Posts Tagged: Oli Bachie
Oli Bachie, “person of the globe,” researches new desert crops to spur economic growth
While herding goats along dusty roads as a boy growing up in Oromia, Ethiopia, Oli Bachie began striving to improve his economic position in life. His path to a better life passed through the Philippines and Canada before reaching the United States. Now, carrying the mantle of Ph.D., the UC Cooperative Extension farm advisor is doing research to help California farmers take advantage of new opportunities for economic growth.
More than 400 different crops and animals are commercially produced in California. The wide array of agricultural products keep California farmers competitive in the global market. UC Cooperative Extension research into new crops provides growers with information that can lower the risk of trying something new.
Rhodes grass, giant king grass, quinoa and teff are among the crops Bachie has been studying since he joined UC Agriculture and Natural Resources in 2012.
“Giant king grass and Rhodes grass were brought to my attention by companies who wanted me to test their adaptability, biomass yield and nutrition as livestock feed,” Bachie said. “My findings proved that they indeed adapt and produce high biomass and were nutritionally competent or better than many of the low desert grown grass forage crops.”
Two companies provided Bachie with funding to conduct the research. “We do research for industries, companies and growers as long as they provide funding and if we believe that the outcome of the research benefits our clientele and the local economy,” he explained.
Viaspace, a company that grows giant king grass in 11 locations in eight countries on four continents, has relied on Bachie's research for establishing its plantings in the Imperial Valley.
“Oli's research helped us establish basic growing procedures and parameters for Imperial County. It provided the critical information that gave us the confidence to start a larger commercial effort in the desert,” said Haris Basit, vice chairman of Viaspace.
To share information with Imperial Valley growers, Bachie has presented his research results on Rhodes grass varieties at field days and workshops and published in the UCCE Imperial AgBrief newsletter and in the proceedings of the 2019 Western Alfalfa and Forage Crops Symposium. During the COVID-19 pandemic, he has been giving talks via Zoom on Rhodes grass as a new emerging crop, including a zoom workshop organized by the University of Arizona.
“Rhodes grass productivity is well-recognized and is adapted for production not only in the Imperial Valley, but also as far as San Joaquin County and in the state of Arizona,” he said. “A grower in Imperial has started to export Rhodes grass hay to the Middle East. More and more growers within the Imperial Valley and beyond are interested in growing Rhodes grass. I get lots of calls to answer Rhodes grass-related questions. There is now a Rhodes grass seed distributing company in Imperial Valley.”
Giant king grass – a hybrid of elephantgrass and Napier grass, which both grow well as wild plants in Ethiopia – and Rhodes grass are widely grown in Ethiopia. But Bachie didn't study these grasses until he joined UC Cooperative Extension.
Bachie grew up farming with his parents in the rural western part of Oromia, where most coffee and food crops are produced in Ethiopia. “By the way, the name ‘coffee' is derived from a place in Oromia called Kaffaa,” he noted.
“After school in winter, when most farming takes place, I engaged myself in farming,” Bachie said. That afterschool activity piqued his interest in farming and fueled his pursuit of a bachelor's degree in plant sciences from Haromaya University in Ethiopia.
“At that time, when I joined the university, there was only one university in the country,” he said. “I was lucky enough to be one of the few to get university admissions among thousands of high school students.”
In Ethiopia, he worked on a program sponsored by the Ministry of Agriculture and United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization for six years, mostly as a crop protection expert. He studied insects, weeds, pathogens and other crop pests on field crops, vegetables and horticultural crops.
“The experiences I gathered from Ethiopia help me provide services in Imperial County in multidisciplinary pest management – insects, pathogens, weeds and nematodes – at times when we did not have any pest management advisor in Imperial County,” he said. “It has also given me the opportunity to deal with clientele with easy transfer of scientific knowledge.”
Bachie was selected as an FAO fellow to pursue a master's degree in agronomy at the University of the Philippines.
“My area of particular concern then was to look at allelopathy (a chemical inhibition of plant extracts or exudates) as a potential inhibition of weed growth,” Bachie said. His plans to develop a biological weed management approach were disrupted when he graduated with a master's degree and he refused to return to his dictator-led home country.
“Ethiopia was then and is still ruled under a brutal government where educated personnel have little value,” he explained. After graduation, he sought settlement in another country. “That supportive state, which I thank dearly, was Canada.”
After earning a master's degree in forestry from the University of Toronto, Bachie accepted a job at a university teaching network administration and came to the U.S., where he earned a Ph.D. in biological sciences at UC Riverside, “Americanizing not only myself, but also my credential and now I serve UC with full interest and strength,” said Bachie, who holds dual U.S. and Canadian citizenship.
In the spring of 2019, Bachie started comparing grass forage crops (bermudagrass, kleingrass, Rhodes grass and teff) with moringa for livestock feed under low desert conditions. Growers will be able to use the research results to decide which crops will be most profitable for their own operations.
Last summer, Bachie completed a variety trial of quinoa, a grain grown primarily for its edible seeds. He tested the adaptability and grain yield of 35 varieties of quinoa in the heat and biotic stress of the Imperial Valley.
“Of the tested varieties, many tolerated the high heat of the desert and gave promising yields,” said Bachie, who showed the varieties to farmers at an agronomy and irrigation crops field day. “The high grain prices of quinoa in the U.S. and the proof of adaptability and yielding capacity under the low desert condition is expected to attract some growers to grow some quinoa varieties in the Imperial Valley.”
Bachie recently completed a survey of weeds in the county and is planning to publish a handbook titled “Weeds of Imperial County and Management Approaches.”
“While my journey is a huge zigzag and I came up through difficulties, I am very glad that I was able to travel and survive and made myself from a goat herder to an American Ph.D.,” said Bachie, who has also taught biology and environmental science courses part time at Victor Valley and Imperial Valley community colleges, respectively.
“My travel all over the world has enhanced my concepts of human diversity and the affinity to associate and work with people of various backgrounds. To be sure, I call myself a person of the globe.”
Enormous wildfires spark scramble to improve fire models
(Nature) Jeff Tollefson, Aug. 31
…“Something is definitely different, and it raises questions about how much we really know,” says Max Moritz, a fire scientist at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
… The problem, Moritz says, is that most of the fire models in use today are based on data from the past two or three decades. But it seems that fire behaviour might be shifting in response to climate faster than anybody expected, and that makes it increasingly problematic to extrapolate from past trends, he adds.
Rodent control critical in subsurface alfalfa systems
(Farm Press) Todd Fitchette, Aug 31,
For alfalfa growers seeking other methods of rodent control, Dr. Roger Baldwin, Cooperative Extension specialist at UC Davis, says rodenticides, fumigants and trapping can be moderately to highly effective, depending on method and means used.
Deeply Talks: Fire & Drought–The Extremes Become Routine
(Water Deeply) Matt Weiser, Aug. 30,
The American West has entered an era of permanent water scarcity, a marked shift from previous periods of episodic drought. The same can now be said for fire: In California, there hasn't been a month without a wildfire since 2012. Join us for a conversation about the ways in which water and wildfire management intersect, and about the West's adaptation to its new, and far from normal, reality. We'll be joined by experts Crystal Kolden, associate professor of forest, range, and fire sciences in the College of Natural Resources at the University of Idaho, and Van Butsic, cooperative extension specialist at the University of California, Berkeley. Email our community editor with questions for the panelists (email@example.com) or tweet us @waterdeeply using the hashtag #DeeplyTalks.
Deadly poultry ailment, Newcastle disease, reaches Ventura County
(Ventura County Star), Aug. 29
Maurice Pitesky, a veterinarian and University of California extension specialist in the School of Veterinary Medicine at UC Davis, said one of the challenges in keeping a lid on the disease is the continued popularity of raising backyard chickens.
“While people have the best intentions, unfortunately a lack of biosecurity practices in people's backyards is one of the contributing factors of the disease spreading,” Pitesky said.
The longtime head of the UFW is stepping down. His replacement will be the first woman to lead the union
(LA Times) Geoffrey Mohan, Aug. 28
At its heart, the UFW remains torn between whether it can be both a grass-roots union and a broad social movement operating in the halls of power, said Philip Martin, a UC Davis agricultural economist and farm labor expert.
...“It is worth noting that the UFW does not have union locals, and so therefore does not have a system under which current farmworkers are trained in leadership development with the idea that they will rise within the union,” he said.
Expert Views: Managing Wildfires to Protect Water Resources
(Water Deeply) Lindsay Abrams, Aug. 28
Van Butsic, cooperative extension specialist at the University of California, Berkeley:
"Managing forest and wildfires to benefit water resources is difficult because there are trade-offs between short-term costs and long-term benefits. In the short term, wildfires can lead to increased erosion and sedimentation in streams and reservoirs. This contributes to lost revenue for downstream power generators and at times even requires water to be treated before it is potable."
Can Angelenos and Coyotes Coexist?
(LA Magazine) Henry Cherry, Aug. 27
…Intrigued by the animals, I stumbled across Coyote Cacher, an interactive website operated by University of California's Dr. Niamh Quinn. A native of Ireland, Quinn has been studying coyotes for about four years. “There are no coyotes in Ireland, but when I came here there was the need for coyote research in Southern California,” Quinn says. “There is a need for professional extension to the cities and the police departments, the people that never managed coyotes before but all of a sudden find themselves needing to do so.”
Why homes are lost to wildfire — is yours as safe as it could be?
(Mercury News) Lisa Krieger, Aug. 27
…“When you start to understand why homes burn, often through embers igniting fuel in home attics or adjacent to homes, then it is easier to understand these patterns,” said Kate Wilkin, a fire specialist for UC Cooperative Extension.
Limiting suburban sprawl can ease the devastation of wildfires
(Mother Nature Network) Matt Hickman, Aug. 27
…But there's a bigger issue at hand. Max Moritz, a wildfire specialist with the University of California's Division of Agriculture & Natural Resources, relays to Martin Kuz of the Christian Science Monitor that inaction from state lawmakers who are reluctant to lead the charge in restricting development in vulnerable areas is only worsening the situation. Presently, local officials, developers and homeowners face few limitations when building in fire-prone wild land urban interfaces. Moritz refers to this as a “political will problem.”
What are GMOs?
(KYMA 13 On Your Side) Caitlin Slater, Aug. 27
Take a look in your refrigerator or pantry and you most likely find something with a NON GMO label on it.
13 On Your Side reporter, Caitlin Slater received an award at the annual Yuma County Farm Bureau meeting. The keynote speaker at the event was genomics and biotechnology researcher at UC Davis, Dr. Allison Van Eenennaam. She presented on how GMOs are actually better for us and our environment.
Irrigation Tips to Mitigate Almond Hull Rot & Bark Damage
(Pacific Nut Producer) Aug. 27
The posting of this video is a little belated as almond harvest has already begun, but if you've had hull rot issues this season, be sure to watch this brief video interview with Nut Crops Advisor Mae Culumber as she provides some tips to prevent hull rot and trunk damage through better irrigation practices, as explained at a mid-July Nut & Vine Irrigation seminar at the UC Cooperative Extension office in Fresno. Read more about it in Pacific Nut Producer Magazine. Culumber will also be addressing almond growers at the Annual Grape, Nut & Tree Fruit Expo coming up on November 13th at the Big Fresno Fairgrounds, so be sure to attend!
Three Tips on Managing Pocket Gophers
(American Vineyard) Aug. 24
Pocket gophers can be very detrimental for growers, especially those with young orchards. So how do you minimize populations of these pesky critters? Watch this brief interview with Julie Finzel from the UC Cooperative Extension as she offers growers three quick tips for effective management. Julie will also be addressing growers on wildlife issues at the upcoming Grape, Nut & Tree Fruit Expo at the BIG Fresno Fairgrounds on November 13th, so be sure to attend. Learn more about it on AgExpo.biz.
Master Gardeners: gardening in an age of climate change
(Napa Valley Register) Aug 24
This article is a summary of a seminar conducted by Susanne von Rosenberg, UC Master Gardener of Napa County, on gardening in an age of climate change.
Idea to Reduce Glyphosate Use with Grapes
(Cal Ag Today) Mikenzi Meyers, Aug. 23
John Roncoroni, a UC Cooperative Extension Weed Science Farm Advisor in Napa County, has made strides toward meeting this challenge. “Many times, growers will do two applications of herbicides during the year … but what I'm trying to do is push it back to post-leaf fall after the season to clean up and come back with a pre-emergent material right before bud break then maybe skip that last glyphosate treatment after bud break.”
California Today: The Human Element in California's Wildfires
(New York Times) Tim Arango, Inyoung Kang, Aug. 23
William Stewart, an expert on forestry at the University of California at Berkeley, said that part of the California dream was keeping “nature as it is,” with minimal management of forests.
Editing the Future of Aquaculture
(Hatchery International) Eric Ignatz, Aug. 23
…Dr. Alison Van Eenennaam, a cooperative extension specialist at the University of California, Davis, and a collaborator on the Recombinetics project, says that gene editing in the case of polled cattle is used to address an animal welfare concern. Typically, horns must be burned off to better protect the safety of farmers and other animals.
Industrial hemp could be an alternative crop of the low desert
(Imperial Valley Press) Oli Bachie, Aug. 23
Hemp, Cannabis sativa L., is a dioecious annual plant that has not been grown legally in California for many years, due to regulatory restrictions.
UCSB SmartFarm uses cloud computing to help farmers increase sustainability
(Santa Maria Sun) Kasey Bubnash, Aug. 22
"They're basically taking what Google and the internet are doing with information and applying it to ag," said Beth Grafton-Cardwell, a research entomologist at UC Riverside. "And that hasn't really been done."
The Social Costs of Living in Wildfire-Prone Areas
(East Bay Express) Alastair Bland, Aug. 21
…"But that's so politically contentious — it's a line politicians walk up to but turn away from," said William Stewart, a UC Berkeley forestry and wildfire specialist.
… “People seem to have short memories," said Sabrina Drill, a natural resources advisor for the UC Cooperative Extension, a statewide off-campus division of the university system that focuses on agriculture and natural resources. "I think people might think twice about building a home where there had just been a fire, but people seem to forget after about three years."
… Van Butsic, a UC Berkeley researcher who studies forestry and land use, has closely studied this. In a paper now under review for publication, he and scientist Anu Kramer, from the University of Wisconsin, describe an alarming trend of building homes in known fire-risk areas.
"We studied 30 of the largest fires since 1970," he said. On average, they found that 20 years after an inhabited area burns, not only were most of the destroyed homes rebuilt but many new homes were added — about twice as many homes in total as there were at the time of the burn.
… In 2016, researcher Susan Kocher spent nine months on sabbatical in Provence, the arid region of southern France that resembles much of inland California. Here, Kocher — the Central Sierra Natural Resources Advisor for the UC Cooperative Extension — compared building patterns in high-fire risk parts of California and France.
"In California we often say, 'We should be able to tell people they can't build here,'" said Kocher, whose research, coauthored with Butsic, was published in March of 2017 in the journal Land. "In France, they just tell people they can't build somewhere."
Cooperative Extension adapts to a less agricultural America
(Washington Post) Dean Fosdick, Aug. 21
In its century of existence, the Cooperative Extension System has been a valuable resource distributing university-driven, science-based information — mostly about farming and gardening — to the public. But in today's less agricultural America, the Extension network is adapting, expanding its rural focus into cities and suburbs too.
Karuk Tribe And University Expand Food Partnership
(Jefferson Public Radio) Geoffrey Riley, April Ehrlich & John Baxter, Aug. 20
The Karuk Tribe and the University of California-Berkeley developed a partnership several years ago to rebuild Traditional Ecological Knowledge.
Lisa Hillman from the tribe's Píkyav Field Institute and Jennifer Sowerwine from UC-Berkeley are our guests.
Finding the Sweet Spot for Carb Consumption
(KQED) Forum, Aug. 20
A Summary of the Study (The Lancet)
- Lorrene Ritchie, director, Nutrition Policy Institute, University of California
- Rick Hecht, professor of medicine, University of California San Francisco
Officials give updates, answer questions at Mendocino Complex virtual recovery meeting
(Lake County News) Aug. 17
After weeks of fire update meetings, on Thursday night local, state and federal officials participated in a meeting focused on recovery from the Mendocino Complex.
Speakers included County Administrative Officer Carol Huchingson, Cal Fire Incident Management Team 2 spokesman Jeremy Rahn, Paul Gibbs of federal Incident Management Team 1, Lake County Sheriff Brian Martin, Supervisor Jim Steele, Public Health Director Denise Pomeroy, James Scott of Lake County Environmental Health, Lake County Water Resources Director David Cowan, Rachel Elkins of the University of California Cooperative Extension, Lakeport Mayor Mireya Turner and Lake County Recovery Coordinator Nathan Spangler.
The USDA Is Buying Milk And Giving It To Food Banks
(NPR Marketplace) Mitchell Hartman, Aug. 17
...Agricultural economist Daniel Sumner at the University of California, Davis said the purchase is only a drop in the bucket.
"How much can you move the needle on price buying one-tenth-of-one percent of milk?" Sumner said. "Not very much."
Israel and UC deepen water technology collaboration
(Jewish News of Northern California) Hannah Jannol, Aug 17
S.F.-based Consul General of Israel Shlomi Kofman attended the MOU signing ceremony on July 16, held during a three-day workshop titled, “The Future of Water for Irrigation in California and Israel.” The document was signed by an agricultural division of the University of California, UC Davis and the Agricultural Research Organization of Israel.
… Doug Parker, director of the California Institute for Water Resources, helped put the MOU together. He said California and Israel already work together frequently on water research, but formalizing the relationship could give the two parties more leverage when applying for grants and funding.
‘Batnadoes' Can Protect California's Crops
(Atlas Obscura) Anne Ewbank, Aug. 16
… He's likely right, according to Rachael Long, a farm advisor with the UC Cooperative Extension in the Sacramento Valley. She's researched for decades how bats can help farmers control pests. “Armyworms are always a big problem in rice production,” she says. “Bats are predators, of armyworms, cutworms, and other pests.” Bats' nocturnal feasts prevent adult moths from laying eggs that will hatch into hungry, rice-eating caterpillars, and, Long says, their impact cannot be overstated. When pest populations get out of control, “it can be really devastating.”
Wildfires Are Inevitable – Increasing Home Losses, Fatalities and Costs Are Not
Wildfire has been an integral part of California ecosystems for centuries. Now, however, nearly a third of homes in the state are in wildland urban interface areas where houses intermingling with wildlands and fire is a natural phenomenon. Just as Californians must live with earthquake risk, they must live with wildfires.
Stretching from the Death Valley to Calexico, California's vast dry desert is home to a unique and important agriculture industry.
It's a place where summertime temperatures often top the 115-degree mark. Where water supplies for irrigation depend on the Colorado River, but upriver states are claiming more of it. Where evapotrasporation – a reference rate of water use in unstressed turf grass – is 72 inches per year, but rainfall is rarely more than 4.
Still, stalwart farmers grow dates, carrots, lettuce, broccoli, cabbage, kale and more, plus plants for landscaping everything from family homes to beautiful and luxurious resorts. The agriculture output of the state's three desert counties – Riverside, San Bernardino and Imperial – exceeds $4 billion annually.
The California desert also impacts the quality of life across the nation. If Americans are enjoying a salad in the winter, the lettuce most likely was grown in the California desert. There are bountiful winter recreation opportunities available on the beautifully manicured golf courses, parks and landscapes.
A group of UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) academics formed a desert workgroup to better serve the state's desert region. The group organized a symposium in February to bring together representatives from desert farm and natural resources communities, related industry and academics working in the desert.
“The close exchange of information among desert researchers, non-profit organizations, industry and clientele groups will facilitate collaboration among UC ANR, Arizona and Mexico and foster how our programs should be shaped on a regional level,” said Oli Bachie, the director of UC Cooperative Extension in Imperial County and the current workgroup chair.
With saline soil, scorching summer temperatures and limited water supplies, the desert could be considered a hotbed of the “wicked problem.” A wicked problem isn't evil, said UC Associate Vice President Wendy Powers, the symposium's plenary session keynote speaker.
“The term ‘wicked problem' was coined at UC Berkeley,” Powers said. “It's a problem with circumstances that resist resolution.”
She named climate change and the growth of the global population California must help feed as wicked problems faced by the state. Powers described UC ANR's statewide programs that are working to find solutions to formidable issues faced in California agriculture.
“We're on the verge of some serious breakthroughs as we look at solving wicked problems,” Powers said. “They are accelerated by conversations like those we're having today.”
UC Vice Provost Mark Bell said that the potential of UC ANR to reach every single Californian is what drew him to his position in 2017. Bell invoked Star Wars robot R2D2 for an acronym to reflect the characteristics that accurately define UC ANR.
“R2 stands for reach and relevance,” he said. “D2 is diverse and dispersed.”
UC Cooperative Extension offices serve 57 California counties and its nine research and extension centers are located in key agriculture ecosystems, including one in the low desert of the Imperial Valley.
The afternoon program of the symposium included breakout sessions to highlight programs and research efforts in three broad areas: irrigation and crop production, landscape management, and livestock and feed quality.
“This was the first attempt to organize such a regional desert-based symposium for the UCANR Desert Workgroup with the collaboration of desert-serving UCCE counties,” Bachie said. “I believe that we have registered a remarkable get-together.”
The symposium had speakers and participants from UC, USDA, California Department of Food and Agriculture, the desert agricultural industry, pest control advisors, non-profit institutions and organizations, agricultural commissioners, farm bureaus, Arizona and Mexico universities and the general public.
“I believe that the symposium is a stepping stone for future desert research and extension meetings, conferences and symposiums among people engaged or interested in desert agriculture and natural resources,” Bachie said.