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Cannabis growers asked to comment on permit process

“The majority of cannabis farmers are not joining the legal market and we want to know why,” said Van Butsic, UC Cooperative Extension specialist.

California has legalized marijuana, but commercial cannabis growers have been slow to obtain the required state and local permits. To find out what deters them from complying with new laws, University of California scientists are asking cannabis growers to participate in a survey about their experiences with the regulated market.

“The majority of cannabis farmers are not joining the legal market and we want to know why,” said Van Butsic, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy & Management at UC Berkeley. “The objective is to identify barriers to joining the legal market.”

The researchers plan to share the results with policymakers as well as with the cannabis farming community and other researchers.

“Cannabis growers will have an opportunity to tell us what's wrong with the regulatory system so we can advise policymakers on changes they could make to improve compliance,” Butsic said.

Butsic estimates that less than one-third of cannabis growers in Humboldt County have completed the permit process. He says it's difficult to estimate statewide how many cannabis growers are operating illegally because laws vary from county to county and in many parts of the state, local governments don't allow cannabis growing.

Cannabis grows in Siskiyou County as seen from Google Earth. Research has shown that illegal cannabis production causes environmental damage.

One impact from cannabis growers not joining the regulated market is the state receives lower revenues from cultivation taxes.

Beginning on Jan. 1, 2018, two taxes went into effect: a cultivation tax on harvested cannabis that enters the commercial market and a 15% excise tax on purchases of cannabis and cannabis products.

Prop. 64, approved by voters in 2016, stated: “The revenues will provide funds to invest in public health programs that educate youth to prevent and treat serious substance abuse, train local law enforcement to enforce the new law with a focus on DUI enforcement, invest in communities to reduce the illicit market and create job opportunities, and provide for environmental cleanup and restoration of public lands damaged by illegal marijuana cultivation.”

Legalization was projected to create $1 billion annually in new state revenue, but initial tax revenue has been significantly lower. In the Governor's May 1 budget revision, cannabis cultivation and cannabis retail salesrevenues were projected at $288 million in 2018-19 and $359 million in 2019-20.

Compliance is important not only for tax revenue, but also for the environment, Butsic said. Research has shown that illegal cannabis production causes environmental damage, including rodenticide poisoning of forest wildlife.

“We know there are environmental impacts from non-permitted farms,” Butsic said. “The more growers are able to comply, the better off our environment will be.”

The survey can be anonymously filled out online at https://ucanr.edu/sites/compliance until Aug. 1. Cannabis growers who wish to provide more information can volunteer to give the researchers an interview.

Posted on Friday, July 5, 2019 at 11:29 AM
Tags: cannabis (3), Van Butsic (5)
Focus Area Tags: Environment

UC IPM is celebrating 40 years

The University of California Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program (UC IPM) is celebrating its 40th anniversary. Established July 1, 1979, with funding from the California Legislature, UC IPM built upon a growing movement to reduce dependence on pesticides. Drawing on expertise across the University of California system, UC IPM develops and distributes UC's best information on managing pests using safe and effective practices that protect people and the environment.

Master Gardener looking through a hand lens to identify a pest problem on plant leaves. (Photo: Marcy Sousa, UCCE San Joaquin)
 

Over the years, UC IPM expanded its efforts beyond agriculture to include residential audiences such as schools, landscape and structural professionals, and public health agencies; public agencies; and natural resource managers. UC IPM works through Cooperative Extension to deliver information to clientele in every California county.

Since its inception, UC IPM delivered science-based integrated pest management (IPM) information. There's no plan to change this, but it's exciting to think about the next 40 years. Improvements in technology have changed how people learn and who they get information from. UC IPM's website and online tools need to grow and change as our users change the way they like to get information. And some of these changes will be mandatory as our funding sources have changed as well.

Some things haven't changed like the IPM advisors and affiliated advisors solving problems and providing local, practical, trusted pest management information. Over the last 40 years, pest management successes happened in both agriculture and communities.

IPM Advisor Carolyn Pickel, first woman Cooperative Extension advisor, worked to solve orchard pest issues for 38 years. Credit: Jack Kelly Clark.
 
Success stories 
  • UC IPM and Cooperative Extension advisors joined a multi-government and grape industry team to develop and extend a low-impact pest management program for European grapevine moth and con­duct research to inform regulatory policy. In 2016, European grapevine moth was declared eradicated.

  • UC IPM and the UC Master Gardener Program are key partners in assisting the general public with pest issues around the home and garden. UC IPM trains more than 600 UC Master Gardener volunteers each year on topics ranging from pest identification to understanding home-use pesticides.

  • UC IPM partnered with stormwater agencies and state regulators to train IPM Advocates. IPM Advocates work as consultants to help retail stores provide informa­tion about less toxic products and the safe use of pesticides. Surveys after the IPM Advocates program indicated that 76% of participating stores used the UC IPM website for identifying pests or solving problems, more than 70% increased shelf space for green or less-toxic pest manage­ment products, and more than 76% increased sales of green products.

  • UCIPMandCooperativeExtensionadvisors worked together with com­modity boards and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to develop a successful mat­ing disruption program to prevent codling moth damage in pears without pesticides. In 2009, 95% of California pear acreage used pheromone mating disruption, eliminating the need for codling moth pesticide sprays.
     
     

UC IPM has dedicated program staff at the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (ANR) headquarters in Davis. The staff provides IPM leadership, training, content development, and is the magical information technology (IT) presence behind UC IPM's website and online tools. UC IPM is also the home of the Pesticide Safety and Education Program (PSEP) in California, which trains pesticide safety trainers to teach pesticide applicators, pesticide handlers, and fieldworkers safe practices.

UC IPM will continue conducting research to solve important pest problems, extending IPM programs to practitioners, providing training, and developing outreach material. Over UC IPM's next 40 years, be on the lookout for changes for the better. Changes that engage users by using new technology, adapt UC IPM's existing knowledge into easy to use decision-making tools, and facilitate the development of new products—products that Californians seeking pest solutions can use to safely and effectively solve their pest problems.

Posted on Monday, July 1, 2019 at 6:05 PM
Tags: IPM (19)
Focus Area Tags: Pest Management

We depend on pollinators

The yellow-faced bumble bee (shown on foxglove), native to the west coast of North America, is an important pollinator. Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey

Happy Pollinator Week! For 2019, it's June 17-23. Most people think of bees when they think pollination, but don't stop there. “Think the "b" alliteration: bees, birds, butterflies, bats and beetles. But don't forget the flies, ants, mosquitoes and moths!” writes Kathy Keatley Garvey in her Bug Squad blog.

Did you know…

  • Three-fourths of the world's flowering plants depend on pollinators
  • 35% of the food we eat depends on pollination by animal pollinators
  • There are 25,000 different species of bees
  • 1.6 million colonies of honey bees are needed to pollinate California's 800,000 acres of almond trees.
  • Honey bees will fly up to 4 miles from the hive to collect water, nectar and pollens.

“Loss of a species, especially a pollinator, diminishes our global environment,” said the late bee expert Robbin Thorp, distinguished emeritus professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis, in a 2010 interview. “Bumble bees provide an important ecological service--pollination. This service is critical to reproduction of a huge diversity of plants that in turn provide shelter, food (seeds, fruits) to diverse wildlife. The potential cascade of effects from the removal of even one localized pollinator may affect us directly and indirectly.”

Launched 12 years ago, National Pollinator Week focuses on the valuable ecosystem services provided by bees, birds, butterflies, bats and beetles, according to Pollinator Partnership, which manages the national celebration. Other pollinators include syrphid or hover flies, mosquitoes, moths, pollen wasps and ants. They transfer pollen from the male anther of a flower to the female stigma.

Mexican long-tongued bat is a pollinator. Photo by Steve Buchmann

Bats are very important pollinators in tropical and desert climates. More than 300 species of fruit depend on bats for pollination.

UC ANR's California Naturalist Program promotes environmental literacy and stewardship through discovery and action. To become a certified California Naturalist, participants enroll in a course with one of our partner organizations. To receive certification, every UC California Naturalist completes a capstone project that benefits nature. Many California Naturalist projects benefit pollinators. For example, California Naturalist Cynthia from the USC Sea Grant SEA LAB course made houses to support native mason bee population in Palos Verdes. She made the bee houses out of repurposed scrap wood and cardboard, paper coat hanger tubes, used toilet paper and paper towel rolls, and giftwrap rolls.

To create habitat for pollinators in your garden, the UC Master Garden Program recommends planting a variety of plants to provide diverse sources of nectar and pollen. The UC Master Gardener volunteers in San Mateo and San Francisco counties have compiled a list of pollinator-friendly plants.

The UC Master Gardener volunteers also collected data on pollinator habitat in California by zip code and created an interactive map.

UC Master Gardener volunteers also collected data on pollinator habitat in California by zip code and created an interactive map.

 

Posted on Friday, June 21, 2019 at 4:46 PM
Tags: pollinators (7)
Focus Area Tags: Natural Resources

California Naturalists' efforts benefit pollinators

'Attention is the beginning of devotion' --Mary Oliver

This quote resonates this month, amidst a variety of environmental holidays and celebrations including World Environment Day, World Ocean Day, California Invasive Species Action Week, and finally National Pollinator Week (this week) and Month. It seems in this increasingly digitally connected world, one day, week, or month doesn't pass us by in the calendar year without an official opportunity to observe, act, or celebrate nature.

As these official observances pop up, we can also contemplate all the unofficial ways people celebrate, protect, and educate about nature in their daily lives. There are both small and incremental and heroic acts taken every day to make this a more livable world for all creatures. There is momentum behind a movement that says “we're paying attention and the environment is worth our time and energy and devotion despite all the other worthy competing causes.”

In celebration of National Pollinator Week, we want to highlight just a few of the many California Naturalists whose efforts benefit pollinators. Every UC California Naturalist completes a capstone project of their choice to receive certification. These final projects require at least eight hours of volunteer service, and are often built upon by subsequent naturalists in following cohorts. They always benefit nature, and often benefit the recipient communities and organizations. Most California Naturalists would tell you they benefit the individual, too. Capstone projects are a culmination of service, learning, and “paying it forward.” Our community celebrates both the projects and the creativity, labor, and intentions of these naturalists.

Inspired by the intersection of science and art, California Naturalist Rose from the Hopland Research and Extension Center created this gorgeous outreach poster in both English and Spanish from her original pollinator garden painting for the Redwood Valley Outdoor Education Project. Her goal is to spread awareness of the important ecological roll our native pollinators play and to share Xerces Society resources. Animal pollinators include bees, butterflies, moths, wasps, flies, beetles, ants, bats and hummingbirds. According to Xerces Society, the ecological services that pollinators provide is necessary for the reproduction of over 85% of the world's flowering plants, including more than two-thirds of the world's crop species. Honeybees get a lot of media attention, yet many other pollinator species like native bumblebees are in precipitous decline. The UC Berkeley Urban Bee Lab is another excellent source of native bee information.

California Naturalist Cynthia from the USC Sea Grant SEA LAB course made houses to support native mason bee population in Palos Verdes, CA. The bee houses were made from repurposed scrap wood and cardboard, paper coat hanger tubes, used toilet paper and paper towel rolls, and giftwrap rolls. She reached out to a local Girl Scout troop to help make three types of houses. The Girl Scouts leveraged the new learning opportunity and service work to receive an "Outdoor Journeys" badge. Then she met with four kindergarten classes of 24 students each and together built houses to take home. The houses in the picture aren't examples of her model but were ones she found online.

California Naturalist Cynthia showed a local Girl Scout troop how to make three types of houses to support native mason bees. The bee houses were made from repurposed scrap wood and cardboard, paper coat hanger tubes, used toilet paper and paper towel rolls, and giftwrap rolls.

Mason bees are solitary bees named for their behavior of using mud in constructing their nests. Mason bees may defy some assumptions about bees. They don't sting, they don't live in a hive, and they don't make honey. They do, however pollinate flowers and fruits and vegetables and need a safe place to lay their eggs. When available, some species use hollow stems or holes in wood made by wood-boring insects which is where mason bee houses come into the picture. UC Davis Department of Entomology compiled this list of resources on where to find and how to make nesting sites for native bees.

Sue from the Tuleyome course built bat boxes for her local home owners association to hang in Arnold, Calaveras County. At least 45 species of bats inhabit the United States and Canada and there are at least 27 known species of bats in California. Bats are very important pollinators and seed dispersers, particularly in tropical and desert climates. In addition, they serve a very effective agricultural pest control purpose. Although they provide vital environmental services, bat populations are in decline globally. To make your own bat boxes, UC ANR offers a guide to build songbird, owl and bat boxes.

Bat boxes can be constructed to attract bats, which are very important pollinators and seed dispersers.
 
Hummingbirds, along with other birds, bats and insects, are pollinators.
Posted on Thursday, June 20, 2019 at 6:15 PM
  • Author: Brook Gamble
Focus Area Tags: Agriculture

UC helps California dairy farmers experiment with milking robots

In dairies with milking robots, cows voluntarily walk into a sophisticated, computerized box when they are ready for milking.
Early in the 20th century, dairy operators traded their milking stools for machines to produce enough dairy products to meet growing consumer demand.

The technological developments were critical to the formation of California's enormous dairy industry, the largest in the nation. Today, more than 1.7 million cows produce 39.8 billion pounds of milk in California each year, according to the California Milk Advisory Board.

The march of progress continues. The state's dairy industry is now beginning to integrate robots and sophisticated computer software into cow barns to maintain the supply of wholesome and inexpensive dairy foods for Americans. UC Cooperative Extension scientists are poised to help them adapt to the new technologies.

On most California dairies, cows are led two or three times each day from the barn to the milking parlor by workers. They clean the cows' udders to remove bacteria and surface dirt, evaluate whether the cow has mastitis, attach the milking machines, and disinfect the cow's teats after milking before taking the cows back to their pens.

“Dairy production is automated, but it is still a very labor intensive activity,” said Fernanda Ferreira, UC Cooperative Extension dairy specialist based at the UC Veterinary Medicine Teaching and Research Center in Tulare. “Farmers always tell us that the most challenging thing they are facing is labor – labor availability, training and cost.”

Milking robots – a technology already being used in dairies in the Midwest and Eastern U.S., Europe, South America and Canada – promises greater automation, reduced labor needs and improved animal welfare.

View a short video clip of the milking robot in action.

The machines don't resemble a stereotypical robot character, but rather are computerized boxes large enough to fit one cow, with a robot arm programmed to reach under the cow and clamp onto the teats. Cows do not need to be led to the milking machine, but rather walk into the box voluntarily when they are ready to be milked.

The machine recognizes each individual cow by a computer tag around her neck or on the ear, and provides personalized milking service. The robots do all the work: clean the teats, attach the milking machines, and disinfect the teats after the milking is done. While milking, the robot collects data on the cow's output and health.

When it comes to California and all the West, these are very new,” Ferreira said. “We're talking herds that have 1,800 cows on average. Huge herds. Since each of the robotic units, which serve 60 to 70 cows, costs about $120,000, we're also talking about a huge investment.”

Two San Joaquin Valley dairies have already installed milking robots, and many others are interested in the new technology. Ferreira and other researchers from the VMTRC in Tulare are collaborating with one of them to study how the machine and the herd's management can be adapted to better serve large-scale dairy herds like those in California.

“Our idea is to first understand the perspective of the producers who have cows being milked by robots. We want to know what they have learned so far, the challenges they have encountered, their relationship with banks,” Ferreira said. “Relationships with banks are important because most dairies will need to borrow funds to equip their facilities with enough robots for full automation.”

Future research will review issues of milk quality, mastitis management and determine what data farmers will need from the computerized system to improve dairy profitability.

“There are a lot of options available from companies that manufacture the robots. We want to fully understand how they work for our farmers and cows to be able to inform the future of California's dairy industry,” Ferreira said.

Posted on Tuesday, June 11, 2019 at 10:29 AM
Focus Area Tags: Agriculture Innovation

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