- Posted By: Brenda Dawson
- Written by: Pam Kan-Rice, (530) 754-3912, email@example.com and Brenda Dawson, (530) 752-7779, firstname.lastname@example.org
University of California researchers will receive more than $6 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s 2011 Specialty Crop Block Grant program, which is intended to enhance agricultural markets, address environmental concerns, protect plant health, provide farmers with scientifically tested production techniques and increase food safety.
The USDA awarded $55 million nationwide for the Specialty Crop Block Grant program, which provides grants to states to enhance the competitiveness of fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture and nursery crops.
The California Department of Food and Agriculture identified 72 projects in the state for funding, including 30 projects led by University of California agricultural researchers.
“Funding for specialty crop research is critical to California’s $37.5 billion agricultural industry because many of the crops grown in California are considered specialty crops,” said Barbara Allen-Diaz, UC vice president for agriculture and natural resources. “With these funds, UC scientists will be helping California farmers find new ways to protect their crops from pests and diseases, remain economically viable, and provide healthy food for an increasing number of people.”
- The UC Davis Center for Produce Safety received a combined $1.4 million for food safety projects, many of which will develop strategies to reduce the risk of foodborne illness.
- Assessing temperature conditions to determine the potential for using wind machines as an alternative to sprinklers for frost protection in coastal vineyards with the ultimate goal of reduced water use is the goal of a $59,961 project led by UC Cooperative Extension viticulture advisor Mark Battany in San Luis Obispo County.
- The UC Agricultural Issues Center will be conducting an analysis of the effects of quality control standards and European Union trade policies on the California olive industry, to identify market opportunities as standards and policies change, funded for $135,883.
- The largest single award made to UC in this round was $495,750 to a statewide project that will assess the effects of reduced irrigation on strawberries, blueberries and blackberries -- including berry yield, nutritional content, flavor and consumer preference -- led by researchers with the UC small farm program.
- A project that will train small-scale, Latino, Hmong and Mien growers in Fresno, the Sacramento Valley, the Central Coast and Southern California regions to compete in new markets, led by the UC Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program, received $86,851.
- Developing improved integrated pest management strategies that could help ornamental nurseries protect against the light brown apple moth is the goal of a $255,598 project led by Steve Tjosvold, UC Cooperative Extension farm advisor for Santa Cruz County.
“Many of these projects are collaborative efforts between farmers and scientists from UC campuses, UC Cooperative Extension advisors in counties, and other agencies and educational institutions,” Allen-Diaz said. “This array of expertise focused along the spectrum of specialty crops production will help keep California competitive in the global economy.”
For a complete list of California’s Specialty Crop Block Grants projects, please visit http://www.cdfa.ca.gov/grants.
- Posted By: Sandra Willard
- Written by: Janet Byron, (510) 665-2194, email@example.com and Janet White, (510) 665-2201, firstname.lastname@example.org
Cultivated on 1.1 million acres, alfalfa is the largest consumer of water among all crops in California, accounting for up to 27 percent of the state’s irrigation water use. Alfalfa is usually flood irrigated, often leading to overirrigation. Water is pumped in at the top of field rows and flows down to the end. If the flow is not turned off before it reaches the bottom, substantial runoff occurs.
The new system employs sensors to track the advance of water down a field, a model that predicts when water will reach the tail end of the field, and a cellular communications system that sends a cell phone alert to the irrigator to turn off the water. It was field-tested during two seasons on the UC Davis campus; the results — zero tail water drainage from the trial fields compared with thousands of liters of runoff from control fields — are reported in the October–December 2011 issue of the University of California’s California Agriculture journal.
“Under current practice, the alfalfa irrigator makes several trips to the field to determine when the wetting front has reached a certain distance from the bottom end of the check [irrigation channel] before turning off the irrigation,” writes lead author Rajat Saha, assistant engineer for MBK Engineers in Sacramento. “Even making several trips, the irrigator may miss the wetting front advance, which results in excessive tail water drainage.”
The system, developed by Saha and coauthors at UC Davis while Saha was a UC Davis graduate student, was successfully demonstrated to dozens of farmers last year at the Alfalfa Field Day. The components are relatively inexpensive: the sensors (three per check) cost about $25 each; the data logger and modem, which can be easily moved from one location to another to reduce the initial installation investment, about $500 and $200, respectively.
If the new system, which may be commercially available in early 2012, were used for the typical five irrigations per alfalfa season, “water savings could be about 35,000 to 60,000 liters per acre,” Saha reports.
The research article, and the entire October–December 2011 issue, can be downloaded at http://californiaagriculture.ucanr.org.
California Agriculture is the University of California’s peer-reviewed journal of research in agricultural, human and natural resources. For a free subscription, go to: http://californiaagriculture.ucanr.org, or write to email@example.com.
WRITERS/EDITORS: To request a hard copy of the journal, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Author: Jeannette E. Warnert
Legislation implementing the Korea free trade agreement, along with smaller agreements with Colombia and Panama, were negotiated several years ago. They finally gained Congressional approval on Oct. 12 and are set to be signed by President Obama on Oct. 21.
By phasing out or eliminating tariffs and other trade barriers, free trade agreements create larger markets for California-produced farm commodities. Since South Korea has no significant prospects to export farm goods to the United States, California agriculture is a clear winner from this agreement.
Hyunok Lee and Daniel Sumner from the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics at UC Davis and the UC Agricultural Issues Center document the current importance of South Korea to California farm exports, the size of the trade barriers these exports have faced (many facing tariffs of more than 30 percent) and the advantages currently afforded by South Korea’s existing free trade agreements with important competitors, such as Chile and Australia.
“Lower trade barriers will allow California agriculture to better compete in a large, growing and lucrative market,” said Sumner.
“Food product prices are high in South Korea and consumers are willing to pay premiums for the high-quality products produced in California,” added Lee.
South Korea has a strong economy with about 50 million consumers and per-capita income of $30,000, higher than many European countries. In 2010, the value of California farm exports to South Korea was more than $400 million. Given the size of South Korea’s economy and the high trade barriers being erased, Sumner and Lee say the accord will do more for farm exports than agreements negotiated for almost 20 years.
Among other findings, the authors report that:
- The top California ag exports to South Korea are fresh oranges, with tree nuts, rice, and beef and beef products also in the top five.
- Other California crops that hold a double-digit share of the South Korean market are hay, grape juice and kiwifruit.
- With an import tariff of about 45 percent, South Korean imports of California table grapes, fresh strawberries, fresh apples and lettuce and rice are small, but have great potential for growth.
- South Korea is becoming a major export market for California grapefruit and lemons. Lower tariffs will increase demand.
- The United States is South Korea’s only supplier for almonds and the U.S. has more than a 90 percent share of walnuts. The current 8 percent almond tariff will be eliminated and walnut tariffs will be phased out over the next 6 to 15 years.
- Beef products are the top agricultural import (from all sources) into South Korea by value. With the new agreement, the within-quota tariff will fall by 2.7 percent each year, providing a gain for U.S. producers compared to import competitors.
- South Korea has high trade barriers for many dairy products, but with gradual reductions under the new agreement, the market will grow.
Daniel Sumner is available to comment on the free trade agreements with South Korea, Panama and Columbia. He can be reached at email@example.com, (530) 752-1668.
Hyunok Lee can comment about the size and potential growth of the Korean market. She can be reached at (530) 752-3508, firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Posted By: Sandra Willard
- Written by: Janet Byron, (510) 665-2194, email@example.com Janet White, (510) 665-2201, firstname.lastname@example.org
UC scientists now report that use of totally impermeable film in strawberry fields can improve the effectiveness of a widely-used MB alternative known as 1,3-D (1,3, dichloropropene). Use of the film reduces the amount of 1,3-D needed to maintain yields, while lowering field emissions overall.
The strawberry industry is highly dependent on soil fumigation to control pests and maintain high yields. The methyl bromide alternative, 1,3-D, can be used only in certain quantities, due to air quality concerns.
In a recent trial, totally impermeable film (TIF) was laid out over Salinas fields to prevent the fumigant from leaking. The new film was compared with the standard film used by growers. Fumigant concentrations under TIF were 46 percent to 54 percent higher than under standard film, and the higher concentrations were correlated with higher strawberry yields and better weed control. Scientists report these findings in detail in the October–December 2011 electronic edition of the University of California’s California Agriculture journal.
Impermeable films have three benefits, according to lead author Steven Fennimore, UC Cooperative Extension specialist and weed scientist in UC Davis Department of Plant Sciences. The films trap the fumigant in the soil for a longer time and thereby increase its effectiveness; they reduce fumigant emissions, which after reacting with nitrogen oxides, can convert to ground-level ozone; and they reduce the amount of fumigant needed for effective pest control.
Emissions are a chief concern. Methyl bromide, a widely used fumigant in combination with chloropicrin, has been phased out since 2005 because it is an ozone-depleting substance targeted by the Montreal Protocol (a global treaty to control ozone depletion) and the U.S. Clean Air Act. However, it is still being used in some California strawberry fields under a critical-use exemption. Restrictions on the use of 1,3-D to 90,250 pounds per 36-square-mile township (called the township cap) leave few other options for growers in key strawberry production areas near densely populated areas.
Comparing TIF with standard film, and methyl bromide plus chloropicrin with varying amounts of 1,3-D plus chloropicrin, the scientists rated the effectiveness of TIF. The results, writes Fennimore, suggest that to achieve fruit yield and weed control similar to methyl bromide and chloropicrin, 33 percent less 1,3-D plus chloropicrin is needed under TIF than standard films.
TIF may ease some of the burdens of fumigant regulations on end-users, as well as ease concerns of the general public about exposure to fumigants, he concludes.
The entire October–December 2011 issue, and the electronic edition, can be viewed and downloaded at http://californiaagriculture.ucanr.org.
California Agriculture is the University of California’s peer-reviewed journal of research in agricultural, human and natural resources. For a free subscription, visit http://californiaagriculture.ucanr.org, or write to email@example.com.
WRITERS/EDITORS: To request a hard copy of the journal, email firstname.lastname@example.org
- Posted By: Sandra Willard
- Written by: Eve Hightower, (530) 752-8664, email@example.com
“A sustainable food system is healthy and safe for everyone, including all those who work the land,” said Tom Tomich, director of SAREP. “As SAREP continues to support sustainable agriculture research, we look forward to identifying research opportunities that will improve farmworker conditions.”
California farmworkers face many challenges at work and in their communities. Nearly a quarter of California farmworker families live in poverty, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. While farmworkers play a crucial role in feeding Californians, food insecurity is among the many challenges they face daily. Farm work is one of the most hazardous occupations in the state, but nearly 70 percent of California farmworkers have no health insurance, according to a California Institute for Rural Studies report.
SAREP aims to help researchers add context to these numbers by interviewing members of organizations that work with farmworkers and other stakeholders. Participants will be asked to suggest the types of research, education and communication projects they would find most helpful as they work to improve farm laborers’ working and living conditions. The research agenda is scheduled to be completed by September 2012.
“Projects such as this – creating a research agenda with the participation of people who will ultimately use the information for their work – is inspired by the University of California’s land grant mission to serve society,” said Gail Feenstra, SAREP food systems coordinator. “SAREP was founded to help ensure all California agricultural interests, particularly the underserved voices, are supported through scientific research, education and outreach.”
Research regarding California farmworker issues has been conducted, but there is more to do. SAREP aims to assist both researchers and farmworkers by identifying research that workers and community organizations would find most useful.
In addition to identifying research topics, key stakeholders and potential partners and funders, SAREP is forming an advisory committee to guide its farmworker research and outreach efforts.
SAREP provides leadership and support for scientific research and education in agricultural and food systems that are economically viable, conserve natural resources and biodiversity, and enhance the quality of life in the state's communities.
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Media contact: Gail Feenstra, (530) 752-8408, firstname.lastname@example.org.