Posts Tagged: Food
One more reason to adopt sustainable cultivation
California wheat farmers could both maintain their yields and improve soil health by growing annual wheat without tilling the soil year after year.
This could be one more encouragement to farmers to adopt a sustainable practice commonly called conservation tillage, no-till or minimum-till cultivation, impacting how we grow a grain that supplies about 20 percent of the calories and protein for people around the world.
A new study, by a team led by Mark Lundy, University of California Cooperative Extension specialist in UC Davis' Department of Plant Sciences, offers new insight for decades-long discussions around soil conservation, sustainable agriculture and climate-warming emissions related to growing our food. The study has been published in the journal Soil and Tillage Research. For the first time, researchers have shown that annual wheat that is not tilled each year is better for stashing carbon in the soil than perennial wheatgrass, while still yielding more crop in Central California.
Previous studies have looked at annual wheat that is tilled each year, annual wheat that is not tilled, and a cousin species, perennial intermediate wheatgrass (trademarked Kernza), which also is not tilled. But until now, no one has looked at all of the benefits and trade-offs together. Most importantly, “no one has ever controlled for tillage,” Lundy said. “And, no one has compared annual wheat to perennial intermediate wheatgrass over multiple years in a Mediterranean climate, which is what we have in California.”
This study also is unique because it delves into the deeper question of what is going on in the soil that drives the different results for carbon there. Soil carbon reflects various processes linked to plant activity and soil health. Measuring the different forms of soil carbon may also signal whether a farming system is accumulating carbon in the soil over time – a plus for reducing climate-warming gases in the atmosphere.
“Measuring soil carbon is complex and nuanced,” said Kalyn Taylor, the lead author on the paper. “We started this experiment because we wanted to know whether and how plant activity and tilling or not tilling would affect the carbon story belowground in California's climate.”
“When we started this study, we thought the crop being perennial or annual would drive the differences in carbon storage in the soil,” Lundy added. Specifically, they had expected perennial wheatgrass would lead to more carbon in the soil because of its deeper, better-established root system. “But that's not what we found,” he went on. “What we found was, it was the lack of tillage, plus the level of productivity of common annual wheat, that made the difference in soil carbon here in California.”
Soil carbon in annual vs. perennial grain
In 2017, Lundy, then-graduate-student Taylor, UC Davis Professor Emeritus Kate Scow and others on the team started measuring different forms of soil carbon in test plots at Russell Ranch, west of campus. Plots were planted with annual wheat that was tilled each spring, annual wheat that was not tilled and perennial intermediate wheatgrass (Kernza) that also was not tilled.
Each year, the researchers measured the carbon present in the soil, the amount of soil organisms (which have carbon in their bodies) and the amount of material the plants created.
At the end of three growing seasons, they found that land planted with no-till, common, annual wheat had the highest amount of soil organisms, measured as biomass, of the three treatments.
The researchers also found soil carbon is more likely to remain stable in the no-till, annual plots, compared to both tilled wheat and wheatgrass.
In addition, the no-till, annual wheat produced plant material more consistently than the perennial wheatgrass across the three years, which saw variation in rainfall.
“Overall, annual wheat grown without soil disturbance or tillage had both higher productivity and higher potential for storing carbon in the topsoil than perennial wheatgrass in our Mediterranean climate,” Lundy said.
“No-till annual wheat increases plant productivity, soil microbial biomass, and soil carbon stabilization relative to intermediate wheatgrass in a Mediterranean climate,” is online now and will be published in the January 2024 edition of Soil and Tillage Research.
The team also found that tilled annual wheat vs. Kernza stores total carbon at different depths in the soil profile and hosts distinct soil fungal communities, primarily in the root zone and topsoil: Taylor, K., Samaddar, S., Schmidt, R., Lundy, M. and Scow, K., 2023. Soil carbon storage and compositional responses of soil microbial communities under perennial grain IWG vs. annual wheat. Soil Biology and Biochemistry, p.109111.
Previous work comparing the perennial grain known as intermediate wheatgrass (trademarked Kernza) to annual wheat had not distinguished the extent to which soil health benefits are a function of the perennial nature of the crop. Read the story here.
This story was originally published on the UC Davis News site./h3>/h3>/h3>
QFF quarantine in LA, Ventura counties among seven fruit fly quarantines statewide
Residents in multiple Southern California and Northern California counties should not move homegrown fruits and vegetables from their properties to help contain several species of fruit fly that can destroy crops and impact the livelihoods of local farmers.
With sharing and gifting of food integral to the holiday season, the California Department of Food and Agriculture is reminding people to heed the seven active fruit fly quarantines aimed at controlling the Mediterranean fruit fly, Oriental fruit fly, Tau fly and Queensland fruit fly. The links below describe quarantine zone boundaries:
- Mediterranean fruit fly: Los Angeles County, Leimert Park Area
- Oriental fruit fly: San Bernardino and Riverside Counties, Redlands and Yucaipa Areas
- Oriental fruit fly: Sacramento County, Rancho Cordova Area
- Oriental fruit fly: Contra Costa County, Brentwood Area
- Oriental fruit fly: Santa Clara County, Santa Clara Area
- Tau fly: Los Angeles County – Stevenson Ranch, Valencia, Santa Clarita Areas
- Queensland fruit fly: Ventura and Los Angeles Counties, Thousand Oaks Area
People within these zones should consume or process (i.e., juice, freeze or cook) their homegrown fruits and vegetables at the place of origin and not move them off their property. Uneaten produce should be double-bagged in plastic bags and disposed of in the landfill bin – not compost or green waste.
Queensland fruit fly threatens California citrus, other crops
The Queensland fruit fly (Bactrocera tryoni) quarantine is the first of its kind in the U.S. Although QFF was first seen in California in 1985, the recent detection of two adult males triggered the unprecedented quarantine action by USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and CDFA.
“This pest has earned a bad reputation for wreaking havoc on fruit production in Australia, where it is native,” said Hamutahl Cohen, University of California Cooperative Extension entomology advisor for Ventura County. “Adult flies lay their eggs in fruit, and the eggs hatch into larvae that then feed on the fruit, causing damage.”
And while females of other fruit fly species live for only two or three months, QFF females are unique in that they can live up to a year, according to Cohen.
“Once QFF populations take root, they're challenging to manage because females can each lay up to 100 eggs per day,” Cohen said.
In addition to being highly adaptable to a variety of environmental conditions, QFF has more than 170 host plants – including a wide range of California commodities such as citrus, grape, strawberry, fig, avocado, apricot, peach, cherry, nectarine, plum, pear, apple, tomato and sweet pepper.
The threat to citrus is especially concerning, as Southern California growers continue to grapple with the specter of spreading huanglongbing (HLB) disease, which kills citrus trees. Cohen said residents of citrus-growing regions can do their part to help their neighbors and local economy by respecting quarantine restrictions.
“Growers are already dealing with other invasive species like Asian citrus psyllid [vector of HLB pathogen], so we as homeowners need to prevent the spread of fruit flies to reduce the burden on them,” she explained.
While a spike this year in the detections of multiple fruit fly species was likely caused by a host of factors, Cohen speculates that increased post-pandemic travel is helping to move the flies. And with holiday travel in full swing, she said it's important to practice “Don't Pack a Pest” principles.
“Invasive species often hitchhike on fruits and vegetables brought into California by travelers – that's why we often first find invasive species in urban and suburban backyards, and not on farms,” Cohen said. “Travelers entering the U.S. can visit dontpackapest.com to learn about which products they can and cannot bring back with them.”
To report a suspected infestation of fruit fly larvae in homegrown produce, call the CDFA pest hotline at 1-800-491-1899. Growers with questions and concerns are urged to contact their local agricultural commissioner's office./h3>/h3>
The holiday meal season is often a busy time for food hubs – entities that handle the aggregation, distribution and/or marketing of source-identified regional food – as restaurants, retailers and consumers fill their tables and shelves with an abundance of fresh, local products. However, the subsequent winter months can provide a valuable time for reflection and re-evaluation of a food hub's systems and processes. In this spirit, it may be helpful to remind people working at food hubs that University of California Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (UC SAREP) offers a suite of food-safety resources – in English and in Spanish – on its website.
- A step-by-step guide for food hubs on how to pursue a third-party food safety audit with guidance on how to navigate buyers' questions.
- Two sample food-safety plans intended as a starting point to be adapted to a food hub's specific operations and practices.
- Example standard operating procedure, or SOP, documents related to 11 common tasks carried out by food hubs.
“We hope these resources can play a role in helping food hubs to adopt best practices and control risks related to food safety,” says Gwenael Engelskirchen, sustainable food and farming coordinator with UC SAREP, who led the development of these educational tools.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately, 1 in 6 Americans (or 48 million people) gets sick and 3,000 die of foodborne diseases annually. In 2011, to help prevent the occurrence of foodborne illness, the federal government enacted the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), designed to outline actions to be taken at various points along the supply chain for both human and animal food.
UC SAREP's Food Safety Resources for Food Hubs are intended to help food hubs navigate these food-safety regulations and accompanying best practices. Resources are also available in Spanish at Recursos de seguridad alimentaria para los centros de distribución de alimentos.
Food safety certification guide
Some buyers verify a supplier's food safety program by requiring an audit performed by a third-party certification body or auditing company. This Guide to Food Safety Certification offers key considerations before deciding to pursue a food safety audit and helps users navigate the food safety certification process.
Food safety plan
Food hubs that meet the criteria for full compliance with FSMA's Preventive Controls for Human Food Rule are required to have a food-safety plan in place. And for all food hubs, having a shared document describing the facility's operations and how potential risks of food contamination are managed is a good idea. Two sample food safety plans, inspired by the operations of food hubs in California, provide a starting point and can be adapted to a hub's own operations.
Standard operating procedures
Standard operating procedures provide detailed step-by-step instructions for how to carry out operational tasks within a food facility. The standard operating procedure samples cover common topics such as handwashing, facility cleaning and more, and are intended to be adapted to a food hub's specific operations and practices.
Jacob Weiss from Spork Food Hub in Davis said, “the templates were a great starting place for us to build the framework of our food safety plan. It helped us figure out what we needed to (and didn't) need to include. I think the SOPs are also really useful because they are broad enough to get you started but flexible enough to add the specific practices of your business or hub.”
For additional information, visit UC SAREP's webpages on Food Safety Resources for Food Hubs or Recursos de seguridad alimentaria para los centros de distribución de alimentos.
These resources and tools were developed in collaboration with various project partners, including Department of Food Science and Technology at UC Davis, Department of Population Health and Reproduction at UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, Center for Precision Medicine and Data Science at UC Davis Health, and Community Alliance with Family Farmers.
UC Cooperative Extension advisor who promotes school gardens, urban agriculture to retire after 35-year career
A stroll through a leafy, green garden can give one temporary relief from life's harshness. During her career, Rachel Surls has used gardens to cultivate healthier communities, whether they are growing nutritious food or providing science lessons for students.
Over the past 35 years, Surls, University of California Cooperative Extension sustainable food systems advisor in Los Angeles County, has witnessed many changes – such as promoting public events on Instagram rather than typing and mailing press releases. A comforting and consistent presence has been the UC Master Gardener Program, part of UC Agriculture and Natural Resources.
“As I look back, the UC Master Gardener Program has been a constant in my work. It helps so many people,” said Surls, who joined UCCE as a school and community garden coordinator in 1988.
“My new job with UCCE-LA was my dream job. I organized community gardens around the county and supported teachers who wanted to start school gardens,” recalled the Michigan native, who plans to retire at the end of the year. “I had a bachelor's degree in agronomy and was freshly out of a stint with the U.S. Peace Corps in rural Honduras. My work there inspired me to pursue community development work related to gardening.”
Louisa R. Cardenas, trustee of Los Angeles County Natural History Museums, was a UC Master Gardener volunteer for 25 years.
“Among Rachel's many skills and assets are her willingness to listen to and consider ideas from Master Gardeners that eventually reach and empower Los Angeles County residents to grow food that supplements their nutritional needs,” Cardenas said.
To complement the nascent UC Master Gardener Program in Los Angeles County, Surls organized “Gardening Angels,” a cadre of volunteers to work with teachers and students to develop school gardens. She edited a guide for teachers, parents and volunteers to build gardens for children.
“I met Rachel in 1992 and was so blessed to come up through the ranks with her,” said Rose Hayden-Smith, UCCE emeritus advisor in digital communications in food systems and extension education. “We were in neighboring counties, and had many similar programmatic interests, including school gardens. Her research informed my work and was so helpful to me.”
Advancing food security, community nutrition
In 1994, after earning her master's degree from Cal Poly Pomona in agricultural science with a focus on agricultural education, Surls accepted a newly created position: UC Cooperative Extension urban horticulture advisor.
To retain Los Angeles County funding in 1992, the UCCE staff had become part of the county's Housing Authority/Community Development Commission. As the UCCE urban horticulture advisor, Surls was tasked with developing gardens at five public housing sites. At one of these locations, Carmelitos Housing Development in Long Beach, she worked with community partners to select landscape trees, hire a greenhouse contractor and design a horticulture job training program for public housing residents. This site became known as the Growing Experience Urban Farm.
“I'm pleased that 29 years later, the Growing Experience is still an active community farm where UC Master Gardeners offer workshops for the community,” Surls said.
In 1997, when George Rendell retired as director of UCCE in Los Angeles County, Surls applied for the job. For the next 14 years, she oversaw more than 70 employees and local programs, including the 4-H youth development program, which launched afterschool, hands-on learning for children.
Surls, who participated in 4-H herself as a child, worked closely with 4-H funders. She helped secure grants, contracts and gifts for 4-H as well as the UC Master Gardener Program and UCCE nutrition programs for projects that encouraged Angelenos to eat more fruits and vegetables.
“Rachel was incredibly creative and innovative as a leader,” said Hayden-Smith, who served as director of UCCE in Ventura County. “Rachel models a kind of quiet leadership that invites people into the process, honors the group and moves work forward in important ways.”
While working, Surls earned her Ph.D. in higher education administration at Claremont Graduate University in 2008, with an eye on pursuing other leadership roles. Instead, the global financial crisis inspired her return to working directly with Los Angeles County residents on urban gardening to reduce food insecurity.
To focus on outreach, the UCCE sustainable food systems advisor handed her UCCE director duties to Keith Nathaniel, UCCE 4-H advisor, at the end of 2011.
Developing, sharing resources for urban farming and gardens
In 2012, she organized colleagues within UC Agriculture and Natural Resources and community partners to study the needs of urban farmers and begin offering workshops for them. She led the development of an urban agriculture website, with resources covering business management, food safety, marketing and regulations. She served on the leadership board of the Los Angeles Food Policy Council and began advising cities on policies that would make it easier for residents to grow food.
“These have been my favorite and most productive years of my career,” Surls said.
Drawing on skills she began honing as an undergraduate at Virginia Tech as a news writer for the Virginia Extension Service, Surls co-authored a book about the history of agriculture in Los Angeles County, called “From Cows to Concrete: The Rise and Fall of Farming in Los Angeles.” She is currently working on a second book about urban farming in the U.S.
The Grow LA Gardens Initiative – which helps aspiring gardeners start their own gardens quickly – is one source of pride for Surls. Hundreds of people have taken the four-week course and, after participating, nearly 70% planted gardens.
In 2018, Surls was honored with the Bradford-Rominger award by the Agricultural Sustainability Institute at UC Davis for her work promoting community gardens, school gardens and urban agriculture.
With community gardens and school gardens now commonplace, Surls chuckles as she recalls veteran UCCE colleagues advising her to choose a more “serious” academic focus early in her career.
“It's gratifying to see so many people in academia working on farming in cities, school gardens and community gardens,” Surls said.
Advocating for equity
In 2022, while Surls was on sabbatical, she and Cardenas – the longtime UC Master Gardener volunteer – requested and received $100,000 from the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors to hire an equity, diversity and inclusion coordinator and to fund outreach. This UC Master Gardener project championed by Supervisor Sheila Kuehl specifically reaches underserved populations within the county. “Such a significant achievement would not have been possible without Rachel's encouragement and support,” Cardenas said.
After she retires, Surls plans to volunteer her expertise for online training of UC Master Gardener volunteers statewide. To support their program efforts including outreach to the Spanish-speaking community and scholarships for underserved communities, Surls has pledged to give $5,000 as a matching gift to donations to the UC Master Gardener Program in Los Angeles between Giving Tuesday, Nov. 28, and Dec. 31 at https://ucanr.edu/LAmastergardener.
Crop sanitation will be key to controlling the invasive carpophilus beetle
Growers and pest control advisers (PCAs) should be on the lookout for a new pest called carpophilus beetle (Carpophilus truncatus). This pest was recently found infesting almonds and pistachios in the San Joaquin Valley, and is recognized as one of the top two pests of almond production in Australia. Damage occurs when adults and larvae feed directly on the kernel, causing reductions in both yield and quality.
Populations of carpophilus beetle were first detected in September in almond and pistachio orchards by University of California Cooperative Extension Specialist Houston Wilson of UC Riverside's Department of Entomology. Pest identification was subsequently confirmed by the California Department of Food and Agriculture.
Wilson is now working with Jhalendra Rijal, UC integrated pest management advisor, North San Joaquin Valley; David Haviland, UCCE farm advisor, Kern County; and other UCCE farm advisors to conduct a broader survey of orchards throughout the San Joaquin Valley to determine the extent of the outbreak.
To date, almond or pistachio orchards infested by carpophilus beetle have been confirmed in Stanislaus, Merced, Madera and Kings counties, suggesting that the establishment of this new pest is already widespread. In fact, some specimens from Merced County were from collections that were made in 2022, suggesting that the pest has been present in the San Joaquin Valley for at least a year already.
“It has likely been here for a few years based on the damage we've seen," Rijal said.
This invasive beetle overwinters in remnant nuts (i.e. mummy nuts) that are left in the tree or on the ground following the previous year's harvest. Adults move onto new crop nuts around hull-split, where they deposit their eggs directly onto the nut. The larvae that emerge feed on the developing kernels, leaving the almond kernel packed with a fine powdery mix of nutmeat and frass that is sometimes accompanied by an oval-shaped tunnel.
Carpophilus beetle has been well-established in Australia for over 10 years, where it is considered a key pest of almonds. More recently, the beetle was reported from walnuts in Argentina and Italy as well. Carpophilus truncatus is a close relative to other beetles in the genus Carpophilus, such as the driedfruit beetle (C. hemipterus) that is known primarily as a postharvest pest of figs and raisins in California.
Monitoring for carpophilus beetle is currently limited to direct inspection of hull split nuts for the presence of feeding holes and/or larvae or adult beetles. A new pheromone lure that is being developed in Australia may soon provide a better monitoring tool for growers, PCAs and researchers.
“We're lucky to have colleagues abroad that have already been hammering away at this pest for almost a decade,” said Haviland. “Hopefully we can learn from their experiences and quickly get this new beetle under control.”
The ability to use insecticides to control carpophilus beetle remains unclear. The majority of the beetle's life cycle is spent protected inside the nut, with relatively short windows of opportunity available to attack the adults while they are exposed. The location of the beetles within the nut throughout most of their life cycle also allows them to avoid meaningful levels of biological control.
In the absence of clear chemical or biological control strategies, the most important tool for managing this beetle is crop sanitation.
“Given that this pest overwinters on remnant nuts, similar to navel orangeworm, crop sanitation will be fundamental to controlling it,” Wilson said. “If you needed another reason to clean up and destroy mummy nuts – this is it.”
In Australia, sanitation is currently the primary method for managing this pest. And here in California, new research and extension activities focused on carpophilus beetle are currently in the works.
“It's important that we get on top of this immediately,” said Wilson. “We're already starting to put together a game plan for research and extension in 2024 and beyond.”
If you suspect that you have this beetle in your orchard, please contact your local UC Cooperative Extension farm advisor (https://ucanr.edu/About/Locations/), County Agricultural Commissioner (https://cacasa.org/county/) and/or the CDFA Pest Hotline (https://www.cdfa.ca.gov/plant/reportapest/) at 1-800-491-1899.