LearnAboutAg Classroom Conference 2021

Save the Date for the Virtual 2021 California Agriculture in the Classroom Conference, September 24-25, 2021


LearnAboutAg.org, the California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom has scheduled its  34th annual conference for educators—an online class

California agriculture is diverse—producing everything from vegetables, to milk, to fruits and nuts, and to field crops and livestock. Farming shapes the local landscape in each California county. The goal is to make sure students learn about agriculture and how it contributes to each and every one of our lives each and every day.

Teaching students about the journey their food and fiber undergoes from the farm to their everyday lives is an important message. Using Agriculture in the Classroom allows students to experience real-life lessons that they will remember for the rest of their lives.

Although the conference lasts only two days, it’s hoped that teachers continue to LearnAboutAg® all year long! LearnAboutAg is here to help you continue incorporating the theme of agriculture into your classroom, or for those of you new to our program, how to get started!

We look forward to your registration and “seeing” you on Zoom!

2021-09-16T19:29:18-07:00September 16th, 2021|

Open Ag Burning To Phase Out

Open Ag Burning to Phase Out 2025


By Mike Stephens with the Ag Information Network


New requirements have started to phase out open burning of agricultural materials. California Air Resources Board began the process a decade ago. In a unanimous decision, the Air Resources Board (CARB) last week approved a plan to phase out all open agricultural burning by 2025 in the San Joaquin Valley

Ryan Jacobsen, is the CEO of the Fresno County Farm Bureau, explained how the process started. “Ultimately in control is the California Air Resources Board. They were given that authority by the SB 700 from the early 2000s,” Jacobsen said.

“There’s been a lot of progress made over time. That’s one of the misnomers is that this recent announcement was that finally they were starting to address agricultural burning. That process started literally well over a decade ago. We’ve made tremendous strides, in reducing burning,” noted Jacobsen.

There have been some difficulties with certain commodities, such as grapevines. And then secondarily, there’s been difficulties in getting rid of our materials that chip material, because you when you take an orchard out, you have this chip material, which could go to biomass facilities located throughout the San Joaquin Valley that we could dispose of the bio mass.

“The biomass facilities began shutting down significantly over the course of the last five years,” Jacobsen said. “We were losing that ability to get rid of that. What was formerly a usable product was now a waste product that nobody wanted. So that’s the issue to why there was a hurdle in trying to get through some of this,” explained Jacobsen.

2021-09-13T19:13:15-07:00September 13th, 2021|

California Plums Granted Access Into Japan


Japan Grants Market Access to California Plums


The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that Japan has granted market access for California plums. Eliminating the phytosanitary barriers keeping California plums out of the Japanese market required multiple rounds of technical negotiations that were somewhat hampered by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The California Fresh Fruit Association (CFFA) would like to extend its appreciation to the USDA Animal Plant Health Inspection Service and Agricultural Research Service’s negotiators and experts, as well as the Fresno County and Tulare County Agricultural Commissioner offices for their invaluable contributions to this process.

Ian LeMay

There will be strict packing and fumigation protocols in place but given the success of the existing California nectarine program for Japan, California stone fruit exporters have already demonstrated a commitment to meeting Japan’s requirements.

“Trade barriers threaten the health and viability of the industry. This represents a significant opportunity for California plums, as Japanese consumers value premium fruit and recognize California fruit’s superior quality. As the global economy rebounds from the COVID-19 pandemic, expanding market access will continue to be critical to the industry’s success,” said Ian LeMay, CFFA President.

2021-08-20T12:23:32-07:00August 20th, 2021|

Composting Helps Soils, and Reduce Irrigation Needs

Compost for Climate Resilient Salinas Valley


Climate change is not a future threat to the Central Coast region. The region is experiencing it now and the effects are predicted to continue to intensify.

“Symptoms of climate change including increased temperatures, wildfire intensity, storm anomalies and sea water intrusion into ground water aquifers are dramatically impacting the production of specialty crops that are important and grown in the region such as cool season vegetables,” Laura Murphy, Resource Conservation District Monterey County.

Laura Murphy

“The soils of the Salinas Valley and surrounding regions are one of the most important resources we have. Protecting them against a changing climate is critical to the future of the region. Recycling organic materials back into agriculture as compost is a solution,” explained Murphy.

Adapting to these changes in the climate requires a change in farming practices. Improving the health of the soil is one way to adapt and mitigate some of the most important harmful impacts to protect both the economic and ecological viability of the region. “Climate-smart soil management acknowledges the important role of soil in providing climate mitigation options and aims to foster co-benefits such as greenhouse gas reduction, soil carbon sequestration and farm resiliency to the extreme weather and drought conditions,” said Murphy.

“Implementing conservation practices in intensively managed vegetable production systems has always been difficult, but the application of compost can provide producers with very much needed flexibility to increase conservation goals and simultaneously develop farm resiliency to the symptoms of climate change,” noted Murphy.  “Increasing soil organic matter has numerous benefits, including increased water holding capacity, improved nutrient cycling and plant nutrient availability, diversifying and enhancing soil biological life and increasing carbon sequestration. These benefits of increased soil organic matter can lead to crop benefits including reduced irrigation demands, increased nutrient use efficiency and stabilized yields,” she said.

Beginning in 2022, California’s new state mandate, SB 1383, essentially eliminates organic materials from being landfilled to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and divert edible food for human consumption. “Diverting organic waste from landfills through composting not only reduces greenhouse gas emissions from the waste sector but also allows for nutrients to be cycled back into managed landscapes,” said Darlene Ruiz, with Salinas Valley Recycles.

Darlene Ruiz

“Compost is a stable nutrient-rich amendment that consists of a variety of organic materials that have gone through a heating and curing treatment process to be stabilized for use in agricultural production. Understanding the importance of protecting the public, each batch of compost produced undergoes a process to reduce pathogens, or PFRP, which requires piles to reach 131 degrees Fahrenheit for 72 hours, effectively eliminating harmful pathogens,” noted Ruiz. “Extra testing for human pathogens such as E. Coli and salmonella, ensures that the product is safe to use on crops that will be consumed fresh, such as lettuce. Documentation of these tests are available upon request,” she explained.

Compost is made by carefully mixing feed stocks of different carbon and nitrogen-rich materials. At the Johnson Canyon organics facility, state-of-the-art technology called ASP, or Aerated Static Pile, composting is used to create a consistent thermal treatment of the material. “Daily record-keeping of times and temperatures are required by local permits and state regulations and can be made available upon request,” said Andrew Tuckman, with Vision Recycling.

Andrew Tuckman

“After going through the heating process the material is allowed to cool and cure, enlivening it with beneficial microbial life and stabilizing it for sale. Transporting and spreading can be a sustainable component of the cost of purchasing material. It’s recommended that you discuss this with the composter and plan ahead,” he said.

With growers under increasing pressure to limit the application of nitrogen fertilizer due to potential harmful impacts to public and ecological health, compost application can help build soil nutrient reserves which results in a maintenance of significant proportions of crop demand while complying with water quality regulations. “Incorporating organic amendments into nutrient management plans can help reduce the need for synthetic fertilizers and improve soil conditions for future crops. Understanding soil nitrate levels is one of the most important actions growers can take to limit nitrogen loss,” said Carlos Rodriguez-Lopez, UC Cooperative Extension, Monterey County.

Carlos Rodriguez-Lopez

Using the soil nitrate quick test or other soil nitrogen testing methods before compost applications can help when choosing products. The carbon to nitrogen ratio of compost can be an important indicator of whether applications will retain nitrogen or release it for further uptake.

“At times, nutrient managers may want to immobilize nutrients and at other times, make them available,” said Rodriguez-Lopez. “Application timing can vary depending on management objectives. Either late in the fall, before winter rains, early spring or in between crops after the summer fallow. Application rates can also vary. Rates that are aimed at maintenance of soil organic matter may, after multiple applications, be as low as 4 to 5 tons per acre,” he said.

“If land is critically low in soil organic matter, higher rates of 10 plus tons per acre may be appropriate. No one recommendation fits all. Each field and crop location is different requiring unique approaches,” explained Rodriguez-Lopez.

2021-08-16T16:32:14-07:00August 16th, 2021|

Study: Cannabis Growers’ Irrigation May Affect Nearby Streams

Cannabis Farms Irrigating with Groundwater May Affect Stream Flows


By Pam Kan-Rice UCANR  Assistant Director, News and Information Outreach


The legalization of marijuana for recreational use in California has encouraged growers to expand plantings of the lucrative crop. Like any plant, cannabis requires water to grow. A new study from the Cannabis Research Center at UC Berkeley examined where cannabis growers in California are getting water for their crops, highlighting significant gaps in cannabis cultivation policy.

Environmental advocates have expressed concern that cannabis farms are diverting water from rivers and streams, which could harm fish and other wildlife.

The researchers studied water use in 11 of the state’s top cannabis-producing counties – Humboldt, Lake, Mendocino, Monterey, Nevada, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz, Sonoma, Trinity, and Yolo.

Is cannabis production causing harm to fish in rivers and streams?

Using California state cannabis permitting data, the researchers found that cannabis farms rely primarily on groundwater wells, not streams, for their irrigation needs. But pumping groundwater could also have an undesirable effect on wildlife.

“Wells drilled near streams in upland watersheds have the potential to cause rapid streamflow depletion similar to direct surface water diversions,” said co-author Ted Grantham, UC Cooperative Extension specialist and co-director of the Cannabis Research Center.

The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, or SGMA, enacted in 2014, is designed to prevent overdraft of groundwater and protect water quality and supplies for agriculture, residents, fish and other wildlife.

But according to Grantham, “Most of the cannabis farms fall outside of the groundwater basins regulated under SGMA, so well use represents an important, but largely unregulated threat to streams in the region.”

The researchers found that well use by cannabis farms is common statewide, exceeding 75% among farms that have permits to grow in nine of the 11 top cannabis-producing counties. In eight of the 11 counties, more than one-quarter of farms using wells are located outside of groundwater basins subject to state groundwater use regulations. Farms growing larger acreages of cannabis pumped more groundwater for irrigation, while farms with on-farm streams or located in areas that receive more rainfall were less reliant on wells

The study relied on water-source data only for cannabis farms that have state permits to grow.

Based on models, the researchers estimate the majority (60%) of unregulated Northern California cannabis farms in Humboldt and Mendocino counties are likely to use groundwater wells if they follow the same patterns as the regulated industry.

“Our results suggest that proactive steps be taken to address groundwater use in cannabis regulations in California and call for further research into the effects of groundwater use on streamflow, especially outside of large groundwater basins,” write the authors.

2021-08-12T12:23:58-07:00August 12th, 2021|

The Truth: Plants do not USE water….The plants Borrow water

Plants Transpire Most of the Water They Use!

Editor’s note: California Ag Today interviewed Allan Fulton, an Irrigation and Water Resources Advisor, UC Cooperative Extension Tehama County, in Redbluff CA, to comment on the debate about the agricultural industry’s use of water and to focus on a critical but disregarded process—that all plants transpire, even plants cultivated for the crops we eat.

CalAgToday: We hear in the media that our crops are using too much water. And while all plants need water to grow food, we also know that a high percentage of water taken up by all plants actually transpires back into the atmosphere, to form clouds and precipitation, right?

Fulton: Yes, when plants transpire, the water just returns to the local hydrologic cycle, leaving the harvested crop that we distribute elsewhere in the US or in the world actually very low in water content.

CalAgToday: When we think about transpiration, are the plants actually “borrowing” the water?

Fulton: Yes. We get a lot of questions about why we irrigate our crops so much, and it comes from the general public not being as close to farming every day. The truth is, plant transpiration is a necessary biological process. The water cools the tree so it stays healthy and exits the leaves through special cells called stomata. While the stomates are open to allow water to transpire, carbon dioxide enters and is used in photosynthesis, making sugars and carbohydrates for the plant to create the fruits and nuts that we eat. So, an inadequately watered plant cannot take in enough carbon dioxide during transpiration, resulting in defective fruits and nuts that are smaller, shriveled, cracked—all the things the typical consumer does not want to buy.

Plants cannot gain carbon dioxide without simultaneously losing water vapor.[1]

CalAgToday: Can we say 95 or 99% of the water that is taken up by the plant gets transpired and definitely not wasted?

Fulton: Definitely. We converted to pressurized irrigation systems, micro-sprinklers, and mini sprinklers, so we have a lot more control over how much water we apply at any one time. We do not put water out in acre-feet or depths of 4-6 inches at a time anymore. So, much like when rainfall occurs, we can measure it in tenths, or 1 or 2 inches at most. As a result, the water doesn’t penetrate the soil very deeply, maybe only 1 or 2 feet each irrigation.

We are very efficient with the water, but because we deliver it in small doses, we have to irrigate very frequently. That is why we see irrigation systems running a lot, but they are systems that efficiently stretch our water supply and do not waste it.

CalAgToday: But again, the vast majority of the water that the tree is taking up is being transpired, right?

Fulton: Yes, most of the time, at least 90% of the water that we apply is taken up through the tree and transpired so that photosynthesis can happen.UCCE Tehama County

CalAgToday: And transpiration increases on a hot day?

Fulton: Yes, we do get a little bit of loss from surface evaporation from wet soil, but we try to control that with smaller wetting patterns—drip-confined wetting patterns. When you think about it, the heat of the day is in the afternoon when many irrigation systems don’t run because of higher energy costs. There are incentives not to pump in the middle of the afternoon, but those who do try to confine the wetted area to limit evaporation. And the hot hours of the day make up about 4 hours of a 24-hour cycle, so we irrigate mostly during the night time and early morning hours to lesson evaporative loss.

CalAgToday: Growers are doing everything they can to conserve water. If the trees and vines are all transpiring most of their irrigated water, why is using water to grow food a problem?

Fulton: I think the emphasis throughout the United States has always been to provide a secure food supply. That security has many benefits, economically and politically; and in the end, we are trying to provide the general public with good quality, safe food at the best price possible.


[1]  Debbie Swarthout and C.Michael Hogan. 2010. Stomata. Encyclopedia of Earth. National Council for Science and the Environment, Washington DC.



The California Irrigation Management Information System (CIMIS) is a program unit in the Water Use and Efficiency Branch, Division of Statewide Integrated Water Management, California Department of Water Resources (DWR) that manages a network of over 145 automated weather stations in California. CIMIS was developed in 1982 by DWR and the University of California, Davis (UC Davis). It was designed to assist irrigators in managing their water resources more efficiently. Efficient use of water resources benefits Californians by saving water, energy, and money.

The CIMIS user base has expanded over the years. Currently, there are over 40,000 registered CIMIS data users, including landscapers, local water agencies, firefighters, air control board, pest control managers, university researchers, school teachers, students, construction engineers, consultants, hydrologists, government agencies, utilities, lawyers, weather agencies, and many more.

2021-08-04T18:34:08-07:00August 4th, 2021|

Fruits, Vegetables and Nuts Ward off Chronic Diseases

USDA’S Vilsack: Eating More Fruits and Vegetables for Better Health

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor, CaliforniaAgToday

At the recent virtual Forbes Thrive Future of Food summit, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack spoke about encouraging all people to eat better—even those we trade with.

“We’re trying to figure out ways in which we can educate consumers about the benefits of a particular kind of product, whether it’s dairy or whether it’s potatoes or whether it’s peppers or whatever it is,” said Vilsack.  “And making sure that people understand that we’re growing demand at the same time we’re trying to do a trade relationship. I think that’s one way of lessening the tension and encouraging more of these restrictive practices that make it more difficult for trade to take place.”

In this country, making sure that we understand, we collectively have to consume more of these fruits and vegetables if we’re really going to get on the other side of a serious obesity issue. “More than 70% of Americans today, adults, are overweight or obese. And 60% of us have chronic diseases, most of which are connected to diet. 40% of us have 2 or more chronic diseases,” noted Vilsack.

“The health care costs of this are enormous and the lack of productivity, as a result, is also troublesome,” said Vilsack. “And we have 18 and 1/2% of our youngsters who are obese today and a significant percentage of them are overweight who will take into adulthood those same chronic diseases, that same productivity challenge. So it’s in our best interest for us to figure out that my plate, with 1/2 our plate being fruits and vegetables, that’s building demand in the United States. And obviously, if you build demand, you have to have supply and the supply can come from lots of different places,” noted Vilsack.

2021-08-03T09:37:56-07:00August 3rd, 2021|

Citrus Pest/Disease Program Continues

CPDPC and CPDPP Continuation Approved

By order of the Secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture, the Citrus Pest & Disease Prevention Program (CPDPP) and the Citrus Pest & Disease Prevention Committee (CPDPC) have been authorized to continue conducting activities for another four years.

This decision comes as a result of requirements set in place by the Food and Agricultural Code, Section 5921, which requires the Citrus Pest & Disease Prevention Division to hold public hearings every four years to determine whether the operation of this article should be continued. Following the hearings held in May and June 2021, Secretary Karen Ross determined the program and committee have adequately met their purpose and obligations to the public and the citrus industry and also encouraged the CPDPC to continue to look for process improvements and efficiencies to best serve the California citrus industry.

If you’re interested in learning more about the CPDPP and CPDPC, please visit the About section of Citrus Insider.

2021-08-02T18:08:20-07:00August 2nd, 2021|

Rep. Harder Funds Almond Biocarbon Program

Almond Alliance Commends Rep. Harder for FARM Act funding for Pilot Programs to Produce Biocarbon

The Almond Alliance of California today commended Rep. Josh Harder (C-10) for including funding to support ten nationwide pilot programs to convert tree nut by-products into biocarbon products in the Future of Agricultural Resiliency and Modernization (FARM) Act.

Almond Alliance President Elaine Trevino explained that in California the funding will help accelerate efforts to develop new biofuels or other biocarbon products derived from almond harvest by-products.  For example, in a process called “pyrolysis” almond harvest by-products can produce biochar, a soil amendment with excellent carbon sequestration potential and syngas and bio-oils, which can be used directly to fire furnaces or more importantly as inputs to produce motor vehicle biofuels and other biochemicals.

Trevino commented, “California’s almond growers are proud to be innovators who remain focused on sustainability and are constantly looking to put everything we grow to its highest and best use.  We expect that biofuels produced using California Grown almond by-products will become a major contributor towards meeting California’s carbon neutral goals.  We appreciate Congressman Harder’s ongoing support of almond growers and especially his inclusion of funding for pilot projects in the FARM Act that will catalyze development of climate-friendly biocarbon and biofuel products.”

2021-07-29T11:09:24-07:00July 29th, 2021|

Study: New Fumigation Stategy

New Fumigation Techniques for Soilborne Diseases

By Tim Hammerich with the Ag Information Network

Protecting fruit from soilborne pathogens is a big concern for strawberry growers. Researchers at the University of California Ag and Natural Resources are looking to see if a drip application of fungicides might be effective, noted UC Cooperative Extension advisor in entomology and biologicals, Surendra Dara.

“This particular study was based on a request from FMC. They wanted to evaluate if drip application of some fungicides could be supplemental to whatever the growers are currently following to control soilborne diseases. And they also wanted to see if it has any impact on improving the crop health, and potentially other diseases,” said Dara.

Dara noted the results from the first trial were positive, but he didn’t see enough incidence of soilborne disease in the control group to be sure. He’s optimistic though, given drip application of fungicides has been effective on other plant pathogens.

“They do apply fungicides to drip, but not necessarily for soilborne diseases. The management practices are usually obtaining clean transplants and fumigating or crop rotation. These are the typical management recommendations for soil-borne diseases,” explained Dara.

Dara hopes to continue to study the potential for this management practice.

2021-07-23T21:22:40-07:00July 22nd, 2021|
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