- (Public Value) UCANR: Safeguarding abundant and healthy food for all Californians
- Author: UC Integrated Pest Management
Have you had unexpected seeds show up in the mail? Unknown seeds could be invasive plants, contain invasive insects, or have plant disease causing agents. Here's what the United States Department of Agriculture Animal Plant and Health Inspection Service (USDA APHIS) has to say about it.
USDA Investigates Packages of Unsolicited Seeds
USDA is aware that people across the country have received suspicious, unsolicited packages of seed that appear to be coming from China. USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is working closely with the Department of Homeland Security's Customs and Border Protection, other federal agencies, and State departments of agriculture to investigate the situation.
USDA urges anyone who receives an unsolicited package of seeds to immediately contact their State plant regulatory official or APHIS State plant health director. Please hold onto the seeds and packaging, including the mailing label, until someone from your State department of agriculture or APHIS contacts you with further instructions. Do not plant seeds from unknown origins.
At this time, [USDA does not] have any evidence indicating this is something other than a “brushing scam” where people receive unsolicited items from a seller who then posts false customer reviews to boost sales. USDA is currently collecting seed packages from recipients and will test their contents and determine if they contain anything that could be of concern to U.S. agriculture or the environment.
USDA is committed to preventing the unlawful entry of prohibited seeds and protecting U.S. agriculture from invasive pests and noxious weeds. Visit the APHIS' website to learn more about USDA's efforts to stop agricultural smuggling and promote trade compliance.
- Author: Rose Marie Hayden-Smith
Learn About California Agriculture
Join us on Thursday, May 21st, 9:30 am PST, for Part 2 of a webinar series on California agriculture, where we'll learn about major crops and production areas. This webinar will feature UCCE Ventura County advisors Andre Biscaro and Ben Faber. Watch it live or view after on YouTube. Part 1 is up. This is an ideal webinar series for the home classroom.
Fumigants and Non-Fumigant Alternatives: Regulatory & Research Updates
Growers, PCAs, applicators and supervisors of fumigant and non-fumigant technologies and decision makers should plan to attend this free, virtual educational outreach event, scheduled for Monday May 29th from 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. This workshop is open to the public. Although targeted to strawberries, most of the learning will generally apply to other crops. The program is being hosted by Dr. Oleg Daugovish, who serves as the Strawberry and Vegetable Crop Advisor for UCCE Ventura County.
- Most pertinent regulatory requirements for fumigant use and application
- Industry updates on fumigant and non-fumigant tools use
- Fumigant application based on need within fields
- Soil-borne pathogen management
Continuing Education Units are available: 1.5 hours of "Other" and 1.0 hours of laws and regulations have been applied for from California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR).
Registration is required and participants will receive a link and instructions prior to the workshop. Register here.
Announcing Treemendous Learning Webinars for Middle and High School Students
Join us on alternate Tuesdays in May and June, 3:00 pm to 4:00 pm, for this opportunity designed for middle and high school students. Treemendous Tuesdays is a collaboration of U.S. Forest Service, Los Angeles Center for Urban Natural Resources, California Project Learning Tree, California 4-H, and UC Agriculture & Natural Resources
Five webinars will be hosted every other week starting May 5 and ending June 30. These events are free and registration is required.
- May 5: Invasive Species (invasive shot hole borers)
- May 19: Invasive Plants & Trees
- June 2: Benefits of the Urban Forest
- June 16: iTree
- June 30: Living with Fire
New Resource to Diagnose and Manage Plant Disease
UC's Integrated Pest Management Program has a new Pest Notes publication available, which provides information to help diagnose and manage Anthracnose, fungal diseases that can impact many deciduous and evergreen trees and shrubs. These diseases can also infect vegetables, flowers, fruit and turfgrass in some regions in California. Dr. Jim Downer, an Advisor in our UCCE Ventura County office, is a co-author.
Preparing for Fire Season
UC ANR has organized an electronic portal - Homeowner's Wildfire Mitigation Guide - that contains a wealth of resources to help homewoners prepare for fire season. Please visit our Fire Resources and Information page for the latest research and information.
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- Author: Rose Marie Hayden-Smith
Nearly two tons of fruit and vegetables grown at UC's Hansen Agricultural Research and Extension Center (HAREC) in Santa Paula have been donated to Food Forward and the Ventura Unified School District (VUSD), destined for children and families.
Some of the vegetables – planted by volunteers and farm staff - became available when UC HAREC's farm field trips were canceled due to COVID-19. Other vegetables were harvested from the student farm located at HAREC, a partnership with VUSD and the city of Ventura. Kale and lettuce at the student farm were planted by youth from DATA and Montalvo schools.
Every fall and spring, volunteers from the UC Master Gardener program propagate seedlings for schools, bundling them into variety packs of vegetables and herbs, which are given to schools with gardens. Because of COVID-19, plants were given to schools for direct distribution to families. Ventura Unified School District staff partnering in this effort include Kara Muniz, Director of Food and Nutrition Services; Ashely Parrish Decker, Nutrition Educator, who runs the Student Farm; and Alise Echles, RDN.
Additional fruit and vegetables were harvested from HAREC's citrus demonstration area, the site's educational gardens and the farm grounds.
UCCE's education program manager Susana Bruzzone-Miller said, “We are saddened that spring field trip season is cancelled and miss the sound of children delighting in harvesting, sometimes for the very first time. But, it warms my heart that our field trip garden can help feed so many families in need.”
John Antongiovanni, farm manager, worked with the farm staff to organize the harvest. He said, “Working together during this difficult time is very rewarding.”
Food Forward is a gleaning organization that helps residents turn the surplus produce grown on their property into a nutritious food source for local communities. Rick Nahmias, founder and executive director, indicated that the Food Forward Backyard Harvest team remains active, and may be reached via phone at 805.630.2728 or email.
- Author: Annemiek Schilder
In this weekly blog, Dr. Annemiek Schilder, Director, UCCE Ventura County and Hansen Agricultural Research and Extension Center, shares her observations about the natural world across the seasons. As she says:
"Gently observing your surroundings with curiosity will teach you some amazing things. There are so many fascinating things happening under our noses, only wanting for an observant eye."
"What is wrong with my peach tree?"
Many people have probably asked this question as they have stared in concerned wonder at the distorted leaves of their peach trees. From a distance the striking color patterns may even look like peculiar flowers. Peach leaf curl is a disease of peach and nectarine trees caused by the fungus Taphrina deformans, an apt name for this fungus. Ornamental peach trees, grown for their beautiful blooms, are also susceptible to this disease.
Peach leaf curl is a common plant disease featured in many plant pathology textbooks. It may well have been the disease that convinced me to become a plant pathologist (a plant doctor) as I peered with increasing fascination at its structures under the microscope.
Allow me to digress a little to discuss that great invention: the microscope. In the late 1600's, Antonie van Leeuwenhoek, a self-taught Dutch scientist, developed a single lens microscope with up to 300 times magnification, allowing observation of bacteria for the first time. He called them “little animals”. However, it would take another 200 years before bacteria and fungi were officially recognized as causes of disease in animals and plants, laying the groundwork for modern-day medicine.
The name of this disease, peach leaf curl, is quite descriptive as the fungus causes leaves to curl and develop blister-like areas. Rainy, cool springs promote infection - as well as spore production - on infected leaves. Spores are spread by wind and rainsplash to other leaves, where they can cause new infections. The disease is not only unsightly –except to the eyes of a plant pathologist, of course - but also causes diseased leaves to drop prematurely, which weakens the tree and may lower fruit yield. In severe cases, repeated defoliations can kill a tree.
Taphrina deformans spores are produced in elongated structures called asci, a Latin word meaning “sacs”.
Have you noticed that Latin is used a lot for botanical descriptions? This is because Latin is a “dead” language and thus grammatically stable.
Taphrina's asci are lined up in layers on the leaf surface without any protective covering; therefore they are termed “naked asci”. So guess what name my Plant Pathology student volleyball team chose? Indeed, our t-shirts sported botanically correct drawings of Taphrina's asci, causing the other teams to think of us a bunch of weird science nerds. Nerds who played a pretty good game of volleyball mind you!
So what can you do to keep your trees healthy? Here are a few tips.
- If you are thinking of planting a peach or nectarine tree, investigate whether resistant varieties are available so you can avoid the problem altogether.
- For established trees, fall pruning of diseased shoots may help.
- Also for established trees, (organic) copper fungicide sprays in late fall after leaf drop and before budbreak in the spring may help.
- Addition of a horticultural oil may improve spray coverage. Be sure to follow the instructions on the label carefully.
If your tree got whacked by the disease, infected leaves will fall off and new leaves will develop but this requires the tree to expend additional energy. A foliar fertilizer application as well as fruit thinning can help the tree recover.
This piece appears elsewhere on the UC ANR website and was written by:
Lisa Blecker, coordinator for the UC Pesticide Safety Education Program and Office of Pesticide Information and Coordination
Whitney Brim-DeForest, UC Cooperative Extension rice advisor in Sutter and Yuba counties.
Katrina Hunter, UC Integrated Pest Management Program pesticide safety writer
Pam Kan-Rice, UC ANR Assistant Director, News and Information Outreach
With increased demand for personal protective equipment, or PPE, to protect against COVID-19, these essential workers are facing shortages. Agricultural commissioners in 28 counties are hearing from farmers who are having trouble getting PPE for their employees and farmers in another 11 counties who are worried about running out of PPE in the next month or twoaccording to a California Department of Pesticide Regulation survey.
Gloves, N95 respirators, coveralls and other gear that workers wear to protect themselves from COVID-19, pesticides, dust and other health hazards are in short supply as priority is given to health care workers during the pandemic.
To reduce the spread of COVID-19, workers may wear homemade face coverings, but for applying pesticides, they must wear respirators specified on the pesticide product label, said Whitney Brim-DeForest, UC Cooperative Extension rice advisor.
Pesticide applicators may use gear that is more protective than required by the product label and regulations.
“Although this could change in the days ahead, half-mask and full-mask respirators are more available than disposable N95 respirators for now,” said Lisa Blecker, coordinator for the UC Pesticide Safety Education Program.
Before the pandemic, 10% of N95 respirators from 3M went to health care, but that number is now 90%, the company said in a letter to distributors. This has led to significant backorders of PPE supplies for distributors.
Carl Atwell, president of Gempler's, an online distributor of worker supplies, said that before the crisis, normal lead times for PPE was up to 10 days. He estimated disposable respirators will become available in the fall and other PPE supplies in August.
In the meantime, there is alternative PPE that agricultural professionals can use during the shortage.
Atwell suggests looking for lesser known brands of PPE as opposed to the first tier of choice: “It's sort of like searching for Purell hand sanitizer. Purell brand might be out of stock, but can you find a different disinfectant?”
On Gempler's website, the more recognizable Tyvek coverall from Dupont is sold out, however disposable protective clothing is available from other brands. Reusable chemical-resistant clothing is also available as opposed to their disposable counterparts. Supplies in high demand are reusable and disposable nitrile gloves, protective clothing, disposable respirators and certain protective eyewear, such as goggles and face shields.
General PPE requirements: “Remember, the label is the law,” said Brim-DeForest. “PPE requirements for agriculture are not being loosened.” The UCCE advisor recommends purchasing only what you need for the season and choosing reusable PPE whenever possible. Growers who have excess supplies of PPE can coordinate with their county agricultural commissioner or UCCE advisor to help other producers in their area.
Respirators: If you can't find the respirator required on the label, Blecker said, “Use an alternative, more-protective respirator. For example, if an N95 is required, you can use a half-mask with N95 particulate filters; these can be stand-alone filters or ones that attach to an organic vapor cartridge. You could also use a different pesticide that doesn't require a respirator. Consult with your PCA (pest control adviser) for options.
”Gloves: Chemical-resistant gloves, usually 14 mil or more in thickness are required for most California pesticide applications and should be worn by mixers, handlers and applicators. If nitrile gloves are not available, viton and laminate gloves are universal chemical-resistant materials for most pesticide labels. If the glove material is specified on the label, that instruction must be followed.
“Disposable gloves less than 14 mil can be worn, but not for more than 15 minutes at a time, ”Blecker said. “Farmers should also note that thinner gloves cannot be layered on top of one another.”
Coveralls: Coveralls should be worn when required by the pesticide label or when the signal word is “WARNING” or “DANGER,” or when applying by backpack or airblast. “Coveralls can be made out of high-density polyethylene fibers (Tyvek and other brands), which are disposable, or cotton, which are reusable,” Brim-DeForest said. “If reusable coveralls are worn, the employer must ensure employees are provided clean coveralls.”
Goggles/face shields: Face shields are required for mixing and loading pesticides only if it's stated on the label. “If a face shield is unavailable, a full-face respirator can be used,” Blecker said. “Goggles or protective eyewear should always be worn in California when handling pesticides, regardless of what the label says. The face shield, goggles or safety glasses must provide front, side and brow protection and meet the American National Standards Institute Z87.1 standard for impact resistance.
For more information about PPE, contact your county agricultural commissioner or see the California Department of Pesticide Regulation's posters at:
UC IPM also covers these topics in their pesticide safety webinar series at: