Posts Tagged: Rachael Long
Six UC Cooperative Extension research projects were awarded funding ranging from $100,000 to $250,000 each from the California Department of Food and Agriculture Healthy Soils Program. The grants are designed to fund implementation and demonstration of on-farm soil health practices that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and store carbon.
One of the grant recipients, John Bailey, director of the UC Hopland Research and Extension Center in Mendocino County, will use the $100,000 award to establish a perennial hedgerow at the center. Hedgerows are not traditionally part of standard ranching practices in Mendocino County, where in the past the center's 5,400 acres of rangeland and surrounding areas were grazed by large flocks of sheep.
“At Hopland, we have pivoted our operation to reflect the current state of the sheep industry in California, with reduced overall sheep numbers and decreased individual flock size, so we will use this project to show our smaller-scale sheep owners how they can enhance the ecosystems of their properties,” Bailey said.
Bailey expects the hedgerow to offer many educational, ecological and practical benefits, including enhancing soil health, increasing soil carbon sequestration, and providing habitat and food sources for beneficial organisms, such as pollinators and birds.
There may also be economic benefits to using sustainable practices in raising sheep. The project will explore the financial costs of implementing hedgerows as well as the opportunity for producers to enter a niche fiber market by offering sustainably produced wool to textile companies and consumers willing to pay a premium to support the ecological benefits of Healthy Soil Projects.
“I'm excited about this opportunity to combine the latest knowledge on environmental sustainability practices with the older traditions of livestock grazing in Northern California,” Bailey said. “This is a progressive step that ties in ecological knowledge that can benefit the livestock ranching model by both enhancing their properties and creating new markets for their products.”
The following projects were also funded by CDFA Healthy Soils Program in 2020:
Integrated sustainable nitrogen management in vegetable cropping systems, $250,000
Maria de la Fuente, UCCE county director and advisor, Monterey and Santa Cruz counties
The implementation of climate-smart agricultural practices within intensively managed vegetable cropping systems is extraordinarily challenging. Often conservation practices cannot be effectively implemented due to operational barriers, resulting in very low rates of adoption.
By demonstrating nutrient management strategies in partnership with a large influential vegetable grower in the Salinas Valley, the project aims to encourage broad scale practice adoption.
Recent research has indicated the addition of organic amendments in combination with nitrogen fertilizers potentially reduces nitrogen-derived greenhouse gas emissions and nitrate leaching while increasing soil carbon stocks. These outcomes will generate significant climate benefits in agroecosystems experiencing heavy tillage and fertilizer inputs.
This project has the potential for statewide impact as the researchers are currently working with the developers of COMET-Farm to provide data and coordinate outreach within vegetable cropping systems. Through direct engagement the team will make integrated sustainable nitrogen management more feasible and agronomically favorable for producers.
Using hands-on COMET-Farm-focused field days and a webcasted sustainable nitrogen short course, the project will provide producers with additional tools to make nutrient management planning decisions that have positive climate and soil health outcomes.
Evaluation of compost application to processing tomato fields in the Sacramento Valley, $100,000
Amber Vinchesi-Vahl, UCCE vegetable crops advisor, Colusa, Sutter and Yuba counties
The project will demonstrate compost applications on two farms in two Sacramento Valley counties, Colusa and Sutter. The researchers will work with Westside Spreading LLC and compare two plant-based compost rates to a control (no compost) over three years. Soil health parameters – such as total carbon and nitrogen, pH, EC, organic matter and fertility analyses relevant to tomato crop production – will be measured.
The benefits of compost applications vary depending on how often they are used, how much is applied, crop rotation, and other management decisions, such as whether compost is incorporated or left on the soil surface. Vinchesi-Vahl expects that over time the compost implementation evaluated in this project will result in lower input costs and improved soil function.
Compost application may reduce the need for fertilizer inputs for some of the rotational crops and provide benefits to the microbial community, thereby improving soil structure and reducing heavy conventional tillage needs.
By improving soil health, the research expects plant health will also be improved, leading to better tolerance to pest pressure from diseases and weed competition.
The two demonstration sites will showcase compost applications and their impact on processing tomato production and annual production soil health. These focused demonstrations will be extremely important in showcasing this soil health practice in the local Sacramento Valley region, providing information to growers from the experiences of collaborators at the two sites.
Evaluation of winter cover crop species for their ability to mitigate soil compaction in an annual rotation, $100,000
Sara Light, UCCE agronomy advisor, Sutter, Yuba and Colusa counties
This project has three components:
- Replicated research plots in which three cover crop varieties are evaluated for improvements in soil structure, specifically subsurface soil compaction
- Fieldscale demonstration plots in which varieties thought to reduce soil compaction are planted and visually assessed for performance in the Sacramento Valley
- Small, single-row hand planted plots in the buffer area, in which a wider number of both summer and winter cover crop varieties will be planted for outreach and demonstration purposes
Combined, these components will enable growers to make more informed decisions about cover crop selection and encourage wider adoption of cover cropping. The outreach objective for this project is to reduce barriers to cover crop adaption among regional growers by increasing knowledge and information about varietal selection and field-scale cover crop management, as well as opportunities to improve soil structure using cover crops.
Healthy soils demonstration project with Cardoza Farm, $100,000
Ruth Dahlquist-Willard, UCCE small farms advisor, Fresno and Tulare counties
This project will demonstrate compost application, hedgerow planting, and application of mulch generated from cover crop residue in a vineyard producing organic raisin grapes. Mulch will be applied directly under the vines, providing ground cover that will conserve soil moisture and decrease weed pressure. Generating the mulch on-farm eliminates the need to transport materials from outside sources.
Currently, production of organic raisin grapes involves frequent tillage under the vines. The cover crop between rows and the mulch under the vines will reduce the need for tillage for weed control and increase soil organic matter. These practices will be showcased at field days that will include bilingual training for small-scale, socially disadvantaged farmers in the San Joaquin Valley.
Application of compost to alfalfa to improve soil structure and fertility, $250,000
Kate Scow and Radomir Schmidt, UC Davis Department Land, Air, Water Resources and UCCE advisors Michelle Leinfelder-Miles and Rachael Long
This project will demonstrate compost application to alfalfa for improving soil structure and fertility. Compost is not typically applied to alfalfa; however, manure application to alfalfa is common in the state's dairy regions.
The over half a million acres of alfalfa in California could represent an important repository for compost, for which a large land base of spreading may be needed as municipalities convert organic waste management streams to diversion from landfills.
Alfalfa has the ability to immobilize large amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus, nutrients of concern in the concentration of organic wastes due to their potential to contribute to water pollution. Furthermore, alfalfa growers are interested in the potential of compost to improve soil structure in their alfalfa fields, as many growers report suffering from the large cracks that form in soils during the wet-dry cycles of alfalfa surface irrigation management.
Compost application has been anecdotally reported to alleviate soil cracking in another perennial crop, almond orchards in the Central Valley, but soil structure improvement via management practices like compost application has received little research attention thus far. Westside Spreading LLC is collaborating on this project.
Panic-buying groceries and hoarding food in homes is impacting the U.S. supply chain and putting a strain on low-income families who don't have the financial ability to spend hundreds of dollars on groceries at once, reported Ganda Suthivarakom in the New York Times.
“That is probably about half of us, especially during this time when many of us are not working or can't work, with limited incomes or no incomes coming in,” said Lorrene Ritchie, director of the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources' Nutrition Policy Institute. “The last thing a family in that situation can do is go out and spend $500 on groceries.”
The Times article suggests consumers think about others when they shop, use food they already have in their freezers and pantries, and help people who can't afford to stockpile.
“The food banks, your local food pantry, are experiencing shortages of people to work and put packages of food together. Often that can happen in a safe way with social distancing,” Ritchie said.
If some grocery store shelves are empty, it doesn't mean the U.S. food supply is endangered, reported Ezra David Romero on the Capitol Public Radio website.
“Agriculture is resilient to shocks,” said Dan Sumner, director of the UC Agricultural Issues Center, a UC ANR program. “Consumers can be confident that the food is safe and plentiful. That doesn't mean every product is going to be there all the time.”
But as the pandemic lingers, some products could be harder to find if they're from a part of the world hard hit by COVID-19, Sumner said. As demand is down for certain goods, it could mean “somewhat lower prices. But I expect it will be relatively modest for food. What I mean by that is we're going to continue to eat.”
The article recommends against hoarding and assures that there will be a sufficient supply of food in stores and restaurants.
“You don't need to over buy; it's important to know that our supply chain is safe and plentiful,” said Ron Fong, with the California Grocers Association.
Romero also spoke with UC Cooperative Extension field crops and pest management advisor Rachael Long. She said it's fairly easy for farmers and workers to follow social distance rules, in part because of mechanization.
“You've got a ton of equipment, so it's not like there's a ton of people out there working together on growing the crops,” Long said. “You've got tractors and cultivators that are doing a lot of this work right now.”
“Optimizing Yield and Quality in Irrigated Forages” will be the focus of discussion at the 2019 Western Alfalfa & Forage Symposium. More than 550 people are registered for the symposium, which will be held Nov. 19-21 at the Grand Sierra Hotel in Reno, Nev.
Irrigation management, forage quality and pest management are among the many topics that will be covered at the symposium. The comprehensive program features 62 speakers, 70 exhibitors, student poster sessions and an auction.
This program was organized by Cooperative Extension specialists and farmers from 11 states – Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming.
This year we feature several important areas of emphasis: Irrigation Workshop, Pest Management, Systems, Alternative Forages, and a ‘Forage Quality Mini-Symposium' on the last day.
Here are some of the agenda highlights:
Day One – Tuesday, Nov. 19, FORAGE IRRIGATION WORKSHOP: This one-day workshop provides many of the basics of irrigation management for forage crops.
- Importance of Irrigation Management in Forage Crops
- What is ET and How to Measure?
- Soil Moisture Monitoring
- Irrigation Scheduling
- Fertigation and Use of Degraded Waters
- Salinity Management
- Deficit Irrigation of Alfalfa
- Analysis of Sprinkler Systems
- LEPA/LESA and Mobile Drip
- Variable Rate Irrigation
- Surface Irrigation Systems Design
- Automation of Furrow and Flood Irrigation
- Comparing Systems on-Farm
- Drip Irrigation Systems in Alfalfa
- Management of SDI on-Farm
- Innovations from Companies in Irrigation Management
5 p.m.-7 p.m. SYMPOSIUM WELCOME RECEPTION Hors D'oeuvres and No Host Cocktails, Exhibits Open, Posters on Display
Day Two – Wednesday, Nov. 20, MAIN SESSION: ECONOMICS, WATER, PEST MANAGEMENT, FORAGE SYSTEMS & ALTERNATIVE FORAGES: This features an array of topics on the environment, economic trends, pest management and alternative forages.
- Climate Change and Forage Production in Western States
- Alfalfa Rotation Studies with Alfalfa, Small Grains, Corn
- Benefits of Alfalfa in Rotations
- Snake River Aquifer Groundwater Recharge
- Alfalfa for Groundwater Recharge
- Hay Industry Trends
- Western Dairy Trends
- World Trends in Exports
- Key Issues for Hay Exporters
SYMPOSIUM BANQUET LUNCH
- Control of Rodents Using Drones
- Managing Beldings Ground Squirrels
- Managing Weeds in Alfalfa
- Glyphosate Injury in Roundup Ready Alfalfa
- Clover Rood Cuculio
- Insect Resistance in Alfalfa Weevil
- IPM Program for Alfalfa Winter Pests in Deserts
- Sugarcane Aphid and Control Strategies
- Grazing Techniques on 7.2 Million Acres of alfalfa in Argentina
- Simulated Grazing Timing of Annual Cereals
- Optimizing Management of Small grain Forages
- Management of N in Timothy
- Tef as a Forage Crop
- Rhodes Grass as an Alternative Forage
- Corn and Sorghum Forages: Water and N Implications
- Utilization of Sugarbeet as a Forage
5 p.m.-7 p.m. SYMPOSIUM RECEPTION Hors D'oeuvres and No Host Cocktails, Exhibits Open, Posters on Display. 6 p.m. CALIFORNIA ALFALFA & FORAGE ASSOCIATION LIVE AUCTION
Day Three – Thursday, Nov. 21, MAIN SESSION-FORAGE QUALITY MINI-SYMPOSIUM This is an event co-sponsored by the NIRS consortium and the Forage Testing Association
- Linkage of Testing with Markets
- Horse Nutritional Requirements and Testing
- Importance of Fiber and Fiber Digestibility
- Representing the Value of Energy, Protein, and Fiber in Feedstuffs
- Key Hay Sampling Protocols
- How to Choose a High-Quality Testing Lab
- Standardization of Forage Testing and NFTA Certification
- Misconceptions of NIRS Analysis
- Multi-State Analysis of Forage Quality
- Importance of Dry Matter Analysis
- Future of Forage Testing
3 p.m. ADJOURN SYMPOSIUM
See the complete program at https://alfalfa.ucdavis.edu. Register for the program, hotel and exhibitors at http://calhay.org/symposium. Continuing education units will be provided (24 units CCA, 3 units PCA).
Hedgerows bordering farmland – plantings with native trees, shrubs, bunch grasses and wildflowers – support bug-eating birds, which helps with on-farm pest control, according to research by recent UC Davis graduate Sacha Heath and UC Cooperative Extension advisor Rachael Long. The study was published in the October 2019 issue of the online journal Ecosphere.
The authors glued codling moth cocoons to walnut tree trunks and covered some with cages that exclude birds to test the effect that bird predation has on controlling moth pests. If moths emerge from cocoons, they produce larvae that feed on the nuts the following spring, causing significant and costly damage to the crop.
“Permitting bird access to cocoons during the wintertime increased codling moth predation from 11% to 46%, and predation increased with an increasing amount of natural habitat within 500 meters (one-third mile) of the orchard,” the researchers wrote.
Long was not surprised by the finding. She often walks in her family's almond orchard, where a large hedgerow of native California plants grows on the field edge.
“When I walk past the hedgerow,” she said, “I hear birds singing. I see white-crowned sparrows, goldfinches and mocking birds. It's so alive. It's really important to provide habitat to ensure birds have a place to live on farms.”
Songbirds are voracious predators of bugs, including aphids, whitefly, scale, caterpillars, ants and earwigs, especially early in the season when they are feeding baby birds.
Heath said they were surprised to find that the walnut orchards also provided habitat for birds. Woodpeckers and codling moth reduction were highest in orchards where big, old walnut trees were retained.
Currently, 34% of earth's arable land is managed for agriculture. With the human population projected to reach nearly 11 billion by 2100, increased food demand will require increased agricultural area and intensity that will further diminish birds' natural habitat. Providing habitat along field crop borders benefits songbirds, which in turn helps farmers with natural pest control on farms.
Above, a Nuttall's woodpecker eats an experimental codling moth (Cydia pomonella) larvae in a California walnut orchard. (Video: Sacha Heath)
Birds' suffer a reputation as agricultural pests. But Long said that planting hedgerows along field edges won't attract more pest birds.
Heath added, “Insect-eating birds – like chickadees, nuthatches and woodpeckers – move along hedges, riparian streams, old oak trees, and among crops to feed on pests.”
Maintaining hedgerows of native plants on farms has the side benefit of attracting natural enemies and native bees for better pest control and pollination in adjacent crops.
Long is a technical advisor to the Wild Farm Alliance, which, with Heath and Sara Kross, recently published a book on birds' role in pest management. The book, Supporting Beneficial Birds and Managing Pest Birds, is available for free download from the alliance's website. A recording of a webinar on the same topic can be viewed at eOrganic.
Heath is now a biodiversity post-doctoral fellow at the Living Earth Collaborative in Missouri.
Native California elderberries can be found at the intersection of sustainable farming, super nutrition and economic viability. Naturally drought tolerant, flavorful and packed with nutrients, they are capturing the interest of farmers, health-conscious consumers and scientists.
Elderberries were the focus of a field day offered by UC Agriculture and Natural Resources Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (SAREP) in September at Cloverleaf Farm, an organic berry and tree fruit operation in Dixon.
Elderberries occur naturally around the world. In California, Native Americans used the tree's stems for making flutes, berries for food and purple dye, and bark, leaves and flowers for their purported anti-inflammatory, diuretic and laxative properties.
“They had a relationship with the plant for food, medicine and music,” said SAREP academic coordinator Sonja Brodt. “We wish to honor the elderberry's history here and thousands of years of management by California native tribes.”
UC Cooperative Extension advisor Rachael Long said elderberries are her favorite native plant.
“They're pretty in the spring and summer. The flowers smell like cloves. It's a wonderful fragrance,” she said.
But perhaps the best attribute of elderberries for Long, a proponent of planting hedgerows on the edges of farmland, is the tree's ecological benefits. Elderberries can be among the rows of trees, shrubs, grasses and sedges in hedgerows that attract beneficial insects and pollinators to farms to help with biocontrol of pests and pollination of plants in adjacent crops.
“Flowering native plants like elderberries, toyon, Christmas berry, coffee berry, manzanita and coyote brush provide nectar and pollen for native bees, honey bees and other insects,” Long said. “I see a lot of green lace wings (predators of aphids, spider mites and other pests) in elderberry.”
Long reported that a tomato farm didn't have to spray as much for aphids because of the beneficial insects attracted by the hedgerow. “They saved $300 per acre each year,” she said.
Hedgerows require long-term planning and care, including weed control. Establishing a hedgerow costs about $4,000 for a 1,000-foot-long planting with a single row of shrubs and trees bordered by native perennial grasses. At that rate, Long has calculated that a return on investment in pest control takes about 15 years. For pollination, the return on investment is about 7 years.
Installation of hedgerows can be eligible for cost sharing with USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service Environmental Quality Incentives Program. Costs can also be offset by harvesting the elderflowers and elderberries in the hedgerow and making value-added products – such as syrups and jams – or selling the flowers or berries to a processor.
Farmer Katie Fyhrie shared how Cloverleaf Farm is managing elderberries in a hedgerow, harvesting flowers in the spring to make and bottle elderflower cordial, and harvesting berries in the fall to produce and bottle deep purple sweet-tart syrup. Sixteen ounce bottles of cordial and syrup sell for $12 each. The cordial and syrup are ideal for serving with seltzer and ice for a fruity and uniquely wild-tasting drink.
Fyhrie is also working with Brodt of SAREP to gather data for research on best production practices, farm and processing labor costs, and yield comparison between native plants and named varieties from the Midwest. The study includes data from three California farms.
The project is a collaboration among the UC Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (a program of the Agricultural Sustainability Institute at UC Davis), the UC Agricultural Issues Center, the UC Davis Department of Food Science and Technology and four farmers to assess the farm management practices, cost, nutritional content, and market potential of California elderberries.
While laboratory research comparing the nutritional characteristics of the California blue elderberry with the North American black and the European black is continuing at UC Davis, food science professor Alyson Mitchell and her graduate student Katie Uhl were able to share what is already known about the nutritional benefits of the fruit.
They said elderberries are high in vitamin C, dietary fiber, phenolic acids and anthocyanins. Elderberries contain antibacterial, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agents. While they have a strong history as a treatment for colds and flu, more studies are needed to understand their medicinal use, Mitchell said.
The field day in Dixon was among the first outcomes of the two-year project. A growers' production guide, cost of production study, an assessment of market demand and nutritional analyses are also planned. The information will be made available, along with other resources on elderberry cultivation and processing, on the ASI website.