- Author: Linda Forbes
University of California Cooperative Extension, 4-H Youth Development Program in Santa Clara County partnered with multiple community organizations to hold a 4-H Nature Explorers Day Camp at Escuela Popular Bilingual Academy in East San Jose from July 17 to July 21.
Organizers wanted to reach more participants this year than they had in the inaugural 2022 camp, so they structured the program for different K-8 grade levels to attend on different days. 79 campers participated, which was a 130% increase over the number of campers last year.
“Everything we did during the week was focused on environmental science,” said Susan Weaver, 4-H Regional Program Coordinator. “We partnered with Project Learning Tree, UC Environmental Stewards, UC Master Gardeners and CalFresh Healthy Living, UC– as well as community agencies related to the natural environment.”
Numerous activities engaged the youths such as field trips; demonstrations; and sessions themed around trees as habitats, birds and bugs, and being “leaf detectives.” 4-H Adult Volunteer, Laura Tiscareno, took charge of the hands-on Project Learning Tree sessions. Craft time included making nature-themed wind chimes and spinning paper snakes.
Bilingual teen camp counselors guided small groups of students for the duration of the day camp. In situations where the adult facilitator did not speak Spanish, teens translated information into Spanish for students with less English confidence.
“These kids call me ‘teacher' and it's awesome,” said Rodrigo, one of the counselors. “The camp benefits me a lot because I connect with children and in the future, I can even be a teacher if I wanted to.”
Another counselor, Andrea, learned about communication. “It's a bit different with kids at different age levels,” she said. “Since we had kindergarten through eighth grade, we had to switch our tactics from grade to grade so that they would understand us and we'd be able to understand them. Also learning how to bond with them so that they would pay more attention.
One highlight of the week was a field trip for third through eighth graders to the Master Gardeners location at Martial Cottle Park, where students learned about vermicomposting and made their own individual countertop worm habitat and composter.
Campers especially enjoyed the interactive demonstrations. “My favorite part is going on all the field trips because we went to a garden, and we've been catching worms and doing stuff about worms,” said one student. “It's really fun going on trips.”
Another camper said, “Something I would like to change about camp is having more time here.”
The program culminated in a Nature Camp Festival at Escuela Popular in partnership with community agencies. Youth enjoyed games, meeting reptiles, outdoor science activities, arborist crafts, a “Rethink Your Drink” table to make a fresh fruit drink, tamales, a nacho bar and more.
Representatives from the Silicon Valley Wildlife Center discussed animals that live in local neighborhoods and how the Center supports people to keep the animals safe. Victor Mortari of Vexotic Me talked about and showed snakes, spiders, scorpions, and other creatures, making the kids squeal while learning about them. As a fun added bonus, 4-H Community Educator Zubia Mahmood arranged to have a local team come to teach soccer skills as a healthy living activity.
The event increased the youth's interest in environmental education and involved Latino youth and adults who are new to 4-H – representing a community that has not historically benefited from the 4-H program. The teen teachers also increased their leadership and career readiness skills; post-camp surveys showed that all the teen counselors see 4-H as a place where they can be a leader and help make group decisions. Some campers noted in the survey that they wanted the camp to be every day, all summer!
National 4-H funded the camp in 2022 and 2023, allowing organizers to provide meals, T-shirts, water bottles and other items to foster belonging and promote healthy living. Community partners, crucial to the program's success, included the Boys and Girls Club of Silicon Valley, Escuela Popular Bilingual Academy, Silicon Valley Water and Silicon Valley Wildlife Center.
- Author: Lauren Fordyce
What do Earth Day and Integrated Pest Management (IPM) have in common? They both seek to protect the beautiful planet we all share! IPM is an environmentally friendly way to manage pests, focusing on nonchemical control methods (cultural, physical, and biological) rather than relying solely on pesticides. The main goal is to reduce pests but to achieve that without harm to people, water, soil ecosystems, beneficial insects, and wildlife.
This Earth Day, see how you can use IPM to protect the environment. Here are some ideas:
Flowering plants, especially those native to California, are not only beautiful but incredibly important for pest control! Natural enemies, also called beneficial insects or good bugs, feed on pollen and nectar from flowering plants. In addition, flowering plants provide them with a place to lay eggs and hide from predators. Natural enemies, which include lady beetles (ladybugs), lacewings, soldier beetles, assassin bugs, spiders, parasitic wasps, and even some mites, feed on pests in the garden and landscape. They can naturally control pest problems, reducing the need for pesticides.
You can protect and encourage natural enemies by avoiding the use of broad-spectrum pesticides that kill them, managing ants, and planting an array of flowering plants. Choose plants well adapted to your area and choose species or cultivars that bloom at different times of the year to provide natural enemies with food year-round.
Giving your plants enough water is essential for their survival, but ensuring they have enough and not too much can be very important for IPM too. When plants are water-stressed, they are often more susceptible to pests. When plants are overwatered, they can also be prone to more pests. It is a delicate balance but ensuring your plants get the water they require (which will vary by species or plant type) is a great way to minimize pests problems and promote healthy plants that can better tolerate pest feeding. Consider planting drought-tolerant plants that are less likely to experience water stress.
Certain pesticides can harm people, nontarget organisms, aquatic wildlife, and natural enemies when used improperly. It is important to understand when pesticides might be needed, and how to apply them in ways that minimize risks to people and the environment. Use less toxic pesticides whenever possible. Always read the product label for information on when and how to apply, which plants or pests you can apply for, and how much to use. Wear personal protective equipment (PPE) and take caution not to allow the pesticide to runoff or drift. Also, dispose of unused pesticide at a household hazardous waste disposal site. Enter your zip code here to find a location near you.
Use nonchemical tools
There are many, many ways to prevent and control pests without the use of pesticides. In IPM, we use a variety of tools to achieve this. Tools might include mulch, soil solarization, or garden hoes instead of herbicides for weed control; protective coverings, netting, screens, or weather-stripping to keep pests off plants and out of the home; or traps to control vertebrate pests like rats without the use of rodenticides. See any of the UC IPM Pest Notes to read what tools and nonchemical control methods work to manage indoor or outdoor pests.
Happy Earth Day!
- Author: Hanif Houston
Researchers seek insight on emerging controlled environment agriculture trends
Greenhouse operators are encouraged to participate in the 2023 State of Controlled Environment Agriculture survey. IUNU, a technology company that specializes in AI and computer vision solutions for the agriculture industry, and the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources are conducting the survey to gain insights on emerging trends and challenges to share with the controlled environment agriculture industry.
The survey takes approximately 25 minutes to complete. All growers using CEA – greenhouse, high tunnel or indoor – are invited to participate. All data collected is confidential and shared only as anonymous trends. No identifying information is ever shared. Growers who participate will get early access to the survey results report and will get access to an exclusive webinar to discuss the results with the authors of the report.
The fourth State of CEA Survey can be completed at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/FVXJSY9.
The report, first released in 2016, was formerly titled “State of Indoor Farming” and managed by Artemis, which was acquired by IUNU in 2021.
This year, IUNU has expanded the survey to include the different leading segments of the controlled environment agriculture industry: greenhouse fruit and vegetable, and greenhouse ornamental production.
UC ANR's VINE agrifood technology innovation program, Global Controlled Environment Agriculture Consortium (GCEAC), and UC Davis-led AI Institute for Next Generation Food Systems (AIFS) are collaborating on the report.
“An industry-led, market-driven approach to guiding innovation priorities and investments is critical as we consider the future of indoor farming,” said Gabe Youtsey, UC ANR chief innovation officer and co-founder of The VINE. “I'm thrilled to partner with IUNU on the development of this State of CEA report with our UC innovation teams from The VINE, GCEAC and AIFS to create a robust state of CEA report that will guide our CEA open innovation priorities this year.”
Since the survey launched in 2016, more than 500 growers have participated in the survey and more than 2 million people have downloaded the report. The industry reports have become one of the most widely circulated and respected sources of industry data.
"This report is a trusted resource for the industry and we're thrilled to bring it back in an expanded capacity,” Allison Kopf, IUNU chief growth officer, said. “Over the past year, we've seen a swell of news around our industry. This report will go deeper into those stories and share data on how companies are performing, big market opportunities, and the real challenges growers are facing.”
Past CEA reports are available for download at https://artemisag.com/guides_reports.
Founded in 2013 and headquartered in Seattle, IUNU aims to close the loop in greenhouse autonomy and is focused on being the world's leading controlled environment specialist. IUNU's flagship platform LUNA combines software with a variety of high-definition cameras – both fixed and mobile – and environmental sensors to keep track of the minutiae of plant growth and health in indoor ag settings. LUNA's goal is to turn commercial greenhouses into precise, predictable, demand-based manufacturers that optimize yield, labor and product quality. www.IUNU.com
About The VINE by UC ANR
The VINE is California's agriculture, food and biotech innovation network powered by the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources. We believe that the state's continued prosperity rests on creation of more productive, sustainable and equitable food systems. Every day, we harness the power of open innovation to connect entrepreneurs to a broad network of public and private sector resources to enable them to grow and scale globally, build collaborations that catalyze the development of climate-smart technology-based solutions to solve industry challenges, and grow regional capacity to support global innovation as an economic opportunity – because our future, and the nation's, depends on it.
The Global Controlled Environment Agriculture Consortium – an initiative of The VINE – seeks to build a worldwide ecosystem to bring technology to market that addresses global challenges in food, health and sustainability. GCEAC is an open innovation partnership between industry, university and government sectors in the United States and The Netherlands, led from California./h3>
- Author: Ben Faber
Seminar/Webinar August 17, 2021
CA Avocado Society/CA Avocado Commission/UC Cooperative Extension
Manipulating the Avocado and its Environment for Optimum Temperature and Light
- Author: Terry Pellegrini
Red Wigglers (Eisenia foetida) are different than the earthworms (Lumbricus terrestris) I find in my garden. Instead of processing things found in soil, such as decaying roots and leaves, or eating living organisms such as nematodes, protozoans, rotifers, bacteria, fungi, the Red Wiggler prefers our kitchen scraps. Since these little red guys (getting no larger than 5 inches in the proper environment) can eat up to three times their weight each week in such things as veggie and fruit waste, cardboard, and shredded paper, bread, and pasta (in moderation) and even coffee grounds, they are able to create compost in about 6 weeks.
How do they do it? By digesting all of the yummy (to a worm) waste and then excreting it as “castings” – more commonly known as worm poop. The process starts as the worm takes in the food by mouth, technically called their buccal cavity. It then travels through the worm's pharynx, esophagus, crop, gizzard, intestine, and lastly, their anus and out into their habitat where we humans can collect it.
These castings are full of the nutrients iron, sulfur, calcium, nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium (NPK rating: 5.5.3). They are water-soluble, allowing your plants to easily absorb these nutrients with little chance of “burning” that can often happen with chemical fertilizers. This poop also contains good bacteria from the worm's digestive system along with fungi, enzymes, protozoa, and actinomycetes. All of this combines to create a wonderful humus that your plants will love.
But one little worm doesn't do this alone. You need an entire colony of them! Good thing Red Wigglers are prolific breeders. Did you know that worms are hermaphroditic, meaning they have both male and female organs? They join with another worm in a three-hour mating session (phew) and when complete they create a small cocoon. They can create 2 to 3 cocoons per week. These cocoons darken and harden over the next 20 days. Then the little hatchlings inside the cocoon – anywhere from 1 to 5 of them per cocoon- grow for the next three months. Once hatched these wiggly babies will mature in 9 weeks, able to reproduce again at that point.
In order to have the best success at both the reproduction process and the production of worm castings, the Red Wiggler needs a cozy habitat to do its thing. A simple rubber tote will work as an ideal environment, or you can purchase specialized stacking trays from the Internet. If you create your own you will need to provide your worms with proper ventilation, a moist – but not too wet – bedding source (such as shredded newspaper) and food. Keep their habitat in a temperature regulated space, moist, and with an adequate supply of tasty scraps and an initial colony of worms will increase to perhaps double in 3 months and quadruple in 6 months.
Harvesting your castings is simple. When the bedding has darkened, looking more like soil than the newspaper or other material used, it is time to harvest. To do so, add new moist bedding material and kitchen scraps to the opposite side of the habitat and stop adding food to the side with all of the castings. The worms will migrate to the side with the food on it – usually in a few days. You can then harvest your castings. When the new area fills ups, repeat the process and you will have a steady supply of new compost for your plants.
Photos by Terry Pellegrini.