Safe, healthy and happy Thanksgiving
The first study of California law that requires schools to test tap water for lead found that the majority completed the testing on time, and only 3% reported any tested taps with lead in the water higher than the state's 15 parts per billion (ppb) limit. About 30% of the 240 randomly selected public schools in the study didn't report their results within three months of the deadline.
The study, Water Safety in California Public Schools Following Implementation of School Drinking Water Policies, was published in the January issue of Preventing Chronic Disease, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention online publication.
“Because we strongly encourage people to drink water rather than sugary beverages, we need to have confidence that tap water is safe,” she said. “But this is a complex issue with shared responsibility among public water systems, school administrators and regulating agencies.”
Access to safe drinking water in schools is essential to help avoid the developmental and health consequences for children associated with consuming contaminated water, under hydration or excessive intake of sugary beverages.
Schools that get water from public utilities can expect the water they receive to meet federal and state water quality standards. However, 16% of study schools received water from a utility that violated health-based standards, such as elevated levels of contaminants or failure to adhere to disinfectant protocols. When water flows into buildings through pipes that contain lead – such as those made entirely of lead, or galvanized iron or leaded brass, or connected with lead solder – and especially when water sits stagnant in lead-containing plumbing, lead may leach into the water before it flows from the tap.
In October 2017, California passed Assembly Bill 746, which mandated that public water utilities sample and test for lead in tap water of public schools that were built before 2010. The law is designed to identify and mitigate sources of lead in water. Funds to upgrade school drinking-water plumbing were also earmarked in the state budget. Working with their local water suppliers, the schools selected taps for sampling. The number of taps that released water with lead was very low, and even those sources are not necessarily unhealthy for drinking, Hecht said.
“When we test tap water, we're not talking about every drop of water that comes from the tap,” she said. “We test the first water that comes out of the tap after it has been stagnant in the pipes. Once the taps are in use and water is flowing, the lead level should drop dramatically.”
Although few schools (3%) had even one tap in violation of California state standards for lead, violations increased to 16% when the federal Food and Drug Administration standard for bottled water was applied. The FDA requires that bottled water not exceed 5 ppb of lead.
The 174 schools in the study collectively tested 1,238 independent water sources – such as playground, hallway and gym drinking fountains, classroom faucets, food service areas and restroom taps in 2019. Some of the tests took place in locations that serve staff, such as teachers' lounges, nurses' stations, distribution sources and maintenance areas. Without detailed guidelines to follow, some schools tested only 1 tap; others tested as many as 76.
“Testing only a subset of taps in a facility prevents full identification of which schools need to undertake lead remediation actions,” Hecht said.
Hecht and her co-authors – Isioma Umunna, Anisha Patel and Lauren Blacker of Stanford University, Marc Edwards of Virginia Tech, and Emily Altman of UC Berkeley – conclude that, in the future, states should require schools to test to nondetectable levels of lead for maximum data collection and require that at least one water source in food service areas be tested.
The information and recommendations from the study are already informing California legislation designed to protect children from lead exposure from water. A new law, Assembly Bill 2370, will require all licensed childcare centers to test taps for lead by 2021 and every 5 years thereafter. The inconsistencies experienced in AB 746 compliance revealed the need for detailed guidelines on the number of taps facilities should test, the required locations for testing, clear naming conventions to identify taps and reporting procedures.
Forestland owners can learn how to survey the trees on their property from four new videos produced by UC Cooperative Extension, setting them on a course for sustainable management of their forestland. The videos are available on the UC ANR YouTube channel (http://youtube.com/UCANR).
Learning the tools and techniques used for centuries by professional foresters and research scientists allows private forest owners to collect data that paints a picture of the land and trees' current condition.
“Whether it's managing to reduce wildfire, control invasive species, protect the nature beauty or maximize timber harvest, you need to know what you have so you can select the right actions to achieve your goals,” said Kimberly Ingram, UC Cooperative Extension forest stewardship education academic coordinator.
While about two-thirds of California's 33 million acres of forests are public lands held by state and federal government agencies, the rest is in private hands. In 2019, with funds from CAL FIRE, UCCE launched a program to reach out to the 87,000 private landowners who manage portions of California's forests.
Before the COVID-19 outbreak, three-day field workshops were offered to groups of forest owners to help them develop a plan to improve and protect their forestlands in an ecologically and economically sustainable manner. Because of the pandemic, alternative approaches are being used, including video training, online workshops and limited outdoor field days in locations where social distancing is feasible.
“We're using the flipped classroom method,” Ingram said. “The learner reads and watches videos beforehand and then, when they come to the online classroom and field day sessions, we're delving into real-world examples.”
Kestrel Grevatt, a member of the Grizzly Corps, an AmeriCorps program developed by UC Berkeley that addresses community needs related to climate change, was enlisted to create videos that demonstrate forest measurement practices.
The videos are for landowners who participate in the workshop series and for other forest owners who wish to begin collecting data on their own.
Susie Kocher, UCCE forestry and natural resources advisor in the Central Sierra Cooperative Extension office, narrates and conducts demonstrations in each of the videos. They cover the following topics:
Tree measurement tools
Learn the basics of forest inventory and what measurements you need to quantitatively represent your forest. It covers the usage of a diameter tape, Spencer logger's tape and Biltmore stick (or CA tree stick).
Using a clinometer to measure tree height
A clinometer is a simple tool which can be used to measure heights. In this video, you will learn how to use a clinometer to accurately measure tree height as part of a forest inventory.
Plot establishment tools
Learn how to use a compass, reel fiberglass tape and cruise vest to establish plots. The video covers how to think about your own inventory system and what you will want to take with you when you head into the woods.
Plot layout and inventory system
Learn what it looks like to collect plot data. This video includes a review of plot layout, the measurements and observations to note, and how sample data can represent your entire forest.
Three more forest stewardship workshops have been scheduled:
Feb. 2 - April 13, tribal-focused stewardship workshop: Online and at the Big Sandy Rancheria. Registration now open.
March 22 - May 27, online and in Humboldt County. Registration now open.
April 21 - June 16, online and in San Bernardino County. Registration opening soon.
Workshop registration is $60. Breakfast and lunches are provided for in-person field days. Register at http://ucanr.edu/forestryworskhopregistration.
UC Davis researchers have bred a new walnut variety designed to provide growers a way to harvest earlier and boost the harvest efficiency of California's $1.6 billion walnut industry.
The new “UC Wolfskill” walnut has yield, quality and light color similar to Chandler, which is a late-harvesting walnut and the state's leading variety. UC Wolfskill was bred in 2003 from a cross of Chandler with the Solano walnut. UC Wolfskill combines the color and shell traits of Chandler with the earlier harvest date and kernel fill of Solano.
“The release of UC Wolfskill means growers can spread out their harvest and still have a really high-quality nut that will fetch top-notch prices and provide similar yields,” said Pat J. Brown, breeder and professor with the UC Davis Department of Plant Sciences.
Over 99 percent of the nation's walnuts are grown in California. More than half of the state's bearing acres are the late-harvest Chandler walnuts.
“The California walnut industry needs earlier harvesting walnut varieties to provide efficient use of harvesting, drying and processing equipment,” said breeder Chuck Leslie, with the UC Davis Walnut Improvement Program. “UC Wolfskill can be harvested 12 to 14 days earlier than Chandler and provides consistently light to extra light color.”
Handlers judge the value of a walnut based on its color and how well it halves while processing. In blind quality evaluations by commercial graders, the UC Wolfskill was often not distinguished from Chandler.
UC Wolfskill was originally planted and evaluated at UC Davis, and field trials with growers began in 2011.
“The commitment of our walnut growers, as collaborators, is the foundation that makes this release possible. The Board is extremely grateful for the long-term partnership of our growers and the UC, in finding innovative solutions that help us solve for critical needs,” said Michelle Connelly, executive director of the California Walnut Board.
The California Walnut Board funded the research. UC Wolfskill is currently available to California nurseries for propagation in California and sales to growers throughout the United States. Nurseries interested in propagating and selling this cultivar may obtain a license from UC Davis InnovationAccess.
As winter turns into spring, Southern California residents who live in areas where the red imported fire ant has taken hold will want to keep a close eye out for colonies establishing themselves in lawns, parks, schools and golf courses.
Red imported fire ant (RIFA) arrived in California in 1989, and is widespread in residential and commercial areas of Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties, and adjoining areas of Los Angeles County. True to its name, the fire ants inflict painful, burning stings when they crawl onto people working, walking or resting on infested turf grass and other outdoor areas. For some people, RIFA bites and stings can lead to life-threatening anaphylactic shock.
RIFA is difficult to eradicate, but care and attention can reduce the population to a level that minimizes the risk of injury, said Siavash Taravati, UC Cooperative Extension integrated pest management advisor in Southern California. He helped the California School for the Deaf in Riverside control an exploding RIFA population on its 70-acre campus, and turned the effort into a research project with results that can help other Southern California agencies deal with red imported fire ant infestations.
“The School for the Deaf's grounds crew was struggling to control RIFA, but had little success,” Taravati said. “It's a huge school with students from elementary to high school. They have football, baseball and softball fields and even housing on the campus.”
The school's grounds crew had drenched ant mounds with liquid insecticides, but only achieved temporary control. With financial support from the California Department of Pesticide Regulation, Taravati evaluated some of the most common products available for RIFA control, available in commercially formulated corn grits that are coated with soybean oil containing the pesticide.
Children must be kept away from the treated areas during and immediately after applications. Touching or eating fire ant granules might be harmful to children and adults.
"Schools must give parents, guardians and staff the opportunity to register to be notified 72 hours in advance of individual pesticide applications,” Taravati said. “Also, there must be warning signs in the area where a pesticide will be applied, at least 24 hours before and 72 hours after the application."
To gain the most accurate information about RIFA control from this project, Taravati used two different school sites and marked 35 locations of RIFA activity with construction flags and spray paint, then treated areas with various pesticides, and monitored them for a year. The pesticides he used contained indoxacarb, hydramethylnon s-methoprene, and boric acid. Taravati measured RIFA activity before and after treatment.
“After a few months, the number of RIFA mounds were reduced by 96% in the some of the most problematic areas,” Taravati said. “Even when new mounds appeared on the lawn, they were always small in size.”
The RIFA control guidelines that Taravati introduced were adopted by the school staff to maintain a safe environment for the school's 500 students.
“Many pesticides for RIFA control are designed and marketed to professional applicators, but there are some that residents can purchase in home stores or online,” Taravati said. Detailed information about RIFA pesticide options are spelled out on the UC IPM website pest guidelines at http://ipm.ucanr.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn7487.html.
Over 150 current and prospective organic growers gleaned practical information shared by UC Agriculture and Natural Resources experts at the “Introduction to Small-Scale Organic Agriculture” workshop held virtually on Dec. 15, 2020. While most attendees were from inland San Bernardino, Riverside, Los Angeles and Orange counties, a handful were
“I attended this workshop and it was very helpful to hear different aspects of organic farming from experienced people,” one attendee from Sri Lanka said in an email.
UC Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (SAREP) Director Gail Feenstra and Deputy Director Sonja Brodt kicked off the day with a presentation on program goals and resources. SAREP supports the goals of growers by developing more sustainable agricultural practices and effective regional food systems. They described a new online self-directed training program for organic specialty crop farmers in California and those in transition at https://ofrf.org/beginning-farmer-training-program. They also discussed marketing and business management.
Houston Wilson, director of UC ANR's new Organic Agriculture Institute, provided an overview of the program and pointed out that organic farming is expanding throughout California and includes more than 360 commodities. UC ANR will continue to take a lead role in developing and extending research and extension to this important sector, he said.
UC Cooperative Extension sustainable food systems advisor Rachel Surls discussed legal basics such as permits, licenses and regulations. UC Cooperative Extension organic agriculture specialist Joji Muramoto talked about the importance of soil health, a very popular and important topic. Other UC Cooperative Extension presenters covered nitrogen management (small farms advisor Margaret Lloyd), irrigation management (irrigation specialist Amir Haghverdi), integrated pest management (IPM advisor Cheryl Wilen), and plant diseases (plant pathology specialist Alex Putman).
“Thank you for the great workshop and resource links you provided for workshop materials and beyond! I have already downloaded and started to incorporate information from a few of the UC ANR pest management guidelines and legal and marketing links,” wrote an attendee from Chino. “Tips from peers are always great, too.”
During the afternoon portion of the workshop, five California organic farmers shared tips from their experiences. Carol Hamre (123 Farm, Cherry Valley) spoke about her trials and successes regarding vertebrate pest control and drip irrigation. Grace Legaspi (Tiny Leaf Micro Farm, Temescal Valley) talked about the art and science of growing microgreens. Lisa Wright (RD Flavorfull Farm, Riverside) discussed the importance of planting the right varieties in the right seasons. Arthur Levine (Huerta del Valle, Ontario) stressed the importance of collaboration and working synergistically as a team, and the importance of inclusiveness in all practices. Richard Zapien (‘R Farm, UC Riverside) shared inspiring stories and opportunities regarding the popular and successful UC Riverside community garden he manages.
“I am very glad to attend this workshop as a Bangladeshi,” wrote a grateful attendee from half way around the world. “Really, I have learned many things about organic farming in this workshop. I am working in the Tree nuts sector in Bangladesh but I have only cashew nuts plantation and processing factory…. I want to make an organic farm on 25 acres of land to cultivate vegetables, fruits, livestock, and fishing. Thanks again.”
Following the workshop, an extensive list of UCANR and external resources on topics covered during the workshop was provided to attendees https://ucanr.edu/sites/smallscalefarming/RESOURCES_/.
“I wanted to thank you for such a great webinar,” replied another Southern California participant. “I am a farm business advisor with the non-profit Kitchen Table Advisors and I learned a lot myself. Thank you for providing this list of resources. I look forward to the webinar recordings and slides, which I hope to be able to share with some of my farmer clients.”
The efforts of our co-sponsors also led to the overall success of the workshop. Inland Empire Resource Conservation District (IERCD) Manager Mandy Parkes, co-moderator, discussed district irrigation and soil testing resources and handed out gift certificates throughout the day. Evelyn Hurtado from IERCD volunteered to translate the workshop recordings into Spanish and Maggie O'Neill shared membership information and resources from the San Bernardino County Farm Bureau. Other co-sponsors included the Riverside County and Orange County Farm Bureaus. The California Certified Organic Foundation promoted the workshop and heightened awareness of UC ANR's programs and activities in the field of organic agriculture.
The PowerPoint presentations and recordings in English will be posted on the UCCE San Bernardino County website: https://ucanr.edu/sites/smallscalefarming/ by Feb. 15, 2021, and the Spanish translations later this winter. Next year, if conditions allow, actual farm visits will be included.