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051 Grain Cropping Systems Specialist


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This proposal has been formally submitted for the 2012 cycle.



The California Wheat Commission (CWC) is pleased to see the Grain Cropping Systems Specialist position on the list for consideration and we welcome the opportunity to provide comments in support of filling this critical position.
Our comments will focus on the importance of this position to the California wheat industry, but we acknowledge the importance of the other grains and agree that the position description is appropriately drafted to encompass the challenges facing all small grain growers in the state. It is important to note, however, that wheat is the only crop among the small grains and stovers that would be covered by this specialist position that has an organized commission to partner with the University in funding research activities.
The California Wheat Industry
Wheat is grown on more than 700,000 acres throughout the state, from the Oregon border south to Mexico. In 2011, the farm value of the grain was approximately $360 million. The California wheat industry is unique in many ways: we grow five of the six classes of wheat including red, white and durum; our Hard Red Winter varieties, which comprise about 70 percent of total planted acres, are actually fall-planted spring varieties; we are the only state wheat commission with its own quality lab; over 80 percent of our wheat is irrigated; much of our wheat is grown as part of a rotation with other crops like corn and tomatoes; and a significant portion of the common wheat in the Central Valley is cut for silage and is not captured in the "farm value" cited above.
CWC Relationship with UCCE and UC Davis
Wheat growers voted to establish the California Wheat Commission in 1983, expressly to support research that improves California wheat quality and marketability, and to develop and maintain domestic and international markets for California wheat. CWC collects assessments on wheat grown for grain and directs the funding toward these two major activities. The most important activity has always been funding UC and UCCE wheat research programs. In recent years, as available public funds have been reduced, CWC funding has grown significantly. In the current fiscal year, out of a total budget of about $1 million, CWC has allocated close to $350,000 for UC and UCCE, including:
• $120,000 to support UCD wheat breeding program (as part of UC Discovery Grant)
• $35,000 to supplement the statewide variety trials program
• $50,000 to fund a study at UC Riverside on optimal root size
• $100,000 in grant funds for UCCE specialist and advisors for wheat related projects
• $10,000 for UCCE internships to encourage promising students to consider extension
• $33,000 to help fund a new wheat breeder
These all represent ongoing commitments for which CWC considers and approves annual funding. In addition to these multi-year programs, CWC has recently helped purchase a new wheat drill (seeder) for a local farm advisor, a new protein machine for the wheat lab at UCD, and is likely to help acquire a new combine to harvest the statewide variety trials.
More than just the financial investment, CWC sees UCCE and UC as the key strategic partners in keeping the wheat industry viable in California. Virtually all of our growers are diversified producers facing myriad financial, agronomic and environmental challenges. They look to us for accurate and unbiased information regarding varieties with the best yield and end use quality, water use efficiency, and disease resistance. UC-conducted research helps us provide this information. Additionally, UCCE-conducted field trials help identify best management practices for fertilization, irrigation and weed control. Thus, our core mission relies on a strong and viable UCCE.
Importance of the Grain Cropping Systems Specialist
For many years, the California wheat industry benefited from the excellent services of Dr. Lee Jackson, who was the statewide small grains specialist from 1980 to 2009. The large gap left by his retirement has been filled by a number of creative measures, which included putting the statewide trials team under the direction of Dr. Jorge Dubcovsky and utilizing Dr. Jackson’s expertise by inviting him to conduct disease evaluations of wheat and other small grain germplasm in the statewide variety trials during his retirement. But, there are many issues and challenges facing the industry that make filling this position ever more urgent.
• Water and nitrogen use efficiency and climate change are being widely debated and researched both in and outside of California. A statewide specialist is critical to helping wheat growers understand the issues, better utilize new research findings in the field, and improve the economic viability of wheat production.
• The once-robust network of small grains farm advisors has been much reduced by retirement, and will continue to be so in the near future as more farm advisors retire. A statewide specialist can better coordinate efforts among the remaining farm advisors, facilitate cooperation and limit duplication of effort. A specialist is needed to preserve institutional knowledge that may otherwise be lost as farm advisors retire.
• The wheat breeding industry is undergoing major changes, with major biotechnology companies, including Monsanto and Syngenta, purchasing smaller seed companies. These changes currently are directly affecting the structure of our public field trials and limiting the information that is available to growers and end users about varieties being considered for release. A specialist is needed to more actively manage this changing environment and protect the interests of growers.
• The changes in wheat breeding are largely driven by the renewed interest in introducing new traits into wheat through biotechnology. The nature of the traits -- disease resistance, drought tolerance, improved nutrition -- is still undecided, but most experts agree that biotech wheat will be in the market within 7-10 years. How and whether to introduce biotech wheat into California is a very important question that CWC, UC and UCCE will need to work together on to resolve.
• CWC is seeing significant interest from growers in producing wheat either organically or sustainably. Growers in many areas, like the North Coast counties, are seeking assistance in identifying appropriate varieties and practices to enable them to re-introduce wheat into their rotations. This interest is being generated by the demand for local grain for local millers, bakers and consumers. A specialist would be able to meet this new demand and help create new production areas.
Conclusions and Recommendations
Wheat, together with corn, barley, oats, triticale and sorghum, are grown on close to 2 million acres in California. These small grains crops are critical to human and animal feeding systems, as well as to the expanding biofuels industry. The California Wheat Commission, which is comprised of growers from around the state as well as grain handlers, at-large members with special expertise, and food company and milling industry members, has strongly supported filling this specialist position for several years. The California Wheat Commission has demonstrated a serious commitment to its partnership with UCCE and urges priority selection of the Grain Cropping Systems Specialist position.
Posted Aug 1, 2012 9:48 AM by Janice Cooper
Small grains and corn are keystones in California agriculture. Increasingly valuable in their own right, they also are integral in crop rotations needed for the sustainable production of milk, beef, cotton, processing tomatoes, and vegetables. As winter cover crops that improve soil health and water utilization, small grains also benefit the production of tree and vine crops.

The Grain Cropping System Specialist position is vital for maintaining the economic viability in California of small grains, corn, and sorghum, and also for taking full advantage of the benefits those crops provide for sustainable production of the other crops and livestock that depend on them, and for sustainable management of nutrients and water.

As former president of a company that bred wheat and triticale for California, and current board member of the California Grain Foundation, I strongly believe that a statewide grain specialist is extremely important for grain and forage production in the state and for the benefits they provide to virtually all segments of the state’s agriculture.
Posted Aug 5, 2012 10:41 AM by George Fohner
Grain Cropping Systems Specialist position is considered one of the key UCCE Specialist positions in the state by all the agronomy Advisors and plant science faculty. California has a unique, internationally speaking, coordinated public and privet grains research and industry business team. This coordinated team is held together by the California Wheat Commission, Jorge Dubcovsky, UC Davis Wheat Breeder and the Grain Cropping Systems Specialist representing the UCCE Advisors. Without the Specialist, Advisors have to spend their time doing the Specialist job. Research dollars and equipment is coordinated by this position to support new and important research in areas such as fertility management. This is a pivotal part of groundwater quality management, now currently one of UC ANR’s key issues.
Retirements of key UCCE Agronomy Advisors, south and central Sacramento Valley, further endanger the grains industry in California. After this November UCCE will have only one Small Grains Advisor in the entire Sacramento Valley. At this time only this Specialist position will be able to maintain the close working relationship between the few far-flung Small Grains Advisors and the wheat industry.
In the very recent past, 2000 to 2005 this team literally saved the wheat industry in California. A new strain of Stripe Rust attacked and endangered all the wheat production in the state. In this time we lost over 18 varieties of wheat, all that we were currently growing. This Specialist and 3 Advisors rapidly established a fungicide spraying protocol that saved the industry in the state. This disease is still here, but all but 1 of those players are about to be gone. Are you willing to tell the industry, “Sorry, despite all the warnings, we could not hire a new Grain Cropping Systems Specialist so there is no wheat production in California”?? Sadly, I am not being overly dramatic, this will happen. UCCE has lost the key Agronomists it needs to do the job. It is not fair to expect the remaining fabulous Advisors to carry this responsibility. WE need a Grain Cropping Systems Specialist, and new agronomy Advisors.
Posted Aug 7, 2012 12:10 PM by Kent L. Brittan
The linkage of this position to some of the most critical issues in the state should not be ignored. Grains (wheat, barley, oat, triticale, corn, sorghum and minor grains such as teff or spelt) occupy more than 1.7 million acres of land - which is on the order of 20% of the irrigated cropland in CA. They are key food producers, but are particularly closely related to the manure management issues in the Central Valley. A position could work on both small grains and corn, as well as on drought-tolerant grains such as sorghum. These are key food producing crops worldwide and very important to CA cropping systems.
Posted Aug 7, 2012 7:42 PM by Dan Putnam, UC Davis

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