Sonoma county residents love their oak trees, and with good reason: Oak woodlands are a source of immense value not just to the more than 330 types of animals and hundreds of other organisms they support, but also to the cultural, economic, and social fabric of our society. Sudden oak death (SOD) threatens to unhinge these systems, imperil biodiversity, create hazard trees or fuel for fires, and potentially infect agriculturally or horticulturally important plants. So whether it means adapting educational events to virtual spaces, delivering materials by mail, training online, answering home phones instead of staffing the Master Gardener desk, or collecting leaves for the SOD blitz by bicycle while wearing a mask and social distancing, the UCCE Sonoma SOD Program is not letting COVID-19 slow us down.
A key endeavor of this group is the yearly Sudden Oak Death Blitz in partnership with UC Berkeley's Forest Pathology and Mycology Lab. This state-wide citizen science project allows landowners to receive free testing of California bay laurel and tanoak leaves, contribute to long-term scientific research, and update the SOD Map Mobile app used by landowners and professionals to assess disease risk in their area. As SOD Blitz creator Dr. Matteo Garbelotto wrote in a letter addressed to all Californians about this year's program,
“The SOD Blitzes have become a tradition for many, while providing key information to help us save our oaks from a devastating disease.”
UCCE Sonoma hosts six blitz events annually whereas most counties hold just one, and we were eager to test new areas of tree mortality that were discovered after last-year's blitz had already passed. Here's how we made it work:
- Training took place online.
- Three Zoom sessions were set up with SOD team members for participant questions.
- Collection packets were mailed to most participants, and the rest picked up following strict safety guidelines supervised by staff.
- Leaves were collected at homes and on public land by walkers, cyclists, and others engaging in outdoor exercise.
- Kashia Pomo staff continued to sample on their land.
- In collaboration with SSU's Center for Environmental Inquiry, we hosted the only SOD blitz in the state that was fully bilingual in Spanish and English.
Despite limitations posed by COVID-19 regarding how to train volunteers, access areas where leaves could be sampled, and safely pass materials and samples between participants and blitz organizers, this year's campaign is on track to be even more successful than 2019. Returning leaves by mail instead of in-person allowed residents on the coast and other remote areas to participate easily, leading to a better geographic distribution of sampling. Online trainings and Q&A sessions, though less personal and lacking physical demonstrations, encouraged people with schedule constraints to give the blitz a try. One participant with extra time on his hands reported that he thought this was a great way to give back to the community in a time of need. Based on the number of participants and collection packets requested, we estimate a 15% increase in sampling from last year, including all major areas of Sonoma county and most of Mendocino county.
And things are just getting started. Though a SOD-themed Plant Walk with the local Milo Baker chapter of the California Native Plant Society was postponed, discussions are underway about creating a live virtual field trip in its place, complete with 360 degree photos of highlighted spots along the trail. Similarly, SOD Specialist Master Gardeners have been presenting at public library series' for years, and are now hoping to create a recorded version to be posted on UCCE Sonoma's Sudden Oak Death webpage. Check back for announcements on these and other happenings.
Our gratitude goes out to every volunteer who has invested their time in staying educated, spreading the word, and participating in citizen science with us over the years, especially during the current shelter-in-place, with special recognition for our dedicated team of SOD Specialist Master Gardeners. We couldn't help our oaks without you!
- Author: Lisa A Blecker, coordinator for the UC Pesticide Safety Education Program and Office of Pesticide Information and Coordination
- Author: Whitney Brim-DeForest, UC Cooperative Extension rice advisor in Sutter and Yuba counties
- Author: Katrina Hunter, UC Integrated Pest Management Program pesticide safety writer
- Author: Pamela Kan-Rice, UC ANR Assistant Director, News and Information Outreach
While most Californians are staying home to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, California farmers, farmworkers and other agricultural professionals are out in the fields and packing houses working to produce food.
With increased demand for personal protective equipment, or PPE, to protect against COVID-19, these essential workers are facing shortages. Agricultural commissioners in 28 counties are hearing from farmers who are having trouble getting PPE for their employees and farmers in another 11 counties who are worried about running out of PPE in the next month or twoaccording to a California Department of Pesticide Regulation survey.
To reduce the spread of COVID-19, workers may wear homemade face coverings, but for applying pesticides, they must wear respirators specified on the pesticide product label, said Whitney Brim-DeForest, UC Cooperative Extension rice advisor.
Pesticide applicators may use gear that is more protective than required by the product label and regulations.
“Although this could change in the days ahead, half-mask and full-mask respirators are more available than disposable N95 respirators for now,” said Lisa Blecker, coordinator for the UC Pesticide Safety Education Program.
Before the pandemic, 10% of N95 respirators from 3M went to health care, but that number is now 90%, the company said in a letter to distributors. This has led to significant backorders of PPE supplies for distributors.
Carl Atwell, president of Gempler's, an online distributor of worker supplies, said that before the crisis, normal lead times for PPE was up to 10 days. He estimated disposable respirators will become available in the fall and other PPE supplies in August.
In the meantime, there is alternative PPE that agricultural professionals can use during the shortage.
Atwell suggests looking for lesser known brands of PPE as opposed to the first tier of choice: “It's sort of like searching for Purell hand sanitizer. Purell brand might be out of stock, but can you find a different disinfectant?
On Gempler's website, the more recognizable Tyvek coverall from Dupont is sold out, however disposable protective clothing is available from other brands. Reusable chemical-resistant clothing is also available as opposed to their disposable counterparts. Supplies in high demand are reusable and disposable nitrile gloves, protective clothing, disposable respirators and certain protective eyewear, such as goggles and face shields.
For workers who will be applying pesticides, Blecker and Brim-DeForest offered some guidelines on how to meet PPE requirements as the shortage continues.
General PPE requirements: “Remember, the label is the law,” said Brim-DeForest. “PPE requirements for agriculture are not being loosened.” The UCCE advisor recommends purchasing only what you need for the season and choosing reusable PPE whenever possible. Growers who have excess supplies of PPE can coordinate with their county agricultural commissioner or UCCE advisor to help other producers in their area.
Respirators: If you can't find the respirator required on the label, Blecker said, “Use an alternative, more-protective respirator. For example, if an N95 is required, you can use a half-mask with N95 particulate filters; these can be stand-alone filters or ones that attach to an organic vapor cartridge. You could also use a different pesticide that doesn't require a respirator. Consult with your PCA (pest control adviser) for options.”
Gloves: Chemical-resistant gloves, usually 14 mil or more in thickness are required for most California pesticide applications and should be worn by mixers, handlers and applicators. If nitrile gloves are not available, viton and laminate gloves are universal chemical-resistant materials for most pesticide labels. If the glove material is specified on the label, that instruction must be followed.
“Disposable gloves less than 14 mil can be worn, but not for more than 15 minutes at a time,” Blecker said. “Farmers should also note that thinner gloves cannot be layered on top of one another.”
Coveralls: Coveralls should be worn when required by the pesticide label or when the signal word is “WARNING” or “DANGER,” or when applying by backpack or airblast. “Coveralls can be made out of high-density polyethylene fibers (Tyvek and other brands), which are disposable, or cotton, which are reusable,” Brim-DeForest said. “If reusable coveralls are worn, the employer must ensure employees are provided clean coveralls.”
Goggles/face shields: Face shields are required for mixing and loading pesticides only if it's stated on the label. “If a face shield is unavailable, a full-face respirator can be used,” Blecker said. “Goggles or protective eyewear should always be worn in California when handling pesticides, regardless of what the label says. The face shield, goggles or safety glasses must provide front, side and brow protection and meet the American National Standards Institute Z87.1 standard for impact resistance.
For more information about PPE, contact your county agricultural commissioner or see the California Department of Pesticide Regulation's posters:
4-H families have been working hard sewing cotton masks for nurses, essential workers, and friends and family!
Now that home sewn fabric masks are required in Sonoma County, and N95 masks are reserved for first responders, we are busy sewing up a storm. It has been a challenge with fabric stores closed for regular shopping so it is a good thing that sewists (sewing artists) tend to have extra supplies on hand!
The count thus far is 277 masks sewn by 7 families and that is just the start! They were donated to hospitals, nurses, mental health workers, medical offices, Senior Center, to essential workers that must stay on the job and some to friends and other families in need.
Way to go 4-Hers, learning and helping is a beautiful thing!
A big thank you to Xobon Magazine for posting instructions:
Questions? Contact Diana Hampton at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Golden Hills 4-H club volunteer project leader, Jemetha Cosgrove, and her two children, aged 12 and 7, repurposed their 3D printing equipment – part of a 4-H AgTech project – to make face shields to help in the COVID-19 pandemic. As of April 13, they've made around 120 and are donating them to medical and other essential workers in the North Bay.
They are using a Prusa MK3 printer. Prusa popularized the home face shield 3D printing movement from its headquarters in Europe and it has continued to spread around the world. Their shield design and others are being widely used by health care workers during the pandemic. The Cosgroves have been printing a design approved for use in hospitals by the U.S. National Institute of Health.
Each print takes about 2.5 hours and can take longer or shorter depending on the shield design. They are also printing bias tape makers, used to make mask ties, to support the cloth mask sewing efforts. They invite others who own 3D printers to join the effort.
Those interested in making masks can connect on the Facebook page:
Making a Difference Sonoma County.
A new series about how UCCE Sonoma continues our work for the community.
Tell us about how shelter in place has effected your work:
My ability to do one-on-one technical assistance has been compromised; however, with the use of Zoom conferencing, I have been able to engage with some dairy producers to continue grant writing support. This can be limiting due to poor internet connectivity in rural areas and a steep learning curve, but many dairymen are willing to learn and adapt during these unfamiliar times.
How is shelter in place affecting ag operations that you work with?
They are currently operating as business as usual. Many are worried about their workers getting food and necessary supplies during this crisis and actually stocked up on extra food to be able to feed their whole dairy crew if it's needed. It's nice to see everyone looking out for one another. They're also a bit worried what will happen if someone does get sick and how that will impact their operation. I have not yet heard of this occurring yet, thankfully.
Shoutout to all our farmers and ranchers who don't just produce food in crisis but all year round! They take no days off, even during worldwide pandemics, because what they do is the most important job.
We also have dairymen who have farmstead operations. Luckily, our farmer's markets will remain open; however, it is expected that attendance will be lower. As with many farm to table operations, there will likely be a drop in sales. Some have started taking orders for curbside pickup or delivery or sharing cool recipes to make at home with their tasty cheeses. If you're not already following our fantastic farmstead cheese operations on social media, I encourage you to do so and support them! Also, see link below for more food resources.
Find Local Products: check out Sonoma County Farm Trails
Dairy markets were rising and this crisis has caused some negative impacts. We need to make sure we put milk and cheese in the cart when we make our essentials supply run! I am looking to arrange more Zoom meetings to continue my technical assistance where I can. We were also able to get an extension in application deadlines for California Department of Food and Agriculture dairy grants, which have been very popular for dairymen across the state.
Randi can be reached at: email@example.com/h4>/span>/h4>/h4>