Posts Tagged: Ali Montazar
Study by UCCE advisor in Imperial County also shows 5% increase in yield
A new study suggests that drip irrigation for sweet corn can significantly conserve water, reduce fertilizer use and boost crop yield in the low desert of California – and likely in other areas of California with similar conditions.
Although Imperial County is California's top sweet corn-producing county, with about 8,000 acres planted on average each year, irrigation methods for this crop have been rarely studied in this region (or anywhere else in the state), according to Ali Montazar, UC Cooperative Extension irrigation and water management advisor for Imperial, Riverside and San Diego counties.
Montazar conducted a study in the Imperial Valley over two crop seasons, 2020-21 and 2021-22, to demonstrate and quantify the potential benefits of switching to drip irrigation from the more common furrow irrigation method. The study, available in a recent issue of UC Agriculture and Natural Resources' Agricultural Briefs, will be published in a future issue of Vegetables West.
“I'm hoping with this project we can encourage growers to adopt it, because it seems very promising,” said Montazar, noting that drip irrigation is a “new practice” for sweet corn in California.
Among the 11 commercial sweet corn fields in the study over the 2021-22 season, the six that were under drip irrigation used, on average, 37% less water than the five under furrow irrigation. In absolute terms, the drip-irrigated fields saw an average water savings of 2.2 acre-feet per acre; for Montazar, who has studied drip for a variety of crops in the Imperial Valley, that was an astonishing result.
“I've worked with drip on processed onions, lettuce, alfalfa, spinach … we've never seen a figure like 2.2 acre-feet per acre, that's huge,” he said, attributing the dramatic drop-off to the high volume of water required to furrow-irrigate the sandy soil in the Imperial Valley.
More efficient irrigation also means less fertilizer is needed – a boon to the environment and Salton Sea water quality, as well as growers' bottom line. With fertilizer prices continuing to rise, sweet corn growers using drip could see a substantial 25% cost savings on fertilizer expenses – about $150 per acre less – compared to furrow irrigation, according to Montazar's study.
And by relieving plants of the stress from over- and under-irrigated conditions, drip irrigation helps keep soil moisture at its “sweet spot” – resulting in a 5% increase in marketable crop yield for sweet corn in the study.
“When we have a better, more efficient irrigation system, we can maintain soil moisture at a desired level, over time and space,” Montazar explained.
Because the benefits of drip appear to be linked to soil conditions (sandy loam, and other light soils), Montazar believes that this irrigation practice could deliver relatively similar water and fertilizer savings and improved crop yield in other regions across California, regardless of climactic differences.
“If you use drip in any part of the state, you have the benefits of drip – more uniform water application, more uniform fertilizer – that's not related to the desert,” he said. “That's part of the system's potential.”
Montazar plans to follow up on his preliminary study with additional research on sweet corn and drip irrigation during the 2022-23 crop season./h3>
CDFA grant supports research to optimize water use for iconic California crop
California growers, who account for more than 90% of avocado production in the U.S., will soon be getting some help in weathering the extreme fluctuations of climate change.
Ali Montazar, a University of California Cooperative Extension irrigation and water management advisor, recently received a grant to develop tools and strategies that optimize growers' irrigation practices across Southern California – the state's avocado belt. California avocados are valued at more than $411 million, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service.
“This region faces uncertain water supplies, mandatory reductions of water use, and the rising cost of water – while efficient use of irrigation water is one of the highest conservation priorities,” Montazar said. “Water is the most critically important input to avocado production.”
At the California Avocado Commission's suggestion, Orange County was added to the study to better capture the range of climates and cropping systems across the region, Montazar said.
He hopes to develop “crop coefficients” that avocado growers can use to determine the optimal irrigation for their crop based on a host of factors: soil type and salinity, canopy features, row orientation, slopes, soil and water management practices, and more.
“Growers are unclear on how much water the crop actually needs under those conditions,” Montazar said.
He will incorporate data from the actual water use in the experimental orchards – including information from the newest soil moisture and canopy temperature sensors – to help ensure growers do not under- or overwater their crops. Overirrigating contributes to a devastating disease, avocado root rot, caused by the plant pathogen Phytophthora cinnamomi.
Another component of the grant supports outreach in disseminating these resources and best practices to the broader agricultural community.
“Developing and adopting these tools and information may have a significant impact on water quality and quantity issues and bolster the economic sustainability of avocado production not only in the well-established production region of Southern California, but also in Kern and Tulare counties where new avocado plantings are growing,” Montazar said.
Preliminary findings and recommendations are expected at the end of 2022./h2>
One doesn't need to be a seasoned farmer to know that growing conditions in Canada are completely different than those found in the low desert of California.
And yet, for many years, studies conducted in Canada were used to generate nitrogen uptake data for the California carrot production system, so growers managed their fields based on their own experiences – and that research conducted thousands of miles to the north.
Carrots had been among the crops grown in California that did not have site-specific data to suggest the best source, rate, timing and placement of nitrogen, in the highly variable cropping seasons and locations throughout the state. That's why new information – based on local research and published in August – is invaluable to farmers in Imperial and Kern counties, where the majority of the carrots in California are grown.
Two years of data from two experimental trials at UC Agriculture and Natural Resource's Desert Research and Extension Center – as well as from 10 commercial fields – produced key recommendations for farmers to make the most of their irrigation and nitrogen applications.
“The point is we developed information in your field, based on your practices, your climate, your production system – and this is what is really happening,” said Ali Montazar, UC Cooperative Extension irrigation and water management advisor for Imperial County. Montazar conducted the study alongside Daniel Geisseler, UCCE nutrient management specialist at UC Davis, and Michael Cahn, UCCE irrigation and water resources advisor for Monterey County.
With reliable data gathered under real-world conditions, Montazar said growers now have solid reference points for when – and at what rate – to irrigate and apply fertilizers in the low desert environment. One of the key findings, for example, was that the carrots' nitrogen uptake is generally low in the first 40 to 50 days, so growers are advised to limit their fertilizer application during that period.
Then, by tailoring those basic guidelines to their own site-specific situation and optimizing their practices, growers can maximize the amount of nitrogen taken up by the carrots – and minimize the amount that is leached out.
“Improving irrigation and nutrient management in the desert production system is what local growers are themselves trying to achieve. With improving efficiency and reducing nutrient leaching, we can improve the quality of water in the Salton Sea,” said Montazar, noting the longstanding challenges of reducing contaminants from irrigated lands to protect its unique ecosystem and wildlife.
While contamination of groundwater is not a critical issue in the desert, the best practices in this study can also help carrot growers in parts of California where nitrogen leaching into groundwater and drinking water supplies is a greater concern.
Montazar is currently leading a team in studying carrot-growing management practices under slightly different conditions in Kern County, with the hopes of publishing findings in late summer 2022.
The Imperial County study, “Spatial Variability of Nitrogen Uptake and Net Removal and Actual Evapotranspiration in the California Desert Carrot Production System,” is published in the journal Agriculture, and can be found at https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture11080752. Findings and recommendations also appear in Progressive Crop Consultant: https://progressivecrop.com/2021/09/new-knowledge-based-information-developed-to-enhance-water-and-nitrogen-use-efficiency-in-desert-fresh-market-carrots/.
Funding for this study was provided by the California Department of Food and Agriculture's Fertilizer Research and Education Program, as well as the California Fresh Carrots Advisory Board.
California's $86 million date industry produces more than half of the nation's dates. Most of the fruit is grown in the arid Coachella Valley. Despite efforts by growers to conserve water, data was lacking on date palms' actual water use to refine the best irrigation management for the crop until a recent research project led by Ali Montazar, UC Cooperative Extension irrigation and water management advisor for Imperial and Riverside counties.
“California dates are grown in the hottest and most arid climate in North America and require substantial amounts of water in order to bring a successful crop to fruition,” Albert Keck, Coachella Valley date grower and chairman of the California Date Commission, wrote in a letter of support for this project. “In addition, there is scant modern research specifically and technically focused on growing dates in North America.”
Montazar said there is a lack of irrigation management information on date palms worldwide.
“The information developed in this study is expected to have a worldwide impact,” he said.
To determine the evapotranspiration rate and crop coefficients for California date palms, Montazar teamed up with scientists at UC Davis, California Department of Water Resources, USDA Agricultural Research Service, and USDA Salinity Laboratory.
The experiment was carried out in six date orchards in the Coachella and Imperial valleys. The sites represent various soil types and conditions, irrigation management practices, canopy characteristics, and the most common date cultivars in the region.
“The findings of the project indicate that there is considerable variability in date palm consumptive water use, both spatially and temporally,” Montazar said. In other words, the amount of water the trees use varies considerably depending on each site's growing conditions.
He estimated the water needs for date palms planted in different soil types in the low desert region.
“Growers will be able to use the science-based information and tools developed by this project to determine their date palm water needs and optimize the efficiency of water and fertilizer use in their groves,” Montazar said.
The peer-reviewed article “Determination of Actual Evapotranspiration and Crop Coefficients of California Date Palms Using the Residual of Energy Balance Approach” is published in the journal MDPI Water at https://www.mdpi.com/2073-4441/12/8/2253.
“With a large quantity of new date plantings in the region, coupled with increasingly limited water resources in the Colorado River Basin Watershed, the knowledge anticipated to be developed by this research project has the potential to yield large dividends through not only improved water use efficiency, but also best management practices and crop quality,” said Keck of the California Date Commission.
Although the research focused on Coachella Valley dates, Montazar said the results are likely to be useful to growers who have orchards with similar varieties, irrigation practices, and canopy and soil features in other locations.
Montazar's co-authors are Robert Krueger of the USDA-ARS National Clonal Germplasm Repository for Citrus and Dates; Dennis Corwin of USDA-ARS U.S. Salinity Laboratory; Alireza Pourreza UC Cooperative Extension specialist based at UC Davis Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering; Cayle Little of California Department of Water Resources; Sonia Rios, UC Cooperative Extension advisor in Riverside County; and Richard L. Snyder UC Cooperative Extension specialist emeritus in the UC Davis Department of Land, Air and Water Resources.
The date palm irrigation project was funded by the CDFA Specialty Crop Block Grant Program.
Western Innovator: Putting biologicals to work
(Capital Press) Padma Nagappan, March 11
Early in life, Surendra Dara decided that no matter which field he chose, he needed to make an impact on it. Always interested in science, he chose agriculture and specialized in entomology.
“It attracted me because it dealt with arthropods and there are a lot of physiological similarities to the human world,” Dara said. “It was also critical for growing food and feeding humans.”
Dara is now an entomopathologist with the University of California's Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources in San Luis Obispo, and has an established reputation for exploring innovative options to control pests using microbials as biological controls, and showing growers how they can also help with plant growth, drought resistance and fighting diseases.
Group linked to Ocasio-Cortez seeks ag input after Green New Deal backlash
(Politico) Helena Bottemiller Evich, March 11
After watching that drama unfold, Frank Mitloehner, a leading scientist on agricultural emissions at the University of California, Davis, was thrilled when two outreach staff affiliated with AOC's network reached out to set up a call to discuss the potential for climate mitigation efforts in agriculture. The call, held earlier this month, lasted more than an hour, Mitloehner said.
“I was very glad to inform of what I know, and they were very receptive to it,” Mitloehner said on Agri-Talk last week. During the segment, he urged agricultural producers to not dismiss the left-wing climate effort.
Sudden surge in an unusual crime in Fresno County: Goat theft
(LA Times) Hannah Fry, March 11, 2019
…Picquette's two sons have been raising goats for the last five years as a 4-H project. Losing their animals has been especially hard for the boys, Picquette said, adding that they had planned to use money won during competitions to pay for college.
“They feel very violated. They don't understand how somebody could just come and take something they worked so hard for,” she said. “The bond we have with the goats is incredible. I'm just heartbroken. I don't know if they're scared or hungry. … They've always been treated so well.”
California's ambitious plan to stop deadly wildfires may not be enough, experts say
(SF Chronicle) Kurtis Alexander, March 9
… “It's not fair to say that fuel treatments won't do any good,” said Max Moritz, a UC Cooperative Extension wildfire specialist at UC Santa Barbara. “It may provide some protection in some places. But most of us studying this agree that you can't just do this and (expect to) make much headway.”
The plan by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire, comes at the request of Gov. Gavin Newsom. On his second day in office, Newsom asked the agency to develop a proposal to address the increasingly destructive fire seasons that have rattled the state and are expected to worsen with climate change.
…In the meantime, many researchers say the most effective approach to fire protection is not in the forests, but in communities. They recommend making homes more resistant to fire with hardier construction materials, and clearing the vegetation around them.
“You have to address the home vulnerabilities themselves,” said Moritz at UC Santa Barbara. “If you don't, you're just not going to make a lot of progress on fire.”
After more than 140 years, a massive fig tree gracing the plaza where Los Angeles was founded collapses
(LA Times) Matthew Ormseth, March 9
… The four figs were planted at El Pueblo by agriculturalist and City Councilman Elijah Hook Workman, KCET reported in 2013. The Ficus macrophylla was brought from Australia to Southern California in the 1860s and 1870s, probably to provide shade and ornamentation, said Donald Hodel, a horticulture advisor for the University of California's Cooperative Extension.
Hodel described the Moreton Bay fig as a commanding breed of tree with an enveloping canopy that threw plenty of shade.
His reasons for admiring the Moreton Bay fig: “Their grandeur; their size — they have an imposing habit; their root structure is incredible; the spreading nature of their branches.”
Hodel said he last saw the El Pueblo figs about six years ago.
“I wasn't too impressed by their health or their size, considering they're 140-something years old,” he said.
California's 2018 Was the Worst Ever Recorded for Wildfires
(Gizmodo) Tom McKay, March 9
University of California, Santa Barbara UC Cooperative Extension wildfire researcher Max Moritiz told the Chronicle, “It's not fair to say that fuel treatments won't do any good. It may provide some protection in some places. But most of us studying this agree that you can't just do this and (expect to) make much headway.”
4-H leader who taught lost Benbow girls outdoor skills being flown to Washington, DC for recognition
Kym Kemp, March 7
When Leia Carrico, age 8, and her sister, Caroline, age 5, disappeared into the woods around their home near Benbow on March 1, the whole nation held its breath for the next 44 hours until they were found. But, though their 4-H leaders were worried, too, they say they also knew the girls had something many other children don't–they had survival skills from a class taught by their Outdoor Adventures 4-H project leader, Justin Lehnert.
Lehnert is being honored in Washington, DC, on Tuesday for his role in teaching Leia and Caroline outdoor skills.
Researchers highlight plan to eat healthy on a budget
(Consumer Affairs) Kristen Dalli, March 7
Following a healthy diet can come with a hefty price tag, but a team of researchers has outlined a way for consumers to stick to a healthy diet -- and also stick to their budgets.
According to the team, consumers -- and their families -- can have healthy meals if they focus on buying items in bulk and planning meals in advance.
“This study determines the likelihood that families living in low-income households could create meals that meet the USDA dietary guidelines presented in MyPlate nutrition education materials,” said researcher Karen M. Jetter, PhD. “In addition to food cost, the other factors considered were access to stores, time for meal preparation, and whether the menus included culturally appropriate foods.”
Healthy eating is possible on a limited budget, study shows
Study: Eating healthy on a budget is possible
Eating Healthy Is Possible on a Small Budget, Says Study
Sorry, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, but “farting cows” aren't the problem
(New Food Economy) Sam Bloch, March 7
…As it turns out, neither side was accurate. Republicans are likely to continue linking Green New Deal priorities to a supposed hamburger ban. But if you don't hear about cow farts anymore from AOC, it may not be because of GOP criticism. Frank Mitloehner, an animal scientist and air quality specialist at the University of California, Davis, insists cattle flatulence isn't the problem it's made out to be, and says he helped set the record straight.
Here's what seems to have happened. On February 4, shortly before Ocasio-Cortez announced the Green New Deal, she was speaking to school children in Queens, New York. When one asked how they could “combat” climate change, Ocasio-Cortez offered two practical options—stop using disposable razors, and skip meat and dairy for one meal.
Mitloehner tweeted at her.
“Dear @AOC: we all try to help the climate,” he wrote. “However, the two options you offered have low impacts compared to the 800lb gorilla, which is to reduce fossil fuel use. About ? of greenhouse gas emissions in the US stem from transport and energy prod&use. Meat/milk = 4 % of total GHG,” referring to findings in a recent EPA report.
… “I give her team a lot of credit for reaching out,” Mitloehner says. “If we really are serious about making a difference in carbon emissions, you cannot do this without agriculture involved.”
California supplies a quarter of the world's sunflower seeds
(Capital Press) Padma Nagappan, March 7
…Khaled Bali is a University of California Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources statewide water and irrigation specialist who has been working since 2016 on a four-year trial on sunflower varieties.
He was asked by the University of Georgia to help ascertain which varieties were drought resistant. He chose to conduct his trial in the low desert region of the Imperial Valley, since it gets little rain during the growing season between February when it's planted, and June when it's harvested. This would make it easier to control and measure the actual water applied to the crop varieties.
“We're looking at 285 varieties of sunflowers, to see which ones do well under stress,” Bali said. He has tested different plantings each growing season for the past three years, and will finish the trial this year.
Livestream coverage of fire protection panel discussion in Nevada City
(Sierra Sun) March 7
…Following the films, the community is invited to join an ongoing conversation around the new reality of living with fire in the wildland urban interface. Panelists represent a diverse cross-section of the wildfire prevention community including: Cal Fire, Fire Safe Council of Nevada County, Nevada County Office of Emergency Services, Nevada County Resource Conservation District, Pacific Gas and Electric Company, Tahoe National Forest and University of California Cooperative Extension. The panel discussion will be moderated by YubaNet Co-founder Pascale Fusshoeller. [Kate Wilkin, UCCE fire advisor, participates on the panel in the last hour of the video.]
Bees, blooms off to slow start
(Western Farm Press) Logan Hawkes, March 6
…This year, almond bloom started around a normal time, with some early varieties showing a few open flowers in the first week of February,” reported Franz Niederholzer, UCCE farm advisor for Colusa, Sutter, and Yuba Counties. “For most of the month bloom progressed very slowly,”
By the middle of February, he says, “bloom for Nonpareil was at least two weeks behind, and bee hours were limited until the last week of the month. Last year, between Feb 1-20, we accumulated 130 bee hours of good honey bee flying weather [55 F., no rain, and wind less than 10 mph]. For the same interval this year, we had around 10 hours and only six of those occurred with open flowers in the orchard.”
On the positive side of the slow start, Niederholzer says, the colder weather tends to suppress activity of key bloom diseases such as blossom brown rot and anthracnose. “However, cold weather at bloom was conducive to blossom blast (pseudomonas) bacteria, and some growers were considering adding materials to their normal bloom fungicides with bactericide activity.”
Wet winter aids groundwater replenishment
(Ag Alert) Christine Souza, March 6
… Helen Dahlke, a hydrology expert and professor with the University of California, Davis, Department of Land, Air and Water Resources, has been working with farmers, studying on-farm groundwater recharge locations and suitability for various crops.
"In many regions, we can definitely do more actively recharging our groundwater aquifers," said Dahlke, who currently has trials on alfalfa at the UC Kearney Agricultural Center. "It really depends on what region, how much surface water is available for recharge, what kind of sediment structure or hydrogeology we have underneath and whether it's suited for conveying large amounts quickly."
Despite abundant precipitation in recent weeks, she said the timing is not the best for studying impact of recharge on certain crops.
"We prefer on-farm recharge to happen in January and February, just because that is considered the dormancy season for most crops," Dahlke said. "With almond trees already blooming, often there is a greater risk of applying water on those crops."
She said recent precipitation has helped groundwater recharge overall, but there is "very little way of estimating how much it is helping."
Drip irrigation improves yields of Imperial sugar beets
(Ag Alert) Padma Nagappan, March 6
Halfway through a two-year irrigation trial to test furrow irrigation versus drip on sugar beet in California's Imperial Valley, Ali Montazar is looking for ways to boost yields with as little water consumption as possible in a region where furrow irrigation is the common practice.
Montazar, irrigation and water management advisor with the University of California department of agriculture and natural resources (UCANR) in Imperial County, is comparing and evaluating sugar beets for crop water use, sugar percentage, and yield, using both furrow and drip, since growers are now thinking of switching to subsurface drip.
Preliminary results from year one of the trial show that yield and crop water use are better with drip. Yield was 21 percent higher, and water use was a few points lower.
NFU says “No” to Green New Deal
(DTN) Jerry Hagstrom and Chris Clayton, March 6
Frank Mitloehner, an animal-science professor and air-quality Extension specialist at the University of California-Davis, reached out to Ocasio-Cortez's team about agriculture and the Green New Deal after seeing social media posts late last month about “farting cows” that drew a great deal of attention.
“I appreciate her interest in climate-change mitigation, but the 800-pound gorilla is the use of fossil fuels, and I told her that even the notion of cow flatulence makes this whole thing sound silly, and that's not what we need this discussion to be,” Mitloehner told DTN in an interview.
From Farting Cows to More Beans; Anti-Livestock Claims Fall Short
(AgriTalk) Jennifer Shike, March 5
The EAT-Lancet Commission on Food, Planet, Health is backpedaling as industry leaders and scientists poke holes in its “planetary diet” released in mid-January that is supposed to improve human health and planet health.
Air Quality Extension Expert Frank Mitloehner of the University of California Davis joined Chip Flory on AgriTalk Monday to discuss EAT-Lancet and Green New Deal in more depth.
4-H instructor who taught NorCal sisters how to survive in wilderness speaks out
(ABC7) Dion Lim, March 4
ABC7 News spoke exclusively to the 4-H instructor who taught two young girls the life-saving skills they needed to survive a weekend lost in the woods.
… Their mom, Misty Carrico, says she's not sure her daughters would have survived, if not for their 4-H program.
"The group leader Justin has taught them fire making skills and wilderness survival skills."
Justin Lehnert, the girls' 4-H leader, said, "I'm ecstatic that they did the job that they did. They're very strong girls and they stayed calm."
… Nine-year-old Caroline Gelormini has been a member of the San Bruno-South San Francisco 4-H Program for five years. Thanks to 4-H, she feels like she'd have a shot at surviving in the woods too.
Ocasio-Cortez Seeks Ag Data on Green New Deal
(Drovers) John Herath, March 4
When freshman congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez released her Green New Deal plan, social media lit up with talk of her plan's mentions of “farting cows.” That drew the attention of agriculture's preeminent expert on air quality, Dr. Frank Mitloehner of the University of California at Davis, who tweeted back at the congresswoman.
“I don't know whether my tweet was the reason, but a few hours after I tweeted her, all mentioning of cow flatulence were taken off the web pages and of all social media outlets and was never to be heard again,” Mitloehner told Chip Flory on the AgriTalk Radio Show Monday.
2 missing Humboldt County girls found — ‘absolute miracle
(SF Chronicle) Michael Cabanatuan, March 3
…Little additional information was available on how the girls went missing or how they survived, but Honsal said they had been trained in outdoors survival as members of a 4-H program.
Organic farm east of Denair does its part on climate change. It's getting an award
(Modesto Bee) John Holland, March 2
…The family won in the farmer/rancher category of the Climate Leadership Awards. The others:
- Researcher: Tapan Pathak of the University of California Cooperative Extension in Merced, who helps farmers adapt to climate change.
- Policymaker: Ken Alex, who was director of former Gov. Jerry Brown's Office of Planning and Research
- Legislative staff: Brett Williams, office of Assemblywoman Jacqui Irwin, D-Thousand Oaks
- Agricultural professional: Ruth Dalquist-Willard, UC Cooperative Extension, Fresno
Eructation Inflation: Greenhouse Gas Emissions of Livestock
(Science for the Rest of Us) March 1
Put your nerd hat on -- we cover a lot of ground in this fast-paced discussion with Dr. Frank Mitloehner of the University of California-Davis about the greenhouse gas emissions associated with the meat and dairy we consume. We consider how livestock emissions compare to other sectors of the US and global economies, the carbon footprint of vegetarian diets and what is the most effective way to reduce individual carbon emissions.
Keeping the Carbon Footprint of Livestock in Perspective
(AgNet West) Brian German, March 1
…“It is irresponsible and it's misguiding the public to believe that the true sources of pollution are downplayed, and the impacts of animal agriculture are grossly inflated,” said Dr. Frank Mitloehner, Professor and Air Quality Specialist in Cooperative Extension in the Department of Animal Science at the University of California, Davis.