ANR in the news October 16-31

Nov 1, 2019

Strategies for Increasing Ranch Income

(AgNetWest) Brian German, Oct. 31

 There are multiple approaches that producers can take to help increase ranch income that ranges from improving traditional avenues of revenue to taking a more unconventional approach to the diversification of income.  A workshop coming up on November 20 in Watsonville is focused on helping producers better understand the value of marketing their products.

“Some of the things that we're going to be talking about in this workshop are really basic things like what is marketing? How can we demystify marketing? What are its functions in your livestock operation and how can marketing benefit your operation?” said Devii Rao, Livestock and Natural Resources Advisor for San Benito, Monterey, and Santa Cruz Counties. “We wanted to start bringing up that conversation and help ranchers share with each other their successes and their challenges.”


Vineyards can help stop fires. They did in the Alexander Valley

(San Francisco Chronicle) Esther Mobley, Oct. 30

…“Vines are green and full of water,” said S. Kaan Kurtural, UC Davis professor of viticulture and oenology. “With the amount of water they can hold in their tissue, they become an oasis in a hot environment.”

Sounds simple enough. But if all it takes to stop a fire is a living plant, then why don't trees do the trick?

“Forests have a lot of underbrush, so there's a lot of fuel for a fire underneath the canopies,” Kurtural said.


Early UC Hemp Research Already Yielding Results

(Canna Product News) Oct. 30

For the first time ever, UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) researchers harvested an industrial hemp crop at one of its nine research and extension centers this fall.

“It's an interesting crop,” said UC Cooperative Extension specialist Bob Hutmacher. “We don't have a lot of experience in UC ANR with hemp at this time. There is a tremendous amount of research that can be done to understand its growth and best cultural practices, optimal planting dates either by seed or transplants, irrigation and fertilization management, and, particularly, to address pest and disease management.”


Good Fire

(Devil's Garden Horses blog)

The 80-acre UC Berkeley Forestry Camp in Plumas County serves as a unique opportunity to implement techniques and research related to fire. With wildfires in California growing in intensity over the past few years, many foresters are trying to educate the public about using fire as a tool to reduce fuel loads. Last weekend we had the pleasure of attending a two-day Prescribed Fire on Private Lands workshop, hosted by the UC Cooperative Extension. It was a really educational workshop, especially going in with limited knowledge and exposure to forestry practices.


Are locally owned utilities an alternative to PG&E?

(KCRA) Vicki Gonzalez, Oct. 28

Sacramento is home to a municipality. The Sacramento Municipal Utility District is a community-owned, not-for-profit service, with a locally elected board of directors.

“SMUD is one of the best operating municipals in the nation,” said Keith Taylor, with UC Davis Cooperative Extension. “They are very responsive to local consumers, local policy makers, so municipals are also another wonderful alternative we can pull into the conversation.”

Taylor goes a step further. He argues that although electricity co-ops are common in other parts of the country, they are almost nonexistent in California.


Why so many fires when PG&E power was off? Here's what we know

(San Francisco Chronicle) Jason Fagone, Oct. 28

Despite historic power shut-offs that have plunged much of the Bay Area into darkness — a Hail Mary by Pacific Gas and Electric Co. to prevent new wildfires from starting and spreading in hot, dry winds — a spate of new fires have recently kicked up across the region.

Early clues point to malfunctioning power equipment as the cause of some fires, and PG&E is already under investigation in multiple incidents, including the devastating Kincade Fire in Sonoma County. But no one yet knows what sparked the other fires.

“Shutting off the power and expecting ignitions to go away is overly simplistic. It's very naive,” said Max Moritz, a wildfire specialist at UC Santa Barbara's Bren School. “There are many different human causes (of wildfires) in addition to power lines. And the patterns vary up and down the state, and through time.”


Orchard Recycling Getting Closer to Financial Assistance

(AgNet West) Oct. 28

Whole orchard recycling is a pricey practice, but financial assistance is on the way. The California Department of Food and Agriculture is looking to include the method in its Healthy Soils Incentives Program. U.C. Cooperative Extension's Brent Holtz has been researching the practice for over a decade and said the benefits include increased nutrients, water holding capacity, and of course, carbon sequestration.


Electric Utilities Can't Blame Wildfires Solely on Climate, Experts Say

(Scientific American) Daniel Cusick, Oct. 25

…“I find myself wanting to squash statements that this is the ‘new normal,'” said Yana Valachovic, Northern California lead forest adviser for the University of California Cooperative Extension program. “You hear a lot of people promoting that idea, but I find it very defeating. It assumes an external force is operating on us in a way we can't deal with.”

In fact, part of adapting to changing climate conditions in California involves understanding risks from wildfire and then making choices to reduce them. “Unfortunately, we've been very unaware and uninterested in how we can design, construct and maintain our homes,” Valachovic said.


California's Power Shutoffs Might Prevent Wildfires. But Are They Worth the Risks?

(TIME) Tara Law, Oct. 25

… But Max Moritz, a wildfire specialist at UC Santa Barbara, says turning off the power won't prevent every wildfire. As he points out, wildfires can be ignited by anything from campfires to lightning to arson. And if a wildfire starts regardless of an outage, blackouts could make it harder for people in potential danger to get information or call for help. “You can't imagine a worse time to not have power,” Moritz says. Meanwhile, leaving thousands of people without electricity can have its own deadly consequences, especially for people with health issues, the elderly, and other vulnerable groups. And even absent a fire, power outages can present problems of their own — people may miss work, their food or medicine may spoil, and heat becomes a concern without air conditioning.
… But Moritz says that PG&E is running what he calls a “very large-scale experiment” with little evidence to show that reducing the chances of a fire starting one particular way makes people safer overall. For his part, he would like to see more detailed plans from companies like PG&E regarding the outages, as well as evidence that they do in fact prevent fires. Indeed, a fire began in Sonoma County on Thursday in an area where PG&E said it had already cut power. While it's unclear what sparked this new blaze, the company says one of its power transmission towers malfunctioned just minutes before the fire began.

“I think we're missing this larger-scale and longer-term framework for how [shutoffs] fit in to an overall plan,” Moritz says. “Lacking that, it seems like an experiment.”


Potential E-Verify Deal Would Give Legal Status to Farmworkers

(Pew Trusts) Tim Henderson, Oct 24

…There have been numerous attempts since then to balance the needs of farmers, who depend on the labor, and those who want to discourage unauthorized immigration, said Philip Martin, an emeritus professor of agriculture and resource economics at the University of California, Davis.

Growers also would like to get easier temporary guest-worker visas with lower pay and fewer housing requirements, which may be part of the deal, Martin said.

Farmworkers from Mexico are more fearful now than in years past about crossing the border and moving around in the United States because of increased immigration enforcement. In the late 1990s almost 80% of farmworkers in the country illegally migrated from job to job, according to a 2016 University of California, Berkeley, study. That number was down to 6% by 2016.


11 tips to beat grape fungal diseases

(Good Fruit Grower) Leslie Mertz, Oct. 22

Grapes face all kinds of fungal diseases — from mildews, rots and blights to leaf spot and anthracnose. What's a grower to do? Here are 11 tips from Annemiek Schilder, who spent many years as a small fruit pathologist at Michigan State University and now serves as director of the University of California Cooperative Extension in Ventura County.


Sacred Cows

The New Yorker, Frank Mitloehner, Oct. 21

Tad Friend, in his piece on Impossible Foods, a startup that makes imitation meat in the hope of solving climate change, writes, “Every four pounds of beef you eat contributes to as much global warming as flying from New York to London” (“Value Meal,” September 30th). As a professor who studies the environmental impact of livestock production, I was surprised that Friend relied on such a high per-pound emissions rate for beef, since most estimates are much lower. According to a recent paper in Agricultural Systems, the carbon footprint of four pounds of U.S. beef is equivalent to about eighty-eight pounds of carbon dioxide. Per passenger, a flight from New York to London adds roughly 1,980 pounds of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, about twenty times more than the production of four pounds of beef.


Climate change is coming for your Cabernet

(CBS News) Oct. 19

…In Napa Valley, Cabernet is king. It's also where researchers are trying to save it with 11 different projects happening all around the area.

Beckstoffer Vineyards is investing tens of millions of dollars partnering with U.C. Davis for the world's most ambitious Cabernet Sauvignon root stock and clone trial. They're looking for more resilient combinations of Cabernet.

Vineyard manager Clint Nelson and researcher Kaan Kurtural said the area has heated up by nearly two degrees per decade. That may not sound like much, but viticulturists say it's enough to eventually make Cabernet grapes extinct.

"You cannot just say, 'Oh we gotta think about it 20 to 30 years from now.' You have to take action now," Kurtural said.


Sweet excess: How the baby food industry hooks toddlers on sugar, salt and fat

(Washington Post) Laura Reiley, Oct. 17

…Lorrene Ritchie, director of the Nutrition Policy Institute at the University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, worries that low-income parents will be more inclined to spend their money on these heavily advertised baby foods, toddler milks and packaged snacks at the expense of healthier options.

“The amount of funding spent to promote healthy foods, which is mostly via federal nutrition education dollars such as WIC and SNAP-Ed, is dwarfed by food marketing which is mostly for unhealthy and ‘treat' foods and beverages,” she said. “I fear we will never make a big dent in diet-related chronic disease until we level this playing field.”


We Got The Snack Receipts For LA Rec And Park's After-School Programs — It's Mostly Junk

(LAist) Alyssa Jeong Perry, Oct. 17

…In 2017, 45% of all 5th graders in L.A. County were considered overweight or obese, according to data collected by the California Department of Education. About 41% of kids statewide were overweight or obese. 

Child nutrition expert Lorrene Ritchie of the Nutrition Policy Institute, a research center connected with the University of California system, said eating junk food at snack time can affect a child's overall health. 

"It's not massive gorging that contributes to obesity," Ritchie said. "It's just the small amount of extra calories every day."


PG&E outage fallout a test for Newsom, agencies

(Farm Press) Tim Hearden, Oct. 16

…But while many Californians were inconvenienced by the blackouts, University of California Cooperative Extension fire scientist Lenya Quinn-Davidson told Time magazine she worries that too much emphasis is being placed on utilities as the cause of fires.

By Pamela Kan-Rice
Author - Assistant Director, News and Information Outreach