- Author: Kathryn Low
University of California Cooperative Extension has recently expanded their team of fire advisors and staff. This new group of UCCE fire professionals is interested in learning about the concerns of the communities that UCCE serves, as well as the natural resource professionals already working to address these issues.
Results from this survey will enhance the team's ability to partner with residents, landowners, agencies, academics, and other organizations to reduce California's vulnerability to wildfires. These new advisors will also share survey results with UCCE colleagues throughout the state, who already provide important fire-related programming across diverse landscapes and audiences.
"Wildfires will continue to affect all Californians, either directly or indirectly," said Katie Low, UCCE statewide fire coordinator. "It's invaluable to have the input of as many people as possible to guide the development of our wildfire-related extension programs, so that they can provide the most useful resources and information to communities across California."
The survey asks questions about topics such as:
- Gaps within existing educational programming and resources
- Challenges community members are facing in addressing wildfire risk
- Empowerment of communities to make property management decisions and prepare for wildfire
- Acceptability of prescribed fire and other fuels treatments
By participating in this study, you can choose to enter a drawing to win one of fifty $20 VISA gift cards.
To take the online survey, please visit https://bit.ly/UCCE_Fire_Survey.
This research is being led by a team of new UCCE fire advisors and staff. If you have any questions about this survey, please contact the fire/forestry professionals involved in this survey effort:
- Luca Carmignani, UCCE fire advisor for Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, and San Diego counties, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Alison Deak, UCCE fire advisor for Fresno, Madera, and Mariposa counties, email@example.com
- Katie Low, UCCE fire academic coordinator for Nevada and Placer counties, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Barb Satink Wolfson, UCCE fire advisor for Monterey, San Benito, Santa Clara, and Santa Cruz counties, email@example.com
- Ryan Tompkins, UCCE forestry advisor for Plumas, Sierra, and Lassen counties, firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information about wildfire-related programming from University of California Cooperative Extension, please visit https://ucanr.edu/sites/fire/ or the Facebook page https://bit.ly/fireSolutions./span>/span>
- Author: Saoimanu Sope
UC climate-ready landscape trials identify low-water yet attractive plants
Good news: roses can be a part of your water-efficient landscape. Lorence Oki, UC Cooperative Extension environmental horticulture specialist in the UC Davis Department of Plant Sciences, identified rose cultivars that remain aesthetically pleasing with little water.
Oki is the principal investigator of the Climate-Ready Landscape Plants project, which may be the largest irrigation trial in the western U.S., and the UC Plant Landscape Irrigation Trials (UCLPIT), the California component of that project. These projects evaluate landscape plants under varying irrigation levels to determine their optimal performance in regions requiring supplemental summer water.
“There are some assumptions that pretty plants use a lot of water, like roses,” Oki said. “Everyone thinks they need a lot of water, but we've found some that don't, and they still look great. A water-efficient landscape doesn't need to look like a Central Valley oak-grassland in the summer. It can look really attractive.”
In 2021, Oki's team at UC Davis identified Lomandra confertifolia ssp. pallida "Pom Pom" Shorty and Rosa "Sprogreatpink" Brick House® Pink as two of the best low-water plants in the trial.
“The useful tip or information that is shared at the end of each trial is the selection and designation of plants as Blue Ribbon winners. These are the plants that looked good with an overall rating of 4 or higher throughout and were on the low (20%) water treatment,” said Natalie Levy, associate specialist for water resources, who manages the project at the UC ANR South Coast Research and Extension Center.
How plants earn a blue ribbon
Each trial year, the selection of new plants is based on research recommendations and donated submissions from the nursery industry. The landscape plants are trialed in full sun or 50% shade cover.
Irrigation treatments are based on the rate of evaporation and plant transpiration (evapotranspiration) measured through a local California Irrigation Management Information System (CIMIS) weather station that provides a reference evapotranspiration (ETo) rate.
Three levels of irrigation are provided to the plants equal to 20%, 50%, and 80% of ETo. The volume of water applied is the same at each irrigation based on soil characteristics, but the interval between applications varies with weather and the treatment. Using this method, irrigations for the 20% treatment are less frequent than the 80% treatment.
“The 20% treatment during the 2022 trial was irrigated an average of once per month while the 80% treatment was irrigated weekly,” explained Levy.
During the deficit irrigation trial, monthly height and width measurements are taken to determine the plant growth index. Monthly qualitative aesthetic ratings on a scale of 1 to 5 are determined for foliage appearance, flowering abundance, pest tolerance, disease resistance, vigor and overall appearance.
A second round of flowering abundance and overall appearance measurements are also taken to capture more of the blooming period. For example, UCLPIT identified in the 2020 trial at South Coast REC that the "Apricot Drift" rose had a mean overall appearance score of 3.5 out of 5, deeming it “acceptable to very nice” and a low water use plant within the Water Use Classification of Landscape Species or WUCOLS guide.
Project expands options for landscape planting
“(WUCOLS) only has 3,500 plants in it. There are guesses that there are close to 10,000 cultivars in urban landscapes in California, if not more,” said Oki. “WUCOLS also didn't have numerical ratings. Instead, you'll see verbal ratings like ‘low water use' or ‘high water use.'”
The UCLPIT project has not only developed numerical recommendations for irrigation, but it has also added new landscape plants that are compliant with California's Model Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance. In fact, UCLPIT's data is one of the few sources that can be used to supplement WUCOLS.
Geographic diversity of trial sites adds to knowledge base
In addition to UC Davis and South Coast REC in Irvine, the trials have expanded beyond California as the Climate-Ready Landscape Plants project and is in progress at Oregon State University, University of Washington, University of Arizona and Utah State University thanks to a USDA/CDFA grant awarded in 2020.
Lloyd Nackley, associate professor of nursery production and greenhouse management at Oregon State University, is the principal investigator of the trial in the Portland metro area, which is entering its third year.
“People know that there are drought tolerant plants, but there are many. We're trying to highlight lesser known or newer varieties. And even though the trial is three years, most gardeners would hope that their garden lasts longer than that,” said Nackley.
One of the observations that Nackley recalls is of the Hibiscus Purple Pillar plant. Unlike the trial at South Coast, the Purple Pillar did not perform well in Oregon in the spring.
“It wasn't until August that we saw the plant bloom and begin to look like what we saw from South Coast in April,” Nackley said.
Ursula Schuch, horticulture professor and principal investigator of the trial taking place at the University of Arizona, was also surprised at the range of performance among different plant types and the effects of irrigation, heat and temperature.
“This research will reassure green industry professionals that they can stretch their water budget to successfully cultivate more plants, watering them according to their needs instead of irrigating every plant according to the highest water-using plants,” said Schuch.
Although research is only conducted in the West, the hope is that there will be trials in other regions of U.S.
Doing so would yield comprehensive information about the plants and their performance in different climates. As extreme weather events persist in the U.S., disease pressure and risks do too. Trials throughout the country would provide location-specific data regarding disease susceptibility.
To learn more about the UCLPIT research project, visit https://ucanr.edu/sites/UCLPIT//h3>/h3>/h3>/h3>
- Author: Trina Kleist, UC Davis
Growers invited to participate in study by sharing their experiences
A multi-state team led by Patrick J. Brown has been awarded nearly $3.8 million over the next four years for a project to improve pistachio production as the industry faces warmer winters and scarcer water.
“We are at this unique point in history where we can do this,” said Brown, an associate professor in the UC Davis Department of Plant Sciences.
The project aims to ensure the industry can thrive in coming decades despite the challenges faced. Growers are invited to participate in the study, sharing what they already are trying in their own fields or supporting any aspect of the project. To discuss the possibilities, contact Brown at email@example.com or (530) 752-4288.
The project includes research to ensure pollination, experiments to calculate irrigation needs amid water shortages, creating tools to improve public breeding programs, developing more efficient harvesting equipment, and economic analyses to ensure future pistachio cultivation is economically rewarding. Researchers hope to offer a guide for growers deciding whether to plant new orchards or remove existing ones.
“The success of California's pistachio industry, which is the top producer of the nuts in the world, has always relied on a strong collaboration between UC researchers and pistachio growers,” said project participant Florent Trouillas, a UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the UC Davis Department of Plant Pathology. “Research efforts must continue to address enduring and new challenges, improve sustainability and ensure the profitability of pistachio farming.”
The tasty, green nuts have blossomed into a $5.2-billion industry in California, thanks to their greater tolerance of dry lands and salty soils. The project aims to further improve their climate resilience by finding a rootstock that can thrive despite growing water scarcity and declining water quality projected over the next half-century. With millions of genetically distinct pistachio trees growing in the state, "we already have out there what may be the industry's next great rootstock," Brown said. "It's probably in some grower's field already. We just have to find it."
Researchers seek to pair that new rootstock with high-yielding scions – the producing part of the tree grafted onto the rootstock – to develop new combinations that can thrive in the different conditions across the state.
Trouble with “boy meets girl”
Pistachios, like many other tree crops, have male and female trees, and they require hundreds of hours of wintertime temperatures below 45 degrees Fahrenheit for the trees to flower in the spring. Wind blows the pollen from male flowers to female flowers, creating nuts.
Complicating the timing: Boy flowers and girl flowers generally require different amounts of winter cold to bloom. After a sufficiently cold winter, boys and girls flower together. But if the winter is warm, most of them will flower at different times, reducing pollination.
That happened in the winter of 2014-15, which saw unusually warm winter temperatures. The following fall, farmers harvested only half their expected crop, losing more than $1 billion, Brown said. Climate change is expected to provoke progressively warmer winters in the future, on average.
An additional complication: The boy scions come from a single variety, or cultivar, and the girl scions come from another single cultivar. "In California part of the problem is that we have been relying on a single male and single female cultivar," Brown explained.
A key part of this project will be to test new scions that can pollinate efficiently despite warmer winters. “We now have additional male and female scions released in the last 10 to 15 years, but we need more information on their chill requirements,” Brown said.
Growing importance of pistachio sector
With nearly 520,000 acres planted in California in 2021, pistachios are the fastest-growing tree nut crop in the state. Growers have doubled their plantings over the past decade, due to pistachios' drought tolerance and higher gross returns compared to other nuts, experts report. California dominates the industry, growing 99 percent of the nation's crop and nearly 60 percent of the world's crop, employing people in 47,000 full-time-equivalent jobs and creating $5.2-billion of total economic impact in 2020, according to American Pistachio Growers.
Brown's team is part of a wider effort at UC Davis to support the sector's growth and adaptation to climate change. Other department members participating in the project include co-directors Louise Ferguson, a UC Cooperative Extension pomologist, and Richard W. Michelmore, a distinguished professor and director of the UC Davis Genome Center. Also participating are Giulia Marino, a UC Cooperative Extension specialist; and Grey Monroe, an assistant professor.
Other UC Davis participants include Trouillas and Brittney Goodrich, a UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics. The project also includes researchers from UC Merced, New Mexico State University and Purdue University.
The four-year project was among nearly $70 million in Specialty Crop Research Initiative grants awarded this fall by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture. The Department of Plant Sciences landed three of the 25 grants.
Read the NIFA grant summary./h3>/h3>/h3>
Researchers say dairy farms on track to achieve full 40% reduction goal by 2030
The California Dairy Research Foundation and University of California, Davis CLEAR Center announced on Dec. 14 the release of a new analysis of methane reduction progress titled "Meeting the Call: How California is Pioneering a Pathway to Significant Dairy Sector Methane Reduction." The paper, authored by researchers at UC Davis affiliated with UC Agriculture and Natural Resources, concludes that efforts are on track to achieve the state's world-leading target for reducing dairy methane emissions by 40% by 2030.
The report, written by distinguished professors of livestock emissions and agricultural economics, takes a comprehensive look at progress and projections, expanding upon the analysis of progress previously conducted by the California Air Resources Board. By documenting achievements to date, additional reduction efforts already funded, historic and current economic trends, and the projected availability of new solutions, the analysis lays out a workable path toward meeting California's goal. The pathway shows that California dairy farms are on track to achieve the full 40% dairy methane reduction goal and will reach “climate neutrality” by 2030. Climate neutrality is the point in which no additional warming is added to the atmosphere.
“This analysis shows that California's dairy sector is well on its way to achieving the target that was established by SB 1383 in 2016,” said CDRF's Executive Director Denise Mullinax. “With much important work still ahead, a clear understanding of this pathway helps dairy farmers, policy makers, researchers, and other partners make decisions to strategically press forward.”
The report outlines the need for continued implementation of California's four-part strategy for dairy methane reduction: farm efficiency and herd attrition, methane avoidance (alternative manure management), methane capture and utilization (digesters), and enteric methane reduction. Continued alignment of state and federal climate-smart agricultural approaches and incentives will also be critical to maintaining progress.
"Milk demand is growing, and California is among the world's low-cost suppliers of dairy products. It follows that effective California policy to reduce dairy greenhouse gas emissions must recognize that measures that cause milk production to exit the state do not mitigate global climate change," said study co-author Daniel Sumner, Distinguished Professor in the Department of Agriculture and Resource Economics at UC Davis. "Therefore, measures to help off-set mitigation costs, provide positive incentives for adoption of low-cost emission-reducing practices, and help stimulate innovation in methane reduction, are the economically efficient approaches."
The paper recognizes that enteric methane from the dairy and other livestock sectors is a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. and California. Several feed additives are expected to become commercially available in the next several years, which could be used to reduce enteric methane emissions from California's dairy herd.
“Adoption of enteric feed additives will become a valuable tool for dairy value chains to meet their greenhouse gas reduction goals,” said co-author and professor Ermias Kebreab, associate dean of global engagement and director of the World Food Center at UC Davis. “While this report provides only a broad overview of some of the most promising solutions, there is an incredible amount of research being conducted at UC Davis, nationally and internationally. The dairy industry, global food companies, state and federal agencies, and others continue to invest heavily in supporting enteric mitigation research efforts.”
The report finds that methane reductions from California's programs and projects in place today, coupled with the implementation of a moderate feed additive strategy to reduce enteric emissions, is on track to reduce between 7.61 to 10.59 million metric tons of methane (CO2e) by 2030, all from the dairy sector alone.
The collective investment in California's dairy methane reduction effort — from public and private funding — now exceeds $2 billion and counting. The California dairy sector, in coordination with the California Department of Food and Agriculture, was recently awarded up to $85 million by the United States Department of Agriculture under the Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities. The funding will leverage additional matching state funds and private capital investments, for a total of more than $300 million in new investment.
“It is important to highlight California's investments and success to date as an example of what is possible within the global livestock sector,” said co-author Frank Mitloehner, UC Davis animal science professor and air quality specialist in Cooperative Extension, and director of the UC Davis CLEAR Center. “California dairy farmers have demonstrated tremendous progress toward the state's methane reduction goal over the past several years. Given the short-lived nature of methane, this rapid reduction is an important contribution to the global effort to quickly limit climate warming.”
The author's analysis was prepared by Gladstein Neandross & Associates (GNA). Funding was provided by CDRF as part of its work to support an innovative and sustainable California dairy industry./h3>
- Author: Saoimanu Sope
In a drought-prone region like Southern California, working with Mother Nature is not only wise but necessary, according to Janet Hartin, UC Cooperative Extension horticulture advisor for Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Riverside counties, who studies climate-ready trees.
In 2020, Governor Newsom launched the California Climate Action Corps, empowering Californians to protect their communities from the impacts of climate change. Newsom's call to action emphasizes the need for long-term and sustainable solutions like Hartin's research, which urges Southern California to care for existing trees and plant new ones.
In collaboration with the U.S. Forest Service and other UC Cooperative Extension scientists, Hartin is amid a 20-year research study identifying trees suitable for California's different climate zones. Her work provides a comprehensive understanding of trees and their benefits related to human and environmental health, particularly as Californians navigate climate change's evolving challenges.
One of these concerns is urban heat islands. UHIs are areas in which heat is reradiated from paved concrete or asphalt surfaces. In cities covered in asphalt, like Los Angeles, average temperatures can become six degrees hotter than surrounding areas.
To reduce urban heat islands, she has been working with community organizations to plant trees. In March, for example, Hartin teamed up with the Inland Empire Resource Conservation District to increase tree canopy in the Inland Empire.
Trees keep cities cool
To keep the city cool, some Los Angeles neighborhoods are repainting pavements with reflective coating. According to a 2020 study published in Environmental Research Letters, reflective coating can decrease pavement temperatures up to 10 degrees. As helpful as this is, augmenting urban landscapes to include heat-, drought- and pest-resistant tree species, whether native or not, can significantly reduce the impacts of urban heat islands too.
“Trees can cool impervious surfaces by 40 to 65 degrees,” Hartin said. During a 2021 study, in May and June Hartin discovered that unshaded asphalt could be more than 60 degrees hotter than shaded asphalt during late spring and early summer in inland and desert cities.
Other than providing shade, trees are effective at deflecting the sun's radiation and cooling the atmosphere through evapotranspiration. Given that they absorb and store carbon as well, trees lessen the impacts of pollution from fossil fuels.
“A well-tended mature landscape tree can absorb 40 tons of carbon over its lifespan,” said Hartin.
In a 2021 blog post, Hartin suggests trees be selected based on their adaptation to the “micro-climate” in each particular landscape, noting factors to consider like shade, proximity to buildings, space needs below and above ground, soil type and water source. She also recommends the Sunset Western Climate Zone maps for reference, noting that they are “more precise than USDA zones for our warmer climates.”
Based on the study with the U.S. Forest Service examining the performance of 12 species of underplanted but promising landscape trees at UC Riverside, favorable candidates include bubba desert willow and maverick thornless honey mesquite for their drought resistance, and red push pistache for its drought and heat resistance.
Tamara Hedges, executive director of UC Riverside Palm Desert Center and member of the Board of Directors for the Oswit Land Trust, agrees that trees are important in our fight against climate change:
“Through our partnerships with the UC California Naturalist and the Master Gardener Programs and many other nonprofits in the Coachella Valley, natural ecosystems are being protected and expanded and built environments cooled through the planting of appropriate tree species. These UC/USFS studies go a long way in identifying new underrepresented tree species."
General tips for planting
For California, planting in early fall through late winter provides ample time for trees to establish a strong root system before enduring the summer heat. Doing so also means that natural rainfall can fulfill water needs, as opposed to solely relying on irrigation systems.
Unlike newly planted trees, mature trees should be watered infrequently but deeply. Watering too often can reduce the level of oxygen in the rootzone and result in waterlogged soils prone to crown and root rots.
During the fall, trees only need about 15% of the water they would require in the summer. When watering, keep the tree trunk dry. Because the roots of the tree grow outward and are usually a foot deep into the ground, Hartin recommends watering the area around the trunk rather than the trunk itself. This will also help avoid water waste.
“Trees not adapted to the climate they're planted in and not receiving proper care are much more susceptible to invasive pests like shothole borers and diseases,” said Hartin. “Even the loss of one front yard tree can significantly reduce shade, increase the surrounding temperature, and diminish energy savings.”