- Author: Holly Stover
- Editor: Alexandra Stefancich
Spring is here and the Healthy Soils Demonstration Project (to read about the background of this project, click here) has been busy since the composts were applied last fall. We have observed the onset of spring, the grasses and wildflowers on the plots are actively growing. With frequent rains and warm temperatures starting, the applied compost has settled into the soil ecosystem.
On March 22, a herd of 79 cattle visited our plots and grazed on the grasses. It was a busy week, we also began our second intensive gas sampling campaign and are currently sampling greenhouse gases every day for the next three weeks. The soil microbial and plant communities are active and we are capturing key soil mineralization processes during this time. To learn more about the project, visit us on May 15 at SFREC for the Ranching and Range Management in a Drying Climate Field Day! Click here to see the agenda. Click here to register.
- Author: Nikolai Schweitzer
- Editor: Emily Baumstinger
Maintaining and caring for the Sierra Foothill Research and Extension Educational Fruit/Nut Orchard has been a tremendous pleasure over the last 7 years. Not only does the orchard provide over 50 different varieties of fruit and nuts throughout the year but could provide an educational outreach resource to the local community via schools, local residents, Master Gardeners, and California Naturalists.
Providing late winter and early spring maintenance to your home orchard requires fruit tree publication research, speaking with your local nursery personnel, thoughtful planning and due diligence. Knowing where fungus and insects are hibernating over the fall/winter seasons and removing/destroying physical structures known as “mummies” will determine the future health of your fruit/nut trees. These “mummies” are harboring many different types of brown rot (Monilinia fructicola and M. laxa) and insects (see Figure 1, 2, & 3). “In summer, especially when there are rains or dews that moisten the fruit surface, the spores (brown rot fungus) germinate and penetrate the fruit. Some rotten fruit rot from the tree and decay on the ground. Others remain attached to the tree and slowly shrivel into wrinkled, black, and tan structures called mummies. The mummy is composed of both fungal and plant tissues and is a survival structure for the fungus.” ¹
Identify, collect, and eliminate this over-wintering physical structures to decrease future pest activity. Using a bucket, keenly glance over each fruit/nut tree individually and collect leftover, shriveled, old fruit on tree branches and the ground. If you remove the “'mummies” from the tree and dispose of them on the orchard floor, the fungus spores and insects will continue to live and multiply and infect your home orchard. Transport the bucket full of “mummies” away from the fruit/nut trees to prevent future contamination. Now, in my recent efforts to find out the best environmentally conscious method of disposal, I was unable to locate research publications advising a preferred direction. I ended up burying them in the soil ½ a mile away. Will the bugs and fungus die/live/prosper? I could time the disposal of “mummies” when I burn an agricultural pile of debris or soak the bucket in water with a small percentage of citric acid. Readers are encouraged to chime in and submit their opinions and thoughts. I appreciate your time and effort reading this message.
¹Geisel P.M., Ingels C.A., and Norton M.V. 2007. The Home Orchard: Growing Your Own Deciduous Fruit and Nut. University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources. Pub. 3485.
- Author: Nikolai Schweitzer
- Editor: Emily Baumstinger
- Author: Gregory Brian Pasternack
On February 9th, UC Davis Hydrology Professor Dr. Gregory Pasternack brought 13 lucky students from his Field Methods in Hydrology class to explore one of the watersheds here at Sierra Foothill Research & Extension Center. In his 21st and likely final year teaching this course, Dr. Pasternack was kind enough to share some reflections with us below:
“I always run this class trip in February and usually the view of Deer Creek across the canyon is stunning. In the final section before it convenes with the Yuba River, Deer Creek plunges an amazing 400 feet vertical per mile. With a flow of a couple hundred cfs that we typically see in February, it's just a stunning view. I once tried to hike down into that section from Mooney Flat Road, but the bedrock is very smooth and the waterfalls too extreme, even when dry. It's a postcard-worthy view for sure.
The Schubert catchment is small yet still quite adventurous to university students. Some students come from urban regions with little outdoor experience, while others are avid outdoor adventurers yet have little practical experience with doing science in nature. The goal of experiential learning is to put students into new situations with one-on-one experiences with nature where they have to use their knowledge and experience to problem solve. Not only are students learning science, but they are learning how to work together in a team, and even how to dress effectively to do safe outdoor research. People might be surprised to hear that part of the course involves teaching about clothing, but the technology of textiles for outdoor work has improved so much and students have little exposure to thinking about safety from a clothing perspective.
Lectures are the most efficient way to inject the most amount of information into the human brain in the shortest amount of time. Unfortunately, people tend to not retain most of that information unless they perceive a critical need to know something at a given moment in time. With quick access to the internet, people are becoming less knowledgeable and more dependent on search. What a field trip like this does is provide motivation to learn and retain lecture knowledge, because it will be required to be safe and effective during the field trip as well as to complete the associated homework assignment. Down in the Schubert watershed, cell phones don't work, so you have to really know what you're doing and not rely on technology to tell you what to do.”
- Author: Nikolai Schweitzer
UC ANR Sierra Foothill Research and Extension Center has been collecting and recording rangeland herbaceous dry matter yield values for close to 40 years. Sierra Foothill REC is among a rare and prestigious class which have consistently sampled Northern California rangeland forage (lbs/ac). Establishing, developing, and consistently producing reliable herbaceous dry matter yields allows land resources managers, ranchers, and private-landowners to determine the effectiveness of management practices, establish a record of range conditions, document the effect of livestock grazing in key areas, and establish “trend monitoring” (trace changes over time). Also, the utilization of historical and current herbaceous fuel growth data /analysis and a public educational herbaceous fuel growth database allows local, state, federal, and tribal fire management agencies to accurately predict fire behavior and danger, mitigate unprecedented catastrophic wildland fires, update and maintain vegetation and fuels maps, and facilitates the development of timely herbaceous fine fuels data analysis and predictive fuel modeling.
Academics and staff at Sierra Foothill REC utilize the rangeland forage data in various ways. Provide reliable, consistent forage data to the public, inform researchers of past and present rangeland forage conditions, set stocking rates/densities for SFREC research cattle and the UC Davis Animal Science cattle herd, and assist local fire agencies with resource allocation.
Last year, several replicated sites within the SFREC Range Forage Production Monitoring plot had soil moisture and temperature sensors installed, along with a simple weather station (precipitation and air temperature). After comparing last year's data with our current year, several notable changes are mentioned below.
1) Precipitation has increased (Nov. 1 to Feb. 1) by 2.16 inches compared to last year.
2) Canopy soil temperature has increased by 3 degrees or more (Nov. & Dec.) compared to last year.
3) Rangeland forage production has decreased when compared to last year and the long-term historical average.
This year, a supplemental monitoring plot was added to SFREC's long-term forage monitoring program. Located within a few hundred yards of the “SFREC Range Forage Production” plot, this “unmanaged” forage monitoring plot has not been grazed for 7 years. SFREC staff are sampling lbs/acre, grass height, and the ratio between live vs. dead. Producing and publishing this information on a monthly basis will provide our local fire agencies with advanced herbaceous fine fuels growth data. Sampling and publishing the differences between the “managed” and “unmanaged” rangeland forage plots will generate questions/answers on why, what, where, when, and how.
Your comments and opinions are welcome. It would be insightful and educational to learn what other Northern California regional rangeland oak woodland pastures are producing.