Safe, healthy and happy Thanksgiving
Last week, Governor Gavin Newsom signed a series of bills aimed at improving California's wildfire prevention, mitigation and response efforts. AB 38, a bill aimed at reducing wildfire damage to communities, incorporates University of California research to help protect California's existing housing.
“Prior to AB 38, the State's wildfire building policy focus was centered around guiding construction standards for new homes and major remodels,” said Yana Valachovic, UC Cooperative Extension forest advisor for Humboldt and Del Norte counties. “How do we help incentivize homeowners to upgrade and retrofit the 10 million or more existing homes in California to help them become more resilient to wildfire? AB 38 is an attempt to start that important work and to protect Californians.”
AB 38, introduced by Assemblymember Jim Wood (D-Santa Rosa) provides mechanisms to develop best practices for community-wide resilience against wildfires through “home hardening,” defensible space and other measures based on UC ANR research. This bill is especially important to Wood because wildfires in 2017 destroyed lives and hundreds of homes in his district and because of his work as a forensic dentist following the Santa Rosa and Paradise wildfires.
“AB 38 was a huge effort by many partners as we sought the best policy solutions to address what is today one of our state's biggest challenges,” said Assemblymember Wood. “I could not have accomplished it without the support and guidance of the people at UC Cooperative Extension Humboldt-Del Norte, especially Dr. Steve Quarles and Yana Valachovic. Their expertise proved invaluable as we worked through this process.”
Studies conducted by Steve Quarles, emeritus UC Cooperative Extension advisor, and his continued work at the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety have identified building materials and designs that are more resistant to flying embers from wildfires. Embers are small, fiery pieces of plants, trees or buildings that are light enough to be carried on the wind and can rapidly spread wildfire when they blow ahead of the main fire, starting new fires on or in homes.
Evaluating the homes lost in wildfires that ravaged Paradise, Redding and Santa Rosa have also informed Valachovic and Quarles' recommendations.
Hardening a home to withstand wildland fire exposure does not have to be costly, but it does require an understanding of the exposures the home will experience when threatened by a wildfire.
Their recommended best practices for hardening homes against wildfire can be found in UC ANR Publication 8393 “Home Survival in Wildfire-Prone Areas: Building Materials and Design,” which can be downloaded for free. More information is also at the ANR Fire website https://ucanr.edu/fire.
Helping people attain financial security and healthy, active lives has been a career passion for Patti Wooten Swanson, UC Cooperative Extension nutrition, family and consumer sciences advisor for San Diego County. Wooten Swanson, who joined UC Agriculture and Natural Resources in 2001, retired July 1, 2019, from a career of research and outreach focused on family financial management and nutrition education to help San Diego County residents improve their lives.
Melinda Opperman has worked with Wooten Swanson on several campaigns promoting financial wellness that received proclamations from the San Diego City Council, mayor and board of supervisors.
“She was instrumental in improving people's financial lives and promoting the common purpose of financial wellness. Her work was critical,” said Opperman, executive vice president of Springboard Nonprofit Consumer Credit Management in National City.
In 2005, Wooten Swanson launched the annual San Diego Saves, part of the America Saves campaign, to encourage San Diegans to improve their financial security.
“The basic message is to encourage people to build wealth through systematic savings over an extended time, with an emphasis on saving and paying down debt,” Wooten Swanson said at the time. She persuaded consumer advocates, credit unions, banks and other local businesses to offer savers' clubs and money-management workshops. As part of San Diego Saves, several financial institutions offered savings accounts that could be opened with as little as $5 and no fees for 12 months.
In her research, the Cooperative Extension advisor found that people were more successful at building their savings if they wrote down a goal, such as buying a car. Wooten Swanson also encouraged saving through payroll or checking account deductions, saying, “You won't miss what you can't see.”
In her blog Small Steps To Health And Wealth, Wooten Swanson provided practical tips for consumers to eat healthfully, avoid foodborne illness and save money.
She also authored UC ANR's Financial Caregiving Series for adult children of aging parents. Recently Wooten Swanson co-chaired the Money Talks workgroup that developed “Living on Your Own” guidebooks, currently in production. The guidebooks outline living expenses low-income youth and young adults should consider before moving to their own apartments. As UC Cooperative Extension advisor emeritus, she plans to promote the Living on My Own program at professional society meetings.
An active community member, Wooten Swanson served on the San Diego County Food System Initiative leadership team and as a research partner with a volunteer gleaning program that provides fresh produce to food insecure families. She also trained social workers to give their clients just-in-time money management information.
Her contributions to the field of family and consumer sciences were recognized with the 2018 Leader Award from the American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences' California affiliate. The National Extension Association of Family and Consumer Sciences honored Wooten Swanson with its 2018 Excellence in MultiState Collaboration Award (Eastern Region) for her contributions to a NIFA Extension Project, and its 2017 Continued Excellence Award for her leadership and promotion of the professional development of others.
Wooten Swanson earned her Ph.D. in consumer science at Texas Woman's University, an M.Ed. in vocational education at North Texas State University and B.S. in home economics at Texas Christian University.
After a busy 44-year career in education, Wooten Swanson is enjoying spending more time with her husband, Jerry, at their home in San Diego and traveling. Once Quicken, her English springer spaniel, gets certified as a pet therapy dog, she plans to volunteer to cheer patients at Scripps Mercy Hospital.
Zheng Wang, vegetable crops advisor with UC Cooperative Extension in Stanislaus County, visited an ag class at Stanislaus State to discuss a state-of-the-art vegetable production practice that involves grafting, reported Alivah Stoeckl in Stan State News.
Grafting plants onto specially bred rootstocks is a practice that is common in tree crops. Grafting confers resistance to soil-borne diseases and pests, requiring less inputs and leading to sustainable crop productivity. It is now being used in some vegetable and fruit crops, such as tomatoes, eggplant, watermelon, cucumbers and cantaloupe.
“Grafting conveys a lot of merits in terms of disease resistance and yield maintenance. It enriches the production practices by introducing more variety. And by making impossible things become possible,” Wang said.
Vegetable grafting has been used since early 2000s, but to many agriculture students the idea was new, reported Stoeckl.
“We're moving forward and advancing with our food which I think is interesting because we used to be all natural and simple but now it's all scientific,” said senior agriculture major Madeline Morataya.
Native California elderberries can be found at the intersection of sustainable farming, super nutrition and economic viability. Naturally drought tolerant, flavorful and packed with nutrients, they are capturing the interest of farmers, health-conscious consumers and scientists.
Elderberries were the focus of a field day offered by UC Agriculture and Natural Resources Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (SAREP) in September at Cloverleaf Farm, an organic berry and tree fruit operation in Dixon.
Elderberries occur naturally around the world. In California, Native Americans used the tree's stems for making flutes, berries for food and purple dye, and bark, leaves and flowers for their purported anti-inflammatory, diuretic and laxative properties.
“They had a relationship with the plant for food, medicine and music,” said SAREP academic coordinator Sonja Brodt. “We wish to honor the elderberry's history here and thousands of years of management by California native tribes.”
UC Cooperative Extension advisor Rachael Long said elderberries are her favorite native plant.
“They're pretty in the spring and summer. The flowers smell like cloves. It's a wonderful fragrance,” she said.
But perhaps the best attribute of elderberries for Long, a proponent of planting hedgerows on the edges of farmland, is the tree's ecological benefits. Elderberries can be among the rows of trees, shrubs, grasses and sedges in hedgerows that attract beneficial insects and pollinators to farms to help with biocontrol of pests and pollination of plants in adjacent crops.
“Flowering native plants like elderberries, toyon, Christmas berry, coffee berry, manzanita and coyote brush provide nectar and pollen for native bees, honey bees and other insects,” Long said. “I see a lot of green lace wings (predators of aphids, spider mites and other pests) in elderberry.”
Long reported that a tomato farm didn't have to spray as much for aphids because of the beneficial insects attracted by the hedgerow. “They saved $300 per acre each year,” she said.
Hedgerows require long-term planning and care, including weed control. Establishing a hedgerow costs about $4,000 for a 1,000-foot-long planting with a single row of shrubs and trees bordered by native perennial grasses. At that rate, Long has calculated that a return on investment in pest control takes about 15 years. For pollination, the return on investment is about 7 years.
Installation of hedgerows can be eligible for cost sharing with USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service Environmental Quality Incentives Program. Costs can also be offset by harvesting the elderflowers and elderberries in the hedgerow and making value-added products – such as syrups and jams – or selling the flowers or berries to a processor.
Farmer Katie Fyhrie shared how Cloverleaf Farm is managing elderberries in a hedgerow, harvesting flowers in the spring to make and bottle elderflower cordial, and harvesting berries in the fall to produce and bottle deep purple sweet-tart syrup. Sixteen ounce bottles of cordial and syrup sell for $12 each. The cordial and syrup are ideal for serving with seltzer and ice for a fruity and uniquely wild-tasting drink.
Fyhrie is also working with Brodt of SAREP to gather data for research on best production practices, farm and processing labor costs, and yield comparison between native plants and named varieties from the Midwest. The study includes data from three California farms.
The project is a collaboration among the UC Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (a program of the Agricultural Sustainability Institute at UC Davis), the UC Agricultural Issues Center, the UC Davis Department of Food Science and Technology and four farmers to assess the farm management practices, cost, nutritional content, and market potential of California elderberries.
While laboratory research comparing the nutritional characteristics of the California blue elderberry with the North American black and the European black is continuing at UC Davis, food science professor Alyson Mitchell and her graduate student Katie Uhl were able to share what is already known about the nutritional benefits of the fruit.
They said elderberries are high in vitamin C, dietary fiber, phenolic acids and anthocyanins. Elderberries contain antibacterial, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agents. While they have a strong history as a treatment for colds and flu, more studies are needed to understand their medicinal use, Mitchell said.
The field day in Dixon was among the first outcomes of the two-year project. A growers' production guide, cost of production study, an assessment of market demand and nutritional analyses are also planned. The information will be made available, along with other resources on elderberry cultivation and processing, on the ASI website.
The Camp Fire started on federal land. This rule would make PG&E clean up its power lines
(Sac Bee) Emily Cadei, Sept. 30
…“In California, it is fairly clear that PG&E did not keep an up-to-date inventory and accomplishment schedule on vegetation clearance on all of their power lines,” William Stewart, director of the Berkeley Forests program at UC Berkeley, said in an email. “ I think the Forest Service wants to make sure that they are sending the same signals to their staff and partners that judges are now sending to PG&E — do proper power line clearance or some entity (or entities) is going to be on the hook for billions of dollars of damages.”
UC ANR Takes In-Depth Look at the Cannabis Industry
(AgNet West) Brian German, Sept. 27
Following the passage of Proposition 64 which legalized recreational cannabis, there was significant excitement surrounding the potential for a legal and regulated cannabis industry in California. However, the development of the guidelines for cannabis cultivation has undergone significant delays as the state works to build infrastructure for a commodity which is still federally prohibited. The July-December 2019 issue of the research publication from UC Agriculture and Natural Resources, California Agriculture, highlights multiple components for the development of legal cannabis in California. The special issue details the history of cannabis in the state, as well as some of the research being conducted on various aspects of cannabis.
Industry advocates weigh in on California's proposed rodenticide ban
(Pest Management Professional) Diane Sofranec, Heather Gooch and Marty Whitford, Sept. 26
…Dr. Niamh Quinn, Human-Wildlife Interactions Advisor University of California Cooperative Extension, Irvine, Calif.
There have been several iterations of bills in California over the past four years. Most of them are targeting anticoagulant rodenticides, although they morphed along the way; they started with all of the rodenticides, and now they're particularly focused on SGARs. As it was written, AB 1788 proposed serious restrictions on the use of SGARs, with some fairly limited applications throughout the state. In essence, it would have been an almost total ban of SGARs for structural pest control.
California farm region faces furry new threat: swamp rodents
(AP) Samantha Maldonaldo and Terry Chea, Sept. 26
…Damage to the region's soil or water infrastructure would be devastating to the economy and diet.
“It would mean no more sushi because the alternative would be to buy rice from Japan or Korea, where the price is five times higher,” said Daniel Sumner, director of the Agricultural Issues Center at the University of California-Davis. “Kiss off carrots, or live without table grapes in the summertime.”
New California lab seeks cure to deadly citrus disease
(Washington Post) Amy Taxin, Sept. 26
RIVERSIDE, Calif. — In a lab southeast of Los Angeles, researchers are opening a new front in the yearslong battle against a tiny pest that has wreaked havoc on citrus groves around the world.
California citrus growers and packers and the University of California, Riverside on Thursday marked the opening of an $8 million lab dedicated to finding a solution to the tree-killing disease known as Huanglongbing that has ravaged groves in Florida, Brazil and China.
…Georgios Vidalakis, director of the Citrus Clonal Protection Program at University of California, Riverside, said citrus boomed in California in the late 1800s. In the decades that followed, researchers in Riverside started a citrus breeding program, which helped develop new varieties, and a citrus collection, which now has more than 1,000 kinds of trees, he said.
Vidalakis, a plant pathologist, oversees a program aimed at ensuring trees don't introduce diseases into the region. But without the ability to study the illness, research was hampered, he said, until experts and growers joined together to build the lab.
“This disease is like nothing we have ever faced as plant pathologists,” he said. “We need all hands on deck.”
These Big Plans to Protect California Homes From Wildfire Fell Short in the Legislature
(KQED) Lauren Sommer, Sept. 26
…While Cal Fire has a goal of inspecting 33 percent of structures in its jurisdiction each year, a KQED investigation found the agency only did half that in 2018. In some parts of the state, only 6 percent of homes in risky areas were inspected.
“It's becomes really clear that our defensible space has been insufficient to protect homes from embers,” said Yana Valachovic, a fire expert with UC Cooperative Extension. “What's immediately adjacent to a structure affects the probability of a structure's survival.”
…“The science has been clear for quite a while, but it's been slow to incorporate into codes, standards and practices,” said Valachovic.
… “There's no single solution that's going to solve the fire problem,” said Valachovic. “It takes an all-hands-on-deck approach.”
Lindcove dedicates conference center to Exeter man
(Sun Gazette) Sept. 25
A late Exeter man who donated most of his fortune to local agriculture and educational institutions, will soon have his name affixed to University of California research facility.
The Lindcove Research and Extension Center, part of the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources system, will rename its conference center after the late Ray Copeland. The Ray Copeland Citrus Center will be dedicated during the Lindcove Citrus Gala on Oct. 4.
Participating in Agricultural Meetings Creates Long-Term Benefits
(AgNet West) Brian German, Sept. 24
…“It's an all-encompassing benefit for everyone,” said Brooke Latack, Cooperative Extension Livestock Advisor serving Imperial, Riverside and San Bernardino Counties. “Not just the farmers, but the people putting the workshops on also benefit a great deal from it.”
A Healthy Agriculture Approach
(CSU Stanislaus Signal) Aliyah Stoeckl, Sept. 23
UCCE Vegetable and Irrigation Advisor Dr. Zheng Wang held an insightful lecture at Stan State among students and faculty discussing the values of vegetable grafting.
… “Grafting conveys a lot of merits in terms of disease resistance and yield maintenance, it enriches the production practices by introducing more variety. And by making impossible things become possible,” said Wang.
UC Cooperative Extension Survey Results on Cannabis Cultivation
(Sierra Sun Times) Jeannette Warnert (news release) Sept. 23
A UC Cooperative Extension survey of California registered and unregistered marijuana growers will help researchers, policy makers and the public better understand growing practices since cannabis sales, possession and cultivation first became legal for recreational use.
“This survey is a starting point from which UC scientists could build research and extension programs, if possible in the future,” said lead author Houston Wilson, UC Cooperative Extension specialist with UC Riverside. A report on the survey results was published in the July-December 2019 issue of California Agriculture journal, the research publication of UC Agriculture and Natural Resources.
In a Race Against the Sun, Growers Try to Outsmart Climate Change
(New York Times) Marla Cone, Sept. 21
…“We can't continue to do the exact same thing we are doing now,” said Katherine Jarvis-Shean, a University of California researcher who advises orchardists on how to cope with climate change. “There are a lot of solutions to the anticipated problems. We just have to get on top of them, testing them and making them available to growers.”
…“For the most part, the world gets fed by row crops,” said Pat J. Brown, an associate professor at the University of California-Davis, referring to wheat, corn and other staples. “But a lot of the stuff that makes life really worth living comes from trees. Think of the world without chocolate or wine or coffee.”
…The Agriculture Department has repositories that store genetic material from every type of tree on earth. Dan Parfitt, a now-retired University of California-Davis plant geneticist, started breeding pistachios using tissue from those repositories more than 30 years ago in an effort to help growers economize their harvest.
As the climate changed, Dr. Parfitt got the idea to plant a few hundred of the trees in the California desert. “The Coachella Valley is the closest to the warmer winters and drier conditions that we will see in the San Joaquin Valley in 20 to 30 years,” he said.
Cannabis findings presented in Mendocino County by Berkeley's Cannabis Research Center
(Ukiah Daily Journal) Carole Brodsky, Sept. 21
One knows times have changed when California Agriculture, the official magazine for the University of California's Agriculture and Natural Resources Division features High Times-worthy photos of cannabis flowers on the front cover. In fact, cannabis is the sole focus of the quarterly, peer-reviewed publication.
Since 2017, the University of California's Cannabis Research Center (CRC) has been hard at work. A 12-person research team, supported by 50 undergraduates, has been conducting groundbreaking research, some of which was presented to the public on Sept. 15 at the Hopland Research and Extension Center.
Team members presented their findings, including the results of a cannabis production survey, which was taken by 350 California cannabis farmers largely located in the Emerald Triangle region. Dr. Van Butsic, assistant cooperative extension specialist and co-director of the Cannabis Research Center, acted as presenter for the event.
Butte County suffers two more human cases of West Nile
(Chico Enterprise Record) Brody Fernandez, Sept. 20
…Maurice Pitesky, is a researcher medical professional for the Veterinary Medicine Extension at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. Pitesky specializes in poultry health and food safety epidemiology — the study of diseases and large populations.
“The reason chickens are ‘sentinels', are because they don't really get sick,” Pitesky said. “Chickens are the canaries in the coal mine for the West Nile virus. We use them to determine if certain areas contain infected mosquitoes and if they've contracted the virus themselves. It's also a good way to put chickens in strategic places and check to see if they are producing the appropriate antibodies to the virus. From a preventative health perspective, they do serve a beneficial service.”
Chickens can not transmit the virus, they are only carriers, Pitesky said.
A tiny beetle has decimated hundreds of SoCal trees. Now experts are worried about Sacramento
(Sac Bee) Michael Finch II, Sept. 19
…The shot hole borer is not a strong flier so it's unlikely to move far on its own. It can, however, move faster when hiding in firewood and other green waste or landscaping equipment, said Akif Eskalen, a plant pathologist and professor at UC Davis.
Eskalen is one of many investigators looking for ways to naturally eradicate the beetle. Eskalen's work focuses on using native plants, but there is an ongoing trial with pesticides and another using natural predators. The studies, he said, “may take several years to complete.”
… Once inside a tree, the female produces offspring that mate with each other when they grow up and the death-dealing cycle repeats. This sequence happens as many as four times a year, or more if the weather is hotter, said Beatriz Nobua-Behrmann, a researcher studying the insect for the UC Cooperative Extension in Irvine.
They're believed to have arrived in wood packing materials made with infested wood from Taiwan and Vietnam, she said. Climate change could make it worse since the beetle thrives in warm weather. Its reproductive cycle accelerates as the temperature rises.
“Knowing that they can travel in wood or in green waste or in equipment that makes it a little bit more dangerous,” Nobua-Behrmann said. “It could easily make it to the northern counties with people moving firewood because they find it for cheap or for free.”
CBD oil price likely factor in $100 million payoff predicted for Ventura County hemp crop
Kathleen Wilson, Ventura County Star, Sept. 18
…More than 25,000 products can be made from industrial hemp, said Oli Bachie, a UC Cooperative Extension farm adviser in Imperial County who is studying hemp production. The plant can be used for fiber, feed, textiles and oils, but most if not all of the strains of hemp being planted in the county are for CBD, apparently because of the large profits that are expected.
Bachie would not be surprised to see that happen around the state.
"There is a huge interest in this because people want to grab the first economic benefit out of it," Bachie said.
Federal Government Approves Release Of Non-Native Weevil In California To Combat Invasive Thistle
(CapRadio) Drew Sandsor, Sept 18
…The U.S. Department of Agriculture said Tuesday it will permit use of the weevil native to Europe and western Asia to control yellow starthistle, which is from the same areas.
Brad Hanson, UC Cooperative Extension weed specialist at UC Davis, says yellow starthistle thrives in part because of its prickly spines.
"So it's not very palatable to any livestock, especially once it's started to flower, and it's toxic to horses. So often times the other grasses and more palatable plants are grazed and the starthistle persists and is sort of the only thing left,” he said.
California farms, ranches strive to adapt as climate warms - it's a matter of survival
(San Francisco Chronicle) Peter Fimrite, Sept 18
…Josué Medellín-Azuara, the associate director of the UC Agricultural Issues Center at UC Merced, said the biggest issue will be irrigation. Decreases in the Sierra snowpack mean less melting in the summer, so more rainwater will need to be stored in the winter. Hotter temperatures would also mean crops and orchards will retain less moisture.
“Plants may actually lose water more quickly because of the heat, so they may actually need more water than they need now to survive,” Medellín-Azuara said. This at a time when California is expected to experience more droughts.
…Frank Mitloehner, a professor in the UC Davis animal science department, said that is why sensors are being installed to monitor water use, and more ranchers are adopting regenerative farming and grazing techniques that ensure the land sequesters more carbon than it emits.
Drought tolerant crop being studied in the Valley
(ABC 30) Cristina Davies, Sept. 17
Big research is happening at the Kearney Agriculture and Extension Center in Fresno County.
Sorghum, a crop that looks similar to corn, is under a microscope.
Jeff Dahlberg, director of the center, said that sorghum is very drought tolerant.
"What we are looking for is the mechanism behind the drought tolerance in sorghum and if we can elucidate the genetics behind that, what we believe is we can use those genetics to see if the genetics in corn, or in rice, or in wheat," he said.
UC Pot Researchers Working with 'Gray Literature'
(East Bay Express) Dan Mitchell, Sept. 17
… The problem was brought into sharp relief last week when the Cannabis Research Center at UC Berkeley made its first formal presentation of the work that it's been doing. The center began operating at the beginning of the year to "promote interdisciplinary scholarship on the social and environmental dimensions of cannabis production." Every one of the five researchers who spoke during the presentation addressed the often-ridiculous restrictions under which they still operate. As Chronic Town reported recently, researchers in public universities all over the state aren't even allowed to be around pot plants, thanks to the federal ban — a mighty hurdle for people studying health effects, cultivation methods, pest-management techniques, and the like.
"It's a tricky problem," observed center Co-Director Van Butsic, an adjunct professor who specializes in land use. "We don't want our researchers to stay in the academy."
Here's a talk about creating sustainable landscapes in Redlands, sponsored by Redlands Horticultural and Improvement Society
(Redlands Daily Facts) Sept. 17
Janet Hartin, an area environmental horticulture adviser for San Bernardino, Riverside and Los Angeles counties, will present a program on “Beautiful Sustainable Landscapes for Redlands” when the Redlands Horticultural and Improvement Society meets 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 19, at Redlands Church of the Nazarene, 1307 E. Citrus Ave.
Sept. 18 meeting to explore prescribed burning
(Taft Midway Driller) Sept. 17
The SRWC's meeting will begin with an introduction from Etna Fire Chief Alan Kramer, after which Lenya Quinn-Davidson and Jeffery Stackhouse, advisors with UC Cooperative Extension and co-founders of the Humboldt County Prescribed Burn Association, will share the story of how their PBA got started two years ago. They'll talk about their PBA's work – more than a thousand acres of prescribed fire through 18 different projects – and they'll talk more generally about options for prescribed fire on private lands, permitting and regulations, project costs, and the benefits of prescribed fire on rangelands, forests, and woodlands.