- Author: Pamela Kan-Rice
- Author: Nancy Vogel, DWR public affairs, firstname.lastname@example.org
Depending upon local conditions and near-term weather, irrigation may not be needed for a month or more.
"We can reap twice as much from the latest storms if people take full advantage of the natural precipitation and shut off sprinklers," said Department of Water Resources Director Mark Cowin. "Three dry years in a row have left our major reservoirs low, and we need to conserve those supplies in case drought conditions persist into the next rainy season. There's no need to water lawns, parks, median strips, or any landscaping already soaked by these recent storms."
On January 17, Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. declared a drought emergency in California and called on all residents to conserve water by 20 percent in their homes and businesses. Typically more than half of the water used by homeowners is used outdoors. Californians can go a long way toward meeting the governor's goal by shutting down sprinklers until soil several inches deep appears dry or plants appear stressed. People who resume landscape irrigation should do so only according to the water schedules set by their local water districts. More than 100 such districts around the state have imposed voluntary or mandatory conservation measures that restrict the days and times when residents can run sprinklers.
Tom Gohring, executive director of the Water Forum, a diverse group of Sacramento regional interests working to resolve water issues, hosted the event at his home and switched off the sprinkler system controller in his garage to encourage others to do the same.
"Many people think they use more water in their house than they do in their yard," said Gohring. "The opposite is typically true. In the Sacramento region, about 65 percent of water used by homeowners goes to irrigate landscaping. We always want people to adjust their sprinklers based on the season and weather, but now, after a record dry year, there's real urgency."
While recent storms have boosted the Sierra Nevada snowpack and runoff into reservoirs, it would take half an inch of rain every day of March from Redding to Bakersfield to bring the state to average precipitation for the year in the watersheds that supply much of California's drinking and irrigation water. Even average precipitation would not be enough to avert water shortages, because major reservoir storage is now so far below typical storage for this time of year.
“Storms in the last couple of weeks have delivered a couple of inches or more of precipitation to most parts of California,” said Chuck Ingels, UC Cooperative Extension advisor in Sacramento County. “Trees, shrubs, flowers, and lawns naturally use less water in winter's cool temperatures, and so an inch of rain provides enough moisture to forego the need for sprinklers for up to several weeks depending on temperatures.”
Sprinkler systems are controlled by a device, called an irrigation controller, that triggers the irrigation system when to turn on and off. People who do not know how to program their controllers can get links to manuals published by major manufacturers at the Save Our H2O website, saveourH20.org. Look under the "Sprinklers 101" section of the website: http://www.saveourH20.org/sprinklers101
Sacramento residents can find their water provider, information on the latest water restrictions, and water-saving tips at the Regional Water Authority's “Be Water Smart” website at http://www.bewatersmart.info/residential-customers/.
University of California master gardeners offer tips for gardening during a drought at http://cagardenweb.ucanr.edu. The California Center for Urban Horticulture, UC Davis, also has information for conserving water in the landscape, http://ccuh.ucdavis.edu, as does the UC Davis Arboretum http://publicgarden.ucdavis.edu/public-garden/drought-resources.
Other smart watering tips detailed at the Save Our H2O website:
- Water only in the early morning or late evening. Cooler temperatures reduce evaporation.
- Check your sprinkler system frequently and adjust so that you are not watering the hose, sidewalk, or street.
- Put mulch around trees and plants to cool soil and reduce evaporation.
- Consider installing a drip irrigation system, which applies water precisely, with less waste.
- Choose plants based on their adaptability to your climate. Check the Sunset Plant Finder to learn about water-wise plants that thrive in your region: plantfinder.sunset.com/plant-home.jsp.
- If you find yourself walking on your lawn only to mow it, consider replacing it with water-wise landscaping that reduces the need for water and maintenance.
- Check with your local water district for a free visit from a water conservation specialist, rebates on water-wise appliances, or "cash for grass" incentives to replace lawn with water-wise landscaping.
With California facing one of the most severe droughts on record, Governor Brown declared a drought State of Emergency last month and directed state officials to take all necessary actions to prepare for water shortages, and the governor, joined by legislative leaders, announced legislation to immediately help communities deal with the devastating dry conditions affecting our state and to provide funding to increase local water supplies.
Governor Brown met with President Obama about crucial federal support during the ongoing drought earlier this month, and the state continues to work with federal partners to ensure coordinated drought monitoring and response. Governor Brown and the administration have also expressed support for federal legislation introduced by Senators Feinstein and Boxer and Representatives Jim Costa, Tony Cárdenas and Sam Farr.
Across state government, action is being taken. The Department of General Services is leading water conservation efforts at state facilities, and the California State Architect has asked California school districts and community colleges to act on the governor's call to reduce water usage. The Department of Transportation is cutting water usage along California's roadways by 50 percent. Caltrans has also launched a public awareness campaign, putting a water conservation message on their more than 700 electronic highway signs.
In January, the state took action to conserve water in numerous Northern California reservoirs to meet minimum needs for operations impacting the environment and the economy, and recently the Department of Water Resources and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation announced they would seek the authority to make water exchanges to deliver water to those who need it most. The State Water Resources Control Board announced it would work with hydropower generators and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to preserve water in California reservoirs. Recently the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the California Fish and Game Commission restricted fishing on some waterways due to low water flows worsened by the drought.
The state is working to protect local communities from the dangers of extreme drought. The California Department of Public Health identified and offered assistance to communities at risk of severe drinking water shortages and is working with other state and local agencies to develop solutions for vulnerable communities. CAL FIRE hired additional firefighters and is continuously adjusting staffing throughout the state to help address the increased fire threat due to drought conditions. The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) launched a drought website to help farmers, ranchers and farmworkers find resources and assistance programs that may be available to them during the drought.
Even as the state deals with the immediate impacts of the drought, it's also planning for the future. Recently, the California Natural Resources Agency, the California Environmental Protection Agency and CDFA released the California Water Action Plan, which will guide state efforts to enhance water supply reliability, restore damaged and destroyed ecosystems and improve the resilience of our infrastructure.
Governor Brown has called on all Californians to voluntarily reduce their water usage by 20 percent, and the Save Our Water campaign launched four public service announcements encouraging residents to conserve, and has resources available in Spanish. Last December, the governor formed a Drought Task Force to review expected water allocations and California's preparedness for water scarcity. In May 2013, Governor Brown issued an Executive Order to direct state water officials to expedite the review and processing of voluntary transfers of water.
- Author: Pamela Kan-Rice
The Fogarty family has been in the cattle ranching business in Stanislaus County since the 1870s. In recent years, they’ve seen rangeland around them converted to housing and orchards. “With the conversion around us, we are affected with a declining water table, increased traffic and rural crime associated with high production agriculture,” said Bill Fogarty.
Ranchers, researchers, managers, agency representatives and conservationists will gather in January to discuss challenges and opportunities in maintaining rangelands.
Keeping rangelands and ranches viable for wildlife, wetlands and water will be discussed at the 9th annual California Rangeland Conservation Coalition Summit set for Jan. 21-22 at the Gene Bianchi Community Center in Oakdale, 16 miles northeast of Modesto. The summit is sponsored by the California Rangeland Conservation Coalition and the University of California Cooperative Extension.
“This event is a time for ranchers to showcase their positive role in stewarding California’s wide open spaces and their contributions to the state’s economy,” said Tim Koopmann, president of the California Cattlemen’s Association. “Ranchers who attend the annual event learn valuable information on the latest research outcomes about best management practices for their land that simultaneously improve the natural resources and economic profitability.”
At risk is the future of California’s ranching industry and the ecosystem services that ranches provide: diverse wildlife, unique wetlands and healthy watersheds. At the rangeland summit, ranchers, researchers, land managers, agency representatives and conservationists will focus on rangeland science, land management, land-use policy and livestock production.
The event will feature presentations on the challenges ranchers face, impacts of rangeland conversion to natural resources and opportunities to support working ranches and rancher stewardship. Ranchers from Colorado and Montana will share new opportunities they are finding to keep ranching viable through conservation efforts.
The first day of the two-day summit will feature presentations and a ranch tour on the second day.
“University of California Cooperative Extension is pleased to be a partner in bringing together a diverse group of people interested in rangelands to discuss the opportunities and challenges for keeping California’s ranches working to support communities and habitat,” said Theresa Becchetti, UC Cooperative Extension advisor in San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties. “We are particularly fortunate to be able to hold this meeting and engage in a constructive dialogue with stakeholders in Oakdale, where rangelands and associated resources are at risk.”
This event is sponsored by University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources, Environmental Defense, Audubon California, California Association of Resource Conservation Districts, California Cattlemen’s Association, California Native Plant Society, California Rangeland Trust, Santa Clara County Open Space Authority, Center for Natural Lands Management, Defenders of Wildlife, Cal-Pac Chapter Society for Range Management, East Bay Regional Park District, Grazing Lands Conservation Initiative - California, Natural Resources Conservation Service, US Fish and Wildlife – Partners Program, Mid-Peninsula Open Space District, Point Blue Conservation, Sierra Business Council, Sierra Nevada Conservancy, Sustainable Conservation, InterWest Insurance Services, Inc., The Nature Conservancy, Koopmann Rangeland Consulting, and Westervelt Ecological Services. In addition, Oakdale Cowboy Museum and numerous private ranchers are sponsors, hosts and speakers.
The event is open to ranchers, researchers, land managers, agency representatives, conservationists and others interested in California’s rangelands. Journalists are encouraged to attend the event. For more information, visit http://www.carangeland.org/calendarevents/2014summit.html or call Pelayo Alvarez at (916) 313-5800, ext. 107.
The California Rangeland Conservation Coalition is a group of over 125 agricultural groups, nonprofit organizations, researchers and government agencies representing a broad cross-section of California’s ranching and environmental communities. The disparate groups are united by their recognition of the importance of California’s working rangelands for natural resources, plant and wildlife species, cultural values and economics. The Rangeland Coalition began in 2005 with a small group of organizations committed to protecting rangelands within California’s Central Valley and Interior Coast ranges. www.carangeland.org
- Author: Jeannette E. Warnert
Conceived by Michael Cahn, UCCE farm advisor in Monterey County, and programmed by the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources web team, the free website – ucanr.edu/cropmanage – allows farmers to quickly calculate the precise fertilizer and water needs of their crops.
“It’s great,” said Salvador Montes, ranch manager at Corey Ranch in the Salinas Valley, who pilot-tested the software last year on lettuce crops. “It’s very accurate in predicting the irrigation times and fertilizer (needs). It actually worked! We didn’t see any significant yield reduction using less water and fertilizer.”
By applying only the exact amount of water and fertilizer to optimize plant growth, the new website keeps farmers from using too much. Overfertilizing in the past has resulted in groundwater contamination with nitrate, a serious concern in the Salinas Valley and other farming regions. In coastal areas, overpumping wells can lead to sea water intrusion into the aquifer.
“Besides, fertilizer and water are expensive inputs,” Cahn said. “Applying more than the crop needs is like throwing money down the drain.”
On Feb. 26, Cahn will offer a mini CropManage workshop during the 2013 Irrigation and Nutrient Management Meeting at the Monterey County Agricultural Center, 1432 Abbott Street in Salinas. The meeting runs from 7:45 a.m. and concludes with a pizza lunch at 12 noon. Following lunch, the one-hour CropManage workshop begins. No reservations are required.
“Inspiration for this project,” Cahn said, “came from local growers who expressed a need for software to help them use the quick nitrate soil test and weather-based irrigation scheduling in their farming operations.”
Cahn and his colleagues, Tim Hartz, UCCE specialist in the Department of Plant Sciences at UC Davis, and Richard Smith, UCCE advisor in Monterey County, have been conducting trials for years to determine whether the combination of quick nitrogen testing and weather-based irrigation scheduling could reliably reduce the amount of nitrogen that lettuce growers apply.
“We demonstrated a 30-percent reduction in nitrogen fertilizer application,” Cahn said.
The excitement of such a significant result was tempered by the fact that implementing the research results on individual farms would require some serious math.
“When we introduced farmers to the quick nitrate test, some said they would have to hire someone to manage all the data, keep records and make decisions. I realized that we could make this a lot easier for them by programming software to do the work,” he said.
For example, farmers who wish to use weather data to schedule irrigation for lettuce must sign into CIMIS (California Irrigation Management Information Service) to request an email with reference evapo-traspiration for their locations. The data must be punched into an equation along with the irrigation coefficient for lettuce – a figure that represents how much water the lettuce needs – and the size of the lettuce canopy at the time of irrigation. This time-consuming data collection and manipulation is eliminated with CropManage.
“We’ve figured out how to facilitate all these calculations,” Cahn said.
“In effect, they set up a virtual ranch,” Cahn said.
When the farmer is ready to plant, the type of crop and results of a nitrogen quick test are added.
“The program recommends how long and when the irrigation should run and how much nitrogen, if any, should be added,” Cahn said. “The recommendations are updated automatically, taking into consideration the weather and the crop’s stage of growth.”
Throughout the growing season, farmers can monitor the progress of their farms by viewing online tables where irrigation, fertilization and growth are tracked. At any time, all the data can be downloaded as an Excel file the farmer can using for accounting or making reports.
Corey Ranch manager Montes said he accesses CropManage on a tablet computer.
“It’s very easy to use,” Montes said. “It’s easy to log on, input information and read from the tables. I love it. It’s a great tool and is definitely going to help us manage our water and fertilizer in a better way.”
Currently, CropManage contains information for production of romaine lettuce, iceberg lettuce and broccoli. Strawberries and caneberry data will be added to the system. Research is underway on leafy greens, such as spinach and baby leaf lettuce, so they also can be added.
“Everything we learn in research, we will add to CropManage,” Cahn said. “And by using it, growers can give us feedback on how accurate the system is. This is a fluid product. If growers find something that doesn’t work, we can change it.”
Development of the website was supported by a grant from the California Department of Agriculture Fertilizer Research and Education Program.
For more information about the 2013 Irrigation and Nutrient Management Meeting on Feb. 26 or about CropManage, contact Cahn at (831) 759-7377, email@example.com.
- Author: John Stumbos, (530) 754-4979, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Author: DeeDee Kitterman, (530) 752-9484, email@example.com
Leadership of California’s higher education systems made the funding available to jointly address issues in agriculture, natural resources and human sciences. Project criteria include collaborative research, teaching, or course development; development of student internship opportunities; and workshops, conferences, and symposia. Eight projects totaling more than $79,500 were selected from 30 proposals submitted.
“These research projects will help leverage limited resources to produce quick results on important issues in California,” said Neal Van Alfen, dean of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences at UC Davis. “They are also building stronger connections among researchers throughout the state and providing hands-on learning opportunities for students.”
Researchers involved in this year’s projects are from UC Davis, UC Berkeley and California State University campuses at Chico, Fresno, Humboldt, Pomona, Sonoma, San Marcos and San Luis Obispo. The awarded projects, with principal investigators, are listed below:
- “Estimating residential water demand functions in urban California regions” — Economists from UC Berkeley and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo will estimate residential water demand of municipalities and water companies that serve 19 million people in the Bay Area and Southern California. (Maximilian Auffhammer, Stephen Hamilton)
- “Reintroduced mammals and plant invaders as key drivers of ecosystem processes in coastal and interior grasslands” — Researchers from Sonoma State University and UC Davis will study how reintroducing tule elk and reducing invasive Harding grass affects the availability of soil nutrients and the composition of plant communities. (Caroline Christian, J. Hall Cushman, Valerie Eviner)
- “Genetics of plant defense responses to pesticides and spider mites on grapes” — Scientists from UC Davis and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo will conduct laboratory, greenhouse and field studies to learn more about factors affecting grapevine response to spider mites, including cultivar resistance, drought impact and pesticide exposure. (Michael Costello, Richard Karban, Andrew Walker, Jeffrey Wong)
- “Defining the functions of polyphenol oxidase in walnut” — Through genetic analysis, researchers at CSU San Marcos and UC Davis seek to learn more about an enzyme involved in the postharvest browning of cut or bruised fruit. (Matthew Escobar, Monica Britton, Abhaya Dandekar)
- “Modeling the costs of hazardous fuel reduction thinning treatments and removal of woody biomass for energy” — Researchers from Humboldt State University, UC Davis, and the U.S. Forest Service will develop a model to estimate the costs of removing hazardous wildland fuels with different equipment and systems over a wide range of forest stand, site and road conditions. (Han-Sup Han, Bruce Hartsough)
- “Restoration of pollinator communities and pollination function in riparian habitats” — Researchers from California State University, Chico, and UC Davis will characterize native pollinator communities at restored riparian habitats within the Central Valley and test whether successful restoration of pollinator communities also leads to restoration of pollination. (Christopher Ivey, Neal Williams)
- “Estimating alfalfa’s impact on regional nitrogen budgets and nitrate leaching losses in the Central Valley of California” — Researchers from California State University, Fresno, and UC Davis will collect alfalfa and non-legume plants from irrigated fields and also identify San Joaquin Valley farm sites for a multi-year study of alfalfa’s impact on regional nitrogen budgets, groundwater nitrate leaching, and nitrogen requirements of rotation crops. (Bruce Roberts, Stuart Pettygrove, Daniel Putnam)
- “Community and ecosystem response to elevated nitrogen in managed grassland ecosystems” — Restoration ecologists from Cal Poly Pomona and UC Berkeley will investigate how elevated nitrogen levels affect competition among native and exotic plant species with regard to fuel characteristics at UC’s South Coast Research and Extension Center. (Erin Questad, Katharine Suding)
Reports on project outcomes are expected in December 2012.
- Contact: Jeanette Warnert, (559) 646-6074, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Contact: Pam Kan Rice, (530) 754-3912, cell (510) 206-3476, email@example.com
UC Cooperative Extension and Agricultural Experiment Station researchers are working with growers on fertilizer management, irrigation efficiency and other farming practices to provide options for protecting groundwater, which serves as a primary drinking water source for many rural communities. The following are some examples of ANR research and extension projects under way. The scientists’ names are hyperlinked to their contact information.
Quick nitrate test guides fertilizer management
Michael Cahn and Richard Smith, UC Cooperative Extension advisors in Monterey County, and Tim Hartz, UCCE specialist in the department of Plant Sciences at UC Davis, have developed a quick test to measure soil nitrate in the field so growers can match fertilizer rates with plant needs. The test has reduced nitrogen-loading rates by an average of 70 pounds per acre in lettuce. On-farm demonstration trials have shown that by testing the soil, growers can reduce their fertilizer use by about 30 percent. Major growers in Monterey County, who manage a significant number of vegetable acres in the Salinas Valley, have begun using the quick nitrate test in their operations. For more information read the summary article on p. 5 and fine tuning article on p. 12 of Crop Notes.
Assessing plant nutrient status
Leaf sampling is a common method of determining when a nut tree has a nutrient deficiency. Patrick H. Brown, professor in the Department of Plant Sciences at UC Davis and Agricultural Experiment Station pomologist, and his colleagues are studying other ways of assessing plant nutrient status to help almond and pistachio growers manage fertilizer applications with more precision. For more information, see Crop Nutrient Status and Demand.
NBOT aids dairies in nutrient planning
The Nitrogen Budget Optimization Tool (NBOT) is a planning tool being developed for dairies by David Crohn, professor and UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Environmental Sciences at UC Riverside. NBOT is an algorithm that uses a daily time step to represent crop nitrogen demand, nitrogen mineralization and losses from leaching, denitrification and ammonia volatilization. Typical nitrogen application charts tell how much nitrogen a crop needs during the growing season, but they do not say when the crop will need it. With NBOT, dairy operators input information about the crop they are growing, how much they expect to harvest and when they can apply manures. NBOT’s output gives an idealized management strategy that helps dairy operators decide what they should do all year round.
N-Ledger software addresses nitrogen management
A software program under development by a team headed by Marsha Campbell Mathews, UC Cooperative Extension advisor in Stanislaus County, will help dairy operators and other farmers improve nitrogen management by calculating when nitrogen applied in manure is expected to be released from organic form into a form that the crops can use. Nitrogen applications are tracked, release rates are estimated and adjusted for expected losses, and the calculated total is compared to the expected daily crop need for nitrogen. The program helps the user choose an application strategy that will meet the crop’s needs and result in the least possible amount of nitrate in the soil during periods when it is vulnerable to leaching or other losses. For more information, see the UC Cooperative Extension in Stanislaus County Manure Nutrient Management website.
Adjusting field length can reduce irrigation levels
In his research on how dairy operators can reduce water applications to their crops, Larry Schwankl, UC Cooperative Extension specialist at Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Parlier, has found that allowing less water to percolate will reduce impacts on groundwater. With shorter furrows, water applied per acre was cut nearly in half. In addition, manure water is often added to fresh water as part of dairy irrigation and fertigation practices, so being able to reduce the applied water also significantly reduces the amount of nitrogen applied. For more information, see Schwankl's Irrigation Management website.
UC helps dairy industry manage nitrogen on the farm
It is common practice for dairy operators to use cattle manure as fertilizer for their silage crops. UC Cooperative Extension advisors throughout California routinely provide reliable information to dairy operators and consultants so they can efficiently manage nitrogen on the farm and comply with pending state regulations. This information includes how to install and calibrate flow meters, how to measure nitrogen levels in manure ponds, how much nitrogen crops need and when they need it, and how to properly sample the crops that are harvested to know how much nitrogen is being removed. “We’ve developed protocols to ensure accurate information gathering, and we can share these with the dairy industry,” said Carol Frate, UCCE advisor in Tulare County. For more information, contact a UC Cooperative Extension dairy advisor.
To see other ANR projects and publications aimed at limiting nitrate leaching, please visit http://ucanr.edu/News/Healthy_crops,_safe_water.