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California's new groundwater law leaves unanswered questions

The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) is a revolutionary law that will have profound impacts on the state's agriculture industry, however, it also leaves out many implementation details, according to Michael Kiparsky, director of the Wheeler Water Institute at UC Berkeley. Kiparsky authored the article Unanswered questions for implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, which was published online by California Agriculture journal.

Groundwater is drawn by a pump to irrigate almonds in Fresno County.

"SGMA is unprecedented, hugely impactful and a work in progress," Kiparsky said in a videotaped keynote presentation at the 2nd International Groundwater and Agriculture Conference in June 2016. The California Agriculture article is based on his remarks at the conference.

Kiparsky said SGMA defines sustainable management as avoidance of six specific undesirable results:

  • Lowering of groundwater levels
  • Reduction in groundwater storage
  • Seawater intrusion
  • Water quality degradation
  • Land subsidence
  • Impacts on beneficial uses of interconnected surface waters

SGMA relies on local control, with an "enforcement backstop" provided by the State Water Resources Control Board. New local entities called groundwater sustainability agencies (GSAs) will implement SGMA.

In the article, the author outlined what he considers the 7 most important unknowns about California's water future under SGMA.

  1. Governance. Decisions about governance and institutional design are being made now, so immediate attention to this question is imperative, he said.

  2. Translating sustainability goals into practice. "In many of the 127 groundwater basins governed by SGMA, the status quo is simply unsustainable," Kiparsky said. "The amount and patterns of groundwater use will need to change."

  3. Groundwater-surface water interactions. "Many groundwater users are expecting to augment water supplies by buying water within the basins or outside. Markets can be excellent tools for efficiency," he said.

  4. The role of markets. "Whether and how GSAs can design effective and fair markets as part of their efforts to achieve sustainability will be quite fascinating to observe," Kiparsky said.

  5. The role of data. SGMA empowers, but does not require, GSAs to collect groundwater extraction data from individual wells. The law requires only aggregated extraction data to be shared and reported to the state.

  6. The role of the State Water Board. Serving as "backstop" enforcement to the GSAs is a new role for the Board. "We don't know how it will approach the role in practice," Kiparsky said.

  7. "Significant and unreasonable." SGMA calls to avoid significant and unreasonable impacts, but it doesn't define the meaning of "significant and unreasonable." GSAs will need to define the terms themselves.

Kiparsky ended his article on a positive note with examples of research projects already underway aimed at helping meet the goals of SGMA legislation.

"Both projects illustrate how SGMA already is forcing and enabling creative thinking," Kiparsky said. "This type of creative thinking will be critical for California to implement SGMA successfully and transform from a national laggard in groundwater management into an international leader."

California Agriculture journal is the peer-reviewed research journal of UC Agriculture and Natural Resources.

Posted on Thursday, August 25, 2016 at 11:37 AM

Protect bees from pesticides by using bee precaution ratings from UC IPM

According to a UC Berkeley news report, about one-third of the value of California agriculture comes from pollinator-dependent crops, representing a net value of $11.7 billion per year.
Various insects, birds and other animals pollinate plants. Bees, especially honey bees, are the most vital for pollinating food crops. Many California crops rely on bees to pollinate their flowers and ensure a good yield of seeds, fruit and nuts. Pesticides, especially insecticides, can harm bees if they are applied or allowed to drift to plants that are flowering.

Our mission at the University of California Agricultural and Natural Resources (UC ANR), Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program (UC IPM) is to protect the environment by reducing risks caused by pest management practices. UC IPM developed Bee Precaution Pesticide Ratings to help pest managers make an informed decision about how to protect bees when choosing or applying pesticides. You can find and compare ratings for pesticide active ingredients including acaricides (miticides), bactericides, fungicides, herbicides and insecticides, and select the one that poses the least harm to bees.

Ratings fall into three categories. Red, or rated I, pesticides should not be applied or allowed to drift to plants that are flowering. Plants include the crop AND nearby weeds. Yellow, or rated II, pesticides should not be applied or allowed to drift to plants that are flowering, except when the application is made between sunset and midnight if allowed by the pesticide label and regulations. Finally, green, or rated III, pesticides have no bee precautions, except when required by the pesticide label or regulations. Pesticide users must follow the product directions for handling and use and take at least the minimum precautions required by the pesticide label and regulations.

The bee precaution pesticide ratings from UC IPM will help pest managers make informed decisions when choosing and applying pesticides.

A group of bee experts in California, Oregon and Washington worked with UC IPM to develop the Bee Precaution Pesticide Ratings. They reviewed studies published in scientific journals and summary reports from European and United States pesticide regulatory agencies. While the protection statements on the pesticide labels were taken into account when determining the ratings, it is important to stress that UC IPM's ratings are not the pollinator protection statements on the pesticide labels. In a number of cases, the ratings suggest a more protective action than the pesticide label.

The UC IPM ratings also include active ingredients that may not be registered in your state; please follow local regulations. In California, the suggested use of the Bee Precaution Pesticide Ratings is in conjunction with UC Pest Management Guidelines (for commercial agriculture) and Pest Notes (for gardeners). Each crop in the UC Pest Management Guidelines has a link to the Bee Precaution Pesticide Ratings database and provides guidance on how to reduce bee poisoning from pesticides.

For more information on protecting bees from pesticides, see UC IPM's Protecting Natural Enemies and Pollinators, and use the Bee Precaution Pesticide Ratings.

Posted on Monday, August 22, 2016 at 11:05 AM
  • Author: UC Statewide IPM Program
Tags: honeybees (3), UC IPM (2)

The battle against Aedes aegypti, the mosquito that spreads Zika

Aedes aegypti mosquito.
The UC Mosquito Research Laboratory in Parlier is the epicenter of California research on the Aedes aegypti mosquito, a tiny, black and white mosquito that can spread the Zika virus.

Aedes aegypti were first identified in California in June 2013, when they were found in the San Joaquin Valley communities of Clovis and Madera. They have now been detected in certain Fresno County neighborhoods, plus the Bay Area, and Southern California, according to the California Department of Public Health.

To date, the Zika virus hasn't been found in the California mosquitoes, however with thousands of Americans traveling to Brazil for the 2016 Olympics, plus travelers regularly visiting other countries with outbreaks of Zika, some could be carriers of the virus when they come home.

The UC Mosquito Research Laboratory, located at the 300-acre UC Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center, is led by entomologist Anthony Cornel, Ph.D. He is working with the Consolidated Mosquito Abatement District (CMAD) on research projects aimed at controlling this new mosquito menace.

“When Aedes aegypti first came to the United States a few hundred years ago, there were major epidemics of yellow fever in the East and South,” Cornel said. “Today this mosquito serves as the vector of three other serious viruses, dengue, Chikungunya and Zika, which are major threats to global public health.”

What keeps him up at night, Cornel said, is grave concern that there will be a Zika outbreak in California.

“Right now, our only control tool in response to a disease outbreak is use of insecticides,” Cornel said. “If Zika breaks out here, we will have to do whatever we can to reduce the number of adult Aedes aegypti mosquitoes right away, and a single insecticide application isn't going to do it.”

Anthony Cornel, Ph.D., UC Davis entomologist and UC ANR researcher, based at the UC Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Parlier.

The Cornel lab at Kearney and the Consolidated Mosquito Abatement District are conducting myriad laboratory and field research trials to evaluate insecticide treatment options, to minimize potential mosquito breeding sites, and to understand Aedes aegypti biology and behavior in order to inform control decisions should such an outbreak occur. Following are summaries of research underway that involves the UC Mosquito Research Laboratory in the fight against the Zika vector Aedes aegypti.

Make female mosquitoes infertile

Working in cooperation with scientists at the University of Kentucky and MosquitoMate Inc., Cornel and CMAD staff are releasing male mosquitoes that have been infected with a bacterium, Wolbachia pipientis. When these males mate with local females, the females pick up Wolbachia, which causes them to lay eggs that will not hatch.

“The infected male mosquitoes are shipped to us from Kentucky overnight twice a week and we release them in the test area in Clovis,” Cornel said. “These male mosquitoes are harmless to humans. They do not bite and can't transmit disease.”

Special traps have been placed in the treatment area and in a nearby control area, where no Wolbachia-infected mosquitoes are released.

“Right now, the number of eggs we are getting is very much reduced in the treated site,” Cornel said.

A colony of Aedes agypti mosquitoes that originated in Clovis, Calif.

Pesticide applications and mosquito resistance

Mosquitoes are generally susceptible to the lethal effects of insecticides.

“In mosquito control, we use insecticide concentrations much lower than is typically used for controlling other pests that hamper agricultural operations,” Cornel said.

But Aedes aegypti appear to quickly develop insecticide resistance. In laboratory and field research, Cornel is studying Aedes aegypti's uncanny ability to survive certain insecticide treatments.

Cornel maintains colonies of Aedes aegypti in the lab that are susceptible to insecticides. “These are colonies that have been with us for many years,” he said.

For comparison, the scientists have collected mosquitoes that are living in local neighborhoods. Mosquitoes representing different colonies are dropped inside glass bottles that are coated inside with insecticides. The scientists record how many of the mosquitoes are knocked down and how many die.

The experiments have shown that mosquitoes collected locally are resistant to almost all pyrethroid insecticides except one, Deltamethrin, which is not registered for mosquito control in California. However, these mosquitoes are also susceptible to organophosphate insecticides.

“Deltamethrin is used effectively in the European Union and other countries, but unfortunately, it is not yet available for use here,” Cornel said. “The company that makes the product is working to get California Department of Pesticide Regulation approval for using it in the state.”

The Cornel lab has also studied various insecticides in field applications.

“We placed susceptible and local mosquitoes in sentinel cages in a field and sprayed them from a truck 100-, 200- and 300-feet away in an open field situation,” Cornel said. “We recorded knockdown and mortality one hour and 24 hours after application.”

The field studies verified what the scientists found in their lab tests: local Aedes aegypti have developed resistance to most pyrethroids, but organophosphate insecticides offer effective control. However, the study doesn't prove what will happen in residential areas.

“We were in an open field, with no trees and houses to block the spread of the chemical,” Cornel said. “Now we should evaluate the efficacy of ultra-low-volume applications of malathion, an organophosphate, in a residential area.”

Underground drains that channel irrigation and rain runoff from backyards to the front are suspected Aedes aegypti breeding areas.

Reduce mosquito breeding

A well-known approach to reducing mosquito populations is elimination of standing water where mosquitoes can breed. Bird baths, abandoned toys, old tires and drainage plates under potted plants are all potential receptacles for standing water and should be discarded or kept dry. Less obvious are underground yard drains often found in newer housing developments. The scientists believe that the drains, designed to channel rain or irrigation runoff to the gutter in front of the house, may leave a perpetual supply of standing water in the buried pipe beneath the soil surface, which provide sites for mosquito development.

To test the theory, the CMAD personnel went door to door in a Clovis neighborhood to work with residents to eliminate water sources and to place fine netting on the ends of the drainage pipes.

“We have 80 percent compliance in the testing area,” Cornel said. “A few people have refused, which surprised me. But most of the residents were willing to help.”

The district is monitoring mosquito traps placed in the test area and in another Clovis neighborhood where yard drains haven't been netted.

“We have no results yet. When the study is done, CMAD will give me the data and I will analyze it,” Cornel said. “If I do see a statistically significant impact on mosquito populations, then that will confirm our suspicions and give us more convincing information to share in communities with Aedes aegypti to get them to eliminate even unseen potential mosquito breeding sites.”

If the yard drains are a confirmed mosquito breeding location, it may require a redesign to make sure that they do not hold water.

Aedes aegypti mosquito larvae incubating in a tray at the UC Mosquito Research Laboratory, on the grounds of the UC Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Parlier.

Genetics

Scientists have sequenced the genome of Aedes aegypti and are using genetics to understand the movement of the pest in California.

“We want to know if the population in California comes from multiple introductions, or from a single introduction that has subsequently spread,” Cornel said.

This research is being done in collaboration with Gregory Lanzaro, Ph.D., and Yoosook Lee, Ph.D., in the Department of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology at UC Davis, and has not yet been published, but preliminary results show that the population of Aedes aegypti that is south of the Tehachapi Mountains is probably from a separate introduction than the one that settled in Fresno, Clovis and Madera.

The scientists are also using genetics to determine the mosquitoes' dispersal patterns.

“We need to know this to help us develop effective control strategies,” Cornel said. “For example, if we've located an area with a large number of mosquitoes, we need to know how large an area we have to treat.”

The general consensus from studies around the world is that these mosquitoes don't fly very far from their development site.

“We're finding much the same here, usually no more than 80 meters,” he said. “Except, there are always a few males that disperse long distances within 24 hours – sometimes over 300 meters in one night.”

UC ANR entomologist Anthony Cornel, left, and U.S. Congressman Jim Costa watch as male mosquitoes infected with Wolbachia pipientis are released in a Clovis neighborhood on Aug. 16, 2016. Costa is calling on Congress to provide funding for Aedes aegypti research and control.
Posted on Monday, August 22, 2016 at 11:05 AM
Tags: Aedes Aegypti (1), Anton Cornel (1), mosquitoes (2), Zika (1)

New law requires annual training for anyone applying pesticides at school sites

UC IPM's online course for IPM in school and child care settings satisfies the new training requirement of the Healthy Schools Act.
School is already back in session for many children in districts throughout California, and several others will be starting back to school in the next couple of weeks.

While students and teachers were enjoying summer break, an amendment to the Healthy Schools Act (HSA) went into effect on July 1. It requires teachers, custodians, administrators, other staff or volunteers, and licensed pest management professionals applying any pesticide (this includes disinfectants and antimicrobials) at a school site to take an annual training course covering school integrated pest management (IPM). The training course must be approved by the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR).

An online course, Providing Integrated Pest Management Services in Schools and Child Care Settings, developed by the UC ANR Statewide IPM Program and the Center for Environmental Research and Children's Health (CERCH), has recently been approved by DPR to satisfy the annual training requirement of the HSA. Although this course was designed for licensed pest management professionals, anyone applying any type of pesticide in schools or child care centers will benefit from the course.

IPM is a strategy that focuses on long-term prevention of pests through a combination of techniques such as monitoring for pest presence, cleaning up food sources, sealing up cracks, and excluding pests with screens. Effective pesticides that pose the least possible hazard and that minimize harm to people, property, and the environment are used only after careful monitoring indicates they are needed.

The HSA encourages the use of IPM in schools and child care centers and gives parents and the public the ability to know when and where certain pesticides are used in these facilities. It was originally signed into California law in September 2000 and is located in four different California codes: education, food and agricultural, business and professions, and health and safety. The law has been amended several times. The most recent revision to the HSA was signed into law in September 2014 by Gov. Brown.

Prior to July 1, schools were already required to do the following:

  • Designate an IPM coordinator at the school or district level to make sure the requirements of the HSA are met
  • Create an IPM plan
  • Provide annual written notification to all parents and staff of pesticide products intended for use at the school site during the year and allow the opportunity for them to be notified before certain applications
  • Post warning signs where certain pesticides are applied
  • Keep records of pesticide applications
  • Send pesticide use reports to DPR annually

Some pesticide products are exempt from the IPM plan, notification, posting, recordkeeping, and reporting* requirements of the HSA at school sites. These are reduced-risk pesticide products, and their use is encouraged at schools if pesticides are deemed necessary. These include:

  • Self-contained baits or traps
  • Gels or pastes used indoors in cracks and crevices
  • Antimicrobials, including sanitizers and disinfectants
  • Pesticides exempt from registration, such as food grade oils

However, these products are NOT exempt from the Healthy Schools Act annual training requirement that went into effect July 1. Anyone who uses these products—a licensed professional, school staff or child care staff—is still required to take the HSA annual training course.

To satisfy this annual training requirement, take the free UC IPM online course by visiting the UC IPM online training webpage. For more on school and child care IPM and other courses that satisfy the Healthy Schools Act training requirement, visit the DPR website.

*Licensed pest management professionals hired to apply pesticides at schools or licensed child care centers must continue to submit their regular pesticide reports of ALL registered pesticides to DPR annually and to the county monthly.

 

Flow chart created by the California Department of Pesticide Regulation to help determine if certain pesticide products are lower-risk.
Posted on Wednesday, August 17, 2016 at 9:58 AM
Tags: IPM (15)

Recreation on private land offers potential for conservation

Opening the door for recreational activities - such as wildlife watching - on private land is an incentive for conservation. (Photo: Robin Eliason, USDA)
Successfully integrating human activities with ecosystem conservation forms the foundation of sustainability and is key to maintaining biological diversity. A new study has found that recreational use of private land in the U.S. could have significant benefits for both conservation efforts and economic return, especially when coupled with certain policy mechanisms.

The study, published Aug. 5, 2016, in the journal Land Use Policy, found that approximately 440 million acres of private land — roughly 22 percent of the contiguous land area of the U.S. — are either leased or owned for wildlife-associated recreation, which is defined as fishing, hunting and wildlife-watching. Hunting was the most widespread recreational use, accounting for 81 percent of the total acreage (356 million acres).

Luke Macaulay, an UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management at UC Berkeley, authored the study, which used 18 national surveys over 14 years for a comprehensive analysis. Drawing upon multiple years and multiple sources of surveys, this study provides the most detailed and precise estimates available of private land recreation in the U.S.

The study estimated the annual spending for wildlife-associated recreation on private land to be $814 million in day-use fees, $1.48 billion for long-term leases, and $14.8 billion for ownership of land primarily for recreation.

It also found that on crop and grazing land, landowners who earn income from recreation are more likely to participate in government conservation programs and are more likely to pay for private conservation practices, such as creating buffers around sensitive streams or controlling invasive weeds on rangelands.

Macaulay suggests that this data provides support for the idea that recreation incentivizes conservation at higher rates than agricultural activities alone.

“Wildlife habitat on private land is vulnerable to degradation and loss, but this study highlights recreation as an incentive for conservation," he said. "That's because many landowners are receiving either personal enjoyment or financial benefit from the wildlife that live on their land.”

The study showed that hunters own or lease much larger properties than anglers or wildlife-watchers, which indicates that hunting may provide a greater economic incentive for maintaining large, unfragmented properties that provide a variety of conservation benefits.

“Large properties are beneficial for a variety of reasons; for example, some species require large expanses of unbroken habitat to thrive, while others are particularly sensitive to the impacts of roads, fences, and invasive plant and animal species that oftentimes accompany more fragmented landscapes," Macaulay said.

Macaulay believes that the role of recreation in private land conservation has largely been overlooked due to the relatively low participation rate of landowners earning income from recreation. For example, only 7.3 percent of forest landowners earn income from recreation, but this study found that those individuals own much larger properties that account for 33.5 percent of all private forestland.

Macaulay stressed that the conservation benefits of hunting depended on a system of scientifically-developed game laws and effective enforcement, which is generally the case across the U.S.  These mechanisms are important to curtail problems of over-harvesting and poaching.

The study also emphasized the importance of encouraging conservation practices in conjunction with recreation in order to yield benefits for both conservation and landowner economic return. Macaulay suggested several policy measures to achieve this, including tying habitat improvement practices to property tax breaks that rural landowners receive — an approach that some states have already taken — as well as evaluating, enhancing, and expanding state programs that give regulatory flexibility for hunting in exchange for conservation practices.

Read the research article on the Land Use Policy website.

Posted on Tuesday, August 9, 2016 at 8:57 AM
Tags: Luke Macaulay (1), wildlife (21)

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