire. UC Cooperative Extension forest and fire advisor Kate Wilkin says says landowners can take advantage of equine grazing habits - eating down to the nub - to create a fire safety zone, reported Denise Steffanus in the Paulick Report.
“Having heavy grazing around your structures and then feathering it out as you go farther away from the structures is one way to protect the property,” Wilkin said. “Of course, you want to be careful not to destroy that forage by overgrazing that will cause erosion.”
Just like all rural residents, horse owners should establish a defensible safety zone around structures, including houses, barns, arenas and other outbuildings. Trees should be thinned to create a 15-foot gap between tree tops and shrubbery cleared so it won't ladder fire from the ground to the canopy.
Wilkin said a larger safety zone can serve as an oasis for horses during a wildfire.
“For a lot of fires, if you have an irrigated pasture and you can open the gate so the horses can leave if they need to, they will often be OK,” Wilkin said. “Ultimately, you want it to be a large area … it could be an area about half-mile in diameter, and it needs to be that large to keep the heat from affecting your lungs and your horse's lungs. … You can have trees if they are widely spaced and don't have ‘ladder fuel' around them. Then you can have shade on the property but still be more fire safe.”
Wilkin added that farm owners should not rely on a body of water as a firebreak.
“An ember can travel a mile or more during a wildfire,” she said. “While a creek or a larger body of water can slow a fire down, if there are winds and high temperatures, the fire is still going to cross it.”