2015 ANR Competitive Grants Program
ANR's 2015 Competitive Grants Program will fund 17 projects for a total of $3.7 million over 5 years. ANR's internal competitive grants program, as outlined in the request for proposals, continues to support high-priority issues that are consistent with the Strategic Vision, encourage collaboration among academics, strengthen the research-extension network, support short-term, high-impact projects and contribute policy-relevant outcomes that address significant agricultural, economic, environmental and social issues in California.
“Validating Alternatives to the Use of Sulfur Dioxide: A Combined Organic Approach”.
The table grape organic market or sulfite free are profitable, so reducing losses and extending organic grape availability is highly desired, especially for young consumers that can be allergic to sulfites. In addition, the application of synthetic fungicides and sulfur dioxide are not classified as organic, therefore, are not allowed on organic grapes (Romanazzi et al., 2012). Furthermore, there are also strict tolerances (MRL) regarding synthetic fungicides and sulfur dioxide residues in important markets in Europe and others (Nigro et al., 2006). The use of sulfur dioxide in some countries is not allowed and the current legal residues are being challenged in many countries.
Some alternative methods to sulfur dioxide have been studied; such as the application of ethanol (Karabulut et al., 2003), ethanol combined with chitosan or calcium chloride (Chervin et al., 2009; Romanazzi et al., 2007), organic salts (Nigro et al., 2006), controlled atmosphere (Artes-Hernandez et al., 2004; Chen et al., 2011, Crisosto et al., 2002a&b; Retamales et al., 2003), and ozone (Crisosto et al., 2002c; Gabler et al., 2010) without enough support to replace sulfur dioxide and become a commercial practice. High economic support and scientist time have been used as an alternative to sulfur dioxide all over the world with frustrated results. Until now, the best and very limited organic option is the use of ozone.
Our preliminary recent work results are suggesting that the combination of pre-storage application of 40% CO2 for 24 or 48 h followed by controlled atmosphere (12% O2 + 12% CO2) or ozone (300ppb) storage reduce decay development without affecting visual and sensory quality attributes of ‘Flame Seedless’ table grapes. We are proposing to develop high carbon dioxide concentrations (HCDA) and exposure times (24 and 48 hours) to control decay, flavor and quality for table grape cultivars, strawberries, pomegranates, blueberries, blackberries and fresh figs. Then, we will evaluate performance of combined treatments (HCDA + Controlled Atmosphere (CA) and HCDA + Ozone) during storage and/or transportation. At the same time we will test and reveal potentially resistant biological tissues as a response to the HCDA treatment. Educational/Training workshops at KARE, Coachella, Fresno-Madera; Tulare and Kern County will be carried out after first year of this work.
A selective dry-cow therapy decision tree to aid the dairy industry in reducing antibiotic use at dry-off
A decision tree to identify cows that are at risk of mastitis in the dry-period or post-calving may aid the dairy industry in replacing the blanket antibiotic treatment of cows at dry-off with selective dry-cow therapy. Inputs of such a decision tree should be low-cost, based on rapid and readily available, accurate (both sensitive and specific) information to identify cows at high risk of dry-period or post-calving mastitis. We propose development of a decision tree for selective dry-cow therapy on dairies based on readily available herd- and cow-level risk factors from DHI records using an experimental randomized study design with cows (N=1,200) randomized to receive either no antibiotic treatment or the routine on-farm antibiotic treatment at dry-off on 20 dairies (60 cows per dairy). Furthermore, the sensitivity and specificity of the resulting decision tree in identifying cows that get mastitis during the dry-period or in the subsequent lactation will be estimated using culture of milk samples at dry-off and post-calving. The culture of milk samples will be performed to estimate the accuracy of the resulting decision tree but will not be incorporated in the decision tree to maintain its rapid and practical traits. The experimental study design, follow-up of enrolled cows to the end of the subsequent lactation, and the team’s experience with projects involving investigation of cost-effective methods to detect mastitis in large herds, development of an on-farm scoring system for calf pneumonia diagnosis, and use of regression trees to predict producer decisions to adopt beef quality assurance practices are proof of collaboration and success in providing practical tools that aid the dairy industry in improving dairy cattle health and welfare (Aly et al., 2014, Love et al., 2014, Murai et al., 2014).
As part of the extension and outreach plan, herd managers from 100 dairies will be trained on use of the selective dry-cow therapy decision tree. Funding will include a post-doc for two years, advised by the PIs, and two 3-month summer internship opportunities for undergraduate students, especially minorities from rural colleges, such as College of Sequoias and Woodland Community College, for training on milk quality, dairy herd management and record analyses. A 500,000 dollar USDA grant to research the “life-long” effect of selective dry-cow therapy on dairies with different housing and milking practices will be leveraged from the results of this proposal.
Alternative forages: how does sorghum fit into existing nutrient management and feeding systems in California?
Silage is commonly fed on California dairies, and allows for storage and feed out of forage crops throughout the entire year. This is very important for California dairy production systems, where the major operating cost is feed, accounting for 65% of the cost to produce milk in 2013 (CDFA, 2013). Reduced water allocations throughout the San Joaquin Valley are already impacting growing decisions on California dairy farms, and will continue to do so until California receives a reprieve from the drought and/or a change in water policy.
Sorghum for silage is gaining attention due to its deficit irrigation tolerance, reduced water and fertilizer requirements as compared to corn, but the feasibility of sorghum silage in the California dairy system has not been studied. Home grown forages for silage are the most economical feedstuff found on California dairies, where feed is the major operating cost. Before producers decide to forego a corn silage crop in order to plant sorghum for silage, the ramifications to the dairy system must be evaluated. Energy is required to make milk, so when comparing water usage between sorghum and corn silages, energy yield should be taken into account. In other words, where does the dairy producer get the biggest return on his water investment? Another factor that must be considered is current waste management plans on dairies. The Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board regulates how nitrogen is managed on dairies, and does not allow for application to removal ratios greater than 1.4. It needs to be demonstrated that sorghum can be grown with manure nutrients, and that enough manure nutrients can be applied so that the dairy nitrogen system does not go into a state of unbalance, while still meeting the regulatory requirement.
The proposal’s aim is to determine if sorghum silage is a viable replacement for corn silage, in terms of fitting into existing regulated nutrient management constraints, as well as the feeding systems of dairies. A second objective is to determine the water use efficiency of both sorghum and corn silages on a unit of energy produced, thus giving dairy producers the largest return on their water investment. Creation of extension materials and meetings are priorities to aid in the decision making process as dairy producers transition into operating systems with markedly less water allocations. Specifically, the project will look at:
• Water use efficiency of forage crops,
• Manure (nitrogen) use efficiency of forage crops, and
• Crop energy yield for milk production.
The proposed project will aid California dairy producers with their cropping decisions, and determine the most efficient use of water resources with respect to energy for milk production. With increased costs of production, especially feed costs, and strong regulatory pressure, this research is critical for the continued competitiveness of the California dairy industry and aligns with the Sustainable Food Systems and Water Quality, Quantity and Security Initiatives.
Bridging research and policy: An Assessment of strategic relationships between ANR, food policy councils, and research institutions in California
• What links to UC (or other) research institutions do FPC’s currently have?
• How were these links established and how are they maintained?
• What specific mechanisms, processes, relationships and practices promote effective translation of agricultural, food and nutrition research by ANR (and other research institutions) to local or state policies?
• How do researcher-FPC relationships influence FPCs’ impacts on policy-making?
• What are the best practices and lessons learned for FPCs, for research institutions, and specifically for UC ANR?
Background/rationale: Over the past three decades, public and private organizations throughout the state have fostered the creation of cross-sectoral “food policy councils” (FPCs) in order to address inadequacies and gaps in food policy and planning. Currently, food policies are shaped by a disparate array of government departments and agencies with little if any coordination or recognition of the linkages between food-related sectors. Too often the resulting policies seek to solve specific food-related problems in narrow, conflicting, and ineffective ways. In response, FPCs aim to address food issues holistically—for example through an explicit examination of issues such as hunger, nutrition and sustainable agriculture in relation to each other. Food Policy Councils bring together diverse stakeholders to assess assets and needs in local and regional food systems and to offer recommendations for policy change (Fox 2010). Food policy councils can exist as advisory boards to state and local governments, subsections of government departments, non-profits, or as other entities. The California Food Policy Council (CAFPC) works with 26 local food policy councils including many on which Cooperative Extension advisors as participants, though the roles that CE plays in these relationships vary widely. While there is a growing body of research on the structure and overall effectiveness of FPCs, it remains unclear how FPCs engage with and leverage existing research institutions and their resources to inform their work. In order to strengthen the potential partnerships between ANR and FPCs and further the progress of FPCs in promoting research-based strategies that support healthy communities and sustainable food systems, it is critical that we understand not only FPCs’ overall impacts, but the mechanisms through which their achievements are realized—i.e. not just the impacts but how these impacts are achieved. In partnering with CE specialists and advisors who have working relationships with FPCs across diverse regions of California, our project team is well positioned to conduct this study and to strengthen networks both within UC ANR and between ANR and those working to improve California’s food system.
Scope/methods: While we will examine FPC’s relations with various research institutions and resources, we will pay particular attention to FPC’s relationship(s) with UC ANR. We plan to conduct six to ten comparative case studies of an intentional sample of California’s 26 food policy councils.. We will partner with UCCE advisors who have relationships with local FPCs to develop an appropriate interview guide. In-depth interviews with FPC stakeholders will be supplemented with document analysis (i.e. government and FPC reports) and participant-observation for each of our cases. Using participatory research methodology, we will also hold workshops that dovetail with existing FPC regional meetings in order to solicit stakeholder responses to our preliminary findings. We will then incorporate this feedback into our final analyses. To extend our results, we will use findings from these targeted case studies to develop a follow-up survey of all FPCs in California. Through this survey we intend to collect information across the state on the types of research data that are leveraged for policy use and the types and forms of data needed by FPCs. In this way, our study will provide insight into both the fine-grained mechanisms through which individual FPCs engage with researchers and research institutions and also the broader trends in FPC-researcher interactions. At the conclusion of our study, we will co-host a summit with the California Food Policy Council to share findings and further build relationships between FPC members and the research community. It will be followed by a training for ANR specialists and advisors on how to most effectively engage with and inform policy-making on agriculture, food and nutrition.
Building Success in California’s Urban Agriculture: Managing Risk and Leveraging Opportunities
A UCCE team recently assessed the needs of urban farmers around the state, and found that they struggle with production, business, and marketing challenges, many of which are specific to the urban context of their farms. Additionally, many urban farmers are unaware of agricultural regulations, city zoning and permitting rules, food safety, soil quality issues, and pest quarantines. Based on the needs assessment, the team created a resource portal for urban farmers (See ucanr.edu/urbanag). This proposal would build on UCCE efforts to address issues of farm management systems of varying operational scales in urban environments by developing four workshop modules on topics that were identified as high priority (see below), and conducting at least 16 workshops in four of the state's largest urban communities: Los Angeles, San Diego, the Bay Area, and Sacramento. Workshops will be filmed and edited clips along with workshop materials will be disseminated on the UC Urban Agriculture portal.
The proposal is timely because urban agriculture is becoming increasingly popular around the state, in part because city-level policies are more often promoting small urban farms. Also, three new state laws encourage urban food production: AB 551 (Urban Agriculture Incentive Zones) which provides a potential tax reduction for land-owners, AB 2561 (Personal Agriculture), which allows renters to garden with fewer restrictions, and AB 1990 (Food Production) which has broad implications. Passed in 2014, AB 1990 now allows backyard and community gardeners to sell fruits, vegetables and eggs directly to the public and to restaurants by registering as “Community Food Producers (CFPs).” County environmental health departments are currently developing local regulatory procedures to meet the terms of this new law, and many concerns exist about how CFPs will learn about basic pre and post-harvest food safety practices and other important issues. This project will meet the need for training urban farmers/CFPs, which improving the effectiveness of regulatory decisions.
Workshop modules will cover 1) Urban farming basics, which will include types of urban farm enterprises, zoning issues, soil testing, required permits and licenses, and an introduction to key local resources such as the Agricultural Commissioner and UCCE staff; 2) Marketing and business management for urban farms which will cover business planning, and will touch on labor laws and risk management; 3) Production considerations for urban farmers, focusing on water management, IPM, and soil contamination/soil improvement; and 4) Pre and post-harvest food safety practices, using CDFA’s Small Farm Food Safety Guidelines. Participants will be encouraged to attend the series, although workshops will be stand-alone. Each workshop will be a one-day event.
Participating urban farmers will be surveyed three to six months following their workshop attendance about impacts on sales, marketing, production practices, and understanding of regulations resulting from their attendance. Through their participation, farmers managing small-scale production systems in cities will more efficiently use limited resources such as water, reduce pesticides, increase soil health and resiliency, and improve food safety through the use of best management growing practices.
Ecoinformatics (“Big Data”) for improved citrus pest management
• Proposed research approach: We propose to use an “ecoinformatics” (sometimes called “Big Data”) research approach to problem solving in pest management and agricultural productivity. Ecoinformatics refers to the use of pre-existing data (“data mining”) that often describe ecological processes occurring at large spatial and temporal scales, where experimentation is difficult. We are currently collaborating with independent pest management consultants and with citrus growers across the San Joaquin Valley to build a unique data set describing (1) densities of key citrus pest and beneficial arthropods; (2) pesticide use practices; and (3) citrus yield (quantity and quality). Our collaborators have maintained excellent records, allowing us to document practices in some detail over more than a decade of citrus production (records have been gathered for 2000-2013). The database currently includes complete records for ca. 1,200 annual harvests of citrus in California. While this is small by most Big Data standards, it is much larger than a typical experimental agriculture research data set, and the large size of the data set gives us exceptional opportunities to characterize in detail the individual and joint, interacting pest effects on citrus yield (including quantity, fruit size distributions, and fruit quality grades). Detailed pack-out reports have been obtained. We have also gathered data on other factors that may influence pest densities and citrus yield, including: (4) weather data (obtained from >100 weather stations across the San Joaquin Valley); (5) citrus nutrient status (obtained from foliar nutrient analyses); (6) citrus cultivar, planting age, planting density, and other details of agronomic practices; and (7) grower output and input prices. The construction of this data set through the 2013 harvest has been supported by grants from Cal-EPA. We will solicit continuing research support funds from the State of California (Cal-EPA, Department of Pesticide Regulation) to match the funds requested here.
• The current invasion of the Asian citrus psyllid is likely to place significant stresses on the overall pest management program for citrus. Thus, it is critical now to characterize fully the relationships between pest densities and yield effects. Knowledge of these relationships will give us the ability to adapt pest management practices during what we anticipate is likely to be a period of shifting pesticide use and pest pressures.
• Because the project begins with data collection from farmers and consultants, we have a unique opportunity to build strong collaborations with our stakeholders from the very outset of the project. Thus, we aim to integrate research and extension efforts throughout the life of the project, with regular meetings with our participating growers early in the project transitioning to meetings with the full citrus farming community as research recommendations are developed. Because our data come directly from the commercial production setting, research results will translate directly and seamlessly into recommendations for growers.
• The project breaks new ground in applying ecoinformatics approaches to solving pest management and agricultural productivity challenges in a perennial crop setting for the first time. Ecoinformatics can be especially valuable as a complementary tool for perennial crop research, where experimentation is much more difficult to conduct.
Ecological Restoration on Natural and Working Landscapes in California RESTORATION RESEARCH AND INFORMATION CENTER (RIC)
To address this, we propose to initiate and deploy a coordinated web-based center for ecological restoration that will help to improve restoration design, implementation and success for the state. The broad goal of this restoration research information center (RIC) is to encourage sustainable land management and production of 80,500 California farms and ranches, and to promote healthy ecosystems for an additional 9 million acres of protected public land across the state by (1) providing access to targeted data driven research that informs best practices, (2) facilitating information transfer between researchers and stakeholders, and (3) facilitating collaboration by linking on the ground management with researchers. The establishment of a UC-housed restoration RIC will facilitate the delivery of timely land management products from CE staff, researchers and practitioners to thousands of clientele, while also positioning the UCCE as a leader in restoration research and outreach in California and nationwide.
The web-based center will be an in-depth information repository that will develop through time, providing clientele with the opportunity to easily access information that allows them to make more sustainable management decisions. In addition to products that demonstrate restoration success and feasibility (research papers and case study descriptions), the center will be a resource for real-time updates related to restoration policy and markets, upcoming meetings and symposia, job and volunteer opportunities, and field days. The RIC would bring together clientele from a diverse group of commodities, while cultivating working partnerships with organizations like the California Native Grassland Association and the California Invasive Plant Council, and cultivate continuum among faculty, CE staff and agencies. By providing a structured point source for all relevant restoration material, the center would also facilitate access to recent research and restoration development by the media and outlets for popular press.
The center will be organized by system (grassland, wetland, riparian, etc.), and will be further organized by land use history (cropland, orchard, rangeland, etc.), as these characteristics are some of the most important initial filters for identifying potential restoration approaches. The large collaborative group involved with the center will ensure adequate coverage of all major bioregions and agricultural regions within our framework.
Resources available through the proposed RIC
- Online modules (educational videos; workshop and field day recordings)
- Restoration market and policy updates
- Relevant research papers (peer reviewed and white papers)
- Downloadable infographics (handouts; powerpoint presentations; posters)
- Resource listings (native plant nurseries; workshop and course calendar; relevant websites)
- User driven content (editable and searchable database of past and current restoration projects)
- Opportunities (paid opportunities; volunteer opportunities)
Products created through the RIC
- Education through online and social media (webinars; blogs; twitter)
- Networking events + workshops
- Manuals (e.g. California Grassland Restoration Manual)
Evaluating eight native woody plant species in California ecosystems and nurseries for Phytophthora disease
The woody plant species targeted in this proposal will include plants commonly used to restore sites in California such as (1) toyon, (2) California sycamore, (3) coffeeberry (Rhamnus californica syn. Frangula californica), (4) arroyo willow, (5) California buckeye (Aesculus californica), (6) madrone (Arbutus menziesii), (7) coast live oak (Quercus agrifolia), and (8) valley oak (Quercus lobata). Woody perennials are more likely to maintain their infection status, making the survey possible with a single sampling in the spring. To do this we will develop improved sampling methods for native woody plant species that are common in two defined systems: (1) California ecosystems, both (a) wildlands, (b) restored landscapes and (2) nurseries in the state. We will then evaluate the disease epidemiology as it relates to these systems. We will do this by sampling Phytophthora species, tracking the genetic background (information from multiple gene regions), and the host pathogen epidemiology within sites in California ecosystems, and in nurseries for these native California woody plant species. We propose to screen native woody plant species in California from 20 wildlands, 20 restored habitats, and 20 nurseries targeting toyon and the other woody plant species mentioned above, using similar sampling methods in each system. Isolations from nurseries will be performed in the laboratories of Steve Koike and Steve Tjosvold in Monterey/Santa Cruz counties. Phytophthora species identification, genetic analyses, as well as isolations from wild lands will take place at the University of California, Berkeley.
Development of improved sampling and identification methods- We propose to test and develop a multi-baiting system that is practical, similar to existing rhododendron baiting methods but more comprehensive. Use a new Rapid Isothermal Amplification Assay for detection of Phytophthora species (Miles et al. 2014) to compare results from baiting and assay. Then use a multigene analysis for the recovered cultured isolates for nuclear and mitochondrial gene regions that are commonly examined for Phytophthora species.
Epidemiological studies- We will use the data collected to establish the relationship between the development of disease in the landscape in restoration planting, and woody plants from wildlands and nurseries. This study will build our understanding of the incidence and distribution of Phytophthora species pathogens and disease of woody plant species in California. By understanding how different Phytophthora species spread from one system to another on each of these woody hosts, especially toyon, we will then be able to use the information gleaned to develop the most effective control strategies to prevent new pathogens from entering restored ecosystem, allowing these projects increased success.
Outreach/Extension component- We will create a broadly based participation request to targeted restoration nurseries, abide to the principle of anonymity, but also provide full disclosure to participating nurseries and wildland managers. The “Working Group for Phytophthoras in Native Habitats” have a comprehensive mailing list of California restoration nurseries. We will use the mailing list to make our participation request to nurseries. Once nurseries agree to participate, we can then make field calls to nurseries and take samples. In addition, we will train the nursery staff of participating nurseries in the identification of symptoms, sampling techniques, and methods of shipping samples; in that way they can continue to ship samples independently as symptoms develop. The names of participating nurseries will be confidential and will not be shared with any agency or researcher outside this study. Publication of results will abide to the principle of anonymity; however, there will be full disclosure to each nursery regarding the Phytophthora species identified within their properties and we will prepare one ad-hoc document for best management practices for each nursery, and for managers of wildland areas found to be infested. Participation from commercial nurseries will be voluntary, and participants will be informed that findings regarding regulated pathogens will be communicated first with the participating facility itself, but also with the regulatory state agency. Findings of non-regulated organisms will only be shared with participating facilities.
Miles, T. D., Martin, F. N. & Coffey, M. D. 2015. Development of Rapid Isothermal Amplification Assays for Detection of Phytophthora spp. in Plant Tissue. Phytopathology 105: 265–278.
Healthy Beverages in Childcare: Putting Policy into Practice
Building on Prior Work: In 2012, Dr. Ritchie and colleagues evaluated the impact and implementation of California’s new Healthy Beverages in Childcare Act. This law promotes drinking water and prohibits or restricts sugar-sweetened beverages, juice, and 2% and full-fat milk (for children age 2 and up) in all licensed childcare. While 60% of the surveyed childcare providers reported knowing about this law, less than one-fourth were in full compliance. A majority expressed a need for provider training to overcome challenges associated with serving healthy beverages. A similar discussion is occurring nationally about how states can support childcare providers in meeting USDA’s recently proposed Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP)(1) nutrition standards that will be implemented soon. CACFP serves over 3 million children nationally, and its meal pattern requirements also apply to licensed, non-CACFP childcare centers in nearly half of states. Even greater challenges exist for providers who are licensed but not participating in CACFP. While CACFP provides routine monitoring and training, for those not in CACFP there is little training.(2) Given the broad reach of childcare nutrition, understanding how to support all providers in serving healthy food and beverages is critical to the health of young children. Our previous study suggests that without evidence-based, sustainable trainings for providers, nutrition policies will not be fully implemented. We and others have demonstrated that web-based trainings can be effective with low-income and provider populations.
Specific Aims: 1) develop, pilot, and evaluate the utility and sustainability of a standardized, web-based training for providers (including childcare centers and family daycare homes both participating in CACFP and not) on ways to create and maintain a healthy beverage environment in childcare; 2) provide education and technical assistance on the need for and importance of this training through Cooperative Extension specialists and advisors, and 3) convene childcare stakeholders, including our partners at USDA, the state, and the CACFP Roundtable, to review study findings, identify policy solutions and further research needs, and disseminate results in order to inform training in California and in other states on the upcoming federal nutrition standards.
Summary: Our research on implementation of California’s childcare beverage law indicated that training on how to serve beverages in childcare is essential to effective implementation. These timely findings have emerged amid a broader policy debate about childcare providers’ capacity to adhere to forthcoming federal nutrition standards. The ultimate goal is to develop effective methods to engage Cooperative Extension in delivering evidence-based guidance to childcare providers and showcase to policy makers and early childhood education stakeholders that policies to improve nutrition in childcare can be effectively put into practice to address child obesity.
1)CACFP is the childcare equivalent of the National School Lunch and School Breakfast programs.
2)AB290 is a new state law which goes into effect in 2016; it mandates that newly licensed providers receive 1 hour of training on child nutrition, but it does not address the needs of the vast majority of providers who are already licensed.
Improving biological controls for spotted wing drosophila
Biological control, especially by means of specialized parasitoids that can track the movement of the fly and attack fly maggots inside the fruit, may help reduce SWD populations near commercial crops, thereby offering a landscape-level risk-reduced management strategy for this highly polyphagous and mobile pest. Our previous work found resident parasitoids do not provide adequate control in the susceptible crops and, for his reason we initiated a classical biological control program. We currently have three larval parasitoids imported from South Korea and these parasitoids showed good potential for SWD control in quarantine studies at UC Berkeley. Our goal is to discover, import and release effective SWD parasitoids in California. The project has three objectives:
First, we will complete studies on the imported parasitoids to determine their efficiency and host-specificity. The quarantine studies will include (1) host suitability of SWD host stages; (2) host searching efficiency and parasitism under different host densities in different host fruits; (3) temperature-dependent developmental time, survival and reproduction. From these data, life table fertility parameters will be estimated. We will then screen each parasitoid species against non-target fruit flies, following a hierarchical process in host-specificity testing, first using No-choice exposures of parasitoids to non-target species and then using Choice testing with simultaneous exposure to non-target host and to SWD. Additional levels of ecological and behavioral filters will be developed for cases in which some attack of non-target species is found.
Second, we will obtain USDA APHIS release permits and then begin field tests on the impact and establishment of parasitoids. Approved parasitoids will be released in areas such as riparian habitats that surround cultivated crops and may contribute to increasing pest density in cultivated crops in order to reduce the source population sizes.
Third, we previously showed resident parasitoid populations OUTSIDE the cash crop can build to large numbers. We will release resident natural enemies into these areas at seasonal periods predicted to increase their numbers and reduce SWD densities before SWD can disperse to the susceptible cash crop. This objective attempts to manipulate the landscape ecology of this pest system and can be conducted with resident parasitoid species (no need for USDA APHIS permits).
Improving nitrate and salinity management strategies for almond grown under micro-irrigation.
Microirigation offers the potential for far more sophisticated salt management than is currently being practiced. By varying irrigation duration or choosing when good and poor irrigation sources should be applied or mixed, growers can take advantage of the inherent root plasticity of almonds and the perennial nature of the species. Unfortunately, there is essentially no information on how microirigation can be used effectively in tree crops under saline conditions, there is also no available information on differential responsiveness of almond germ plasm, which varies widely in salinity tolerance, on salt management strategies. Finally, there have been no studies to our knowledge that provides strategies for the management of nitrate and salinity under microirrigation.
The biological response of almond germplasm to non-uniform root zone salinity and the impact of this non-uniformity on tree performance, nitrate demand, and nitrate use efficiency are being investigated in detail by our research group in green house experiments (funded by Almond Board and California). In this current proposal we aim to upscale our findings to large lysimeters and to field trials with the ultimate goal of developing nitrate sensitive salinity management guidelines. The frequency of irrigation and the duration of individual irrigation events can be easily manipulated in orchards with micro-irrigation. In regions where both higher- and lower-quality water are used for irrigation, the timing of the use of lower-quality water may be critical and blending of the two water types may be an option. Such manipulations will alter the spatial and temporal pattern of salt and root distribution in the soil and can therefore be used to optimize tree performance under marginal or drought conditions. Large lysimeters and field trials will be used to validate and optimize these principles.
Optimizing salt management irrigation strategies for the diverse cultivars and rootstocks and for the multitude of soil types and water sources would require an infinite number of treatments. We therefore propose the use of modeling approach as a complement to the proposed lysimeter experiments and field trials. The instrumented lysimeter setups will be used to monitor and evaluate tree response to distribution/deposition of water, nutrient, and salt imposed by different irrigation/fertigation management in two soil types. In addition, the accuracy of our Darcian approach using tensiometric measurement combined with suction lysimeters for field monitoring of nitrate leaching will be cross-validated by collected leachate from lysimeters. In parallel, the biological response of mature trees to different levels of salinity in different soil types will be evaluated in our field trials in San Joaquin Valley. The timing and amounts of applied water and nutrients, the quality of the irrigation water used, ET values and soil properties in both lysimeter and field experiments will be applied to the HYDRUS model as input parameters and the simulated soil water content, salinity, matric potential, root water uptake, nitrate uptake, and leaching will be cross-validated with the observations. If necessary, the HYDRUS model parameters will be fine-tuned. The calibrated model will then be used to simulate a wide range of irrigation scenarios, salinity levels, ET levels, soil types and rootstocks in order to develop nitrate-sensitive salinity management and irrigation strategies for the almond industry.
Mature and Historic Tree Stands Management Toolkit
Many of these stands are composed primarily of Eucalypts (most commonly the Tasmanian blue gum, E. globulus), that are approaching the latter half of their lifespan. In addition, many stands have been invaded by pests in the past three decades, some have been affected by wildfires, and most have been neglected. At the same time urban development has continued to add ever more houses and residents adjacent to – sometimes even inside – these stands, increasing the likelihood of “conflicts” between the trees and people. Events such as tree failure onto trails or picnic grounds, wildfire outbreaks, and tree mortality have sparked concerns about the condition of the stands, and occasional calls for their removal (on various grounds).
On the other hand, the continued interaction between the residents and Eucalyptus stands has also accentuated the benefits that those stands provide to people (e.g., for recreation, nature study, microclimate amelioration, etc.) and wildlife (habitats, corridors). This has resulted also in calls for the preservation of the tree stands, and controversy over any management action that is perceived as intending to remove trees.
Local tree managers are thus faced with both the local residents’ conflicting views regarding the trees, as well as with the ecological and arboricultural realities of these eucalyptus stands (e.g., their advanced age; inappropriate stand density or stocking levels; local accumulation of fuels; scattered foci of mortality or pests; occasional hazardous trees located in heavily-used areas, etc.). Yet, despite a considerable body of knowledge developed about the California eucalypts, no recent effort has been made to provide the tree managers with a research-based toolkit that would help them manage the stands.
The overall purpose of the project is to enable better management of aging and mature stands of eucalyptus by compiling the existing research on eucalyptus ecology and silviculture together with the current literature on individual tree management (arboriculture) and tree stand management (forestry) as well as the current tree-related legislation and policy (including carbon-related policies). By synthesizing these three domains of knowledge – (a) eucalyptus ecology and silviculture in California, (b) arboriculture of mature stands and aging trees, and (c) laws and policies on tree management in cities and intermix areas – we will provide landowners and tree managers with a uniquely useful toolkit, enabling them to make better decisions and long-term plans.
Project has 3 sub-goals:
(1) Assess and prioritize the management needs related to aging and mature stands
(noting the differences between the stands in urban-wildland intermix and the entirely “urban” stands)
(2) Review, compile, and annotate the pertinent research, management practices, relevant policies, and applicable laws (resulting in an annotated “Eucalyptus stands management” bibliography)
(3) Prepare and disseminate a “toolkit” that synthesizes the body of knowledge on California eucalyptus together with the research-based (and evidence-based) management strategies, and includes guides to navigating the relevant policies and applicable laws. A two-day workshop with invited speakers from UC, Agencies, and Universities, will serve as a primary means of disseminating the toolkit.
We note that in this first year we are focusing on the San Francisco Bay Area. Once we have completed the project, we will apply for additional funding to expand the outreach to other parts of California (as this is a state-wide issue)
Online Extension to Educate Small Farms on Postharvest Handling and Storage of Fresh Fruit and Vegetables for Improved Quality and Reduced Food Loss
Sustainable food systems rely on postharvest management practices to reduce food waste (loss) and improve quality as investments in seed, water, fertilizers and labor are lost when food is not utilized for its intended purpose. For small-scale producers, food loss and low quality can create critical barriers to market access. Small California farms with sales less than $100,000 per year currently represent 76% of the number of California farms and has steadily increased over the past decade (CDFA 2014). New and established small farms have limited access to training on postharvest handling and storage of produce due to time constraints as the majority of small farmers oversee all aspects of the operation (UC Small Farm Program). Improved postharvest handling and storage through temperature management, reduced water loss, disease management, reduced food borne contamination, reduced physical damage, and appropriate packaging improve profitability and competiveness via reduced loss and improved quality. Online training, which is free, self-paced, web-based and addresses critical issues of small-scale produce handling after harvest would provide accessible training to enable implementation of improved postharvest practices for the benefit of the producer, the growing number of urban agriculture programs, and California consumers.
Improve quality and safety and reduce postharvest loss of fresh fruits and vegetables grown by small California farms through online extension of information about critical postharvest handling and storage practices.
The online training program will cover postharvest handling and storage practices. Curriculum (equivalent to 15 hours of cohesive training) will be adapted from UCCE Postharvest Specialists’ applied research and prior publications, and further developed for the purpose of online, self-paced curriculum targeting small-scale producers. The online learning website will be developed and marketed to small California farms through a variety of outlets. Topics (modules) will focus on critical postharvest handling and storage practices described above, which are applicable to small-scale producers, and necessary for reduced loss and improved quality and safety of fresh fruits and vegetables.
A marketing campaign will be developed to communicate the free online training program to small California farms. The campaign will include presentations, brochures, advertisements, and email communication about the training program in partnership with UCCE, UC Small Farms Program, UC Vegetable Research and Information Center, UC Fruit and Nut Center, UC Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program, and the 2017 California Small Farms Conference.
Course deliverables shall include the online learning site, PDF handouts, quizzes, and certificate of completion.
The timeline of the project shall span two years. Curriculum and online learning site development shall be completed in year one with implementation targeted for April 2017. Marketing of the online training program shall begin near the end of year one and continue through the midpoint of year two. Surveys and knowledge assessment shall follow implementation of the online learning site and progress throughout year two. Data analysis and impact assessment of the online extension course shall be compiled, reported, and shared with UCCE Specialists and Advisors in the second half of year two. Feedback from participants will be used to improve the online modules near the end of the project.
The impact of the online extension course is expected to reach approximately 10% of small-scale producers in California, which is equivalent to approximately 6,000 farms (CDFA 2014). Project metrics will include: course accessibility, number of participants and demographics, course completion, increased knowledge of postharvest practices, and implementation of learned postharvest practices. Project metrics will be measured through an online survey upon course completion and data analysis of pre and post module quizzes. Course participants will be further surveyed 6 months following course completion to determine what changes in postharvest practices were implemented.
The project shall be assessed for impact on improved quality and reduced losses by small California farms. Impact shall be determined via data analysis from surveys, quizzes, and online learning management system reports. A written impact report shall be prepared.
Optimizing Water Management Practices to Minimize Soil Salinity and Nitrate Leaching in California Irrigated Cropland
Objectives: The overall objective is to develop optimal water management practices to maximize salinity leaching with least amount of leaching water, and minimize nitrate groundwater pollution in irrigated cropland based on soil and crop characteristics, irrigation water quality and fertilization practices.
Hypotheses and Approaches: Due to seasonal and spatial variability of salinity and nitrate distribution in soil, the current leaching practices based on steady-state and 1-dimensional (1-D) water flow assumptions can be improved to maximize soil salinity control and minimize nitrate leaching by considering soil, water and crop characteristics and irrigation management. We will conduct (1) computer simulation (HYDRUS) to identify best irrigation management practices (BMPs) to maximize soil salinity leaching and to minimize nitrate leaching to groundwater by considering soil, water, crop N demand and fertilization, and irrigation methods; (2) field experiments to verify the BMPs identified in Approach (1) at three field sites (Imperial County-alfalfa, Central Valley-almond, and South Coast Research & Extension Center-avocado); and (3) outreach education to promote the BMPs.
Anticipated results: (1) A user friendly model to determine most effective leaching timing and method; and (2) a set of guidelines that provide best management practices for minimizing soil salinity and nitrate leaching to groundwater with least possible amount of leaching water, for various water sources, major crops, and soils in California.
ANR’s initiatives’ priority issues: The proposed work is to increase water use efficiency through maximizing salinity while minimizing nitrate leaching to sustain cropland production, thus it addresses several of the “Water initiative” priority issue areas to: (1) Develop options for managing use of low quality (recycled) water; (2) Lessen impacts from nitrogen use in agricultural and urban environments; (3) Increase drought preparedness; and (4) Promote sustainable groundwater management. These high-priority issues are consistent with the ANR Strategic Vision of developing innovative scientific techniques, products, and processes to improve water use efficiency and water conservation management practices; and developing and encouraging the adaption of management practices that prevent degradation of watersheds and water resources caused by various pollutants including salinity and nutrients.
Use of Innovative Technologies and Professional Development to Enhance Efficacy of an Evidence-Based, Comprehensive Nutrition Education Program
Water and Fire in Sierra Nevada Forests: A Possible Win-Win
Fire suppression has increased forest density, reduced landscape-scale structural heterogeneity, and increased risk of catastrophic fire. Fire suppression is also hypothesized to decrease surface water flow from watersheds by increasing interception evaporation and transpiration from dense forest canopies. There is an urgent need to identify new management strategies for both fire and water in forested watersheds because these supply up to 80% of water used in California and they are also critical for other ecosystem services. The proposed research will evaluate whether reinstating a natural fire regime is a feasible forest management strategy to increase surface water and forest resiliency. To do this we will observe and model changes in vegetation, fire, and hydrology in the ICB. This research has the advantage of working in a 14,000 ha area that has already been modified by over 20 managed wildfires since 1974 versus working to develop vegetation management prescriptions, finding an agency to plan and implement them, and then assessing their effects. Managed wildfire is also increasing in the Sierra and it is expected to be the primary method of forest management on federal lands.
The recent drought also offers a research opportunity. Our field observations provide tentative support that more recently burned areas are experiencing less soil water (and potentially vegetation) stress than sites that have not burned recently. We also have access to 6 flights of hyperspectral AVIRIS remotely sensed data at 18m resolution. This data can potentially be calibrated against our field measurements of water availability and plant water potentials, and would allow us to map the effects of the drought at high resolution across the ICB. This is another method to assess if the restoration of natural fire regimes leads to resilient forests while enhancing water delivery in the face of drought. If we can demonstrate that there is an improvement in metrics of resilience (forest health, water storages, water stress) in the ICB relative to other comparable areas, then the case for natural fire regimes would be enhanced. This project is therefore a short-term, high-impact project that has strong policy ramifications.
We propose the following research tasks:
a) Field observations to determine if the ICB is undergoing a fire-mediated transition from a late seral forest to a more resilient mixture of forest and wet meadows;
b) Field observations to determine the influence of burn history on snowpack and soil moisture dynamics (and thus fine-scale water availability) in the ICB;
c) A synthesis of field plots, remote-sensing analysis, and detailed hydrological modeling to scale these observations up to the watershed level and to interpret observed changes in water yield from the basin since 1974;
d) A statistical comparison between historical flow and weather trends in the ICB and a series of independent fire-suppressed control watersheds in the Sierra Nevada to determine if differences exist between the ICB and these watersheds.
The research findings will support the following extension activities: Development of outreach materials focusing on the interaction between water and fire in Sierra Nevada forests, targeted at federal fire and forest managers. Specifically, we will plan on working with the Vegetation Management Officers and District Rangers in the Sierra Nevada Forests (from Plumas to Sequoia). The topic of water and fire will be added to the California Fire Science Consortium (http://cafiresci.org/, PI Stephens) for outreach. Outreach material will include written documents such as research papers and briefs, fact sheets and syntheses, and in person events such as field trips and workshops. A field tour to the research site will be offered in collaboration with local partners. Policy briefs will be produced by this project.
Waterfowl and Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI): Spatio-Temporal Risk Mapping of HPAI in the Central Valley of California
Given that the Central Valley of California is one of the most important wintering areas for waterfowl in North America and also contains the majority of California’s commercial layer, broiler and turkey flocks, we propose to develop a novel holistic approach toward understanding the epidemiology of HPAI in waterfowl in targeted regions of the Sacramento and San Joaquin Valleys of California. Our goal is to improve disease control programs that prevent the spread of HPAI into California’s poultry industry by developing a series of detailed maps and models. Our approach uses weather surveillance radar (NEXRAD) for waterfowl habitat identification, ground truthing for species identification and use of USGS historical radio-telemetry data in order to identify roosting locations, species of waterfowl present at those locations and maximum distances (i.e. buffers) those species fly between roosting and feeding locations. With respect to NEXRAD, radar measures of the density of wintering waterfowl at the onset of nocturnal feeding flights can be used to determine the spatio-temporal dynamics of waterfowl distributions at the ground from the current network of NEXRAD sites in California (Buler et al. 2012). The advantage of this approach is that the freely-available radar data are passively and continuously collected and archived at relatively high resolution across wide geographical areas; thus providing comprehensive quantitative observations of waterfowl within the radar domain that could not be obtained even with costly extensive field surveys. Additionally, radar data processing is mostly automated. Thus further development could lead to fully-automated real-time radar monitoring of waterfowl distributions
From the above mapping approach two locations will be selected for targeted surveillance. Specifically, in order to understand the distribution and ecology of HPAI in waterfowl and their wetland environment in those high risk areas, water samples, oro-pharyngeal and cloacal samples from waterfowl will be collected and tested for AI during wintering and breeding seasons in order to understand both the spatial and temporal range of HPAI in vivo and in the environment. Estimated distributions of waterfowl will be combined with AI sampling data to estimate the relative risk of AI transfer. Spatio-temporal mapping and modeled waterfowl distributions will help focus current HPAI surveillance The resulting information can be used by various stakeholder groups to better understand the geographical and seasonal distribution of high risk waterfowl. This holistic approach could lead the way to a better “early warning system” for future outbreaks.
In addition to developing a surveillance tool for HPAI, radar mapping of the spatio-temporal dynamics of wintering waterfowl distributions will also be used to help promote the understanding and importance of ecosystem services provided by California's working landscapes (i.e., address the Sustainable Natural Ecosystems initiative). In particular, Buler et al. (2012) used radar observations to document the use by wintering waterfowl of flooded rice fields and agricultural lands enrolled in the federal Wetlands Reserve Program. Furthermore, they showed that waterfowl have actually changed their habitat use during the period from 1995 to 2007 towards increasing use of flooded rice fields over natural wetlands. Given the recent drought conditions, these agricultural lands may be increasing in importance as critical habitat for wintering waterfowl. We propose to extend the time series analysis of radar data from 2008 to present to better assess the waterfowl response to restored and managed wetlands and understand how the practice of winter rice-flooding on agricultural lands has provided vital habitat for wintering waterfowl particularly during severe drought conditions. This monitoring effort can also estimate population trends of waterfowl within the radar domain over the 20 year time span.