- (Condition Change) Increased ecological sustainability of agriculture, landscapes, and forestry
- Author: Beatriz Nobua-Behrmann
UC ANR program trains volunteers to accurately identify and report infested trees, protecting forests and encouraging civic engagement through participatory science.
Invasive pests are one of the main threats to our urban and natural forests. Tiny beetles, like the invasive shothole borers (ISHB), attack trees and cause their decline and death. Even though ISHB can have devastating effects to urban and natural forests throughout Southern California, many trees can still be saved with proper management, allowing infested areas to recover over time. Detecting infestations early is key for successful management of this pest and to prevent spread to new areas.
Participatory science can be a useful tool to identify ISHB-infested trees and help monitor high-risk areas throughout the state. However, accurately identifying the presence of ISHB is challenging because the beetles spend most of their lives within the tree, hence we must rely on signs and symptoms to determine if the tree is infested (to learn more, visit www.ISHB.org)
How UC Delivers
Given these challenges, we wanted to know if participatory science can still be a good tool to monitor for ISHB. We created a training program to teach volunteers how to identify ISHB-infested trees and evaluated how different training modalities can make volunteer's observations more accurate.
UCCE Urban Forestry Advisor, Beatriz Nobua-Behrmann, teamed up with the California Naturalist program to develop a reporting tool in iNaturalist and a six-hour training that included an online course, two workshops, and after-training office hours for follow-up questions. They ran two trainings: one fully online in October 2020, and one that included an in-person component in October 2021. A total of 34 participants were trained, including volunteers from the California Naturalist and the Master Gardeners programs, and other community members.
Each participant reported up to five ISHB-infested trees. Each report included descriptive data of the individual tree, level of infestation, geolocation, and pictures of the signs and symptoms observed. To evaluate the accuracy, first UC experts assessed each report and determined if the tree was probably infested or not based on the submitted pictures. Then, UC experts located and re-assessed the same trees in the field. The data collected by the volunteers was compared side-to-side with the data collected by the experts to evaluate the accuracy of volunteer-collected data.
Participants of this program learned how to identify and report ISHB-infested trees and the importance of early detection to successfully manage invasive pests. Despite the challenges of correctly identifying infested trees, participants applied what they learned by submitting more than 122 reports of suspected infestations. After experts re-assessed the reported trees, we learned that volunteers collected overall high-quality data, but training modality seemed to make a substantial difference in the accuracy of the IDs. Volunteers who received in-person training were significantly more accurate (96% correct ISHB IDs) than the ones who received online training only (85% correct IDs).
Many program participants are now participating in the Master Gardeners Emerging Tree Pests Program and are sharing this information with the public, helping to create awareness in their community, demonstrating how UC ANR's civic engagement helps to protect California's natural resources.
All the incorrect IDs confirmed in the field were also previously flagged as possibly incorrect during the first evaluation of the reports from the pictures. This means that future quality control can safely rely on experts evaluating the pictures in the reports without having to re-evaluate the tree in person. Thanks to this study, we now know that community-based data can reliably contribute to the local and state-wide efforts to monitor the presence of ISHB, especially if in-person components are included in the trainings. Future steps of this program include delivering more trainings and using the data collected by the volunteers to inform the current ISHB distribution map available to the public. Having accurate information on the current distribution of ISHB throughout the state is an important decision-making tool for the agencies working on managing this pest, who need to determine where the infestation focuses are and how far away they are from other high-risk areas./h3>/h3>/h3>/h3>
- 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>
After attending West Coast Rodent Academy, 75% of participants implemented improved rodent management skills, decreasing negative environmental impacts and demonstrating UC ANR's commitment to protecting California's natural resources.
How UC Delivers
UCCE Advisor Niamh Quinn co-created the Rodent Academy curriculum, informed by research that has determined ways to decrease rodenticide exposure to nontarget wildlife. The goal of commensal rodent management is to reduce the population of rodents quickly so that no further damage or exposure to allergens and pathogens occurs. To achieve this goal, rodent management needs to be quick and efficient and involve a combination of trapping and rodenticides.
The curriculum is being delivered via the three-day West Coast Rodent Academy (WCRA). To date, 307 individuals from 115 pest management companies, as well as city, county, and state agencies have participated. It is projected that the WCRA will continue to grow and reach pest management professionals across California. WCRA has also had attendees from ten other states despite the program being developed for California's pest management professionals. For example, Oregon State University's School of Integrated Pest Management Program attends WCRA trainings to learn more about starting an academy in the Pacific Northwest. Furthermore, funds generated from the West Coast Rodent Academy are applied to research being conducted in three Master of Science projects related to pest management.
To evaluate the impact of WCRA, a follow-up survey was sent to approximately 180 professionals trained through the West Coast Rodent Academy in 2019.
- Author: Kim Ingram
Eighty-six percent of private forest landowners indicate they are highly motivated to develop a forest management plan after attending a Forest Stewardship workshop, which puts them on the path towards improved management of forest lands, participation in cost-share funding programs, and protecting California's natural resources.
Protecting California's forests starts with a plan. There are 87,000 private forest landowners in California who collectively own nine million acres. For private forest landowners, identifying desired goals and objectives is not always easy especially when there are seemingly conflicting goals. Forest stewardship is based on conservation principles that ensure protection of forest resources including wildlife, timber, soil, water, recreational opportunities and natural beauty. Forest stewards actively manage their land by implementing management objectives based on multiple resources while conserving natural resources in an economically viable way. Depending on the steps identified to implement their vision, landowners may need further assistance from Registered Professional Foresters (RPF) or cost-share funding for project implementation.
How UC Delivers
UC ANR is uniquely positioned to utilize our expertise in outreach and education, and collaborate with local, state and federal partners to provide the resources and support private forest landowners needs. Beginning in January 2020, UC ANR's Forest Stewardship Education Initiative has hosted workshops to help landowners learn how to articulate their vision for their forest land, and identify the steps needed to achieve it. Throughout the workshop, participants gather site-specific information to better understand their forest, and focus their goals leading towards the development of a management plan. With five completed workshops, two currently ongoing workshops, and four upcoming workshops, UC ANR has engaged over 200 forest landowners across California. Clearly our work is just beginning!
After completing the workshop, 66% of participants have written out their management goals and 60% made progress on developing a management plan. Additionally, participants who complete the workshop are eligible for a free initial site visit by an RPF. This visit can be the start of a working relationship between the landowner and the RPF, leading to a completed management plan submitted for cost-share funding. To date, 39% of workshop participants have made contact with an RPF and 15% have begun a cost-share funding process. Seventy-eight percent have begun implementing some management activities from their plans, demonstrating improved management and use of land that contributes to the public value of protecting California's natural resources.
“I feel much clearer on the steps to make a forest management plan, what I can do myself, and what we need to hire a professional for.” - Redding workshop participant
“(The workshop)…provided a roadmap for helping private landowners think holistically about managing their forests.” - Blodgett workshop participant
“I felt the workshop was a great way to introduce forest land-owners to professionals, as well as start the dialogue necessary to accomplish their management goals. It also seems like a great way to educate non-forestry professionals on management techniques.”– Jacob Harrower, Forest Operations Manager, Jacobszoon & Associates, RPF #3070.
Findings from a unique study site affirm the value of using the core soil health management principles of conservation agriculture to improve soil function, climate resilience, and increase the ecological sustainability of agriculture.
California farmers overall recognize the theoretical benefits that might come from implementing basic soil health management principles, but they lack concrete information and experience on how to actually use these principles at their farms and they also are in general, not currently implementing them. In other words, despite the now widespread high visibility that soil health is receiving from government programs, actual adoption of the prescribed core principles of soil health management occurs on very little California crop acreage. Ongoing estimates of the UC ANR Conservation Agriculture Systems Innovation (CASI) Center indicate for example, that in CA's annual cropping systems very little reduced disturbance soil management is employed whatsoever and there is virtually zero production that occurs in high surface residue, “soil cover” conditions. Further, farmers lack detailed information to guide cost-benefit economic analyses of soil health management approaches.
How UC Delivers
In 1999, UC ANR established the long-term University of California Conservation Agriculture Systems Project at the West Side Research and Extension Center in Five Points, CA with a group of San Joaquin Valley farmers, the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Resources Conservation Service (USDA NRCS), private sector, and university partners to measure changes in soil and crop productivity with implementation of the key soil health management practices of cover cropping and no-tillage. The original intent was to investigate farming practices that would reduce particulate matter emissions and increase soil carbon relative to the historically high soil disturbance practices that had been used in the region for over 80 years. At that time, no till practices were used on less than 2% of annual crop acreage in the San Joaquin Valley and informal estimates indicated that the extent of cover cropping and high surface was at similar low levels of adoption. Based on this project and the multitude of public educational events that it has conducted for over 3,000 people since its inception, UC ANR organized a group of about 20 California farmers and private sector supporters who are now working together on a USDA NRCS Conservation Innovation Grant Program project aimed at increasing the adoption of reduced disturbance cropping systems at organic vegetable production farms.
After 20 years of consistent soil health management at the UC ANR study site involving reduced soil disturbance, surface residue generation and preservation, and the use of cover crops, overall soil function improved dramatically compared to standard practices. Our findings indicate that dedication to the now widely touted and highly visible principles of soil health in ways that are uncommon in current production systems in the region results in not only changes in several soil chemical, physical, and biological properties, but also in improvements in the ecological and environmental services that the soil provides. After 20 years, nitrogen in the top 3 ft of soil increased 10%, water holding capacity and carbon in surface layers of the soil increased 20 and 30%, respectively, while overall soil biodiversity also increased in functionally significant ways in the no-till with cover crop system relative to the standard till without cover crop approach. Importantly, the period of the year with “green cover” of over the soil also increased by 3 months by the no-till cover crop system and dust emissions were generally reduced by more than 70% by the reduced disturbance systems.
This group of 20 farmers are now taking advantage of the findings of the unique UC ANR long-term work at their own farms and are enthusiastically sharing information about their own efforts at reduced disturbance approaches. Farmers have made structural changes to their practices such as reducing disturbance, increasing residue cover, cover cropping, and reducing tillage intensity. These changes have the potential to preserve natural resources and reduce pollution as described in the research findings above.
This study and the changes in practice align with new government focuses on soil health. Reliance on ecosystem services that result from healthy, functioning soils rather than the synthetic, non-renewable inputs and high disturbance practice is increasingly seen as a publicly desirable and environmentally sustainable way to improve our food production systems. Because preventing further degradation of soil function and productivity is often less expensive than remediation, the common good costs of achieving such sustained ecosystem improvement rightly need to be borne by our food system at large, rather than farmers themselves.
In this way, UC ANR contributes to increasing ecological sustainability of agriculture and the public value of protecting California's natural resources by evaluating alternative management approaches and determining tradeoffs that might be associated with their implementation.
Our findings from a unique study site in one of the historically most productive agricultural regions of the world clearly affirm the value of using the core soil health management principles of conservation agriculture to improve soil function, climate resilience, and climate change mitigation.