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UC Food and Agriculture Blogs

‘UC Wolfskill’ walnut will allow earlier harvest

“UC Wolfskill can be harvested 12 to 14 days earlier than Chandler and provides consistently light to extra light color,” says UC Davis breeder Chuck Leslie. Photo by Janine Hasey

UC Davis researchers have bred a new walnut variety designed to provide growers a way to harvest earlier and boost the harvest efficiency of California's $1.6 billion walnut industry.

The new “UC Wolfskill” walnut has yield, quality and light color similar to Chandler, which is a late-harvesting walnut and the state's leading variety. UC Wolfskill was bred in 2003 from a cross of Chandler with the Solano walnut. UC Wolfskill combines the color and shell traits of Chandler with the earlier harvest date and kernel fill of Solano.

“The release of UC Wolfskill means growers can spread out their harvest and still have a really high-quality nut that will fetch top-notch prices and provide similar yields,” said Pat J. Brown, breeder and professor with the UC Davis Department of Plant Sciences.

Over 99 percent of the nation's walnuts are grown in California. More than half of the state's bearing acres are the late-harvest Chandler walnuts.

“The California walnut industry needs earlier harvesting walnut varieties to provide efficient use of harvesting, drying and processing equipment,” said breeder Chuck Leslie, with the UC Davis Walnut Improvement Program. “UC Wolfskill can be harvested 12 to 14 days earlier than Chandler and provides consistently light to extra light color.”

Handlers judge the value of a walnut based on its color and how well it halves while processing. In blind quality evaluations by commercial graders, the UC Wolfskill was often not distinguished from Chandler.

UC Wolfskill was originally planted and evaluated at UC Davis, and field trials with growers began in 2011.

“The commitment of our walnut growers, as collaborators, is the foundation that makes this release possible. The Board is extremely grateful for the long-term partnership of our growers and the UC, in finding innovative solutions that help us solve for critical needs,” said Michelle Connelly, executive director of the California Walnut Board.   

The California Walnut Board funded the research. UC Wolfskill is currently available to California nurseries for propagation in California and sales to growers throughout the United States. Nurseries interested in propagating and selling this cultivar may obtain a license from UC Davis InnovationAccess.

Posted on Thursday, January 21, 2021 at 10:33 AM
  • Author: Amy Quinton, UC Davis News and Media Relations

Californians get advice to stop bed bugs

Adult bed bugs are oval, wingless, about 1/5 inch long, and rusty red or mahogany in color. (Credit: Dong-Hwan Choe)

Bed bugs can hitch rides on secondhand furniture, luggage, backpacks and other personal items to invade homes and attack people. While we rest and sleep on sofas and beds, the insects come out to feed. They want to suck our blood. A new web-based,...

Posted on Wednesday, January 20, 2021 at 2:50 PM

Unwanted Indoor Critters? There's a Pest Notes For That!

Figure 1. Confused flour beetle (Credit: Clemson University)

While we continue to spend more time than usual indoors, you may have noticed a few unexpected (and perhaps unwanted) co-occupants like ants, cockroaches, or mice. Luckily, UC IPM has a series of fact sheets called Pest Notes to help you identify and...

Posted on Sunday, January 17, 2021 at 1:00 PM

Small-scale growers meet virtually to discuss organic agriculture

Over 150 current and prospective organic growers gleaned practical information shared by UC Agriculture and Natural Resources experts at the “Introduction to Small-Scale Organic Agriculture” workshop held virtually on Dec. 15, 2020. While most attendees were from inland San Bernardino, Riverside, Los Angeles and Orange counties, a handful were

Farmer Grace Legaspi shared tips on growing microgreens.
from other continents, including growers from Bangladesh and Sri Lanka who stayed connected into the wee hours of their morning. 

“I attended this workshop and it was very helpful to hear different aspects of organic farming from experienced people,” one attendee from Sri Lanka said in an email.

UC Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (SAREP) Director Gail Feenstra and Deputy Director Sonja Brodt kicked off the day with a presentation on program goals and resources. SAREP supports the goals of growers by developing more sustainable agricultural practices and effective regional food systems. They described a new online self-directed training program for organic specialty crop farmers in California and those in transition at https://ofrf.org/beginning-farmer-training-program. They also discussed marketing and business management.

Houston Wilson, director of UC ANR's new Organic Agriculture Institute, provided an overview of the program and pointed out that organic farming is expanding throughout California and includes more than 360 commodities. UC ANR will continue to take a lead role in developing and extending research and extension to this important sector, he said.

UC Cooperative Extension sustainable food systems advisor Rachel Surls discussed legal basics such as permits, licenses and regulations. UC Cooperative Extension organic agriculture specialist Joji Muramoto talked about the importance of soil health, a very popular and important topic. Other UC Cooperative Extension presenters covered nitrogen management (small farms advisor Margaret Lloyd), irrigation management (irrigation specialist Amir Haghverdi), integrated pest management (IPM advisor Cheryl Wilen), and plant diseases (plant pathology specialist Alex Putman).

“Thank you for the great workshop and resource links you provided for workshop materials and beyond! I have already downloaded and started to incorporate information from a few of the UC ANR pest management guidelines and legal and marketing links,” wrote an attendee from Chino. “Tips from peers are always great, too.”

Lavender grower Carol Hamre spoke about her trials and successes regarding vertebrate pest control and drip irrigation.

During the afternoon portion of the workshop, five California organic farmers shared tips from their experiences. Carol Hamre (123 Farm, Cherry Valley) spoke about her trials and successes regarding vertebrate pest control and drip irrigation. Grace Legaspi (Tiny Leaf Micro Farm, Temescal Valley) talked about the art and science of growing microgreens. Lisa Wright (RD Flavorfull Farm, Riverside) discussed the importance of planting the right varieties in the right seasons. Arthur Levine (Huerta del Valle, Ontario) stressed the importance of collaboration and working synergistically as a team, and the importance of inclusiveness in all practices. Richard Zapien (‘R Farm, UC Riverside) shared inspiring stories and opportunities regarding the popular and successful UC Riverside community garden he manages.

“I am very glad to attend this workshop as a Bangladeshi,” wrote a grateful attendee from half way around the world. “Really, I have learned many things about organic farming in this workshop. I am working in the Tree nuts sector in Bangladesh but I have only cashew nuts plantation and processing factory…. I want to make an organic farm on 25 acres of land to cultivate vegetables, fruits, livestock, and fishing. Thanks again.”

Following the workshop, an extensive list of UCANR and external resources on topics covered during the workshop was provided to attendees https://ucanr.edu/sites/smallscalefarming/RESOURCES_/.

“I wanted to thank you for such a great webinar,” replied another Southern California participant. “I am a farm business advisor with the non-profit Kitchen Table Advisors and I learned a lot myself. Thank you for providing this list of resources. I look forward to the webinar recordings and slides, which I hope to be able to share with some of my farmer clients.”

The efforts of our co-sponsors also led to the overall success of the workshop. Inland Empire Resource Conservation District (IERCD) Manager Mandy Parkes, co-moderator, discussed district irrigation and soil testing resources and handed out gift certificates throughout the day. Evelyn Hurtado from IERCD volunteered to translate the workshop recordings into Spanish and Maggie O'Neill shared membership information and resources from the San Bernardino County Farm Bureau. Other co-sponsors included the Riverside County and Orange County Farm Bureaus. The California Certified Organic Foundation promoted the workshop and heightened awareness of UC ANR's programs and activities in the field of organic agriculture.

The PowerPoint presentations and recordings in English will be posted on the UCCE San Bernardino County website: https://ucanr.edu/sites/smallscalefarming/ by Feb. 15, 2021, and the Spanish translations later this winter. Next year, if conditions allow, actual farm visits will be included.

Posted on Thursday, January 14, 2021 at 7:04 PM

New avocado study outlines costs and returns of high-density plantings

A worker prunes weak tree branches to improve sunlight penetration in a high-density avocado orchard.

Growers considering producing avocados in San Diego County with high-density plantings now have help to determine the economic feasibility. A new study on the costs and returns of establishing and producing avocados in San Diego County has been released by UC Agriculture and Natural Resources' Cooperative Extension, UC Agricultural Issues Center and the UC Davis Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics.

Avocado has been one of the prominent crops produced in Southern California since the early 1950s. California avocado production peaked in 1987-88 with about 76,300 acres. San Diego had been the leading producer accounting for about 60% of the acreage.

“Beginning in the early 1980s, there has been a continuous decline of acreage and production of avocados in San Diego County, said Etaferahu Takele, UC Cooperative Extension farm management advisor for Southern California and co-author of the study. “This is mainly because of the expansion of urban development that has increased the cost of producing the crop and especially the cost of water, reaching to up to $2,000 per acre feet in 2020.”

The same amount of water was sufficient for the high-density avocados as it was for the traditional planting. Photo by Gary Bender

High-density planting increases profitability of avocado production given there is suitable land for high-density orchard development.

Although the cost of water accounts for 44% of the total production cost in the high-density planting, the water cost is proportionally less than in the conventional planting of 145 trees per acre when distributed over a higher yield per acre, the authors write.

Their cost analysis describes production operations for avocados planted at 430 trees per acre, with an expected life span of 40 years. The study includes a detailed summary of costs and returns and a profitability analysis of gross margin, economic profit and a break-even ranging analysis table, which shows profits over a range of prices and yields. Growers can identify their gross margin and returns to management based on their yield and prices received.

UC Cooperative Extension advisor Gary Bender checks sunlight penetration in a high-density avocado orchard.

Input and reviews were provided by a UC Cooperative Extension farm advisor and grower cooperators in San Diego County. The authors describe the assumptions used to identify current costs for avocado establishment and production, material inputs, cash and non-cash overhead. 

The new study, “Avocado Establishment and Production Costs and Profitability Analysis in High Density Planting, San Diego County-2020,” can be downloaded for free from the UC Davis Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics website at http://coststudies.ucdavis.edu and UCCE Riverside County Farm Management website at https://ucanr.edu/sites/Farm_Management/Costs_and_Returns. Sample cost of production studies for many other commodities are also available on the websites.

For additional information or an explanation of the calculations used in the studies, refer to the “Assumptions” section of the report or contact Takele at (951) 683-6491 Ext. 243 or ettakele@ucanr.edu or Donald Stewart at the UC Agricultural Issues Center at destewart@ucdavis.edu.

For the high-density planting study, avocado trees were spaced 10’x10’ or 430 trees per acre. Traditional plantings of avocados are spaced 20’x15’ or 145 trees per acre. Photo by Ben Faber
 
Posted on Monday, January 4, 2021 at 1:58 PM

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