UC VP Glenda Humiston, 4-H member Melina Granados of Riverside County and UC Merced Chancellor Dorothy Leland gave the UC regents a presentation about UC ANR's community outreach and impact. The Public Engagement & Development Committee meeting was held at the UCSF–Mission Bay Conference Center on Jan. 24, 2018, in San Francisco.
Opening the discussion, Humiston gave an overview of ANR, explaining that for 150 years ANR has been bringing the power of UC directly to the people in all California counties. Melina, who was born in Mexico, talked about her role as president of the Eastside Eagles 4-H club and what she has learned. Leland described joint projects between UC Merced and ANR in climate adaptation, nutrition and drone technology research.
Watch the 25-minute recording of the UC ANR presentation to the regents below, or visit https://youtu.be/ptFS8HwlsjE.
Artificial intelligence, or AI, can improve precision agriculture by using sensed environmental data to “learn” and continually adapt, VP Glenda Humiston told the Little Hoover Commission at a hearing in Sacramento on Jan. 25.
The Little Hoover Commission is reviewing the impacts of artificial intelligence. While there is no singular definition, artificial intelligence encompasses a broad range of technologies that seek to approximate some aspect of human intelligence or behavior.
Throughout its study, the commission will consider the potential policy role of California state government in areas such as regulation, workforce development and retraining.
Humiston was asked to give a statement on the impacts of artificial intelligence in the agricultural sector.
“California's working landscapes face some critical challenges; among those are drought, climate change, air quality, soil health, pests, pathogens and invasive species,” she said. “Additionally, rural/urban conflicts and urban sprawl continue to reduce available farm land and make viability of food production more difficult.
“Of importance to today's hearing, California's labor-intensive crops are facing increasing difficulty accessing necessary labor – both skilled and unskilled. This situation has led growers and universities to seek solutions through mechanization, automation and other new technologies.”
She sees opportunities in precision agriculture for growers and ranchers to more precisely manage their operations by using site- and crop-specific data gathered by new technologies.
“Artificial intelligence improves this further by using the sensed environmental data to ‘learn' and continually adapt to ever-changing conditions as it receives data that strengthens the computer's ‘intelligence,'” she said.
Humiston also outlined some of the challenges to harnessing the power of AI for agriculture.
“Artificial intelligence is extremely difficult in agriculture because of the huge amount of variability in environmental conditions across a single field,” she said. “This requires many sensors, complex algorithms, and large real-time data processing – all integrated and working together to inform decisions and actions.”
In a 2014 Pew Research Center survey, the vast majority of the 1,896 experts anticipated that robotics and artificial intelligence will “permeate wide segments of daily life by 2025.” The commission's artificial intelligence project will investigate the shape and speed of these changes in California and in society.
Through its public process, the commission intends to study the key challenges of artificial intelligence in California, its economic implications and how it can be used to solve societal ills. The commission will review issues such as justice, equity, safety and privacy. The project will consider recent studies on workforce impacts, which could include both job creation and job displacement. Possible mitigations and worker protections will be discussed as will examples of efforts to plan and prepare for innovations and labor transformations.
To read Humiston's full testimony to the Little Hoover Commission, visit http://www.lhc.ca.gov/sites/lhc.ca.gov/files/CurrentStudies/ArtificialIntelligence/WrittenTestimony/HumistonJan2018.pdf.
Cathryn “Katie” Johnson joined UCCE on Jan. 2, 2018, as an area nutrition, family and consumer sciences advisor for the Central Sierra Multi-County Partnership serving El Dorado, Amador, Calaveras and Tuolumne counties. The long-time resident of the Sierra foothills is passionate about developing an integrated approach to fighting chronic disease and improving community nutrition in the region.
Prior to joining UCCE, Johnson had been a health educator for the Stanislaus County Health Services Agency, Public Health Division, since January 2017. There, she worked on policy, systems and environmental change strategies, program planning and local evaluation for the SNAP-Ed/NEOP (Nutrition Education & Obesity Prevention) program, and served as the WIC (Women, Infants & Children) regional breastfeeding liaison.
From 2015 to 2016, Johnson held the positions of communication evaluation and development consultant and staff research assistant at the UC Merced Communication, Culture and Health Research Lab. At UC Merced, she contributed to strategic communications and formative evaluation for the CDC-funded PICH (Partnerships to Improve Community Health) project and coordinated community-engaged research on Merced residents' perceptions of health and safety. Previously, Johnson helped to manage small farms in Northern California and New Mexico, growing fruits and vegetables for sale at local markets. Johnson is also an international board-certified lactation consultant and has counseled breastfeeding families.
She earned a master of public health degree (with a concentration in public health nutrition) from UC Berkeley and a B.A. in environmental studies from Wellesley College.
Johnson is based in San Andreas and can be reached at (209) 754-6476 and firstname.lastname@example.org.
Laurent Ahiablame joined ANR as the UC Cooperative Extension director and water quality and management advisor in San Diego County on Dec. 18, 2017.
Ahiablame's research activities integrate environmental observations and computer modeling supported by ArcGIS to advance understanding of the fate and transport of water and related constituents across various spatial and temporal scales.
Prior to joining UCCE, Ahiablame was an assistant professor in the Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering at South Dakota State University from 2014 to 2017. From 2013 to 2014, he was an assistant professor in the Department of Civil Engineering at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.
Ahiablame earned a Ph.D. and a M.S. in agricultural and biological engineering from Purdue University and a B.S. in bioenvironmental engineering from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University.
Ahiablame can be reached at (858) 822-7673 and email@example.com.
Kari Arnold joined UCCE as an area orchard and vineyard systems advisor in Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties on Nov. 1, 2017.
Prior to joining UCCE, Arnold was a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Plant Pathology at UC Davis, where she participated in a statewide extension and outreach program involving viruses in grapevines and the certification program, collaborated with county viticulture advisors and industry leaders to facilitate grower workgroups for regional management of grapevine viruses, and provided presentations at grower meetings.
As a graduate student researcher from 2011 to October 2016, Arnold participated in individual grower meetings and surveys, facilitated and collaborated with a grower workgroup for areawide disease management in Napa vineyards, and conducted statistical characterization of spatial and temporal patterns of insect-vectored plant viruses. From 2009 to 2011, Arnold also worked as a staff research associate and nursery technician for Foundation Plant Services at UC Davis, where she provided employee training; worked on team oriented projects; provided tours, conducted virus indexing, and collected and analyzed data.
Arnold completed an M.S. and a Ph.D. in plant pathology from UC Davis and a B.S. in horticulture from the University of Nebraska – Lincoln.
Based in Modesto, Arnold can be reached at (209) 525-6821and firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @KariDigsPlants.
Farzaneh Khorsandi Kouhanestani joined UCCE on Sept. 1, 2017, as an assistant agricultural safety and health engineer specialist in the Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering at UC Davis.
Prior to joining UCCE, Khorsandi Kouhanestani worked as research assistant and Ph.D. student at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Her research is mainly related to agricultural machine design and evaluating the performance of the designed machines both experimentally and theoretically. The designed systems in the Ph.D. project were related to agricultural machinery safety. During her M.S. work, she designed, manufactured and evaluated the performance of a hand-held fruit harvester, a catch frame and a fruit sorter. After completing her M.S., she was a design engineer for an agricultural machinery design company, working on several design projects including a granule spreader, feed cutter and mixer and hay harvester.
Khorsandi Kouhanestani earned a B.S. in mechanics of agricultural machinery engineering in Iran, an M.S. in mechanics of agricultural machinery engineering from Shiraz University, Iran, and a Ph.D. in biosystems engineering from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.
Khorsandi Kouhanestani is based at UC Davis and can be reached at (530) 752-7848 and email@example.com.
California Safe Soil and Pramod Pandey, UCCE specialist in UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, were among 13 California organizations that received the state's highest environmental honor, the Governor's Environmental and Economic Leadership Award (GEELA), in a ceremony at the California Environmental Protection Agency in Sacramento on Jan. 17.
The award recognizes the public-private partnership and collaborative research among California Safe Soil, the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine and the California Department of Food and Agriculture to recycle organic food waste into fertilizer and feed for agricultural use.
California Safe Soil has a proprietary new technology – enzymatic digestion – to recycle organic biomass. However, they had to prove that recycling food into fertilizer and feed can be done safely, without foodborne pathogens.
California Safe Soil worked with Pandey to conduct pathogen challenge research. Annette Jones and Douglas Hepper at CDFA and Bart Weimer, professor in the School of Veterinary Medicine, and Glenn Young, professor in the Department of Food Science and Technology, helped formulate the pathogen challenge test, which provided the scientific results needed to allow CDFA to issue an operating license for the enzymatic digestion.
Pandey's research, which was published in a peer-reviewed journal, proved that California Safe Soil's method for recycling organic food waste into fertilizer and feed is based on robust science and technology.
GEELA recipients are chosen from five categories including climate change, ecosystem and land-use stewardship, environmental education, sustainable practices and waste reduction.
Trevor Suslow, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Plant Sciences at UC Davis and director of the Postharvest Center, received the 2017 Valley of the World Education Award given by the National Steinbeck Center in Salinas. The center established its Valley of the World Awards to honor key figures in the Salinas Valley agricultural industry.
“In the spirit of John Steinbeck's writings, the education award recognizes an individual who through his or her teaching and efforts has inspired and nourished a lifelong love of learning,” the center says on its website.
In presenting the award, the center described Suslow as having “one of the most active extension education and outreach programs” among extension specialists.
“Conservatively, he has provided over 1,500 local, state, national and international technical, extension education, training and outreach presentations on crop protection, soil and phyllosphere microbiology, biotechnology, fresh and fresh-cut produce quality systems, and microbial food safety of fresh produce,” the center wrote.
Soule named one of Top 20 under 40 in SLO
The San Luis Obispo Tribune has chosen Katherine Soule, UC Cooperative Extension director and advisor in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties, as one of its Top 20 under 40. The Tribune's annual competition recognizes young professionals “who are making significant contributions in the fields of health care, business, law, government and the nonprofit sector. Not only have they demonstrated excellence in their careers, they also have shown a profound commitment to public service.”
In the news article announcing the winners, the newspaper says that Soule has earned state and national recognition for improving community health and increasing diversity in youth participation.
“As the extension's youth, families and communities advisor for the last several years, Soule developed new 4-H programs engaging underserved youths and promoting healthy living, leadership and social development. Her efforts nearly doubled enrollment and boosted Latino participation 26.8 percent. She's delivered nutrition education to more than 10,000 people through various partnerships,” the Tribune wrote.
It goes on to add, “Soule is a founding member of the Cultivating Change Foundation, working to improve inclusivity for the LGBTQ community in agriculture locally and nationwide.”
An ongoing effort to collect, digitally preserve and share 100 years of historical records by the UC Cooperative Extension (UCCE) has earned the UC Merced Library a more than $300,000 grant.
“We're extremely proud to be able to further the work already begun on the UCCE project,” UC Merced Chancellor Dorothy Leland said. “Our library is producing a collection that demonstrates the organization's lasting effects on the state, the work it has done in the past and its potential for the future.”
The work is especially relevant to the San Joaquin Valley, said Emily Lin, the UC Merced Library's Head of Digital Curation and Scholarship.
“We have a lot of archives and historic records based around urban centers, but we haven't been collecting the records of rural California in any systematic way,” she said. “But rural California has had an incredible influence on the state's history. California was transformed by agriculture over the past century.”
The Archivist of the United States approved the $308,900 grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission for “A Century of Impact: Documenting the Work of the Cooperative Extension in California's Counties.” The three-year project will begin in the summer, after Lin and others hire a group of undergraduate students to help with the work. Additionally, the project will be part of an informational booth at the World Ag Expo in February in Tulare — UC Merced's first appearance at the exposition, which draws more than 100,000 people from all over the world.
“We were convinced the history of Cooperative Extension in California was worthy of preserving when we launched the pilot project four years ago,” said Glenda Humiston, vice president of UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR), the organization that oversees UCCE. “The federal grant to continue this work confirms the value of UCCE history and its contribution to California's prosperity.”
A pilot project, begun after the 2014 centennial of the UCCE, looked at Merced, Ventura and Humboldt counties' UCCE records, and produced a stack of material 70 linear feet long — just for Merced County. A banker box is about 1 linear foot.
Records from Humboldt County included disaster responses from the 1955 and 1964 historic floods, while Merced County's records were mainly about crops, irrigation, the beginnings of the Merced Irrigation District and 4-H. Each county's records provide insight into its unique characteristics, Lin said.
The new project will collect 100 years' worth of reports and historic photographs from 20 California counties — in the Valley, along the coast, up north at the edges of the Sierra and along the southern border — and will geocode all the records.
“This project is of great potential value in supporting a number of lines of existing research, as well as in opening up new and fruitful areas of inquiry into the interrelated topics of democracy, technology and community,” said David Campbell, a political scientist and the associate dean for social/human sciences in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences at UC Davis. He wrote a letter of support for the project that was included in the application.
The digitization project will help researchers at all levels, Professor Mario Sifuentez said.
“It provides access to a trove of documents that shed light on the nature and development of agriculture in the region, which amazingly has been understudied,” he said. “Despite living in the heart of one of the most productive agricultural regions of the world, few people really understand how agriculture in the Central Valley works. I am invested in producing work and helping students produce work that explains the historical trajectory of how the Valley ended up as ‘The Valley,' and agriculture is the main component of that story.”
The archives set the stage for many research projects across many disciplines. Historians will find the records helpful, but so will people studying progressive era institutions, immigration, race relations, social movements, technological change or the rich history of food and agriculture in California, Campbell said. There are also implications for political science and public policy scholarship; environmental and climate studies around such topics as water and pesticide use; material for economists and labor market scholars; and geographers.
The library is working with the San Joaquin Valley Historical Society, and San Diego State University will also have a set of the records digitized when the project is completed. In addition, regional 4-H students will be part of the project, helping tag and digitize the material.
Cornell University Professor Scott Peters, a historian of higher education who wrote a letter of support for the project, said engaging with local students and their families through a 4-H project is particularly valuable.
“It's always important to help young people connect with the history of their communities,” Peters said. “These historical materials will enrich their understanding of the vision, values, ideals, tensions, dilemmas and struggles that the work of building a democratic culture in partnership with higher education requires and involves. And it helps them understand their own role in history and ask themselves what they are creating and leaving that will be part of history 100 years from now.”
After the 2014 centennial, UC ANR allocated funds to locate a professional archivist at the UC Merced library, which is becoming known for creating comprehensive digital collections of historical materials.
Archivist Lisa Vallen began work with the three pilot counties. She found UCCE records in the National Archives as well as pictures, negatives and documents spread throughout the state.
“Ideally, historical records should be kept in a space that's climate controlled,” Vallen said. “In Ventura, they have some in a container on a farm. That's not ideal at all.”
The ANR hopes this project will help not only researchers, but will educate the public and policy makers about UCCE.
“There's no question about the value of this project and the richness it brings to the whole state, not just UC,” said UC Merced University Librarian Haipeng Li.
Farmers, financiers, people from government agencies and nonprofit organizations who work with UC Cooperative Extension advisors, as well as beginning farmers seeking to contact their local UCCE advisors visited the UC ANR exhibit at the EcoFarm Conference Jan. 24-27 at Asilomar Conference Grounds in Pacific Grove.
Marketing assistant Tyler Ash apprised visitors perusing the racks of UC ANR publications of the resources available in their home counties and online.
Nearby, Alda Pires, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the School of Veterinary Medicine at UC Davis, and Ph.D. candidate Laura Patterson had their own booth to meet people raising small livestock and discuss their research projects. Patterson is studying pigs raised outdoors and Pires studies farming systems using raw manure as fertilizer.
“Sow Good” was the theme of the 38th annual EcoFarm Conference, which focused on regenerative agriculture.
Outside the exhibit tent, breakout sessions enlightened participants on dozens of topics from soil health to organic production practices to marketing. Rachael Long, UC Cooperative Extension advisor in Yolo County, was one of three panelists discussing the benefits of hedgerows. Because hedgerows provide habitat for beneficial insects, fewer insecticide sprays are needed for adjacent tomato fields, according to her study. Long said the hedgerows saved growers $260 per field per year.
For backyard gardeners and urban growers, Rob Bennaton, UC Cooperative Extension urban agriculture advisor in the Bay Area, gave a talk on improving soil quality for growing food in urban areas. Before planting food crops in an urban plot, Bennaton advised the audience members to test the soil for contaminants such as lead, arsenic, chromium and mercury and to map where they sample the soil.
After listening to participants in one session discuss the efficacy of cats for rodent control – orange tabby cats were deemed most effective – one attendee remarked that meeting new people at events such as EcoFarm helps reveal opportunities for UC ANR outreach.