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UC ANR researchers aim to minimize water use in blueberries

UC ANR researchers want to know how little water it takes to grow blueberries.
UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) researchers don't want to know how much water it takes to grow blueberries, but how little, reported Bradley Zint in the Los Angeles Times.

The story featured Darren Haver, a UC ANR Cooperative Extension advisor in Orange County and director of the UC South Coast Research and Extension Center in Irvine. At the center, blueberries are being grown with varying amounts of water to compare yield and quality. Because of the drought, farmers need to know how to minimize water use while maintaining a viable business.

"Part of my job as an advisor is to take that information and put it in a format that a farmer could use or the general public could use," he said. "It's my job to distill it down."

The story also notes that drought-tolerant dragon fruit are under study at that at the South Coast REC.

"We need to find more crops like this," Haver said.

Other drought news:

Diversification: A Response to Drought
Richard Jones, Growing Produce, April 27
Growers must prepare to make changes, especially if their sole focus is high-value crops, said Samuel Sandoval, UC ANR specialist in water resources management at UC Davis. “We're seeing many growers put a lot of investment risk on a resource — water — that's very unreliable. We need to think ahead of the curve and find systems that are more flexible,” he says. Sandoval's suggestion: diversifying with both permanent and annual crops.

 

 

Posted on Tuesday, April 28, 2015 at 10:22 AM

California showing signs of groundwater exhaustion

A farmer applies water on his crop. (Photo: California Dept. of Water Resources)
The huge reservoir of water under the soil surface is typically the place where California farmers turn during droughts, when surface water becomes scarce. After three years of drought and persistent groundwater use for water-intensive crops, the water table is dropping steadily, reported Todd Frankel in the Washington Post.

The aquifer accumulated over thousands of years, but is now dropping as much as two feet per year in some parts of the Central Valley. As the water is pumped, the ground sinks down too, said Thomas Harter, UC Agriculture and Natural Resources Cooperative Extension hydrologist based at UC Davis. When the soil compresses, groundwater can never be fully recharged again.

Harter said the state's groundwater reserve reached historic lows last year.

“With little recharge, many areas are currently at the lowest recorded levels ever,” Harter said. “It's worrisome.”

Last year, state lawmakers passed California's first extensive groundwater regulation, allowing for the creation of local boards to oversee how the water is used. But it will take up to two decades before the new law takes full effect.

Posted on Monday, April 27, 2015 at 1:53 PM

Can crickets be the new beef?

UC ANR's Mark Lundy says some of the sustainability claims on production of insects for human food have been overstated. (Photo: Kathy Keatley Garvey)
As the world strives to feed its growing population, some have suggested insects could be an environmentally friendly alternative protein source for people. However, research by UC Agriculture and Natural Resources experts on crickets found they don't have the potential to add much protein to the diet after all, reported Mandy Oaklander on Time.com.

For the study, published in the journal PLOS One, the researchers raised crickets on five different diets - corn, soy, grain, food waste and crop residue. They measured the crickets' size and how much edible protein they produced.

“I think the sustainability claims on this topic have been overstated given the current state of knowledge,” wrote UC ANR Cooperative Extension agronomy advisor Mark Lundy in an e-mail to Time. “I'm all for exploring alternatives, and I am impressed by the amount of innovation that has sprung up around insect cultivation and cuisine in the last few years. However, I also think we need to be clear-eyed about what the sustainability gains are and aren't, and focus our innovative efforts and limited resources to where they will have the most lasting impact.”

Lundy conducted the research and published the results with horticultural entomologist Michael Parrella, a professor and chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. The story generated a great deal of news media coverage, including:

The environmental benefits of eating crickets vs. chicken: It's complicated
Brooke Borel, Popular Science, April 22

Humans Are Ready For Protein-Rich Crickets, But Are Crickets Ready For Us?
Rex Macadangdang, Tech Times, April 19

Crickets can't replace Meat in Human Diet: Study
Luis Georg, Perfect Science, April 18

Turns out, crickets may not be the solution to all of our problems
Lindsay Abrams, Salon, April 17

Crickets aren't ready to replace meat
Pat Bailey, Futurity.org, April 17

Crickets aren't the miracle source of protein
Kathy Keatley Garvey, Phys.org, April 16

Crickets Aren't the Superfood They're Cracked Up to Be
Alissa Walker, Gizmodo.com, April 16

Maybe crickets aren't the food of the future, after all 
Alexis Madrigal, Fusion.net, April 16

Crickets Alone Will Not Save You, Futurist Foodies Robbie Gonzalez, i09/We Come From the Future, April 20

Crickets Are Not a Free Lunch
Entomology Today, April 15

Posted on Friday, April 24, 2015 at 10:55 AM

UC Irvine gets landscape tree help from UC ANR

UC ANR is helping UC Irvine deal with trees infested with polyphagous shot hole borer.
Hundreds of landscape trees on the UC Irvine campus have been infested with polyphagous shot hole borer, a pest introduced into California from Asia. UCI has assembled a team that includes UC Agriculture and Natural Resources experts to develop a management plan for identifying, removing, treating and replacing the ravaged trees, according to a UCI press release.

Polyphagous shot hole borer has been present on the campus for two to three years. The extent of the infestation  became apparent in the last few months when a significant number of trees began showing severe symptoms. UCI groundskeepers began to more closely examine a number of trees that appeared to be particularly distressed and worked with UC ANR staff to identify PSHB in early 2015.

A team of UCI staff qualified in tree management is receiving training from UC ANR (UC Riverside and UCCE) to properly identify and assess PSHB infestation. The team will monitor all trees on the UCI campus and, with input from faculty and students from UCI's Center for Environmental Biology, make the determination about which infected trees will be removed.

The news release suggests area property owners who suspect their own trees are infested with PSHB contact John Kabashima, UC ANR environmental horticulture advisor at the UC South Coast Research and Extension Center, 7601 Irvine Blvd., Irvine, CA 92618, pshb.ucce.oc@gmail.com.

Posted on Wednesday, April 22, 2015 at 9:27 AM

Don't know much about hydrology

The California drought is complicated.
Nathanael Johnson of TheGrist.org set about clarifying some myths related to California's drought situation, leading him to declare - according to the article's headline - "Everything I thought I knew about water in California is wrong."

The first myth he debunked has been circulating since Gov. Brown announced steep water cutbacks for the state's municipalities. "He didn't mention agriculture, and that made people suspicious," Johnson wrote.

For clarification, Johnson spoke to Doug Parker, the director of UC Agriculture and Natural Resources' California Institute for Water Resources. Brown didn't talk about ag in his big announcement because growers are already operating under an 80 percent cut from their normal water share from the State Water Project, and a zero percent allocation from the federal Central Valley Project.

"California farmers took about 5 percent for their land out of production last year, and that number will surely go up this year," the article says.

Other myths tackled in the story include:

  • Agriculture uses 80 percent of California's water
  • Dumb laws prevent the buying and selling of water
  • Farmers are wasting a lot of water
  • Farm conservation measures can free up plenty of water
Posted on Monday, April 20, 2015 at 4:34 PM

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