- (Focus Area) Natural Resources
Rivers are an important part of our communities. However, some agricultural practices can detrimentally affect river health and water quality. The University of California Cooperative Extension conducts research and extension to educate growers about science-based practices that can reduce the impacts of agriculture on river health. These practices include such things as nutrient management, integrated pest management and conservation grazing. At the same time, local communities may not be aware of the choices that growers make to protect the environment.
River Camp Firebaugh is a summer camp for first- through eighth-graders in western Fresno County, and is managed by the San Joaquin River Parkway and Conservation Trust. We were invited to teach the campers about agricultural science and conservation practices. The camp directors wanted to connect agriculture with the river ecosystem because most of the campers are from families who work in agriculture.
We developed and taught 15-minute fun, hands-on lessons on three agricultural topics and related them back to river health:
- Beneficial insects for biological control of pests
- How differences in soil texture affect management
- Riparian area grazing and erosion risk
To accommodate the large camp size – approximately 60 campers – the campers divided into three groups and rotated through the stations for 15 minutes at a time. We started the event by providing a brief overview of the University of California system and the role of Cooperative Extension in their community.
This event provided young campers with a hands-on experience that exposed them to key agricultural practices and highlighted their relationship with the San Joaquin River. We communicated the importance of grazing management to reduce soil erosion, the relationship between soil composition and nutrient loss, and how biological control helps to reduce the need for pesticides.
The camp directors and sponsors who attended the lessons expressed interest in inviting us back to teach more lessons like this in the future, with the potential to have one or more lessons during every week of camp over a six-week period. With about 60 campers per week, these events could reach up to 350 or more children each summer.
Outreach at this camp contributes to improving youth scientific and agricultural literacy, especially for residents in the rural/agricultural communities of western Fresno County. In this way, we extend UC ANR's reach and improve equity, inclusion and diversity by educating a local community.
This was an opportunity for young people to engage with practicing scientists, hear about our activities and work in their community, and learn about career opportunities in agriculture beyond production. Public outreach activities like this are critical and provide an opportunity for UC ANR to strengthen extension partnerships as we highlight the linkages between agriculture, rural communities and natural resource stewardship.
- Author: Erich Warkentine
The Manzanar Guayule project is well underway.
Guayule is a type of USA native rubber plant which was grown at Manzanar during the war years. UC Master Gardener volunteers for this project have been assisting in the reconstruction and maintenance of a guayule patch situated in front of the Manzanar Visitors' Center. In addition, they are researching cultivation requirements and developing expertise in the care of guayule.
On September 3 Manzanar Park Superintendent Bernadette Johnson and Arborist Dave Goto invited Master Gardener Guayule Project group members to meet a visiting French guayule expert, Professor Serge Palu. The group from Master Gardeners included Joanne Parsons, Harold MacDonald and Erich Warkentine. Dr. Colleen McMahan also joined us bringing some additional guayule specimens from her USDA lab in Albany, California for planting in the garden. The group discussed some of the details of guayule cultivation and listened to a history of rubber plant cultivation (guayule and other plant types) by the late Mark Finlay, presented by his colleague, Professor Palu.
While interest in guayule has been persistent over the last century, many factors have hampered its development – including lack of patent protection, political factors, and growing area regional instabilities. Thomas Edison even experimented with the cultivation of guayule in Fort Myers during the late 1920's. Major D.D. Eisenhower signed orders to survey guayule in the 1930's. The connection of guayule to Manzanar is the establishment of a rubber research effort during World War II. After the park was established, one of the researchers, Akira Frank Kageyama, donated some plant specimens taken from the internment camp, which Manzanar staff used to establish a guayule demonstration garden in front of the administration building.
This demonstration garden is a reminder that interest in biological sources of rubber has been around a long time, and that scientists who were interned at Manzanar had an interest in contributing to the war effort.
Guayule still has a lot of potential. There are currently more varieties of guayule than ever before — greater than 50 —and there is more interest in producing rubber from non-petrochemical sources. Research is continuing (at USDA), including new ways of bioengineering the plants.
The guayule in the Manzanar patch is your grandfather's rubber plant. Expect to see more commercial cultivation in the coming years.
We hope to see you at the Guayule patch!
- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
Love is like a butterfly
A rare and gentle thing
--Love Is Like a Butterfly, Dolly Parton
When Dolly Parton penned her song, "Love Is Like a Butterfly," she probably wasn't thinking of passion butterflies, Gulf Fritillaries.
And when she sings that popular song, neither she nor her audience are thinking of Gulf Fritillaries (Agraulis vanillae), getting together on a Mexican sunflower, Tithonia rotundifolia.
But Lepidopterists, entomologists, horticulturists and insect photographers are.
It's autumn, approaching Halloween, and the Gulf Fritillaries are doing what comes naturally on their host plant, the passionflower vine. But sometimes you'll find them on the fence line, on the ground, or on a neighboring flower.
Then you make a beeline for your camera. It's insect wedding photography. The bride and the groom and the photographer. The sun is shining, the birds are singing, the flowers are producing nectar, the bees are buzzing, the crickets are chirping, and all's right with the world.
Love is indeed like a butterfly, "a rare and gentle thing."
- Author: Rebecca Ozeran
Many factors make weed management on federal public lands an interesting challenge.
In September I was invited to join one of the Sierra National Forest Rangeland Management Specialists to explore a medusahead infestation in one of the grazing allotments she manages. The infested meadow used to be a homestead, though the only obvious reminder is the cluster of still-productive apple trees in the middle of an otherwise grass-dominated site. Pines and other conifers border the meadow, and a forest road divides the meadow into two parts. The portion uphill of the road is steeper and has more trees interspersed with the herbaceous vegetation, while the downhill portion is a more expansive, gentler sloping meadow. Due to the elevation, a variety of broadleaved (forb) species were still green, but the medusahead and other annual grasses were long since brown. Springs throughout the area supported green forbs, rushes and sedges.
During the site visit, the specialist wanted to brainstorm ideas for how to reduce the medusahead population. The primary management tools being considered are targeted grazing and prescribed burning. Since the meadow is already grazed, one of the big hurdles to targeted grazing – finding animals to do the job – is reduced. However, concentrating the animals in the area to graze the medusahead more intensively than normal will require additional infrastructure. We discussed the potential for temporary or permanent cross-fencing, to keep an appropriate number of cows in the target area for a specified time frame. For reference, during the 2017 grazing season there were about 66 acres of forest, meadows, and everything in between for each cow in Sierra National forest grazing allotments. By contrast, this meadow is less than 50 acres, and the goal would be to have enough cattle confined to the meadow for a given grazing period so that the cows actually eat the medusahead before it produces seed.
We also discussed the variability of the vegetation in the meadow – from the apple “orchard”, to miniature wetlands, to annual grassland types. Without any additional incentives, the cattle are likely to stay close to the areas with the most resources: the existing water trough, the shade of the apple trees, and the lushest patches of forage. Strategic mineral or protein supplementation, or a secondary water development could attract the cattle to the densest patches of medusahead and away from the springs where no medusahead is growing.
Grazing makes the most sense as a control method on the downhill, larger meadow area. However, the specialist noted that the uphill, smaller meadow area could be a good candidate for a prescribed burn. On the uphill patch, there are more trees and less forage; it would be harder to fence due to the topography (and thus harder to keep the cows on the medusahead); there isn't a developed livestock watering source uphill of the road; and the Forest Service already has plans to burn the neighboring areas this fall and winter. In essence, grazing would be hard to implement, but the protective nature of the neighboring burns would mean a prescribed fire could be feasible under the right conditions.
Before any of our brainstormed ideas can be implemented the specialist must do several things. First, she needs to consult with the cattle owner who grazes the area, to see if they are willing and able to install the necessary fencing. Forest Service grazing allotment permittees are expected to maintain the grazing infrastructure on the allotments they graze, so the rancher is on the hook for installing a new fence if they decide to move forward with the targeted grazing plan. This is a huge benefit to the Forest Service – the maintenance and infrastructure that permitted ranchers provide on grazing allotments would otherwise cost the Forest Service thousands of dollars and many employee hours per allotment per year.
Even if the rancher is on board with the project, additional Forest Service requirements make projects slow to implement. National Forests are multi-use landscapes, which means that there are many potential uses which all must be considered when implementing a project. Uses of Sierra National Forest include recreation, grazing, and wildlife habitat. As such, all proposed projects must undergo environmental evaluation to ensure any environmental concerns are identified and mitigated or resolved. Even for a project like the potential targeted grazing – which uses a land management tool that has previously been approved on the meadow, just at a different intensity – the site will have to be evaluated. If all goes smoothly, the range management specialist hopes to begin with the grazing plan once the allotments open for grazing next year.
As you can imagine, weed control on federal public lands can be quite a challenge – even if a project is approved, it may be months after the original proposal, and some management tools may not even be options to begin with if the public opposes their use. I hope to be able to share a success story about this plan being implemented by this time next year, and will follow with observations of the results as available.
- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
Now you can!
Those enrolling in the “Wax Working, Honey and Hive Products,” a first-of-its-kind class offered by the Elina Niño lab at the University of California, Davis, will learn how wax is made, how to collect it, how to process it, and how to make their own wax products such as candles and wax reusable food wraps.
The class, set from 8:45 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 7 in the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Center on Bee Biology Road, will be taught by Extension apicuturist Elina Lastro Niño of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology faculty and director of the California Master Beekeeper Program, and lab assistants Robin Lowery and Nissa Svetlana Coit.
“Robin and Nissa will be leading us through the practical part of the wax working day,” announced Wendy Mather, program manager of the California Master Beekeepers Program. “This class is perfect for the hobby and sideline beekeeper and for other individuals interested in learning the basics of working with wax.”
The instructors said the class "will be a creative and science-based class learning the what, why and how of beeswax, making candles, lotion bars, beeswax food wraps, lip balm and dipped flowers to take home.” The products are wonderful for holiday gifting, they said.
As a bonus, the instructors will provide an overview of the honey extraction process, and learn bottling, labeling rules and regulations, and how to perform a honey tasting.
Class participants will have an opportunity to make candles with wicks, use molds, pour wax into jars or cans, dip flowers in wax, and make hand lotion, chapsticks, and wax reusable food wraps.
The two lab assistants are daily exposed to bees, beekeeping, and all things related to honey bee husbandry, said Mather. Lowery, a two-year beekeeper, assists with managing the apiary and the research at the E. L. Nino lab. "She has been making gifts for special occasions for over 15 years and looks forward to modeling how to dip and roll candles, make sealing wax, lotion and lip balm, and wax food wrappers," Mather said.
Beeswax is a natural wax produced by worker honey bees, which have eight wax-producing glands in the abdominal segments. Hive workers collect the wax and use it to form cells for honey storage and for larval and pupal protection. When beekeepers extract the honey, they remove the wax caps from the honeycomb frame with an uncapping knife or machine.
Beewax has long been used for making candles (they are cleaner, brighter and burn longer than other candles) and for cosmetics and encaustic paintings. Wax food wrappers, used to wrap sandwiches and cover bowls of food, are environmentally friendly, sustainable, economical, and a reusable alternative to plastic bags. Statistics show that globally, people use an estimated one trillion single-use bags every year, or nearly 2 million a minute. While beeswax is a natural wax, plastic bags and plastic bags contain chemicals, and there is concern that chemicals can leach into the food.
The $235 registration fee covers a continental breakfast, snacks, lunch and refreshments, and materials. Participants make and take two of each item. The registration deadline is Nov. 23, said Mather, who may be reached at email@example.com for more information. To register, access https://registration.ucdavis.edu/Item/Details/589.