Zero-emission tractors perform many tasks of diesel tractors, without noise or exhaust
The University of California, a national leader in sustainability, has pledged to become carbon neutral by 2025. To reduce its reliance on fossil fuels, UC Agriculture and Natural Resources has replaced several of its diesel-powered tractors with electric tractors at its research and extension centers.
Seven of the nine UC research and extension centers – Intermountain located in Siskiyou County, Hopland in Mendocino County, Kearney and West Side in Fresno County, Lindcove in Tulare County, Desert in Imperial County and Hansen in Ventura County – started using the Solectrac e25 in July. The researchers plan to share what they learn from using the electric tractors.
“Charging is easy, we are using a standard 110V connection, no charging station needed,” said John Bailey, director of the University of California Hopland Research and Extension Center. “For faster charging, you can use a 220V connection – again, no charging station needed, just a regular receptacle – but we haven't gone there yet.”
The electric tractor runs for about five hours, depending on the type of use and the speed, on a charge.
“We will use the electric tractor to mix the soil for planting trees in the greenhouse,” said Ashraf El-kereamy, director of UC Lindcove Research and Extension Center in Exeter, which focuses on citrus research. “Also, for pulling the trailer with the fruit bins during harvest, it will be good as it does not emit any gases.”
The electric tractor is being used to move materials in the loader at UC Hopland REC. “It has worked well for this, functioning similarly to a standard diesel tractor,” said Bailey.
“We have also used it to clean our sheep barn, scraping the pens to get ready for lambing season,” Bailey said. “This involves pushing or dragging straw bedding and manure. The tractor functions well in tight spaces due to its compact size.”
Bailey learned one downside is that the front end is a little too light, making it difficult to generate enough downward pressure with the loader to effectively scrape the floor without reducing the front wheel traction.
“We are planning to add some weight to the front, a standard practice with tractors to increase traction. The tractor has the mounting to enable this so it should not be a big deal,” Bailey said. “Our operators really appreciate the lack of noise and exhaust, especially when working in the barn or in tight spaces.”
The small electric tractor is also being used in tight places at the UC Intermountain Research and Extension Center in Tulelake.
“The tractor that we obtained from the company is too small for the majority of our farm needs,” said Rob Wilson, Intermountain REC director. “We purchased a small box scraper and rototiller for the tractor and we are using it around our facility grounds. We also use it out in the field in tight spaces that are too small for our larger tractors to operate.”
“The tractor is quiet, powerful for its size and operates very similar to the diesel-powered tractors with regard to the controls, hydraulics and three-point assembly. The tractor also has a lot of torque and speed.”
Annemiek Schilder, director of UC Hansen Agricultural REC, added, “I think another advantage is that the tractors can go very slowly, which is helpful for some uses such as harvesting.”
The researchers will continue to evaluate the electric tractors throughout the year.
“Our main usage will come in the spring, mowing around our headquarters and on roadsides,” Bailey said. “We are purchasing a 4-foot flail mower that can mount to the rear PTO, but won't really put it into use until April.” The power take-off, or PTO, is the shaft that transfers power from the tractor to the attachment.
Other benefits of electric tractors include no engine oil to change and no diesel fuel.
“If the farmer already has solar, they will see close to zero fuel charges,” Bailey added. “Even without solar, their fuel costs should be reduced depending on local electrical cost. Also, the engine only has one moving part compared to dozens in a diesel tractor so maintenance costs should be reduced significantly, something that is proving true in electric cars.”
The Solectrac e25 tractors each cost $27,999 and the optional loader was about $4,000.
The California Air Resources Board is offering incentives to buy zero-emission equipment through its Funding Agricultural Replacement Measures for Emission Reductions Program. FARMER provides funding through local air districts for agricultural harvesting equipment, heavy-duty trucks, agricultural pump engines, tractors and other equipment used in agricultural operations.
Daniel Munk, UC Cooperative Extension farm advisor, retired from a 36-year career with UC Agriculture and Natural Resources on July 1.
“Dan has played a pivotal role in the success of cotton that has been grown in California, especially his work on drought-related growing conditions and how best for cotton to overcome those conditions and thrive,” said Roger Isom, president and CEO of California Cotton Ginner & Growers Association and Western Agricultural Processors Association in Fresno.
“And while I know he has been involved most recently in reduced tillage research, it is his irrigation work that he will be remembered for,” Isom said. “Dan put on numerous irrigation workshops and grower meetings over the years, and he was the cotton industry's ‘go to guy' on deficit irrigation and related topics.”
As a youngster, the Bay Area native was interested in the natural sciences so he earned a B.S. in soil and water science and an M.S. in soil science from UC Davis.
In 1990, he became a UC Cooperative Extension farm advisor in Fresno County.
“Dan has been helpful,” said John Diener, a Five Points farmer who began working with Munk in the 1990s. “If I needed anything, he was helpful, bringing information like for lygus bug or diseases or new varieties.”
To solve a salinity problem, Diener consulted Munk. “Dan was an irrigation guy and worked with USDA ARS and NRCS. This was bigger than what a local farmer can do,” Diener said, adding that Munk brought UC technical knowledge and resources from USDA Agricultural Research Service and USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service to the West Side of Fresno County to build a tile system for managing the salinity in drainage water. “It took a whole group of people to make it happen,” Diener said.
When Munk joined UC Cooperative Extension, California was growing over 1 million acres of cotton, mostly Acala varieties. During the state's six years of drought spanning the 1980s and 1990s, growers began planting the higher priced extra-long staple Pima cotton varieties instead of Upland cotton types.
In response, Munk began studying ways to improve irrigation management for Pima cotton. He and colleagues also studied plant growth regulators and found that by treating vigorously growing Pima cotton plants with plant growth regulators following first bloom, cotton yields improved by 60 to 120 pounds per acre, which translated to a $50 to $100 per-acre increase in crop value, with higher cotton quality and fewer problems with defoliation.
As water became increasingly limited in California, the state's cotton acreage plummeted and Munk turned his research to producing crops with less water using reduced tillage systems. In one study, he and his research collaborators found that they could improve water use efficiency by 37% by growing cotton in wheat residue versus conventional tillage. In other research, Munk and colleagues showed that reduced till cotton systems could reduce fuel use by more than 70%, increase soil carbon by more than 20%, and reduce dust emissions by more than 60%, relative to conventional till approaches. Another of Munk's projects suggests that garbanzos and sorghum can be grown under no-till practices in the San Joaquin Valley without loss of yield.
“He has also been helpful in issues related to nitrogen uptake and air and water quality,” Isom said.
Because of Munk's expertise in nutrient and water management practices, he was asked to serve on the state's Agricultural Expert Panel in 2014 to assess agricultural nitrate control programs. They developed recommendations for the State Water Resources Control Board to protect groundwater.
One of the recommendations was to develop a comprehensive and sustained educational and outreach program. As a result, the California Department of Food and Agriculture and UC California Institute for Water Resources created the Irrigation and Nitrogen Management Training Program, for which Munk helped develop curriculum and train growers and farm consultants on best farm practices for nitrogen and water management. Leading the program's southern San Joaquin Valley courses, he helped certify more than 300 growers, consultants and farm advisors in protecting groundwater.
“I hope these more recent programs will have lasting impacts on farm economic viability and improved groundwater quality,” Munk said.
The farm advisor also extended his irrigation knowledge beyond farms. Working with fellow UCCE advisors and specialists, Munk conducted hands-on training for school landscape staff in 2012-2013. The staff learned how to measure irrigation output, sample soil and manage water to avoid runoff and improve water quality.
“He has had a huge impact, and his work will remain instrumental in the cotton industry's survival in California as we deal with ongoing drought issues,” Isom said. “His departure will leave an empty spot in the cotton world today without a doubt!”
Two UC Cooperative Extension scientists have been selected as Presidential Chairs for Tree Nuts at University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources.
The endowed chairs will give the two scientists a dedicated source of funding for five years for their ongoing agricultural research. UC Agriculture and Natural Resources established the two $1 million endowments in 2015. Half of the funds for the endowed chairs was donated by the California Pistachio Research Board and the other half was provided by UC Office of the President.
“The California Pistachio Research Board appreciated the opportunity to create these Presidential Chairs with the dedicated flexible funding it provides the scientists,” said Bob Klein, manager of the California Pistachio Research Board. “Mae and Giulia have stellar research records, have a history of research on California pistachios, and deserved both consideration and the award of these Chairs. The Board was pleased with the previous incumbents and is now looking forward to working with both Giulia and Mae in their programs on Genetics and Soil Science/Water Relations.”
Marino, who joined UC ANR in 2020, is based at UC Kearney Agricultural Research & Extension Center in Parlier. Her research integrates germplasm preservation and evaluation with tree physiology to improve orchard system profitability and abiotic-stress resilience. She explores the interactions between cultivar-rootstock traits, soil conditions and management practices.
“The program has the objectives of increasing the genetic diversity of the scion and rootstock cultivars used by the pistachio industry to improve grower returns and reduce its susceptibility to climate change,” Marino continued. “Rootstock projects include novel rootstocks more tolerant of boron in irrigation water, dwarfing rootstocks for higher early yields and more efficient use of pruning and harvest inputs. Scion objectives include novel scions for higher yield and trees less sensitive to inadequate winter chilling.”
One of her current research lines focuses on the characterization of low vigor cultivars and/or rootstocks to increase orchard planting density and reduce management costs in olive, pistachio and almond. She develops protocols for irrigation management based on genotype-specific physiological responses to water stress. Marino also studies the impact of saline sodic soil conditions on pistachio physiology and of low winter chill on cherry and pistachio tree and fruit physiology.
Marino earned a doctoral degree in fruit and forestry tree systems and master's and bachelor's degrees in agricultural science, all from the University of Palermo in Italy.
“As Presidential Chair, I will utilize these generous funds from the Pistachio Research Board to augment my collaborative outreach extension and applied research efforts to understand
and develop solutions to soil and water quality problems faced by pistachio growers and other nut crop producers across the San Joaquin Valley,” Culumber said.
She is collaborating on a CDFA Fertilizer Research and Education Program project that provides irrigation and nitrogen management training for certified crop advisors and growers to adopt practices that conserve water and protect water quality. She is also studying how to improve estimates of crop evapotranspiration and forecasting for major California crops for more precise irrigation. Culumber is leading research on the effects of whole orchard recycling on air quality and climate resilience, soil health, tree growth and productivity in second-generation orchards.
Culumber earned a Ph.D. in soil science and agroecology and a master's in plant science and molecular ecology, both from Utah State University, and a bachelor's in biology from University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.
Bruce D. Lampinen, UC Cooperative Extension integrated orchard management, walnut and almond specialist in the UC Davis Department of Plant Sciences, received the first Presidential Chair for Tree Nut Soil Science and Plant Water Relations. Craig Kallsen, UC Cooperative Extension farm advisor in Kern County who specializes in fruit and nut crops, received the Presidential Chair for Tree Nut Genetics.
University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources will be recruiting 16 new UC Cooperative Extension Specialists over the next 12 months. This is in addition to the five UCCE Specialist positions released for recruitment last fall and two co-funded UCCE Specialist positions since May 2021 – one in partnership with UC Merced and another with UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.
To date, 106 UCCE Specialist and Advisor positions have been released since spring 2021, thanks to increased 2021-22 state funding. The positions are located in communities across California.
“We are positioned to make an even bigger difference in the lives of Californians by having so many more boots on the ground,” said Glenda Humiston, UC vice president for agriculture and natural resources.
UCCE Specialists perform research on campus with other campus-based academics and in the field with UCCE Advisors, who work directly with farmers, families and other Californians.
Currently UC ANR has UCCE Specialists located on six campuses – UC Berkeley, UC Davis, UC Riverside, UC Santa Barbara, UC Santa Cruz and UC Merced – at UC ANR's research and extension centers and in county offices.
“We are excited to strengthen partnerships with additional UC campuses by placing UCCE Specialists at UC Irvine and UCLA for the first time,” Humiston said. “We are also adding a position in UC Berkeley's School of Public Health.”
The new UC Cooperative Extension Specialist positions are listed below:
- Agricultural Toxicology Specialist, UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine Molecular Biosciences and CAES Department of Environmental Toxicology
- Agroecology Specialist, UC Santa Cruz Center for Agroecology and Department of Environmental Studies
- Climate Resilience and Labor Specialist, UC Berkeley School of Public Health
- Dairy Cattle Production Health and Management Economics Specialist, UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine Teaching & Research (located in Tulare County)
- Diseases of Nursery Greenhouse and Native Crops Specialist, UC Davis Department of Plant Pathology
- Economics of Diversity and Equity Specialist, UC Berkeley Department of Agricultural & Resource Economics
- Economics of Food Supply Chains Specialist, UC Davis Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics
- Engineered Wood Products and Design Specialist, UC Berkeley Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management
- Food Crop Safety Specialist, UC Riverside Department of Microbiology and Plant Pathology
- Nutrition and Health Equity Specialist, UC Davis CAES Department of Nutrition
- Regenerative Agriculture Specialist, UC Merced Department of Life and Environmental Sciences
- Soil Health Specialist, UC Davis Department of Land, Air and Water Resources
- Subtropical Fruit Crop IPM Specialist, UC Riverside Department of Entomology
- Urban Water Quality, Health and Justice Specialist, UC Irvine Department of Civil and Environment Engineering
- Water Equity and Adaptation Policy Specialist, UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation
- Weed Science Specialist, UC Riverside CNAS Department of Botany and Plant Sciences
All UC ANR jobs open for recruitment can be found at https://ucanr.edu/About/Jobs.
From Del Norte, Siskiyou, and Modoc counties south through San Diego and Imperial counties, Californians will be seeing more University of California Cooperative Extension advisors in their communities.
University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources has released 48 more UCCE Advisor positions for recruitment over the next 12 months thanks to increased 2021-22 state funding. This brings the total to 89 new UCCE Advisor positions since July 2021 when Gov. Newsom and the state Legislature provided a historic budget boost for UC ANR. During the last six months of 2021, UC ANR released 41 other UCCE positions that have been filled or are under recruitment. The full list of UCCE positions is posted online at https://bit.ly/CEpositions2021-22.
Additional UC Cooperative Extension Specialist positions will be announced for recruitment in early April 2022.
“We appreciate the people across the state who worked with UCANR to develop the UC Cooperative Extension advisor position proposals,” said Glenda Humiston, University of California vice president for agriculture and natural resources. “Input from community members and partnering agencies and organizations was critical to informing the prioritization of these UCCE positions. Now we hope our supporters will help us recruit the best scientists to work with California's communities.”
The new UCCE advisors will be providing research-based information to residents about nutrition, community development, crop production, forestry, pest management, water management, youth development, landscape management and wildfire.
In addition to traditional issues, some of the new UCCE advisors will be focusing on climate adaptation for Indigenous farmers, cultural burning and Indigenous land stewardship, repurposing green waste, and community development with Californians who are Black, Indigenous or speak English as a second language.
The following UCCE Advisor positions will be staged for recruitment to avoid overwhelming UC ANR's Human Resources colleagues:
- 4-H Community Engagement & Development Youth Area Advisor for Tulare, Fresno and Kings counties
- 4-H Animal Science Youth Advisor for San Benito, Monterey and Santa Cruz counties
- 4-H Youth Development Area Advisor for San Diego and Orange counties
- Agronomy and Weed Management Area Advisor for Merced County
- Agronomy and Weed Science Area Advisor for Tehama, Glenn and Shasta counties
- Climate Resilient Indigenous Farming and Food Sovereignty Area Advisor for San Diego and Riverside counties
- Community Development BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and other people of color) Advisor for Alameda, Contra Costa, San Mateo and San Francisco counties
- Community Health and Nutrition Advisor for San Joaquin, Stanislaus and Merced counties
- Community Health and Nutrition Advisor for Shasta, Trinity and Tehama counties
- Community Health, Nutrition and Food Security Area Advisor for Butte, Glenn, Colusa, Sutter and Yuba counties
- Community Health, Nutrition and Food Systems Area Advisor for Siskiyou, Modoc and Lassen counties
- Community Health and Nutrition Older Adult Area Advisor for Marin, Napa and Sonoma counties
- Cultural Burning and Indigenous Land Stewardship Advisor for Mendocino and Lake counties
- Dairy Area Advisor for Tulare and Kern counties
- Entomology Area Advisor for Ventura and Los Angeles counties
- Environmental Horticulture Area Advisor for Fresno, Madera, Tulare and Kings counties
- Environmental Horticulture and Forestry Area Advisor for Placer and Nevada counties
- Environmental Horticulture and Water Resource Management Area Advisor for Alameda, Contra Costa, San Mateo, Santa Clara and San Francisco counties
- Food Safety and Organic Production Area Advisor for Imperial and Riverside counties
- Forestry Area Advisor for Santa Cruz, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties
- Forestry Area Advisor for Shasta, Trinity and Siskiyou counties
- Fruit and Almond Area Advisor for Fresno and Tulare counties
- Horticulture and Specialty Crops Advisor for Humboldt and Del Norte counties
- Indigenous Disaster Resilience Planning and Policy Area Advisor for Amador, Calaveras, Tuolumne and El Dorado counties
- IPM (Integrated Pest Management) Area Advisor for Amador, Calaveras, Tuolumne and El Dorado counties
- IPM Entomology Area Advisor based at Kearney Research and Extension Center
- IPM Entomology Farm Area Advisor for Monterey, Santa Cruz and San Benito counties
- Intermountain Irrigated Grass Systems Area Advisor for Modoc, Shasta and Lassen counties
- Irrigation and Soils Area Advisor for Stanislaus, San Joaquin and Merced counties
- Livestock and Natural Resources Area Advisor for Amador, Calaveras, Tuolumne and El Dorado counties
- Orchard Systems and Weed Ecology Area Advisor for Glenn, Tehama and Colusa counties
- Organic Materials Management Area Advisor for Orange, Los Angeles and San Diego counties
- Organic Materials Management and Agri-Food System Area Advisor for Santa Clara, Alameda, Contra Costa, San Mateo and San Francisco counties
- Pathology Area Advisor for Imperial, Riverside and San Diego counties
- Production Horticulture Area Advisor for Ventura and Santa Barbara counties
- Restoration Ecology and Weed Science Area Advisor for Kern, Tulare and Kings counties
- Rice Farming Systems Area Advisor for Colusa and Yolo counties
- Sustainable Agriculture Systems Area Advisor for Mariposa, Merced and Stanislaus counties
- Sustainable Orchard Systems Area Advisor for Sutter, Yuba, Butte and Placer counties
- Urban Agriculture Food Systems and Environmental Issues Advisor for San Diego and Orange counties
- Urban IPM Area Advisor for Sacramento, Solano and Yolo counties
- Urban Watershed Resilience Area Advisor for Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and Los Angeles counties
- Vegetable Crops Area Advisor for Sacramento, Solano and Yolo counties
- Water and Soil Resources Area Advisor for Sonoma, Marin, Napa and Mendocino counties
- Water Management Area Advisor for Tulare, Fresno, Kings and Madera counties
- Water Quality-Quantity-Climate Change Area Advisor for Mendocino and Lake counties
- Weed Ecology and Management Area Advisor for Fresno, Tulare and Kings counties
- Youth, Families and Communities Area Advisor for Kern, Inyo and Mono counties