Posts Tagged: climate
When flown at the right times, drones can help farmers adapt to a changing climate
Researchers at the University of California, Davis, have developed a web application to help farmers and industry workers use drones and other uncrewed aerial vehicles, or UAVs, to generate the best possible data. By helping farmers use resources more efficiently, this advancement could help them adapt to a world with a changing climate that needs to feed billions.
Associate Professor Alireza Pourreza, director of the UC Davis Digital Agriculture Lab and postdoctoral researcher Hamid Jafarbiglu, who recently completed his doctorate in biological systems engineering under Pourreza, designed the When2Fly app to make drones more proficient and accurate. Specifically, the platform helps drone users avoid glare-like areas called hotspots that can ruin collected data.
Drone users select the date they plan to fly, the type of camera they are using and their location either by selecting a point on a map or by entering coordinates. The app then indicates the best times of that specific day to collect crop data from a drone.
Jafarbiglu and Pourreza, who is also a UC Cooperative Extension specialist of agricultural mechanization, said that using this app for drone imaging and data collection is crucial to improve farming efficiency and mitigate agriculture's carbon footprint. Receiving the best data — like what section of an orchard might need more nitrogen or less water, or what trees are being affected by disease — allows producers to allocate resources more efficiently and effectively.
"In conventional crop management, we manage the entire field uniformly assuming every single plant will produce a uniform amount of yield, and they require a uniform amount of input, which is not an accurate assumption," said Pourreza. "We need to have an insight into our crops' spatial variability to be able to identify and address issues timely and precisely, and drones are these amazing tools that are accessible to growers, but they need to know how to use them properly."
Dispelling the solar noon belief
In 2019, Jafarbiglu was working to extract data from aerial images of walnut and almond orchards and other specialty crops when he realized something was wrong with the data.
"No matter how accurately we calibrated all the data, we were still not getting good results," said Jafarbiglu. "I took this to Alireza, and I said, 'I feel there's something extra in the data that we are not aware of and that we're not compensating for.' I decided to check it all."
Jafarbiglu pored through the 100 terabytes of images collected over three years. He noticed that after the images had been calibrated, there were glaring bright white spots where they were supposed to look flat and uniform.
But it couldn't be a glare because the sun was behind the drone taking the image. So Jafarbiglu reviewed literature going back to the 1980s in search of other examples of this phenomenon. Not only did he find mentions of it, but also that researchers had coined a term for it: hotspot.
A hotspot happens when the sun and UAV are lined up in such a way that the drone is between the viewable area of the camera's lens system and the sun. The drone takes photos of the Earth, and the resulting images have a gradual increase in brightness toward a certain area. That bright point is the hotspot.
The hotspots are a problem, Jafarbiglu said, because when collecting UAV data in agriculture, where a high level of overlap is required, observed differences in the calibrated images need to come solely from plant differences.
For example, every plant may appear in 20 or more images, each from varying view angles. In some images, the plant might be close to the hotspot, while in others it may be situated further away, so the reflectance may vary based on the plant's distance from the hotspot and spatial location in the frame, not based on any of the plant's inherent properties. If all these images are combined into a mosaic and data are extracted, the reliability of the data would be compromised, rendering it useless.
Pourreza and Jafarbiglu found that the hotspots consistently occurred when drones were taking images at solar noon in mid-summer, which many believe is the best time to fly drones. It's an obvious assumption: the sun is at its highest point above the Earth, variations in illumination are minimal, if not steady and fewer shadows are visible in the images. However, sometimes that works against the drone because the sun's geometrical relationship to the Earth varies based on location and the time of year, increasing the chance of having a hotspot inside the image frame when the sun is higher in the sky.
"In high-latitude regions such as Canada, you don't have any problem; you can fly anytime. But then in low-latitude regions such as California, you will have a little bit of a problem because of the sun angle," Pourreza said. "Then as you get closer to the equator, the problem gets bigger and bigger. For example, the best time of flight in Northern California and Southern California will be different. Then you go to summer in Guatemala, and basically, from 10:30 a.m. to almost 2 p.m. you shouldn't fly, depending on the field-oriented control of the camera. It's exactly the opposite of the conventional belief, that everywhere we should fly at solar noon."
Grow technology, nourish the planet
Drones are not the only tools that can make use of this discovery, which was funded by the AI Institute for Next Generation Food Systems. Troy Magney, an assistant professor of plant sciences at UC Davis, mainly uses towers to scan fields and collect plant reflectance data from various viewing angles. He contacted Jafarbiglu after reading his research, published in February in the ISPRS Journal of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing, because he was seeing a similar issue in the remote sensing of plants and noted that it's often ignored by end users.
"The work that Hamid and Ali have done will be beneficial to a wide range of researchers, both at the tower and the drone scale, and help them to interpret what they are actually seeing, whether it's a change in vegetation or a change in just the angular impact of the signal," he said.
For Pourreza, the When2Fly app represents a major step forward in deploying technology to solve challenges in agriculture, including the ultimate conundrum: feeding a growing population with limited resources.
"California is much more advanced than other states and other countries with technology, but still our agriculture in the Central Valley uses technologies from 30 to 40 years ago," said Pourreza. "My research is focused on sensing, but there are other areas like 5G connectivity and cloud computing to automate the data collection and analytics process and make it real-time. All this data can help growers make informed decisions that can lead to an efficient food production system. When2Fly is an important element of that."
UC study predicts three major pests to emerge earlier, produce more generations
As a result of climate change, the Golden State's farms are expected to face a surge in agricultural pests, which poses a threat to California's specialty crops industry. Populations of three major insect pests – codling moth, peach twig borer and oriental fruit moth — are projected to increase mainly due to rising temperatures, according to a study recently published in the journal “Science of the Total Environment” by a team of researchers at University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources and the U.S. Department of Agriculture California Climate Hub.
“These three pests are notorious for infesting most of the walnut, almond and peach orchards of California, causing extensive damages by reducing quality of fruits and nuts,” said study co-author Jhalendra Rijal, UC Cooperative Extension integrated pest management advisor and entomologist for Stanislaus, San Joaquin and Merced counties.
Climate change can lead to shifts in the timing of seasons, including warmer winters, earlier springs and hotter summers, and these conditions can disrupt the natural life cycles of pests.
The California research is supported in part by USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture. NIFA National Program Leader Amy Ganguli said the California project is a strong example of the work being done through AFRI's Extension, Education & USDA Climate Hubs Partnership.
“A key element of this grant program to link critical research findings like this with timely education and outreach efforts to producers and the public to encourage nimble responses to the challenges climate change pose,” Ganguli said.
The new research, led by Prakash Jha, UC Agriculture and Natural Resources assistant project scientist based at UC Merced, compared pest populations in recent and future climates. The scientists used temperature projections from the latest generations of scientific models to predict the potential impact of climate change on codling moth (Cydia pomonella), peach twig borer (Anarsia lineatella) and oriental fruit moth (Grapholita molesta). Before using the model, the model predictions were verified using field data of these insect pests from various parts of the Central Valley.
The UC study revealed that due to increases in temperature, these insects are expected to appear up to 28 days earlier in the spring and the time between generations is expected to shorten by up to 19 days. The changes may be gradual, but the study predicts that we may see up to a half-generation of these pests added within the next 20 to 30 years.
The increase in these pest populations poses a serious threat for future pest management, which would subsequently affect the state's economy and employment related to specialty crops, warns Rijal.
“Codling moth is the primary pest of California's walnuts, which occupies over 365,000 acres,” Rijal said. “Similarly, peach twig borer and oriental fruit moth are two major economic pests of peaches. Growers must control almost every generation of these pests to protect the fruit.
“Additional generations of these pests within the same growing season will likely increase crop damage. It certainly increases the number of sprays needed to control these pests, increasing the production cost for growers. Plus, more use of insecticides has consequences for beneficial insects and the environment.”
Growers may need to adapt their pest management strategies to address the impact of climate change on these pests.
For years, the UC Integrated Pest Management guidelines have suggested putting oriental fruit moth traps out in peach orchards by Feb. 15 in the San Joaquin Valley and Feb. 20 in the Sacramento Valley.
“In the last seven years, likely due to warmer winter, as suggested in this study, we observed the beginning of the moth's activity in traps (also called biofix) as early as Feb. 14,” Rijal said, “meaning that the trap placement date must move earlier to capture the first moth activity. We are revising the guidelines to change the trap placement date to Feb. 7 for the entire Central Valley.”
Developing a holistic climate-smart pest management strategy will build resilience, Jha said. This approach combines pest control with prevention and reduction, such as planting pest-resistant crop varieties, sanitizing the orchards during the winter, harvesting early to avoid later pest generation infestation, using biological control such as natural enemies, and deploying mating disruption techniques.
“More importantly, adoption of pest forecasting – including the long-term prediction and short-term potential outbreak, pest-scouting and early detection – will be essential to combat the growing threat posed by these pests,” Jha said.
Research will be crucial to provide growers support and guidance about the latest developments in pest management and how to adapt their practices.
“Climate change impacts on pests and resulting impacts on agricultural production are significant but not often researched or quantified,” said Tapan Pathak, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in climate adaptation in agriculture based at UC Merced.
“Information from this research will not only help farmers to understand impacts for strategic planning, but also will inform the agricultural industry to invest in making varieties more resilient to these damaging agricultural pests,” Pathak added. “We will use this information to update the CalAgroClimate tool, which informs farmers on the progress of these pests during the season so that they can take steps for effective pest management.”
Ganguli added the partnership between the University of California and the California Climate Hub embodies the goal of this funding program.
“The incorporation of this research into the existing CalAgroClimate decision support tool accelerates the ability of this information to be publicly used in the development of appropriate pest management or adaptation strategies,” she said.
In addition to Jha, Rijal and Pathak, the study was co-authored by Ning Zhang, Lauren E. Parker and Steven Ostoja of UC Davis Institute of the Environment and U.S. Department of Agriculture California Climate Hub.
The article “Climate change impacts on insect pests for high value specialty crops in California” can be accessed for free online at https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2023.167605.
Dec. 8, 2023: This story was updated to add comments by NIFA National Program Leader Amy Ganguli.
CDFA, UC ANR help farmers access $36 million in grants to improve water-use efficiency, reduce greenhouse gas emissions
A Hmong small-scale farmer in Merced County has saved about 14.4 acre-inches of water annually and reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 12.406 MTCO2e per year (equivalent to the greenhouse gas emissions produced from burning 1,396 gallons of gasoline) after upgrading her farm. Rosie Lee – who sells Asian greens, green beans, corn, strawberries and other produce at her farm stand and to Asian markets – is one of hundreds of growers benefiting from California Department of Food and Agriculture incentives and funds with the assistance of Climate Smart Agriculture community education specialists.
“She is one grower who would not have access to those funds without my bringing my computer out to the field,” said Caddie Bergren, a Climate Smart Agriculture community education specialist who has been working with growers in Merced County since theprogram's launch.
"Since 2019, UC ANR's Climate Smart Agriculture Team has provided in-depth technical assistance to more than 1,300 farmers and ranchers in 25 counties,” said Hope Zabronsky, academic coordinator for UC ANR's Climate Smart Agriculture team. “Through their strong relationships with diverse farming communities, they support the implementation of soil health, water efficiency and manure management practices that optimize climate benefits for all growers and Californians.”
The program's community educators work with farmers and ranchers in 25 California counties to get CDFA-funded grants and implement Climate Smart Agriculture projects. These efforts, which emphasize outreach to underserved farmers and ranchers, have resulted in a total of $36.5 million invested from the State Water Efficiency and Enhancement Program or SWEEP, the Healthy Soils Program, and the Alternative Manure Management Program.
“Agriculture is an important part of the climate solution,” said CDFA Secretary Karen Ross. “This funding enables CDFA and UC ANR to partner with farmers and ranchers to scale up climate-smart agricultural practices. This is essential as we contend with our hotter, drier future.”
Lee, the Hmong grower, had been growing 18 acres of vegetables by flood irrigating with groundwater. To save water and reduce pumping costs, she asked Bergren to help her apply for SWEEP funds to convert to drip irrigation and install solar panels. Bergren brought her laptop to the field to help Lee pull together the necessary information for the application. After Lee received funds for the project, Bergren assisted her with the technical logistics of installing the irrigation and solar equipment.
“I called vendors and we were able to complete the project on time,” Bergren said.
CDFA and UC ANR have published an impact report highlighting the results of the multi-year partnership focused on increasing adoption of climate-smart agriculture practices to reduce water and energy use.
The investments have funded more than 420 projects, so far. The projects are expected to save an estimated 8.3 billion gallons of water during their lifetime, enough to supply over 75,000 typical homes in California with water for a year. Additionally, there are projected reductions of more than 355,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide-equivalent, as much as would be achieved by removing 79,110 gas-powered vehicles from roads.
The report highlights the importance of providing tailored outreach, education and technical assistance to small-scale, non-English speaking, and otherwise underserved farmers and ranchers.
To find the full details of the report, please visit https://ucanr.edu/climatesmartag2023.
[Updated Sept. 29 to show UC ANR's Climate Smart Agriculture Team has provided technical assistance to farmers and ranchers in 25 counties, not 24 counties.]/h3>
Regional farms will demonstrate practices such as cover cropping, reduced tillage, compost and mulch use, hedgerow planting, optimized irrigation systems
To accelerate adoption of climate-smart farming practices, the University of California Office of the President has awarded nearly $2 million to a team of UC Cooperative Extension scientists and community partners working on a network of farm demonstration sites. The project will be led by Sonja Brodt, coordinator for agriculture and environment at the UC Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education Program. This UC Agriculture and Natural Resources project is one of 38 funded with $83.1 million allocated to UC by the State of California for climate action research and innovation.
Scaling up soil health and other climate-smart agricultural practices to sequester carbon, increase water and nutrient use efficiency, and improve the resilience of farms to climate-related threats like drought and floods is a core pillar identified in California's Natural and Working Lands Climate Smart Strategy.
“Our project will strengthen the nascent California Farm Demonstration Network for on-the-ground, regionally specific demonstration of a range of climate-smart practices,” said Brodt. “Regional farms will demonstrate practices such as cover cropping, reduced tillage, compost and mulch use, hedgerow planting, irrigation system optimization and more.”
The $1,999,524 project will pilot a participatory partnership extension model that allows farmers to learn from their peers to reduce adoption risks and adapt knowledge to an ever-changing environment, increasing the likelihood of farmer success and accelerating long-term uptake of complex, place-specific practices.
Building on the capacity of local trusted organizations, project collaborators will be organized in a hub-and-spoke network with three regional Farm Demonstration Hubs (Sacramento Valley, North Coast and Central Coast), a pilot Hmong/Mien Demonstration Hub, and a statewide Organic Demonstration Hub.
Collaborators at each hub will be responsible for identifying and nurturing farm demonstration sites, and conducting demonstration trials and farmer-to-farmer outreach activities. Centralized organization and capacity building will be provided by UC SAREP, UC Organic Agriculture Institute, the California Association of Resource Conservation Districts, the Community Alliance with Family Farmers, and the California Farm Demonstration Network Advisory Panel.
In addition to several UC Cooperative Extension advisors and specialists across the state, partners include the UC Hansen Research and Extension Center and the Rodale Institute California Organic Center, both in Ventura County, and the UC Climate Smart Agriculture Program. Eight Resource Conservation Districts will also be involved in leading Farm Demonstration Hubs.
The project will also conduct soil health assessment activities to inform soil health and resilience monitoring protocols in future research and extension efforts. Since many existing soil health metrics were designed for agroecosystems in the Midwest and Eastern U.S., this project aims to lay the groundwork for research to adapt soil health metrics to the arid and Mediterranean climates of California.
“By utilizing relationships built between demonstration hub managers and demonstration farms across different cropping systems, we will gather quantitative and qualitative soil health data, information about growers' management practices as well as their own perspectives of what they really need to know about their soils in order to better manage for climate resilience and mitigation,” said Brodt.
Ultimately, the project partners aim to establish an enduring on-farm extension and research system that will help thousands of farmers adopt climate-smart practices tailored to their farms.
Other grant-supported projects focus on water access, conservation
The largest of the Climate Action Matching Grants, an $8.2 million investment, supports the development of planning tools to advance sustainable, inclusive and equitable water distribution for California's 39 million people. The project is led by Ted Grantham, a UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management at UC Berkeley. Kristin Dobbin, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management at UC Berkeley, and Erik Porse, director of the California Institute for Water Resources are collaborating on the project.
Three other projects involving UC ANR researchers received California Climate Action Seed Grants and Matching Grants subawards:
- Development of a hydrogel that can work as a soil amendment to help small-scale vegetable farms conserve water led by UC San Diego associate professor Shengqiang Cai with Ruth Dahlquist-Willard, UC Cooperative Extension small farms advisor and interim director of UC SAREP; Mallika Nocco, UC Cooperative Extension specialist; and Matthew Gilbert, UC Davis professor of whole plant physiology. $297,979
- Development of a tool for predicting climate-water variation led by UC Irvine professor Isabella Velicogna with Tapan Pathak, UC Cooperative Extension specialist. $199,531
- A study of urban stream corridors led by UC Davis professor Gregory Pasternack with Igor Lacan, UC Cooperative Extension environmental horticulture and urban forestry advisor. $33,824
- A study of how California's housing crisis affects the growth of the wildland urban interface (WUI), where the fringes of development reach into natural areas led by UC Santa Cruz professor Miriam Greenberg, with Barb Satink Wolfson, UCCE fire advisor, Devii Rao, UCCE livestock and natural resources advisor, and the Central Coast Prescribed Burn Association.
Updated 8/31/23 to add the wildland urban interface study./h3>/h3>
Validation of Innovation Program provides supportive ecosystem for startups
The VINE, an initiative by the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources, is now accepting applications for its VINE Validation of Innovation Program. The program aims to support innovation in the agri-tech sector, particularly in climate-resilient solutions for California food systems.
Made possible with support from a UC Climate Action grant, the program is inviting startups to apply, with a focus on providing comprehensive support for field trials – a critical stage for any agri-tech venture.
"Field trials are vital for validating new innovations in the agri-tech sector,” said Gabe Youtsey, chief innovation officer with UC ANR and founder of The VINE. “The VINE VIP aims to provide a supportive environment for carrying out these essential tests, bridging the gap between innovative concepts and real-world application."
Elif Ceylan, co-founder of OpenGate Partners and head of the VINE VIP, also stressed the importance of field trials.
"Field trials serve as a crucial phase where promising ideas either succeed or require adjustment,” Ceylan said. “We are committed to prioritizing this stage to ensure the effectiveness and relevance of emerging agri-tech solutions."
The VINE VIP offers more than field trials. It provides a supportive ecosystem for startups, including industry connections, access to a broad network of farmers and experts, comprehensive validation results and market entry support. The program is a unique accelerator that pairs startups with project partners in the agri-tech industry, facilitating Proof of Concept projects and commercialization trials for industry-defined challenges in California agriculture.
By connecting startups with farmers, academics and industry experts, the program aims to validate, advance, adopt and amplify innovative technologies, reducing technological risks and accelerating sales through its extensive industry network.
Startups interested in joining the VINE VIP can apply until Sept. 16, 2023. Detailed information about the program and the application process is available on The VINE's website at thevine.io/vip.
The VINE is an initiative of the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources, dedicated to fostering agriculture, food, and biotech innovation in California. Our mission is to support industries and entrepreneurs while promoting technology innovation and commercialization for sustainable and equitable food systems. We connect entrepreneurs with public and private sector resources, encourage collaborations to address industry challenges, and promote regional capacity for global innovation as an economic opportunity./h3>