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2012 ANR competitive grants program

Based upon the results of the review process, ANR's 2012 competitive grants program will fund the 16 projects listed below for a total of roughly $3.8 million over 5 years. The purpose of this grants program, as outlined in the request for proposals, is to strategically address focused portions of the five strategic initiatives: Endemic and Invasive Pests and Diseases, Healthy Families and Communities, Sustainable Food Systems, Sustainable Natural Ecosystems, and Water Quality, Quantity and Security.

2012 ANR competitive grants - Funded

Proposal Name Animal Welfare Proficiencies Project for 4H Youth
Amount Awarded $ 46,226
Award Source Systemwide Assessment
Principal Investigators Martin Smith - Principal Investigator
Project Summary View project summary
The purpose of the Animal Welfare Proficiencies Project for 4H Youth is to address the ANR Strategic Initiative priorities of enhancing youth science literacy and promoting positive youth development through an integrated research, education, and extension project that focuses on the concepts, practices, and challenges associated with maintaining high standards for animal welfare in the process of raising, keeping and transporting live animals for 4-H Animal Science projects.

The 4-H Youth Development Program has over a century-long history of providing rich, authentic educational experiences in an environment of positive youth development. An important target population for an integrated research and education intervention that focuses on authentic experiences related to animal welfare is youth who participate in 4-H Animal Science projects. The most recent enrollment data for California 4-H Animal Science projects show that nearly 40,000 youth participate in projects involving the rearing, care, and in some cases breeding, showing, and marketing of live animals (California Enrollment Data, 2011); the goal of this project is to augment the 4-H experience for these youth by introducing opportunities to develop advanced problem-solving skills and enhance scientific literacy by exploring themes related to animal welfare. Animal welfare is a complex and multi-disciplinary topic with connections to veterinary science, ethics, behavior, economics, law, and public policy. Integrating these varied topics while in the process of raising and caring for an animal requires science process skills that include critical thinking skills. Critical thinking is defined as the practice of addressing problems by selecting pertinent information, recognizing assumptions, formulating hypothesis, and drawing valid conclusions (Inoue, 2005). These skills are essential in the advancement of scientific literacy (AAAS, 1990), however, it is becoming more evident that in order to fully develop the ability to engage and solve problems, youth must also be also able to empathize and take the perspective of others (Levens, 2007). Therefore, it is imperative that youth have access to educational experiences that concomitantly develop these skill sets through exploration of topics that present multi-dimensional challenges. Through this project youth will begin to understand foundational animal welfare concepts, and develop the skills necessary to make cogent assessments, weigh competing interests, generate solutions, and execute plans in an incremental fashion through self- actualization that is grounded in authentic practice.

Food animal welfare is also a topic that has connections to legislation and public policy in California. For example, voters in California passed Proposition 2, which regulated the housing of gestating sows, egg laying hens and veal calves (Tonsor et al., 2010). As new animal welfare policies are crafted and presented publicly, they must incorporate solid science as well as a consideration for how the different stakeholders may prioritize or value the various aspects of animal welfare (Croney, 2011).

Due to the complex nature of the subject of animal welfare, it is necessary to implement a comprehensive intervention that educates and supports youth in a sustained fashion. The method we have chosen to deliver the multi-faceted intervention will be an Animal Welfare Proficiency Program for 4-H youth. The Proficiency Program methodology is apposite as it is a prolonged intervention where each level of Proficiency builds upon the previous such that knowledge and skills are integrated and enriched over time. Pilot data from an ongoing Proficiency Project focusing on bio-security demonstrate that youth are motivated to participate in projects structured as proficiencies, and that improvements in knowledge and practice result from these sustained interventions (Smith & Meehan, 2011).

This proposal is for a two-year project that will include the development, pilot implementation, and assessment of an Animal Welfare Proficiency Project for 4-H Youth. Year 1 will include the development of curriculum materials for a four-level proficiency structure (based on previously developed Proficiency Projects), the development of assessment tools to address measurable outcomes, and the training of 4-H adult volunteers in curriculum concepts and pedagogical methods. Year 2 will include the implementation of the proficiencies with an estimated 100 youth in three California counties.

This project is results-based with measurable outcomes in several areas including: 1. Improved science content knowledge in veterinary science, endocrinology, and animal behavior. 2. Improved social science literacy in the areas of public policy and economics. 3. Youth development of advanced problem solving skills, critical thinking, and empathy. 4. Development of public speaking and presentation skills.


Proposal Name Description of Current Silage Management Practices and Identification of Obstacles that Prevent the Implementation of Best Management Practices
Amount Awarded $ 49,664
Award Source Kearney
Principal Investigators Noelia Silva-del-Rio - Principal Investigator
Jennifer Heguy - Co PI
Deanne Meyer - Co PI
Project Summary View project summary
PROBLEM

Dairies have been identified as one of the largest sources of volatile organic compounds (VOC) in the San Joaquin Valley, with silages considered the major source. Silage is commonly fed on California dairies, and allows for storage and feed out of forage crops throughout the entire year. This is very important for California dairy production systems, where the major operating cost is feed. However, storing forage as silage may result in large dry matter losses to the environment as run-off, VOC and as wasted feed. To prevent dry matter losses of the ensiled crop, it is critical to implement best management practices (BMP) that limit undesirable microbial activity. This can be achieved by minimizing silage exposure to oxygen. Despite the high value of forages fed as silage, and the large potential losses, the California dairy industry has traditionally paid limited attention to the silage making process. However, regulatory pressure and high feed costs are changing this environment.

In order to mitigate VOC emissions from dairies, the San Joaquin Valley Air District (District) amended Rule 4570 to include silage mitigation measures. The ammended rule applies to dairies with 500 cows and larger, representing 94% of all dairies in the District. Data from a UCCE feed management survey (Silva-del-Rio and Heguy, 2010) provided valuable information in drafting and finalizing silage mitigation measures. Eight of the top ten milk producing counties in California are within the District’s jurisdiction. Without knowledge of current silage management practices on dairies, and potential obstacles that may prevent the implementation of BMP, it will be difficult to: identify management areas where new regulations may be more effective, and define the impact of the proposed mitigation efforts.

OBJECTIVE

The proposal’s aim is to determine practices that improve feed quality and production efficiency, while mitigating environmental impacts of silage in California. This will be accomplished through needs assessments and farm audits. Specific objectives are to:

• Describe current silage management practices: at harvest, ensiling, storage, and feed out.

• Estimate the likelihood of adoption of mitigation strategies.

• Identify obstacles that prevent implementation of BMP and determine how they can be overcome.

• Determine costs of implementing various silage management practices.

• Coordinate the development of silage teams involving nutritionists, agronomists, custom harvesters, UCCE Farm Advisors and Specialists, and dairy producers to implement BMP.

• Develop educational materials (publications, videos, presentations) on BMP that mitigate silage dry matter losses, and consequently VOC emissions.

BENEFITS

The proposed project will assist regulatory agencies to execute a strategic mitigation plan for VOC emissions, and aid dairy producers in increasing production efficiency while decreasing the environmental footprint of silage. With increased costs of production, especially feed costs, and strong regulatory pressure, this research is critical for the continued competitiveness of the California dairy industry and aligns with the Sustainable Food Systems Initiative.

CO-FUNDING

None at this time.


Proposal Name Effects of Application of Winery Wastewater on Soil, Grape Nutrition, and Juice and Wine Quality
Amount Awarded $ 50,000
Award Source Kearney
Principal Investigators Anita Oberholster - Principal Investigator
Monica Cooper - Co PI
Anthony O'Geen - Co PI
Sanjai Parikh - Co PI
Collaborators Matthew Fidelibus
Hildegarde Heymann
G. Pettygrove
Kerri Steenwerth
Project Summary View project summary
Rationale. The California wine industry presently is facing the following key issues: 1) limited water availability due to increasing demands from urban users and climate change, 2) disposal of winery wastewater, and 3) existing and anticipated legislation, such as AB2121, which regulates instream flows in California’s North Coast region. These issues underscore the need to utilize other water sources for irrigation in agricultural systems, such as treated wastewater from wine production. Applying wastewater to vineyards has the potential economic, legal, and marketing advantages of reducing water input, retaining wastes, and recycling on the winery’s own property. Globally and locally, a current trend in winery and other food processing operations (e.g., canneries, olive oil mills, milk production) involves switching from sodium-based cleaners (e.g., NaCO3, Na3PO4) to potassium-based (e.g., KOH) compounds to scour equipment used during production. This action shifts the chemical composition of winery wastewater which may be applied to agricultural lands. Although the recycling and use of winery wastewater on agricultural fields is occurring, the full implications of both current (Na- and P-rich water) and emerging (K-rich) practices on soil fertility, soil physical and chemical properties, and grapevine nutrition and juice characteristics, and resulting wine is not known. Given the large contribution of winegrapes and wine production to the annual U.S. ($121.8 billion, 2009) and CA ($61.5 billion, 2009) economies, economically sound and environmentally sustainable winegrape production practices are essential. We propose to address the aforementioned issues within CA winegrape production by analyzing effects of simulated winery wastewater application to a vineyard already in production. This study is unique within existing scientific literature as we will follow effects of winery wastewater application from the soil through grapevine growth and grape production, ending with evaluations of wine chemistry and sensory analysis. Hypothesis. Winery wastewater will be composed of irrigation water with K, Na, and/or wine. Winery wastewater will shift soil physical attributes affecting fertility, infiltration, and nutrient availability, leading to changes in grapevine and fruit characteristics. Changes in fruit characteristics due to wastewater will be evident in wine chemistry and sensory analysis. Objectives. Evaluate effects of simulated winery wastewater on: 1) soil, grapevine nutrition and development, yield, and juice characteristics; 2) wine chemistry and sensory characteristics. Approach and Outcomes. Our interdisciplinary team will investigate the impact of recycling winery wastewater through field experiments of grape vines receiving irrigation waters of varied chemistries. This study will build on a field trial initiated by the investigators in 2010 to test the incipient effects of winery wastewater application on soil, grapevines, and grape juice. Infrastructure and methods have been implemented for two seasons, and associated soil, grapevine and juice samples have been collected. A third growth season will occur in summer 2012. Work thus far has been completed without financial support. Incipient changes in some soil and juice characteristics were observed in the first two years, providing support to assess effects of winery wastewater application on the final product: wine. As grapes are a perennial crop, this field trial must occur over multiple years. Therefore, the initial pilot study must now be expanded in both duration and scope to fully assess the impact of this practice on wine quality. We will monitor grapevine nutrition and juice attributes at key growth stages. Soil characteristics and nutrient availability will be assessed at harvest. Wine made at the RMI winery (UCD) from the treated grapes will undergo sensory analysis. A workshop with UCCE personnel will focus on best practices related to wastewater, findings from the proposed study, and other relevant research on campus. Results also will be disseminated in regional grape grower meetings, CE bulletins, peer-reviewed publications, and at state and national meetings.


Proposal Name Expanding Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) sales and access in California
Amount Awarded $ 262,702
Award Source Systemwide Assessment
Principal Investigators Ryan Galt - Principal Investigator
Project Summary View project summary
Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a relatively new type of direct marketing relationship in which consumers commit to supporting local producers. As originally conceived, CSA members receive shares of produce from the supported farm, usually each week, in return for paying in advance, often for a full season.

CSA is an increasingly important market channel for medium- and small-scale farms in the United States and California (Lass et al. 2003; Galt 2011). Nationwide, the number of farms marketing through CSA has expanded rapidly, from two in 1986 to USDA’s count of almost 13,000 in 2007 (National Agricultural Statistics Service 2009). Within California, the number of CSA farms has gone from a few in the early 1990s (Cohn 1993) to at least 300 currently (LocalHarvest 2012). If we extrapolate membership numbers from a detailed study of more than 50 CSA farms in the Central Valley (Galt et al. 2012) to the 300 CSA operations in the state currently, CSA membership would be close to 200,000 households in California.

Knowledge about CSA member’s demographic and socio-economic characteristics comes exclusively from case studies. This evidence suggests that they tend to be white, educated, middle- and upper-class, and located in metropolitan counties (Schnell 2007), but no state-wide membership studies have been conducted. We also know little about those CSAs that are succeeding in reaching a broader audience in terms of income, race/ethnicity, and geographic regions, especially poorer urban communities and rural areas. Similarly, while we know CSA membership turnover rates are high and identified as one of the main problems facing CSA farmers (Goland 2002; Perez, Allen, and Brown 2003), there are no studies that compare the characteristics of CSAs with different turnover rates to see which correlate with high and low turnover rates. Thus, our central research objectives are to determine: (1) the motivations and socio-economic and demographic characteristics of CSA member households compared to ex-member (non-renewing) households and non-member households, and the general population, (2) how member characteristics vary in relation to CSA marketing strategies and other characteristics (e.g., farm location, geographic focus of marketing, payment types and flexibility, engagement with USDA’s food entitlement programs, etc.), (3) the CSA characteristics that correspond with higher and lower levels of member retention, and (4) successful strategies that CSA farmers can use to expand their member base to groups historically underrepresented in CSA.

Using broad input from CSA farmers and organizers, the research team will create and implement a statewide survey of three customer groups — current CSA members, former CSA members, and non-CSA members — and of CSA farmers and organizers. Survey questions for all groups will focus on member and household characteristics, motivations, customer choice among various retail outlets, willingness to pay for CSA, and food safety concerns. Current and former CSA members will be accessed through CSA farmers’ email lists devoted to maintaining membership. In addition to the standard questions, current and former CSA members will also be asked questions about member satisfaction. The survey of non-CSA members will focus on six regions stratified by the concentration of CSAs. Non-members be approached by the survey team across a range of food retail outlets — supermarkets, corner stores, farmers’ markets, flea markets, food cooperatives, natural food stores, etc. The consumer surveys will be complemented by a brief statewide CSA farmer survey that asks about important characteristics of the CSA operation in order to relate CSA features to CSA membership characteristics and to member retention rates. Twenty detailed case studies of CSA operations, including urban-based ones, with particularly diverse memberships in terms of race/ethnicity and income will be explored to examine causal mechanisms contributing to membership diversity and identify successful strategies for reaching these populations.

The proposed study of CSA membership has a number of important features. First, it will be the first ever statewide CSA membership survey, and will involve around 300 CSAs and an estimated 200,000 households. Second, surveying non-members is important in assessing the potential pool of members, their retail outlet preferences, their willingness to pay, and barriers to participation. Third, it will be the first large-scale comparison of CSA operation characteristics with CSA membership characteristics, showing which features are correlated with increased membership diversity. Fourth, the consumer survey will be designed in a participatory manner, with CSA farmers/organizers and Cooperative Extension Advisors helping shape the survey instrument to maximize its utility for producers and consumer households. Fifth, its outputs will be unique. In addition to comprehensive reports and peer-reviewed publications, the research team will create individualized, 1-page reports for each participating CSA showing their membership characteristics, preferences, satisfaction, and willingness-to-pay at a glance and comparing it with data for their region, the state, and non-members. These data will also allow for the first-ever map of CSA market saturation, in which member numbers will be compiled by zip code and mapped on a per capita basis for the state. Lastly, by providing the most comprehensive study of CSA membership, the study will inform the US Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Know Your Food, Know Your Farmer initiative and the California Department of Food and Agriculture's (CDFA) efforts to update California’s direct marketing code and promote localized market opportunities for California farmers.

References

Andreatta, Susan L., Misty Rhyne, and Nicole Dery. 2008. Lessons learned from advocating CSAs for low-income and food insecure households. Southern Rural Sociology 23 (1):116-148.

Cohn, Gerry, ed. 1993. Community Supported Agriculture Conference. Davis: California Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF), University of California Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (UC SAREP), Small Farm Center, Solano/Yolo County Cooperative Extension, Fiddler's Green Farm.

Galt, Ryan E. 2011. Counting and mapping community supported agriculture in the United States and California: contributions from critical cartography/GIS. ACME: An International E-Journal for Critical Geographies 10 (2):131-162.

Galt, Ryan E., Libby O'Sullivan, Jessica Beckett, and Colleen C. Hiner. 2012. Community Supported Agriculture is thriving in the Central Valley. California Agriculture 66 (1):8-14.

Goland, Carol. 2002. Community supported agriculture, food consumption patterns, and member commitment. Culture & Agriculture 24 (1):14-25.

Lass, Daniel, Ashley Bevis, G. W. Stevenson, John Hendrickson, and Kathy Ruhf. 2003. Community Supported Agriculture entering the 21st century: results from the 2001 national survey. Amherst: University of Massachusetts, Department of Resource Economics.

LocalHarvest. 2012. LocalHarvest: Community Supported Agriculture 2012 [cited 14 February 2012]. Available from http://www.localharvest.org/search-csa.jsp?st=5&ty=6&nm=.

National Agricultural Statistics Service. 2009. 2007 census of agriculture: United States, summary and state data. Vol. 1. Washington, D.C.: United States Department of Agriculture.

Perez, Jan, Patricia Allen, and Martha Brown. 2003. Community Supported Agriculture on the central coast: the CSA member experience. Santa Cruz: Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems, UC Santa Cruz.

Schnell, Steven M. 2007. Food with a farmer's face: community-supported agriculture in the United States. Geographical Review 97 (4):550-564.


Proposal Name Improving the food safety practices of small and immigrant farmers in California
Amount Awarded $ 50,000
Award Source Kearney
Principal Investigators Christy Getz - Principal Investigator
Deborah Giraud - Co PI
David Lewis - Co PI
Concepcion Mendoza - Co PI
Theresa Spezzano - Co PI
Collaborators Jennifer Sowerwine
Project Summary View project summary
Improving the food safety practices of small and immigrant farmers in California: Last year deer feces found in strawberry fields in Oregon were the source of E. coli 0157:H7 infections that killed one person and sickened at least 14 others. The farmer had not been aware that the many piles of deer poop around the farm could contaminate the berries. The primary goal of this short-term Sustainable Food Systems Initiative project is to help small and immigrant California farmers avoid situations like the one in Oregon. And in improving the food safety compliance of small and immigrant farmers in California through an integrated program of research and outreach, we will simultaneously open them up to new market opportunities. Leveraging ANR’s strengths, we will conduct research and develop culturally-relevant outreach in Shasta, Humboldt and Merced counties to 1) ensure the production and delivery of safe food and, by doing so, 2) enhance the profitability of small farming enterprises. Our previous work has shown that lack of a food safety program is one of the major constraints for small and immigrant farmers as they attempt to scale up and enter new markets. This project will yield data to inform best management practices and extension related to food safety and market linkages for small and immigrant farmers. Our research has found that buyers (including school districts, retailers and even wholesalers) increasingly require farmers to supply documented evidence a food safety program. Small farmers across the country are struggling to develop food safety programs in anticipation of new regulations and market demand, yet have limited time or resources. Minority and limited English farmers are at an added disadvantage due to the complexity and inaccessibility of most food safety training materials. Our Food Safety for Small Farms pilot in Sacramento and Fresno, funded by the USDA and focusing on Hispanic and Southeast Asian farmers, enabled 10 farmers to sell to school districts. Organizations and cooperative extension offices throughout the state are requesting our support to provide them with the food safety materials and training we developed through this project. This project allowed us to gain valuable experience combining hands-on workshops with on-farm ‘coaching’ and developing a network of farmers that work together. While this approach has led to greater understanding, levels of trust, and adoption of recommended food safety practices, we need more funds to expand our work into additional counties and to more thoroughly evaluate and institutionalize our training materials. In addition to building capacity in food safety, we will support the farmers who implement their own food safety program with identifying new markets. We currently have a USDA Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development grant that will fund this part of the project. Expected Outcomes: Safer food supply and increased access to markets, achieved through: 1) Completion and evaluation of six workshops 2) 60 farmers (ten/workshop) will increase their knowledge of GAPS (good agricultural practices) and food safety requirements and how to implement a food safety program on their farm. These farmers will be able to identify and address risks associated with the scale of their operations, the crops grown, and their specific postharvest practices and produce handling equipment and materials. 3)18 farmers (six per county) will have established food safety programs on their farms. 4) Pre and post farm-level evaluations will be conducted on each farm (before and after food safety program is in place) to determine efficacy of training in leading to food safety compliance; additionally one “mock audit” will be conducted on one farm in each region by CDFA Food Safety Certifiers 5) ‘Train the trainer’ manual will be created, published and available free of charge on UC websites 6) 3 UCCE county advisors will have the capacity to train and coach small and minority farmers in on-farm food safety program implementation.


Proposal Name Informing Sierra Nevada forest restoration: Re-measurement and analysis of 1911 forest inventory data from the central Sierra at large spatial scales
Amount Awarded $ 49,900
Award Source Systgemwide Assessment
Principal Investigators Scott Stephens - Principal Investigator
Susie Kocher - Co PI
Project Summary View project summary
Working forests in California, particularly those managed by the US Forest Service (USFS), are in need of information to assist in defining desired future conditions. The USFS is beginning a forest plan revision process that will update all California National Forest plans in the next decade with three National Forests in the Sierra at the lead; these plans have not been updated since the early 1980’s and are in desperate need of revision. Working forests provide many ecosystem services such as wildlife habitat, water, recreation, etc., all of which will be impacted by climate change and land use. Common management goals are to increase resiliency in an era of changing climates in response to stress from drought, fire, insects, and air pollution but fundamental questions remain as to what forest structure is desirable? This project would provide novel information to help answer this question. We have met with federal forest managers in the central Sierra Nevada and they believe information from this study could be of great assistance and would be of value immediately because of their ongoing forest plan revisions.

Papers have been written that have expressed reservations of using pre-historical information to inform the development of restoration plans. The idea behind these reservations is changing climates will move ecosystems into states not experienced in the recent past, and therefore, using this information may not be appropriate for conditions in the future. However we have a copy of early forest inventory data collected in 1911 from mixed conifer forests in the central Sierra Nevada and an analysis of a small portion of this data revealed striking patterns of forest structure that are well outside of our current understanding of these ecosystems. We now have the ability to sample a larger area (20,000 acres) of mixed conifer forests to more fully understand their dynamics and structure before fire suppression and harvesting. This information has the ability to significantly inform forest restoration and management. We know of no other historical data that could be as important as those proposed to be analyzed in this proposal.

National Forests within California are beginning the revision process for their individual Forest Plans and ecological restoration will be the central theme. While studies have been conducted that describe historical forest conditions and fire regimes, the concept of ecological restoration remains partially undefined. It is understood that fire in drier mid- and low-elevation forest occurred fairly frequently and this generally maintained more open and patchy forest structure. But, how open and how patchy, and how did this vary across large landscapes including tree and snag density, shrub and herb cover, and carbon stocks? This information generally cannot be extracted from the traditional tree-ring based studies.

We ‘discovered’ a 1911 historical dataset that can address some of the key questions that still remain unanswered with regard to forest restoration. This particular dataset consists of early timber inventories conducted by the USFS. In California these inventories were conducted ca. 1910 and were part of the first organized assessment of all timber resources within the then, new agency. Field crews were sent to all National Forests in the Sierra Nevada but an investigation at the National Archive and Records Administration in San Bruno, CA, revealed that the only original records from this early inventory are from the Stanislaus National Forest. Transect locations were based on the Public Land Survey System that is still in place today, and therefore, can be used for re-measurement.

Previous work has investigated other Californian historical datasets such as those from Leiberg, Wieslander, and Sudworth. However, there are a number of concerns associated with these historical datasets: (1) limited geographic extent, (2) unknown or unrepeatable study site selection/inventory methodologies, and (3) uncertainty in accurately re-locating sampled areas. The work proposed here does not have these limitations; it is unbiased, covers a very large area (20,000 acres), and has known inventory methodologies that can be repeated 100 years later. This work is absolutely novel in terms of its scope and potential to assist in forest restoration.

We would resample the same areas in the Stanislaus National Forest that were first sampled in 1911 and determine how forest structure, carbon stocks, and the understory communities have changed; this information would be directly applicable to federal and private managers. Collins et al. (2011) did this for areas in Yosemite National Park that were never logged, the area that we want to expand into includes working landscapes on the Stanislaus National Forest and has been repeatedly harvested in addition to a policy of fire suppression for the last 100 years. With this land-use history we expect very different contemporary forest structure in the US Forest Service lands versus what we have sampled already in Yosemite National Park.

This work would be applicable to large areas of west-slope mixed conifer forests since it is an unbiased, robust inventory of the most common coniferous forests in the Sierra Nevada and has a central location within this range. Our team has extensive experience in research and extension in California which would be an asset to this project.

Collaborator: Dr. Brandon Collins, Research Forester, US Forest Service Pacific Southwest Research Station, Davis, CA.


Proposal Name Interactive effects of environment and management on multiple ecosystem services: decision-support for site-specific rangeland management
Amount Awarded $ 487,617
Award Source Kearney
Principal Investigators Valerie Eviner - Principal Investigator
Melvin George - Co PI
Andrew Latimer - Co PI
David Lewis - Co PI
Anthony O'Geen - Co PI
Kevin Rice - Co PI
Kenneth Tate - Co PI
Truman Young - Co PI
Collaborators Pelayo Alvarez
Sheila Barry
Theresa Becchetti
Renata Brillinger
Josh Davy
Morgan Doran
Andrew Fulks
James Hanson
John Harper
Roger Ingram
Doug Johnson
Carissa Koopman
Royce Larsen
David Lile
Missy Merrill-Davies
Glenn Nader
Elisa Noble
Deborah Rogers
Chris Rose
Project Summary View project summary
Effective rangeland management is limited by our inability to account for site-specific effects of management on the provisioning of multiple ecosystem services. In order to provide site-specific management recommendations, we must understand: (1) the controls over each ecosystem service; (2) tradeoffs and synergies across multiple services; and (3) local to regional, and annual to long-term variations in how management impacts ecosystem services. Diverse stakeholders have identified that their priority for research is to improve the effectiveness of management practices by learning from past projects- bringing together information from thousands of research & management trials to determine which management practices are successful under a given set of conditions.

In this integrated research and extension project, our team of AES faculty, CE specialists, farm advisors, agencies (e.g. water districts, parks, NRCS, RCDs), NGOs, ranchers and restoration managers will: 1. Develop an online database of management impacts on ecosystem services, which will link to existing GIS databases to provide site-specific information on soils, topography, land cover, and weather. This database will provide land managers with easy access to the successes and failures of other management trials, searchable based on location, environmental conditions, goals, and management practices. Our collaboration with diverse stakeholder groups will provide a suite of sites that differ in environmental conditions and focal services for management (e.g. forage production on ranches, plant diversity and invasion control in parks, and water quality and supply in water management districts). 2. A meta-analysis of this database will improve our understanding of how multiple services are influenced by the interaction of environment and management. Data that spans California’s steep spatial precipitation gradient, coupled with long-term data across variable weather conditions, will allow us to understand variation in production and other services in response to California’s high weather variability. This will provide critical insights into managing for resilience of agricultural production and other services under climate change. This synthesis will be used to: (a) develop a site-specific decision support tool for managing multiple services across current and future climate variability, and (b) develop maps that identify areas that provide a service, areas where management is more or less likely to affect a service, and areas that must be managed differently for a given service. 3. Improve our decision support tool and understanding of environment x management interactions by identifying database gaps, and address these gaps by sampling multiple ecosystem services on under-represented sites and replicated field trials across environmental gradients. 4. Enhance the availability of information and analytical tools for improving management plans, outreach programs, and policy (web-available: database, maps, decision support tool, handbook and toolkit for measuring services, and factsheets on ecosystem services and climate variability). The spatial mapping of service provision will allow ranchers, conservation groups, and policy makers to efficiently target areas that are most likely to provide a given service. Understanding the relative impacts of management and environmental factors on ecosystem services can guide regulations, replacing a “one size fits all” approach with a spatially-explicit framework that identifies areas that require different practices to achieve the same ecosystem service, and areas where management practices have greater or lesser potential to enhance or degrade services. Elucidation of tradeoffs in managing for multiple services can also inform payment for ecosystem services programs—compensating landowners for potential decreases in production as they manage for a balance of multiple services. This project’s key strength is that it will continue long after this initial funding period. The searchable database of management practices, the decision support tool, and training in ecosystem service measurements, provide the infrastructure for a self-sustaining and self-improving process. Access to this information, as well as the ability to monitor their own trials, allows managers to improve the effectiveness of their practices. As these improved practices are entered in to the database, they will further improve the site-specific recommendations provided by the decision support tool.


Proposal Name Managing the pest and disease risk of compostable wastes
Amount Awarded $ 50,000
Award Source Slosson
Principal Investigators David Crohn - Principal Investigator
Matthew Daugherty - Co PI
A. James Downer - Co PI
Ben Faber - Co PI
Deborah Mathews - Co PI
Vanessa Murua - Co PI
Steven Swain - Co PI
Project Summary View project summary
Approximately 73% of generated municipal waste is organic. The California Integrated Waste Management Act of 1989, AB939, required California counties to divert 50% of their wastes from landfills to beneficial uses by the year 2000. California met this goal, but in February 2012, a new law, AB341, increased the diversion goal to 75% by 2020. If California is to meet this new goal, its organic waste will need to be aggressively recycled in an economically and environmentally sound manner.

Sustainable green waste recycling is a critical ecosystem service that conserves landfill space and soil quality. These wastes may be land applied with or without composting, however. Processors that do not compost are referred to as chip and grind (C&G) operations. During composting materials pass through a thermophilic phase that inactivates insects, bacterial, fungal, and protozoan pathogens, as well as most weed species. Conversely, although chipping may inactivate some organisms, others are likely to be spared. Weed seeds, for example, generally survive. Orchards, parks, gardens, farms, commercial landscapes, and roadsides all receive these C&G materials. C&G materials are typically used on the soil surface as mulches so any remaining pests and pathogens could be readily moved by water, wind, or wildlife to susceptible hosts. Moreover, according to Title 14, C&G pile temperatures may not exceed 122°F and piles should be removed within 48 hours. These chipped materials, compared to composted materials, may contribute significantly to the dissemination of residential garden or commercial landscape pests or pathogens – potentially causing great harm. On its web site, Calrecycle points out general concerns about Asian citrus psyllid, European Grapevine Moth, Light Brown Apple Moth, Sudden Oak Death, Lerp Psyllid, and Bark Beetle, but to date there is no integrated understanding of the relative effectiveness of C&G versus composting at constraining invasive pest or pathogen survival in green waste.

The risk chipped materials pose for urban invasive species spread may increase significantly in the near future as a result of newly proposed regulatory requirements designed to protect water and air quality. C&G facilities, which are already more profitable than compost operations, are exempt from these costly new rules. This will mean that C&G units will be able to charge municipalities lower tipping fees while also charging users less than composters for their processed wastes. In other words, to a currently unknown extent this policy change is likely to further incentivize C&G over compost operations. Thus, understanding how these policy changes will affect the role greenwaste recycling plays in invasive species spread will require an assessment of processor, municipality, and customer preferences.

We propose to address two aspects of this problem. First, we will conduct an economic analysis of the impacts of regulatory policy changes for composting and C&G operations. We will survey processors and their users to predict how statewide production of composted and chipped green waste is likely to shift. Second, we will test via a series of field experiments the relative effectiveness of different processing methods on the survival of a select group of important insect pests, pathogens and weeds. Specifically, we will inoculate or infest municipal green waste with a suite of invasive species then monitor survival as a function of three treatment environments: 1) unprocessed bulk plant material, 2) chipped material, or 3) chipped and composted material. This project builds on previous research by the investigators and will lead to additional research and extension projects in the future. Our principal deliverable will be a white paper and accompanying extension program, derived from the literature and our experiments, designed to inform decision-makers and public stakeholders as to the environmental and productivity costs and benefits of C&G compared to composting.


Proposal Name MyPlate: Advancing ANR Leadership and Excellence in Nutrition Education
Amount Awarded $ 50,000
Award Source Integrated Smith Lever
Principal Investigators Cathi Lamp - Principal Investigator
Marcel Horowitz - Co PI
Margaret Johns - Co PI
Lucia Kaiser - Co PI
Dorothy Smith - Co PI
Project Summary View project summary
UC ANR has led the way nationally in the development and testing of the “plate” approach to nutrition education. UC ANR advisors and specialists tested a graphic almost identical to MyPlate several years ago and the work was shared with USDA prior to the adoption of MyPlate by USDA as the new graphic to remind Americans about healthy eating at mealtime. Through our work we discovered that clients need to see the plate in action via photos with real food combinations. This is essential in helping people apply the Dietary Guideline message to real-world food choices. Thus, we have continued our work and photos and messages have been developed, tested with targeted stakeholders (low-income families). However, additional funding is needed to finalize these materials and integrate them into existing ANR curricula (Farm to Fork, Healthy Happy Me, Plan, Shop, Save and Cook and several others) and educational materials. This project will allow us to incorporate our MyPlate photos, tested messages and other work into current ANR curriculum for adults and youth and at the same time update the curricula from MyPyramid to MyPlate concepts. The curricula are used extensively to promote healthy behaviors to prevent childhood obesity in schools and community settings throughout California and reach more than 100,000 adults and youth each year. This work will also benefit the two large multi-year, ANR-funded obesity prevention projects funded in the previous year, by strengthening the school and community education components. The concepts presented in MyPlate are based on the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, a document that provides the basis for all nutrition and physical activity-related USDA recommendations and is the product of a very rigorous review of the scientific literature. The Dietary Guidelines serve as the basis for all USDA-funded nutrition and nutrition education programs, including UC CalFresh, EFNEP and 4-H Healthy Living. As a research and extension-arm of USDA, UC ANR has a responsibility to promote the evidence-based messages of USDA. One of the most important ways to accomplish this is to make sure that ANR curricula reflects the changes USDA has implemented. Supporting and promoting these messages will assist in meeting maximum behavior change outcomes. In addition it is imperative that ANR has the most current research-based materials to maintain excellence in our research, education and outreach efforts at the community and state level. Revision of curricula currently used in ANR programs sends a strong message to our partners and clientele that ANR is committed to being a leader in education. This project will also provide an opportunity to conduct regional training sessions on the new materials for program staff and 4-H volunteers. The project promotes healthy eating and physical activity to prevent obesity addressing the Healthy Families and Communities Initiative-Promoting Healthy Behaviors for Childhood Obesity Prevention, while at the same time creating more demand for California agricultural products with low-income families (fruits, vegetables, nuts, rice and grains, milk and dairy products, eggs, poultry, beef, seafood, etc.), secondarily addressing the initiative to Enhance Competitive, Sustainable Food Systems (“expand the uses and markets for existing commodities”). The integration of the materials created in our “plate” research provides a unique window of opportunity to promote California agriculture in our nutrition programs. This cross discipline work will enhance our efforts to improve the quality of life of all Californians. To summarize, this project will: 1) Create a unit providing guidance on how to adapt MyPyramid to MyPlate 2) Update ANR nutrition and healthy living curricula integrating USDA MyPlate concepts and ANR “plate” research, tested visuals and messages; promoting California agricultural products. 3) Conduct regional training for nutrition educators, youth development staff and volunteers 4) Evaluate behavior change results of ANR curricula with MyPlate additions using tested instruments.


Proposal Name New winter annual oilseeds are promising alternative crops for food, feed, and biofuel in California
Amount Awarded $ 525,490
Award Source Kearney
Principal Investigators Stephen Kaffka - Principal Investigator
Vonny Barlow - Co PI
Robert Hutmacher - Co PI
Royce Larsen - Co PI
Daniel Marcum - Co PI
Steve Orloff - Co PI
Sally Thompson - Co PI
Collaborators Cameron Beeck
Wallace Cowling
John Diener
Nicholas George
Fernando Guillen-Portal
Mark Jenner
Russell Teall
Robert Wilson
Project Summary View project summary
There is increasing demand for oilseed crops for both food and biofuel, and to provide additional protein meals for livestock production. California currently has 12 companies producing biodiesel , all of which would benefit from additional supplies of vegetable oils. Biofuels are needed in California to meet the state’s requirements for low carbon intensity fuels under the Low Carbon Fuel Standard . Executive order S-0606 calls for in-state production of biofuels to add to the state’s economy, as well as meet its new greenhouse gas reduction goals. New winter annual oilseed Brassica crops (including Canola, Indian Mustard, and Camelina) could provide valuable new options for California growers across a wide range of locations and differing farming systems. They can be grown during winter in desert, valley and coastal locations as dry-farmed crops. Throughout the state, they will help diversify farming systems with agronomic and pest management benefits and help sustain the profitability of farms. Both food oils and biofuel feedstocks will result. Most plant breeding and research on oilseed Brassica in North America focus on Canada, the Midwest and Atlantic regions. Varieties from these regions may perform well under Californian conditions coincidentally, but adaptation to the state’s desert and Mediterranean conditions has not been part of any breeding program in North America. Over the past thirty years, however, a sustained R&D effort has gone towards oilseed Brassicas for the dryland, rain-fed agricultural zones of Australia, including salt-affected regions of western Australia. These varieties are expected to perform better than those currently available for growers in California and could form the basis of an expanded oilseed industry. Australian varieties have never been properly evaluated in California. Camelina sativa is another winter annual oilseed species with promise for California. It is included as an eligible crop under the federal Biomass Crop Assistance Program and there are approximately 2,000 acres enrolled this year in California. It will be used for jet fuel production. Camelina is not fully domesticated, and much genetic variation exists among current breeding lines. Most work has focused on the northern prairie regions, but recent trials in California suggest that it could be adapted to the state’s farming systems, and may produce economic oilseed crops with less than 1.5 ac ft per year of crop water use. An additional advantage is early maturity in spring, allowing for double cropping, or planting in re-growing orchards. This project proposes to conduct applied research and outreach to create new crop opportunities across the state and help meet the state’s climate change and greenhouse gas goals. The project will involve a diverse group of ANR scientists and advisors, and a large set of cooperators from the seed industry, and biodiesel manufacturers. Research locations will include sites within all the counties represented including desert, coastal, central valley and northeastern California. These locations will include irrigated crop land and dry farming locations. We believe that there are many potential roles for winter annual oilseed crops in California that have not yet been well-defined. These include roles in dry farming-ranching systems in coastal locations, low water use roles in desert areas which have urban water transfer agreements, production under saline conditions, and winter production in newly replanted orchards or in walnuts which are widely spaced. The project will: 1) Evaluate the productivity of commercially available Australia Brassica oilseed varieties and commercially available and advanced breeding lines of Camelina using advanced multi-environment trial design and factor analytic statistics to identify superior varieties for California; 2) Evaluate agronomic practices (planting dates, supplemental irrigation, fertilization rates, swathing, and graze-then-grain and aftermath grazing of residues); 3) Use yield and agronomic data to parameterize a previously-developed whole farm economic model for oilseed production in California ; 4) Use variety trial data, as well as eco-physiological data from site instrumentation, to validate the crop model APSIM and use the model to estimate the productivity, water and nitrogen use of winter annual oilseeds under different soil, rainfall, irrigation, and climate conditions as well as current and future climate scenarios; 5) Use yield and agronomic data to create California production guides; 6) Publish results in California Agriculture, 7) Carry out extension and outreach activities at the county and regional level.


Proposal Name Risk assessment, welfare analysis, and extension education for dairy calf respiratory disease management in California
Amount Awarded $ 599,872
Award Source Kearney
Principal Investigators SHARIF ALY - Principal Investigator
Terry Lehenbauer - Co PI
Alison Van Eenennaam - Co PI
Collaborators Randall Anderson
Alejandro Castillo
Carol Collar
Christiana Drake
Jennifer Heguy
Lindsey Hulbert
Betsy Karle
Frank Mitloehner
Nyles Peterson
Noelia Silva-del-Rio
Project Summary View project summary
Bovine respiratory disease (BRD), also known as pneumonia, is the leading natural cause of death in U.S. beef and dairy cattle, causing the annual loss of more than one million animals and financial losses in excess of $700 million. Control and prevention of BRD is difficult due to the disease's multiple etiologies and a complex web of interacting risk factors. In addition, there is no standardized field diagnostic method that can be used for early identification of BRD cases. Currently, classic diagnosis and treatment decisions are based on mostly subjective clinical criteria that are poor predictors of underlying respiratory system pathology. The result is a proportion of false negative and false positive diagnoses that lead to progression of disease, misuse of antimicrobials, production losses, and suboptimal animal welfare outcomes.

Risk assessment of the housing, nutrition, and management of calves and replacement animals in a dairy herd can provide valuable information for designing and implementing a herd-specific BRD control and prevention program. A risk assessment tool in the form of a survey can identify a herd's BRD risk through "scoring" of risk factors for BRD that have been validated. We propose to develop a set of survey and interview identified risk factors in collaboration with UCCE dairy farm advisors, extension specialist and veterinarians on a representative sample of California's herds. A factor analysis will then be used to identify and validate these risk factors such that the risk assessment tool is made up of the most significant predictors of risk of BRD. An example of a similar approach is currently in use nationwide for Johne's disease, an ultimately chronic disease with production losses and animal welfare concerns similar to BRD. The use of a validated sampling scheme based on the available diagnostic test options was pivotal for the Johne's disease risk assessment to identify herd prevalence and necessary disease control actions.

We have assembled a team of campus-based faculty, extension specialists, advisors and veterinarians to undertake this proposal. This project will combine the expertise and talents of key individuals from both the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, the Animal Science Department in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences at Davis, Cooperative Extension Dairy advisors throughout the state and veterinarians with the California Department of Food and Agriculture. Success for this project will occur as a result of the synergistic collaboration of AES faculty and Cooperative Extension specialists and advisors working in conjunction with other scientists and researchers. This work complements genomics work being conducted in an associated USDA grant aimed at identifying DNA-based genetic markers associated with reduced BRD incidence in cattle. Anticipated outcomes from this proposal will provide important gains in preventing, managing, and reducing the severity of one of the most important endemic diseases in dairy cattle which will result in reductions in both direct and indirect costs associated with providing an affordable, safe, and secure milk supply to the citizens of California and other consumers in the U.S. and around the world.


Proposal Name Soil Survey Decision Support Tools for Water Resource Sustainability and Agricultural Productivity
Amount Awarded $ 599,920
Award Source Kearney/Prosser
Principal Investigators Anthony O'Geen - Principal Investigator
Theresa Becchetti - Co PI
Randy Dahlgren - Co PI
David Doll - Co PI
Rachel Elkins - Co PI
Valerie Eviner - Co PI
Graham Fogg - Co PI
Allan Fulton - Co PI
Thomas Harter - Co PI
Jan Hopmans - Co PI
Chuck Ingels - Co PI
David Lewis - Co PI
Franz Niederholzer - Co PI
Samuel Sandoval Solis - Co PI
Lawrence Schwankl - Co PI
Kenneth Tate - Co PI
Lynn Wunderlich - Co PI
Collaborators Dylan Beaudette
Sid Davis
David Smith
Project Summary View project summary
Soil Survey is one of the most comprehensive and detailed spatial inventories of natural resource information in the U.S., yet its potential as a planning tool and management guide has not been fully achieved outside the soil science community. This shortcoming is a result of many factors that preclude its use including complicated database architecture, esoteric taxonomic language, vague interpretations and an out-of-date data delivery mechanism. The evolution of "Soil Apps" for smartphones, Google Earth and Google Maps from the UC Davis Soil Resource Lab (http://casoilresource.lawr.ucdavis.edu/soilsurvey) has enhanced the delivery of soil survey and simplified its use across diverse user groups (Beaudette and O'Geen, 2009; 2010). Demand for soil data continues to grow, and new data delivery mechanisms are needed to support agricultural decision making, water resource planning and policy.

Our goal is to provide science-based information to agricultural and water resource managers by repackaging soil survey data into interactive, map-based decision support tools driven by internet and smartphone apps. These apps will be designed for managers and policy makers in a manner that allows users to navigate across the State, summarize spatial data, and acquire land-use interpretations. The following decision support tools will be created from digital soil survey attributes linked with conceptual, empirical or mechanistic models:

Agricultural productivity: 1. Geographic nutrient management zones describing N, P and K availability, fixation, and leaching potential; 2. Tree crop productivity index; and, 3. Rangeland management zones that predict drought tolerance (based on climate, topography and water storage) and forage productivity and quality.

Sustainable water supply: 1. Suitability for agricultural ground-water banking in the Great Valley, describing the ability of soil to accommodate deep percolation by linking soil properties and existing cropping systems with a geomorphic-hydrogeological model (Weissman et al., 2004).

Water quality: 1. Soilscape suitability index for BMP placement (e.g. constructed wetlands, filter strips, tailwater return ponds…) to maximize filtration and minimize potential adverse effects (e.g. salinity, methyl mercury accumulation, groundwater contamination); 2. Reconfiguring the nitrate groundwater contamination hazard index for smartphones; and, 3) Erosion hazard predictions for sloping terrain.

Research, extension and education will be integrated to capitalize on the AES network, blending the applied expertise of stakeholders, UCCE advisors and specialists with the basic modeling expertise of AES faculty. We have initiated collaboration with CA's State Soil Scientist and the Director of the National Soil Survey Center at NRCS, who oversee how soil survey is developed and extended to users in CA and nation-wide. Clientele will include growers, ranchers, state and federal agencies, UCCE advisors consultants and educators. The apps will also be instrumental for county planning department staff, land trust representatives, and community based organizations that are reviewing and regulating land use and partnering in landscape-scale restoration initiatives. The apps will also be used to train students in capstone courses taught at UCD, SSC 118 (Soils and land use in the environment) and SSC 105/205 (Field studies in soil science).

Multiple workshops will be held with stakeholders to develop the products, refine our objectives and to demonstrate finished apps. The apps will be distributed for free, and linked with the national eXtension initiative. We recognize that this project is broad and ambitious, however, we view ANR support as seed funds to attract external funding from state and federal agencies. Our long-term goal is to maintain an externally funded program that partners with stakeholders to continue to develop cutting-edge tools that deliver publicly available land-use information relevant to an even wider range of issues.


Proposal Name Sorghum as a low-input crop for bioenergy, food and feed in California
Amount Awarded $ 595,827
Award Source Kearney
Principal Investigators Jeffery Dahlberg - Principal Investigator
Peggy Lemaux - Co PI
Collaborators Nicholas George
Robert Hutmacher
Bill Orts
Daniel Putnam
Sally Thompson
Steven Wright
Project Summary View project summary
Sorghum (Sorghum bicolor) is a globally important crop, ranking as the fifth most important cereal crop in the world in terms of total production. The United States is the world’s largest sorghum producer. The majority of US sorghum production is in Kansas and Texas, with only limited production in California. Despite this, sorghum is an attractive crop for the state - sorghum can remain productive under comparatively low water and nutrient conditions, and produces valuable products such as bioenergy, food and livestock feed. Sorghum could therefore help reduce irrigation and nitrogen fertilizer use in California whilst maintaining productive agricultural out-put.

Sorghum for bioenergy - sorghum has considerable potential as both a short-term and long-term solution for California’s need for a sustainable bioenergy feedstock. Sorghum can be used in all the various processes for bioenergy production - starch-to-ethanol, sugar-to-ethanol, and lignocellulose-to-bioenergy. Sorghum also has biological characteristics making it well-place to be rapidly developed as a crop and adopted by growers.

Sorghum for food - sorghum is one of the grains that supply roughly 85% of the world’s food energy. Sorghum is the dietary staple for approximately 500 million people in more than 30 countries. Nutritionally, sorghum grain is similar to wheat, rice and maize. Sorghum-based food products have health benefits attributed to whole grain foods and slower digesting starches. Sorghum is also gluten-free and therefore suitable for individuals with an intolerance of dietary gluten.

Sorghum for feed - the dairy industry is one of the most important sectors in Californian agriculture. In 2010, milk production generated around $6 billion in total income for the state and the estimated industry impact was $63 billion annually and over 400,000 jobs. Silage corn is produced in California to meet the feed demands of dairies, and over the past decade silage corn production increased from 400 thousand acres to 500 thousand acres. Sorghum forages can be a suitable alternative to corn for silage production, and may require as little as 65-75% as much irrigation water and significantly less nitrogen fertilization for similar biomass yields.

This project aims to facilitate the increased use of sorghum as a multi-purpose low-input crop for the California. The project will have three broad goals: 1) Identify the best sorghum varieties for the production of bioenergy, food and feed in California; 2) Continue experiments to demonstrate the water use of sorghum in California, and; 3) Use variety trial and water use data to validate crop economic and production models, and use the models to estimate the economic viability, productivity, water and nitrogen use of sorghum under different rainfall and management regimes as well as current and future climate scenarios.


Proposal Name The development and validation of a rapid pre-screening tool for evaluating the invasive potential of ornamental plants in a given geographic region
Amount Awarded $ 53,804
Award Source Slosson
Principal Investigators Dave Fujino - Principal Investigator
Joseph DiTomaso - Co PI
Vanessa Murua - Co PI
Collaborators Christiana Conser
Project Summary View project summary
The objective of this project is to evaluate each of the questions in the PlantRight WRA individually and develop a pre-screening tool that can be used to pre-screen large batches of ornamental plants for their invasive potential in a stated region. For this project we will screen all of the 2,600 plants on the Water Use Classifications of Landscape Species (WUCOLS III) list with a 4-5 criteria pre-screening tool, and any plants that score as invasive will be evaluated using the full PlantRight WRA model. Our results will be compared to the current WUCOLS III invasiveness ratings and those of the California Invasive Plant Council (Cal-IPC).

The nursery and landscape industry has introduced over 50,000 ornamental plants to the U.S., and only a small percentage (~1%) of those plants has escaped to become invasive and cause economic and ecological damage. However 50% of the worst invasive plants in California were introduced as ornamental plants. Pre-screening potential introductions would be expected to categorize most species as having low invasive potential, and identify relatively few as having a high probability of becoming invasive. A considerable amount of time and money has been dedicated to eradication and control of invasive plants in the U.S., but it is significantly more cost effective to prevent their introduction. While the nationwide impact of invasive plants and the cost of management in natural areas, agriculture, and gardens has been estimated to be $27 billion a year, California estimates a more conservative $82 million for the cost of control, monitoring, and outreach. Many states and cities are passing ordinances that ban certain landscaping plants because they are listed on a regional or statewide invasive plant list. It can be confusing for the industry since there can be more than one invasive plant list, generated by government agencies or non-profit groups, and the each list has its own listing criteria.

Australia developed the first standardized listing criteria system that used Weed Risk Assessment (WRA) modeling to predict invasiveness with 90% accuracy. However, this model is less than 70% accurate in predicting non-invasiveness. Other countries, including the U.S., have developed or are developing adaptations of the Australian WRA for their pre-border screening of plant imports. In California, the non-profit Sustainable Conservation has developed the PlantRight WRA, adapted specifically for screening ornamental plants. The PlantRight WRA uses a 29 criteria system, versus 49 criteria in the Australian system and has higher accuracy (98%) for predicting both invasiveness and non-invasiveness. The main application of the PlantRight WRA will be for screening new plant material but there is also a need to confirm that the thousands of ornamental plants that are currently sold in the nursery and landscape trade in California pose a very low risk for creating economic ecological damage.

The project objective is to validate proof of concept for a science-based pre-screening tool that can more rapidly evaluate a plant's invasive capabilities in a stated geographic region. This pre-screening tool, which uses only the four or five most predictive questions from the PlantRight Weed Risk Assessment (WRA) model, is designed to pre-screen large batches of ornamental plants. Plants with high WRA scores that are deemed a high risk for invasiveness will then be screened with the full 29 question PlantRight WRA model. For this project we will screen all of the 2,600 plants on the WUCOLS III list with the pre-screening tool, and any plants that score as invasive will be evaluated using the full PlantRight WRA model. The U.C. Cooperative Extension WUCOLS III is a guide to help landscape professionals identify the irrigation requirements of ornamental plants used or landscaping in different regions in California. We felt that these 2,600 were a good representative sample of the common ornamental plants sold in the trade.


Proposal Name Tools for a changing landscape: understanding disturbance and vegetation dynamics in northern California oak woodlands
Amount Awarded $ 249,617
Award Source Integrated Smith Lever
Principal Investigators Yana Valachovic - Principal Investigator
Maggi Kelly - Co PI
Matthew Potts - Co PI
Rosemary Sherriff - Co PI
Richard Standiford - Co PI
J. Morgan Varner - Co PI
Collaborators Leonel Arguello
Yvonne Everett
Gregory Giusti
Christopher Lee
Lenya Quinn-Davidson
Steve Smith
Project Summary View project summary
Project Summary

The loss of oak woodlands to native conifer encroachment is a major conservation concern in California, resulting in associated losses of wildlife habitat, traditional uses, biodiversity, and other ecosystem services. These concerns – compounded by development pressures, evolving understanding of fire’s role in California landscapes, and health threats (e.g., sudden oak death) – have drawn increasing attention in recent years, and oak woodland conservation and restoration efforts have gained momentum. Currently, California counties are working quickly to develop oak woodland conservation plans, and agencies are distributing funds for cost-share and incentive programs aimed at conserving and restoring these important ecosystems. However, efforts are complicated by a paucity of information on the rate and extent of conifer encroachment in oak woodlands, the history and successional dynamics of affected woodlands, and trajectories of oak regeneration and conifer recruitment in a changing climate – information that is critical for conservation and restoration plans to both take shape and endure.

Existing research points to considerable changes in oak woodland ecosystems over the last century and highlights important debates about oak woodland stand structures and age class distributions in areas where conifer (i.e., Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii)) encroachment threatens long-term sustainability. However, much of this research has occurred outside of California in the woodlands of the Pacific Northwest, on actively managed public lands. Privately owned lands, which comprise the bulk of oak woodlands in northwestern California, have largely been overlooked, and important opportunities for collaboration and outreach with private landowners have been missed. In Humboldt County, for example, 90% of Oregon white oak (Quercus garryana) woodlands occur on private lands, yet research has been concentrated primarily on federal lands, which are subject to different, more restoration-oriented management approaches. Private landowners require guidance informed by up-to-date scientific knowledge in order to prioritize conservation activities within their larger stewardship plans and seek funding for related activities. Increased attention to privately held woodlands could temper discontinuities between ownership and research patterns, informing and encouraging efforts across a broader geographic and social spectrum.

We propose a study to evaluate oak woodland stand dynamics and conifer encroachment in northwestern California, providing baseline information on oak woodland attributes where existing research has been limited in geography and scope. This research would build on past efforts in the region, but would be novel in its focus on both private and public lands across a broad geographic area and its attention to both black oak (Quercus kelloggii) and Oregon white oak woodlands. Pairing field-based and remote sensing-based spatial analysis methods, this research would address the following issues:

1. What stand structures and age structures characterize the oak woodlands of northwestern California?

2. What are the rate, extent, and health effects of conifer encroachment in these oak woodlands, and what variables determine rates of encroachment?

3. How will encroachment rates and patterns shift under changing environmental and climate scenarios?

4. How can we inform restoration strategies and better guide the effectiveness of limited conservation dollars?

In many ways, the loss of oak woodlands is the quintessential UCCE issue: it threatens some of the most productive working landscapes in our region, affecting both ecological and cultural resources; it involves private landowners, who own and manage a majority of affected woodlands but naturally fall outside the scope of the land management agencies working on the issue; and it requires collaboration between academic experts and people on the ground.

As California counties finalize their oak woodland conservation plans and agencies allot funds for project development and implementation, they are looking to UCCE for scientific guidance and landowner cooperation. However, we currently struggle to provide clear answers on the extent and rates of ecosystem change and on restoration targets, without prior UC attention to this issue. This project would address research and extension needs, supplying scientific tools to guide conservation and restoration planning and the extension setting necessary to make those tools available and effective. This project will provide the following deliverables:

• The first multi-county, multi-landowner characterization of oak woodland stand structure and conifer encroachment for northern California oak woodlands

• Models of conifer encroachment rates under different climate scenarios, which will be useful in the development of restoration and conservation priorities and guidelines

• Communication of results to land management agencies, counties, private landowners, and other stakeholders through workshops and publications (including peer-reviewed papers, extension publications, and contributions to the ANR oak website); and a multi-state symposium on oak woodland issues in southwestern Oregon and northern California

• Science-based outreach materials to inform the restoration programs of CAL FIRE and the USDA NRCS


Proposal Name UC ANR: A Resource for Urban Agriculture
Amount Awarded $ 50,000
Award Source Kearney
Principal Investigators Rachel Surls - Principal Investigator
Aziz Baameur - Co PI
Gail Feenstra - Co PI
Shermain Hardesty - Co PI
Vanessa Murua - Co PI
Cheryl Wilen - Co PI
Project Summary View project summary
Increasingly, very small scale urban agriculture is viewed as an important part of sustainable food systems. Whether based in community gardens, on vacant land, or other spaces in metropolitan areas, urban agriculture is becoming popular throughout California and the US. It is taken quite seriously by officials of various municipalities, including the cities of San Diego, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, which have recently changed their zoning codes to support urban agriculture. More urban consumers are oriented towards eating locally produced food, creating market opportunities for small-scale urban growers. There is a need for research-based information to inform this movement and guide local decision making. Currently, local advocacy groups are the main source of information. This widespread interest presents an opportunity for UC ANR to expand its role in extending relevant research-based information. Focusing on urban agriculture can help ANR to position its other four strategic initiatives with a metropolitan audience. Urban agriculture is especially well aligned with the Healthy Families and Communities Initiative, since it is often integrated with efforts to promote healthful dietary habits.

The proposed project will assess threats and opportunities related to urban agriculture that would benefit from UC involvement, then based on needs, bring research-based educational resources together, packaging them in a user-friendly, web-based format. The project would include the following:

1. Needs Assessment: Determine needs of ANR staff by surveying farm advisors, extension specialists, and Master Gardener coordinators as to types of questions and requests for technical support they receive from urban farmers, learn about what resources they currently use to address these needs, and determine what needs they see that could be addressed by ANR. Find out their willingness to serve as subject matter experts to help review, update or write publications. Assess clientele needs by conducting key informant interviews with urban farmers and municipal officials in 2-3 metropolitan communities in California. Find out what barriers they encountered in planning and implementing urban agriculture and ask what resources would have been most helpful to them. Additionally, conduct a literature review on urban agriculture, including its links to promoting healthy behaviors that can help prevent childhood obesity.

2. ANR Urban Agriculture Information Portal: Following analysis of the needs assessment, identify and assemble appropriate research-based materials, which might include written or web-based materials from other land-grant universities that could be adapted, updates of existing or out of print ANR and USDA materials, and new materials. Engage ANR partners as subject matter experts, via a project advisory committee, in reviewing and updating existing materials, as well as developing new materials where appropriate. Package these resources on a user-friendly website.

3. Urban Agriculture Publications for Clientele and Decision Makers: As older materials are updated and new materials developed, some will be appropriate for ANR 800 series publications, and they will be submitted through ANR Communications Services. The first publication will be a policy paper on urban agriculture written with decision makers as its intended audience.

4. An ANR Agenda for Applied Research and Extension on Urban Agriculture: The final product will be an agenda for applied research and extension addressing urban agriculture that will be a foundation for the future. The needs assessment and literature review will serve as inputs to help to inform this document. ANR partners will provide additional input and guidance. Expected outputs will include a white paper summarizing research and extension needs for very small-scale urban growers as well as possible articles in California Agriculture or Journal of Extension and conference presentations.


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