ANR Employees
University of California
ANR Employees

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”.

Amount Awarded: $ 103,330
Award Source: Kearney
Principal Investigator: Carlos Crisosto - Principal Investigator
Collaborator: Melanie Caruso
View project summary
Fungal decay is the main cause of rapid and extensive postharvest deterioration of table grapes, strawberries, blueberries and fresh figs. The major decay organism is the fungus Botrytis cinerea (gray mold), which causes postharvest losses in many different regions throughout the world. B. cinerea is the main problem on fresh fruit, specially grapes, due to its ability to grow at low temperature of – 0.5oC (Crisosto and Mitchell, 2002) and its ability to spread rapidly among the fruit through aerial mycelial growth. Efficient postharvest control of B. cinerea is achieved nowadays with weekly application of sulfur dioxide (SO2) gas in storage rooms, followed an initial SO2 application prior to storage (Luvisi et al., 1992), and/or by packing the grapes with a pad or generator containing sodium metabisulfite, which releases SO2 when hydrated when exposed to water vapor inside the boxes (Droby and Lichter, 2007). A series of sulfur dioxide fumigations are the commercial practice applied in California, and SO2 generating pad is used in Chile, Israel and South Africa, as well as by most California shippers for long distance transportation (Droby and Lichter, 2007). Despite its efficacy in the control of B. cinerea, SO2 can damage the grapes (bleaching and hairline cracks), and sulfite residues cause reactions in people allergic to sulfite, thus a tolerance limit of 10 µL/L for sulfite residues in table grapes was established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (Luvisi et al., 1992). Ambient sulfur dioxide discharges that contribute to air pollution and worker exposure are also important concerns (Gabler et al., 2010) and corrosive to equipment (Luvisi et al., 1992). The use of SO2 is not allowed in organic grape production (Romanazzi et al., 2012), and several important consumer markets, such as European Union, do not allowed the postharvest treatment with synthetic fungicides (Nigro et al., 2006). The increasing number of consumers demanding healthy food, free of pesticide residues, has expanded the market for organic vegetables and fruits. In 2009, US sales of organic fruits and vegetables were $ 7.8 billion (USDA, 2012). The organic system focuses on sustainable production, and the use of readily soluble mineral fertilizers and synthetic chemical pesticides is forbidden (Lind, 2003)..

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

Amount Awarded: $ 225,000
Award Source: Federal Endowment
Principal Investigator: SHARIF ALY - Principal Investigator
View project summary
In September 2014, President Obama issued an executive order to combat antibiotic-resistant bacteria (The White House). The executive order outlined conducting antibiotic stewardship and accelerating scientific research on the appropriate and proper use of antibiotic medication for humans and animals. The goal of reducing the emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria would ensure the continued availability of effective therapeutics for bacterial infections. California’s dairy industry includes 1.8 million cows (CDFA, Annual Dairy Statistics 2013) and following the nationwide industry-standard, the majority of these cows are treated with a single intra-mammary injection of a long-acting antibiotic in each udder quarter at dry-off. Such treatment is important in curing subclinical infections at dry-off, thereby reducing the risk of mastitis during the dry-period and subsequent lactation. However, the risk of mastitis varies between and within herds depending on both herd- and cow-level risk factors. As a result, cows at low risk for mastitis during the dry-period and post-calving may not require antibiotic treatment, making blanket antibiotic treatment of all cows at dry-off an unnecessary, wasteful practice that contributes to bacterial antibiotic resistance. Previous research on selective dry-cow therapy focused on culture results of individual cows at dry-off and limiting selective dry-cow therapy to low bulk tank somatic cell count herds (Lago et al., 2011, Pinzon-Sanchez et al., 2011, Cameron et al., 2014, Cameron et al., 2015). However, the use of either on-farm or lab-based pre-dry culture results involves a delay in the final decision regarding dry-cow therapy, additional complexity due to milk sample collection and a potential increase in cost depending on savings from reduced antibiotic therapy. In addition, previous research has not utilized cow-level information such as the last dairy herd improvement (DHI) somatic cell count (SCC), parity, days in milk, milk production, and history of mastitis during the current lactation, in combination with herd-level risk factors such as bulk tank somatic cell count, type of housing and bedding, milking practices and the use of teat-sealants and mastitis vaccines. The lack of an accurate and practical set of guidelines to guide herd managers in identifying cows at risk of mastitis in the dry-period or post-calving impedes selective use of dry-cow therapy.

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?

Amount Awarded: $ 250,650
Award Source: Kearney
Principal Investigator: Jennifer Heguy - Principal Investigator
View project summary

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

Amount Awarded: $ 132,013
Award Source: Systemwide Assessment
Principal Investigators:
View project summary
Purpose/research objectives: The purpose of this project is to determine the current and potential future effectiveness of California food policy councils (FPCs) in leveraging and translating ANR agricultural, food and nutrition research to food policy at various governmental levels. Our key objectives are to answer the following questions:
• 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

Amount Awarded: $ 130,421
Award Source: Slosson
Principal Investigator: Rachel Surls - Principal Investigator
Collaborator: Melanie Caruso
View project summary
Urban farms (defined as those in cities where products are being sold or otherwise distributed) are often very small scale, commercially marginal and operated by beginning farmers. Yet despite the challenges they face, research shows that successful urban farms can bring social, health, environmental and economic benefits to local communities, including improved access to healthful food. Increasingly, there may be a market for urban farm products, since consumer interest in local foods appears to be on the upswing, according to a January 2015 USDA report. To succeed and take advantage of this opportunity, however, urban farmers need training and technical support.

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 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

Amount Awarded: $ 249,826
Award Source: Federal Endowment
Principal Investigator: Jay Rosenheim - Principal Investigator
View project summary
• Problem description: California is home to a $1.3 billion citrus industry. Although experimental studies that quantify the impact of pests on crop productivity (“yield impact studies”) are generally viewed as a bedrock of modern integrated pest management, such studies are extremely difficult to perform with perennial crops, as they typically must run over several years, and are thus very costly. As a result, experimentally-grounded economic injury levels for citrus pests are almost entirely lacking. Furthermore, citrus production in California has seen the emergence of a new crop: mandarins, which now represent nearly half of the newly-planted citrus acreage in the San Joaquin Valley. We currently lack research-based pest management recommendations tailored to mandarins. The primary goal of this project is to contribute data-driven pest management recommendations for both established navel orange varieties and the emerging mandarin varieties in the valley.

• 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)

Amount Awarded: $ 79,000
Award Source: Federal Smith Lever
Principal Investigator: Elise Gornish - Principal Investigator
View project summary
As a result of mounting pressure on both natural and managed landscapes, restoration is becoming a more critical component of preparing for, limiting and even reversing the loss of key functional groups across all major ecoregions in California. The successful adoption and widespread implementation of data driven restoration strategies requires research and outreach activities that attempt to conserve environmentally and culturally important natural habitats while protecting the productivity of managed land and the livelihoods of those who depend on these areas. In the last two decades, restoration has grown to become a dominant land-use paradigm in California among agricultural landowners, agencies (e.g. PE&E, CalTrans), and federal and state land managers. However, the majority of individuals who currently practice restoration (private companies, NGOs, state and federal agencies), or are most likely to explore novel restoration management strategies (land owners) do not have access to relevant research, are not up to date on pertinent restoration policy and market information, and might not be strongly linked with the community of academics, CE specialists and advisors and other stakeholders who are interested in ecological restoration development and application. This narrows the scope to which successful restoration practices can be developed and deployed across California. Moreover, limitations of knowledge transfer among clientele, faculty and UCCE could result in misdirected research priorities.

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

Amount Awarded: $ 136,320
Award Source: Slosson
Principal Investigator: Matteo Garbelotto - Principal Investigator
View project summary
   We propose to evaluate eight native woody plant species in California ecosystems and nurseries for Phytophthora disease. At the 2015 California Native Plant Society conference, the release of exotic Phytophthora species was identified as a major threat to native ecosystems, and in a preliminary survey including arroyo willow (Salix lasiolepis), California sycamore (Platanus racemosa) and toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolia), these plants were found to host several Phytophthora species, including interspecific hybrids. Infested toyons in restoration projects may in fact cause wildland infestations.

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

Amount Awarded: $ 452,881
Award Source: Federal Smith Lever
Principal Investigator: Lorrene Ritchie - Principal Investigator
View project summary
Rationale: Nearly one in four U.S. children aged 2 to 5 years begins kindergarten being overweight or obese. The majority (~73%) of these 20 million young children receive childcare outside their own homes, in settings where they consume much of their daily nutrition. Childcare is therefore an ideal venue for program and policy interventions aimed at preventing childhood obesity and comorbidities. However, much childcare is provided by individuals with neither nutrition education nor training, to whom, by the nature of their work- and family-lives, it is difficult to bring information.
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

Amount Awarded: $ 181,018
Award Source: Kearney
Principal Investigator: Kent Daane - Principal Investigator
Collaborator: Melanie Caruso
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Spotted wing drosophila (SWD), Drosophila suzukii, is an invasive pest that attacks various soft-skinned stone fruit and small fruits (e.g., cherries, raspberries, strawberries, cane berries). SWD causes direct crop damage as well as associated economic costs for control programs (e.g., insecticide sprays). SWD adults are highly mobile and fly populations can move among different host plant species each generation as they seek out susceptible (ripening) fruit. Current control programs rely on multiple insecticide sprays, trying to kill the adult SWD as they enter the field to lay eggs. Over the past two years, we have been monitoring SWD populations in various crop and non-crop habitats surrounding the crop fields. We found various cultivated and non-cultivated fruits could be used by the fly as alternative hosts, and many non-crop habitats could serve as refuges for SWD that later enter susceptible cash crops. Therefore, it is crucial to suppress source populations on non-crop hosts and post-harvest cash crops in order to reduce pest pressure in susceptible crops.

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.

Amount Awarded: $ 386,112
Award Source: Kearney
Principal Investigator: Patrick Brown - Principal Investigator
Collaborator: Melanie Caruso
View project summary
The majority of almond growers currently provide N fertilization in liquid form through micro-irrigation systems and increasingly growers are utilizing groundwater that is saline. Irrigation and fertigation management, nitrate leaching and salinity management are therefore linked and strategies must be developed that optimize productivity while minimizing nitrate leaching and avoiding excess salt accumulation in the root zone. Therefore, there is a clear need to develop irrigation strategies to ensure that 1) salinity and specific ion (Cl, Na, and B) concentration level in the primary active root volume is maintained below the threshold specified for almond rootstocks, and that 2) nitrate is retained within the active root zone.

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

Amount Awarded: $ 49,054
Award Source: Systemwide Assessment
Principal Investigators:
View project summary
Tree stands composed primarily of mature, aging, or senescent trees occur in many cities and wildland-urban interface areas in California, where they present unique management challenges.
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

Amount Awarded: $ 55,000
Award Source: Kearney
Principal Investigator: Elizabeth Mitcham - Principal Investigator
Collaborator: Lorraine Carlson
View project summary

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

Amount Awarded: $ 299,613
Award Source: Kearney
Principal Investigators:
Collaborator: Melanie Caruso
View project summary
Irrigation is essential to sustain agricultural production. It was estimated that over 90% of California cropland is irrigated. Irrigation water adds dissolved salts (or salinity) to cropland, thus leaching is necessary to keep the average rootzone salinity below the plant threshold EC levels in order to sustain crop production. On the other hand, nitrogen loss via leaching is a primary concern in irrigated cropland. According to “Nitrogen Sources and Loading to Groundwater Technical Report 2 Assessing Nitrate in California’s Drinking Water, Report to the Legislature”, cropland agriculture is the primary vehicle for nitrate loading to groundwater.

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

Amount Awarded: $ 428,113
Award Source: Federal Smith Lever
Principal Investigators:
Collaborator: Melanie Caruso
View project summary
The proposed project will enhance, implement, and evaluate the efficacy of the Shaping Healthy Choices Program (SHCP) through a professional development model. This has the potential to transcend current barriers to improving comprehensive nutrition education and scientific literacy in school-based settings and in non-formal education programs. Background: The project builds upon the SHCP, developed and evaluated by the PIs and currently being piloted for efficacy through partnership with UC Cal Fresh. The cornerstone of the SHCP is Discovering Healthy Choices, which is an inquiry-based, garden-enhanced curriculum that supports the Common Core State Standards while allowing youth to “learn by doing” and to strengthen critical thinking skills. The SHCP, initially funded by UCANR grant 11-1018, is currently being rolled out through a small efficacy evaluation with UC CalFresh. Assessing SHCP efficacy on a larger scale for further expansion and use by educators and extenders and their partners through UC CalFresh, EFNEP, and 4-H YD provides the opportunity for additional program fidelity and youth outcome evaluation. Additionally, establishing support and resources for SHCP delivery among diverse youth is critical. The proposed program will be informed by the UC CalFresh pilot and the “Best Practices Guide” that was developed through previous ANR funding. The proposed project will expand the SHCP throughout California by utilizing the strength of the UC ANR research, extension, and education continuum. Design: Based on the team’s prior experience with the SHCP, the proposed project consists of four phases. Phase 1 focuses on planning for a large-scale collaboration and an initial professional development workshop to introduce the SHCP to county teams. Phase 2 focuses on professional development using the lesson study model for the SHCP. These workshops will allow the county teams to gain understanding and experience in facilitating SHCP activities and improving practice using the lesson study model. Participants will be evaluated for self-efficacy at the beginning and end of the sessions as well as participating in self-evaluation. County-based lesson study teams will be formed in Los Angeles/Orange and Placer/Nevada counties, consisting of one nutrition staff, a Youth, Families, and Communities Advisor (Placer/Nevada) and a Nutrition, Family and Consumer Sciences Advisor, and 4-H YD Program volunteers and staff. Phase 3 has two parts. Participants from Phase 2 will implement the SHCP in designated schools and in county-based 4-H programs. A randomized, controlled intervention demonstrated that the SHCP was effective and provided the impetus for this efficacy study. The outcome of selected schools and 4-H YD programs in each county cluster will be evaluated, focusing on nutrition and health-related behavioral outcomes among youth participants (knowledge, behavior, and BMI) and curriculum implementation fidelity. The second part of Phase 3 will include a sub-study at three of the enrolled schools evaluating different messaging techniques through innovative technology. By partnering with a technology company, the sub-study aims to assess outcomes associated with positively-, negatively-, and neutrally-framed messages through physical activity devices currently being adapted for use in the SHCP. It is hypothesized that SHCP-enhancement will strengthen program efficacy. Phase 4 will include the preparation of train-the-trainer education to allow for adoption of the program by California school districts. This phase also includes data analysis, manuscript preparation and policy development. Capacity of Project Team: The project team has well-established multidisciplinary collaboration with UC Davis Departments of Nutrition, Human Ecology and Agricultural Sustainability Institute, -federally-funded nutrition programs, 4-H YD, -MG, and CDE. Relevance and Impact: The expected outcomes include 1) a professional development partnership between UC ANR, UC CalFresh, EFNEP, and CDE; 2) expanded utilization of the SHCP in California schools and the 4-H YD Program, with recognition of the role of the UC in providing quality coordinated, comprehensive and integrated programs incorporating common core state standards; 3) increased self-efficacy of - advisors, staff, and volunteers in the implementation of the SHCP, including overall staff development and expanded/improved staff capability, and; 4) improved nutrition and health-related behaviors and science literacy among youth participating in the SHCP. Finally, results will inform the continued development of policy form the school district level up through state legislation with the SHC Advisory Committee, recently established with the goal of ensuring that nutrition and health policies and practices in school communities are based on scientific evidence.

Water and Fire in Sierra Nevada Forests: A Possible Win-Win

Amount Awarded: $ 255,615
Award Source: Federal Smith Lever
Principal Investigator: Scott Stephens - Principal Investigator
Collaborator: Melanie Caruso
View project summary
Our primary objective is to characterize the hydrological dynamics associated with post-fire successional trajectories in Yosemite’s Illilouette Creek Basin (ICB). Our previous and ongoing research has demonstrated a range of potential fire effects on vegetation resulting from fire regime restoration in 1974, largely dominated by low to moderate-severity fires in contrast to increasing high severity wildfire in CA. The central question that we ask: Is there evidence for a potential win-win scenario in which fire regime restoration not only promotes landscape scale ecosystem resilience but leads to increased water yield and favorable flow duration without reducing water quality and incurring additional risks of flooding? We will combine contemporary field measurements with an incomparable historical record of fire, forest, and flow dynamics to address this question.

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 (, 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

Amount Awarded: $ 299,562
Award Source: Kearney
Principal Investigator: Maurice Pitesky - Principal Investigator
Collaborator: Sarah Quiratman
View project summary
Project Summary: The Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) strain H5N8 was recently found in commercial and backyard poultry from British Columbia to California including commercial turkeys, broilers and ducks in the San Joaquin Valley of California. In response at least 29 countries as well as the EU have banned importation of poultry from affected states. One approach toward mitigating risk is a better understanding of the spatio-temporal epidemiology of infected waterfowl which are the primary reservoir of disease. Unfortunately, the epidemiology of HPAI in waterfowl habitat in California is poorly understood relative to multiple environmental and anthropogenic factors including drought, climate change, water supply management, agricultural and urban land use management and wetland destruction or restoration. Due to this lack of understanding, we do not have an appropriate “early warning” mechanism to warn commercial poultry premises about potential transmission risk from affected waterfowl.

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.
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