- (Public Value) UCANR: Building climate-resilient communities and ecosystems
Author - Sabrina L. Drill
Kudos to the Ventura County Fire Department, Conejo Open Space Conservation Agency, National Park Service, US Forest Service, and California State Parks for addressing this very important gap in fire preparedness information. I remember on my first solo backpacking trip near Mt. Whitney waking up one morning to the smell of smoke, and cutting my trip a few nights short to get out of there (turned out the fire was in Monterey County, but the smoke blew inland).
From the guide - "The Ready, Set, Go! Trail Users program is about being prepared (ready), situational awareness – knowing what's going on around you (set) – and getting out of harm's way (go!). By following a few simple steps, trail users can enjoy the natural beauty of Ventura County without putting themselves in the path of a wildfire."
Tips include when, where, and how to safely have a campfire or use a stove, and steps to prepare before your trip:
"• Before you leave, tell someone when and where you will be. This is especially important if you will be travelling alone. Be sure to take a fully charged cell phone and some sort of signaling device with you. This could be as simple as a whistle or a mirror. • Take protective clothing including long pants and long sleeves made of a natural fiber, a bandana to filter smoky air and a hat to keep embers from falling on your head. • Have good maps with you and pre-plan your escape routes. A fire could block your path and prevent you from going out the same way you came in."
- Author: Ben Faber
This is a cross-post from the "Topics in Subtropics" blog.
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 University of California Agriculture and 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. Flyer is attached. Dates, topics, and link to registration are below.
Please share this online opportunity with organizations, community members, teachers, parents, and students. We look forward to giving students a glimpse of the wonders and benefits that trees offer!
- 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
- Author: Alli Fish
Hedgerows are an approved practice under California Department of Agriculture's Healthy Soils Grant Program. That means, growers are eligible to receive grant funding for planting hedgerows. But what exactly are the benefits of hedgerows and why are they worth planting? As a perennial planting it can have immediate impacts on the soil, but what else? The answer lies large in the pollinators and beneficial insects they attract.
The most basic definition of a hedgerow is dense vegetation planted in a linear design. Perennial grasses, shrubs, and even short trees are all candidates for hedgerow plantings, provided they meet the conditions of the local climate and soil. Growers plant hedgerows to achieve one or more of the following desired outcomes:
- To increase habitat for pollinator and beneficial insect populations
- To create a living barrier or fence
- To reduce chemical drift or odor movement
- To intercept airborne particulate matter
- To act as a low windbreak or reduce dust
- To increase carbon storage in biomass and soils
- To provide food, shelter, and shade for aquatic organisms in nearby aquatic habitats
All of these benefits make the case for planting hedgerows on any agricultural operation. In Ventura County, avocado growers stand to see a compelling case for hedgerow plantings with particular attention to pollination services.
There are many different pollinators who visit avocado flowers, from native bees to flies to honey bees. Some come in the daytime, others visit at night. In the likelihood that honey bees and other pollinators will continue to decline, it is imperative to study the importance of native pollinators on key crops and identify ways to increase habitat for resident populations (NRC 2007; Nordhaus 2011; PHTF 2015; Koh et al. 2016; Sánchez-Bayo and Wyckhuys 2019; DiBartolomeis et al. 2019; Garibaldi et al. 2013). This information not only helps the pollinator populations thrive, but helps avocado growers acquire free increased pollination services for fruitful trees. Several researchers have published accounts of increased pollinator diversity and numbers in hedgerow and field edge planting studies across various agricultural systems (Heller et al. 2019; Long and Anderson 2010; Long et al. 2017; Williams et al. 2015).
In Ventura County, we are seeing some fascinating and relevant research around the impact of hedgerows on pollinators in avocado orchards. A collaborative research project involving Dr. Ben Faber, Avocado Advisor for UC Cooperative Extension Ventura County, and Dr. Gordon Frankie, professor and research entomologist at UC Berkeley and lead investigator of the UC Berkeley Urban Bee Lab, seeks to understand long-term impacts of hedgerows on pollinators of avocado trees. The project, which began in 2014 with three participating avocado ranches, has indicated increased pollinator activity, increased native bee populations, and increased diversity of species with the presence of hedgerow plantings (Frankie, Faber et al. 2020). The results indicate the importance of diversity of pollinator species, not just the honeybee, to avocados. In continuing this research, the team seeks to address the unanswered questions of which pollinators are the most effective at pollinating avocados and which are the most effective at influencing fruit set. A particularly exciting and novel aspect of this project is looking at whether or not there are nocturnal pollinators visiting California avocados. Nocturnal pollinators have been well documented in New Zealand (Pattemore et al, 2018), but none have been yet recorded in California avocados.
Maintaining hedgerows is critical to providing additional habitat for an abundance of pollinators. Creating and maintaining that hedgerow and for which pollinators can be a daunting task to embark on. Luckily for avocado growers, Dr. Frankie and Dr. Faber's team are working with Southern California growers to develop a pollinator garden manual. The manual will provide clear pictures of key pollinators and key plant species that pollinators are drawn to. Detailed imagery, descriptions, and maintenance tips will help make the decision making around planting a hedgerow much easier.
Speaking of selections, there are key plants that are drought-tolerant, easy to maintain, and well-suited for Ventura County's climate. See the table below for some ideas.
Table 1. Main Native Bee Plants Installed in Avocado Orchards 2014-2019
We seek to increase biodiversity, build soil health, and reduce energy use in our agricultural systems to improve our resiliency to climate change impacts, pests, and disease. To keep farming in our families and in our futures. Planting hedgerows is good for the pollinators, which is good for the bottom line and long-term success of the operation.
If you are an avocado grower interested in learning more about the pollinator research project, please contact Dr. Gordon Frankie at the UC Berkeley Urban Bee Lab email@example.com.
Interested in planting hedgerows on your property? You may be able to qualify for a grant through CDFA's Healthy Soils Grant Program to plant hedgerows. Please contact Jamie Whiteford with the Ventura County Resource Conservation District at firstname.lastname@example.org more information on how to apply. For those in other areas, Technical Assistance providers are able to discuss the values of hedgerows and funding opportunities for installing them in other agricultural situations: http://ciwr.ucanr.edu/Programs/ClimateSmartAg/TechnicalAssistanceProviders/
DiBartolomeis, M., S. Kegley, P. Mineau, R. Radford, and K. Klein. 2019. An assessment of acute insecticide toxicity loading (AITL) of chemical pesticides used on agricultural land in the United States. PLoS ONE 14(8): e0220029. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0220029.
Frankie, G., B. Faber, J. Pawelek, R. Thorp, R. Coville, C. Jadallah, E. Takele, S. I. Rios, T. Bean. 2020. Native Pollinators of California Avocado as Affected by Introduced Pollinator Gardens. International Society of Horticultural Sciences Congress. Acta Horticulturae.
Garibaldi, L.A., I. Steffan-Dewenter, R. Winfree, and 47 other authors. 2013. Wild pollinators enhance fruit set of crops regardless of honey bee abundance. Science 339:1608-1611.
Heller, S., N. K. Joshi, T. Leslie, E. G. Rajotte and D. J. Biddinger. 2019. Diversified Floral Resource Plantings Support Bee Communities after Apple Bloom in Commercial Orchards. Scientific Reports 9 Article number: 17232.
Koh, I., Lonsdorf, E. V., Williams, N. M., Brittain, C., Isaacs, R., Gibbs, J., Ricketts, T. H. 2016. Modeling the status, trends, and impacts of wild bee abundance in the United States. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 113:140–145.
Long, R. F. and J. Anderson. 2010. Establishing Hedgerows on Farms in California. UC ANR Pub 8390, Oakland, CA. http://anrcatalog.ucanr.edu/Details.aspx?itemNo=8390
Long, R., K. Garbach and L. Morandin. 2017. Hedgerow benefits align with food production and sustainability goals. California Agriculture 71:117-119. 10.3733/ca.2017a0020.
NRC. 2007. Status of Pollinators in North America. National Research Council of the National Academies. National Academies Press, Washington, D.C.. 307 p.
Nordhaus, H. 2011. The Beekeeper's Lament. Harper Perennial, NY. 269p.
Pattemore, D., M. N. Buxton, B. T. Cutting, H. McBrydie, M. Goodwin, A. Dag. 2018. Low overnight temperatures associated with a delay in ‘Hass' avocado (Persea americana) female flower opening leading to nocturnal flowering. Journal of Pollination Ecology 23(14): 127-135.
PHTF: Pollinator Health Task Force. 2015. Pollinator Research Action Plan. The White House.
Sánchez-Bayo, F. and K. A. G. Wyckhuys. 2019. Worldwide decline of the entomofauna: A review of its drivers. Biological Conservation 232:8-27.
Williams, N. M., K. L. Ward, N. Pope, R. Isaacs, J. Wilson, E. A. May, J. Ellis, J. Daniels, A. Pence, K. Ullmann, and J. Peters. 2015. Native wildflower plantings support wild bee abundance and diversity in agricultural landscapes across the United States. Ecological Applications 25: 2119–2131
Authors: Alli Fish and Niki Mazaroli, Strategy Research Science
Silvopasture is the intentional and intensive combination of trees, forage, and livestock on the same piece of land. The applicability and potential benefit of silvopasture to both ranchlands and orchards – two agricultural landscapes that dominate the region – adds to its promise as a climate-smart agriculture practice in Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties.
Over 80% of land in Ventura County and over 90% in Santa Barbara County is either being grazed or has the potential to be grazed.  And while silvopasture systems will not be suitable for all of the nearly 2 million acres of rangeland, silvopasture has great potential to support both livestock production and ecological health in the region.
What qualifies as silvopasture?
To put it simply, there are two approaches to establishing a silvopasture system: adding trees to pasture or adding animals to tree systems. Tree systems can include natural forests, timber plantations, and orchards.A key piece to the definition of silvopasture according to the USDA is that the combination of pasture, trees, and animals must be intentional and managed as a system, as opposed to “individual practices that occur coincidentally together or managed independently.” 
A key piece to managing a productive silvopasture system is rotational grazing, a livestock and pasture management practice that has been shown to greatly improve soil health when implemented correctly. Rotational grazing is also essential to maintaining the health of the pasture and minimizing damage to trees, especially young trees. Once trees are established and above browsing height, which varies depending on the grazing animals, this is less of a factor. However, the combination of animal and edible tree crops triggers important food safety regulations that must be considered early on in the design of any silvopasture system. (See “Regulations” below.)
What are the potential benefits of silvopasture as a climate-smart agriculture practice?
The NRCS recognizes silvopasture as a multi-purpose conservation practice that can:
- Provide forage, shade, and/or shelter for livestock.
- Improve the productivity and health of trees/shrubs and forages.
- Improve water quality.
- Reduce erosion.
- Enhance wildlife habitat.
- Improve biological diversity.
- Improve soil quality.
- Increase carbon sequestration and storage.
- Provide habitat for beneficial organisms and pollinators. 
In terms of a producer's economic bottom line, silvopasture can be a way of diversifying revenue. For example, the shorter-term income from grazing livestock can buffer or offset the upfront cost of establishing trees and shrubs onto existing pasture. 
Challenges and considerations
While formulaic in its definition, the actual practice of silvopasture is extremely site-specific, like most things in farming and ranching. The limitations of the land and the market opportunities available will inform the desired and required tree crop, forage, and livestock of the system.
And while there is consensus on the potential benefits of silvopasture, there isn't one single model – one combination of trees, forage, and livestock – that can inform all silvopasture operations.
Instead, there are many factors to consider when planning a silvopasture system, and most of them are interrelated:
- Regulations: Regulations are particularly tricky for silvopasture systems producing edible tree crops (i.e. fruit and nut trees). To comply with the GAP and NOP standards, raw manure cannot be applied 90 day before harvest of crops not in contact with the ground (i.e. many fruits crops) and 120 day for crops in contact with the ground (i.e. all row crops, and some tree crops). Farms with annual revenue greater than $500,000 and/or that sell majority of product beyond 275 miles must also comply with additional regulations as part of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).  Note that some packinghouses have agreed to only take fruit that is GAP certified. It is important to understand where any edible crops you will be producing will be sold and any associated food safety requirements before beginning or converting to silvopasture.
- Management skills and labor: Livestock producers must learn to manage trees, and, conversely, growers must learn to care for livestock. Additional infrastructure (potentially lots of fencing!) and labor to start up and maintain a rotational grazing system.
- Tree selection and system design: Depending on your existing operation and goals, you might prioritize fast growing trees that produce forage and aren't as delicate to livestock damage; or you might select tree crops or timber trees that are slower growing but have the potential to generate more revenue over time. Whether or not you own your land and, if you lease land, the terms of your lease may also influence the trees you chose to plant and your silvopasture plan overall.
- Source of forage: Will the trees and shrubs be a source of the forage or another crop to sell? Or both! Unharvested fruit and nuts can be consumed by livestock and a source of increased soil fertility when deposited as manure.
Are you practicing silvopasture in Santa Barbara or Ventura counties? If so, let us know! We are interested in learning more about the opportunities and challenges that local producers face when implementing and managing these systems.
If you have plans for integrating silvopasture on your farm to help meet your soil health goals, consider applying for funding through the California Department of Food and Agriculture's Healthy Soils Program. Grant applications are expected to open early February 2020, you can stay up to date with email notifications and by checking the website: https://www.cdfa.ca.gov/oefi/healthysoils/. If you have questions or would like technical assistance on the grant process, please contact your local technical assistance provider at http://ciwr.ucanr.edu/Programs/ClimateSmartAg/TechnicalAssistanceProviders/.
 California Gap Analysis Project “GAP”: California Fish and Wildlife Service and UCSB
 Brantly, S. What Silvopasture?—Working Trees. USDA National Agroforestry Center; 2013. Available online:https://www.fs.usda.gov/nac/assets/documents/workingtrees/infosheets/WhatIsSilvopastureInfoSheetMay2013.pdf. Accessed on 10 Dec 2019.
 USDA NRCS. Silvopasture (Code 381) Conservation Practice Standard. Pennsylvania. 2016. Available online: https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/PA_NRCSConsumption/download?cid=stelprdb1255015&ext=pdf. Accessed on 1 Dec 2019.
 USDA NAC. Silvopasture. USDA National Agroforestry Center. 2019. Available online: https://www.fs.usda.gov/nac/practices/silvopasture.php. Accessed on 1 Dec 2019.
 Gabriel, S. Silvopasture: A Guide to Managing Grazing Animals, Forage Crops, and Trees in a Temperate Farm Ecosystem. Chelsea Green Publishing, 2018.
- Author: Alli Rowe
As I have mentioned in my previous blogs, I have a certain affinity for cover crops. Mostly it is because I see enormous potential to increase the soil health and climate resiliency in Ventura County agriculture by incorporating cover crops. To shed some light on suitable cover crops for Ventura County, I seeded a cover crop demonstration at UCANR's Hansen Agricultural Research and Education Center in Santa Paula. On December 3rd, farmers, ranchers, gardeners, and community educators were invited to attend a Cover Crop Field Day to learn about different cover crops, compost, and the Healthy Soils Grant opportunity.
The field day attracted growers of all kinds from throughout the county. In attendance were orchard owners, berry and vegetable growers, ranchers, urban farmers, and enthusiastic gardeners, totaling over 100 people! Who knew so many people wanted to learn about my favorite topic?
The cover crop demonstration showcases cover crops in accordance to their functional category: biomass builders, pollinator habitat, low stature, and mustard. Mixes are seeded in long plots with their individual components seeded in smaller plots alongside. This allows for the chance to see the differences between mixes versus single species.
I would like to extend a deep thanks to CDFA, UCANR, the Hansen Agricultural Research and Education Center, Kamprath Seed, and S&S Seed for their generous donation of time, seed, and resources to make this demonstration and field day possible.
Want to know more about what we are up to around the state? Check out this recent press release by UCANR about the Climate Smart Agriculture team.
Climate smart agriculture encompasses management practices that increase soil carbon sequestration, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve yields and efficiencies, and promotes climate resilience. The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) supports three funding opportunities in climate smart agriculture: the Healthy Soils Program, the State Water Efficiency & Enhancement Program, and the Alternative Manure Management Program.
In a collaborative partnership, CDFA and UC Agriculture and Natural Resources have teamed up to support 10 community education specialists throughout the state to provide technical assistance and outreach for the climate smart agriculture programs. As one of these technical assistance providers, my role is to promote and support the adoption of these programs in Ventura County. If you are interested in working with me, please contact me at email@example.com.