About California Ag Today

This author has not yet filled in any details.
So far California Ag Today has created 1802 blog entries.

UC ANR receives $1 million for VINE Climate-Smart Agrifood Innovation Program

By Pam Kan-Rice

University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) has been awarded a $1 million UC Climate Action Innovation & Entrepreneurship grant for its VINE Climate-Smart Agrifood Innovation Program. The VINE, a UC ANR program advancing sustainable agriculture and food innovation, will use the grant to develop new technologies and techniques that help California farmers adapt to climate change.

“Expanded programming from The VINE will improve UC ANR’s overall ability to serve our mission of improving the lives of all Californians,” said Glenda Humiston, UC vice president for agriculture and natural resources.

California’s agricultural sector is the largest in the United States, producing over 400 crops that account for 25% of the nation’s food production and 40% of its fruits, vegetables and tree nuts.

However, climate change is expected to have a significant impact on the productivity and resilience of California’s working landscapes. Higher temperatures and changing precipitation patterns are projected to increase water demand for crops and create a more limited growing season that will produce lower yields in some crops. Additionally, climate change may increase weed growth and insect damage, leading to higher uses of herbicides and pesticides.

“We are thrilled to receive the UC Climate Action Innovation & Entrepreneurship Award,” said Gabe Youtsey, UC ANR’s chief innovation officer. “With this grant, we will be able to support even more entrepreneurs and innovators in developing climate-resilient solutions for California’s agriculture and food systems.”

“Our ultimate goal is to build a bioeconomy in California’s food valleys that rivals Silicon Valley in size and importance to the future U.S. economy, while also addressing urgent climate crises and advancing equity for underserved populations,” Youtsey said.

The VINE Climate Smart Agrifood Innovation Program is designed to identify, commercialize, and scale science and technology breakthroughs that make food production more sustainable. The VINE team has already supported entrepreneurs in the areas of controlled environment agriculture, precision agriculture, robotics, biologicals, climate-resilient crops, livestock health, and other topics that have direct or indirect mitigating effects on climate change.

The UC Climate Action grant will enable The VINE program to expand its support for startups and entrepreneurs developing climate-resilient solutions for California’s food system. The program will include the creation of a VINE Climate Solutions Seed Fund, which will provide project support for testing, trialing and demonstrating agrifood technology products or services to support commercial expansion.

The VINE Navigator Service will be expanded to provide matchmaking, mentoring, talent identification, finance connections and technical assistance to entrepreneurs from UC campuses, across California, or startups around the globe that have climate solutions in the agrifood sector.

An example of this work is farm-ng, a farm robotics start-up based in Watsonville that The VINE has been advising. With the networking opportunities facilitated by The VINE, farm-ng was able to secure 20 new customers, generating an estimated $500,000 in revenue. The VINE’s involvement also enabled farm-ng to establish a professional manufacturing facility and employ local talent from disadvantaged communities.

The UC Climate Action award is part of a historic $185 million partnership between UC and the state of California to tackle the climate crisis, from developing new methods for carbon capture to creating innovative coping strategies for drought, wildfire and other impacts of a warming planet. 

The VINE 

The VINE program aims to create a next-generation agrifood technology bioeconomy in California’s food valleys to promote sustainable economic growth, address climate crises, and advance equity for underserved regions and populations. The VINE team will work closely with local and regional partners to identify key industry-driven gaps and opportunities across the food system and provide critical support to startups and entrepreneurs developing new solutions for climate mitigation and adaptation.

For more information, please visit The VINE website: thevine.io.

2023-03-03T08:08:46-08:00March 3rd, 2023|

California Walnuts Raises Awareness of the Power of Omega-3 ALA in March

By California Walnut Commission

California Walnuts is raising awareness of the health benefits associated with omega-3 alpha-linoleic acid (ALA), while spotlighting the many ways that the versatility of walnuts can help increase the intake of omega-3 in the diet. Walnuts are the only tree nut that provide an excellent source of the plant-based omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid (2.5g/oz.), which research indicates may play a role in heart health, brain health and healthy aging.

In fact, a 2022 study published in Advances in Nutritionfound that given the accumulating evidence on omega-3 ALA and cardiovascular-related outcomes, food sources high in ALA should be included as part of a heart-healthy dietary pattern.

While research continues to reinforce the many health benefits of walnuts, they are also an easy food to incorporate in the everyday diet, whether as an on-the-go snack or as part of a meal. They are delicious on their own, but also add great texture to salads, yogurt or baked goods. Walnuts can be a key ingredient in rich, satisfying spreads such as hummus, muhammara, pesto or walnut butter. Many consumers are not aware that walnuts also shine as a plant-based, center-of-the-plate ingredient.

Finely chopped or ground walnuts blended with legumes or mushrooms can be used as a plant-based alternative to ground beef or poultry in a variety of global dishes, ranging from meatballs to Mexican Walnut “Chorizo” Burritos to Indian Spiced Walnut Crumbles. This ground walnut meat can also be frozen for easy, make-ahead meals that offer a simple way to meet the recommended omega-3 intake.

“To celebrate the power of omega-3, we are kicked off our fourth annual global month-long campaign on March 1, to highlight that walnuts are an incredibly functional and versatile food that makes omega-3 consumption tasty and easy for people of all ages,” shares Robert Verloop, CEO of the California Walnut Commission. “Walnuts are the only nut and one of just a few foods that provide a rich source of plant-based omega-3. We want to inspire people to reap the health benefits of those omega-3s by enjoying walnuts in their daily snacks and meals. And, to keep your walnuts fresh at home, be sure to store them in the fridge or freezer!”

California Walnuts’ Power of 3 campaign features recipes, videos, social media content, digital advertising, instore promotions and more to inspire people around the world to enjoy the flavor, texture and nutritional benefits that walnuts bring to their lives. For more information about the benefits of California walnuts along with new global plant-forward recipe inspiration, visit walnuts.org/power-of-3/ and be sure to share your own walnut culinary creations on social using the hashtag: #PowerOfOmega3.

 

2023-03-02T09:11:25-08:00March 2nd, 2023|

Richard Smith retires after 37 years of translating science into solutions for vegetable growers

By: Pam Kan-Rice

For four decades, when a new plant disease infects fields of lettuce or a new regulation is issued for agriculture, vegetable farmers across the state have turned to Richard Smith, the University of California Cooperative Extension vegetable crops advisor, for answers. After 37 years of service with UCCE, Smith retired on Jan. 4.

“The whole industry has been dreading Richard’s retirement!” exclaimed Jennifer Clarke, executive director of the California Leafy Greens Research Program. “Richard is a wealth of knowledge and has a great ability to translate science into real-world practical solutions.”

In the past few years, the leafy greens industry has lost millions of dollars of crops due to infections of impatiens necrotic spot virus (INSV) and Pythium wilt. Smith is among the researchers investigating the diseases.

“Richard has conducted important variety trials and led efforts in identifying the ‘top 10’ weed hosts for INSV and strategies to reduce the wintertime ‘green bridge’ for this virus,” Clarke said.  

Smith also has kept policymakers informed of the latest research. In 2021, he testified before the Assembly Committee on Agriculture about leafy green plant diseases. 

A legacy of practical advice, service to community

By serving on numerous grower and county committees and working directly with growers, Smith has built a reputation for understanding growers’ needs and developing practical solutions. He has found it rewarding to see his research results used. 

“The research that I have conducted with my collaborators has helped the water board to better fit their regulations to the reality of farming and to minimize the economic constraints,” Smith said.

Smith and his colleague Michael Cahn, UCCE irrigation and water resources advisor, also have become trusted and respected voices when discussing AgOrder 4.0 with the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board, according to Clarke. AgOrder 4.0 calls for farmers to reduce the amount of fertilizer they apply to crops. 

Field trials conducted by Smith and Cahn showed growers they could use nitrogen from high nitrate wells toward meeting a crop’s nutritional needs. 

“Richard has also done important research to develop nitrogen removal coefficients for AgOrder 4.0,” Clarke said. “Recently he and Eric Brennan of USDA-ARS (Agricultural Research Service) looked at cover crops and identified a system to predict shoot biomass and allow for nitrogen scavenging credits. His work has been pivotal in helping growers comply with AgOrder 4.0 in a cost-effective and realistic manner.”  

Growers also use his research to manage cadmium, a heavy metal that is naturally present in soils. 

“He led the effort to help growers find a best management practice that reduces cadmium uptake in various crops,” Clarke said. “The Central Coast has areas of productive agricultural land where there are naturally occurring shale deposits. The ability to amend soil to reduce plant uptake of this heavy metal has allowed these important production areas to continue to farm nutritious vegetables.”

‘Never had a bad day as a farm advisor’

Growing up in Watsonville, Smith began working at a young age in agriculture for summer jobs.

“I was in 4-H and got to know ag advisors and was always impressed by them,” Smith said. “I was fortunate to be able to work as an advisor for my career. I never had a bad day as a farm advisor – it was very satisfying working with growers and helping them with their issues.” 

Smith joined UC Cooperative Extension as a farm advisor intern in San Diego County and San Joaquin County in 1985 after earning his master’s degree in agronomy from UC Davis. In 1986, he moved to the Central Valley to serve as an interim farm advisor for San Joaquin County, then became a vegetable crops farm advisor for Stanislaus County in 1987. 

In 1989, Smith moved to the Central Coast to serve as UCCE small farms advisor for San Benito, Monterey and Santa Cruz counties. In 1999, he transitioned to UCCE vegetable crops and weed science farm advisor for those three counties, where he served for the rest of his career.

Mentoring the next generation of scientists

“Richard was my mentor, principal investigator on my first collaborative study at ANR, speaker at several of my extension events, and a dear colleague,” said Surendra Dara, former UCCE entomology and biologicals advisor and now director of Oregon State University’s North Willamette Research & Extension Center and professor of horticulture. “He is very kind, friendly, and most importantly has a good sense of humor. He is well-regarded both by his peers and stakeholders.”

Smith has been active in professional organizations, regularly attending the annual meetings of the American Society for Horticulture Science and the American Society of Agronomy. He served as president of the California Chapter of the American Society of Agronomy in 2014 and served on the board of the California Weed Science Society, which granted him the Award of Excellence in 2005 and an honorary membership in 2020.

As a public service, Smith served on the board of the Agriculture and Land-Based Training Association, and taught classes and conducted outreach to their Spanish-speaking clientele. He was a regular guest speaker for vegetable crop and weed science classes at CSU Fresno, CSU Monterey Bay, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, Hartnell Community College and Cabrillo Community College. 

As he winds down his career, Smith has been mentoring new UCCE farm advisors and scientists who have joined USDA-Agricultural Research Service in Salinas and California State University, Monterey Bay, acquainting them with local issues.

“Richard’s leadership and mentorship has been critical in the development of my career as a new researcher at USDA-ARS in Salinas,” said Daniel K. Hasegawa, research entomologist in USDA-ARS’s Crop Improvement and Protection Research Unit. “Richard has taught me so much about agricultural practices in the Salinas Valley and has connected me with growers and pest control advisers, which has enhanced the impact of my own research, which includes projects addressing thrips and INSV.” 

Smith, who has been granted emeritus status by UC Agriculture and Natural Resources, plans to complete nitrogen research projects that are underway.

2023-03-01T14:07:18-08:00March 1st, 2023|

Cal Poly Strawberry Center Honored for Innovation in Pest Management

By Jeff Cardinale

As the 4th most valuable crop in California, the strawberry industry continues to advance in many ways, including innovative methods of pest management. The California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) honored the Cal Poly Strawberry Center for its innovation and commitment to implementing IPM (Integrated Pest Management) during the IPM Achievement Awards ceremony today.

 

The Cal Poly Strawberry Center improves IPM and sustainability in strawberry production through prolific research and outreach programs with a focus on plant pathology, entomology, and labor automation. The center is conducting ongoing research to increase commercial beneficial predatory mite quality and improving the Lygus bug vacuum as alternatives to traditional pesticides. The center also provides IPM training for undergraduate and graduate students who plan to advance to positions within the strawberry industry and carry the center’s IPM and sustainability philosophy throughout California and beyond.

 

“On behalf of the Cal Poly Strawberry Center, it is an honor to accept this award and to be recognized by DPR as a leader in the use of sustainable pest management methods. The Strawberry Center is proud to be a part of this industry, helping develop IPM solutions through applied research and training students along the way,” said Dr. Gerald Holmes, Cal Poly Strawberry Center Director.

 

IPM is an approach to pest management that uses the least toxic, effective method to solve pest problems. The Strawberry Center’s work on advancing technology and efficiency of the bug vacuum is just one example of a non-chemical solution to pest management in the strawberry industry.

 

“California strawberries are grown on less than one percent of all California farmland. Despite this small footprint, pest control is critical to sustainable farm practices. The California Strawberry Commission and the Strawberry Center are constantly working to provide California strawberry family farming operations with the best tools to combat pests and do so with safer and more sustainable pest management practices,” said Rick Tomlinson, Strawberry Commission President.

 

The Strawberry Center is a partnership between the Commission and Cal Poly that began in 2013. The initial team began conducting research on soil-borne pathogens and fumigation alternatives, two critical pressing issues facing the industry. Over the last 10 years, the Strawberry Center has expanded its research to three main programs: plant pathology, entomology, and automation.

 

Through innovative research, California strawberry farmers are expanding sustainable farming practices. Ongoing partnerships provide ample opportunities to collaborate locally and globally to search for effective solutions to manage plant pathogens and insect pests. These partnerships support rural communities to protect the residents and the environment.

 

2023-02-24T13:19:12-08:00February 24th, 2023|

Statement on the Bureau of Reclamation’s Initial 2023 Water Supply Allocation for the Friant Division

By Alex Biering

Today, the Bureau of Reclamation announced that initial water supply allocations for the Friant Division contractors and the San Joaquin River Restoration Program. Friant Division Class 1 contractors will receive 100% of their contract supplies from Millerton Lake, equivalent to 800,000 acre-feet of water; Friant Division Class 2 contractors will begin with a 20% allocation, representing about 234,000 acre-feet. The San Joaquin River Restoration Program will receive a “wet year” allocation of about 556,500 acre-feet of water to support habitat and spawning conditions for returning salmon. Coming on the heels of three dry years (two of which required releases from Friant Dam to meet Exchange Contractor demands), these allocations are excellent news for the communities and farms in the Friant Division and on the eastside, as well as for the river restoration effort which had to halt flows last year due to the drought. We are encouraged by Reclamation’s confidence in water availability for the 2023 water year and appreciate the early allocation announcement, as it helps farmers and water managers plan for planting crops or implementing recharge projects throughout the remainder of the season.

2023-02-23T15:11:15-08:00February 23rd, 2023|

Westlands Water District Responds to Central Valley Project Initial Water Allocation

By Elizabeth Jonasson

Today, the Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) announced the initial water allocation for Central Valley Project (CVP) water. Reclamation allocated Westlands Water District (Westlands) and similarly situation contractors 35% of the water the districts are entitled to under their contracts.

In response to the announcement, Jose Gutierrez, the District’s interim general manager, issued the following statement:

“We are grateful for a 35% allocation and thank the dedicated staff at Reclamation, who worked hard to allocate as much water as feasible to the water users who have survived on a 0% allocation for the past two years. The past two years of 0% resulted in over 223,000 acres, approximately 36% of the District’s farmland, being fallowed in Westlands. An adequate and reliable supply of surface water is critical to the viability of the communities and farms in the San Joaquin Valley and their ability to feed the world. We are hopeful that precipitation continues to fall and are appreciative of the initial allocation from Reclamation.”

This year’s initial allocation demonstrates the critical and urgent need to invest in water storage and conveyance infrastructure. California must do a better job capturing water during wet periods, like those we experienced at the end of December and beginning of January. Modernizing our decades old federal and state storage and conveyance systems and improving local and regional infrastructure are important steps. The District continues to pursue, support, and implement balanced solutions that protect and restore the water supplies needed by the families that live and work in and around the District. The District is committed to ensuring every drop of water available is put to good use, including for California’s precious ecosystems.

2023-02-23T08:41:59-08:00February 23rd, 2023|

Farm Smart program instills appreciation for ag in Imperial Valley youth

By Saoimanu Sope, UCANR

Desert REC program has reached more than 168,000 people thanks to broad community support

“Oohs” and “aahs” fill the classroom as Stacey Amparano, Farm Smart program manager at the Desert Research and Extension Center in Holtville, yanks an ear of corn off a stalk. Holding it high in the air, she begins shucking the corn to reveal a bright yellow color.

“It’s corn!” yells a member of the audience. Amparano demonstrates how to shuck and shell corn to a group of local kindergarteners, all while explaining its many uses.

Farm Smart, an outreach program focused on agricultural literacy, has educated more than 168,000 people in the Imperial Valley and surrounding areas since its inception in 2001. The program is an integral part of Desert REC – one of nine centers operated across the state by University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources – and serves K-12 students and their families.

Nestled in the southeastern corner of the state, Imperial Valley is home to over 500,000 acres of farmable land and more than 65 crops, making it an ideal place to teach youth about the valley’s significant contribution to California, the U.S., and the world.

“Farm Smart is a reminder to kids that they come from a place that feeds most of the country throughout the year. It’s something to be proud of,” said Amparano.

While the younger participants might not grasp the full impact of Farm Smart right away, the community sure does. More than 60% of the program’s funding comes from contributions from the community, including local organizations, institutions and families.

“I don’t think many people realize that a majority of Farm Smart is funded by the community. It makes this program even more special, that our own community believes in our impact and wants us to keep going,” Amparano said.

For example, the Imperial Irrigation District has supported and funded the program since it began, donating $107,500 in 2022 alone.

“This program has created an awareness of how food is grown, harvested and put on our table,” said Norma Galindo, former IID board director. “It invites participation from the elementary through high school grades and serves as a hands-on experience that is priceless.”

During her tenure, Galindo championed the increase of IID’s monetary allocation to Farm Smart and requested that older people be allowed to participate in the same manner as the students. This created an opportunity for Farm Smart to engage a segment of the population that is often overlooked. Like the youngsters, retirees escaping cold weather in northern states can learn about irrigation and soils and pick vegetables to take home.

Valeria Landeros, a community education specialist at Desert REC, grew up in the Imperial Valley and remembers attending a Farm Smart field trip in elementary school. “I remember learning how to milk a cow and make butter and thinking that we traveled somewhere far out of town,” she said.

“Most people who grow up in Imperial Valley and the greater area know nothing about the fields that surround us,” said Clarissa Abarca, another community education specialist at Desert REC.

Similar to Landeros, Abarca participated in Farm Smart field trips during elementary to high school and can attest to the program’s ability to modify its content and suit the interest of all ages. As an educator, Abarca gets most excited about instilling an appreciation for agriculture and introducing students to the numerous careers in the sector.

Galindo said that she expects that the IID Board will continue to support this program with crucial funds.

“Any other [county] that emulates this type of program stands to benefit from it, if and when it is done on a long-term and consistent basis. Teaching the city folks about farming is a process, not an event,” said Galindo.

Farm Smart was selected as a recipient of the California State Future Farmers of America Distinguished Service Award and will be recognized at the upcoming State FFA Conference in March.

To learn more about Farm Smart visit https://drec.ucanr.edu/Farm_Smart/.

UC Agriculture and Natural Resources brings the power of UC to all 58 California counties. Through research and Cooperative Extension in agriculture, natural resources, nutrition, economic and youth development, our mission is to improve the lives of all Californians. Learn more at ucanr.edu and support our work at donate.ucanr.edu.

2023-02-23T08:23:29-08:00February 23rd, 2023|

CALIFORNIA FRESH FRUIT ASSOCIATION ISSUES STATEMENT ON CVP WATER ALLOCATION ANNOUNCEMENT

The California Fresh Fruit Association (CFFA) has issued a statement in response to
today’s initial water allocation announcement of 35% for the Central Valley Project (CVP) by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

President Ian LeMay stated, “After two years of receiving an initial 0% allocation, the California Fresh Fruit Association and our members are grateful for the 35% that will go to the Central Valley Project contract holders. Having a reliable water supply is critical for our members to continue to be able to grow fresh fruit for our nation. However, after experiencing significant rainfall in December and January, it has been made even more apparent California’s need for improvements to our storage and conveyance infrastructure, as well as changes to the regulations that manage our water systems. I cannot help but wonder how much higher this allocation could have been with the ability to capture more water during the wet periods.”

CFFA will continue to advocate for needed changes to water regulations, along with additional water conveyance and infrastructure solutions at the federal and state levels to ensure that our members are able to provide the freshest fruit to the nation and world.

2023-02-23T07:44:21-08:00February 23rd, 2023|

Almond Board of California Announces 2023 Elections

By: Rick Kushman, Almond Board of California

Elections for the Almond Board of California (ABC) Board of Directors have launched for the 2023-2024 crop year with the call to all candidates to file their petitions or declarations of candidacy by April 1, 2023.

The industry will choose for one independent grower position and two independent handler positions on the ABC Board of Directors in voting that starts April 21 and ends May 25. Alternate seats for those spots are also open, plus a second grower alternate seat, currently empty, is also up for election.

To be considered for an independent grower or alternate seat, candidates must be a grower and must submit a petition signed by at least 15 independent almond growers (as verified by ABC). Independent handler and alternate candidates must declare their intention in writing to ABC.

All details, documents, open positions, the election timeline and deadlines, and frequently asked questions can be found at Almonds.com/Elections. All petitions and declarations must state the position for which the candidate is running and be sent to abcbodelections@almondboard.com or printed and mailed to ABC, 1150 9th St., Suite 1500, Modesto, CA 95354. The deadline for all filings is April 1. Potential candidates who’d like more information can contact ABC at abcbodelections@almondboard.com.

“The ABC Board of Directors is tremendously important to the success of our industry,” said ABC President and CEO Richard Waycott. “More than 7,600 growers and 100 handlers count on them to guide the work of the Almond Board and to help the industry navigate these complicated times.”

The ABC board sets policy and recommends budgets in major areas, including marketing, production research, public relations and advertising, nutrition research, statistical reporting, quality control and food safety.

Getting involved provides an opportunity to help shape the future of the almond industry and to help guide ABC in its mission to promote California almonds to domestic and international audiences through marketing efforts, funding and promoting studies about almonds’ health benefits, and ensuring best-of-class agricultural practices and food safety.

ABC encourages eligible women, minorities and people with disabilities to consider running for a position on the Board of Directors to reflect the diversity of the industry it serves.

2023-02-15T15:51:15-08:00February 15th, 2023|

California Fresh Fruit Association Announces Mentors’ Award Recipient and Keynote Speakers for Upcoming 87th Annual Meeting

The California Fresh Fruit Association (CFFA) is pleased to announce the recipient for the Mentors’ Award along with the speakers that will headline the Industry Workshops during its upcoming 87th Annual Meeting on March 12-14, 2023, at The Lodge at Torrey Pines.

The Association will honor Harold McClarty, of HMC Farms with the prestigious Mentors’ Award, which is bestowed to an individual who has demonstrated exceptional dedication to the California fresh grape, berry, and tree fruit communities through their leadership in the industry. McClarty is one of the leading family owned, vertically integrated tree fruit and table grape operations in California. He has served on the Western Growers, California Table Grape Commission and CFFA Board of Directors and has contributed to the future of agriculture by supporting programs at the local community college.

This year’s Industry Workshops will feature two sessions, one on Monday and another on Tuesday. On Monday, March 13th, the Industry Workshop will feature Ron Barsamian of Barsamian & Moody Attorneys at Law, who will provide an update on California labor issues.

On Tuesday, March 14th, attendees will hear from Lorren Walker of Elias Walker LLP, on the priorities taking place in Washington, D.C., as preparations begin for the 2023 Farm Bill. He will also discuss trade priorities within the Biden-Harris Administration and what we can expect from the new leadership in Congress following the midterm elections.

CFFA President Ian LeMay stated, “The Association leadership and staff is looking forward to the 87th Annual Meeting in La Jolla. We are excited to recognize Harold McClarty for his many contributions to the fresh fruit industry as well as to CFFA. Additionally, the Industry Workshops will each offer a vibrant discussion on the key issues the Association is focusing on behalf of the California fresh fruit industry.” Information regarding CFFA’s 87th Annual Meeting can be found here.

2023-02-15T12:05:50-08:00February 15th, 2023|
Go to Top