- (Public Value) UCANR: Safeguarding abundant and healthy food for all Californians
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.
Testimony highlights UC ANR's role in advancing prosperity, sustainability and climate resilience
Glenda Humiston, Ph.D., University of California vice president of agriculture and natural resources, director of the Agricultural Experiment Station and director of the Cooperative Extension Service, testified before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture at today's (March 16) hearing “A 2022 Review of the Farm Bill: The Role of USDA Programs in Addressing Climate Change.”
A recording of the hearing can be viewed at https://youtu.be/2_GQI6b6CCs. Congressman Jimmy Panetta, who represents California's Central Coast, introduces Humiston at the 16-minute mark of the recording. She begins speaking at the 40:38 mark.
In Washington, D.C., Humiston delivered the following prepared statement:
Good morning, Chairman [David] Scott, Ranking Member [GT] Thompson, and Members of the Committee, my name is Glenda Humiston, and I serve as the Vice President of Agriculture and Natural Resources (ANR) for the University of California (UC) system. I am honored to have this opportunity to discuss the importance of agricultural research, and other USDA programs, as you begin work on the next Farm Bill.
With UC ANR serving as a vital partner, California continues to be the nation's top agricultural state. For more than a century, California's $50 billion agricultural sector has depended on UC ANR, in partnership with our UC campuses, for the stream of new technologies and research breakthroughs needed to stay competitive and be responsible stewards of the land. We are proud to be part of the Land Grant partnership that was developed between states and the federal government with the 1862 Morrill Act, 1887 Hatch Act and the 1914 Smith-Lever Act. That enterprise has, for over 130 years, advanced scientific knowledge in all aspects of food production, and improved production capacity, profitability, and safety of the nation's food system.
With over 71,000 farms producing 400 different commodities, California is an agricultural behemoth and the sole provider of many high-demand farm products while also exporting roughly a third of its agricultural production each year. Beyond on-farm production, California's working landscapes include farmland, ranches, forests, wetlands, mines, water bodies and other natural resource lands, both private and public, that are vital sources of ecosystem services. These services are ways that the natural world provides biological necessities, such as clean water, nutritious food, and a livable climate, as well as indirect economic benefits, such as jobs and revenue created along food value chains. More broadly, they encompass intangible goods that contribute to human well-being, such as recreation, aesthetic inspiration, and cultural connection.
To combat such future perils, we must harness the ability of our agricultural and other working landscapes to adapt, to mitigate and where possible, to become a solution to climate change. According to the National Academy of Sciences, U.S. soils and forests have the potential to sequester about 500 million metric tons of carbon dioxide annually. Emerging markets for carbon credits and government incentive programs could generate tens of billions of dollars per year in new investment for working farm and forest lands within the next several years.
Within this framework, USDA programs are critical to our efforts to support carbon sequestration, improved water management, healthy soils, forest restoration, hazardous fuels management, and wood products innovation, among other provisions that support natural climate solutions. USDA's new Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities is a great example of how targeted funding for pilot projects can create market opportunities for commodities produced using climate-smart practices.
As we pursue those climate-smart practices, it is critical that we make full use of existing programs and leverage collaborations among them wherever possible. Supporting partnerships between government agencies with academia and the private sector will enable production of multiple benefits from various actions. As part of this we need to utilize voluntary, market and incentive-based programs to the greatest extent possible and maintain a focus on science-based outcomes. In many situations, transformative innovation is needed – moving beyond just improving existing methods and processes to totally re-thinking how our systems are designed to deliver policy and programs.
UC ANR supports California farmers and ranchers to be resilient to extreme weather events with data-driven tools, methods, and technologies. For example, we are developing drought, heat, and pest-tolerant crop varieties that allow farmers to remain economically viable while also being resilient to extreme weather. Finding new crops suitable for California soils and ecosystems not only improves the productivity of the farm but can have co-benefits such as improving water-holding capacity of the soil, increasing native pollinator habitat, and boosting local economies by increasing value-added products.
We are also pushing our research system to expand collaborative efforts between experts in soil sciences, plant pathology, biochemistry, and other sciences with technology experts in robotics, sensors, artificial intelligence, materials, supply chain logistics, and energy systems to solve today's complex problems in agriculture. Much like the biomedical revolution, it is the integration of multiple disciplines into a single project that can lead to transformative innovation that improves productivity, food safety, and ecosystem services while also giving rise to new businesses. Great examples of such transdisciplinary research and development include:
- An initiative to place solar panels over irrigation canals to reduce evaporation of precious irrigation water supplies for farmers while also producing electricity.
- Implementing healthy soil practices, like cover crops and no-till, to enhance capture of rain and improve groundwater recharge.
- Programs for farmers to install dairy digesters to convert potentially harmful greenhouse gases into valuable biofuels.
To develop the science, new technologies and better farming practices that are desperately needed, increased funding for agriculture and food-related research and extension is necessary as are new investment in agricultural research facilities. Public funding for agricultural research in the U.S. has declined in real dollars over the past few decades while deferred maintenance of research facilities greatly hampers scientists' work. Greater investments will help ensure farmers and ranchers have access to the scientifically rigorous tools and information they need to build climate resilience, mitigate environmental impacts, and increase the productivity of their land.
Other exciting opportunities can be found in forest health efforts that convert excessive fuel loads – biomass – into valuable bioproducts while reducing risk from catastrophic wildfires. California's wildfire crisis continued its destructive march in 2020, each year worse than the one before. Working closely with regional economic development organizations and our California Economic Summit partners, UC ANR is a key partner in developing and implementing recommendations to improve forest health, reduce wildfire risk, incentivize innovation in new and innovative wood products industries and build capacity for manufacturing to enhance forest and environmental health and resilient rural communities. Examples of this work include:
- Organizing controlled burn associations with local communities and other forest treatment practices such as a software program, Match.Graze, that improves use of grazing.
- Partnering with the Inland Empire Economic Partnership and the southern California commercial ports to convert biomass into hydrogen and other liquid biofuels to replace diesel in trucks – the largest source of air pollution in that region.
- Educating homeowners on landscaping, defensible space, and fire-wise plants to improve home-hardening, reduce risk from fire and conserve water.
- UC Engineering research on materials science is developing new advanced wood products and data to demonstrate the multiple values of construction with such products.
- Teaming up with community colleges to provide workforce training in forest professions.
The US needs robust funding for wildfire prevention, research, recovery, and extension. Cooperative Extension academics are lead experts in forestry and wildfire research and they provide critical resources to inform strategic fuels management, enhance community wildfire planning, and build community fire adaptation and resiliency. USDA's Climate Hubs should be expanded so that they can regularly engage stakeholders and prioritize vital research amongst more partners. The U.S. Forest Service's work on bioproducts is extremely valuable as is their willingness to enter into long-term stewardship agreements with state and local partners.
In California, we are very excited to be working with the Governor and the state legislature to secure a $185 million investment in UC to build new capacity in climate-focused research, innovation, and workforce development. For example, with this funding we would establish Regional Workforce Hubs that will provide on-the-job training opportunities for university and community college students as well as well as leverage the professional learning and career certification infrastructure of the UC Extension programs to offer a portfolio of training opportunities, tools, and resources for college-prep and non-degree seeking individuals.
Just as these programs allow us to implement climate smart agriculture and healthy forests' initiatives, they also support regional economic development and job creation. Rural Development, the Agricultural Marketing Service and many other USDA programs are important partners as we build climate solutions through more efficient regional food systems, improved supply chains, workforce training, manufacturing of BioPreferred products, and food security initiatives.
If we are to promote resilience and help rural economies better adapt to climate change, we need to harness all programs throughout the US Department of Agriculture. That means having senior USDA leadership coordinating climate issues across the entire agency and robustly serving as USDA's climate representative at all interagency climate-related meetings. For example, USDA must collaborate with federal entities like the Federal Communications Commission to support improvements to broadband access, which is critical for climate-smart precision technologies and rural economies. Similarly, just as USDA has partnered with the National Science Foundation on research initiatives and jointly funding competitive grants, it needs to build closer partnerships with programs like Commerce's Economic Development Agency and Treasury's Community Financial Development Institutions to ensure that access to capital, effective economic development planning and infrastructure investments are targeted appropriately and delivered well.
One important way to help ensure wise distribution of program dollars to give the current definition of “rural” serious examination and re-engineering; as it stands now, far too many communities are improperly denied USDA resources due to the antiquated definitions of rural and metropolitan. Strongly encouraging more cross-agency proposals throughout USDA and enhanced support for public-private partnerships would remove barriers and hurdles for industry and communities alike.
The current mix of federal and state capacity funds is generally leveraged many-fold by federal competitive grants, grants from private industry, and other types of unrestricted gifts and awards to faculty conducting research at the nation's land-grant universities. Competitive funding processes can elicit new ideas and speed up certain research projects; however, they also encourage a shift from programmatic research towards shorter-term project research. Failure to invest in a well-balanced mix of capacity and competitive funds for food and agriculture research could have very negative consequences for decades to come – consequences that would take significant time to reverse.
It takes at least seven to 15 years of research and development to develop a new crop variety – longer for trees/vines. Deploying and/or adapting new agricultural technologies can be even longer. For example, when UC Davis engineer, Coby Lorenzen, designed a machine to automate the harvest of tomatoes in the 1960s, it also required agronomist, Jack Hanna, to develop a less-delicate variety of tomato that ripened uniformly and could be easily plucked from the plant, essential qualities that made machine harvesting feasible. Federal funding that recognizes these realities as well as improvements in technology transfer and support for commercialization is vital.
Faculty and staff at land-grant universities across the nation recognize that their work takes place on behalf of a greater good, a broader goal, and a common vision that is much bigger than their individual achievements. Members of this House Committee on Agriculture can be confident that every dollar of federal investment authorized by the Farm Bill and expended at land-grant universities is guaranteed to be leveraged further, and to spawn innovation and discovery that will be translated into solutions to improve the lives of U.S. citizens. I thank you for this opportunity to provide testimony.
- Author: Mike Hsu
Publication in English, Spanish prepares private applicators for state exam
Expanded from four chapters in the previous edition to 12, the third edition of Pesticide Safety: A Study Manual for Private Applicators aims to be more than just a study guide.
The manual, available for purchase in English and Spanish, provides much more detail on essential processes and procedures that will help keep applicators safe while using pesticides – as well as reduce environmental impacts from misapplication.
Published by University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources in collaboration with the state's Department of Pesticide Regulation, the manual – intended for members of the agricultural community who own, manage or work on farms that use restricted-use pesticides – also includes substantial updates.
“The information in the book they were using was way out of date,” said writer/editor Shannah Whithaus, senior editor for pesticide safety education with UC ANR's Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program. “Also, the book was much, much shorter than it needed to be, because it wasn't providing enough information for people to safely apply pesticides, given the complexity of the regulatory environment we're in now.”
The new manual reflects important changes to federal and state regulations since the publication of the previous edition in 2006.
“There are significant regulatory updates which help you stay up-to-date with safety rules and standards – and protect your workers from overexposure to pesticides,” said Lisa Blecker, technical editor of the publication, and currently a pesticide safety educator at Colorado State University.
In addition to emphasizing the broader ecological ramifications of improper pesticide use, the manual includes information on subjects that might get short shrift in other manuals, such as the correct calibration of equipment to ensure accuracy of application.
“All of that is now in the book and fully fleshed out,” Whithaus said. “[Applicators] are going to be able to do that much more effectively using the new book, compared to the old one – it was really hard to be thorough in 80-some pages.”
The new edition – totaling more than 200 substantive pages – also features a more streamlined and user-friendly layout modeled after a sister publication, The Safe and Effective Use of Pesticides, written for commercial applicators.
“A significant update is a layout that is not only beautiful, but helps you identify key information you need to know in order to make safe and effective pesticide applications,” Blecker explained.
She highlighted the “knowledge expectations” listed at the beginning of each chapter and in the margins of the book, next to the relevant passages. The statements serve as “visual cues” to help readers learn and retain the material they need to pass California DPR's certification exam for private applicators.
And while the manual functions as an improved study aid for owners, managers and workers who apply pesticides, it doubles as a reference that they can turn to for years to come.
“It's going to be able to serve as a reference manual, as opposed to just a study guide,” Whithaus said. “You really will be able to use this book as a tool to help you do better in managing your land.”
The manual, listed at $29, is available for purchase in English at https://anrcatalog.ucanr.edu/Details.aspx?itemNo=3383 and in Spanish at https://anrcatalog.ucanr.edu/Details.aspx?itemNo=3394./h4>
The Yolo County walnut growers will provide as much as $100,000 per year for “practical” research
The University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) announced that Dan and Sarah Hrdy, owners of Citrona Farms LLC, a walnut farm in Winters, have established The Daniel & Sarah Hrdy Fund for UC Cooperative Extension Research.
The fund will provide as much as $100,000 in seed funding for early-stage research projects each year for UC Cooperative Extension advisors and specialists, as well as their academic collaborators. Dan, a former clinical professor of medicine (infectious diseases) at UC Davis Medical Center, and Sarah, a professor emerita of anthropology at UC Davis, created the fund to express their appreciation for UC Cooperative Extension's practical yet cutting edge research.
“Over the years, we have hosted a number of researchers from UC ANR, UC Davis and UC Berkeley studying topics related to sustainable agriculture, habitat restoration and wildlife conservation and have benefited both directly and indirectly from the UC Cooperative Extension network,” said Dan Hrdy. More than 20 years of UC research hosted at Citrona Farms is detailed on their website at www.citrona.com.
Research proposals will be selected by the leaders of UC ANR's Strategic Initiatives: Sustainable Food Systems; Endemic and Invasive Pests and Diseases; and Sustainable Natural Ecosystems.
Areas of special interest include:
- Sustainable Agriculture, with special regard to climate change
- Interaction of Natural Ecosystems and Agriculture
- Habitat Restoration and Conservation
- Wildfire and Forest Restoration
"The timing for this donation could not have been better as UC ANR is actively recruiting an extraordinary number of new UCCE advisors and specialists and support for their research is greatly appreciated," Wendy Powers, UC ANR associate vice president, said. “This is a great example of how local relationships build trust and support for UCCE efforts across the state."
The fund will be established with annual gifts as part of a payout from the donor's retirement account, along with a bequest that, when paid, will create a permanent endowment where the payouts will continue to fund this project. The Hrdys hope to make others aware of this method of charitable giving.
"We were able to use required payouts from a retirement account to set up this gift,” said Dan Hrdy. “I hope more people will look into doing this to help support Cooperative Extension.”
Investors who must satisfy a required minimum distribution from their retirement accounts may consider a qualified charitable distribution (QCD), said Greg Gibbs, UC ANR executive director of Development Services.
“A qualified charitable distribution is a direct transfer of funds from your IRA custodian, payable to a qualified charity, like the UC Regents/UC ANR,” Gibbs said. “Once you've reached age 72, the QCD amount counts toward your required minimum distribution for the year, up to an annual maximum of $100,000. It's not included in your gross income and does not count against the limits on deductions for charitable contributions.”
- Author: Linda Forbes
A team of UC scientists is working to mitigate “cow bunching” – when dairy cows cluster close together to avoid biting flies – which can cause discomfort, increase heat stress and impede the cows' access to nutritionally balanced food in individual feeding stations. Ambient temperature, relative humidity and trees appear to be factors in the prevalence of stable flies, which are more active during May and June.
“In working with California's dairy industry for 20 years, I have never seen a problem with so much interest and producer pleas for guidance as bunching,” said Sharif Aly, professor of population health and reproduction at the UC Davis Veterinary Medicine Teaching and Research Center in Tulare.
To study the problem, Aly collaborated with Heidi Rossow, professor of Population Health and Reproduction, UC Davis Veterinary Medicine Teaching and Research Center; Alec Gerry, UC Riverside professor of entomology and UC Cooperative Extension specialist; Wagdy Elashmawy, veterinary medicine postdoctoral scholar; Fernanda Ferreira, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in herd health and management economics at UC Davis; and Essam Abdelfattah, a project scientist in Aly's lab.
“In the past, there were a few other reports studying this problem in different parts of the U.S., but we did not have a consistent group of people looking at the problem over time and trying to bring solutions,” said Ferreira. “Now, if farmers want to control the problem, they know what factors to look at. We also measured the economic impact, which brings attention to the problem.”
Among the risk factors for cow bunching they identified were field crops near the cow pen where bunching was observed, feeding rations that contain wet distillers grain or molasses, and an ambient temperature lower than 86 degrees (30 degrees C). In contrast, bunching was reduced when relative humidity was less than 50%, where a cow pen was surrounded by other pens or bordered by a main road and manure removed from fence lines of pens.
The team's study published in PLoS One also identified that cows in pens with trees on the periphery had higher fly counts in comparison to cows in pens away from trees. In addition, dairies feeding by-products including almond hulls, wet distillers grain, fruits and vegetables had higher stable fly trap counts compared to dairies that did not feed these ingredients. At the pen level, cows fed rations that contained straw had lower average fly counts compared to cows fed with rations that did not contain straw.
Rossow and Ferreira also studied the production and economic impacts of adding supplements to feed.
“For dairies, the largest cost is nutrition,” said Rossow. “Any way that dairies can become more feed-efficient and produce more milk for less is a major benefit to the industry.” Their work has focused on understanding which supplements are beneficial to production and economically feasible to introduce.
“These kinds of collaborations help us to ultimately benefit our clientele by translating research into applied knowledge to improve their production,” noted Ferreira.
During his postdoctoral studies with the team, Abdelfattah explored the impact of different treatments to control stable flies on dairies and is currently planning the next phase of the team's research on an integrated stable fly management plan for dairies.