Safe, healthy and happy Thanksgiving
The California Department of Pesticide Regulation has formed a work group to find alternatives to the pesticide chlorpyrifos that will help farmers manage insect pests when a state ban on the chemical goes into effect, reported Kerry Klein on Valley Public Radio.
Klein interviewed David Haviland, UC Cooperative Extension entomology advisor and a member of the work group.
“This is an important topic,” Haviland said. “Chlorpyrifos has had a lot of benefits to agriculture for many years. At the same time, it does have some negative issues associated with it that were the reason that the product has been proposed to be discontinued.”
Chlorpyrifos is a common insecticide used under the trade names Lorsban, Lock-on and generic formulations to control ants, stink bugs, aphids, whiteflies and other pests. UC IPM coordinated a comprehensive report on chlorpyrifos in 2014, commissioned by DPR, outlining critical uses of the pesticide in alfalfa, almonds, citrus and cotton. The report details the insecticide's use patterns as compared to other pest control tactics, such as resistant varieties, mating disruption, field sanitation and other insecticides.
The new work group will develop short-term and five-year action plans to identify safer, more sustainable pest management tools, practices, and alternatives in a wide array of crops. They will seek solutions that are safe for workers, communities and the environment, able to adequately control targeted pests, and cost effective. In addition, the work group will consider the issues of efficacy, soil health and climate change.
The solutions might include combinations of other pesticides to help protect the dozens of crops on which chlorpyrifos is used. Haviland says the group will prioritize the most urgent needs first: “Who's really going to take a hit from the ban, and from there, what is the best way to go forward,” he said.
UC Cooperative Extension, Beckstoffer Vineyards and Duarte Nursery are launching the wine industry's most ambitious cabernet sauvignon rootstock and clone trial in the Red Hills of Lake County to give the varietal greater resilience to climate change.
Cabernet sauvignon is California's second top-selling varietal by volume, just behind chardonnay.
“We have been growing cabernet sauvignon since the 1970s, and we are very proud to be part of this trial, which will help improve cabernet sauvignon growing for years to come,” said Andy Beckstoffer, owner and CEO of Beckstoffer Vineyards, which is providing the land and labor for the project.
The industry-driven trial – “Climate-smart Solutions for Cabernet Sauvignon Production” – includes 3,600 vines with 10 cabernet sauvignon clones on 10 rootstocks.
“This trial will give us data that will help inform and improve growing practices for cabernet sauvignon across the state for the next two decades,” said the trial's lead researcher, S. Kaan Kurtural, UC Cooperative Extension viticulture specialist at UC Davis Department of Viticulture and Enology and Oakville Experiment Station.
While the experimental vineyard is in Lake County at a property known as Amber Knolls, the data will be analyzed in Oakville.
The trial officially launched Aug. 15 in Kelseyville with a celebratory vine planting as Andy Beckstoffer and son David Beckstoffer planted the vine that also marked a milestone – the 1.5 millionth vine for Beckstoffer Vineyards Red Hills. Researchers, industry representatives and journalists gathered to celebrate what is affectionately known as “the mother of all cabernet trials.”
“Everything is wonderful in Lake County – for growing cabernet sauvignon and for doing research,” Andy Beckstoffer said, noting the Lake County region's ongoing support for farming.
Pedro Rubio, Beckstoffer Vineyards Red Hills general manager, said, “Lake County will definitely benefit, but the results from this trial will be very helpful for the whole industry.”
Designed to address resiliency in a changing climate, the trial will examine which combinations give the best results with a focus on drought tolerance and water-use efficiency as well as crop yield and grape quality.
“The idea behind the trial is to gain further insights into the interactive effects of rootstock selections crossed with cabernet clones and the impact of that on water relations and overall sustainability,” said Clint Nelson, ranch manager for Beckstoffer Vineyards Red Hills.
“The trial will give us an understanding of the synergistic relationship of clone and rootstock and what combination drives the best quality and production,” he said.
According to Nelson, the trial will look at canopy architecture, yield components, water relations, traditional fruit chemistries, secondary metabolites such as aroma, mouthfeel and color, as well as overall vine performance.
Duarte Nursery is providing all of the planting material for the trial.
“The diversity of rootstocks and clones chosen for this project includes some of the most modern cabernet sauvignon clones designed for high quality and for production,” said John Duarte, nursery president.
Duarte said the trial is employing a lot of cutting-edge technology and using some of the cleanest plant materials available to prevent grapevine viruses.
“Planting a vineyard with pristine nursery stock initially really extends the life of that vineyard,” Duarte said.
Viticulture has become more data-driven, and this trial will measure a staggering amount of data generated by the 100 or so rootstock-clone combinations over the approximately eight to 10 years of the trial's duration.
“Nothing of this scope has been attempted,” said UC Cooperative Extension specialist Kurtural, who acknowledged logistics as the biggest challenge with planning, data collection and timely analysis being at the forefront of his mind. “It keeps me up at night.”
Planning for the length of the project also is a concern. The vineyard will be planted this year and the first crop will be harvested in 2021. It will take at least six years to begin to see consistent results.
Kurtural said the project will provide research opportunities in academic and applied science for at least two students to complete work toward a doctoral degree in horticulture and agronomy.
Glenn McGourty, UC Cooperative Extension viticulture advisor for Lake and Mendocino counties, is a research collaborator on the project.
“Lake County obviously has an important role to play in fine wine in the North Coast, particularly for cabernet sauvignon,” McGourty said. “And this trial really marks the importance of this location in terms of the commitment and the collaboration that we see here among both public and private sectors.”
About Beckstoffer Vineyards: Named “Napa's most powerful grape grower” by both the Wall Street Journal and Wine Spectator, Beckstoffer Vineyards was founded in 1970. Beckstoffer Vineyards is firmly rooted in the soil of Northern California's wine country, with Andy Beckstoffer playing an integral role in the evolution of the wine grape industry since 1970. Joined at the family-owned business by his son David in 1997, they share a common mission – to produce the highest quality grapes in Northern California that form the foundation for exceptional wines – and a combined passion for the land and viticulture expertise. Beckstoffer Vineyards first acquired land in the Red Hills in 1997, which after subsequent acquisitions, today totals nearly 2,000 planted acres across three blocks: Amber Knolls Vineyard, Crimson Ridge Vineyard, and Amber Mountain Vineyard.
About Duarte Nursery: Duarte Nursery, Inc. (DNI) is a family-owned and operated nursery and the largest permanent crops nursery in the United States.
A group of trained and dedicated volunteers have been tasting avocado samples at the UC Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Parlier to determine whether the GEM avocado variety can stand up to the tried-and-true Hass in grocery stores, reported Dale Yurong on ABC 30 Action News.
Yurong visited the sensory lab at Kearney where nine tasters have been meeting for months to help inform UC and USDA research that may enable commercial production of avocados in the San Joaquin Valley, an area believed to be unsuitable because of hot summers and cold winters.
The panellists identify avocado characteristics like nutty, stringy and buttery. "You're getting into the texture, you're getting into a lot of different nuances of flavor," said taster Shannon Aguilar.
GEM avocados grow on smaller trees than Hass and GEM has a tear-drop shape, while Hass is more pear-shaped. But the real test will be comparable flavor and tolerance to valley conditions.
"We believe it has a little more heat tolerance and a little more cold tolerance," said UC Cooperative Extension specialist Mary Lu Arpaia.
The GEM may give local farmers a new crop option. One has already planted two acres of GEM.
"It's something that we probably need in this area. Something we can do and we wouldn't have to import it from other parts of the country or the world," said Marvin Flores, environmental health and safety specialist at Kearney and a member of the avocado taste panel.
Last May, a Turlock almond grower noticed nearly all the nuts on a row of trees in his orchard had fallen to the ground.
“It looked like we shook this row,” he said. “I was scared. I thought the whole orchard was going to go.”
He called UC Cooperative Extension.
UCCE Integrated Pest Management advisor Jhalendra Rijal, who serves Stanislaus, San Joaquin and Merced counties, determined the cause was an infestation of brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB), an invasive pest from Asia. For years, BMSB had only been found in urban areas of California – most notably a 2013 infestation in midtown Sacramento.
With few natural predators and a wide host range – including apples, pears, cherries, corn, tomatoes, grapes and a variety of landscape trees – the population eventually moved into agricultural areas, first appearing in crops in 2016 in Stanislaus County. Rijal has been doing BMSB research since then.
Rijal hosted a gathering of farmers and pest control advisers Aug. 13, 2019, in the Turlock almond orchard to give them a first-hand view of the pest and the problems it causes.
BMSB are hard to find in orchards. They lay greenish colored eggs on the underside of leaves, typically in a cluster of 28 eggs. The majority of damage is caused by adults, which sting the hull with a needle-like mouth part to get to the nut. The sting can even penetrate the almond's hard shell when the fruit is mature.
Globs of clear sticky sap appear on the damaged almond hulls, typically indicating nut loss inside. Early season (March-April) infestation leads to the most severe yield loss when the nuts drop to the ground. The best way to confirm the damage is caused by BMSB is to use a trap.
“I recommend growers and pest control advisors put BMSB traps in orchard edges if they suspect BMSB damage or if the orchard is located near potential overwintering structures or host crops,” Rijal said. “BMSB are good flyers and active throughout the season, damaging nuts from April through the fall. But the most substantial damage happens in the spring through early summer."
If the orchard is close to BMSB-favored host plants, more damage is seen. A particularly troublesome neighbor plant is tree-of-heaven.
“Tree-of-heaven is a magnet for BMSB,” Rijal said, pointing to an abandoned farmhouse site on an adjacent property. “Tree-of-heaven has a nice fruiting structure that can support a lot of BMSB.”
Also an Asia native, tree-of-heaven was brought to California by Chinese immigrants during the Gold Rush. The roots, leaves and bark are used in traditional Chinese medicine. But its rapid growth and ability to clone itself to develop thick groves make it a noxious weed.
BMSB isn't a serious pest in its homeland because it is controlled by a natural enemy. Charles Pickett, the California Department of Food and Agriculture biological control scientist, shared a mounted sample of a Samurai wasp from Asia, Trissolcas japonicus, which lays its eggs in BMSB eggs.
“The parasite attacks most of the eggs in the field in eastern Asia,” Pickett said. “It's our goal to release the wasp in California. We first need a special permit to make sure it won't harm our environment and doesn't attack any beneficial stink bugs.”
The Samurai wasp has already found its own way to some BMSB infestation sites in the Eastern U.S. and in Los Angeles.
“We hope to someday release the parasitic wasp,” Pickett said. “It won't eradicate BMSB, but it will help.”
California's 2018 wildfire season was the deadliest and most destructive the state has ever seen. Even before the flames were extinguished, politicians, researchers, foresters, firefighters, insurance and utility company representatives, homeowners and landowners in the state's wildfire-prone areas were trying desperately to figure out how such devastation could be prevented in the future.
One reason for the destructive fires is a 100-year history in California of aggressive fire suppression. Most of the state's natural ecosystems evolved over millennia with periodic fires. Without fire, natural areas build up a great deal of vegetation – trees, shrubs, leaf litter and pine needles – that once ignited, can fuel a raging blaze.
Two UC Cooperative Extension advisors in Humboldt County believe the best way to bring back natural equilibrium on the land is by bringing back fire, and they believe it can be done in a way that is safe, effective, affordable and even fun.
Prescribed fire is part of California's past. Native Americans used fire to favor the plants and trees that provided their most nutritious foods, to open up areas for ease of travel and to attract game. In the 1980s, the California Department of Forestry and Fire (CAL FIRE) launched a Vegetation Management Program to share the cost and liability of prescribed fire on private land. At the height of the program, 65,000 acres of private lands were burned per year. However, by the mid-2000s, the agency had cut program funding, and private lands burning reduced to less than 5,000 acres per year in 2015. CAL FIRE is currently revamping their Vegetation Management Program, but UCCE experts say other pathways are also needed to regain ecosystem function on California's wildlands.
Born and raised in northern Californian, Lenya Quinn-Davidson, UCCE fire advisor, and Jeff Stackhouse, UCCE livestock and natural resources advisor, were deeply concerned about habitat loss and fuel buildup on private lands in Humboldt County. They investigated a concept being implemented successfully in other parts of the country, the formation of Prescribed Burn Associations (PBAs).
Creating California's first Prescribed Burn Association
The members of PBAs pool their resources and energy to conduct burns to maintain productive grasslands, enhance wildlife habitat, and ensure safer communities. In 2018, Quinn-Davidson, Stackhouse, Cocking and Hunt pulled together fellow Humboldt County ranchers, volunteer firefighters, non-profit organizations, and other community members to form the first Prescribed Burn Association in the western United States.
The Humboldt County Prescribed Burn Association has a president, board of directors, a treasurer and 85 members.
“More than half of the members are not landowners,” Stackhouse said. “People have houses in town, but want to go outside and experience land improvement on other people's property.”
To join the PBA, individuals pay $25 per year; ranches, timber companies and non-profit organizations pay $200 per year; and volunteer fire departments join free.
“People are willing to pay member dues to be a part of this community experience, get the training and to feel positive about fire, not afraid of it,” Quinn-Davidson said.
The PBA provides training, equipment and labor to safely use fire and meet permit requirements. So far, the Humboldt County PBA has burned 1,022 acres. And after each burn, they celebrate with food and drink.
The PBA is providing a space for a community of cooperation to grow. Groups and individuals with views that previously seemed miles apart – environmental activists, long-time ranchers, industrial timber organizations and well-established environmental organizations – are forging new alliances.
“It's interesting to see different groups meeting and burning with each other, to listen to them speak from their corners of the universe, giving each other room to speak and actively listening,” Stackhouse said.
The association is so successful, Stackhouse and Quinn-Davidson invited their UC Cooperative Extension colleagues from across the state to Humboldt County for a four-day workshop to learn how they might be able to replicate the concept in other fire-prone areas of California.
“We led a training and conducted three consecutive burns totaling over 100-acres,” Quinn-Davidson said.
UCCE livestock advisor in San Benito County, Devii Rao, attended the workshop.
“As a total novice, I received training and feel more confident about use of personal protective equipment, how to use a drip torch, hand tools, a water tank/pump/hose, and how to start developing a Prescribed Burn Association (PBA) on the Central Coast,” Rao said.
Another participant, UCCE forestry advisor Yana Valachovic, valued the opportunity and believes events like these could help solve a serious problem facing California.
“Talking about the use of prescribed fire in the abstraction does not move the meter,” she said. “California desperately needs experiences like this to empower community leaders and reincorporate fire into our management tool boxes.”
About UC ANR
UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) brings the power of UC research in agriculture, natural resources, nutrition and youth development to local communities to improve the lives of all Californians. Learn more at ucanr.edu.
For more California wildfire information and to find local UC Cooperative Extension fire experts, see the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources' Fire in California website.