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UCCE partners with UC Merced on critical issues

University of California Cooperative Extension has headquartered two new specialists on the UC Merced campus, reported Scott Hernandez-Jason of UC Merced University News. Karina Diaz-Rios, specialist for nutrition, family and consumer sciences, joined UCCE on Sept. 2. Tapan Pathak, specialist for climate adaptation in agriculture, will start Feb. 2, 2015.

"These positions come with a focus on interacting with the community, conducting applied research, and translating UC research to help the ag economy and local residents,” said Tom Peterson, UC Merced Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor. “We are pleased that UC Merced can partner with UC ANR (UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources) on these important issues.”

Karina Diaz-Rios
According to the news release, Diaz-Rios will be housed in UC Merced's Health Sciences Research Institute and focus on nutrition research and education and food security. She will connect with a larger team of nutrition researchers and educators throughout the UC system addressing issues related to healthy food and human health.

Tapan Pathak
Pathak, who will be housed in the Sierra Nevada Research Institute at UC Merced, will help farmers and ranchers adapt to new conditions created by variable and changing climate. He will collaborate with UC colleagues and state and federal agencies in statewide efforts to address climate variability and climate change adaptation and mitigation. He is currently an extension educator in climate variability at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

UC ANR continuously provides research-based solutions to the California agriculture industry, said Barbara Allen-Diaz, ANR vice president.

“California agriculture is a world-recognized marvel, and we'd like to think the university, through ANR's research and outreach, is a big reason why,” she said. “Adding UC Merced to our existing, thriving partnerships with UC Davis, UC Berkeley and UC Riverside will only strengthen UC efforts in helping California and the world to sustainably feed itself.”

Posted on Wednesday, October 15, 2014 at 10:03 AM

Drought is driving interest in high-tech irrigation systems

Overhead irrigation systems can be part of an agricultural system that improves irrigation management, increases carbon storage and builds soil quality.
Interest in new irrigation technology is getting a boost from the ongoing California drought, reported Kate Campbell in AgAlert.

Allan Fulton, UC Cooperative Extension advisor for Glenn, Shasta and Tehama counties, said technology is improving the ability to organize crop data and get it to farm managers on the fly.

"With the right system," Fulton said, "farmers can get almost to-the-minute information on every aspect of their crop."

As new, integrated database systems are being created, new data-gathering equipment also is advancing for field use to further aid on-farm decisions, the article said. For example, the California Department of Food and Agriculture announced last week a $286,000 grant to UC Davis for work on a continuous leaf moisture monitoring system. Using thermal infrared sensors along with environmental sensors that measure ambient temperature and relative humidity, wind speed and incident radiation, the system's goal is to detect crop water status to support irrigation management.

Jeff Mitchell, a UCCE specialist in the Department of Plant Sciences at UC Davis, is evaluating overhead, or center pivot, irrigation technology, especially in a system that includes conservation tillage. The research is being conducted at the UC West Side Research and Extension Center in Five Points with equipment donated by industry.

The work group focuses on emerging crop- and soil-management techniques — conservation tillage, high-surface residue preservation, cover crops — to improve irrigation management, increase carbon storage and build soil quality.

"We're developing completely new cropping systems for the valley," Mitchell said, "and these get at the so-called three E's of farming—integration of equipment, economics and ecology."

Kings County farmer Dino Giacomazzi, said growers are thinking in terms of systems these days. Giacomazzi is a founding member of UC's Conservation Agriculture Systems Innovation, a workgroup that Mitchell chairs.

"It's very difficult to put things together piecemeal. Even to get advice about these more advanced systems is difficult," Giacomazzi said.

Posted on Wednesday, October 8, 2014 at 7:41 PM

The California economy could survive a 72-year drought

If a drought in California stretched on for 72 years, it wouldn't be a complete disaster, reported Bettina Boxall in the Los Angeles Times. According to computer modeling research by a group of UC and CSU scientists, the California economy would not collapse and agriculture would shrink, but not disappear.

"The results were surprising," said Jay Lund, director of the Center for Watershed Sciences at UC Davis. "California has a remarkable ability to weather extreme and prolonged droughts from an economic perspective."

Dan Sumner, director of the UC Agricultural Issues Center, said the state's 8 million acres of irrigated cropland could be cut in half. Farmers would grow less "low-value crops" like cotton and alfalfa and use reduced water supplies for growing fruits, nuts and vegetables.

Land that had been farmed would revert to scrub or be dry-farmed with wheat or other crops that were common before the federal government built a system to channel water to the valley.

"In a sense, we move back to the future," Sumner said.

Some farm communities would turn into ghost towns, the article said. "For a while, poor people would get a lot poorer throughout the Central Valley," Sumner said. "Then they'd move."

Since agriculture and ag industries make up 4 percent of the California economy, a decades-long drought wouldn't destroy the state's economy.
Posted on Tuesday, October 7, 2014 at 8:27 AM

Dairies struggle to feed cattle during California drought

Tom Barcellos , a dairy forage production innovator, was featured in the LA Times.
Dairy farmer Tom Barcellos, a longtime member of the UC Conservation Agriculture Systems Innovation workgroup, was featured in a Los Angeles Times story about the impact of the drought on the dairy industry. Barcellos said he fallowed 300 acres of farmland this summer and is buying feed from contractors in Nevada, Texas and as far away as Australia.

"If we don't get rain or have a good winter, our farmers might leave the state," Barcellos said.

Dairy products - milk, cream, butter and cheese - are by far the largest segment of California agricultural production, contributing $140 billion annually to the state's economy. But the the state's industry is shrinking.

According to Lesley "Bees" Butler, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics at UC Davis, California has lost 1 to 2 percent of its dairy industry in the last three years. About 100 dairies go out of business every year waiting for rain.

"It's a huge time of uncertainty," Butler said.

Posted on Friday, October 3, 2014 at 2:04 PM

Landscape trees also suffer drought consequences

Water-stressed landscape trees tend to shed their leaves to conserve resources.
Low rainfall in the state of California is stressing landscape trees in urban areas, reported the San Jose Mercury-News.

Igor Lacan, UCCE advisor in Santa Clara, Contra Costa and Alameda counties, says it's difficult to make blanket statements about which species are in trouble, since a tree's water- and heat-related health depends on its location.

Some species on a south-facing slope might show drought stress, while the same species on a north-facing slope doesn't. Stress symptoms also show up on trees planted near paved surfaces, though not near other surfaces that don't reflect heat, Lacan said. Since many tree species are fairly resilient, damage comes on slowly and may take months or years to become apparent.

But Lacan was able to conclude with a positive comment.

"The good thing is that in all likelihood mature, established trees, if climatically appropriate (for their location), will make it through ... just fine," Lacan said.

Posted on Friday, October 3, 2014 at 1:38 PM

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