Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources
Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources
Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources
University of California
Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources

News stories

Open Farm paves the way for technology adaptation in agriculture

The Third Annual Open Farm comes to the UC Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Parlier Oct. 3. Open Farm is a gathering hosted each year by the farming community to connect technology vendors, academics and growers to accelerate the digital transformation of the food and agriculture sector.

The meeting runs from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Registration is free for growers and government employees; $20 for representatives of power and water utilities; and $40 for vendors. Register on the Eventbrite webpage. (https://www.eventbrite.com/e/3rd-annual-open-farm-tickets-48793567875) Continuing education credits will be offered.

The Kearney REC is at 9240 S. Riverbend Ave., Parlier, Calif.

Technology demonstrations like this one at the UC Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center will be part of Open Farm Oct. 3, 2018.

The Open Farm event features:

  • Keynote address by Glenda Humiston, vice president, UC Agriculture and Natural Resources
  • Field demonstrations of 3D mapping of research fields using drones, automation of irrigation and fertigation, and comparison of water measurement methods to prepare for the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act
  • Peer reviewed research presentations on agronomy, monitoring, robotics and data mining
  • An industry panel with growers and food processors

Open Farm 2018 sponsors and partners are:

  • UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR)
  • The VINE, Verde Innovation Network for Entrepreneurship
  • West Hills College, Coalinga
  • California State University, Fresno
  • BlueTechValley
  • PowWow Energy
  • WiseConn Engineering
  • Pumpsight
  • Blue River Technologies
  • Bowles Farming Company

Open Farm started in 2016 at Terranova Ranch with the support of a research grant from the California Energy Commission (EPC-14-081). In 2017, the event grew to a wider gathering with peer-reviewed presentations organized by UC ANR and field demonstrations led by West Hills College. Both organizations are involved in the broadband initiative to bring better broadband services in the Central Valley.

“The future of ag tech innovation and implementation on the West Side depends on access to broadband internet in the fields,” said Terry Brase, ag science instructor at West Hills Community College. “West Hills is proud to partner with UC ANR to champion an initiative that would make this possible for local growers.”

PowWow Energy, Pumpsight and WiseConn Engineering are examples of companies that have worked with the farming community and established application programmable interfaces (API) that allow farmers to protect their data and get the different applications to talk to each other.

“It makes the lives of growers easier, not harder,” said Olivier Jerphagon, founder and CEO of PowWow Energy, Inc.

The three vendors went through the Water Energy Technology (WET) center at Fresno State, which is one of the incubators in California connected by the VINE.

“Agriculture needs standards to support the better integration of systems and data to make using technology easier and less expensive, while protecting the privacy of farms,” said Gabe Youtsey, UC ANR chief innovation officer. “We need to work together across industry, academia and government to share best practices and form partnerships to solve real problems and adapt the integration of software and data to the needs agriculture. This is why we started the VINE.”

The VINE – the Verde Innovation Network for Entrepreneurship – is a connected community of innovators and resources that sustainable agriculture and food innovators can leverage, including incubators, research labs, field testing facilities, mentors and industry experts.

“The food and agriculture industry is changing fast, and for an organization like ours to add value, we have to understand the diversity of innovation that is happening in the industry,” said Helle Petersen of Fresno State's WET Center. “The VINE community helps us navigate the field, and leverages the many assets of our region. The Open Farm is one of those opportunities, a unique event that brings together researchers, farmers, industry and others to share their knowledge, best practices and find opportunities for partnerships.”

Posted on Tuesday, September 11, 2018 at 10:52 AM
Tags: Gabe Youtsey (11), technology (7), VINE (1)
Focus Area Tags: Innovation

LA's concrete river revitalization unlikey to create habitat for steelhead trout

The city of Los Angeles is preparing to remove parts of the LA River's concrete lining, but that may not be enough to bring back native fish, reported Zoie Matthew in Los Angeles Magazine.

"It's hard to do piece-by-piece restoration projects for things adapted to river and stream systems. And it's impossible for steelhead," said Sabrina Drill, UC Cooperative Extension natural resources advisor in Los Angeles and Ventura counties.

It is unlikely steelhead trout will return to the LA River. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Steelhead need a continuous, rapidly flowing channel to complete their life cycle. Other native fish, such as the Arroyo chub, will need gravel, plants, sediment and pools to be restored.

"Ecological heterogeneity is really important," Drill said. "Fish tend to need different kinds of habitat."

Warmer water temperature is another concern. The river lacks trees and plants to shade the water and concrete soaks up the sun's warmth, creating a habitat unsuitable for natives.

Drill said some of the new fish in the river have favorable characteristics. Mosquito fish help with pest control and carp make for good fishing.

"Part of (the river's) role is to provide low-income, underserved communities with a place to access nature, see native birds, and increase public health by having a safe area to walk and fish," Drill said. "I think there's value there too."

Posted on Monday, September 10, 2018 at 10:18 AM
Focus Area Tags: Natural Resources

Let them eat cherries: Planning a U-Pick operation on your farm

Farmers work long hours under the open sky, struggling to finish each day's planting, cultivating, pruning or picking before the sun sets. It's hard sometimes to imagine, while engaged in this day-to-day pressure, but city people often welcome the chance to pay for an hour or two on that farm, especially if they can pick their own fresh fruit or vegetables. For many urban people, just getting out of town to a farm is a delicious pleasure.

Strawberries! - Pacific Star Gardens
The University of California Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (UC SAREP), a statewide program of UC ANR, has just published online a useful guide for farmers considering starting a U-Pick operation on a California farm. Planning a U-Pick Operation on Your California Farm can be downloaded free. The guide is part of a larger project, funded by the USDA's Western Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (SARE), called "Growing California Agritourism Communities." 

U-Pick farming has a long tradition. Fifty years ago it was common for families to spend an afternoon picking bushels of produce to take home for canning or drying or storing for use in the winter. As more women joined the workforce full-time, the practice of preserving food became less common and U-Pick farms shifted their focus.

Visiting a farm became an enjoyable family experience, designed to build lasting memories, often with an underlying goal for farm visitors of teaching children where their food comes from. With the current popularity of local food and culinary adventures, U-Pick farming operations are growing in popularity and attracting new customers.

Full sack of fresh beans - R. Kelley Farm
When customers pick their own, the farmer does not have to pick or pay someone else to pick, and doesn't have to sort, pack or truck the produce to market. They get retail price (or close to it), and get to see the happy faces of satisfied customers heading home from "their" farm.

However, U-Pick farming comes with risks. Customers need welcoming and caring for, and they tend to break branches, wander where they are asked not to, and not show up when the weather is bad, even if the crops are ripe and ready. Farmers considering a U-Pick operation need to understand their liability and food safety responsibilities, budget and set prices carefully, and train staff in customer service skills.

UC SAREP staff developed the guide with the help of several California U-Pick farm operators who were willing to share their experience and advice with other farmers. The guide also includes advice provided by farmers and Extension educators from other states. Topics include:

  • Crop Diversity and Packaging
  • Location and Layout
  • Communications and Promotion
  • Permitting and regulatory compliance
  • Financial Planning and Budgeting
  • Staffing considerations
  • Food safety & Risk Management
  • Pricing
  • Complementary products & attractions

After careful consideration, farmers may decide that a U-Pick operation is not for them, or they may decide to move forward with building lifelong connections with a community of grateful customers.

To find a farm to visit (including U-Pick farms) visit the UC Agritourism Directory and Calendar, www.calagtour.org.

For more agritourism resources for farmers, visit the UC SAREP website, or contact Penny Leff, agritourism coordinator, paleff@ucdavis.edu

Posted on Wednesday, August 29, 2018 at 11:20 AM
Tags: agritourism (45)

Wildland-urban interface residents still build after burns

Even after wildfires have burned homes and taken lives, communities allow for rebuilding in wildland-urban interface areas prone to such disasters, reported Alistair Bland in the East Bay Express.

Van Butsic, a UC Cooperative Extension specialist at UC Berkeley, has studied the alarming trend of building homes in known fire-risk areas.

"We studied 30 of the largest fires since 1970," he said.

On average, 20 years after an inhabited area burns, most of the destroyed homes are rebuilt and many new homes were added — about twice as many homes in total as there were at the time of the burn.

UCCE forestry and natural resources advisor Sabrina Drill said people seem to have short memories.

"I (would) think people might think twice about building a home where there had just been a fire, but people seem to forget after about three years," Drill said.

 

UC ANR scientists say society tends to be concerned about wildfires during and immediately after high-profile catastrophic events. However, the attention is often short-lived and doesn't generate change before the next fire strikes.

Drill, Van Bustic and other UC Agriculture and Natural Resources scientists were sources for the nearly 5,000-word East Bay Express story about the hazards to people and property in the wildland-urban interface and ways to manage the problem in a state where climate change appears to be making wildfires more frequent and intense.

The article said most fire experts and community leaders believe not enough is being done to prevent catastrophic blazes. They want more prescribed burning to reduce fuel loads, increased funding for firefighting and wildfire research, and stricter controls on development in wooded areas.

"But that's so politically contentious — it's a line politicians walk up to but turn away from," said William Stewart, a UCCE forestry specialist at UC Berkeley.

He said society tends to be concerned about wildfires during and immediately after high-profile catastrophic events. However, the attention is often short-lived and doesn't generate change before the next fire strikes.

"It's surprisingly hard to get investments in fire prevention strategies, even after the scale of the fires we just had," Stewart said.

Stewart believes California's government should support more research into fire-safe building patterns and more effective vegetation management. Perhaps most importantly of all, he said, Californians must turn wildfire history into a learning experience.

"If we don't make significant investments in new ways of managing vegetation and building these housing developments in the (wildland-urban interface)," Stewart said, "we're going to be on this hamster wheel forever."

 

Posted on Tuesday, August 28, 2018 at 8:37 AM
Focus Area Tags: Environment

UC ANR scientists contribute to California’s Fourth Climate Change Assessment

The California Natural Resources Agency released California's Fourth Climate Change Assessment today (Monday, Aug. 27), at http://www.ClimateAssessment.ca.govUC Agriculture and Natural Resources scientists contributed substantially to the report.

The Fourth Assessment is broken down into nine technical reports on the following topics:

  • Agriculture 
  • Biodiversity and habitat 
  • Energy 
  • Forests and wildlife 
  • Governance 
  • Ocean and coast 
  • Projects, datasets and tools 
  • Public health 
  • Water 

The technical reports were distilled into nine regional reports and three community reports that support climate action by providing an overview of climate-related risks and adaptation strategies tailored to specific regions and themes.

The regional reports cover:

  • North Coast Region 
  • Sacramento Valley Region 
  • San Francisco Bay Area Region 
  • Sierra Nevada Region 
  • San Joaquin Valley Region 
  • Central Coast Region 
  • Los Angeles Region 
  • Inland South Region 
  • San Diego Region 

The community reports focus on:

  • The ocean and coast 
  • Tribal communities 
  • Climate justice 

All research contributing to the Fourth Assessment was peer-reviewed.

UC Cooperative Extension ecosystem sciences specialist Ted Grantham – who works in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management at UC Berkeley – is the lead author of the 80-page North Coast Region Report.  Among the public events surrounding the release of the Fourth Assessment is the California Adaptation Forum, Aug. 27-29 in Sacramento. For more information, see http://www.californiaadaptationforum.org/. Grantham is a speaker at the forum.

Other UC ANR authors of the North Coast Region Report are:

  • Lenya Quinn-Davidson, UC Cooperative Extension area fire advisor for Humboldt, Siskiyou, Trinity and Mendocino counties 
  • Glenn McGourty, UC Cooperative Extension viticulture and plant science advisor in Mendocino and Lake counties 
  • Jeff Stackhouse, UC Cooperative Extension livestock and natural resources advisor for Humboldt and Del Norte counties 
  • Yana Valachovic, UC Cooperative Extension forest advisor for Humboldt and Del Norte counties

UC Cooperative Extension fire specialist Max Moritz contributed to sections of the main report on Forest Health and Wildfire and to the San Francisco Bay Area Report

UC ANR lead authors of technical reports were:

  • Economic and Environmental Implications of California Crop and Livestock Adaptations to Climate ChangeDaniel Sumner, director of UC ANR's Agricultural Issues Center 

  • Climate-wise Landscape Connectivity: Why, How and What NextAdina Merenlander, UC Cooperative Extension specialist 

  • Visualizing Climate-Related Risks to the Natural Gas System Using Cal-AdaptMaggi Kelly, UC Cooperative Extension specialist 
Dan Stark, staff research associate  for Humboldt and Del Norte counties, contributed to the pest section of Fuel Treatment for Forest Resilience and Climate Mitigation: A Critical Review for Coniferous Forests of California.
Posted on Monday, August 27, 2018 at 3:23 PM
  • Author: Jeannette Warnert
Focus Area Tags: Environment

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