- (Condition Change) Increased agriculture and forestry efficiency and profitability
- Author: Niamh Quinn
A UCCE advisor's short, effective communications on rodent management techniques helped San Diego County nurseries prevent crop losses and excess labor costs and pesticide use.
Rodents are known to cause extensive damage to different agricultural crops worldwide. In San Diego County, nursery and cut flower products account for the commodity with the highest reported dollar value and the highest dollar value per acre. In 2020, nursery and cut flower products had a total reported value of $1,274,784,274 and accounted for 70% of San Diego's agricultural commodities. Rodents have been reported to not only directly damage nursery crops by chewing directly on ornamental trees, seeds, seedlings, and bulbs, but they also cause extensive damage to drip irrigation systems.
How UC Delivers
UCCE Advisor Niamh Quinn's focus is on human-to-wildlife conflict, and rodents are what she knows best. When two members of the nursery and cut flower community in San Diego County reached out to her about rodent management issues, she was able to deliver practical, science-based solutions. One grower was experiencing issues where mice were damaging significant amounts of bulbs used to grow blooming plants. Another grower had an issue where mice were chewing irrigation lines used to provide water to cut flowers. Additionally, if you are not using the right pesticide, or the appropriate application method, pesticide use can be highly inflated. Thus, it is critical to offer science-based advice on pesticide use and alternative methods.
UCCE's technical assistance provided to the growers prevented significant crop loss. One grower estimated that the information on rodent management prevented $50,000 a year in crop loss, while the other estimated that their crop yield increased by 5% due to improved crop uniformity and height because rodents were no longer damaging drip.
Both growers reported significant cost reductions in labor. One grower has saved over $20,000 in labor costs due to a significant reduction in the amount of pesticide applied. The 90% reduction in pesticide applied not only saved the grower money on the labor needed to apply the product, but approximately $30,000 reduction in cost because less pesticide needed to be purchased. The other grower saved approximately $3,100 on the labor needed to repair drip irrigation that was being damaged by rodents.
These outcomes demonstrate how UCCE Advisors' extension programs contribute to increased agriculture and efficiency and profitability as part of UC ANR's commitment to promoting economic prosperity in California and also demonstrate a commitment to increased ecological sustainability of agriculture. Mike Mellano, CEO of Mellano & Company in San Diego says, “In today's fast paced and ever-changing world, it is very difficult, if not impossible for farmers/growers to stay on the cutting edge of every aspect. It is great to know that we have Cooperative Extension to educate us and help keep us innovative and sustainable. It seems that every day we have a new challenge, and being able to call or email an advisor to get the latest and greatest is the key to our ability to continue to stay in business and provide jobs and opportunities for our teams!"
- Author: Zheng Wang
UC ANR research on watermelon grafting helps growers produce 15-20% more watermelons while using 25-40% fewer plants than the traditional system under the same amount of water and fertilizers, contributing to economic prosperity for the agricultural sector.
As the statewide water scarcity and rising inflation hit the California agriculture, food production with reduced inputs while maintaining productivity and controlling production cost heighten the necessity of using environmentally-sustainable farming practices. For watermelon growers, grafting, a thousand-year-old practice, has been recognized as a such practice to tackle the problems according to scientific literature. However, the adoption on grafting has been low among California watermelon growers despite the benefits being well-known. Therefore, strengthening growers' confidence with this ancient production tool is crucial.
How UC Delivers
Extensive field visits to watermelon growers, nursery, and seed industries were conducted to understand the barrier of adopting watermelon grafting starting in 2018. Results from the interviews indicated that the increase of production cost was the biggest concern when growers considered watermelon grafting. Further investigations showed that growers pay 2.5 to 4 times more per acre for producing grafted transplants compared to non-grafted watermelons.
In addition to yielding more fruit, grafted fields should also use fewer plants to compensate for the higher cost. Since 2019, field experiments were conducted in the San Joaquin Valley to test the horticultural and economic potential of growing grafted watermelons in wider spacings. A total of eight rootstocks and four scions were grafted into 32 combinations, which were planted into the regular three feet, and wider spacings of four to five and six feet apart. The results indicated that grafted watermelons planted with the four to five feet in-row spacing balanced the best among yield enhancement, fruit quality, and control of cost. Study progress and findings were shared periodically with the cooperative growers and discussed with the watermelon industry. The information was also reported in extension articles and at various extension and scientific conferences.
With the four to five feet in-row spacing adopted widely, the cost for grafted transplants was reduced up to $800 per acre. Furthermore, stronger confidence with grafting has led to the increase of planted acreage of grafted watermelons from less than 250 acres in 2018 to over 1,500 acres in 2021. According to the field observations, growers reported that, on average, their successfully grafted fields produced 15-20% more watermelons than non-grafted fields while using up to 40% fewer plants and the same amount of water and fertilizers. For local greenhouses, customer orders of grafted watermelon transplants increased more than 10 times in 2022 compared to 2018. These savings and increases in revenue demonstrate UC ANR's commitment to its public value of promoting economic prosperity.
- Author: Surendra K. Dara
Adapted IPM Model from former UC ANR faculty is offered in multiple languages leading to potential profit increases of $1.79 million.
Numerous endemic and invasive pests threaten all kinds of crops, and the application of synthetic pesticides is the most common control option in many cases around the world. Frequent application of pesticides leads to pest resistance, secondary pest outbreaks, increased risk of environmental and human health, and negatively impact sustainable crop production efforts both in the short-term and long-term. Integrated pest management (IPM) is a concept of pest management in an ecologically sustainable manner. IPM has been promoted for decades, and many farms apply IPM practices to some extent. However, there are certain deficiencies in the understanding of IPM, its components, finding non-chemical management options, and exploiting cultural practices to improve crop health and yields. The traditional IPM model faces challenges because of its limitations for practical applications. There is a need to improve the understanding of growers, pest control advisors, and crop advisors in developing comprehensive crop care strategies using IPM principles, as well as revise the traditional IPM model to fit the modern production trends and consumer preferences.
How UC Delivers
Former UC ANR Cooperative Extension Advisor Dr. Surendra Dara conducted extensive research developing IPM solutions and promoting biological control options for small fruits and vegetables in California and provided advice for managing pests in nurseries, ornamental crops, urban landscapes as well. The ultimate goal is to improve IPM knowledge and implementation locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally. Based on his decades of research and extension experience in the US and other countries around the world, Dr. Dara developed the new IPM paradigm in 2019 that incorporated social and economic aspects of crop production in addition to various pest management options and other influencing factors. He had been invited by multiple groups to speak about IPM strategies in multiple crops and the new IPM model. Multiple symposia were organized at professional conferences, farmers, crop care professionals, and agricultural input industries updated their crop production and protection strategies based on the new IPM model. The model has been translated into multiple languages with international collaboration.
An anonymous online survey conducted between December 2021 and May 2022 received responses from California and elsewhere. Forty-five respondents from allover California, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, South Carolina, Washington, and Wisconsin states in the US, and from Argentina, Australia, Ethiopia, Honduras, India, Kenya, Mexico, Mozambique, Nigeria, Pakistan, Portugal, Tanzania, and Uganda participated in the survey.
Survey results showed that 95.6% found the information from Dr. Dara's IPM program was useful, and 93.3% people would use that information or have used it to improve their farming operations. The IPM information has been or would be used on 33,703 acres with a realized or expected savings or additional returns of $1.79 million. The respondents also indicated that they have or would share the information to 132,739 people. Survey respondents included farmers, pest control or crop advisors, private researchers, agricultural industry partners, and university faculty or researchers. Since it was published in the Journal of Integrated Pest Management in late April 2019, the new IPM model has been read or downloaded more than 48,000 times so far. Dr. Dara's research and extension demonstrates an ongoing commitment to UC ANR's public value of protecting natural resources in California and beyond.
“I have been growing strawberries for more than 20 years and worked with several farm advisors. Surendra is undoubtedly the best. He is the most productive and passionate about helping the farm industry.” Santa Maria Strawberry Grower
“IPM model is a very important tool that we can all promote to better implementation of efficient and sustianable solutions. thanks” Global Biocontrol Salesperson
“I am impressed with Dr. Dara's range and depth of trials, demonstrations, and experiments in the area of regenerative agriculture. The information he has put out is novel, useful and helpful. Sorry to see him go to Oregon.” Pest Control Advisor in USA
“Dr. Dara research is helping growers and crop consultants navigate sustainible and environmentally safe, effective and profitable options for pest managment in high value specialty crops.” Private Researcher, Hawaii, California, and Arizona
“Dr. Dara has a wealth of information that he distributes effectively using multiple different platforms. He is a good writer and communicator who is capable in presenting to audiences at various levels from growers to research scientists” Pest Control Advisor in the Western US
“Dr Dara is providing critical research and outreach for sustainable farming in the west and is also a linch pin in research and education on invasive pests.” Trade magazine editor/h3>/h3>/span>/h3>/h3>
- Author: Ali Montazar
UC ANR research on drip irrigation shows potential to reduce downy mildew incidence while improving water quality and resource-use efficiency, contributing to increased water-use efficiency and improved food safety.
Spinach is a leafy green quick-maturing, cool-season vegetable crop. Downy mildew on spinach is a widespread and very destructive disease in California. It is the most significant disease in spinach production, causing crop losses in all areas where spinach is produced. Most conventional and organic spinach fields are irrigated by solid-set or hand-move sprinklers. However, overhead irrigation may contribute to the speed and severity of downy mildew epidemics within a field when other conditions such as temperature are favorable. It is postulated that new irrigation management techniques and practices in spinach production may have a significant economic impact to the leafy greens industry through the control of downy mildew.
How UC Delivers
The main objective of this study was to explore the viability of adopting drip irrigation for organic and conventional spinach production. Field experiments were conducted at the UC Desert Research and Extension Center and three commercial fields in the low desert of California over four crop seasons (2018-2021). Several treatments and comprehensive data collection were carried out to optimize drip system design, irrigation and nitrogen management strategies, planting method, and evaluating the effects of drip on plant growth and downy mildew incidence, and seed germination by drip irrigation.
The results of this multi-year study demonstrated that drip irrigation has the potential for producing profitable spinach in the California crop production system. No significant yield difference was observed among sprinkler treatments and most drip treatments in the 2021 trial. An overall effect of the irrigation system on downy mildew was observed, in which downy mildew incidence was two-to-five times lower in plots irrigated by drip when compared to sprinklers. The likely mechanism for reducing downy mildew incidence is the reduction in leaf wetness resulting from drip irrigation. Leaf wetness is a critical factor for infection and sporulation by the downy mildew pathogen.
The findings of the aforementioned study show that adopting drip irrigation for high-density spinach plantings can reduce incidence of downy mildew and related food safety risks and crop loss. As a result of participating in research trials, a cooperative grower reported a considerable cost reduction of $300 per acre due to less/no water treatment applications for downy mildew control and food safety issues in conventional spinach under drip irrigation. The findings of this study show that adopting drip irrigation for high-density spinach plantings can be a solution to reduce food safety risks and losses from downy mildew, conserve water and fertilizer, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. A lower energy cost of $200 per acre is estimated for spinach producing under drip irrigation.
Several factors influence appropriate drip irrigation management in spinach including system design, soil characteristics, and environmental conditions. Drip irrigation offers the potential for precise water management, as well as the ideal vehicle to deliver nutrients in a timely and efficient manner. However, achieving high water- and nutrient-use efficiency, while maximizing crop productivity requires intensive and proper management, particularly in organic baby spinach. The knowledge-based information and findings of this study have been shared with growers and stakeholders through several media interviews, presentations in workshops/webinars, and extension and peer-review publications, contributing to UC ANR's public values of resource conservation and safe, sufficient food for all. The following links are some of the publications associated with this study in Western Farm Press, the Desert of Review, the Holtville Tribune, California Ag Today Radio, Vegetables West, California Organic Farmer, Journal of Agriculture, Agricultural Briefs, and UC ANR Knowledge Stream:
The Holtville Tribune - May 2021
California Ag Today Radio - March 2021
Western Farm Press - February 2021
Journal of Agriculture - August 2019
California Organic Farmer - August 2019
UC ANR Knowledge Stream - August 2019
UC ANR Agricultural Briefs - June 2019
UC ANR Agricultural Briefs - February 2019
- Author: George Zhuang
30,000 acres of San Joaquin Valley vineyards have adopted mechanization using UCCE research-based guidelines, potentially saving $15 million per year and promoting economic prosperity in California.
Grape is the second largest commodity of California agriculture in terms of value ($6.25 billion in 2018) with approximately 900,000 acres. Currently, increasing labor costs and severe labor shortages are starting to damage long-term grape farming profitability and competitiveness. Full mechanization on wine grape vineyard can reduce the production cost per acre from $3,000 to $2,500 per acre, which represents about 20% reduction of production cost. However, wineries and juice processing plants have concerns about grape and juice quality from mechanization.
How UC Delivers
UCCE Fresno and UC Davis have been working on research projects to identify the best strategy for mechanical pruning, leafing and shoot thinning at San Joaquin Valley, North Coastal, and Napa Valley regions. Research findings have identified the best guidelines for adopting vineyard mechanization and confirmed that mechanization has no negative effect on grape and wine quality, but improves the grape and wine quality. The research results have been shared with growers and industry personnel through meetings, field demonstration, newsletter, and professional society conference.
“We don't really have an R&D arm, so we really rely on George and Cooperative Extension to provide viticultural knowledge and methods to help us achieve our production goals,” Nick Davis, southern valley vineyard manager of The Wine Group, the second-largest U.S. wine company, told Growing Produce. “We really enjoy our collaboration with UC Extension — through them we can attain the best quality grapes in our vineyards.”
Over 30,000 acres of wine grape in San Joaquin Valley has been converted into some sort of mechanization based on UCCE's research and extension of findings. Mechanization can save $500 per acre for growers on production costs based on 2019 UC cost studies; thus, potentially saving $15 million per year. UCCE's viticulture research and extension contributes to increasing agriculture efficiency and profitability, and the public value of promoting economic prosperity in California.
Vineyard mechanization is the win-win-win situation: growers can improve their farming margins, wineries and juice processing plants can have reliable supply and better quality, and average consumers can enjoy better wine and more healthy grape products at the decent price. There is potential for wider adoption of vineyard mechanization across California's grape growing regions. The Wine Group (the second largest winery in US), and other industry partners, have had positive feedback and indicate they will adopt the mechanization into the current farming practices.