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Program Highlights July 28- August 3

Fire retardent on California Laurel (Umbellularia californica) leaves

Many of our CalNat friends and colleagues and the places they hold dear are being heavily impacted by statewide wildfires. We wish you all the best...

Posted on Friday, August 3, 2018 at 8:00 AM

Program Highlights July 21-28

Manzanita bark

    What's going on when manzanitas (Arctostaphylos sp) and Pacificmadrone (Arbutusmenziesii) peel their beautiful smooth red bark into...

Posted on Monday, July 30, 2018 at 12:13 PM

Hot weather tips for the summer garden

Most Californians don't have a desert landscape designed to withstand the limited water and high temps like the desert garden display at the UC Santa Cruz botanical garden. (Photo: Lauren Snowden)

This week much of California is under a heat advisory or excessive heat warning, with high temperatures estimated to range from 90 to 108 degrees. Many home gardeners are wondering how they can help their plants, trees or shrubs survive the intense summer heat.

“We are getting a lot of inquiries around the state from people worried about how the extreme temperatures are going to affect the plants or trees in their yards,” said Missy Gable, director of the UC Master Gardener Program. “With a little extra planning, you can help your garden beat the heat and survive the hot summer weather.”

UC Master Gardener volunteers are available to help answer gardening questions and provide advice on gardening during the hot summer months. Here are four quick and easy ways to help make sure your plants and trees not only survive, but thrive.

  1. Don't fertilize plants or trees during hot summer months 
    Fertilizers aim to increase the growth of plants and trees. When a fertilizer is applied, especially one that is high in nitrogen, a plant is triggered to produce more green growth. An increase in growth means an increase in water and nutrient needs. During hot spells, it is especially hard to keep up with plant water and nutrient needs as soils dry out quickly and water may not be readily available. Save your plants (and yourself!) from stress by stopping fertilizer application before hot weather hits.

  2. Water trees deeply and less frequently
    It sounds counter intuitive to water trees less frequently, but this is exactly what UC environmental horticulture experts recommend. “When watering trees you want to consider the roots below the tree and you want to encourage a network of deep roots. If you are only watering for short periods at a higher frequency, the roots will remain shallow since that is where the tree finds its water supply,” said Janet Hartin, UC ANR environmental horticulture advisor. “Deep roots mean a healthier tree that is less susceptible to disease.”

    How much water a plant needs depends on the specific plant, how long it has been in the ground, and the type of soil where it is planted. In general, young plants or newly planted plants require more water than older more established plants. Clay soils absorb water slowly so watering can take longer but is typically done less frequently. This is in contrast to sandy soils that moisten and drain quickly. Typically, watering sandy soils take less time but has to be done more frequently. A Landscape Irrigation Scheduling Worksheet from the California Center for Urban Horticulture (CCUH) can be used to help calculate and determine an annual irrigation schedule for one irrigation zone.

    Mulch is a beautiful compliment to your landscape – not only is it aesthetic but it provides a valuable service to your soil.


  3. Mulch, mulch, and more mulch
    When temperatures get extreme, having a good layer of mulch prevents soil from heating up excessively and loosing water to evaporation. Apply 4 inches of a medium shred bark mulch to insulate the soil. This protects the fine roots that plants use to feed from the surrounding soil. Mulch also helps maintain healthy soil ecology with earthworms and other de-composers that promote nutrients and oxygen in soil. Finally, mulch will pay for itself by maintaining a more consistent soil moisture so you can water less and have better success with your plants. Be sure to maintain the depth of your mulch to ensure you can benefit from all the services it provides.

    An important part of gardening is planning for activities in the garden for future months. When the temperatures are too hot to spend outdoors, you can always start to develop a garden or planting plan. (Photo: Melissa Womack)



     
  4. Wait to introduce new plants or trees until the fall
    In gardening, timing is everything. New plants, whether grown in ground from seed or planted in your landscape from a container, have smaller root systems than more mature plants or plants that have been growing in your landscape for some time. Because root systems on new plants are smaller and need time to develop, these plants require more water more frequently. New plants introduced into a landscape during hot summer months have a significantly higher rate of failure. In California, it is best to introduce new plants in fall when the weather gets cooler. Winter rains can help keep new plants watered so they can establish and thrive in the future when temperatures are high and rainfall is scarce.

Always remember that you should take precautions for yourself while gardening in the summer months, especially during a heat wave. Remember to drink plenty of water and always have at least one quart of water per hour of outdoor activity. Limit time spent outdoors during peak temperatures and schedule any active time during cooler portions of the day. Always wear light loose clothing, a brimmed hat, and sunscreen as protection.  

Thankfully we're not trying to garden on the surface of the sun. Unfortunately, sometimes it can feel like it for us and for our plants.  Stay cool with these tips and consider planning for the fall to be an important part of your summer gardening activity.   

Posted on Monday, July 30, 2018 at 9:05 AM
Focus Area Tags: Yard & Garden

UC research facility brings state-of-the-art conferencing to Tulelake

UC Agriculture and Natural Resources marked the opening of a new conference and laboratory building at its Intermountain Research and Extension Center in Tulelake July 26, bringing to the region a state-of-the-art facility for business meetings, job fairs, trainings, conferences and community events.

"The facility is the first in the Tulelake area to offer modern audio-visual infrastructure and high-speed internet connectivity capable of supporting remote presentations to stay in touch with groups from around the world," said Rob Wilson, IREC director. "We hope this facility will greatly increase the visibility and accessibility of local events and help draw more regional attention to the area."

Left to right, UC ANR vice provost Mark Lagrimini, associate vice president Wendy Powers, and IREC director Rob Wilson took part in the ribbon cutting ceremony for the new IREC Multi-purpose Conference and Laboratory Building.

UC ANR funded construction of the $2 million building. IREC is working with the community to complete the project with furnishings and equipment. 

The conference room is named after John Staunton, a local farmer and supporter of IREC whose family donated $25,000 in his memory to the project. Another conference room bears the name of Winema Elevators/Western Milling for its gift of $15,000. Donations to the facility have also been made by Sensient Natural Ingredients, Macy's Flying Service and Basin Fertilizer

The Staunton farming family attended the building opening, where a conference room has been named for family patriarch John Staunton.

The conference building opening followed the 2018 IREC field day, an annual event that showcases the research underway at the 140-acre facility.

Research presentations included updates about work on biological control of cereal leaf beetle, influence of fall harvest management of irrigated grass hays, onion white rot, managing alfalfa weevil and clover root cucurlio, pulse crop options for the Klamath Basin, cover crops and amendments, cutting schedule effects on low lignin alfalfa and germplasm evaluation of alfalfa and tall fescue.

Charlie Pickett, CDFA environmental scientist, is studying the biological control of cereal leaf beetle, a pest from Europe that arrived in the Tulelake area in 2013. The field insectary at IREC grows parsitic wasps that he has been sampling for five years. 'If we didn't have that parasitoid, I can guarantee you, everybody would be spraying pesticides,' he said.

 

UC Cooperative Extension advisor Dave Lile is conducting research to determine the end-of-season stubble height of three hay crops - timothy hay, tall fescue and orchard grass - for ideal growth the following season.
 
IREC director and farm advisor Rob Wilson describes efforts being made to suppress the onion disease white root rot. 'White root rot is a soil-borne disease that is long-lived in the soil,' he said. 'This has limited onion acreage in the area.'
 
UCCE advisor Rachael Long demonstrates using a sweep net to monitor for alfalfa weevils. 'This weevil is a tough insect to control,' she said.
 
Pig weed grows though garbanzo bean plants in a weed control trial at IREC. There is increasing interest in garbanzo beans as a possible rotation crop in the region. The nutritious legume is used in making hummus, a healthful snack that is growing in popularity.
 
 
The wheat in the foreground - which followed a cover crop of woolypod vetch and then potatoes - is visibly more robust than wheat behind it that followed pelleted chicken manure and the potato crop. 'We were surprised by the memory we get from legume crops,' Wilson said.
 
UC alfalfa specialist Dan Putnam said selecting the best alfalfa variety can result in up to $700 per acre increase in profit over five years. 'That can be pretty important economically,' Putnam said.
 
UC Davis plant breeder Charlie Brummer is conducting pre-breeding experiments at IREC to tease out the plants most likely to parent high-yielding alfalfa.
 
Posted on Friday, July 27, 2018 at 2:15 PM

Connectivity is key for high-tech farms of the future

The dizzying impact of the digital revolution on many sectors of society – from retail to law enforcement, politics and entertainment – has also altered the picture on California farms.

With technology, farmers have found ways to reduce pesticide use, increase irrigation efficiency, reduce travel into the fields, manage people better, and deal with labor shortages. Much more can be done.

To connect farmers interested in ag innovations with researchers who can confirm the potential of new technologies, UC Agriculture and Natural Resources created Verde Innovation Network for Entrepreneurship, or the VINE. The program has launched a website at https://thevine.io, a place for farmers, food entrepreneurs, researchers and technology professionals to find the resources they need to build, launch and grow agricultural innovations.

“The VINE brings together academia across UC, the Cal-State University system, and community colleges with innovators in technologies like artificial intelligence, machine learning, robotics, indoor agriculture and others,” said Gabe Youtsey, UC ANR chief innovation officer. “We want to create rural testbeds to develop technology. UC ANR's research and extension centers are well set up to do that.”

UC ANR has research and extension centers (RECs) across California, in locations representative of different agricultural ecosystems – from the desert southwest to the intermountain region near the Oregon border. The VINE recently invited technology companies and farmers to the UC Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Parlier to mark the installation of a wifi tower that will bathe the 330-acre agricultural research station in high-speed wireless internet.

Workers at Kearney raise a tower to blanket the 330-acre research center with high-speed wireless internet. (Photo: Julie Sievert)

The project built on the partnership with the Corporation for Education Network Initiatives in California (CENIC) that brought ultra-fast (100Gbps) broadband capability to Kearney offices and laboratories two years ago. UC ANR collaborated with Orange Silicon Valley and BlueTown to extend the connectivity via wireless transmission to every corner of the research fields.

Orange Silicon Valley is a division of Orange in France, a telecommunications provider. BlueTown, based in Denmark, provides low-cost, sustainable wifi to people in rural areas around the world.

The wifi update enables researchers at Kearney to collect and view data without any delay.

“Now we can do real-time data collection,” said Jeff Dahlberg, Kearney director. “We need science to back up technology. We can use Kearney to ground-truth new technologies before farmers make a decision to buy into it.”

Internet access may not be critical to farming at the moment, but as growers adopt more technology-driven applications on their farms, a fast, reliable and widespread internet will be imperative.

“We're setting a foundation for the future,” Youtsey said. “The innovation infrastructure to really create the solutions and tie them together is broadband.”

The wireless system serves as a model and possible resource for rural communities interested in offering high-speed internet to residents. The Kearney wifi offers benefits to the partners that helped make it a reality. Orange Silicon Valley is working on bringing internet to remote places in Africa and India.

“They wanted a test facility, a place and a relationship for research and development in their backyard,” Youtsey said. “We have conditions at Kearney that are similar to the rural areas around the world where they work.”

Kearney was the first UC ANR REC to be equipped with connectivity to serve as a field innovation center.

“Eventually, multiple centers across California will have the infrastructure to test and evaluate technology in the places where food grows in California,” Youtsey said. “Robots are starting to come out of the lab and need to be tested in farm fields pruning fruit trees, suckering grapes, harvesting crops. As these technologies are developed, we have great facilities with almost infinite flexibility, compared to commercial farms. We can demonstrate these new technologies for farmers.”

UC ANR chief innovation officer Gabe Youtsey, left, moderates a panel at AgTechx.

The VINE is working with the Western Growers Association – which brings together farmers in Arizona, California, Colorado and New Mexico to support common goals – and the organization's new Center for Innovation and Technology. WGA hosts regular AgTechx sessions in which farmers and ag entrepreneurs share ideas, innovations, issues and concerns regarding technology. At a recent Coalinga meeting, a farmer panel presented problems for which they are seeking technological solutions.

  • With new regulations from California's Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, farmers need to find a way to measure how much water they are applying and how much of that water is recharging the aquifer, said William Bourdeau of Harris Ranch.
  • “Food safety keeps me up at night. We need better supply chain data,” said Garrett Patricio of Westside Produce.
  • “We're using mid-20th century technology on the farm. There's a tremendous problem with connectivity. It starts with that,” Patricio said.
  • If robots and other technology are deployed on farms, producers need reliable tech support to prevent lengthy stoppages, which can have devastating economic impacts, said Patricio.
  • Pistachios are alternate bearing. “We need to have a way to know which trees don't need as much water,” said Richard Mataion of the California Pistachio Commission.

Farmer Don Cameron of Terranova Ranch said agriculture has already come a long way, implementing moisture monitoring sensors, consulting aerial photos of the crop, and equipping irrigation managers with tablet computers.

“If the technology is profitable, and we can make it work, it will catch on,” he said.

Posted on Monday, July 23, 2018 at 8:59 AM
Tags: Gabe Youtsey (2), technology (3)

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