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Monthly news roundup: October 2017

Burning question: Can California prevent the next wildfire?
Glen Martin, California Magazine, Oct. 31, 2017
The incentive for city council members and county supervisors is to encourage development and expand tax bases, said UC ANR researcher and UC Berkeley professor Scott Stephens. As a result, homes are often built in wild land “interface” areas with extreme fire risk. “UC Cooperative maintains programs in every California county, so we already have a network of educators and communicators,” Stephens said. “We could coordinate with state agencies and the governor to create and implement wildfire safety and response programs that could be very effective. And because the basic structure is already in place, it wouldn't be very expensive.”

UC Merced County Extension programs boosted by local endowment
Todd Fitchette, Western Farm Press, Oct. 31, 2017
Several years ago, UCCE advisor David Doll came up with a plan to crowd source some funding to help the county Extension office pay for projects that otherwise fell to the wayside as slim sources of revenue found other priorities. “Over the years there has been a consistent erosion of base funding for our services, not only from UC, but from county and federal governments,” Doll said. Through his contacts with almond growers in his county, Doll secured about $14,000 from less than 10 donors now part of an endowment which the Merced County Extension can budget annually in perpetuity.

Most USDA new farmer trainees still in the industry, survey finds
Tim Hearden, Capital Press, Oct. 31, 2017
More than half the participants in new farmer training projects the USDA has spent more than $150 million on since 2008 are still working in agriculture, a group's survey has found. The survey's findings should encourage the UC to seek more grant funding for similar projects elsewhere, said Jennifer Sowerwine, an extension specialist based at UC Berkeley who was on an advisory board for the USDA's evaluation. “As the metropolitan agriculture and food system specialist, I see several opportunities ... to expand (the UC's) offerings to support aspiring and beginning urban and peri-urban farmers,” Sowerwine said.

Marin sudden oak death infections surge
Richard Halstead, Marin Independent Journal, Oct. 28, 2017
The sudden oak death infection rate in Marin has doubled to more than 21 percent since 2015, according to Matteo Garbelotto, UC Cooperative Extension specialist and director of the UC Berkeley Forest Pathology and Mycology Laboratory.

UC Davis is producing a more natural organic egg, but how does it taste?
Sally Schilling, Capital Public Radio, Oct. 27, 2017
UC Cooperative Extension poultry specialist Maurice Pitesky says the USDA may stop allowing the organic chicken egg producers to use a synthetic protein supplement, called methionine. His group of researchers is trying an alternative protein source: black soldier fly larvae. “This might be a way to move away from that synthetic methionine and try something that the chickens naturally have an inclination to eat,” Pitesky said. He held a tasting event to determine if the larvae influence egg flavor.

Restoring California's ability to recharge groundwater a more cost-effective drought strategy
Judy Corbett, California Economic Summit, Oct. 26, 2017
Last year, UC ANR and the California Economic Summit brought together 25 innovative land use decision makers and 25 water experts to determine how they might better work together to implement groundwater recharge policies and projects. Their conclusion, land use and water supply entities should reach out to flood control agencies to jointly identify and preserve lands for the dual purpose of recharging groundwater recharge and providing flood protection.

We need novel ways to stave off wildfires
Francie Diep, City Lab, Oct. 26, 2017
Pacific Standard spoke with three California residents, all of whom have interesting, well-supported, yet often little-known ideas for wildfire prevention strategies. One of the interviewees was UCCE specialist Max Moritz. He said people need to start thinking of wildfires the way they do tornadoes and earthquakes: as inevitable natural disasters.

Non-GMO food labels are incredibly misleading—and could be harming you and the environment
Michael Tabb, Quartz Media, Oct. 26, 2017
One recent diet fad is to avoid genetically modified food. It's led to an sharp increase in non-GMO labels. According to Pam Ronald, UC Cooperative Extension specialist whose husband is an organic farmer, farms going non-GMO to meet consumer demand are causing major damage. “These non-GMO labels have proliferated, and they're really a problem,” Ronald told Quartz. “Because there's no regulation, they can just spray anything they want. So what's happening is… they're going back to using [far] more toxic compounds. And I think that's really a disservice to the consumer to market it as somehow being more healthy—when of course, it's not, and it's also more harmful to the environment.”

Milk, salads, kitty litter, condoms: ‘Non-GMO labels sow confusion
Geoffrey Mohan, Los Angeles Times, Oct. 25, 2017
Clover Sonoma to jump into the trend of labeling products as free of genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, which some consumers fear could cause health and environmental damage, despite firm rebuttals from the country's top scientific and medical organizations. "It's like unicorn-free milk," said Alison L. Van Eenennaam, UC Cooperative Extension genomics specialist. "There aren't any GMOs in milk anyway."

My beef with killing the meet industry
Matthew Hable, The Lumberjack (Humboldt State student newspaper), Oct. 24, 2017
Eliminating the meat industry would do more harm than good to our planet. “Agriculture cannot be sustainable without animal agriculture,” said Frank Mitloehner, UC Cooperative Extension specialist. “That is something I'm sure of.”

Don't get fooled by the calendar. October is deadly month for fires in California
Ryan Sabalow and Dale Kasler, Sacramento Bee, Oct. 24, 2017
Although the risks from new fires have abated in Northern California in recent days, officials cautioned that the perils haven't been completely extinguished despite the light rains that swept through the area last week. “In two days, it'll be as dry as it was before the rains, roughly,” said Bill Stewart, the co-director of UC Berkeley's Center for Fire Research and Outreach.

California needs to rethink urban fire risk after wine country tragedy
Max Moritz, Los Angeles Times, Oct. 24, 2017
The Northern California fires revealed that we have key gaps in our policy and planning related to assessing risk in fire-prone environments. An essential step is to shift our perspective from a focus on hazard to one that more comprehensively includes human vulnerabilities.

Trees and People: SOD Workshop
Bill Pramuk, Napa Valley Register, Oct. 23, 2017
The Sudden Oak Death blitz in Napa County delivered good news. The county had a very low infection rate. UCCE specialist Matteo Garbelotto will present the Blitz results and practical information at a free session Oct. 28 in Napa.

We're with you: Australian wine producers' message to California
Tyne Logan, ABC Australia, Oct. 23, 2017
Australia's two peak wine bodies have sent a letter offering support and condolences to the Californian wine industry following deadly wildfires. The wildfires have caused significant loss to those directly involved but the industry as a whole would not suffer big production losses, said Jim Lapsley, of the UC ANR Agricultural Issues Center. He said the biggest impact for the Californian wine industry would be on the high-value wine, for which the region is most renowned.

Sudden oak death moves into urban locales in East Bay and on Peninsula
Lisa Krieger, Mercury News, Oct. 22, 2017
A highly contagious disease that has already killed millions of rural California trees is spreading into urban areas in the East Bay and on the Peninsula, according to a major new University of California survey. Once-untouched areas must now “face disease impacts and management decisions,” said UC Cooperative Extension specialist Matteo Garbelotto, who heads the Forest Pathology and Mycology Laboratory at UC Berkeley. While it does not mean that all oaks in those areas will die, it indicates that they are at elevated risk.

Experts call for changes in wake of deadly wildfires in Northern California
Cheri Carlson, Ventura County Star, Oct. 22, 2017
California is ahead of a lot of the country with respect to preparing to handle wildfire, said Max Moritz, a wildfire specialist with the University of California Cooperative Extension. “But we still have a lot to learn,” he said. Do the building codes already in place work under such severe conditions, and how do you get people out in time? “That's what we're going to be asking ourselves as we pick up the pieces and look at what happened here,” Moritz said.

Do you care if your fish dinner was raised humanely? Animal advocates say you should
Clare Leschin-Hoar, NPR The Salt, Oct. 20, 2017
Mercy for Animals is beginning to lay the groundwork for a campaign that will target the aquaculture industry and shine a light on the conditions in which finfish like salmon, tilapia, catfish, trout, pangasius and other species are raised.  Thrying to shift the aquaculture industry won't be easy. The vast majority of the farmed fish Americans eat comes from countries like China, Indonesia, Canada, Norway, Chile and Ecuador. "Welfare rights are primarily a Western phenomenon," says UC Cooperative Extension specialist Fred Conte. "You go to Central America or China and you're not going to find welfare standards."

What's to blame for wine country fires? PG&E isn't the only suspect
Editorial Board, Sacramento Bee, Oct. 20, 2017
Max Moritz, a fire specialist at the University of California Cooperative Extension, compared the Tubbs Fire to the Santa Ana wind-driven wildfires that regularly rip down the canyons into Southern California suburbs, with the added twist of bigger, denser Northern California vegetation, dried like mega-kindling. Such fires have not been the norm in cooler, damper NorCal, but the occurrence of such a monster here this year “forces us to consider that this kind of fire could happen in lots of places,” Moritz said.

Why were California's widlfires so deadly? The answer lies in the forest
Eric Holst, Environmental Defense Fund, Oct. 20, 2017
In a Q&A article with the Environmental Defense Fund, UCCE farm advisor emeritus Greg Giusti adi the driving force of the California widlfires was wind. Other factors responsible for the devastation include 100 years of fire suppression, early and mid-20th century logging converting old growth forests to more densely populated stands of trees, suburban and rural sprawl spreading out into wildlands, and programs and actions addressing fire prevention relying too heavily on fire suppression.

Rain brings relief for burned soil, but expert worried about runoff
Ashley Tressel, Ukiah Daily Journal, Oct. 20, 2017
UCCE Mendocino County advisor emeritus Greg Giusti believes recent rain was enough to get some seeds germinating, so Mendocino County might begin to see some green in the next couple of weeks, if the weather stays warm.

Sudden oak death likely exacerbated deadly Northern California wildfires
Peter Fimrite, San Francisco Chronicle, Oct. 20, 2017
A dramatic increase this year in the number of oaks, manzanita and native plants infected by sudden oak death likely helped spread the massive fires that raged through the North Bay, according to Matteo Garbelotto, UCCE forest pathology and mycology specialist. In a recently released study he reported that 37 percent of the trees sampled in fire-ravaged eastern Sonoma County — prior to the fires — were infected by sudden oak death.

Urban conflagration: Fire scientist on climate change and what makes California's wildfires different
Amy Goodman, Democracy Now, Oct. 20, 2017
“Lots of trends that we've seen over the last several decades in fire have been related back to climate change,” said UCCE specialist Max Moritz. “There's pretty conclusive evidence for a link to climate change for many of the fires that we've seen in the last couple of decades. And the trends match up with what we expect from climate change and from our models.”

Citrus crisis
Elizabeth Lorenz, Palo Alto Weekly, Oct. 19, 2017
Asian citrus psyllid has been found in eastern Santa Clara County as well as other Bay Area counties. It is considered established in Southern California. "So far, the term 'eradication' has only been used early on in the invasion and in agricultural production areas. Residential treatments are voluntary but highly recommended by the state at this time,” said Andrew Sutherland, UC Cooperative Extension IPM advisor the San Francisco Bay Area.

Why California wildfires are infernos in October
Lesley McClurg, KQED Science, Oct. 19, 2017
It typically doesn't rain in California all summer. “By October California has dried out,” said University of California, Berkeley fire expert William Stewart. “So every hillside is basically fuel waiting to burn.”

“Like a blowtorch”: Powerful winds fueled tornadoes of flame in Tubbs Fire
Peter Fimrite, San Francisco Chronicle, Oct. 18, 2017
The Tubbs Fire was driven by a steady 40 mph winds. “Just like water flows from higher to lower elevation, winds flow down a pressure gradient as they go from high pressure to low pressure,” said Max Moritz, a wildfire specialist with the UC Cooperative Extension. “When they get concentrated, like through a mountain pass, they will speed up, like a river going through a narrow channel.”

Northern California fire victims may want to rebuild. But can they find someone to do it?
Stuart Leavenworth and Anita Chabria, Sacramento Bee, Oct. 18, 2017
Families that lost their homes in the Northern California fires will be competing for contractors to rebuild. “It was hard to get workers before the fires, because the living costs in Sonoma and Napa are so much higher than elsewhere,” said Philip Martin, a labor economist UC Davis. “Most people would say it is even going to get even harder to find workers after the fires.”

How California's North Bay fires became the state's deadliest
Tara Lohan, NewsDeeply, Oct. 17, 2017
Nearly two weeks after more than a dozen devastating wildfires erupted across Northern California, experts are beginning to ponder what happened.  “We don't know what triggered the ignition, but once a fire ignited the real story is that there was receptive vegetation everywhere that could carry that fire,” said Yana Valachovic, forest advisor in Humboldt County. It was “extreme fire weather,” said Yana Valachovic, forest advisor in Humboldt County. The driving force of the fire was wind that gusted up to 70 miles per hour and pushed embers a mile head of the fire, she said. “It's a lot like being in a horizontal hailstorm of coals.”

Northern California is facing catastrophic wildfires more typically seen in the south. Experts aren't sure why
Bettina Boxall, Los Angeles Times, Oct. 16, 2017
"These kinds of fires and the losses are very uncharacteristic of that part of the world," UC Cooperative Extension specialist Max Moritz said of the firestorm that ignited in Northern California last week, killing dozens of people and torching thousands of homes. "It has all the signatures of a massive, Southern California Santa Ana wind event.”

Devastated suburb was exempt from fire rules
Doug Smith and Nin Agrawal, Los Angeles Times, Oct. 15, 2017
California fire officials developed hazard maps in the 2000s that for the first time tied building codes to geographies based on risk. Max Moritz, UC Cooperative Extension fire scientist, said the maps were an important step forward in assessing fire danger. But the Coffey Park catastrophe has shown that the methodology, and the law underlying it, were too narrow. “With a lot of hazard mapping, once you get into a density of development, it's mapped urban and it's considered unburnable,” Moritz said. “From its core, our whole approach to fire behavior modeling, we are not talking about burning in urbanized environments.”

Firefighters begin to feel relief in Napa County wildfires
Maria Sestito, Napa Valley Register, Oct. 14, 2017
Firefighters from all over California, bordering states, Mexico, Canada and Australia have been pitching in to control the wildfires in Northern California. “They basically just keep putting more and more people on,” said William Stewart, co-director of the UC Center for Fire Research and Outreach at UC Berkeley. “They're trying to figure out how to rotate people out as fast as they can.” Stewart said the fires were the biggest and most complicated ever in Northern California. “I've never seen anything like this.”

California blazes are part of a larger and hotter picture, fire researchers say
Geoff Brumfiel, Valley Public Radio, Oct. 13, 2017
In Northern California,a wet spring caused the hills to grow thick with grasses and shrubs. That foliage then died and dried out over the hottest summer in California history. The winds caused small fires to grow extremely quickly. "Everybody from firefighters down to homeowners has commented on just how incredibly fast the fires were moving," says Max Moritz, UC Cooperative Extension specialist. "That's really a wind-related phenomenon."

Cannabis farmers get no help from UC farm advisors
Hanford Sentinel, Oct. 12, 2017
UC Cooperative Extension is a source of information on a wide variety of agricultural crops, but not cannabis. "We are prohibited by law from making any comments on marijuana,” says Tulare/Kings farm advisor Kevin Day. Humboldt County farm advisor Yana Valachovic said UC gets federal funding and the word has come down some time ago "not to get involved.” However, UCCE specialist Van Butsic says “we can track what goes in the fields and in greenhouses but not in those big warehouses" in the future. As for acreage, he expects most marijuana farms will be an acre or less and the statewide total may come to 50,000 to 100,000 acres.

Spending more on fire suppression won't reduce losses
Scott Stephens, San Francisco Chronicle, Oct. 12, 2017
Australia, in contrast to California, has developed a more effective “Prepare, stay and defend, or leave early” policy. With this approach, trained residents decide whether they will stay and actively defend their well-prepared property or leave early before a fire threatens them. By examining the Australian model, we might approach a more sustainable coexistence with fire. However, some California communities are so vulnerable that a “Prepare and leave early” strategy might be the only option.

How this week's wildfire outbreak became one of the deadliest in California's history
J.J. Gallagher, ABC News, Oct. 12, 2017
The Tubbs blaze may be one of the deadliest wildfires in California history. "When a fire moves that quickly, there really is no evacuation notification system that can keep up," said Scott Stephens, a UC ANR fire science researcher at the University of California Berkeley. "We're talking about just minutes."

California wildfires: Why have they been so destructive?
Julie Turkewitz, New York Times, Oct. 11, 2017
Parched landscapes can increase fire size and duration, said Scott L. Stephens, a UC ANR researcher of fire science at the University of California, Berkeley. But it is important to note, he added, that climate change is not necessarily causing specific fires to occur. Wildfires are a natural part of a forest's life cycle and have been part of the state's history since long before anyone called it California.

Wildfires destroy at least 6 Northern California wineries
Eric Chaney, The Weather Channel, Oct. 11, 2017
Any of this year's harvest still in the fields is threatened not only by flames, but also by smoke, which can ruin grapes that have not yet been picked. Still, most of this year's crop was already picked and next year's fruit won't likely be affected, UCCE specialist Anita Oberholster told the AP. "Even if wines now were heavily affected by smoke, it doesn't carry over to the next season, only in the fruit itself," she said.

What needs to be done to stop wildfire in drought-killed forests
Matt Weiser, Water Deeply, Oct. 11, 2017
UCCE specialist Van Butsic, who recently published a study that proposes a new way to manage forests, is featured in a Q&A format. Bustic discusses how California forests are impacted by the drought, how much prescribed fire is needed to bring forests back to a healthy state, and laws and procedures followed by state and federal agencies on fire suppression.

How the deadly Tubbs Fire blitzed Santa Rosa, overwhelming residents and firefighters
Jill Tucker, Lizzie Johnson, Joaquin Pamomino and Kurtis Alexander, San Francisco Chronicle, Oct. 11, 2017
The narrow path of destruction westward from the Napa Valley to Calistoga was “a classic example of wind-driven fire,” said Scott Stephens, a UC ANR researchers and fire science professor at UC Berkeley. He said a canyon that slopes downhill on the outskirts of Santa Rosa allowed the blaze to churn into something much bigger right before it collided with homes and businesses. “The winds were just ferocious, and by chance, and very sad chance, they happened to vector the fire right toward the city of Santa Rosa,” Stephens said. “It doesn't surprise me that the eastern areas were hit on the urban-wildland interface, but the fire penetrated the city by three-fourths of a mile or more.”

Here's why October is California's most dangerous month for wildfires
Jennifer Calfas, Time Magazine, Oct. 10, 2017
With a combination of dry fuel and fast winds this late in the season, “there's a very big chance you're going to get big, terrible fires,” said UCCE specialist Max Moritz. “All you need is ignition and you have the perfect storm, really.”

Tracking the damage of a disaster-in-progress
H. Claire Brown and Joe Fassler, New Food Economy, Oct. 10, 2017
Smoke taint in wine grapes is a condition that makes them unpalatable and not viable for sale. “The fruit gets tainted with various phenolic compounds and creosotes [that] give these smoke flavors that aren't pleasant,” says Glenn McGourty, a Mendocino-based farm advisor for the University of California Extension. “If they tasted like bacon, it would be great, but they don't taste like bacon. They taste like ash trays.”

UC, nonprofit receive $500,000 grant to start entrepreneurs' network
Tim Hearden, Capital Press, Oct. 4, 2017
The University of California's Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources and AgStart will use the money to cultivate the Verde Innovation Network for Entrepreneurship, which will provide assistance for businesses. “We want to make sure every Californian has the support system to take a novel idea and commercialize a new product or start a new business,” Glenda Humiston, the UC's vice president for ag and natural resources, said in a statement. “They don't have to be a university inventor. They could be a farmer or a young person.”

UC Riverside to take avocado breeding program global
David Downey, The Riverside Press-Enterprise, Oct. 2, 2017
The avocado industry is confined to cool coastal counties. If a variety could grow on a wide scale in the San Joaquin Valley, it would be a game changer. “That's one of my dreams

Posted on Wednesday, November 1, 2017 at 8:38 AM

Monthly news roundup: September 2017

Rice acreage is down, and yield seems to be too
Steven Schoonover, Chico Enterprise, Sept. 30, 2017
The Sacramento Valley rice harvest, now underway, is expected to come in about 10 percent lower than normal because of late planting due to the wet spring and extended heat waves. UCCE Colusa County advisor Luis Espino said some farmers may have skipped or rushed some of the steps they normally take in preparing the fields for planting, and that could have consequences at harvest time. UCCE Yuba-Sutter advisor Whitney Brim-Forest said the plants made “too much foliage, too fast” because of the summer heat, giving them less energy for producing rice grain.

Booming demand for hay in Asia, Middle East driving agribusiness in the California desert
Ian James, Desert Sun, Sept. 28, 2017
Less than 6 percent of the alfalfa grown across the U.S. is exported, said UCCE specialist Daniel Putnam. Domestic dairies continue to buy the most hay, and California alone has about 1.5 million dairy cows, many of them in the Central Valley. In a report last year, Putnam and his colleagues said exporting hay is likely to be a permanent phenomenon in western states as foreign demand continues to grow and as “scarce land and water limit production” of hay in Asia and the Middle East.

UCCE to offer Oct. 28 seminar on Sudden Oak Death
Napa Valley Register, Sept. 28, 2017
UCCE specialist Matteo Garbelotto presents a free training session on the prevention and management of Sudden Oak Death Oct. 28. He will discuss the results of the 2017 Sudden Oak Death bio-blitz and provide practical information on Sudden Oak Death disease.

Lodi Library to host series of nutrition classes
Danielle Vaughn, Lodi News-Sentinel, Sept. 27, 2017
UC Cooperative Extension will hold an eight-part nutrition class at the Lodi Library. “We wanted to help out the community in our area there in Lodi. It's something new for them to try because some people don't have access to these classes for free,” said Claudia Montelongo, UCCE nutrition educator. “Some people have to go to Delta to take some of these classes and some of these lessons we are covering in the series.”

Student organic garden association hosts CA Secretary of Food and Agriculture Karen Ross
Jenny Weng, The Daily Californian, Sept. 27, 2017
UC Cooperative Extension specialist Jennifer Sowerwine was part of the contingent who spoke with CDFA secretary Karen Ross when she visited the Berkeley campus at the behest of the Student Organic Garden Association. They discussed the campus's plans for a housing development on the Oxford Tract, where the students currently cultivate an organic farm. Sowerwine talked about her work in urban farming and sustainability.

UC Merced launches new standalone Ph.D. program in public health
Sierra Sun Times, Sept. 24, 2017
UC Merced's new Ph.D. program in public health includes the opportunity for community outreach. Students can work with Karina Diaz Rios, a UC Cooperative Extension physical activity and nutrition specialist. “Karina is a real asset to our program and she offers something unique to our campus,” said Nancy Burke, professor and chair of public health at UC Merced. “She's on the ground working with a variety of community-based intervention programs. She's plugged into different groups of scholars and she provides access to a great network for students and faculty.”

Blueprint for produce: How fruits & vegetables are designed for the market
Tara Duggan, San Francisco Chronicle, Sept. 22, 2017
With UC Davis a top agricultural research center, the Central Valley's excellent growing conditions and new farm technology constantly emerging from Silicon Valley, a lot of seed development is happening quietly in the Bay Area's backyard. “The seed industry is essential to agriculture — we have to have seeds to start — but it's sort of a hidden part,” says Kent Bradford, professor at UC Davis' Seed Biotechnology Center. “It's where the new technology comes in.”

Concours d'Elegance raises money for youth agriculture programs
Kyla Cathey, Lodi News-Sentinel, Sept. 22, 2017
The former chair of the California State 4-H Foundation, Gail Kautz, now chairs an annual car show at the Ironstone Vineyards in Murphys, which raises funds for the Ironstone Concours Foundation. The foundation donates $10,000 to State FFA headquarters in Galt each year and presents scholarships at the California State Fair and the Calaveras County Fair. The foundation also helps support 4-H programs like the leadership conference, guide dog and horse projects.

In the West, communities pioneer cooperative approach to fighting wildfires
Jessica Mendoza, Christian Science Monitor, Sept. 21, 2017
As climate change leads to hotter, drier summers, and populations grow in fire-prone regions, fire professionals have increasingly turned to strategies beyond fire suppression. “It's almost a shelter-in-place mentality,” says UCCE specialist Max Moritz. “If we're going to see more events that are more extreme ... we're going to have to learn to live in tune with the natural hazards of the environment where we are.”

Agritourism provides cash cow amid drying revenue streams
Sara Hayden, Half Moon Bay Review, Sept. 20, 2017
Natalie Sare of Santa's Tree Farm east of Half Moon Bay remembers when it was possible to make a living just by farming. That's less common now. “It's changed a lot in terms of the fact that in order to survive, you need to be able to offer something a little bit more,” Sare said. Many farmers are turning to agritourism, said UC agritourism coordinator Penny Leff.  “They do (agritourism) to connect with their communities and educate. They're genuinely really interested in doing what they do,” Leff said.

Growing popularity of Moringa powder could be a boon for Valley farmers
Dale Yurong, ABC Channel 30 news, Sept. 19, 2017
San Joaquin Valley farmers are always looking for new crops to grow their profits. UC Cooperative Extension small farm advisor Ruth Dahlquist-Willard believes local farmers can find a niche with Moringa. “It has very high nutritional content, especially in the leaves, so a lot of development projects overseas will use it as a powder to add to food to give more vitamins and nutrients to people. And it's actually grown here in Fresno by some Hmong and Filipino farmers,” she said. The valley's extreme summer heat poses a challenge, however.

Five Lodians to be inducted into Ag Hall of Fame
Danielle Vaughn, Lodi News-Sentinel, Sept. 15, 2017
UC Cooperative Extension advisor emeritus Joseph Grant was one of five local agriculturalists to be inducted into the Ag Hall of Fame. “It's kind of awesome. I mean when you look at the other people that have been inducted into the Hall of Fame, I don't consider myself in that class of people so it's humbling,” Grant said. For most of his career Grant focused his research on walnuts, cherries, apples, olives and other tree crops. He retired in 2016.

Rabid bat cases coincide with beginning of fall migration
Elizabeth Larson, Lake County News, Sept. 14, 2017
Lake County's public health officer said a second bat in Lake County has tested positive for rabies. The danger is the potential for a dog or cat to be infected, and then expose people. The level of rabies in bats “is really a numbers game,” said UC Cooperative Extension advisor Rachael Long. More bats with rabies are being seen because more bats are migrating. Bats that have rabies are easy to distinguish, she said, as they usually are so sick they're paralyzed. If you come across such an animal, it should be tested.

Yolo tomato field contaminated by branched broomrape
Jenice Tupolo, Woodland Daily Democrat, Sept. 13, 2017
Branched broomrape was found in a Woodland tomato field. The field was quarantined and treated to eradicate the pest. Three years ago, a different broomrape species — Egyptian broomrape — nestled itself in Solano County. “The canning tomato industry and CDFA cooperated on an eradication effort in the Solano County tomato field,” said UC Cooperative Extension advisor Gene Miyao. “This was the first report of this introduction in North America.”

Wildfires are raging across western North America and climate change is contributing
Hilary Beaumont, Vice News Canada, Sept. 12, 2017
Climate change is contributing to 2017's extreme fire season. As of Sept. 12, 62 fires were burning in the western half of Canada and the United States. Some of these areas are already fire prone, so it's harder to blame those fires on climate change, said Max Mortiz, UC Cooperative Extension fire science specialist. But some fires have struck areas that are normally wet with precipitation, but this year had hot, dry conditions.

First baby born during 4-H Week to receive a gift basket
Red Bluff Daily News, Sept. 9, 2017
The first baby born in Tehama County during National 4-H Week Oct. 1-7 will received a basket of handmade, store bought and cash donations courtesy of 4-H volunteers. Other events that coincide with National 4-H Week are National 4-H Youth Science Day, which takes place on Oct. 4 when members are encouraged to learn more about fitness by building their own wearable fitness tracker.

Improving water management: Can Silicon Valley help?
Michael Cahn, Growing Produce, Sept. 7, 2017
many high-tech start-up companies have developed well-intentioned products without first understanding the constraints of most vegetable production operations. Silicon Valley may have the know-how to develop high-tech tools that can help achieve better water management, but these companies will need partnerships with the agriculture industry for their investments to pay off.

Sonoma County grape growers working long nights, days to bring in crop
Guy Kovner and Martin Espinoza, Santa Rosa Press Democrat, Sept. 7, 2017
The four-day heat wave over Labor Day weekend threw the wine grape harvest into high gear. Rain would be unwelcome at this time, since it could trigger botrytis. Rhonda Smith, UC Cooperative Extension advisor in Sonoma County, said botrytis infections are “ubiquitous” and ever present. The real concern, she said, is whether high humidity and mild temperatures persist long enough to allow the fungus to trigger “disease onset.”

Group aims to tackle Sonoma County food waste
Christi Warren, Santa Rosa Press Democrat, Sept. 6, 2017
a group of Sonoma County nonprofits aim to divert food waste to the homes of the estimated 82,000 local residents who go hungry each month. The project's creation was made possible through a $5,000 grant from Impact 100 Redwood Circle, said Mimi Enright, a program manager at UC Cooperative Extension Sonoma and coalition member.

Holy guacamole! Avocado prices rise to record highs
Benjamin Parkin, Wall Street Journal, Sept. 6, 2017
A small crop in California coincided with a tough season in Mexico to drive wholesale prices to around $80 a case, which is threatening the bottom line at restaurants as they try to meet rising demand for the fruit. “The market is growing faster than the supply,” said Mary Lu Arpaia, UC Cooperative Exltention subtropical horticulture specialist.

Reading the tea leaves of alternative crops
David Eddy, Growing Produce, Sept. 2, 2017
Director of the UC Kearney REC, Jeff Dahlberg, has one word for those who scoff at the notion of growing tea in California: blueberries. About 20 years ago, when a UCCE advisor suggested blueberries, “Everyone laughed at him,” Dahlberg says. Now California producers have yields that double those of blueberry farms in a traditional location like Michigan. Craft California tea may be the next big thing.

California farmers say they don't have enough workers – but it's not because of Trump
Stephen Magagnini, Sacramento Bee, Sept. 1, 2017
The slowdown of illegal workers coming from Mexico has transformed California agriculture, resulting in higher wages and mechanization, said UC ANR agricultural economist Philip Martin. “In 2000, about 1 in 3 California farmworkers was what the government called a newcomer – young, single males about 25 who went wherever they were needed,” Martin said. “Over the last 20 years, the arrival of new illegal workers was sort of the grease that kept the farm labor market running smoothly.” But while about 55 percent of the nation's farmworkers are still undocumented, Martin said the average age is almost 40 and these workers have established homes and don't migrate any more.

 

Posted on Monday, October 2, 2017 at 9:00 AM

Monthly news roundup: August 2017

Grants to fund development of disease resistance in strawberries
Mark Anderson, Sacramento Business Journal, Aug. 25, 2017
A team of researchers from UC ANR, UC Davis, UC Santa Cruz, UC Riverside, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and University of Florida received a $6.3 million from the federal government and the California Strawberry Commission to fund research to improve disease resistance in strawberries. Disease resistance is a looming concern for growers as the fumigant methyl bromide is banned for use this year.

How Driscolls reinvented the strawberry
Dana Goodyear, The New Yorker, Aug. 21, 2017
Driscoll's most forbidding competition has come from UC Davis, where for a nominal royalty fee, any grower wishing to use its plants. UC also shares crucial information about horticulture derived from its research. Every farm the university supplies was another acre not given over to Driscoll's.

Merced County farmers organized 100 years ago
Sarah Lim, Merced Sun-Star, Aug. 19, 2017
Merced County UC Cooperative Extension marked its 100th anniversary Aug. 20. As part of the centennial celebration, UCCE and the Merced County Farm Bureau created an exhibit for the Courthouse Museum to show how farming has changed over the past 100 years. The two organizations also hosted a celebration in Courthouse Park, with food, activities and information booths.

Riverside residents asked to help save state's citrus industry from deadly disease
Mark Muckenfuss, Riverside Press-Enterprise, Aug. 27, 2017
Riverside residents are being enlisted in the battle against huanlongbing disease of citrus. The best defense is controlling the Asian citrus psyllid, which spreads the disease. UCCE subtropical horticulture specialist Peggy Mauk said nonchemical treatments aren't effective enough. “One individual that's (infected) can infect many trees,” Mauk said. In killing the psyllid, “You need to get as close to 100 percent as possible.”

Verify: Are half of California farmworkers undocumented?
Barbara Harvey, KXTV ABC Channel 10, Aug. 16, 2017
“Nine of 10 California farmworkers are immigrants. At least five in 10 are undocumented,” said Dianne Feinstein when discussing a bill that would give farmworkers a path to citizenship. However, Egan Reich, a Department of Labor spokesman, said the NAWS statistics do not track “farm workers." While it may be a matter of semantics, it's an important distinction. Philip Martin, a professor emeritus of agricultural and resource economics at UC Davis, highlighted the difference, pointing out that livestock workers could also fall under the broad definition of “farm worker.”

Agriculture's careful use of chlorpyrifos pivotal in EPA decision
Cecelia Parsons, Western Farm Press, Aug. 16, 2017
Pest control advisors and UC IPM specialists often advocate the use of softer materials and new strategies including mating disruption for crop protection, but note there are specific instances where this restricted use material cannot be matched in effectiveness against invasive pests and endemic pest outbreaks and as a resistance management tool. Entomologist Lori Berger of the UC Statewide IPM Program said a UC critical use study helped the EPA understand how and why chlorpyrifos is used in agriculture.

How safe is chicken imported from China? 5 questions answered
Maurice Pitesky, The Conversation, Aug. 13, 2017
Under a new trade deal, cooked poultry meat can be imported to the U.S. from China. UC Cooperative Extension poultry advisor Maurice Pitesky wrote that this is no food safety risk from viruses or bacteria if the meat is cooked properly. However, poultry meat can also contain contaminants, such as heavy metals, and antibiotic residues if birds are treated with antibiotics in an inappropriate fashion. “These risks are probably greater for poultry raised and processed in China than for poultry raised and processed in the United States,” he wrote.

4-H and Google team up to bring tech to America's youth
Christopher Walljasper, AgWeb.com, Aug. 11, 2017
California is one of 22 states in the nation where a new Google career education program was launched. The Internet search giant has donated $1.5 million to the National 4‑H Council to build skills youth will need for the future, like computer science, computational thinking, communication and collaboration,

How will President Trump's immigration plan affect California farm labor?
Lemor Abrams, CBS News Sacramento, Aug. 3, 2017
There is concern among Republicans and Democrats that President Donald Trump's immigration plan will cut into California's shrinking supply of low skilled farm labor. But UC ANR researcher Phillip Martin, who specializes in immigration, says it won't. Contrary to what critics believe, promoting high skilled workers won't hurt low skilled immigrants.

San Jose teen prepares for Santa Clara County Fair
Gillian Brassil, San Jose Mercury-News, Aug. 2, 2017
Santa Clara 4-H member April Alger, 17, raises market goats at the Emma Prusch Farm Park in San Jose. She's been raising animals since she received a chicken for her 10th birthday. This year she'll be selling two goats at the Santa Clara County fair, which she said is a little sad for her. “They're not pets, but they're a little like pets,” she said.

Posted on Friday, September 1, 2017 at 9:32 AM

4-H and Google team up to teach youth computer science

California is one of 22 states in the nation where a new Google career education program was launched today. The Internet search giant has donated $1.5 million to the National 4‑H Council to build skills youth will need for the future, like computer science, computational thinking, communication and collaboration, reported Christopher Walljasper on AgWeb.

Google.org choose to partner with 4-H to provide education to the nation's youth.

The funding lays the foundation to launch the 4‑H Computer Science Career Pathway, which will reach more than 100,000 kids in its first year. 4-H members in Alabama, California, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New York, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia and West Virginia will have access to new devices, curriculum and training.

President of National 4-H Council Jennifer Sirangelo said the career pathway will translate abstract concepts to relatable, practical experiences the 4-H members can use to explore the field of computer science, beginning from interest to studying computer science to choosing computer science for a career.

"We're excited to partner with all the enthusiasm and energy of the Googlers," she said.

Charlotte Smith of Google.org noted that 4-H is the largest community based organization in America.

"We already have 22 states signed up. That's more than we dreamed of," Smith said.

Smith said Google wants kids to develop the skills they will need in the future.

"We don't know what the jobs of tomorrow will look like," Smith said. "Some of them might require computer science skills, but it's much more than that - problem solving, collaboration. We want to give kids as many kinds of tools as we can so they can succeed in any discipline and any field."

Posted on Friday, August 11, 2017 at 3:01 PM

Monthly news roundup: July 2017

Can a pay raise fix agriculture industry's labor crisis? Yes and no
Lisa M. Krieger, San Jose Mercury News, July 30, 2017
“As migration drops, it becomes more important to keep the best workers around, so farmers are willing to do that,” said Jeffrey M. Perloff, a professor in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics at the University of California at Berkeley. Meanwhile, companies that pay premium wages just pull workers from elsewhere, said UC Davis agricultural economist Philip Martin. “They tend to cream off the best workers….It's like when everybody wanted to work for IBM.” Higher wages and rising labor costs are prompting farmers to pursue four strategies, which Martin calls “stretch, substitute, supplement and satisfy.”

New orchard systems advisor returns home
David Eddy, Growing Produce, July 29, 2017
Luke Milliron, the new orchard systems advisor for UC Cooperative Extension in Butte, Glenn and Tehama counties, knows the lay of the land. He grew up in nearly Chico and completed his bachelor's degree at Chico State. Milliron also earned a master's degree at UC Davis in the midst of the drought, a good time to study the measurement of almond tree water stress during dormancy.

Tehama County UC Cooperative Extension gets new director
Julie Zeeb, Red Bluff Daily News, July 26, 2017
Josh Davy may be new to the Tehama County UC Cooperative Extension Director position, assuming it July 1 following the retirement of Rick Buchner, but he is not new to Tehama County. Davy joined UCCE as a research tech in 2004. He returned to school while working and graduated with a master's degree in animal biology from UC Davis. Davy was named a UCCE advisor in 2009.

Holy Guacamole: How the Hass Avocado Conquered the World
Brian Handwerk, Smithsonian, July 28, 2017
Looking for a sign of the apocalypse? Consider this: Our global obsession with guacamole and avocado toast has helped spawn record avocado prices, financial woes for millennials and even an uptick in avocado-related crime. Recently, three men were busted for selling off more than $300,000 worth of Hass avocados. They'd stolen the produce from the California agriculture firm that employed them, then passed them off at discount prices that seemed—and were—too good to be true. “Avocados are very subject to theft,” says Mary Lu Arpaia, a horticulturist and expert avocado breeder at the University of California at Riverside. “If you're not very honest, it's sometimes easy picking.” Call it Grand Theft Avo. 

Wildfire Season Is Scorching the West
Andrea Thompson, Climate Central, July 28, 2017
Now bouts of hot, dry weather are coming earlier and earlier, setting the stage for prime fire conditions. Southern California already has a nearly year-round fire season, Scott Stephens, a professor of fire science at the University of California, Berkeley, said. With those hot periods likely coming earlier and earlier in spring and summer as global temperatures continue to rise, “you're going to have a longer period where fire can ignite and move,” Stephens said.

Calif. continues citrus pest program with widespread support
Tim Hearden, Capital Press, July 28, 2017
For its part, the UC has hired and trained four “scouts” to carefully roam citrus orchards looking for signs of the psyllid. The scouts examine newly emerging leaves and tap branches to bat pests onto a clipboard. The scouting project aims to avoid a repeat of what happened in Florida, where the pest was left unchecked when it first invaded citrus growing regions and swept through the state, UC entomology specialist Beth Grafton-Cardwell said.

Master Gardener: Darker areas on citrus leaves could signal iron deficiency
Ottillia “Toots” Bier, Press Enterprise, July 25, 2017
Q.  The newest leaves of my citrus trees have dark green areas around the veins but the rest of the leaf is light green.  What is wrong?
A. The leaf condition you describe is called interveinal chlorosis and is most commonly caused by a deficiency of iron in the plant. Ottillia “Toots” Bier has been a UC Cooperative Extension master gardener since 1980.

California winemakers no longer fight drought – now it's mildew
Lynn Alley, Wine Spectator, July 24, 2017
After years of drought, California vintners are enjoying wetter conditions this year. But that means vineyards are being plagued with a new problem: mildew. "If you don't find mildew in your vineyards, you haven't looked hard enough," said Glenn McGourty, a UCCE viticulture for Mendocino County. Mark Battany, UCCE viticulture advisor for San Luis Obispo and northern Santa Barbara counties, says that cooler coastal areas in those counties have been ripe for powdery mildew this year. "We've also seen some limited downy mildew, a European import, in a few locations this season," he said. "Quite rare for California."

Worsening labor shortage poses financial challenge to East Contra Costa County farmers — and consumers
Rowena Coetsee, East Bay Times, July 24, 2017
Growers were facing smaller profit margins following the elimination of tariffs on produce imported from Mexico, but the real trouble began when the federal government began cracking down on illegal immigration in the 1990s. East Bay growers also are competing for workers with their counterparts in the Central Valley, where there's a shortage as well, said Janet Caprile, UC Cooperative Extension advisor in Contra Costa County.

Aggressive, stinging colonies of wasps out early this year in Sacramento County
Bill Lindelof, Sacramento Bee, July 24, 2017
In on Sacramento County five-acre property, officials treated 90 yellow jacket nests. The reporter used UC ANR resources to round out the story, noting that yellow jackets usually sting at nesting sites and when someone tries to swat them away from a food source. Defensive behavior gets more aggressive as populations become larger at the same time food gets scarce late in the season.

California academic institutions join the AgTech revolution
Aaron Melgar, SiliconAngle.com, July 24, 2017
The food supply chain is so intertwined and complex that making a meaningful change to it requires coordination, according to UC ANR vice president Glenda Humiston. “It really does take a systems approach. A great example is that UC Davis, my division and other parts of the UC system are working on a central valley agriculture plus food and beverage consortium,” Humiston said. “It's looking at bringing around the table folks from R&D, trained workforce, adequate infrastructure, finance, supply chain and having them actually work together to design what's needed.” This article features 15-minute interview on The Cube with Humiston and Helene Dillard, dean of the UC Davis College of Agriculture and Environmental Science.

Smoke from wildfires worries winemakers
Jenice Tupolo, Daily Democrat, July 22, 2017
Exposure to wildfire smoke during veraison can drastically change a grape's flavor. “Smoke in the wine is difficult to blend out and it makes wine less marketable,” said UC Cooperative Extension viticulture specialist Kaan Kurtural. Luckily, the smoke flavor doesn't carry over to the next season, Kurtural added.

The Detwiler Fire is active at night, and a scientist says that's relatively new
Lewis Griswold, The Fresno Bee, July 22, 2017
A prolonged drought, tall grasses, steep terrain and erratic winds made the Detwiler Fire in Mariposa County difficult to get under control. In addition, the fire isn't “laying down” at night, which is critical for operations. “People keep saying the fire isn't going down at night,” said Scott Stephens, UC ANR researcher and fire science professor at UC Berkeley. “That's something we've been hearing from firefighters since 2008.”

Why California's wildfires have burned so much area so early this season
Sally Schilling, Capital Public Radio, July 21, 2017
California wildfires have burned more than three times the acreage compared to this time last year, which is attributed to thick grass that grew after this year's heavy rainfall. "I think that really hot June weather dried out the fuels much more quickly and made them available to burn," said Scott Stephens, UC ANR researcher and fire science professor at UC Berkeley. “Now we're into just the beginning of August, late July and we're seeing these types of fires."

One good thing about temperatures above 104 degrees
Debbie Arrington, Sacramento Bee, July 21, 2017
The summer heat wave appears to have squelched Sacramento's local population explosion of brown marmorated stink bugs. “This year, BMSB started off at historic lows (since 2013),” said UC Cooperative Extension advisor Chuck Ingels. “Then, the June heat wave hit and the population that was there plummeted. It seems to be proof that temperatures over 100 for extended periods reduces the population – probably especially eggs and nymphs.”

As California's labor shortage grows, farmers race to replace workers with robots
Geoffrey Mohan, Los Angeles Times, July 21, 2017
The $47-billion agriculture industry will have to remake its fields with more machines and better-educated workers, or risk losing entire crops, economists say. On crop mentioned in the story is raisins, which requires new varieties to accommodate mechanization. The Sunpreme, developed for “dried on the vine” production by a retired USDA plant scientist, may soon be widely available, said Matthew Fidelibus, UC Cooperative Extension specialist.

Avocado demand is up, but California growers have been pulling out trees. What gives?
Gabrielle Karol, KXTB ABC 10, July 20, 2017
With high prices for avocados and ever-growing demand for the fruit, who's getting rich off avocados? It's not California's growers, says San Luis Obispo farmer Jim Shanley, pointing to the high cost of labor in California compared to Mexico. UC Cooperative Extension specialist Mary Lu Arpaia and staff research associate Eric Focht are working on identifying new, hardier varieties that could weather more extreme temperatures in the Central Valley.

New UCCE farm advisor Luke Milliron explains focus as orchard systems advisor
Cecilia Parsons, Western Farm Press, July 19, 2017
Luke Milliron belongs to the newest ‘crop' of University of California Cooperative Extension farm advisors. Milliron was a UCCE horticulture intern through an internship program funded by the Almond Board of California and the California Dried Plum Board. The program trains the next generation of UCCE farm advisors, ensuring that vital research continues for California farm commodities.

Supervisors vote to end participation in Elk River program
Ruth Schneider, Times-Standard, July 18, 2017
The program was designed to support projects and activities that are beneficial to the watershed and was a coordinated effort from multiple agencies including Humboldt County Public Works, University of California Cooperative Extension, the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board, CalTrout and USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. Public Works and UC Cooperative Extension decided this year “irreconcilable differences” were straining the cooperation and opted to end participation in the program.

Students learn about hydrology, wildlife, forests, climate and ecology
Union-Democrat, July 14, 2017
California Big Trees State Park graduated 25 students in its summer 2017 California Natural Class. The class is held in partnership with UC ANR. The graduates are now part of a larger, growing community of California Naturalists, who continue to learn about and protect the unique and precious natural resources and public lands. Volunteerism is a key focus of all California Naturalists, and the new graduates will share the new knowledge of nature at Big Trees and throughout California.

UCCE economist Shermain Hardesty retires after more than 30 years
Penny Leff, Davis Enterprise, July 9, 2017
After serving farmers and ranchers as an economist for more than 30 years, including 13 years as a UC Cooperative Extension specialist, Shermain Hardesty retired on July 1.

Drone video: Take a flight over the Sacramento Valley sunflower fields that are exploding right now
Amy Graff, San Francisco Chronicle, July 7, 2017
The Sacramento Valley has nearly 50,000 acres of sunflowers and is the largest producer of hybrid seeds in the country, making up more than 90 percent of the U.S. crop, according to Rachel Long, a farm advisor with the UC Cooperative Extension based in Woodland. Most of the seeds in the valley are shipped to Russia, Eastern Europe, Canada and North and South Dakota, where they are used for sunflower oil production.

Your orange tree may be harboring a dangerous pest
Dale Kasler, Sacramento Bee, July 7, 2017
The discovery of an Asian citrus psyllid in Roseville is the third to be found in the Sacramento area since last fall. The bugs generally move north on agricultural trucks or are carried by unwitting consumers carrying plants or fruit. “It's incidental, it's accidental, but it's happening,” said Chuck Ingels, a UC Cooperative Extension farm advisor.

Quick – how does broccoli grow? The crop-challenged can find answers here
Debbie Arrington, Sacramento Bee, July 7, 2017
The California State Fair will again include a 3.5 acre farm during its July 14-20 run. In addition to edible crops, the farm features several home gardening displays including how to attract pollinators and alternatives to lawn. Over the course of the fair, more than 100 UC Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners will offer advice and answer questions.

Posted on Monday, August 7, 2017 at 2:31 PM

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