Associations, Organizations, Educational and Research Institutions

CFFA REACTS TO PAGA REFORM SIGNING

Courtesy of the California Fresh Fruit Association

The California Fresh Fruit Association (CFFA) applauds Governor Newsom’s enactment of legislation to reform the Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA). The Association is proud to have been a partner in the Fix PAGA Coalition, as this new state law will make significant improvements to how PAGA cases are handled in California.

The PAGA Reform agreement was reached in a collaborative effort by the Newsom Administration, legislative leaders, labor advocates and the Fix PAGA Coalition. The legislative package – AB 2288 by Assemblymember Ash Kalra and SB 92 by Senator Tom Umberg – will ensure employees are able to bring forth labor claims and receive fair compensation, while limiting lawsuits that ultimately hurt employers and their workforce.

President Daniel Hartwig stated, “CFFA is grateful that the coalition was able to come together and reach a solution to the scourge of PAGA lawsuits. Far too many ag employers have been on the receiving end of these shakedown lawsuits and have spent millions of their hard-earned dollars in attorney fees to make them go away. This reform effort helps protect employers and employees.”

California agriculture has long been affected by PAGA lawsuits, and the Association is appreciative to this collective group for coming together to reach a deal that will benefit businesses and their employees across all industries.

2024-07-03T08:13:24-07:00July 3rd, 2024|

Report outlines top concerns in California organic agriculture

Courtesy of Mike Hsu

Organic Agriculture Institute needs assessment refines how it can address pressing challenges

The explosive growth of organic agriculture in the U.S. – reflected in a 90% increase in organic farms from 2011 to 2021, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics – has come at a cost for some farmers. With new farming operations increasing the supply of organic commodities, along with consolidation of buyers, growers report that their profit margins are not what they used to be.

Those market size considerations are among the challenges highlighted in a new report detailing the initial findings by the University of California Organic Agriculture Institute on the most pressing needs of the state’s organic sector. OAI gathered and analyzed data from 423 responses to an online grower survey, over 60 interviews with stakeholders across the organic community, and additional observations from farm visits and workshops.

The report describes other frequently mentioned systemic priorities, such as maintaining integrity of the term “organic,” developing a market for organic seeds, spreading consumer awareness, and alleviating the burdens of organic certification and reporting.

Shriya Rangarajan, the postdoctoral researcher with OAI leading this statewide needs assessment, said that the reported challenges varied by organic status (fully certified, transitioning to organic, or a mixed farm with some conventional), type of crop, as well as size of the operation. She noted survey respondents were roughly representative of the sector overall – 70% small-scale growers and 30% medium and large.

“Organic is not a homogenous industry, to say the least – small growers and large growers are very different; for small growers, their challenges tend to be financial and regulatory, especially relating to certification requirements and labor,” said Rangarajan. She added that larger growers mentioned different types of challenges, weeds and pest pressures for instance, given the difficulty in controlling managing these at scale without the use or availability of organic inputs.

Organic Agriculture Institute key to sharing resources across state

Another common theme from the assessment is that the organic sector needs more accessible resources to address those myriad concerns. For OAI, established in 2020 under UC Agriculture and Natural Resources, the initial findings validated and refined the direction of its research and extension programs.

“As a new organization, we’ve been trying to figure out where we fit into this ecosystem and how we can support it,” said Houston Wilson, a UC Cooperative Extension entomology specialist who has served as OAI’s director since its founding.

Because OAI was envisioned as a hub of resources and connections for California’s organic community, Wilson and his colleagues are especially interested in understanding how its constituent members obtain information – and how OAI can improve their access.

“Growers are finding it difficult to navigate the resources that exist for organic agriculture, like technical information, financial support, compliance and certification support,” Wilson said. “While we’d like to see more resources for organic in general, those that currently exist can sometimes be hard to navigate or it can be hard to know where to go for the right thing – that became really apparent early on.”

While some producers are contacting OAI directly with their questions, Wilson is eager to develop tools and systems that can serve the community more broadly. For example, Wilson and Krista Marshall – OAI’s policy and partnerships coordinator – are currently beta-testing a new map tool, built in conjunction with UC ANR’s Informatics and GIS (IGIS) team. The map, expected to be ready in fall 2024, will enable users to click on their county and see all available resources related to organic agriculture.

Wilson added that OAI will have four full-time staffers by fall, further expanding its research, extension, and education efforts. After holding four field events this past year, OAI aims to increase activities in the coming year, including not just field events but also online resources, webinars and more. Also, a new training and technical assistance coordinator will be tasked with bringing Cooperative Extension advisors and other technical assistance personnel across the state up to speed on a range of organic topics, so they can more effectively answer questions from clientele in their region.

New survey aims to trace crucial organic knowledge networks

Although the OAI team has gained a sense of how information is shared across the organic community (and started to formalize those interconnections through a California Organic Agriculture Knowledge Network), they are now developing a survey to study those relationships more systematically.

“We’re trying to understand what kind of knowledge resources people tap into, which is something that has come up repeatedly in our needs assessment,” Rangarajan said. “We’re trying to understand who people are speaking to because, at the end of the day, organic is still a relatively small part of agriculture in California, and that makes it more fragmented. So trying to connect those different parts becomes important.”

Once Wilson has a more nuanced understanding of organic knowledge networks, he will be able to strategize and position OAI – and the UC – as a more effective partner and contributor in the sector.

“Given the history of organic, growers have had to rely on each other a lot,” Wilson explained. “We understand that the university has unique expertise to bring to the table, but we also acknowledge that there’s all these other knowledge holders out there, so one of the roles that we see ourselves having is helping to facilitate those connections, strengthen them and increase the frequency of interaction.”

That may include further supporting efforts that connect transitioning organic farmers with experienced growers (a mentorship program led by Certified California Organic Farmers, or CCOF), or giving more structure to grower-researcher partnerships that can help address a host of production challenges. In OAI’s grower survey, weed management topped the list, followed by water and disease issues, all exacerbated by climate variability.

“I think a lot of the real innovation changes are coming through growers experimenting with their own practice,” Rangarajan explained. “From a research perspective, one of the best ways to take this forward would be to formalize those experiments in some way so that knowledge becomes more reportable.”

And collaboration on “organic topics,” such as finding alternatives to synthetic pesticides, are a boon to the entire agricultural sector – conventional growers included.

“Everyone is trying to reduce pesticide use; everyone is trying to reduce environmental impacts,” Wilson said. “You don’t have to be certified organic to benefit from organic research; these practices can be used by anyone.”

The report with OAI’s initial findings on organic needs can be found at: https://ucanr.edu/sites/organic/files/396228.pdf.

2024-06-28T12:36:20-07:00June 28th, 2024|

Cover crops benefits may outweigh water-use in California

Courtesy of UC Agriculture and Natural Resources 

Additional guidance needed for groundwater management strategies 

Cover crops are planted to protect and improve the soil between annual crops such as tomatoes or between rows of tree and vine crops, but growers may be concerned about the water use of these plants that don’t generate income.

“Cover crops are one of the most popular practices we see farmers employ through our Healthy Soils Program,” said Karen Ross, secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture. “Cover crops supply a host of benefits, such as helping to protect against soil erosion, improving soil health, crowding out weeds, controlling pests and diseases, and increasing biodiversity; and they can bring increased profitability as the number of other inputs are reduced. They also provide water benefits such as improved infiltration and reduced runoff.”

These potential benefits are especially salient in the San Joaquin Valley, where groundwater challenges are more acute. A new report evaluates the water implications of cover cropping practices to lay the groundwork for their adoption in the context of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, or SGMA, which is intended to protect groundwater resources over the long-term.

“Yes, cover crops require a nominal amount of water to establish – and sometimes rainwater is sufficient – but the myriad co-benefits are worth it,” Ross said.

Growers, water resource planners and managers, crop consultants, irrigation practitioners and policymakers may find the cover crops report useful.

The report is the product of a convening process jointly developed by the California Association of Resource Conservation Districts, CDFA, Natural Resources Conservation Service of California, and University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources, and assembled by nonprofit Sustainable Conservation.

The multidisciplinary group of more than 30 individuals has published “Cover Cropping in the SGMA Era.” The literature review, policy analysis and recommendations pertain to the water impacts of cover crop practices in California’s Central Valley under SGMA.

Cover crops and their potential

“Wintertime rain-fed cover cropping does not necessarily significantly increase water losses compared to bare ground in the winter months,” said co-author Daniele Zaccaria, associate professor in agricultural water management for Cooperative Extension at UC Davis. “Cover cropping can significantly improve soil-water dynamics, increasing soil water infiltration and storage and reducing surface runoff.”

To reap the benefits of cover crops using minimal water, Zaccaria said growers will need to know how the plants perform under different conditions.

“We need to develop and implement a coordinated research effort to increase understanding of net water impacts of cover crops under various meteorological conditions – dry, wet, average,” he said.

Report findings and recommendations

To understand the potential of cover cropping under SGMA, the report’s authors came together to answer the following questions:

  1. What are the impacts of cover crops on water cycles (both benefits and use)?
  2. How does SGMA management account for cover cropping and is it capturing cover crop benefits alongside their water use?
  3. How can we ensure that this practice remains available to growers where and when it makes sense?

This report synthesizes the learnings from the collaborative initiative including 100-plus multidisciplinary experts, a policy analysis, interviews with Groundwater Sustainability Agency (GSA) staff and consultants, and the expertise contributed by its 30-plus authors. In light of these findings, the report advances a series of recommendations aimed at bridging critical knowledge gaps, enhancing the integration of cover crops into policies and incentive programs, and bolstering data infrastructure and other mechanisms to support sustainable groundwater management initiatives.

One vital throughline is the need for additional guidance from the state to support local GSAs in facing the complex challenges of developing and implementing groundwater management strategies for their local watersheds. These measures aim to optimize cover crop integration within SGMA frameworks and promote sustainable water management practices crucial for the region’s agricultural resilience and environmental health.

“This report is unique because the university collaborated closely with state agencies and private sector partners to ensure that the different perspectives provided both the best science available as well as viable policy options,” said Glenda Humiston, University of California vice president for agriculture and natural resources. “By taking a comprehensive view, we can advance recommendations for cover crop policy that help us meet multiple goals, manage our natural resources more effectively, and avoid unintended consequences.”

Sarah Light, UC Cooperative Extension agronomy farm advisor, is one of the UC ANR experts who provided science-based information during the convening sessions and co-authored the white paper.

“Cover crops are a valuable soil health practice that can help ensure the resilience of California farms to climate extremes,” said Light. “As we balance the complexities of water and soil management, it is important to understand the role that cover crops play in an annual water budget so that they are not disincentivized in certain parts of the state. This paper can provide guidance to GSAs and policymakers who are charged with implementing SGMA in their regions.”

The report “Cover Cropping in the SGMA Era” can be downloaded for free at https://suscon.org/wp-content/uploads/2024/05/SC-Cover-Crop-SGMA-Report.pdf.

2024-06-05T08:20:01-07:00June 5th, 2024|

UC Davis Ends Strawberry Licensing Agreements With Eurosemillas

Courtesy of Bill Kisliuk with the UC Davis News and Media Relations 

The University Will Continue to Work With Nurseries and Growers in 20-Plus Affected International Markets

The University of California, Davis, a leader in the development of world-class strawberry varieties for the California and global markets, is terminating all strawberry licensing agreements with Eurosemillas S.A., which has been a master licensee for older UC Davis strawberry varieties in countries outside of the United States.

The decision to terminate the UC Davis Public Strawberry Breeding Program licensing agreements with Eurosemillas does not come lightly. The University of California provided due notice to Eurosemillas of the university’s position that Eurosemillas had defaulted on its agreements, and the university’s concerns were not addressed.

The university is taking steps to provide stability for nurseries and fruit growers during this transition period, and ensure continued access to older UC Davis strawberry varieties. Newer UC Davis strawberry varieties continue to be available throughout the world per licensing agreements with other partners, Fresa Fortaleza and Global Plant Genetics.

“The UC Davis Public Strawberry Breeding Program has been a huge success for consumers, growers, California’s agricultural economy and the global strawberry market,” said Helene Dillard, dean of the UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. “The step the university is taking today is necessary to support our growers and our program, and to ensure the scientific breakthroughs at UC Davis and resources provided by the state of California are cared for, managed and marketed properly.”

UC Davis holds active patents on 20 strawberry varieties, all of which have been licensed to nurseries to sell to strawberry growers.

The university directly licenses strawberry varieties to California nurseries, offering state strawberry growers exclusive access to new varieties for two years and reduced royalty rates to give them a competitive advantage. The university also directly licenses varieties elsewhere in the United States and Canada.

In markets outside North America, the university contracts with master licensees to work with nurseries, farmers and growers. International markets where UC Davis strawberry varieties are grown include the European Union, the United Kingdom and Switzerland; Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Peru and Uruguay; China; Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Morocco and Turkey; South Africa; Canada; New Zealand and Australia.

UC has been and will continue to be vigilant about supporting the UC Davis Public Strawberry Breeding Program and honoring its obligations to farmers and growers to ensure access to high-quality, affordable varieties in California and elsewhere. As a public research institution, UC diligently protects and promotes its intellectual property to maximize public value, support thriving agricultural economies and ensure reinvestment in university research and education.

About the UC Davis Public Strawberry Breeding Program 

Strawberry varieties developed at UC Davis produce about 60% of all strawberries consumed worldwide.

Varieties developed at UC Davis have made California a leading producer, with the state growing more than 87% of North American strawberries.

The UC Davis Public Strawberry Breeding Program is funded primarily by revenue from licensing strawberry varieties. Licensing funds also support patent expenses, campus inventors, the UC Office of the President and UC Davis.

Annually, the University of California generally receives between $8 million and $9 million in licensing revenue from the strawberry breeding program.

UC Davis develops strawberry varieties for greater yield, disease resistance, flavor, adaptation to different growing conditions and other positive characteristics.

UC Davis breeders work collaboratively with industry leaders to produce fruit that meets the market demand and address the needs of growers.

The program also trains students and postdoctoral researchers to be leaders in this vital industry.

Media Resources

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2024-05-21T10:26:02-07:00May 21st, 2024|

UC Master Gardeners empower college students to garden for mental wellness

Courtesy of the UCANR News 

Although training is required to become a University of California Master Gardener, the benefits of gardening can be experienced by anyone and everyone.

“As long as you’re willing to get your hands dirty,” said Laurie Menosky, a UC Master Gardener volunteer in Orange County, “you can learn to grow all sorts of things.”

In early April, Menosky partnered with ETN Medical Infusion (a clinic in Orange County) and the Sustainability Program for Student Housing at UC Irvine to teach students how to grow tomatoes. Menosky welcomed all in attendance, including families with toddlers who seemed fascinated by the 60 tomato plants atop one of the tables in the room.

The UC Master Gardener Program is a part of UC Agriculture and Natural Resources. During her presentation, Menosky taught participants how to choose varieties that fit their taste and growing environment, how to cultivate a thriving environment, and how to control pests and diseases using integrated pest management practices.

“We have 16,000 residents at UCI and sustainability is one of our values. One of the ways we engage students is through on-campus gardens,” said Rachel Harvey, sustainability program manager for UCI Student Housing and a UC Master Gardener volunteer in Orange County.

UC Irvine has one teaching garden reserved for undergraduate learning, and three gardens operated and maintained by graduate students. “I was on the waiting list for a garden plot for a while, but it was totally worth the wait,” said Johanna Rinaman, a fifth-year Ph.D. student studying physical chemistry.

While the highlight of the event for many people was the opportunity to take a tomato plant home, another important takeaway was how gardening can be a good activity for your mental health. Sarah Nghiem, family medicine specialist at ETN Medical Infusion, who worked closely with Menosky, was instrumental in developing the mental health content for the day, encouraging attendees to attempt gardening with a mental health perspective.

Nghiem and her team received funding from the Orange County Health Care Agency through the Mental Health Services Act to work with transitional aged students (15-24 years-old) on understanding the importance of mental health, which led to the collaboration between UC Irvine, her alma mater, and the UC Master Gardeners of Orange County.

“I didn’t do any gardening during the winter, and I felt a lot more anxious and depressed during that time,” Rinaman said. “I know gardening improves mental health because I’ve immediately felt a difference whenever I spend time with plants.”

Rinaman, whose father taught her a lot of what she knows about gardening, said that having access to a 4 feet by 6 feet plot to grow her own food is one of the many things she loves about UC Irvine.

Like Rinaman, Menosky turns to gardening to decompress, especially during the long days of summer. Teaching others about the physical and mental benefits of gardening gives her an opportunity to share her experience and, hopefully, help others find new ways to manage stress.

“We often have attendees come back years later telling us how our information has helped them and how much more they are enjoying their time in their gardens,” she said.

To conclude her presentation, Menosky instructed participants to line up for their own tomato plant. Attendees took their plants outside to transfer them from a small pot to a grow bag – a type of container that helps root structure development.

Cassie Ekwego, a third-year transfer student studying civil engineering, couldn’t hide her excitement after carefully lifting her plant. “I don’t think I realized how attentive you need to be when working with plants,” said Ekwego, reflecting on what she learned from Menosky’s presentation.

Now that she has her own plant to care for in her own home, Ekwego is eager to put her new knowledge to the test. “I love tomatoes, but this is going to be a huge responsibility for me,” she said.

Randy Musser, UC Master Gardener program coordinator for Orange County, said that while he enjoys talking to avid gardeners, bringing gardening to new people in the community is special to him. “This tomato workshop is particularly exciting for me because it is an opportunity for the UC Master Gardeners to grow our connection to UCI and young people just starting off on their gardening journey,” said Musser.

With a generous contribution from UC Master Gardener volunteer Sheila Peterson, Musser was able to purchase enough supplies to help attendees, like Ekwego, jumpstart their gardening experience.

Students, whose stress levels can skyrocket throughout the school year, value opportunities to be outdoors, try something new and be in community. “The garden is a different type of classroom. It’s a place where students can learn and experiment, hopefully in a way that reduces stress,” said Harvey of UCI Student Housing.

Ekwego, who tried gardening for the first time while volunteering at UC Irvine’s teaching garden, is just one of the many students inspired by their experiences. “Gardening reminds me that it’s OK to get my hands dirty,” Ekwego said.

2024-05-15T08:24:50-07:00May 15th, 2024|

New UC study estimates blackberry production costs

A new study that can help growers and other readers estimate costs and potential returns for blackberries grown on California’s Central Coast was recently released by UC Agriculture and Natural Resources, UC Cooperative Extension and the UC Davis Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics.

“The study provides growers with a baseline to estimate their own costs, which can help when applying for production loans, projecting labor costs, securing market arrangements or understanding costs associated with water and nutrient management and regulatory programs,” said Brittney Goodrich, UC Cooperative Extension specialist and study co-author.

The cost study models a management scenario for a 30-acre farm, 15 acres of which are planted to blackberries. The remaining acres are planted to other berries or are used for the irrigation system, roads and buildings. The authors describe the cultural practices used for the establishment, production and harvest of blackberries, including land preparation, soil fertility and pest management, irrigation and labor needs.      

The 28-page study shows costs for each operation, material inputs and costs, and cash and non-cash overhead costs in a variety of formats for an establishment year and then four additional production years. A ranging analysis for the four production years is also included and shows potential profits or losses over a range of prices and yields.

The new study, titled “2024 Sample Costs to Establish, Produce and Harvest Blackberries” can be downloaded from the UC Davis Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics website at https://coststudies.ucdavis.edu.  

For a detailed explanation of the assumptions and calculations used to estimate the costs and potential returns, readers can refer to the narrative portion of the study. 

Sample cost of production studies for many other commodities grown in California are also available on the website.

For more information, contact Mark Bolda, University of California Cooperative Extension farm advisor, at mpbolda@ucanr.edu or Jeremy Murdock in the UC Davis Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics at jmmurdock@ucdavis.edu.

2024-05-07T08:05:45-07:00May 7th, 2024|

Innovators in academia gear up for VINE Build workshops

Courtesy of UCANR

A series of VINE Build workshops aimed at equipping academic innovators with essential pathways to bring new inventions to market is being sponsored by The VINE, an initiative of University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR), in collaboration with Farmhand Ventures. These workshops are designed to empower participants with the knowledge and tools necessary to navigate the complex landscape of technology commercialization.

“These workshops represent a unique opportunity for academic innovators to gain invaluable insights into the commercialization process,” said Gabe Youtsey, UC ANR chief innovation officer and founder of the VINE. “By bridging the gap between academia and industry, we aim to catalyze innovation and propel advancements in technology and agriculture so we can enjoy the benefits sooner.”

The half-day sessions will explore various aspects of commercialization as a mechanism for technology transfer. Led by industry experts, the workshops will cover user-centered design principles, inclusive innovation basics, the role of commercialization in technology translation, commercialization strategies, intellectual property licensing, transitioning from academia to business, and the differences between non-dilutive and dilutive funding.

“For academics looking to make a real impact, these workshops provide an invaluable platform,” said Connie Bowen, co-founder and managing partner of Farmhand Ventures. “By participating in these sessions, innovators have the opportunity to turn their great ideas into tangible products that address the big challenges facing our industry today.”

People involved in applied food and agriculture research – including professors, graduate students, undergraduate students and others  – are encouraged to participate.

The workshops will be held across various locations in California on the following dates:

●      Fresno: May 9, 8:30 a.m. – 2 p.m., Smittcamp Alumni Center, Fresno State

●      San Diego: May 23, 8:30 a.m. – 2 p.m., Salk Institute Foyer, San Diego

●      Davis: May 29, 8:30 a.m. – 2 p.m Physical Sciences and Engineering Library, Conference Room, UC Davis

●      Santa Cruz: Date and location to be determined.

For more information and to register for the workshops, please visit: https://bit.ly/vine-build-workshop

2024-05-07T08:00:49-07:00May 7th, 2024|

HLB Funding Prioritized in Farm Bill Proposal

Courtesy of California Citrus Mutual 

California Citrus Mutual (CCM) commends Chairwoman Stabenow of the Senate Agriculture Committee and Chairman Glenn Thompson from the House Agriculture Committee for prioritizing the citrus industry’s fight against Huanglongbing (HLB) in each of their frameworks for the 2024 Farm Bill. Each Chair’s framework continues support of the Emergency Citrus Disease Research and Extension Program at $25 million per year for the life of the Farm Bill. 

 

“This is a significant step towards reaching a bipartisan Farm Bill compromise that will continue critical research to find a cure to Huanglongbing,” said CCM President/CEO Casey Creamer.  “While this isn’t the finish line, it clearly signals that Congress supports maintaining citrus funding.  We thank the Chairs of the Committee and our California Congressional delegation for championing our needs.”

 

The $25 million in funding will go to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) to fund research to find a cure for HLB. The funding is overseen by grower representatives from California, Texas, and Florida.

 

This is a big win for the citrus industry as there were significant headwinds with the current fiscal battles in Washington, D.C., including escalating Farm Bill baseline expenditures and competing priorities within agriculture.  It proves the strength of the advocacy partnership with Florida and Texas Citrus Mutuals in addition to the strong support received from allied industry organizations. 

 

2024-05-03T08:23:13-07:00May 3rd, 2024|

California Citrus Breeding Program Expanding with Congressional Support

Earlier this week, presidents of California Citrus Mutual (CCM) and Citrus Research Board (CRB) issued statements applauding Congressional leaders for recently approving additional funds for the new citrus breeding program in Parlier, California. Congress is allocating an additional $500,000 in federal funding on top of the $1 million granted last year to expand the program into California. The program will now receive $1.5 million in federal funds on an annual basis along with the $500,000 that CRB provides the program with annually.

“CRB was instrumental in developing the concept for the California based program and was also involved in efforts to establish the nationwide program while CCM advocated to secure funding,” said CRB President Marcy Martin. “Our two organizations working together on behalf of the industry has been instrumental in getting this program off the ground.”

“On behalf of the industry, I would like to thank our congressional leaders and the Committee for their continued support of this program, which will help us find solutions to issues specific to our growers located in California,” said CCM President and CEO Casey Creamer. “I would like to specifically extend our gratitude to Congressmen Costa and Valadao and Senator Padilla for championing the need for this program in D.C.”

The California citrus breeding program will focus on fresh market citrus. Funding will go towards research and development of high-quality, superior citrus selections well suited to California growing regions, changing climatic pressures, consumer taste preferences, and resistance to pest and diseases, such as Huanglongbing (HLB).

The California program is an expansion of the existing national USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) citrus breeding program located in Fort Pierce, Florida, which is focused primarily on varieties that are optimized for Florida growing conditions. Work done through the Florida program has resulted in new varieties with higher yields, increased disease resistance, improved color, and a longer shelf life.

The Florida and California breeding programs along with the continued support from the University of California citrus breeding program at UC Riverside will work together to deliver results for California based growers.

The California citrus breeding program is located at the USDA ARS field station in Parlier. Thanks to funds that have already come in, forward progress continues to be made with the addition of a dedicated scientist, developing plans for construction of a greenhouse and laboratory, and securing additional ground for the program.

To view the original press release, please visit CCM’s website or CRB’s websiteand stay tuned to their channels for further updates and related news.–

Patrick Cavanaugh

520-395-0327

2024-04-15T08:10:17-07:00April 15th, 2024|

Water risks to agriculture: Too little and too much

Courtesy of  UCANR

Report recommends policies, programs and tools for farm resilience

Water is among the most precious resources on the planet. Some areas don’t get enough; some get too much. And climate change is driving both of those circumstances to ever-growing extremes.

Two UC Merced experts in civil and environmental engineering took part in a recent report by the Environmental Defense Fund examining the issue and potential solutions. Associate Professor of Extension Tapan Pathak and Professor Josué Medellín-Azuara co-authored the report, “Scarcity and Excess: Tackling Water-Related Risks to Agriculture in the United States,” and wrote the section pertaining to California.

In addition to climate change, disruptive human interventions such as groundwater over-extraction, sprawling drainage networks and misaligned governance are driving up water-related agricultural costs, particularly in midwestern and western states, the researchers found.

The problem is magnified in California, which hosts the largest and the most diverse agricultural landscape in the U.S., Pathak and Medellín-Azuara wrote, with gross revenues from farms and ranches exceeding $50 billion.

“Due to the favorable Mediterranean climate, unique regional microclimate zones, a highly engineered and developed water supply system, and a close connection between producers and research and cooperative extension institutions, California’s agricultural abundance includes more than 400 commodities, some of which are produced nowhere else in the nation,” the UC Merced researchers wrote.

But the state’s varying climate and water needs pose a challenge. Though most of the precipitation falls in the northern part of California, the southern two-thirds of the state account for 85% of its water demand. And all of those crops must be watered in the summer, when there is little, if any, rainfall.

Some of the water comes from snowpack developed through winter storms and stored in reservoirs as it melts. Much of it comes from the Colorado River.

“Substantially less water is captured and stored during periods of drought, imperiling California’s water supply and putting agricultural water needs at risk,” Pathak and Medellín-Azuara wrote.

Climate change, with increasing periods of drought between excessively wet winters, magnifies that risk.

“Further, the rate of increases in the minimum temperatures in the Sierra Nevada is almost three-fold faster than maximum temperatures, resulting in potential decrease in the snowpack, earlier snowmelt, and more water in liquid form as opposed to snow,” the researchers wrote. “According to the California Department of Water Resources, by 2100, the Sierra Nevada snowpack is projected to experience a 48% to 65% decline from the historical average.”

Climate change is also expected to affect the availability of water from the Colorado River.

Climate extremes such as heat waves, drought and flooding – giving rises to increased weeds, pests and disease – are already significantly impacting agriculture and the broader economy, Pathak and Medellín-Azuara wrote.

The state’s drought from 2012 to 2016 led to about 540,000 acres of fallow farmland in 2015, costing the state’s economy $2.7 billion in gross revenue and 21,000 jobs. With the lack of precipitation, farmers increasingly pumped groundwater to irrigate crops, depleting those resources.

The report goes on to recommend policies, programs and tools be developed for agricultural resilience, including:

  • Changing land use and crop management practices to support a transition to an agriculture footprint that can be sustained by the available water supplies.
  • Increasing farmer and water manager access to important data and innovative technological tools to support their efforts.
  • Reimagining built infrastructure and better using natural infrastructure so regions are better equipped to handle weather extremes.
  • Developing policy and funding mechanisms to support mitigation and adaptation to water-related risks, avoid maladaptation and ensure food and water security.

“California’s innovative agriculture needs to rapidly adapt to more volatile water availability, climate-driven higher water demands, and regulation protecting groundwater reserves, communities and ecosystems,” Medellín-Azuara said. “The early adoption of more sustainable practices in agriculture will likely pay off dividends both in the short and long terms.”

Added Pathak, “California faces significant challenges related to climate change, but it also presents opportunities for innovations, collaborations and sustained growth. To make agriculture resilient to climate risks, we need to engage in holistic solutions that integrates environmental, social, economic and policy considerations.”

2024-03-19T10:25:04-07:00March 19th, 2024|
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