Posts Tagged: Yana Valachovic
California oak woodlands are highly prized ecoregions where stately trees, many of them hundreds of years old, are cornerstones of a habitat for wildlife and native plants. Sadly, some of these ecosystems are seriously threatened by exotic pests and diseases, encroachment by less desirable vegetation, and wildfire.
Each year, UC Cooperative Extension hosts workshops to share scientific developments aimed at conserving these important habitats – and the economic value of ranching – on oak woodlands, which are found on the lower elevation slopes of the Sierra Nevada, the Coast Range and other foothill areas of California.
Typically, the workshops are held in person and draw moderate-sized audiences for presentations, questions and answers, and field trips. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, this year's workshop was offered online in April with pre-recorded presentations available for viewing at the participants' convenience and a live question-and-answer session on Zoom.
The retooled event garnered 500 registrants, over 300 views of the YouTube videos and 140 participants in the live Q&A session. The presentations and Q&A session are still available online for future viewing as well.
“People from all walks of life participated, including those with professional and personal interest in oak woodlands,” said Yana Valachovic, UCCE forest advisor in Humboldt and Del Norte counties and a conference organizer.
Presentations at the 2020 conference included the following topics:
Encroachment by Douglas-fir
In Northern California, the biodiversity of oak woodlands is being threatened by Douglas-fir encroachment. The oaks' shade helps the young conifers get established with protection from harsh sun. In time, the fast-growing Douglas-fir trees pierce the oak canopies and begin to crowd out the areas' native understories, which are important for the diversity of birds, mammals and reptiles attracted to oaks.
As the Douglas-fir continue to grow and multiply, they threaten the very lives of the oak trees and the unique ecosystem they dominate.
To better understand the Douglas-fir encroachment, Valachovic established 10 research sites in Humboldt and Mendocino counties to gather information about the fate and the age of oaks. She and her research partners determined the ages of the oaks and firs, and counted the seedlings, saplings, snags and understory vegetation.
“With this research, we were able to demonstrate that even though the oak trees can be smaller in diameter they are much older than the Douglas-fir trees,” Valachovic said. “The encroachment process is happening quickly, and the oaks are falling out of the system.”
The shift appears to have been initiated in the mid-19th and early-20th centuries, coinciding with the Gold Rush and wildfire suppression.
With the data confirming Douglas-fir encroachment, Valachovic turned her attention to oak woodland restoration. At 14 sites in Humboldt and Trinity counties, her team studied the effects of Douglas-fir removal.
“Grasses and forbs under the oaks reestablished. Diameter growth on the oaks increased,” she said.
These research findings contributed directly to changes in policy that had previously limited land owners' ability to remove and sell conifers encroaching on oak woodland. The research also helped create new funding opportunities to support oak woodland restoration and conservation in Northern California.
Case study of oak woodland wildfire recovery
In July 2018, about two-thirds of the 5,289-acre UC Hopland Research and Extension Center was burned by the River Fire.
The transformation of the land, which had likely been without a large wildland fire for at least 100 years, was intense and stressful, said UC Cooperative Extension forest advisor Michael Jones. However, it also provided a unique opportunity for researchers to compare the impact of wildfire on the resiliency of vegetation on grazed and ungrazed oak woodland.
Jones established 35 one-fifth acre research plots at the research center and collected data two months following the fire and one year later. The research will continue in the future to better understand long-term impacts, but Jones was able to share revealing early results at the workshop.
Right after the fire, in severely burned areas areas, the future of the oaks looked ominous. Jones predicted 40% tree mortality.
“The oaks were exposed to persistent, intense heat. They were cooked,” he said. “But two months after the fire, we were already seeing basal sprouts. This was an amazing response by the trees. Oaks are pretty damn tough.”
A year after the fire, surveys showed that tree mortality in the burned areas was 25%, much less than Jones' early predictions. While some management for specific situations in severely burned areas may be necessary – such as removal of hazard trees, reducing fuels in defensible spaces or removal to control invasive species – the results of this work show the trees recover naturally.
“Esthetically, I know these systems aren't as pleasing as they were before, but ecologically, they are healthy and recovering,” he said. “In 100 years, it will look just as good as before the fire.”
Fire impacts in woodland areas previously grazed and not grazed
The fire on the research station also permitted Jones to compare the fire's differing impact on non-grazed and grazed oak woodland. At first, the grazed areas looked almost unscathed with minimal flame scorching on the bark, while an area where the pasture hadn't been grazed for 25 years had evidence of much higher severity fire.
“Grazing is a phenomenal way to help manage fuels,” Jones said. However, the grazed areas displayed ecological shortcomings a year later.
“In grazed pastures, the large mature trees were still alive, but there was no oak regeneration (basal sprouting or seedlings),” Jones said. “In the ungrazed area, a lot of biomass had been killed, but there's nearly 100% resprout of oak trees and we have an impressive amount of oak seedling recruitment.”
Jones said he isn't discouraging grazing.
“But it is important to protect sites from grazing, and especially wildlife browse, when a landowner or land managers' objectives are to regenerate or conserve oak woodlands,” Jones said.
New ambrosia beetle another threat to California oaks
Akif Eskalen, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Plant Pathology at UC Davis, has identified a new insect-fungus team that causes oak borer wilt in Northern California Valley and Blue Oaks. It is an ambrosia beetle, commonly known as Mediterranean Oak Borer, which carries several fungi in its mouth. The beetle bores into the tree and introduces fungi to grow for food. The fungi spreads and disturbs the transportation of water and nutrients, causing wilt in the tree.
The oozing and staining lesions on the bark are similar to other oak fungal diseases, such as Sudden Oak Death. The beetle – native of Mediterranean basin countries in Africa, Asia and Europe – cannot fly far, so most likely is transported for long distances on infested firewood.
During the workshop, Eskalen suggested not moving firewood, removing heavily infested trees and chipping infested wood into 1-inch particles to reduce the spread of the ambrosia beetle and its fungal partner. He asked viewers to report any suspected oak tree infestations to the local agricultural commissioner, CDFA Diagnostic Laboratories, UC Cooperative Extension advisors or CALFIRE. Chemical options for sparing oaks from the ambrosia beetles' devastation are under investigation.
Threats to oaks and other native plants from root rotting Phytophthora
Restoration plantings have inadvertently introduced plant pathogens to native oak woodland ecosystems in California, said Ted Swiecki of Phytosphere Research, an organization that provides consulting services related to natural resource management, horticulture, urban forestry, and agriculture. The group of pathogens causing the damage are largely from the Phytophthora genus, first described in the 1860s. The name translates from Greek to “plant destroyer.”
Swiecki has observed when Phytophthora infested plants and soils are introduced to native habitats, the pathogens can attack various native plants, including toyon, madrone, manzanita and full-grown oaks. Once established, the pathogen can spread along drainages, by moving soil from one area to another and by hitchhiking on equipment, tires and hiking boots.
The pathogen can easily be overlooked at nurseries, which, by their nature, have conditions that favor Phytophthora development. Plants at nurseries are well watered, have high root density and are often placed on the ground where they can pick up pathogens.
He said the best approach to tackling Phytophthora is not using nursery stock for restoration or beautification of natural oak woodland. Direct seeding, using natural regeneration, or onsite propagation are safer ways to enhance vegetation in oak woodland.
“It's easier to prevent Phytophthora from being introduced in the first place and much cheaper and more effective than trying to eradicate it later,” Siewcki said.
On June 22, Governor Jerry Brown signed the state budget for fiscal year 2018-19, which contains a new line item for UC ANR within the UCOP budget. UC ANR will have the same amount of funding from the state for the upcoming year as we had this year. While we appreciate that ANR did not suffer additional cuts, we still need to deal with unfunded obligations of $4 million to $5 million. This results from the UC system getting an increase of 3 percent in the coming fiscal year, which will cause increases in salaries and benefits.
We are managing this $4 million to $5 million in unfunded obligations in three ways:
- We are slowing down hiring of UC Cooperative Extension (UCCE) advisors & specialists throughout the state.
- Statewide programs are developing additional cuts to already reduced budgets.
- UC ANR Research and Extension Centers (RECs) are reducing the subsidy that has been provided for research projects at the RECs.
Our priority during this process is to keep UCCE advisors in the field and minimize harm to program delivery. We are fortunate that recent work on administrative efficiencies has provided some savings that we can utilize for our programs and UCCE mission.
Fulford joins UCCE as soil quality advisor
Anthony Fulford joined UCCE on June 18 as an area nutrient management/soil quality advisor in Stanislaus, Merced and San Joaquin counties.
Prior to joining UCCE, he studied on soil health testing and nutrient management practices for corn, soybeans, and wheat grown in Ohio as a postdoctoral researcher at The Ohio State University. Fulford studied soil fertility of rice cropping systems at the University of Arkansas where he evaluated nitrogen soil testing, nitrogen use efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions in the mid-South. His research has been focused on identifying rapid and affordable soil health measurements to better predict organic nitrogen supply to plants. He has worked closely with growers and extension educators to conduct research on nutrient management and soil health and has led demonstrations and discussions at soil health workshops.
Fulford received a Ph.D. in soil fertility from University of Arkansas, a M.S. in soil science from Southern Illinois University, and a B.S. in forestry from Colorado State University.
Fulford is based in Modesto and can be reached at (209) 525-6800 and firstname.lastname@example.org.
Megaro named interim director of Strategic Communications
Anne Megaro has been appointed to serve as interim director of Strategic Communications in addition to her current role as director of government and community relations. She will assume this role until the Strategic Communications position is filled.
During the transition, Liz Sizensky and Pam Kan-Rice will share project management responsibilities and Cynthia Kintigh will oversee content migration to the new website design. For assistance with publicizing the impact of your work, you are welcome, as always, to contact Jeannette Warnert, Ricardo Vela or Kan-Rice directly.
Megaro can be reached at (530) 750-1218 and email@example.com. Strategic Communications staff contact information is listed at http://ucanr.edu/sites/anrstaff/Administration/Associate_Vice_President_for_Academic_Programs_and_Strategic_Initiatives/csit/staff.
Gerry and Haviland honored by ESA
Alec Gerry, UC Cooperative Extension Specialist and UC Riverside Professor of Veterinary Entomology, and David Haviland, UC Cooperative Extension advisor in Kern County, recently received awards from the Pacific Branch of the Entomological Society of America.
Gerry, who created a website https://www.veterinaryentomology.org to help producers identify pests and search lists of pesticides registered for veterinary pests, received the 2018 Medical, Urban and Veterinary Entomology Award.
One person nominating Gerry wrote, “From the beginning of his career, Alec has demonstrated a consistent ability to balance scholarly investigations with providing solutions to practical pest management problems. These two spheres of endeavors have infused each other, resulting in a prodigious contribution to our knowledge of pests of livestock and poultry and the diseases they carry to humans and animals.”
Another wrote, “Alec has heavily influenced our Pacific region through his many collaborations with UC extension personnel (specialists and farm advisors in animal agriculture at the county level or up at UC Davis) and his research projects and meaningful interaction with vector control districts.”
Haviland, who delivers presentations in Spanish as well as English, received the 2018 Excellence in Extension award.
One nomination letter said, “Haviland uses his research outputs to drive his prodigious extension program. This includes 430 presentations, primarily to farmer and pest control advisor audiences, to total attendances of over 32,000 people.”
Another wrote, “In our opinion, Mr. Haviland has proven to be more intuitive, approachable, and accessible to the local agricultural industry than most. His presentations to growers and PCAs on the issues and outcome of his research have always been timely and on target and he continues to provide valuable information for our newsletters and other industry periodicals. We have experienced evidence of his hard work in getting all important findings, whether from his work or his peers, delivered to growers and PCA's quickly so that the information can be put to use. He has always been open to our pest management concerns, very creative in developing management strategies, available to answer questions, and provides leadership and outreach for new information and research findings.”
Other UC colleagues also received awards from ESA's Pacific Branch:
- Award for Excellence in Teaching- William Walton, UC Riverside
- Distinction in Student Mentoring- Jay Rosenheim, UC Davis
- Student Leadership Award- Jessica Gillung, UC Davis
The awards were presented June 12 at the Pacific Branch Entomological Society of America meeting in Reno.
Zalom named new editor-in-chief of journal
Frank G. Zalom, distinguished professor in the Department of Entomology and Nematology at UC Davis, will be the next editor-in-chief of the Journal of Economic Entomology, the largest of the Entomological Society of America's family of scientific journals.
“Dr. Frank Zalom's career can be viewed as a model of applied entomology derived from an understanding of basic biology, and he is an ideal choice to be the new editor-in-chief of the Journal of Economic Entomology," said ESA President Michael Parrella. "His unparalleled and broad expertise will serve to continue the journal's growth as the publication of choice for applied entomological research and to build upon the legacy of Dr. John Trumble [professor of entomology at UC Riverside]."
Zalom brings the experience of a 40-year career at the intersection of entomological research, teaching, and application. He served for 16 years as director of the UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program and is the only entomologist in the UC system to ever receive a simultaneous appointment in teaching, research, and extension. His primary research focus has been on integrated pest management of agricultural crops.
"My colleagues and I on the Editorial Board for the Journal of Economic Entomology are delighted to welcome Dr. Frank Zalom as the journal's next editor-in-chief. We could not have asked for a better candidate in terms of vision, dedication, reputation, experience, and integrity," says Xuguo Zhou, associate professor of entomology at the University of Kentucky and chair of the Journal of Economic Entomology Editorial Board
"And we also express our deep gratitude to Dr. John Trumble, whose tireless work ethic and unerring leadership have driven JEE to such great success for so long," said Zhou.
Zalom will take on a five-year term as editor-in-chief.
As part of the University of California Office of the President restructuring effort, President Napolitano appointed an advisory committee to determine a set of recommendations regarding UC ANR. The committee has been asked to explore structural, funding and associated governance options that will best support UC ANR and the University of California.
The committee is chaired by David Marshall, UC Santa Barbara executive vice chancellor, and consists of UC chancellors and deans, as well as representatives of the UC Board of Regents, UC Academic Senate, UC President's Advisory Commission on ANR, and the Executive President's Advisory Group.
The advisory committee has met a few times and has received background materials on UC ANR, said VP Glenda Humiston. Future meetings will delve into how UC ANR allocates funds and prioritizes program delivery. The advisory committee will begin interviewing UC ANR stakeholders in the next few weeks.
The advisory committee's goal is to bring final recommendations to the president and UC Board of Regents before the end of the year.
For 26 years, Blake Sanden has been the irrigation, soils and agronomy farm advisor with UC Cooperative Extension at the southern end of the San Joaquin Valley. Sanden retired from UCCE Kern County on July 1.
He helped growers with on-farm soil and water problems, organized and spoke at workshops across California and conducted applied field research projects focusing on irrigation, salinity/fertility management for all crops, and agronomic field crop production of alfalfa, dry beans and oil crops.
Sanden has a bachelor's degree in international agricultural development and agronomy and master's degree in irrigation and drainage from UC Davis and 35 years of experience in California production ag, international ag development and extension.
He developed salt tolerance thresholds for high-production California pistachios in the San Joaquin Valley, soil moisture monitoring techniques and irrigation efficiency assessment on 12,000 acres in Kern County and deficit irrigation in early citrus navel oranges.
Over the last eight years, Sanden has fulfilled a vision that started nearly 30 years ago. Through collaboration with nearly 50 University of California researchers, farm advisors, extension specialists, the Wonderful Farming Company and almond industry representatives, he played a crucial role in increasing the precision of water and fertilizer application for optimal almond yield – increasing the statewide average yield by more than 50 percent.
But some of his greatest joys and heart-felt satisfaction lay in development work in Africa – 3 years of missionary service in the 1980s developing vegetable gardens in Zambia and month-long training/consulting trips working with farmers and extension agents in Uganda, Ethiopia and central Asia.
When asked what he'll miss the most about his career, he said the interaction with the growers, most notably “seeing the ‘ah-ha' light up in a grower's eyes when he finally grasps the solution.”
He remembered a particular time in May of 2004 when a sugarbeet grower called him seeking his advice on whether or not to irrigate his 380 acres of beets one last time before harvesting. That was the way he had always done it. So Sanden went out and spent a couple of hours using his hand probe to check the moisture of the fields down to a three-foot depth.
“I ask, ‘Ken, when did you last probe this field?'” Sanden recalled.
‘“Oh, I really didn't check it this year?' he says.”
“Do you really need to irrigate or is this enough water to get through harvest?” noting that he already had enough moisture.
“I guess it's enough, but that's why I asked you out here. It wouldn't hurt to put on the irrigation, would it? I'd feel better. Of course, we did get the digger stuck a couple times last year because the field was too wet.”
“Too much water does hurt beets because you will reduce sugar percentage and can get rot and lose tonnage,” Sanden replied.
“OK, it makes me a bit nervous but you say I have at least four inches of water stored in the soil that the beets can get at.”
That year Ken was the top sugar producer in Kern County and got the Silver Beet Knife for highest percentage of sugar, Blake recalled.
“With that two hours worth of field scouting, he probably made an extra $300,000 in the saved irrigation and increased sugar,” Blake said.