Posts Tagged: agriculture
If you raise backyard chickens or breed game fowl, UC Cooperative Extension has an app for you. The new mobile app offers information for raising healthy chickens.
To test the usefulness of the UC Community Chicken app to people raising chickens, the Poultry Lab at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine will pay poultry owners to participate in a two-week study with a follow-up survey three months later.
“Our study focuses on the development and evaluation of a new mobile app for backyard chicken owners and game fowl breeders,” said Maurice Pitesky, UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine associate professor of Cooperative Extension. “The goal is to examine the app's effectiveness as a communication tool within the poultry community.”
To be eligible, participants must be backyard chicken owners who are 13 years or older or game fowl breeders over 18 years of age. They will need to have Apple or Android phones or tablets to access the app.
What's in the app?
The UC Community Chicken app contains six educational modules with short videos that cover health assessment, nutrition, vaccination, biosecurity, bird behavior and husbandry. It also features chat and feedback buttons so participants can communicate with the UC experts and other poultry owners.
“We value the thoughts and experiences of people who are raising poultry,” said Myrna Cadena, Ph.D. student in Pitesky's lab. “Their input will be valuable in shaping the way we extend information about poultry health.”
For two weeks, participants will explore the educational resources and other features and complete the surveys. Three months later, the researchers will follow up with a survey to assess the chicken owners' progress.
Participants who complete the entire study and follow-up survey will receive a $25 Amazon gift card via email. Those who do not finish the entire study will be compensated based on their level of participation. The study will be limited to 220 participants.
To register for the study, go to https://bit.ly/UCchickenapp. Once the study is ready, participants will be notified via email. The UC Community Chicken app will be available to the public after the study is complete. For more information about the study, contact Maurice Pitesky at email@example.com.
Wet winter, El Niño create favorable conditions for aerial Phytophthora pathogen
With heavy rains in the forecast amid strengthening El Niño conditions, almond growers should be on the lookout for a rare disease that can cause severe damage to their orchards, according to Florent Trouillas, a University of California Cooperative Extension specialist in fruit and nut pathology.
Phytophthora, soilborne microorganisms dubbed “water molds” because of their dependence on water, typically cause root and crown rot at the base of trees. But a few aerial Phytophthora can travel upwards and infect the higher parts of the tree. One species – Phytophthora syringae – is drawing special attention due to an unprecedented outbreak last winter, fueled by the atmospheric rivers that lashed California.
“It was found statewide – meaning in every almond-producing county – and disease incidence in orchards ranged from 10% of the trees infected to 75%,” said Trouillas, a UC Davis plant pathologist whose lab is based at UC Agriculture and Natural Resources' Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Parlier.
Trouillas and his colleagues, UC Davis graduate student Alejandro Hernandez and UC Riverside plant pathology professor Jim Adaskaveg, recently published a detailed online article describing the pathogen, which can infect a range of crops but mainly impacts almonds in California.
Although it doesn't kill the tree, the disease causes branch dieback that requires significant additional work and expense for almond growers. In 2022, almonds were the state's fourth-highest valued commodity, at $3.52 billion.
During last year's aerial Phytophthora outbreak, researchers also observed a new and troubling phenomenon: P. syringae, historically known to attack the cuts caused by pruning, was directly infecting the young shoots on almond trees – without any wounds.
“This was really the first time we had seen widespread evidence of infection on the twigs,” Trouillas said.
Although generally rare, outbreaks of P. syringae have been traditionally associated with wet El Niño years, according to Trouillas – and recent and persistent rain across the state should have growers on high alert.
Prune in dry weather, monitor, mitigate if necessary
While almond growers tend to prune during the downtime of winter, they should keep an eye on the forecast and aim for a 10- to 14-day window of dry weather to perform those tasks, whether training young trees or maintaining the established ones.
“If growers were to prune around a rain event – before, during or shortly after – this increases the likelihood of infection because this pathogen moves around with water,” Trouillas explained.
Researchers speculate that P. syringae, normally found in the soil, gets carried into the upper parts of a tree through strong winds and heavy rain. Alternatively, harvest processes like shaking and sweeping also produce air movements that may blow the microorganism into the canopy, where it waits for a favorable wet environment. The pathogen then attacks the wounds or young shoots, producing characteristic cankers and gumming.
The patterns and colors of the gum balls are keys to diagnosing an infection of this particular aerial Phytophthora. Starting around bloom time (mid-February), growers should monitor pruning wounds and young shoots on their trees, especially in the canopy, for signs of the disease.
The unique coloration of the gum balls – ranging from gold and amber to dark burgundy to bright red (see photos) – generally indicates P. syringae infection. But growers are urged to contact their local Cooperative Extension advisor for confirmation.
“It is super critical for growers that, whenever they see gumming, not to assume that it is this aerial phytophthora, because there are many other diseases that can cause gumming on the tree,” Trouillas said.
If the diagnosis is confirmed, growers may apply a compound that can mitigate the infection. The plant pathologists' recent writeup describes several curative treatment options, as well as a preventive measure that reduces the amount of pathogen in the soil and thus the likelihood of infection.
For more information on the pathogen's history and biology, as well as various options for disease management, visit the article on Sacramento Valley Orchard Source: https://www.sacvalleyorchards.com/almonds/trunk-soil-diseases/aerial-phytophthora-outbreaks-in-wet-years./h3>/h3>
Are cattle a secret weapon for taking on California wildfires?
California's cattle ranchers contribute a significant amount to the region's culture, economy and food supply, but do they also inadvertently help to temper the wildfires that have been plaguing the state? And if so, is it a better alternative – environmentally speaking – to letting grasslands burn?
A new study published in the journal Sustainability delves into the topic, weighing the advantages – and disadvantages – grazing cattle bring to the table. Researchers, including scientists from University of California, Davis and UC Agriculture and Natural Resources, set out to calculate the greenhouse gas emissions of cows consuming vegetation that would otherwise burn in wildfires. Then they estimated the GHG emissions that would result should that forage be untouched and therefore, consumed by fire, eventually comparing the two.
Feeling the burn
Given the severity of California's recent wildfires and the belief they will continue and even escalate in the near future, it's a discussion worth having, said Frank Mitloehner, an expert in animal agriculture and air quality from UC Davis, director of the CLEAR Center and one of the researchers who contributed to the peer-reviewed article.
“Each year from 2010 to 2020, California lost on average 89,000 acres of grassland to wildfires,” said Mitloehner, who is also a Cooperative Extension specialist. “In addition to the obvious disruption and devastation they caused, the fires spewed greenhouse gases and harmful particulate matter such as black carbon into the air and into our atmosphere. Those alone threaten climate health and human well-being.”
A fast and furious gas
Cattle are adept at eliminating herbaceous fuel as they graze. However, at the same time, their specialized digestive system produces methane that is expelled most often in the form of enteric emissions … more commonly known as belches. By way of background, methane is a potent greenhouse gas that warms the atmosphere at 25 times the rate of carbon dioxide over 100 years. But it's only in the atmosphere for 10 to 12 years after it's emitted. Following that, it's broken down into carbon dioxide and water vapor.
For that reason, Mitloehner refers to methane as a “fast and furious” gas. Furious because it warms with a vengeance and fast because it does so for only a short time, especially when compared to carbon dioxide. Furthermore, because of the biogenic carbon cycle, whereby plants extract carbon dioxide from the atmosphere for photosynthesis, the warming of methane and its byproducts can end entirely when it's hydrolyzed and used by plants.
How researchers calculated emissions
In order to determine if grazing, methane-emitting cattle are better for the atmosphere than burning grasslands, Mitloehner and the other researchers employed a method known as “Monte Carlo simulation,” a mathematical technique used by scientists to predict outcomes of an uncertain event.
Looking exclusively at methane emissions, they found it's better to have cows eat vegetation than to have wildfires burn it. Granted, it's only marginally better, but when one considers other advantages of animal agriculture and conversely, other disadvantages of widespread, uncontrolled fire, the conversation suddenly shifts.
“Even if cattle provided no other benefit to us, which certainly is not true, we can now make the case that they are helpful to us in yet another way,” Mitloehner said.
Friends or foes?
It goes without saying that one would be hard pressed to find much good to say about wildfires, but that doesn't hold true for animal agriculture. The industry provides jobs and supports the economy in other ways as well. Plus, it is a major source of protein-rich food that is in increasing demand as the world's population continues on a trajectory toward 10 billion people by the year 2050.
Where global warming is concerned, the industry is in the unique position of being able to reach net-zero warming, also known as climate neutrality, if it continues to aggressively chip away at its methane emissions, which Mitloehner asserts is of critical importance to the planet. “Few other sectors can reduce its warming to net zero and still be of service to society, but agriculture can because of the way methane behaves in the atmosphere,” he says.
To be clear, grazing cows are no match for wildfires. Yet, in addition to everything else the sector does for us, slowing the burn and keeping relatively more methane from entering the atmosphere are not nothing.
In addition to Mitloehner, authors of the study are Cooperative Extension advisors Sheila Barry, Devii Rao and Theresa Becchetti; Rowan Peterson, Ermias Kebreab and Minju Jung of UC Davis; and Felix Ratcliff and Kaveh Motamed of LD Ford.
This article was first published on the website of the CLEAR (Clarity and Leadership for Environmental Awareness and Research) Center at UC Davis./h3>/h3>/h3>/h3>/h3>
The highly contagious avian flu is being spread primarily by migratory birds, putting game birds, and backyard and commercial poultry at risk.
“Poultry owners should take precautions to prevent their birds from contacting waterfowl or the habitat that waterfowl frequent because this strain of avian influenza is highly contagious,” said Maurice Pitesky, UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine associate professor of Cooperative Extension.
Infected waterfowl shed the highly pathogenic avian influenza virus in their feces and respiratory secretions, where the virus can remain viable for months in the environment.
“If you can't confine your birds in a coop, focus on good sanitation and reducing contact with waterfowl and their habitat such as agricultural fields and ponds,” he said.
Pitesky urges commercial and backyard chicken owners to monitor their birds for the following symptoms:
- Reduced egg production
- Trouble breathing
- Clear, runny discharge from nose, mouth and eyes
- Lethargy or lack of energy
- Loss of appetite
- Drinking less
- Swollen eyes, head, wattles or combs
- Discolored or bruised comb, wattles or legs
- Sudden death
To prevent exposure to potentially infected waterfowl, Pitesky suggests reassessing and redoubling biosecurity efforts to prevent contact between wild animals and domestic poultry.
Specifically, he recommends keeping birds away from ponds and other open water where they may contact waterfowl, which are the primary reservoir of the disease. To prevent cross-contamination, use clothing and boots that stay on your property and avoid sharing equipment with other bird owners.
A local veterinarian or UC Cooperative Extension farm advisor may have more suggestions to reduce risk.
For more information about protecting birds from avian influenza, visit https://ucanr.edu/sites/poultry/files/225352.pdf.
Unusual or suspicious sick or dead domestic birds should be reported to the California Department of Food and Agriculture Sick Bird Hotline at (866) 922-2473.
Suspicious wild bird deaths can be reported to California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) at https://wildlife.ca.gov/Conservation/Laboratories/Wildlife-Health/Monitoring/Mortality-Report.
University of California scientists will be participating in the 44th Annual EcoFarm Conference Jan. 17-20 in Pacific Grove. EcoFarm participants gather to celebrate and learn about advances in farming and food systems throughout the state. This year, the three-day conference will highlight Black, Indigenous and People of Color communities that depend on agriculture, while also showcasing the new technological advances that further the development of agriculture.
Researchers from the UC Davis Veterinary Teaching Hospital's Department of Population Health, the Western Institute of Food Safety and Security and UC Agriculture and Natural Resources will be attending the conference to highlight the importance of food safety and technical skills in urban farming.
At EcoFarm, the Western Institute of Food Safety and Security will showcase its Civic Urban Farmer Program with an exhibit. The program, led by UC Davis assistant project scientist Sara Garcia and supported by UC Cooperative Extension, strives to uplift BIPOC communities.
The Civic Urban Farmer Program
The Civic Urban Farmer Program – a no-cost, 11-week program for farmers in the Sacramento region and Bay Area – provides technical support for new and upcoming urban farmers through webinars and in-person events. The program is available for any race, gender, age and skill ability, and seeks to provide safe, expert advice for farmers at any scale.
Soil health, composting, pest management, business marketing, food safety and urban policy are among the topics covered in its lecture-style classes.
Earlier this year, the program graduated its second cohort, with the support of two nonprofit organizations, Three Sisters Gardens in West Sacramento and Common Vision in Oakland. The program is supported by industry professionals, researchers and government officials, as well as local nonprofit and non-governmental organizations.
Elina Niño, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in apiculture, joined the Civic Urban Farmer Program to support urban farmers with training on managing pollinators to increase crop yields and create value-added products such as honey. The success of the pollinator program revealed that small urban farmers desire resources and education that are tailored specifically toward the cultivation of healthy and safe food.
For more information about the Civic Urban Farmer Program, visit https://www.wifss.ucdavis.edu/urbanfarmers.
Organic Agriculture Institute
The UC Organic Agriculture Institute, led by UC Cooperative Extension specialist Houston Wilson, will have an exhibit at EcoFarm. UC Organic Agriculture Institute brings together growers, certifiers, consultants, community groups and other stakeholders with UC research and extension personnel to share information about organic farming.
For more information about the UC Organic Agriculture Institute, visit https://organic.ucanr.edu.
Several UC Cooperative Extension advisors will be speaking at EcoFarm, including Richard Smith, UCCE emeritus vegetable crops advisor; Patricia Lazicki, UCCE vegetable crops advisor; and Margaret Lloyd, UCCE small farms advisor.