- Author: Pamela Kan-Rice
Labor costs drive mechanized pruning technology
(Farm Press) Todd Fitchette, Feb. 14
… As labor costs in California escalate, growers are becoming more interested in cost-saving technology. The Sunpreme variety of raisin grapes, developed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and released in about 2014, lends itself to more efficient pruning and harvesting.
The variety naturally dries on the vine, according to George Zhuang, a Cooperative Extension farm advisor who specializes in grapes in the Central Valley. Combined with an ability to mechanically box hedge the vines during the dormant season, Zhuang says this will be the first year the variety will experience fully mechanized management from bud break to harvest.
… Zhuang and his colleague, Matthew Fidelibus, a viticulture specialist with the UC Cooperative Extension, are studying the technology and its impacts on vines. Though the study has been ongoing for a few years now, a few minor setbacks unrelated to the grape variety itself will cause researchers to start over after replanting some vines inadvertently damaged by herbicides.
How to Apply the New IPM Model to Strawberry Production
(Growing Produce) Surendra Dara, Feb. 14
Strawberry crop demands exacting production methods. So it is a perfect crop to apply the new integrated pest management (IPM) model. This example will help apply this new model to other crops.
Why Have a New IPM Model?
There are several reasons to revisit IPM. We have had significant advances in agricultural technology, modern communication tools, changing consumer trends, increased awareness for sustainably produced food systems, and globalization of trade and travel.
Sudden Oak Death Plagues Humboldt's Forests
(Lumberjack) Benjamin Zawilski, Feb. 13,
Humboldt County is known for its beautiful forests, but sudden oak death threatens its trees
Sudden oak death is the common name for a disease that started infecting trees 20 years ago and has since killed over a million trees—including trees in Humboldt County.
The University of California Cooperative Extension explained that the disease is caused by a pathogen called Phytophthora ramorum.
“It is caused by a microscopic fungus-like organism, Phytophthora ramorum, a lethal, canker-causing pathogen of certain oaks and tan oak trees,” UCCE wrote.
Research updates presented at Tehama County Walnut Day
(Corning Observer) Julie R. Johnson, Feb. 13
More than 120 walnut growers and others in the walnut industry attended the 26th annual Tehama County Walnut Day on Feb. 7 at the Red Bluff Elks Lodge, to hear informational presentations by experts in the field.
Luke Milliron, Butte County UC Orchard Systems advisor, who led the UC Cooperative Extension Program efforts organizing the event, said with walnuts being the number one agriculture product in the county, it is important to provide growers with the latest in the industry's research.
… Botryosphaeria, mold and phomopsis in walnut was the presentation subject of Dr. Themis Michailides, U.C. Davis Plant Pathology specialist, Kearney Agricultural Research and Education Center.
A navel orangeworm management survey was conducted by Dr. Pheobe Gordon, UCCE farm advisor Madera and Merced counties. Navel orangeworm is a pest that is spreading throughout walnut orchards in the state, damaging nuts and costing growers in crop health and pesticide coverage.
Emily Symmes, UCCE IPM advisor, Sacramento Valley, presented the latest research in insect and mites, followed by a lunch provided by Crain of California Walnut Shelling, Crain Orchards, Andersen and Sons, California Walnut Company and Capex/AP Esteve Sales.
Initiative envisions vibrant SJ Valley economy
(Farm Press) Tim Hearden, Feb. 12
…But if the valley could boost its economy by becoming a food and technology hub, it could serve as an example to other regions, said Glenda Humiston, vice president of the UC's Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources. UCANR contributes $24 million to the region's economy through Cooperative Extension, she said.
“If this region puts its mind to it,” she said, “we're going to learn new ways to do economic development in other regions.”
Invasive plants in park a growing threat
(Pt Reyes Light) Braden Cartwright, Feb. 12
…“If too much [pasture] becomes unpalatable, you're either going to have to reduce the number of your herd, or you'll have to supplement and buy feed,” said David Lewis, the director of the University of California Cooperative Extension for Marin County.
For nonorganic farms, conventional herbicide is the most effective method for removing the thistle. Organic farms have to take the extra step to mow before applying organic herbicide to be effective. Mr. Lewis has said that in some cases, he has seen farms come out of organic certification for a period to allow for stronger herbicides.
“It may seem ironic to people,” he said. “That's the nature of some of these weeds.”
B.C. wine of the week, wine to cellar and calendar items
(Vancouver Sun) Anthony Gismondi, Feb. 12
The latest news, sure to be of interest to British Columbia growers, is the announcement that the University of California's first institute for organic research and education, which will be established in the UC's Agriculture and Natural Resources Division to the tune of $1 million.
Humboldt group teaches the value of prescribed fire
(Farm Press) David Liebler, Feb. 10
On a crisp and clear morning late last year, around 20 volunteer firefighters, landowners and community members gathered on a plot of land outside of the small rural community of Kneeland in Humboldt County.
…Lenya Quinn-Davidson and Jeffery Stackhouse, who both work for the University of California Cooperative Extension in Humboldt County, developed the program in 2017 and have seen it steadily grow ever since.
… “Fire is a natural part of California's landscape. Prescribed fire is a way for us to bring fire back to the landscape as a natural process under controlled conditions. We can choose the weather, we can choose how it's going to burn,” says Quinn-Davidson. “Private landowners have largely been left out of the fire picture and we realize that is a big part of the problem.”
Canine sleuths sniff out disease that threatens county's citrus crops
(AP) Christina Larson, Feb. 10
Matteo Garbelotto, who studies plants at UC Berkeley, says the new research elevates the study of dog sleuths in orchards from anecdotal to field-tested, showing that dogs can detect an infection well before current methods. Garbelotto has been involved in similar research but had no role in the new study.
State Recruits Local Ag Advisors, Fresno State Students For Pesticide Videos In Hmong
(Valley Public Radio) Kerry Klein, Feb. 7
In this panel interview, FM89's Kerry Klein spoke with Michael Yang, a community education specialist with the University of California Cooperative Extension and Mali Lee, a Fresno State graduate, both of whom were involved in producing the videos; as well as Chia Thao, a Ph.D. student at UC Merced studying environmental health within the Hmong farming community.
FDA: New analysis backs tough regulatory approach to biotech animals
(Agri-Pulse) Steve Davies, Feb. 7
… Alison Van Eenennaam, a cooperative extension specialist in animal genomics and biotechnology at the University of California-Davis who has conducted extensive research on gene editing with cattle, told Agri-Pulse in 2018 that "GE animal regulatory burdens are disproportionally high and associated with unaccountable delays and considerable uncertainty."
Contacted Friday, Van Eenennaam said she was "disappointed that the FDA failed to mention that the genome-edited bulls and their offspring were followed for years by researchers at UC Davis and were hornless (polled) and healthy. Additionally, the plasmid was not transmitted to half of the offspring, so in one generation there were animals with just the targeted edit.
"This was all documented in detail in my laboratory's Nature Biotechnology article published in October of 2019, as discussed in my accompanying Nature Research Bioengineering Community BLOG, “Responsible Science Takes Time.” It is unclear why this paper was not referenced by the FDA," she said.
What trade war?
(Sacramento Business Journal) Bethany Bickley, Feb. 6
…“The commodities are different, every one of them,” said Daniel Sumner, director of the University of California Agricultural Issues Center housed at UC Davis. “It's certainly not much fun to say, but it's a mixed bag.”
…“China was really dominant for soybeans,” Sumner said. After new tariffs went into place, that market collapsed.
California exports, however, are more diversified.
“I don't think there's a California commodity that has been reliant on China in the same way,” Sumner said.
California Could Take Over PG&E Under A Proposed Bill. But Could The Plan Work?
(CapRadio) Ezra David Romero, Feb. 6
Others like Keith Taylor, a University of California Agricultural and Natural Resources cooperative extension assistant specialist with expertise in electric cooperatives, say it's time for PG&E to move beyond an investor-owned model.
“It is going to be more expensive if we bailout PG&E in its current form,” said Taylor. “We are going to be bailing out PG&E now and probably in the next five to 10 years. It is not on good economic footing.”
Taylor says the problem with PG&E today is that the ratepayer is voiceless and that becoming a cooperative or municipal utility district will return that power to the public.
Breeding Better Walnut Rootstocks That Could Withstand Crown Gall
(AgInfo) Patrick Cavanaugh, Feb. 6
Elizabeth Fichtner is a farm advisor with UC Cooperative Extension, Tulare County. She and other researchers across the state are working on different genotypes for Walnut rootstocks.
“This project is specific to walnuts and there are multiple rootstock research plot throughout the state,” Fichtner said. “And so I'm hosting one in Tulare County and we're looking at how these different rootstocks perform in comparison to seedling Paradox, which is the grower standard. But there are three clonal Paradox rootstocks that are also commercially sold. So we're comparing them to the seedlings, but also some new genotypes that have been generated by the Walnut Improvement Program at UC Davis.”
If Bumble Bees Become Endangered In California, Farmers Say It Sets A ‘Dangerous Precedent'
(CapRadio) Ezra David Romero, Feb. 5
“These little guys have reduced in population size so much that they are now highly threatened with extinction, and that's a good warning signal,” said Steven Beissinger, a UC Berkeley professor of environmental science, policy and management. “If the bees are telling us this, then there's probably some significant problems.”
Beissinger points to declines also seen among monarch butterflies, which were at about 29,000 in the latest count, a number the Xerces Society says is less than 1% of their population in the 1980s.
Not all researchers agree that placing bees on the endangered species list will result in conservation.
Neal Williams, who studies bees at UC Davis, warns that listing a species is something to avoid: just by being listed, he says it shows the four bee species could be imperiled.
“There are certainly other bumble bee species within California whose numbers show strong evidence of decline, too,” Williams said. “These species are showing evidence of what may be happening more widely of other species, as well.”
Tomato growers express hope business is 'turning a corner'
(Ag Alert) Kevin Hecteman, Feb. 5
… Disease pressures also were top of mind at the meeting, with tomato spotted wilt virus and Fusarium falciforme receiving special attention from University of California Cooperative Extension farm advisors.
Fusarium falciforme, which has significant effects on tomato production, is poorly understood, said Cassandra Swett, a plant pathology specialist at UC Davis. The fungus leads to stem rot and vine decline, causing severe losses early in the season.
If a farmer suspects falciforme in his or her fields, she said, "go take your samples to a lab—either a private lab or take it to your farm advisor—and they'll work with us." Swett's lab at UC Davis is at present the only one in the state that can accurately diagnose the pathogen, but she intends to offer a diagnostic workshop late next month to larger labs in the state.
"By the 2020 growing season, we should have a pretty robust service for diagnosing falciforme," Swett said.
Brenna Aegerter, a UCCE farm advisor in San Joaquin County, said early trials with chemical protection were promising but more work is needed. The crop-protection material used in the trial runs $400 per acre, although it led to a 7.2-ton boost in yield and may be worth it in the long run.
… On the spotted-wilt front, Fresno-based farm advisor Tom Turini said a resistance-breaking strain, first identified in 2016, has been documented in Fresno, Merced, Kings and Kern counties.
"If you can keep the area around your fields clean, plan where your tomato fields are going based on areas that you don't have control over, and then try to avoid putting a very late-planted field next to a very early-planted field," Turini said. "When you harvest that early field, likely the thrips from that field are going to move to something else green, which is probably your other tomato fields."
The Chicken Whisperer: how to start composting chicken manure
(Poultry Site) Megan Howell, Feb. 3
In this podcast, Chicken Whisperer Andy Schneider and Dr Maurice Pitesky discuss how backyard poultry keepers can use and manage the manure their birds produce.
… “Don't add dog, cat or human faeces to your compost pile – you're playing with fire!” Pitesky says. The disease potential from dog, cat and human wastes is higher than chicken manure. Adding it to compost is a major biosecurity risk. Pitesky and Schneider stress that compost will still have trace amounts of bacteria; gardeners should keep that in mind when using compost to grow touch crops like lettuce or spinach.
Can Disease-Sniffing Dogs Save the World's Citrus?
(Smithsonian) Katherine J. Wu, Feb. 3
… “This is a major step in the development of what could be a really important early detection tool,” says Monique Rivera, an entomologist and citrus pest expert at the University of California, Riverside who wasn't involved in the study. “It could give growers information about potential exposure … to the causative bacteria.”
… Currently, the only surefire way to curb citrus greening's spread is to extract and eliminate infected trees. This strategy depends entirely on early detection—“one of the biggest problems in the field right now,” says Carolyn Slupsky, a plant pathologist at the University of California, Davis who wasn't involved in the study. Spotting an asymptomatic infection by eye is essentially impossible. And though genetic tests can sometimes pinpoint microbes in apparently healthy trees, their success rates are low and inconsistent, due in part to the patchiness with which CLas distributes itself in plant tissue.
(California Ag Today) Tim Hammerich, Feb. 3
Innovations in fish farming are allowing producers to recycle their water using plants. Some of them even building greenhouses to support aquaponics systems to grow fish and plants in the same water. Here is Cooperative Extension Aquaculture Specialist Dr. Jackson Gross.
Gross…”There's a few commercial farms that exist across the state. One of the farms that I work closely with, they have a very large greenhouse, and before they were utilizing water hyacinth and a large pond to help treat their water. Our industry here in California, I would say over 80% of the water is recycled water, so it's less than 20% is renewable water, and so that water moves through the system. They were using water hyacinth to help clean the water. Like, why are we growing water hyacinth? Why don't we grow more food? And so they started looking at that as a way to clean the water as well as produce more food from those nutrients.”
Rangeland Summit focuses on ranching tradition
(Farm Press) Jeannette Warnert, Feb. 3
…At the annual Rangeland Summit held by UC Cooperative Extension and the California Rangeland Conservation Coalition in January, scientists, ranchers and conservation organizations focused on sustaining this part of the state's agricultural tradition to ensure that the environmental benefits, the verdant beauty and the rural Western lifestyle never fade away.
“UC Cooperative Extension, ranchers, farm bureaus, private land preservation agencies, California Fish and Wildlife and other organizations all work together to protect rangelands we value. Our strength is in the different walks of life we represent,” said Theresa Becchetti, UCCE livestock and natural resources advisor for Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties and conference co-chair.
Western Innovator: Spearheading digital ag efforts
(Capital Press) Padma Nagappan, Feb. 2
Alireza Pourreza is exploring pathways to convert aerial images from drones that monitor crop fields into data that farmers can use.
A farm adviser and research faculty at the University of California-Davis and the UC system's cooperative extension, Pourreza's specialty is digital agriculture.
“We develop interpretation models to make sense of the data that's collected from the orchard or farm,” Pourreza said. “Specifically, we do aerial imaging using drones with different sensors, analyze it, and convert it into actionable recommendations for crop yield, nutrition and disease.”
Take care of landscape trees today for a greener tomorrow!
(Quorum) Janet Hartin, Feb. 1
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