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

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Roof rats unnerve farm workers, damage orchard crops

Roof rats are causing damage in nut and tree fruit orchards.

Monitor for rodent activity and use bait stations before the growing season to prevent problems, UC ANR scientists recommend.

Roof rats are running rampant in California orchards this year, according to UC Agriculture and Natural Resources scientists.

“In pistachio and other nut orchards, roof rats are burrowing and nesting in the ground where they're chewing on irrigation lines, causing extensive damage,” said Rachael Long, UC Cooperative Extension advisor. “They are also nesting in citrus trees, feeding on the fruit and terrifying field workers when they jump out as people are picking fruit. The chewing pests are also girdling citrus limbs, causing branch dieback.” 

Rats like to eat fresh avocados.
The wet winter of 2017 led to lots of weed seeds for rats to eat. “Last season, rats were also nibbling on pomegranates, avocados, and other fruit and nut crops, rendering them unmarketable,” Long said.

Holes in the ground around the base of pistachio trees throughout a Yolo County orchard puzzled the grower.

“We looked for ground squirrels, but never saw any,” Long said. “We set up game cameras, but only got birds and rabbits. We put rodent bait in the holes, but the digging didn't stop.”

Long, the pest detective, cracked the case by consulting Niamh Quinn, UC Cooperative Extension human-wildlife interactions advisor based in Irvine. “She informed us that the damage we were seeing was from roof rats.”

Burrowing roof rats sounds like an oxymoron. While roof rats generally don't burrow in urban environments, their country cousins have been known to burrow.

“It's not true that they don't burrow,” Quinn said. “When I worked as staff research associate for Roger Baldwin, UC Cooperative Extension wildlife specialist, that is mostly what we studied, burrowing roof rats in orchards.”

Roof rats are nocturnal animals that climb in trees and burrow underground.

Control measures

Baldwin said, “It seems to be a good year for rats in a number of different areas and crops throughout the state. I've received more questions and comments about rats this year than perhaps the last 10 years combined. As for bait application, putting bait down burrow systems for rats doesn't usually work too well, so I'm not surprised that approach didn't work. Growers will likely have better luck with bait stations in the trees.”

Because the rats climb, Baldwin suggests attaching bait stations to tree branches.

“In addition, elevating the bait stations will eliminate access to bait for many protected mammal species, such as kangaroo rats,” Long said. “The bait diphacinone grain can be purchased from some ag commissioners' offices. This is what Roger Baldwin said they tested and it worked.”

As for the bait stations, they should be designed so that there isn't any spillage for nontarget animals to eat, Long said. 

When roof rat outbreaks occur, rodenticides are often needed to prevent crop damage. However, timing is critical as diphacinone use is highly restrictive and not allowed during the growing season, which is beginning as the weather warms. 

“Check the product label for application instructions,” Long reminds growers. “It's the law.”

Because roof rats climb, UC Cooperative Extension wildlife specialist Roger Baldwin recommends attaching bait stations to tree branches.

Identifying the pest

Roof rat holes are typically 3 to 4 inches in diameter.
One way for growers to identify whether they have roof rats is by the size of the burrows. The nocturnal pests are active above ground in trees and below ground.

“Roof rats can forage away from their nest, so you won't likely find signs of their activity, such as rat droppings outside their burrow, to help identify them,” Long said.

Ground squirrels are active during the day, so they are more likely to be seen, dig holes about 4 inches in diameter and forage above ground near their burrows. Vole and mouse holes are 1- to 2-inches in diameter. Roof rat holes are typically 3 to 4 inches in diameter and might have nut shells in front of them, for example pistachio or almond shells. Rabbits will feed on seedling crops, but do not dig burrows.

Ground squirrels are active during the day and their burrows are 4 inches or more in diameter.
Roof rats are prolific breeders that reproduce year-round, according to Baldwin. Females typically have three to five litters per year with five to eight young, enabling their populations to rapidly increase. The omnivores feed on a wide variety of plant and animal materials, allowing them to adapt to any environment, including urban and agricultural lands.

“Rats are sneaky and hard to spot,” Long said. “If you see damage, including digging in the soil but no wildlife, suspect rats.”

For more information on controlling roof rats, download Quinn and Baldwin's free UC ANR publication 8513, Managing Roof Rats and Deer Mice in Nut and Fruit Orchards at http://anrcatalog.ucanr.edu/Details.aspx?itemNo=8513.

For more information about ground squirrels, download the free UC IPM Best Management Guidelines http://www.groundsquirrelbmp.com or UC IPM Pest Note http://ipm.ucanr.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn7438.html.


Posted on Friday, March 9, 2018 at 3:11 PM
Focus Area Tags: Agriculture Pest Management

UC estimates costs and returns for growing garbanzo beans

Garbanzo beans mature in June and are harvested in July.

The UC Agriculture and Natural Resources' Agricultural Issues Center has released two new studies on the estimated costs and returns of producing garbanzo beans, also known as chick peas, in the Sacramento and San Joaquin Valleys.

“Although acreage is relatively small, garbanzos are an important crop because California growers produce the large, cream-colored seed that's used for the canning industry, often used for garnishes for salads,” said Rachael Long, UC Cooperative Extension farm advisor serving Sacramento, Solano and Yolo counties.

The studies estimate the cost of producing garbanzo beans on 200 acres as part of a row crop rotation, using subsurface drip irrigation. A three-row bed tillage implement shallowly chisels, tills and reshapes the beds, avoiding disturbance of the buried drip tape left in place. Planting of seed treated for fungal and seedling diseases, Ascochyta rabiei, Rhizoctonia and Pythium, into residual soil moisture occurs in December. Seeding rates for the garbanzo beans are 85 pounds per acre.

In the San Joaquin Valley, garbanzo beans are typically planted in the fall or winter.

Input and reviews were provided by UC ANR Cooperative Extension farm advisors and other agricultural associates. Assumptions used to identify current costs for the garbanzo bean crop, material inputs, cash and non-cash overhead. A ranging analysis table shows profits over a range of prices and yields. Other tables show the monthly cash costs, the costs and returns per acre, hourly equipment costs, and the whole farm annual equipment, investment and business overhead costs.

“The importance of these studies right now is that they are currently being used to help secure USDA crop insurance for garbanzo production, expected in 2020,” Long said.

The new studies are titled “Sample Costs to Produce Garbanzo Beans (Chick Peas), in the Sacramento and Northern San Joaquin Valleys – 2018” and “Sample Costs to Produce Garbanzo Beans (Chick Peas), in the Southern San Joaquin Valley – 2018.”

Both studies can be downloaded from the UC Davis Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics website at http://coststudies.ucdavis.edu. Sample cost of production studies for many other commodities are also available at the website.

For additional information or an explanation of the calculations used in the studies, contact the Agricultural Issues Center at (530) 752-4651 or the local UCCE Farm Advisors; Sarah Light, selight@ucanr.edu, Rachael Long, rflong@ucanr.edu, Michelle Leinfelder-Miles, mmleinfeldermiles@ucanr.edu, or Nicholas E. Clark, neclark@ucanr.edu.



Posted on Tuesday, March 6, 2018 at 11:51 AM

UC ANR receives Innovations in Networking Award for Broadband Applications

UC Cooperative Extension specialist Ali Pourreza flies a drone in an orchard. High-speed broadband at Kearney Research and Extension Center will make it easier for researchers to collect and share data.

The nonprofit organization CENIC has awarded the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources its 2018 Innovations in Networking Award for Broadband Applications. The award recognizes work to extend high-speed broadband to University of California researchers in rural communities across California by connecting UC ANR sites to the California Research and Education Network (CalREN).

“The internet at Kearney was like a drinking straw delivering and retrieving information, when what we needed was a fire hose,” said Gabe Youtsey, chief innovation officer for UC ANR. “High-speed, broadband Internet at our Kearney Research and Extension Center, just south of Fresno, will allow UC ANR to lead innovative, on-farm agriculture technology research and extension for UC in the Central Valley. It will allow UC researchers to share big data and big computing with colleagues at campuses and globally.“

Project leaders being recognized include Tolgay Kizilelma, chief information security officer; Tu Tran, associate vice president for business operations; and Youtsey. 

Until now, UC ANR facilities have been hamstrung by poor Internet connectivity, hindering their ability to support campus-based researchers and UC Cooperative Extension scientists who are engaged with community and industry partners to ensure that California has healthy food systems, environments and communities.

Extending from the Oregon border in the north, through the Sierra foothills and Central Valley, along the Pacific Coast and south to the Mexican border, UC ANR's research and extension facilities are situated among California's rich and unique agricultural and natural resources. This allows for the application of scientific research to regional challenges and issues. Today, nearly all research and data analysis involves remote collaboration. To work effectively and efficiently on multi-institutional projects, researchers depend heavily on high-speed networks and access to large data sets and computing resources. The high-speed broadband connection also provides a new way for Cooperative Extension advisors to collaborate with farmers, naturalists and others in these rural regions.

Tolgay Kizilelma, left, and Gabe Youtsey accept CENIC 2018 Innovations in Networking Award for Broadband Applications.

In 2016, CENIC began working with UC ANR to connect its nine research and extension centers to CalREN, equipping them with internet speeds comparable to those found on UC campuses. For example, the UC Hopland Research and Extension Center in Mendocino County and the UC Desert Research and Extension Center in Imperial County are both connected at 500 Mbps, five times their previous level of connectivity.

Due to the remote location of most of these facilities, the work involved in identifying suitable pathways for connections between each site and the CalREN network has been extensive. Engineers from CENIC and UC ANR collaborated on network design, deployment, and troubleshooting to equip these facilities with the high-speed internet they need. High-speed connectivity with significant bandwidth now allows researchers to use equipment like infrared cameras to collect data on how crops respond to heat, among many other electronic tools. Farmers who are unable to visit the Research and Extension Centers can now connect virtually and tune in to real-time video streams, gaining access to the latest knowledge.

In addition to the Research and Extension Centers, the Citrus Clonal Protection Program in Riverside is now connected to CalREN. Elkus Ranch, the environmental education center for Bay Area youths, the UC ANR administrative offices in Davis and 30 UC Cooperative Extension sites are in the process of being connected.

“You can't do big data with dial-up Internet speed,” said Jeffery Dahlberg, director of Kearney Research and Extension Center. “Before this upgrade, our internet was slower than my home internet speeds. Now we have speeds more like you will find on UC campuses.”

Dahlberg noted that high-speed internet will become a powerful research tool allowing researchers to collect and share data in real-time. “For instance, a researcher can use an infrared camera in a field collecting readings to determine how a crop responds to heat as it changes throughout the day, but even this modest instrument needs significant bandwidth,” he said. “We now have the bandwidth to do that.”

“The impact of these newly established broadband connections is significant,” said Louis Fox, president and CEO of CENIC. “UC ANR researchers and educators can now enhance and share the creation, development, and application of knowledge in agricultural, natural and human resources, bringing practical, science-based answers to Californians and California industry.”

Innovations in Networking Awards are presented each year by CENIC to highlight the exemplary innovations that leverage ultra-high bandwidth networking, particularly where those innovations have the potential to transform the ways in which instruction and research are conducted or where they further the deployment of broadband in underserved areas.


Posted on Wednesday, February 28, 2018 at 11:11 AM
Focus Area Tags: Innovation

New California Waterfowl Tracker website launched to help poultry producers assess bird flu risk

Circles on the California Waterfowl Tracker map shows where waterfowl are feeding and roosting. Red indicates a high density of birds, orange is medium density and yellow is low density.

To reduce potential exposure to avian influenza, a new interactive website is now available to help California poultry producers, backyard poultry enthusiasts, regulators and risk managers assess the locations of waterfowl relative to poultry farms in the Central Valley.

While not all waterfowl carry avian influenza, the migratory birds are the primary reservoir of the virus that kills chickens, turkeys and other birds and can take an economic toll on the poultry industry. During an outbreak of a highly pathogenic strain of avian influenza in 2014-15, nearly 50 million birds had to be killed to contain the disease in the United States.

“Avian influenza is such a devastating disease, in an abundance of caution, we want to limit any interaction between waterfowl and domestic poultry,” said Maurice Pitesky, UC Cooperative Extension poultry specialist.

The California Waterfowl Tracker has been developed by Pitesky at the School of Veterinary Medicine at UC Davis, the University of Delaware, U.S. Geological Survey and UC Agriculture and Natural Resources to show where waterfowl are.

From September through March, geese, ducks and other waterfowl migrate by the millions via the Pacific Flyway and winter in California wetlands, rice and corn fields. At the height of migration, the Central Valley is home to 3 million waterfowl.

Migrating waterfowl stop at Yolo Bypass. UC Davis research has shown that 5 percent to 20 percent of waterfowl carry avian influenza.

The Central Valley is also home to the majority of the state's commercial egg-laying hens, broiler chickens and turkey flocks.

Using the web app to understand when and where waterfowl are feeding and roosting, poultry farm managers and other stakeholders will be able to consider waterfowl in their decision making. They may decide to place pasture-raised poultry in a region of the state that has less wetlands, such as Fresno. If a large number of Canada geese take up residence nearby, poultry owners may decide to move their domestic birds indoors to reduce their exposure until the migrating waterfowl move on.

Using a machine-learning approach developed by Jeff Buler, University of Delaware wildlife ecology professor, the web app produces a waterfowl density map of California's Central Valley that is automatically updated daily with both satellite and weather station information.

“The model doesn't tell us whether waterfowl are carrying avian influenza, but it helps poultry producers and regulators understand where those interfaces could happen,” Pitesky said.

By law, organic and cage-free production must give birds access to the outdoors. While they are outdoors, poultry are at a higher risk of exposure to diseases carried by wild birds.

Additional waterfowl habitat and next-generation radar analysis of waterfowl are integrated into the web app. Users can search one or more addresses to anticipate their farms' interaction with waterfowl. Based on the proximity of waterfowl and wild bird monitoring information from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, poultry owners can make biosecurity decisions.

“While the current version of the website is designed for California, the long-term goal is to develop and expand this system for the continental U.S. to promote health and safety of poultry flocks nationally,” Pitesky said.

To use the California Waterfowl Tracker, visit the UC Cooperative Extension Poultry website http://ucanr.edu/sites/poultry. A video of Pitesky demonstrating how to use the web app can be viewed at https://youtu.be/EOO0Q_ggZ9I.

Poultry producers who would like to be notified by UC Cooperative Extension if there is an avian influenza outbreak in their area can sign up on the California Poultry Census page at http://ucanr.edu/sites/poultry/California_Poultry_Census.

Posted on Friday, February 23, 2018 at 9:05 AM
Focus Area Tags: Agriculture

UC scientists offer “hot topic” exhibits and displays for farm community at World Ag Expo 2018

Focusing on current “hot topics” in farming and agriculture, UC Agriculture and Natural Resources academics will offer nonstop displays and demonstrations in its own tent at the World Ag Expo, Feb. 13-15. The public and the press are invited to stop by anytime to meet the scientists and learn about a few of UC ANR's many agricultural research and extension programs in California.

The tent is in space I-37, on I Street, just west of Pavilion A.

Following is the schedule:

Tuesday, Feb. 13
9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Drones in Agriculture
Join us for a demo (no flights) of the hardware components and software used for drone mapping and a brief discussion of related regulations. (Available through Thursday!)
Sean Hogan, UC ANR IGIS Statewide Program
Andy Lyons, UC ANR IGIS Statewide Program

University and Community College Collaboration in Technology
Learn about the role of community colleges working with universities that span the continuum of education in agriculture.
Gabe Youtsey, UC ANR chief innovation officer
Jeff Dahlberg, UCCE specialist and director of the UC Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center
Tim Ellsworth, West Hills Community College Farm of the Future
Terry Brase, West Hills Community College Farm of the Future

UC Cooperative Extension Historical Archive
Learn about UC Merced Library's efforts to preserve, organize, and provide online access to records of enduring value on California agriculture.
Emily Lin, UC Merced Digital curation and scholarship
Lisa Vallen, UCCE archivist

Virtual Orchards
See a three-dimensional reconstruction of an orchard created by a photogrammetry technique and learn about Virtual Orchard applications
Ali Pourreza, UCCE specialist in ag engineering

Tuesday, Feb. 13
12:30 to 5 p.m.

Biosecurity in Animal Science and 4-H Project Curriculum
Learn more about this project and curriculum (available for free download), which can be used in 4-H animal science projects to teach about how easily disease is spread between species.
Martin Smith, UCCE youth science literacy specialist, UC Davis Veterinary Medicine
DeAnn Tenhunfeld, 4-H State Office

Improving the Efficiency of Flood Irrigation in California Through Automation
Learn about increasing irrigation efficiency and reducing the cost of labor and water to growers.
Khaled Bali, UCCE irrigation specialist
Peter Moller, Rubicon Water
John Krukar, Rubicon Water

Citrus variety display
Greg Douhan, UCCE citrus advisor, Tulare and Fresno counties

Wednesday, Feb. 14
9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

The Long View: How conservation agriculture may help us prepare for food production for generations to come
Conservation agriculture contributes to more vibrant farm economies, greater production efficiencies, environmental benefits and farm water use efficiency.
Brenna Aegerter, UCCE vegetable crops advisor in San Joaquin County
Jessica Chiarta, UC ANR Communications Services

Providing Sustainable Farming Solutions
Learn how the strawberry and vegetable research and extension program is helping growers to produce with less water and chemical pesticides.
Surendra Dara, UCCE strawberry and vegetable crops advisor in San Luis Obispo County

Small Farm Innovation
View samples of value- added products developed from small farms, including moringa powder produced by local growers. See a showcase of Southeast Asian vegetables in season.
Ruth Dahlquist-Willard, UCEE small farms advisor, Fresno and Tulare counties
Michael Yang, UCCE small farms ag assistant
Lorena Ramos, UCCE Fresno small farms

Wednesday, Feb. 14
12:30 to 5 p.m.

Moisture Sensors, Vineyard Management and Precision Irrigation
Learn about using the latest technology in collecting soil moisture information for irrigation scheduling to improve crop water use efficiency and crop quality.
Khaled Bali, UC irrigation management specialist, UC Kearney Research and Extension Center
Reinier van der Lee, Founder and CEO, Vinduino

Reintroducing an Old Crop to California—Sorghum!
Learn about this drought-tolerant crop used for animal feed, renewable fuel production, and gluten-free flour and grain for human consumption.
Jeff Dahlberg, UCCE specialist and director of the UC Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center

Nutrition Programs
Learn about UC Cooperative Extension nutrition education programs, which are focused on improving knowledge, skills, attitudes and behavior to support healthy eating and physical activity.
UCCE Tulare County nutrition staff

Thursday, Feb. 15
9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Asian Citrus Psyllid Management (ACP)
Learn about the Asian citrus psyllid, the insect that transmits the bacterial disease that is threatening California citrus.
Beth Grafton-Cardwell, UCCE entomology specialist and director of the UC Lindcove Research and Extension Center
Craig Kallsen, UCCE citrus advisor, Kern County

Pest Management Resources from UC IPM
Learn about publications, online tools, courses, and other resources to help you manage pests!
Stephanie Parreira, writer/editor, UC IPM Program

Plant-Parasitic Nematodes in Agriculture
Learn how to recognize their symptoms and how they cause damage.
Andreas Westphal, UCCE nematology specialist
Zin Maung, staff research associate

The Science Behind Caring for Cows
See what tools we are using to identify sick cows and how we check the quality of cows' food.
Noelia Silva-del-Rio, UCCE specialist, Veterinary Medicine Teaching and Research Center, Tulare

Does your Spray Stray?
Check out this demonstration using color-changing cards to see where spray droplets are landing and then view easy modifications to reduce drift. Plant-Parasitic Nematodes in Agriculture Learn how to recognize their symptoms and how they cause damage.
Cheryl Wilen, UCCE IPM advisor, San Diego County

Posted on Friday, February 9, 2018 at 1:10 PM
Tags: World Ag Expo (1)
Focus Area Tags: Agriculture

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