Posts Tagged: Rachael Long
A new study that outlines costs and returns of establishing and producing organic alfalfa hay has been released by UC Cooperative Extension, the UC Agricultural Issues Center and the UC Davis Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics.
High-quality organic alfalfa hay is an important ingredient in milk-cow feed rations for organic dairies. Organic dairy farms are required to use organic feed and allow cows to graze for part of their forage. Organic alfalfa hay comprises a major source of forage for the industry.
In 2019, organic dairy farms in California produced about 900 million pounds of milk — just over 2% of California milk output production, according to co-author Daniel Sumner, director of the UC Agricultural Issues Center and professor in the UC Davis Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics.
“Demand for organic alfalfa production has grown, including demand from dairy, horse, sheep, goat, and beef producers, but is still a small share of total alfalfa production,” said Daniel Putnam, UC Cooperative Extension forage specialist in the Department of Plant Sciences at UC Davis and co-author of the study. “However, understanding organic production methods and costs is very important for California's organic hay farmers.”
The new study estimates the costs and returns of establishing and producing organic alfalfa using flood irrigation in the Sacramento Valley, north and south San Joaquin Valley, and the Intermountain Region. The 100 acres of organic alfalfa is rented for $345 per acre annually and the alfalfa stand life is four years after the establishment year.
Input and reviews were provided by UCCE farm advisors and specialists and growers. The authors describe the assumptions used to identify current costs for organic alfalfa establishment and production, material inputs, cash and non-cash overhead and a ranging analysis table, which shows profits over a range of prices and yields.
“This cost study provides information on how to grow alfalfa hay organically,” said Rachael Long, study co-author and UC Cooperative Extension farm advisor in Yolo County. “The research that went into developing these practices represents a significant investment by UCCE farm advisors and specialists and California alfalfa farmer collaborators. We are pleased to team up with economics and cost study experts to provide this study, which indicates potential profits in growing this crop for the organic dairy market.”
The new study, “Sample Costs to Establish and Produce Organic Alfalfa Hay, California - 2020” can be downloaded for free from the UC Davis Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics website: http://coststudies.ucdavis.edu. Sample cost of production studies for many other commodities are also available on the websites.
For an explanation of calculations used in the study, refer to the section titled Assumptions. For more information, contact Jeremy Murdock, UC Agriculture and Natural Resources, Agricultural Issues Center, Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, at (530) 752-4651 or firstname.lastname@example.org. To discuss this study with a local extension advisor, contact the UC Cooperative Extension office in your county: https://ucanr.edu/About/Locations.
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.