ANR Employees
University of California
ANR Employees

2013 ANR competitive grants program

ANR's 2013 competitive grants program will fund 15 projects, for a total of approximately $3.5 million over 5 years. The purpose of this grants program, as outlined in the request for proposals, is to strategically address issues identified by at one least one of the following strategic initiatives: Endemic and Invasive Pests and Diseases (EIPD), Healthy Families and Communities (HFC), Sustainable Food Systems (SFS), Sustainable Natural Ecosystems (SNE), and Water Quality, Quantity and Security (Water).

A Peach and Nectarine Orchard for the Future: An Experiment to Integrate, Test, Train, and Transfer Pomological Technology

Amount Awarded: $ 289,432
Award Source: Kearney
Principal Investigators:
View project summary
Over the past 30 years several ANR specialists and advisors, including the PI’s, have spent the majority of their careers conducting experiments to develop and evaluate orchard systems and management practices for California peach and nectarine production to understand their ecophysiological limitations and improve their environmental and economic sustainability. This research included the development of new planting/pruning systems, new recommendations for fruit thinning/crop load management, improved methods for monitoring water stress and irrigation scheduling, greater understanding of tree nutrition and optimal fertilizer regimes and the development of size-controlling rootstocks to reduce excessive tree growth and improve labor efficiency.

While individual experiments have been conducted on all of these issues, the transfer of new technologies and practices to growers has been slow because we have never conducted an experiment in which we tried use what we have learned to optimize all management factors and compare it to current standard grower orchard management practices. Additionally, the high annual costs of developing and maintaining such an orchard has prohibited us from this sort of work in the past. Dedicated long-term funding, such as that provided by these ANR grants, will allow us to perform this work correctly and with a high likelihood of success.

The goal of this project is to conduct an experiment that capitalizes on all of the advances that have been made over the past 30 years and apply them within an integrated orchard management system and compare that to one that uses current standard orchard management practices. Furthermore we propose to use this comprehensive experiment to provide training to young graduate students who are interested in careers in cooperative extension and to transfer technology through demonstration to the local grower community.

The experiment will include two cultivars of peach/nectarine, one ripening in June and the other in August. Three training systems will be used: one a conventional orchard system of tall (12-13’) trees on a vigorous rootstock; the other two will be pedestrian systems of short (6-7’ tall) trees using new UC semi-dwarfing rootstocks planted at different densities and configurations. These “ladderless” orchards have the potential to reduce labor costs by 30-50% or more, while maintaining production and fruit quality comparable to that of conventional orchards; in addition, they are inherently safer since falls from ladders is the primary causes of worker injury in orchards. One of these systems will be amenable to the use of mechanical devices to further reduce labor inputs including mechanical thinners and harvest aids. The trees will be planted in micro-plots of approximately 1/3rd acre and replicated four times.

The conventional orchard system will receive routine horticultural care typical for the area including water budget irrigation management and conventional fertilizers. The two pedestrian systems will be grown using the newest best management practices including minimal pruning, plant-based water management using stem water potential to validate tree needs, and nutrition programs using extensive plant and soil testing and monitoring, based on soil applied composts and leaf-fall nitrogen sprays to minimize nutrient leaching and ground water contamination.

Data collected will include: trunk growth, pruning weights, fruit yields, fruit size, canopy light interception, applied water using flow meters, soil organic matter annually, soil water infiltration rate, midday stem water potential during season (to monitor water status of plants), water leaching below the roots zone and monitoring of nitrate leaching at 2 meters, and comprehensive pest monitoring.

This project has the potential to benefit the Mission and Strategic Goals of ANR in that:

  • It will incorporate the advanced techniques and findings that many UC/ANR scientists have developed over the past several decades in a single orchard site for additional scientific testing, study, and educational outreach efforts to industry.

  • It will strengthen the UC/ANR network by being a focal-point and training ground for those beginning their extension careers to interact and train with established ANR scientists, and will act to integrate various disciplines including pomology, water science, plant nutrition, integrated pest management and applied plant physiology.

  • It will benefit the societal needs of the state of California by further studying the potential for reduced labor inputs and improved worker safety in pedestrian orchards.

  • It will allow us to study the whole-orchard water and nutrient requirements of advanced orchard systems and determine if the potential exists for better environmental stewardship.

Baseline assessment for bed bug impact and control, and demonstration of bed bug IPM for multiple-occupancy housing situations in California

Amount Awarded: $ 246,285
Award Source: Federal Smith Lever
Principal Investigators:
Collaborators:
View project summary
Bed bugs are obligate hematophagous ectoparasites, preferentially feeding on humans. Bites can cause skin rashes, wheals, and allergic responses, while infestations may lead to serious psychological impacts on afflicted people, families, and communities. A global increase in bed bug incidence has been attributed to increases in global travel and commerce, widespread pesticide resistance, changes in indoor pest management tactics, and a lack of general awareness. California has not been immune to this phenomenon. For example, a 2013 nationwide survey showed that Sacramento and Riverside-San Bernardino were among the cities exhibiting the highest increase in bed bug-specific customer calls and that Los Angeles and San Francisco were among the top cities in total number of bed bug customer calls1.

Low-income, multiple-occupancy residential buildings in urban California are among the locations where chronic infestations of bed bugs are frequently encountered. These settings also serve as important sources of bed bugs, potentially resulting in infestations elsewhere. Management in such settings is challenging due to frequent resident turnover, ease of dispersal, inadequate resources, communication barriers, and housekeeping issues. As a result, contracted services for treatment are often based on a low price acquisition rather than focus on excellence of service delivery. This has resulted in repeated applications of pyrethroid insecticides as a primary method of control. This approach is ineffective and often blamed on resistance to pyrethroids. Furthermore, the public has sometimes decided to take bed bug management into their own hands, contributing to pesticide-related poisonings and at least one death in recent years2.

IPM for bed bugs, consisting of tenant education, preventive measures, regular monitoring, integration of nonchemical tactics and reduced-risk pesticides, and program evaluation, would be an effective alternative strategy, providing control of infestations while helping to mitigate problems associated with pesticide-intensive programs3. Several pest management companies currently express interest in implementing effective IPM services for bed bugs. A more widespread adoption of IPM by pest management professionals (PMPs) can be facilitated through development and demonstration of effective IPM strategies and tactics. Additionally, in some CA municipalities, written bed bug management plans (IPM policies) have become requirements for structures with infestation history4. IPM best practices for bed bug infestation, which will inform these plans, have yet to be developed by the University of California.

In this project, we propose to assess currently-prevalent bed bug management practices and associated impacts in California’s multiple-occupancy housing systems through administration of an electronic survey, establishing benchmarks and assessing the needs and challenges faced by housing management, tenants, and PMPs serving these communities. Survey dissemination to housing management, tenants, and PMPs will be facilitated through cooperation with groups such as the San Francisco Housing Authority (SFHA), the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles (HACLA), and the California Apartment Association (CAA). We propose to develop and demonstrate IPM strategies and tactics within apartment complexes (at least one each in northern and southern CA) with a history of infestation. Units will be assigned to one of two management regimes: 1) a common / conventional strategy based on survey results, or 2) an IPM-based strategy involving resident education, preventive measures, regular monitoring, and a combination of chemical and physical management tactics. IPM-based protocols will be developed with collaborating PMPs. These units will then be managed according to these treatment protocols for one year. Differences due to these management regimes will be assessed by measuring relative bed bug density (e.g., via human visual searches, monitors, and dogs), total pest management inputs (e.g., service time, total amount of insecticide used), and resident satisfaction (e.g., survey). We propose that the IPM-based strategy will result in lower bed bug density, higher levels of resident satisfaction, and initially higher but eventually lower necessary inputs. In a long term, our project will enable support for widespread IPM program implementation in multiple-occupancy housing system of California, not only for this pest, but also for other common pests such as cockroaches and rodents.

References cited

  1. http://www.pctonline.com/Terminix-cities-highest-increase-bed-bug-activity.aspx

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2011. Acute illnesses associated with insecticides used to control bed bugs-seven states, 2003-2010. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 60(37): 1269-1274.

  3. [CDC] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and [EPA] U.S. EnvironmentalProtection Agency. 2010. Joint statement on bed bug control in the United States from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (www.cdc.gov/nceh/ehs/Docs/Joint_Statement_on_Bed_Bug_Control_in_the_US.pdf)

  4. http://www.sfdph.org/dph/files/EHSdocs/Vector/BedBug/BedBugRegs_070112.pdf

Enhancing Conservation Practices and Supporting Emerging Markets for Niche Hog Production in the SF Bay Area and Northern San Joaquin Valley

Amount Awarded: $ 5,500
Award Source: Federal Smith Lever
Principal Investigators:
Collaborators:
View project summary
Hog production has all but disappeared from the San Francisco Bay Area and surrounding foodshed. Growing interest in locally and sustainably produced food has led to a surge in demand outdoor pork. Despite a small but growing number of outdoor, small-scale and niche hog operations, demand currently outstrips supply. This demand is accompanied by concern about the potential environmental impacts of outdoor hog production systems. In California limited agency and institutional expertise exists to provide technical assistance and education on best practices in outdoor, small-scale and niche hog production. In UC ANR no one includes pork, swine, hog or pig as their area of expertise or interest. The objective of this project is to facilitate the transfer of innovative and economically viable natural resource management systems for niche hog production from outside CE experts to producers, UCCE livestock advisors and other agricultural professionals. This project will provide locally and ecologically relevant information, while minimizing potential production impacts such as deterioration of ground cover, soil disturbance, erosion, and impaired water and air quality. Additionally, it will support increased adoption of niche hog production systems in northern California. By drawing on unique expertise at North Carolina State University, this project will develop a guidebook of regionally-specific best management practices (BMPs). This guide will take into consideration unique topography, soil and climate, including rainfall, vegetation and forage base, and proximity to sensitive waterways, including 303(d) listed streams. It will also address other locally relevant conditions such as the potential for synergy with other forms of agricultural production, market demand, and access to irrigation. The project will include in its considerations and BMPs the potential for interactions between feral pigs, prevalent in the Project Area, and domesticated pigs. Project Objectives a. Assess potential impacts and benefits of outdoor hog production practices for various ecological sites i.e. oak woodlands, eucalyptus woodlands in the project area. b. Develop a regionally-specific resource guide and supporting materials through direct collaboration with current niche hog producers. The guide will lay out conservation BMPs for niche hog production for ecological and economic sustainability. c. Build capacity amongst agricultural and conservation professionals such as NRCS staff, RCD staff and UCCE Livestock Advisors to support producers interested in niche hog production. d. Engage beginning farmers and ranchers. A series of field visits will be completed with niche producers throughout the Project Area. An evaluation of potential production impacts and or benefits to soil, water, air, plants and animals will be undertaken at each site. Data gathered will be compiled and analyzed to identify particular conservation challenges and opportunities and how these practices impact production. The Project Area will encompass Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Santa Clara, Sonoma, Solano, San Joaquin and Stanislaus Counties. These counties are unified by their geographic proximity to San Francisco Bay Area markets and by the agricultural and resource professionals who serve them. Specific project deliverables include a color resource guidebook, which includes at least two UC ANR 8000 series factsheets, webpage, workshops and field days.

Evaluating and Extending the Use of Small, Multi-rotor Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV’s) as a Crop Monitoring Tool

Amount Awarded: $ 279,580
Award Source: Kearney
Principal Investigators:
  • David Doll - Principal Investigator
  • YangQuan Chen - Co PI
  • Gregory Kriehn - Co PI
Collaborators:
View project summary
The primary objective of this proposal is to develop an integrated approach to the introduction of new technology to farming in California. Recent advances in remote controlled aerial imaging can provide real-time information to growers regarding water usage and crop health. These advances have been somewhat overshadowed by upcoming legislation and policy development of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV’s), commonly referred to as “drones”. Levels of sophistication, size and self-direction capabilities by these UAV’s are not clearly understood by the general public. Much publicized use of this technology by military and other entities has created some controversy and to some degree confused the public regarding use of some forms of UAV’s that could be invaluable to today’s large and small scale agriculture producers.

Smaller, less sophisticated and less autonomous UAV’s can provide a platform for imaging hardware that can vastly improve crop surveillance to enhance water usage and pest control. Unlike previous forms of remote control (R/C) aerial modeling, new materials, power supply and battery technology and the development of muti-rotor helicopters have dramatically decreased the cost and learning curves associated with this activity. Coupled with this readily available and easy to deploy platform is the concurrent development of lightweight imaging hardware that can provide almost instantaneous visible light, infra-red and near infrared photographs at incredible resolution.

While some outreach professionals have begun to develop programs to utilize UAV’s for imaging and for delivery of pesticides, the introduction to field personnel of small, easy to use UAV’s for rapid gathering of imaging data has not been widely promoted. Input from these end-users as to specific functions desired has not been sought. California has an opportunity to be an international leader in this area. The project will focus on these main questions and tasks:

  1. Determine attitudes and expectations regarding the UAV’s as tools within the ag community;

  2. Determine what hardware is currently available for immediate use by growers and pest management professionals and what are the roadblocks to the adoption of the technology;

  3. Determine the learning curve associated with and practicality of utilizing the technology while at the same time using feedback to modify the developing system to increase ease of use;

  4. Provide proof of concept that use of this technology will enhance the management of water and pest infestations;

  5. During the later stages, a curriculum will be built to extend this information to farmers and demonstrate the use of small, remote controlled (RC) aerial vehicles (non-self directed) as imaging platforms.

An important component of ensuring that California agricultural community remains sustainable and competitive is rapid adoption of technology that can help prevent or quickly recognize crop infestations by pests or irrigation related stress issues. Innovations in UAV technology may provide farmers with that tool. This project hopes to reduce the delay in adaptation by reducing the “learning curve” upon implementing a new technology.

Groundwater Banking: An Agricultural Systems Approach for Water security in California

Amount Awarded: $ 332,357
Award Source: Kearney
Principal Investigators:
Collaborators:
View project summary
Irrigated agriculture utilizes approximately 80% of California’s water supply to produce food and fiber. This water demand is often at odds with other beneficial uses particularly in times of drought and/or in the midst of climate uncertainty. Conjunctive use and groundwater banking, the intentional transfer of excess surface water (in wet periods) to groundwater for storage and later recovery, have been important tools to California’s water management. With urban and environmental water flow requirements increasingly competing for surface water, with more efficient irrigation leading to less groundwater recharge, and with climate change, additional opportunities are sought for groundwater banking (GB). One largely unexplored approach to groundwater banking is to use land in agricultural production for recharging excess surface water where and when available. Using agricultural land for recharge and groundwater banking (here referred to as “ag-GB”) provides a wide range of additional opportunities for GB given the large irrigated acreage and water distribution infrastructure available. Ag-GB can only work with certain cropping systems since some may be associated with high residual levels of agricultural chemicals (nitrate and soluble pesticides) that could threaten groundwater quality.

Alfalfa and irrigated pasture might offer a compromise to these limitations assuming that the soils they are grown on are conducive to ag-GB. Alfalfa more so than pasture possesses the risk of crop failure if mature stands are flooded for extended periods (~2 weeks, temperature dependent). However, alfalfa and irrigated pasture represent a substantial land area in California (combined area > 1.5 million acres), and as a result, have the greatest probability to occur in locations with soils and aquifers most suitable for ag-GB. Both crops demand a relatively low use of fertilizers and pesticides, which could be subject to leaching. Moreover, the prevalence of flood irrigation in these systems might provide the infrastructure needed to convey surface water for ag-GB, thus reducing the costs of implementing new flood flow capture systems. In addition, the economic benefit from the banked water has the potential to offset costs associated with yield loss due to their relatively low net return (about $1600/acre) and establishment costs ($500/acre). In order to successfully implement ag-GB programs on agricultural land more research is needed on i) the physical constrains including crop season versus timing of ag-GB, ii) water sources for GB, iii) practical feasibility of storm/flood water conveyance for natural recharge, and iv) recoverability of banked water. This would be helpful to guide farmers in estimating risks to agricultural productivity (often an adoption barrier), and policy and decision makers in identifying physically suitable on-farm recharge areas for ag-GB.

In an effort to cross-cut UC ANR’s water quality, quantity and security and sustainable food systems strategic initiatives this project aims to test the physical and agronomic feasibility of ag-GB using alfalfa and irrigated pasture test sites. Specifically, the main goal of this project is to develop a knowledge database that allows for the quantification of feasibility, risks and costs associated with opportunistic ag-GB (i.e. Nov.-Feb., during storm/flood events in normal or wet years) on dormant and old (last year of rotation) alfalfa stands and irrigated pasture fields. We propose conducting field research in conjunction with modeling, GIS and agronomic analyses that will lead to the development of feasibility indices and decision support tools to quantify i) availability and costs of surface water and conveyance infrastructures for ag-GB, ii) farming practices and their effect on recharge, iii) water quality (nitrate and pesticide movement), iv) the risk and costs to alfalfa and irrigated pasture production from flooding, v) and economic benefits on operational yield, costs, water rights and trading opportunities where ag-GB is physically feasible. This project will provide a proof-of-concept assessment of the physical, operational, economic and legal feasibility of ag-GB on cropped land using alfalfa and irrigated pasture as test crops. As such this project will support the outcome of quantitative risk and cost estimates and science-based decision making for agricultural and water resources management in California. We believe that the proposed research is an important step towards the integration of sustainable agricultural production and water management systems in California.

Improving irrigation and nitrogen management of coastal vegetable and berry crops

Amount Awarded: $ 251,743
Award Source: Kearney
Principal Investigators:
View project summary
Growers of vegetables, strawberries and caneberries along the coastal regions of California are under severe regulatory pressure to limit off-site movement of nitrate into ground and surface water. The recently renewed conditional discharge waiver for irrigated lands will require additional monitoring and reporting, including on-farm monitoring of nutrient discharge, and reporting of fertilization rates as a ratio of crop N uptake. More than a decade of concentrated field research on the central coast has documented irrigation and N uptake requirements of two major crops (lettuce and strawberry), and has identified cultural practice modifications that could substantially improve fertilizer and water use efficiency. Much less information is currently available for other important crops in this region (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, celery, high-density salad greens, peppers, blackberries, and raspberries), although some research is ongoing.

While documentation of crop irrigation and N uptake requirements is a prerequisite for efficient management, this information alone is not sufficient to guide grower practices. Crops in this region are grown in dynamic rotations, and with irrigation waters of varying nitrate and salinity concentrations. Efficient production requires field-specific management that takes into consideration soil nitrate carry-over, crop residue N mineralization dynamics, soil N mineralization potential and the ‘fertilizer value’ of irrigation water NO3-N. Effective implementation of field-specific management will require expanded outreach to the industry, and the development of decision support tools that will streamline the management of complex data.

This project proposes to complete the development of data on water and N management of the coastal crops listed above, and to develop outreach tools to ensure the application of this research. Data development would fill gaps in information needed to provide comprehensive recommendations on water and N fertilizer management. These gaps include crop coefficients for irrigation scheduling, seasonal crop N uptake patterns, and N mineralization of crop residues. Detailed guidelines on water and nutrient management for coastal crops will be written as a series of ANR 8000 online publications that can be used by growers, crop advisers, and consultants for developing fertilizer management programs and irrigation schedules. Additionally, collected data will be used to expand CropManage (ucanr.edu/cropmanage), an online decision support tool for nitrogen and water management. CropManage was piloted for lettuce, and allows growers to tailor water and N fertilizer recommendations for specific soil and climatic conditions of their fields, and development stage of their crop. For CropManage to be truly useful to the agricultural industry, the software will need to be expanded to address all major crops grown on the coast.

By filling gaps in knowledge on water and nitrogen management and developing useful delivery tools for clientele, we believe that we can have a significant impact on improving water quality on the coastal region of California. With a very limited water supply in this region, this project would also assure the sustainability of economically important crops, critical to the coastal economy. Employing a collaborative, team effort in this project will assure an efficient use of ANR advisor and specialist resources, and should result in a comprehensive and uniform approach to developing highly needed information and delivery tools for clientele.

Integrating Urban Agriculture with Youth Development through Community Tours

Amount Awarded: $ 115,672
Award Source: Federal Smith Lever
Principal Investigators:
View project summary
This project will use the recently completed science-based results from the 2012 Urban Agriculture project (Surls) and extend that information through four hands-on experiential urban ag tours throughout the state. The tours will involve participants from UCCE, community organizations and agencies and will consist of visiting urban agriculture sites in northern and southern California, which currently provide urban agriculture education to youth and the community. We will incorporate cultural, racial, ethnic and income diversity among tour sites and participants. We will develop two youth trainings on how to conduct these tours, involving youth from the community-based urban ag organizations that will also be tour sites.

There are several outcomes we hope to achieve for these tours: (1) provide an effective strategy for sharing the information, curricula and other materials collected and developed as part of the ANR Urban Agriculture project (Surls) funded in 2012; (2) foster interaction between ANR farm, consumer science, IPM and 4-H youth development advisors, including several new ANR hires (Urban Ag-Alameda/Contra Costa; Food Systems-North Bay) and representatives from community organizations in several regions; (3) create opportunities for youth development, empowerment and job training; (4) create sustainable outreach strategies for joint UCCE-community work, especially involving digital and social media; (5) educate and sensitize all participants to social justice, racial, ethnic, and class differences; and (6) create effective adult/youth experiential education.

The project will be evaluated by gathering outcome data after each tour, at the end of all four tours and after each youth training. Quantitative and qualitative data will be gathered and analyzed to provide insights after year 1 which can be used to improve tours and the training in year 2. Metrics will also be gathered at the end of the project to provide preliminary insights about benefits accruing to the organizations associated with the urban ag tour sites (positive media, increased connections, funding), their personnel (increased linkages with UCCE sources of technical expertise, UC information, etc), UCCE personnel (increased understanding of successful community-based strategies, linkages with local policy) and community youth (job opportunities, leadership development).

The project will produce a training tool kit for use by ANR or community partners, who wish to train youth to provide ag tours. Outreach materials developed for the urban ag tours and the youth training toolkit will be housed on SAREP and ANR websites and shared via digital and social media. In addition, at least one journal article will describe both the process and outcome data, results and implications.

Intervention of an emerging zoonotic disease: urban crow roosts and the introduction, amplification, and overwinter persistence of West Nile virus

Amount Awarded: $ 238,000
Award Source: Kearney
Principal Investigators:
Collaborator: Lark Coffey
View project summary
West Nile virus (WNV) is a recently-emerged vectorborne disease that is the leading cause of viral encephalitis in the United States. Last year, WNV unexpectedly resurged to national outbreak levels that were comparable to those observed during the 2003 invasion process in California. WNV activity in 2013 is already widespread and rising (http://www.fightthebite.net/), both at the national (http://www.cdc.gov/westnile/) and state levels (http://westnile.ca.gov/). Identifying and implementing mosquito control practices that delay viral amplification and eliminate future outbreaks are central priorities for public health in California.

Surveillance and research have yet to identify the mechanisms by which WNV persists overwinter, when mosquito vectors are quiescent. Overwintering reservoirs are the weakest links in the chain of our understanding of WNV transmission, but they are critically important because they 1) provide the viral strains that found vernal viral populations, 2) determine the prevalence of virus at the termination of overwintering, and 3) thereby dictate the force of transmission during vernal amplification. If surveillance and intervention could be directed at specific viral overwintering foci, virus amplification and outbreaks could be delayed or prevented. Proof of principal was documented in Coachella Valley, where early-season intervention at an overwintering focus markedly delayed viral amplification and dispersal to the rest of the valley.

Large urban crow roosts could provide a recognizable target at which to direct early-season intervention efforts. Crows are the most widespread, synanthropic, competent WNV host: they are highly susceptible and become highly viremic after infection. Previous studies have shown that (1) bird-to-bird transmission occurs among crows; (2) crow feces can harbor high WNV titers; and (3) WNV can be present in crow feces under roosts in the winter. Likewise, in 2012, our preliminary work showed that crows died of WNV in an urban roost in Yolo County throughout the winter, including months when mosquitoes were inactive. Furthermore, in southern California, foci of WNV usually overlap with areas of high crow density. In concert, these lines of evidence suggest that crows could play a central role as overwinter reservoirs of WNV in California, enabling rapid amplification of WNV to outbreak conditions when mosquito vectors are abundant. In addition, crow immigrants could provide a mechanism by which new WNV strains are introduced. Long-distance movement of viral strains in Nearctic-Neartic migrants has been recently observed for avian influenza among migratory ducks, and WNV has been isolated from south-bound passerine migrants. Viral strains can have important implications for WNV epidemiology: the V-Env159-A mutation, for example, enhanced vector competence in Culex. Other than the initial sequencing studies, evolution and variation among WNV strains have not been investigated in California.

We propose to evaluate the role of crows in the amplification and persistence of WNV using a two-pronged approach. First, through analysis of mosquito blood meals, we will determine the extent to which Culex mosquitoes feed on crows at nocturnal roosts, and the extent to which the prevalence of WNV at corvid roosts (measured through both WNV-positive feces and carcasses) tracks temporal variation in mosquito infection incidence. If WNV is maintained in crow roosts overwinter in the absence of mosquitoes, bird-bird transmission is the most likely mechanism. Second, we will examine the role of migratory crows in the movement of WNV using a combination of satellite telemetry, isotopic analysis, and deep sequencing to test the hypothesis that immigrants bring new strains of WNV into the local population, which mix in the overwinter roosts.

Relevance to California. Recommendations from this research could have immediate positive outcomes for community health and have the potential to improve efforts to prevent WNV outbreaks, which to date have been unpredictable and challenging to control. If we find that crow roosts play an important role in WNV overwintering and amplification, we will work with our partner agency at the Sacramento-Yolo Mosquito and Vector Control District to implement appropriate intervention at these delineated foci as part of their integrated pest management program. By informing local, state, and federal health programs, our project may improve WNV intervention through managing mosquito populations in a safe, economical, and effective way. We will present our research findings to state agencies at the annual meeting of Mosquito and Vector Control Association of California and other professional societies.

Opportunities for leveraging additional funding: WNV is an urgent human and wildlife health concern. The acquisition of data supported by this award will enable us to craft a competitive, collaborative proposal for the 2014-2015 cycle of the NSF/ NIH/ USDA EEID grant, to examine and model factors affecting the overwintering success and early-season amplification of WNV.

Managing California Rangelands for Multiple Ecosystem Services: Understanding Tradeoffs among Production and Conservation-Based Goals

Amount Awarded: $ 248,977
Award Source: Kearney
Principal Investigators:
View project summary
California’s rangelands cover approximately 60% of the state and encompass diverse agricultural and wildland resources. Rangelands are the most expansive working landscapes, supporting a broad range of ecosystem services—including food and water provisioning, crop pollination, nutrient cycling, and primary productivity— that provide socio-economic benefits at local, regional, state, and national levels. Clearly, long-term sustainability of California’s rangelands, and the services they provide, is of major importance to many stakeholder groups.

Balancing multiple conservation and agricultural production goals on these multifunctional landscapes is a key challenge in an already variable and changing environment. Over the past four years, our project team has developed a broad, multipronged approach to directly integrate management and science in addressing this challenge of providing for multiple and diverse outcomes on working rangelands. Currently, we are conducting semi-structured interviews of ranchers across the state to identify the major factors determining individual capacity for adapting management strategies to biophysical and socio-economic changes. Our proposed project builds on and enhances this effort—we propose to 1) expand this effort to include a broader diversity of rangeland managers (e.g., governmental and non-governmental preserve managers), and 2) continue to collaborate with these participating ranchers and rangeland managers to quantify effectiveness of on-the-ground management strategies to provide for conservation and agricultural production outcomes (i.e., link decision-making to outcomes).

The long-term objective of the proposed project is to increase our (i.e., scientists, ranchers, land managers, policy makers, conservation practitioners) collective adaptive capacity to balance conservation goals with the economic realities of agricultural production. This project fully engages an interdisciplinary group of collaborators spanning the research-extension continuum across multiple campuses and counties to address the following objectives:

  1. Conduct semi-structured interviews of a cross-section of ranchers and rangeland managers to determine how socio-economic and environmental factors, including climate variability and change, impact adaptive capacity in managing for ecosystem services.

  2. Link decision-making to agricultural and ecological outcomes, and quantify effectiveness of management strategies to provide for multiple ecosystem services.

  3. Conduct integrated research and extension workshops, which will bring together experiential knowledge (e.g., ranchers, managers, conservation practitioners) and collaborative research findings on agricultural adaptation strategies to manage for multiple ecosystem services.

The proposed project consists of integrated, participatory research and extension activities that will support science-based decision-making (e.g., adoption of best management practices) for a growing diversity of rangeland stakeholders, including policy makers and on-the-ground managers. The participatory research, workshop series, and outreach materials that make up this project will link decision-making to agricultural production and conservation outcomes; continue to improve connections between research, management, and policy; and have timely relevance to locally, regionally, and nationally funded cost-share and conservation programs. These types of interdisciplinary efforts and active stakeholder collaborations enable us to more fully link social and ecological systems, which is a critical first step in sustaining multiple ecosystem services across working landscapes.

Mapping Sustainable Agriculture Knowledge Networks in California

Amount Awarded: $ 297,000
Award Source: Kearney
Principal Investigators:
View project summary
The overarching goal of this proposal is to understand the structure and dynamics of sustainable agriculture knowledge networks in California. Agricultural decision-making has transformed as agricultural production has scaled-up and become more concentrated, organized, and knowledge-intensive. Sophisticated local knowledge networks have evolved to link growers to a diverse range of stakeholders and knowledge brokers throughout food systems. For example, the UC Conservation Agriculture Systems Innovation Center relies on a network including farmers, private sector, government agencies, universities, and environmental groups (Jeff Mitchell, personal communication). The emergence of information technology and social media has enabled new network connections and real-time social learning. While some outreach professionals have developed programs to capitalize on these trends, there is not a set of guiding principles, organizational structures, or training. California has an opportunity to be an international leader in this area. The project will focus on five main questions and tasks:

  1. Map sustainable agriculture knowledge networks in California: A web-based snowball survey will be delivered to a seed population of ANR employees and other known knowledge brokers in every California county. The survey will ask them to identify the other key stakeholders in their network, who will then also receive the survey. Social network analysis will be applied to the resulting relational data.

  2. Measure stakeholder belief-systems about sustainable agriculture: Belief systems about sustainable agriculture can be elicited with cognitive networks in which nodes represent goals and strategies and links measure a participant's degree of belief in the causal relationships among the nodes. We will measure the belief systems of central stakeholders in the knowledge network and the implications of those belief systems on the likely diffusion of information.

  3. Inventory the uses of social technologies among knowledge network members: The survey will ask each respondent to identify any social media platforms or smart-phone applications they use for accessing and sharing agricultural information. This will help develop a broader understanding of how social technologies are linked to networks.

  4. Analyze the dynamics of social media communication using “big data” methods: The inventory of social media information can be analyzed to understand the dynamics of online communication. For example, “big data” methods use Twitter #hashtags to see who tweets and re-tweets various types of messages, allowing the uncovering of online communities-of-practice.

  5. Develop a knowledge networks and social media short-course: The results of the study will be used to develop a short-course that will train outreach professionals in social network theory and analysis, and principles of social media outreach. Such training will be useful statewide for providing a more principled basis for effective program development.

While the idea of knowledge networks can usefully be applied to any type of agricultural issue (e.g., disease and pest management), sustainable agriculture is an excellent issue to start with. Sustainable agriculture integrates a wide variety of other issues, and complements the broader concept of food systems. Sustainable agriculture is a high priority issue throughout the world, including programs within ANR and at individual UC campuses. Sustainable agriculture embraces the ideas of knowledge networks, boundary spanning, communities of practice, cooperation, innovation, and social media—themes that will be central to our project.

Measuring the Impact of Local Food Marketing on the Local Economy

Amount Awarded: $ 226,048
Award Source: Kearney
Principal Investigator: Shermain Hardesty - Principal Investigator
View project summary
This proposed project assesses the economic impact of local food systems. Local food markets represent a growing opportunity for small- and mid-scale farms. The project results will provide science-based evidence to guide public policy and program design related to food system interventions that involve small- and mid-scale farms (such as local buying initiatives, new regional food aggregation, and distribution and processing initiatives).

This project utilizes a mixed-method approach; it involves collecting data from a case study region and incorporating it within the Social Accounting Matrix framework of IMPLAN, the popular economic impact modeling software program. IMPLAN’s input-output methodology uses data reflecting inter-industry linkages for farms’ sales and purchases of production inputs, both within and among sectors of a region's economy. We will consult with academics who attended a workshop (including the PI) convened by the Union of Concerned Scientists last January to develop guidelines for studies assessing economic impacts of local and regional food systems. The PI has previously used IMPLAN to conduct a 2010 feasibility study/economic impact analysis for a meat processing plant in Mendocino County. Training by IMPLAN staff is budgeted for to enable team members to learn how to use this valuable tool.

Approximately one-third of the operators of small- and mid-scale farms in the Sacramento region who are engaged in direct marketing (~350 farms) will be interviewed about the amounts they spent and sources (if local or not) for their farm inputs and their farm sales. We will incorporate the collected data into the IMPLAN software program to quantify direct, indirect and induced effects to the local economy, including jobs related to input suppliers. The project findings will be reported in a policy brief that will be shared extensively—in written form and through presentations--to producers, local grower organizations, local Farm Bureau chapters, and policymakers, such as county Boards of Supervisors, Sacramento Area Council of Governments (SACOG), and the Delta Protection Commission. A regional forum will be organized to review the findings. Academic articles will also be prepared.

Two Cooperative Extension Advisors serving the counties included in this project are collaborators. This project will also be an ideal learning opportunity for the incoming North Bay Food Systems Advisor and the new Area Small Farm Advisor for Yolo, Solano and Sacramento counties (search begins in Spring 2014). The advisors will contribute to the development of the survey instrument, conduct farmer interviews in their counties (along with the PI, Graduate Student Researcher and a Program Representative), and participate in the local outreach and report writing. Collaborators DeMaster, Feenstra and Galt will also contribute to the development of the study design and the survey instrument, and participate in the report writing, including academic articles.

This project is meant to serve as a pilot for a larger study involving multiple regions in California, which we expect to propose in the future as part of a nationwide study including other academics involved with the aforementioned meeting organized by the Union of Concerned Scientists. Additionally, we are currently seeking collaborators (SACOG and Delta Protection Commission) to expand the proposed study into other counties within these organizations’ jurisdictions; we are requesting these partners contribute the incremental cost of surveying and analyzing data from the additional counties as their cost-sharing contributions.

Mitigating Zoonotic and Animal Disease Risks in 4-H Animal Science Projects through Coordinated Education and Research

Amount Awarded: $ 341,105
Award Source: Federal Smith Lever
Principal Investigators:
View project summary
National and state agencies and institutions have identified bio-security related to animal agriculture as a high priority (e.g., CDFA, 2013; UC ANR, 2009; USDA APHIS, 2010). Backyard farms can serve as sources of pathogens (WHO, 2006), and since most 4-H project animals are raised in backyard settings they represent bio-security risks (Smith & Meehan, 2012). Furthermore, 4-H youth commonly exhibit project animals at public venues, settings where disease outbreaks involving animals (e.g., Moore et al., 2010; USDA APHIS, 2011) and humans (e.g., LeJeune & Davis, 2004; Steimuller et al., 2006) have been reported. Of program and policy relevance, recent studies have shown bio-security risks and the presence of fecal-borne pathogens associated with livestock exhibits at California fairs (Roug et al., 2012; Smith & Meehan, 2012).

Recent outreach efforts from the Veterinary Medicine Extension and California 4-H have focused on youth scientific literacy within the HFC Initiative through bio-security education (Smith et al., 2011; Smith & Meehan, 2013). Specifically, the Bio-Security Proficiencies Program for 4-H, which was developed with grant funds from CDFA and field tested with funding from the Western Center for Risk Management Education, has been shown to improve youth’s conceptual understanding of bio-security, advance their competencies related to skills associated with best practice, and support risk mitigation on home premises and at public venues (Smith & Meehan, 2013). However, to date, no research has been conducted that connects participation in bio-security education programs with documented reductions in microbial presence and load in private or public animal environments.

The goal of this project is to apply best practices in youth science education along with laboratory-based assessment techniques to demonstrate the efficacy of the Bio-Security Proficiencies Program for 4-H on the bio-security and disease risk knowledge and skill of youth participants, as well as pathogen loads in home farm and exhibition settings where youth house project animals. In addition, this project will use an epidemiologic approach to determine risk factors for fecal shedding of zoonotic pathogens in exhibition settings, and to recommend associated best management practices (BMPs) to reduce future exposure risks.

The project’s design includes three (3) phases. In phases 1 and 2, youth participants will be recruited by collaborators at the local level and assigned to either the treatment or comparison group. The treatment group will participate in the Bio-Security Proficiencies Program for 4-H Youth (Smith & Meehan, 2013), a multi-week intervention facilitated by adult 4-H volunteers who will receive professional development and on-going support. The comparison group will not receive an education intervention. We will compare the two groups with respect to the presence and load for zoonotic fecal borne organisms such as E. coli, Salmonella, Campylobacter, Cryptosporidium, and Giardia, indicators of overall health of animal environments (Siembieda et al., 2011). These assessments will occur at the home premise (Phase 1) and within their assigned animal area on the first and final days of their participation at the fair (Phase 2). In addition, all youth will participate in assessments of their bio-security and disease risk knowledge and skills. Statistical comparisons of change in microbial load, and content and skills knowledge over time between the two groups, will be conducted. Focus group interview data will also be collected from the treatment group.

Phase 3 methodology will involve evaluating risk factors for fecal shedding of zoonotic pathogens in exhibition settings. Biological data will be collected to test for prevalence of fecal pathogens, change in microbial levels over the course of the fair, and antibiotic resistance of specific organisms. Survey data will be collected to inform the risk factor database; multi-variable modeling will be utilized to determine the relative strength of each identified risk factor in its association with fecal shedding of zoonotic pathogens.

Taken together, the results of this project will inform policy development with respect to bio-security standards within 4-H programs and animal exhibitions in California, as well as at a national level. In addition, the results of the project will be utilized to strengthen education and outreach efforts designed to minimize disease risks associated with the raising and showing of livestock by young producers with the goals of enhancing food safety and protecting human and animal health in an integrated fashion. The project team has demonstrated expertise in all aspects of the proposed program including implementation of the Bio-Security Proficiencies Project at the county level, collaboration with fair managers, and environmental and fecal sample testing for microbial prevalence. The project team is composed of campus and county-based academics and program staff, as well as state-level stakeholders.

Quantifying ecological effects of land use and climate change using historical collections

Amount Awarded: $ 268,038
Award Source: Federal Smith Lever
Principal Investigators:
Collaborators:
View project summary
The next generation of predictive models of the biotic response to environmental change must meet the challenge of incorporating the effects of complex interactions among organisms, climate, and their physical and biotic environments. A great variety of data types are required to meet this challenge, including current and past species’ distributions, and how these have changed in space and time, as well as empirical and modeled data on environmental and climate change. While much data are already available for natural sites, information from managed sites is just emerging; together they would allow comparison across the range of natural to highly managed environments in northern California. Given the reliance on managed systems for food, timber and their importance to wildlife, it is critical to understand the effects of global change on these systems, and anticipate expected parallels and divergence of managed and natural areas as we move into the future. The proposed effort will reveal interactions and feedbacks between different species and their environments - both natural and managed - and how they change over time, by allowing easy and rapid access to vast amounts of disparate data, the ability to perform rapid exploratory analyses and tests for correlations and to visualize and communicate results to a broad community of users.

The goal of this project is to bring data together from managed and natural systems in a comparative framework, by partnering with two major ongoing complementary bioinformatics efforts within UC/ANR: (1) Keck Foundation-funded project (co-PI Rosemary Gillespie; see http://globalchange.berkeley.edu/ecoinformatics-engine), which looks at the effects of complex interactions among organisms, climate, and their physical and biotic environments, incorporating information on current and past species' distributions and how these have changed in space and time, as well as empirical and modeled data on environmental and climate change. Deliverables include a mechanism to access, visualize, and analyze these rich data, and thus provide the foundation for building the next generation of models of the biotic response to global change. The focus of the Keck effort is the natural environments of the UC Natural Reserve system. Also, (2) an ANR-funded effort to organize, digitize and make Web-accessible, the data from nine of California’s Research and Extension Centers (co-PIs Maggi Kelly and Lisa Fischer; see http://www.escholarship.org/uc/item/2117459w, http://ucanr.edu/sites/IGIS/). Finally, we will build on other efforts that aim to digitize specimen data throughout California: Calbug, which is digitizing select arthropods from a spectrum of UC field stations (R. Gillespie, K. Will; G. Roderick co-PIs; see http://calbug.berkeley.edu/); and the Consortium of California Herbaria for vascular plant specimens (http://ucjeps.berkeley.edu/consortium/).

This project will fully digitize the remaining specimen records from collections held at Hopland REC and Sagehen Creek Field Station, bring in the rich collections from Blodgett Forest Research Station, and selectively database specimens held in the Berkeley Natural History Museums’ (BNHM) collections. These collections, as well as some held remotely, reflect a long tradition of exploration and sampling of the biota of California, with some of the most intense and long-term efforts focused at the UC field, research and extension centers. Through the ongoing efforts mentioned, a good deal of data from these efforts are already digitally available, although there are numerous gaps and data from material collected at Blodgett (around 500 specimens of insects, 70 vertebrate specimens and around 350 plant specimens) are entirely lacking. Once we have rendered the specimens, and associated ecological data, digitally available, we propose to integrate the data, using the structure of the Keck Ecoinformatics Engine, to understand biodiversity response to global change in a comparative framework across natural and managed systems.

In addition to the development of bioinformatics tools, public awareness and outreach is vital to developing a deeper understanding of the importance of climate change to California as well as the need for evidence-based management policies to mitigate problems associated with change. Gaining the confidence of the public at large requires that they understand the issues and have a personal buy-in to the management outcomes. Citizen science projects, mediated via the internet, are now being developed and this project will take advantage of the data pipeline and user interface established by the NSF-funded CalBug project and its partnership with the highly successful crowdsourcing of data label transcriptions at Notes from Nature (http://www.notesfromnature.org). This project will also work with the California Naturalist Program (http://ucanr.edu/sites/UCCNP/) to develop workshop exercises targeted at field collection, identification, and land use change. Also the project will involve the CNP by conducting sessions that introduce Californians to the diversity of natural communities at the research stations. Through these courses it is expected that there will be an increase in participation in the online citizen science efforts thereby expanding on the learning and giving them an opportunity to have a long-term interaction with the data and gain a better understanding of the process of science as a whole. Moreover, in addition to digitizing specimens and conducting analyses of species and community change, the project will generally curate and enhance existing REC and field station biological collections as well as develop protocols for vouchering and databasing newly collected specimens.

Subsurface Drip Irrigation for Alfalfa to Improve WUE and Protect Water Quality

Amount Awarded: $ 205,719
Award Source: Kearney
Principal Investigators:
Collaborators:
View project summary
Alfalfa is the largest acreage crop and key forage for the #1 agricultural enterprise in CA: dairy, an industry worth more than $7 billion/year. Alfalfa utilizes greater than 5 million acre-feet/year, nearly 20% of the state’s agricultural water, the largest ag. water user in the state. Urban growth, competing crops, climate change, environmental needs and urban uses will place an increasingly heavy demand on limited water supplies in the future. Since more than 85% of alfalfa is currently surface irrigated—this crop has been roundly criticized for utilizing so much water using imprecise methods. While that criticism is not entirely valid (there are important advantages of surface systems), there is a strong need to improve application methods in the face of water cutoffs and the limitations of surface methods.

Why SDI? SDI is a known feasible alternative irrigation technology with superior application efficiencies that has been widely adapted in many crops, but not alfalfa. There are major theoretical and actual benefits of drip irrigation: more precise water application methods, reduction in evaporation, improved distribution uniformity (over time and space), ability to more closely match ET and crop growth, improved ability to control nutrients, and eliminate surface runoff of pesticides carried in surface waters. Yield advantages of 19-35% more than flood irrigation have been reported for alfalfa, and more recent demonstrations have shown 30% increases in yields on a farmer’s fields and savings in water applications. However, there are major practical limitations in alfalfa: currently less than 1% of the crop utilizes SDI. We propose a concerted 3 year effort to both evaluate the potential impacts (advantages/disadvantages) of SDI in alfalfa and to help solve these practical problems.

Methods: In this project, we will assemble a team to both test and improve SDI in alfalfa, with trials both on UC stations as well as in grower’s fields. This project has a major outreach/engagement component, combining UC experiments with documented grower and industry experiences to build a state-wide knowledge base. We will implement a comparison between SDI and surface check-flood in large plots at El Centro and Davis in a replicated designs. Yields, water use, and other parameters will be measured. In addition, we will build a ‘case history’ of grower experiences with SDI, and build a computer-based ‘Grower Learning Network’ so that growers can learn from each others experiences. Since rodents (gophers, voles) are a key limitation of this technology-this project will be fully integrated and coordinated with the rodent-management proposal being submitted by Roger Baldwin (which cuts across all crops).

Outcomes: Documentation of the yield, water savings implications of SDI in alfalfa compared with surface systems using controlled studies. Development of a learning network with growers, industry, University participation. Recommended practices for implementation of SDI, including design characteristics, rodent control strategies, irrigation scheduling recommendations. This project should have major policy implications, since, if successful, long-term strategies can be developed to save water, and if not successful, other strategies pursued.

Sustainable Production of Agronomic Crops in California - Agronomy Research and Information Center

Amount Awarded: $ 133,304
Award Source: Kearney
Principal Investigators:
View project summary
The objective is to develop a coordinated web-based Center for science-based UC information and on-line learning tools for an important group of agronomic field crops grown in California. Key crops are rice, alfalfa, wheat,cotton, and biofuels. Other crops as well as new/alternative crops such as sorghum, teff, kenaf and berseem can be included once key crops have been addressed and there is sufficient interest. Agronomic crops occupy over 5 million of the approximately 8 million irrigated acres in the state, and have large impacts on water use and nutrient management, farm profitability and human health. While the university is involved in a lot of research on these crops, there is currently no comprehensive organized outlet for this information to be delivered to farmers and other stakeholders.

Why commodity based? A commodity-based RIC is essential because growers look for information primarily based upon the crops they grow. Additionally, including all the information for one crop will guarantees a highly interdisciplinary approach. Comprehensive and sustainable cropping management includes understanding variety selection, pests, diseases, irrigation, soil fertility, factors such as planting date, economics and crop quality. The idea is that ALL the UC information on specific crops (cotton for example) could be found or linked here. This would be a portal for smartphone applications for plant and soil diagnostics and other useful tools. Sustainability: The emphasis of this on-line resource is to influence decisions that would enable more environmentally-friendly practices across a range of subjects, from water quality to nutrient management, energy, genetics, and air quality, across all agronomic crops.

Methods: There are currently several highly successful RICs and this will be developed in consultation with the leaders of those to ensure success. Each crop or group of crops would have a chair, and would set an agenda for development of web-based needs for that crop. High priority would be placed on those on-line projects/products of highest importance to the ANR initiatives (nutrient and water management or pests). This RIC would serve as the initial “go-to” website for UC information on these crops.

Outcomes:

  • Development of new on-line learning modules pertinent to growers and CCAs for continuing education credit, setting out an agenda of 4-6 per year for the first two years (10 total)

  • More visible outreach collation of all UC publications related to agronomic crops in a manner that is highly searchable, retrievable, and improvable over time

  • Development of “Knowledge Networks” for encouraging campus-county-farmer interaction

  • A system for how to access expertise on these crops in the UC system ‘find the expert’

  • A platform to spin-off linked phone apps for in-field use of web tools

  • Development of a series of new on-line decision support tools, such as:
    • Nutrient management tools for specific crops (rice, wheat, corn, cotton especially)

    • Web-based staging tools for crop development (flowering, maturity) & models

    • Variety selection tool that would be of use to farmers (e.g. ‘how to select a wheat variety’)

    • Irrigation management tools (e.g. Salt/drought management information)

    • Field research and data analysis tools of use to researchers

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