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Drought talk draws ranchers, researchers and climatologists

 

“No matter what sector you’re in, you’re in dire straits,” meteorologist Brad Rippey told the crowd. “California is really ground zero at this point, really sticking out like a sore thumb.”

California's severe drought is entering a fourth year. With that, scientists met with ranchers to give background and gain feedback on a key climate indicator: the U.S. Drought Monitor.

The November 7 workshop held at the University of California, Davis, and webcast to 15 satellite locations across the state posed questions to a panel of experts who help publish the weekly analysis. UC Davis researchers also discussed new findings from in-depth rancher interviews along with strategies for maintaining the nutrition of cattle during the water shortage.

Read the full article at the UC Davis Department of Plant Sciences.

 

With 83 percent of California now in the two highest categories for drought, ranchers are seeing conditions as rare as once in a hundred years.

“We learn a lot when times are tough,” said Rick Roberti, a cattle and hay rancher who attended the workshop. “We're never going to have the water we need. So we might as well learn now how to deal with it.”

In 2012, the second year of California's drought, more than 2,500 of the nation's 3,000 counties qualified for disaster loans, due to designations made through the Drought Monitor.

(Slide: Brad Rippey)

"You see the grass that we had then and the grass that we have now and it's nothing to compare to," says rancher Antonia Suenz of Marysville, California. "The climate is changing."

(Photo: Brad Hooker/UC Davis)

California state climatologist Mike Anderson showed that only 1924 saw less rain than this year, but 2014 has had far higher temperatures: “So not only are you dealing with lack of water, you're dealing with Mother Nature increasing the demand for what water you have.”

Listen to more of this conversation with Anderson at California Drought Watch

Posted on Wednesday, November 26, 2014 at 8:38 AM

Continued vigilance needed in the fight against Asian citrus psyllid

Asian citrus psyllid is established in some urban Tulare County communities.
Two Asian citrus pysllids (ACP) were found in a trap near Exeter in November, just 10 miles away from the UC Lindcove Research and Extension Center. That brings to 29 the number of locations in the central San Joaquin Valley, from Bakersfield to Dinuba, where Asian citrus psyllids have been trapped.

Perhaps still more unsettling is the fact that reproducing populations of ACP have been found in urban areas in Tulare County, confirming that the pest is established in a county where farmers produce citrus valued at more than $1 billion annually.

“The psyllid is here, it's established, but still at low levels,” said Beth Grafton-Cardwell, director of the Lindcove REC and UC Cooperative Extension citrus entomology specialist. “We need to be very aggressive and treat it and eliminate populations as best we can.”

Asian citrus psyllids are a serious concern for California citrus producers because they spread Huanglongbing (HLB) disease. The disease causes tree decline, production of small, bitter fruit and eventually tree death. There is no cure once a tree is infected.

Around the world, once ACP arrives, HLB soon follows. Such was the case in Florida. ACP was first found in 1998, the disease followed in 2005, and by 2008 it had spread throughout the state.

“They allowed the psyllid and the disease to spread on nursery plants,” Grafton-Cardwell said. “Here, it's a different situation. We are taking many measures to reduce psyllid populations and limit their spread around the state in order to buy researchers time to find long-term solutions for HLB disease."

To date, only one HLB-infected tree has been found in California, a multi-grafted backyard tree in Hacienda Heights. It was quickly removed and destroyed. Other trees may be infected, but not yet detected. It will take a tree with HLB about a year to show visual symptoms of the disease. One goal of UC research is to identify a way to detect HLB more rapidly.

For example, scientists at UC Davis are refining a mobile chemical sensor that can detect diseased citrus trees by sniffing their volatile organic compounds. Another team of scientists is looking for changes in citrus trees' metabolism when infected with HLB.

Citrus growers can help by regularly monitoring their trees for signs of ACP and, when treating for other pests, use insecticides that are known to be effective against ACP. A chart of effective pesticides is on the interactive Asian Citrus Psyllid Distribution and Management website.

The website also contains information for residents who have citrus trees in their landscapes. Photos of the adult and juvenile insects, the distinctive waxy tubules left behind when they feed, and citrus leaves from and HLB-infected tree can aid in determining whether home trees are infested.

An initiative to manage endemic and invasive pests and diseases is part of the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources Strategic Vision 2025.

Posted on Tuesday, November 25, 2014 at 8:12 AM

The food vs. fuel debate: Growing biofuel in the U.S.

Studies suggest biofuel can be grown on 'marginal land,' but no standard definition of 'marginal land' exists.
In order to slow global climate change and achieve greater energy independence, Americans are showing an increasing interest in switching over to clean, renewable fuels made from home-grown crops. In fact, Congress has mandated that at least 16 billion gallons of cellulosic ethanol be added to the U.S. fuel supply by 2022.

However, estimates suggest that growing crops to produce that much biofuel would require 40 to 50 million acres of land, an area roughly equivalent in size to the entire state of Nebraska.

“If we convert cropland that now produces food into fuel production, what will that do to our food supply?” asks Maggi Kelly, UC Cooperative Extension specialist and the director of the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources Statewide IGIS Program. “If we begin growing fuel crops on land that isn't currently in agriculture, will that come at the expense of wildlife habitat and open space, clean water and scenic views?”

Kelly and UC Berkeley graduate student Sarah Lewis are conducting research to better understand land-use options for growing biofuel feed stock. They used a literature search, in which the results of multiple projects conducted around the world are reviewed, aggregated and compared. 

“When food vs. fuel land questions are raised in the literature, authors often suggest fuel crops be planted on ‘marginal land,'” Kelly said. “But what does that actually mean? Delving into the literature, we found there was no standard definition of ‘marginal land.'”

Kelly and Lewis' literature review focused on projects that used geospatial technology to explicitly map marginal, abandoned or degraded lands specifically for the purpose of planting bioenergy crops. They narrowed their search to 21 papers from 2008 to 2013, and among them they found no common working definition of marginal land.

“We have to be careful when we talk about what is marginal. We have to be explicit about our definitions, mapping and modeling,” Kelly said. “In our lab, we are trying to understand the landscape under multiple lenses and prioritize different uses and determine how management regimes impact the land.”

The research report, titled Mapping the Potential for Biofuel Production on Marginal Lands: Differences in Definitions, Data and Models across Scales, was published in the International Journal for Geo-Information.

Click here for this story in Spanish.

An initiative to improve energy security and green technologies is part of the UC Division of Agriculture and Naturalist Resources Strategic Vision 2025.

 

Posted on Friday, November 21, 2014 at 7:45 AM
Tags: biofuel (6), climate change (20), Maggi Kelly (4)

UC scientists help clarify use of insecticide

Argentine ants tending brown soft scale on a citrus twig. Chlorpyrifos is sometimes necessary to control ants in citrus.
The insecticide chlorpyrifos is a critically important tool for California producers of alfalfa, almonds, citrus and cotton, according to a comprehensive report coordinated by the UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program. As part of an action plan, the report identifies specific research, extension and policy gaps that should be addressed to ensure safe, effective use of the insecticide.

The report, Identifying and Managing Critical Uses of Chlorpyrifos in Alfalfa, Almonds, Citrus and Cotton, was commissioned by the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (CDPR) earlier this year and submitted by UC IPM in October 2014.

“We feel the department entrusted UC IPM with this task because of its reputation for developing effective IPM systems and its track record in bringing groups together to address challenging issues,” said Pete Goodell, UC Cooperative Extension advisor for integrated pest management and report principal investigator. Lori Berger, also of the statewide IPM program, was the project coordinator.

To gather input for the report, Goodell and Berger formed four “crop teams” with leaders from the alfalfa, almond, citrus and cotton industries. While chlorpyrifos is used in many of California's more than 300 crops, these four crops were selected due to the amount of acreage treated and insecticide use patterns. Combined, these commodities are grown on about 2.5 million acres and valued at more than $10 billion per year in California.

Chlorpyrifos is a common insecticide used under the trade names Lorsban, Lock-on and generic formulations to control ants, stink bugs, aphids, whiteflies and other pests. The report details the insecticide's use patterns as compared to other pest control tactics, such as resistant varieties, mating disruption, field sanitation and other insecticides.

“Our industry teams told us that chlorpyrifos is an essential component of their IPM programs,” Goodell said. “The teams believe decision support tools would be useful to help pest control advisers and growers recognize the critical use scenarios that require its application.”

As a part of the discussions, the teams asked that CDPR develop comprehensive, science-based information about the specific risk pathways posed by chlorpyrifos and work with the industry to develop any new application safety measures. The representatives of the agricultural community also asked that new human health data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency be considered in future CDPR regulatory decision-making to ensure that the most current data available informs their decisions.

For the second phase of the project, UC IPM will hold outreach meetings in 2015 and 2016 for pest control advisers, UCCE farm advisors, commodity group representatives and farmers who grow alfalfa, almonds, citrus and cotton.

“There is a new generation of professionals coming into the field,” Goodell said. “UC's IPM Program is well-prepared to equip them with decision-making tools that include a wide variety of insect management options.”

The full report can be found on the CDPR website: http://cdpr.ca.gov/docs/pestmgt/crit_uses.htm

An initiative to manage endemic and invasive pests and diseases is part of the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources Strategic Vision 2025.

Posted on Monday, November 17, 2014 at 11:07 AM
Tags: chlorpyrifos (1), IPM (8), Lori Berger (1), Pete Goodell (1)

Drought-focused soil nutrient management series offered for farmers online

Nutrient management in almond orchards will be discussed in November.
Beginning in November, a free, drought-focused soil nutrient management series for farmers will be hosted online by the University of California Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education Program (UC SAREP), FarmsReach and Sustainable Conservation.

“Farmers and ranchers have to continually adapt their management of soil nutrients to changing conditions,” said Aubrey White, UC SAREP's communication coordinator. “Adaptation during this extreme drought presents a new challenge for growers and researchers alike. This forum dedicated to the issues farmers will face next season is an opportunity to share resources, research and ideas for success.”  

Kicking off on Nov. 17, the Nutrient Management Solutions series will offer the agriculture community:

  • Online presentations, videos or Q&A with farmers and UC Cooperative Extension advisors on nutrient management and soil fertility, with special focus on tree crops, grapes and dairy farms.
  • Facilitated online discussions in the active FarmsReach Conversations, moderated by Series presenters.  (Join the Nutrient Management Solutions Group in FarmsReach to participate.)
  • A new “Soil Nutrient Management Toolkit” in FarmsReach, with selected practical resources and info sheets for farmers of all crop and product types.

The online series is part of the Solution Center for Nutrient Management—a growing resource for nutrient management research and information, online and in-person created by UC SAREP. 

The presentations, videos and facilitated online Q&A will be hosted in three sections:

  1. Nov. 17-30 – Nutrient Management in Times of Drought: Tree Crops
  2. December (dates to be announced) – Nutrient Management in Times of Drought: Wine Grapes
  3. January (dates to be announced) – Nutrient Management in Times of Drought: Dairy Forage Crops

To get updates and announcements, or to share your ideas for the drought-focused Nutrient Management Solutions series, sign up for free at www.farmsreach.com. You can also go directly to the online group within FarmsReach, http://www.farmsreach.com/nutrient-mgmt-series, and follow news on Twitter at #AgSolutionCenter. 

About UC SAREP
The University of California Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education Program (UC SAREP) a program in UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, provides leadership and support for scientific research and education in agricultural and food systems that are economically viable, conserve natural resources and biodiversity, and enhance the quality of life in the state's communities. SAREP serves farmers, farmworkers, ranchers, researchers, educators, regulators, policy makers, industry professionals, consumers and community organizations across the state.

About FarmsReach

Founded in 2007, FarmsReach is a network that connects small- and medium-scale farms to the products, support and services they need to be successful.  By partnering with farmer members and agriculture organizations, FarmsReach offers a growing suite of services that empower farmers to make better business decisions, access new markets, preserve the environment and strengthen rural communities.  

About Sustainable Conservation

Sustainable Conservation partners with business, agriculture and government to find practical ways that the private sector can protect clean air, clean water and healthy ecosystems. The independent nonprofit organization leads powerful collaborations that produce lasting solutions and sustain the vitality of both the economy and the environment. 

Posted on Friday, November 7, 2014 at 8:18 AM
Tags: Almonds (2), fertilizer (1), nutrient management (1), SAREP (2)

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