University of California, Division of Agricultural and Natural Resources

UC Agriculture and Natural Resources statements on Richard Rosenberg’s death

Richard Rosenberg, former chairman and CEO of the Bank of America, died Friday, March 3. He was 92. When Rosenberg retired from BofA in 1996, the bank honored him by endowing the Rosenberg International Forum on Water Policy at UC Agriculture and Natural Resources. 

Glenda Humiston, University of California vice president for agriculture and natural resources:

“Dick Rosenberg is well-known for his generous gifts to the University of California and to the Bay Area. With his Bank of America endowment gift to UC Agriculture and Natural Resources to create the Rosenberg International Forum on Water Policy, he has had the most far-reaching and profound impact. Over the years, Dick developed an understanding of the complex and contentious water issues in California and across the globe. His intent in bringing together scientists and policymakers from around the world to discuss water management was to reduce conflicts surrounding this critical resource. While we continue to face challenges of water scarcity and water quality, we are able to solve some issues by sharing our knowledge and experiences. For years to come, the global community will benefit from Dick Rosenberg’s foresight to fund the International Forum on Water Policy.”

Soroosh Sorooshian, UC Irvine Distinguished Professor and director of the Center for Hydrometeorology and Remote Sensing and chair of the UC ANR Rosenberg International Forum on Water Policy:

“Mr. Richard Rosenberg was passionate about the well-being of the environment in addition to his responsibilities managing one of the largest financial institutions in the world. His concern about water resources scarcity and international water conflicts led to the establishment of the UC ANR Rosenberg International Forum for Water Policy with an endowment gift from the Bank of America to honor Dick’s vision. It is a great honor for the forum to carry the vision of Mr. Rosenberg as a lasting legacy to his commitment to issues related to international water policy.” 

Henry Vaux Jr., UC Riverside Professor Emeritus, UC ANR Associate Vice President Emeritus, Founding Chair of Rosenberg International Forum on Water Policy

Richard Rosenberg made many contributions to the well-being of all Californians. Among those was the rallying of the business community to the cause of managing an earlier severe drought that began in the late 1980s. This expression of his long term-interests in the management of water resources led the Board of the Bank of American to establish the Rosenberg International Forum on Water Policy at the University of California in his honor. Over the years, that Forum has met at 10 locations around the world, often with Rosenberg himself in attendance. The work of the Forum has influenced water policy in countries ranging from Australia to Jordan. As a founding chair of the Forum, I can attest to the crucial role that he played in guiding the establishment of the institution and ensuring its success over two and a half decades. I will miss his wise counsel, sharp insights on almost everything and his great sense of humor. I send my condolences and best wishes to his wife, Barbara, and his family. 

About the Rosenberg International Forum on Water Policy

The Rosenberg International Forum on Water Policy originated in 1996 with an endowment gift from the Bank of America to the University of California. The purpose of the gift was to support a water policy forum in honor of then-retiring Bank Chair and Chief Executive Officer Richard Rosenberg. Rosenberg had a long-term interest in water resources and was credited with rallying the California business community to address the causes and impacts of the drought of 1987-1992.

The Rosenberg Forum is held every other year in different locations around the world. Participation is limited to 50 water scholars and senior water managers. Interactive discussions about the science of water management and different experiences in water management around the globe are at the heart of the forum. 

The first forum was held in San Francisco in 1997, followed by gatherings in Barcelona, Spain; Canberra, Australia; Ankara, Turkey; Banff, Canada; Zaragoza, Spain; Buenos Aires, Argentina; Aqaba, Jordan; and Panama City, Panama. The last forum was held in San Jose, California, in 2018 and has been on hiatus due to the pandemic. 

The overarching theme of the Rosenberg Forum is “reducing conflict in the management of water resources.” Specific sub-themes are chosen by an advisory committee for each individual forum. The primary objective is to facilitate the exchange of information and experience in the management of water resources.

The problems of managing water are surprisingly common around the world. However, approaches and solutions may differ depending on the available financial resources as well as social and cultural norms. Discussions of alternative approaches and identification of what works and what doesn’t are intended to aid in devising more effective and efficient water-management schemes.

2023-03-07T13:21:48-08:00March 7th, 2023|

UC Climate-Ready Landscape Trials Identify Low-Water Yet Attractive Plants

By Saoimanu Sope, UCANR

Good news: roses can be a part of your water-efficient landscape. Lorence Oki, UC Cooperative Extension environmental horticulture specialist in the UC Davis Department of Plant Sciences, identified rose cultivars that remain aesthetically pleasing with little water.

Oki is the principal investigator of the Climate-Ready Landscape Plants project, which may be the largest irrigation trial in the western U.S., and the UC Plant Landscape Irrigation Trials (UCLPIT), the California component of that project. These projects evaluate landscape plants under varying irrigation levels to determine their optimal performance in regions requiring supplemental summer water.

“There are some assumptions that pretty plants use a lot of water, like roses,” Oki said. “Everyone thinks they need a lot of water, but we’ve found some that don’t, and they still look great. A water-efficient landscape doesn’t need to look like a Central Valley oak-grassland in the summer. It can look really attractive.”

In 2021, Oki’s team at UC Davis identified Lomandra confertifolia ssp. pallida “Pom Pom” Shorty and Rosa “Sprogreatpink” Brick House® Pink as two of the best low-water plants in the trial.

“The useful tip or information that is shared at the end of each trial is the selection and designation of plants as Blue Ribbon winners. These are the plants that looked good with an overall rating of 4 or higher throughout and were on the low (20%) water treatment,” said Natalie Levy, associate specialist for water resources, who manages the project at the UC ANR South Coast Research and Extension Center.

How plants earn a blue ribbon

Each trial year, the selection of new plants is based on research recommendations and donated submissions from the nursery industry. The landscape plants are trialed in full sun or 50% shade cover.

Irrigation treatments are based on the rate of evaporation and plant transpiration (evapotranspiration) measured through a local California Irrigation Management Information System (CIMIS) weather station that provides a reference evapotranspiration (ETo) rate.

Three levels of irrigation are provided to the plants equal to 20%, 50%, and 80% of ETo. The volume of water applied is the same at each irrigation based on soil characteristics, but the interval between applications varies with weather and the treatment. Using this method, irrigations for the 20% treatment are less frequent than the 80% treatment.

“The 20% treatment during the 2022 trial was irrigated an average of once per month while the 80% treatment was irrigated weekly,” explained Levy.

During the deficit irrigation trial, monthly height and width measurements are taken to determine the plant growth index. Monthly qualitative aesthetic ratings on a scale of 1 to 5 are determined for foliage appearance, flowering abundance, pest tolerance, disease resistance, vigor and overall appearance.

A second round of flowering abundance and overall appearance measurements are also taken to capture more of the blooming period. For example, UCLPIT identified in the 2020 trial at South Coast REC that the “Apricot Drift” rose had a mean overall appearance score of 3.5 out of 5, deeming it “acceptable to very nice” and a low water use plant within the Water Use Classification of Landscape Species or WUCOLS guide.

Project expands options for landscape planting

While attending UC Davis as a master’s student, Karrie Reid, retired UCCE environmental horticulture advisor for San Joaquin County, assisted Oki with landscape water conservation research. The landscape plant irrigation assessments were initiated at UC Davis in 2004 and the UCLPIT project, now in its 20th year, originated from her master’s thesis project from 2005 to 2007. A CDFA grant supported duplicating these fields at the South Coast REC in 2017.

“(WUCOLS) only has 3,500 plants in it. There are guesses that there are close to 10,000 cultivars in urban landscapes in California, if not more,” said Oki. “WUCOLS also didn’t have numerical ratings. Instead, you’ll see verbal ratings like ‘low water use’ or ‘high water use.'”

The UCLPIT project has not only developed numerical recommendations for irrigation, but it has also added new landscape plants that are compliant with California’s Model Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance. In fact, UCLPIT’s data is one of the few sources that can be used to supplement WUCOLS.

Geographic diversity of trial sites adds to knowledge base

In addition to UC Davis and South Coast REC in Irvine, the trials have expanded beyond California as the Climate-Ready Landscape Plants project and is in progress at Oregon State University, University of Washington, University of Arizona and Utah State University thanks to a USDA/CDFA grant awarded in 2020.

Lloyd Nackley, associate professor of nursery production and greenhouse management at Oregon State University, is the principal investigator of the trial in the Portland metro area, which is entering its third year.

“People know that there are drought tolerant plants, but there are many. We’re trying to highlight lesser known or newer varieties. And even though the trial is three years, most gardeners would hope that their garden lasts longer than that,” said Nackley.

One of the observations that Nackley recalls is of the Hibiscus Purple Pillar plant. Unlike the trial at South Coast, the Purple Pillar did not perform well in Oregon in the spring.

“It wasn’t until August that we saw the plant bloom and begin to look like what we saw from South Coast in April,” Nackley said.

Ursula Schuch, horticulture professor and principal investigator of the trial taking place at the University of Arizona, was also surprised at the range of performance among different plant types and the effects of irrigation, heat and temperature.

“This research will reassure green industry professionals that they can stretch their water budget to successfully cultivate more plants, watering them according to their needs instead of irrigating every plant according to the highest water-using plants,” said Schuch.

Although research is only conducted in the West, the hope is that there will be trials in other regions of U.S.

Doing so would yield comprehensive information about the plants and their performance in different climates. As extreme weather events persist in the U.S., disease pressure and risks do too. Trials throughout the country would provide location-specific data regarding disease susceptibility.

To learn more about the UCLPIT research project, visit https://ucanr.edu/sites/UCLPIT/

 

2023-01-17T14:19:57-08:00January 17th, 2023|

Growers Invited to See Benefits of Cover Crops in Orchards, Vineyards

By Pam Kan-Rice, UCANR

Searchable database of growers experienced in growing cover crops launched

Growers are invited to tour orchards and vineyards and hear from other growers about their experiences with cover crops.

UC Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program, UC Cooperative Extension, the Napa Resource Conservation District, and the Community Alliance with Family Farmers have created a searchable database of orchard and vineyard growers experienced in growing cover crops that will help other growers bring the benefits of the prctice to their operations.

“The tours are part of a project for which we recently unveiled new tools for orchard and vineyard growers to learn about cover cropping from experienced growers,” said Sonja Brodt, associate director of the UC Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program.

The database describes cover cropping strategies, details of field practices, benefits and challenges experienced by cover crop growers in orchards and vineyards in the southern Sacramento Valley (including the Capay Valley) and the North Coast viticulture region. The cover crop grower database is available at https://sarep.ucdavis.edu/covercropsdb.

Feb. 8, 1-5 p.m., Capay Valley tour:

The tour will visit three organic farms in the Capay Valley that are integrating cover crops and grazing in their orchard and vineyard systems. Topics of discussion will include:

• Strategies for integrating cover crops into orchards and vineyards
• Impacts of cover cropping and grazing on soil health
• Funding and information resources for growing cover crops

Speakers will include:

• Rory Crowley, Director of Habitat Programs, Project Apis m.
• Amélie Gaudin, Associate Professor, Department of Plant Sciences, UC Davis, Endowed Chair in Agroecology
• Hope Zabronsky, Climate-Smart Agriculture Program lead, UC Agriculture and Natural Resources

To register for the Feb. 8 tour, visit https://sarep.ucdavis.edu/events/grazing-cover-crops-orchards-and-vineyards-capay-valley-tour.

March 8, 1-4 p.m., Arbuckle area tour:

The tour will visit two conventional farms in the Arbuckle area that are integrating cover crops into their orchard and vineyard systems.
Topics of discussion will include:

• Strategies for integrating cover crops into orchards and vineyards
• Impacts of cover cropping on soil and water balance
• Frost risk protection and prevention
• Funding resources for growing cover crops

Speakers will include:

• Rory Crowley, Director of Habitat Programs, Project Apis m.
• Kosana Suvocarev, UC Cooperative Extension Specialist in Biometeorology, UC Davis Department of Land, Air, and Water Resources
• Hope Zabronsky, Climate-Smart Agriculture Program lead, UC Agriculture and Natural Resources
To register for the March 8 tour, visit https://sarep.ucdavis.edu/events/cover-cropping-conventional-orchards-and-vineyards-arbuckle-area-tour.

2023-01-16T08:18:05-08:00January 16th, 2023|

Porse Named Director of California Institute for Water Resources

By Pam Kan-Rice, UCANR

Erik Porse joined the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources on Jan. 11 as director of the California Institute for Water Resources.

Porse has built an outstanding career in water as a research engineer with the Office of Water Programs at California State University, Sacramento and an assistant adjunct professor with UCLA’s Institute of the Environment and Sustainability. His research focuses on urban and water resources management. He specializes in bringing together interdisciplinary teams to investigate complex environmental management questions.

Porse earned a Ph.D. in civil and environmental engineering (water resources) from UC Davis and a master’s degree in public policy (science and technology) from George Mason University. His professional experience includes international work and teaching in Mexico, Europe, Japan and East Africa. He has authored over 50 reports and peer-reviewed articles.

“UC ANR is fortunate to have a director with broad professional experience in science and policy at the United Nations, the U.S. government, private sector firms and research laboratories,” said Deanne Meyer, UC ANR interim associate vice president for programs and strategic initiatives. “Erik’s recent research has collaborated with scientists and projects addressing priority areas in the California Water Resilience Portfolio, including safe drinking water, efficient urban water use, sustainable groundwater management, water reuse, beneficial uses of stormwater, and environmental finance.”

The CIWR is the California hub of the national network of water research institutes supported by the federal Water Resources Research Act of 1964 and provides and communicates solutions to complex water issues and will serve a critical role to support applied water research that tackles large problems with systems approaches, including groundwater recharge, water rights, irrigation management, water finance, and drinking water access. The CIWR works with scientists throughout California as well as through the national network to bring defensible solutions and alternatives to California’s water management community.

“Water is a necessity for life and management of water is essential for California’s economy and prosperity,” Meyer said. “Porse’s leadership with multidisciplinary research teams, water policy research, and integrated systems modeling will serve the CIWR and ANR for years to come.”

Porse succeeds Doug Parker, who retired in 2022 after 11 years as CIWR director.

2023-01-11T14:22:57-08:00January 11th, 2023|

Farmworkers at Risk for Obesity, High Blood Pressure, Say UC Researchers

By Pam Kan-Rice, UCANR

Better Access to Health Care and Safety Net Programs Would Help

Farmworkers are a crucial link in our food supply chain, a fact that came sharply into focus during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. To keep these essential workers healthy, there is a need for more data on farmworkers’ health. A new study published by University of California scientists looks beyond work-related health concerns such as heat and pesticide exposure to the general health of the people who help plant, nurture and harvest food in California.

“The study findings confirm the high chronic-disease burden in a workforce that is considered essential but lacks adequate access to health care and safety net programs,” said Susana Matias, lead author and UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the UC Berkeley Department of Nutritional Sciences and Toxicology. “This is a concern because California needs a healthy farmworker workforce. These workers are key to putting food on our tables and should be protected and supported as any other California worker.”

After reading the study, an advocate for women farmworkers said she sees opportunities to enhance farmworkers’ health by improving their working conditions by enacting policy governing work permits; childcare; pest management; unemployment benefits; access to healthy and affordable food; and safe, affordable housing.

To see a broader perspective of farmworker health, Matias analyzed data from three studies by Marc Schenker, UC Davis physician and professor emeritus. Schenker’s studies examined farmworkers’ general health, occupational injuries and important causes of illness and disease. Causes or so-called “social determinants” of disease include low income, food insecurity, undocumented immigration status, and poor housing conditions.

“Those social determinants are particularly negative and impact disease outcomes in the farmworker population,” Schenker said. “Too often farmworkers don’t have the benefits of other working populations, including adequate health care. It is hoped that recognition of this situation can lead to addressing these deficiencies and an improvement in farmworker health.”

Irene de Barraicua, director of operations and communications for Lideres Campesinas, said the study relates to much of the work her organization does advocating for women farmworkers.

“The article and studies emphasize findings that call for higher salaries, better working conditions, more worker rights and access to healthcare,” de Barraicua said. “From these findings, we can also gather that the health of farmworkers is impacted by various stress factors related to poverty, excruciating and unsafe work conditions, and lack of or costly childcare to name a few.”

Matias found that female farmworkers were at higher risk of obesity and larger waist circumference, while male farmworkers were at higher risk of high blood pressure and high total cholesterol.

“These differences in chronic health risks between farmworker men and women suggests that clinical and public health responses might need to be sex-specific,” said Matias, who is also co-associate faculty director at the Berkeley Food Institute.

The studies were conducted with farmworkers in Mendota, Oxnard and Watsonville. Matias would like to expand the scope to assess the health of farmworkers statewide.

“Our study is not representative of other regions of the state,” Matias said. “A representative survey is urgently needed in California to better identify and quantify the health problems in this population, and to provide the services needed by these essential workers.”

“The article ‘The Chronic Disease Burden Among Latino Farmworkers in California’ clearly brings to the forefront very important sociodemographic and socioeconomic ‘gaps’ unique to farmworkers, an essential segment of our population and workforce,” said de Barraicua of Lideres Campesinas.

“We need to enact policy that facilitates access to health care including mental health services; easily accessible, free rural and mobile clinics; telehealth services, essentially unrestricted healthcare coverage for all,” de Barraicua said, adding that trusted community health workers who know the farmworkers’ culture and speak their language are needed.

She also noted the growing population of indigenous Mexican farmworkers and face greater challenges related to language access, limited education and immigration status.

The article, co-authored by Matias, Schenker, UC Berkeley postdoctoral researcher Caitlin French and student Alexander Gomez-Lara, is published in Frontiers in Public Health.

2022-12-21T10:31:22-08:00December 21st, 2022|

New Tool Calculates Crop Rotation Costs, Benefits for California Rice Growers

By Mike Hsu, UCANR

Due to severe water shortages, rice acres planted in California plummeted by 37% from 2021 to 2022, according to numbers released recently by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. But now, thanks to University of California researchers, growers have a new tool they could potentially use to cope with droughts and other environmental and socioeconomic changes.

A crop rotation calculator provides farmers in the Sacramento Valley – where 97% of California rice is grown – with projections on the economic impacts of transitioning their fields from rice into four less water-intensive crops: dry beans, safflower, sunflower or tomato.

The tool represents an initial attempt to address the dearth of research on rice crop rotation in California, while giving growers much-needed, science-backed data on whether the practice would make financial sense for their farms.

“I believe more rice growers could benefit from the many advantages of crop rotation, and this new tool is an excellent first step by the UC to help growers look into making such a transition,” said George Tibbitts, a Colusa County rice farmer.

Funded in part by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, through the Western Integrated Pest Management Center, the calculator is a collaborative effort of UC Agriculture and Natural Resources, UC Integrated Pest Management and UC Davis to fill a major gap in rice research.

“I do think there are people who would have tried rotational crops in the past, but it’s just so unknown, we didn’t have anything we could give them and be like, ‘Hey, this is the recommended crop for your area,’” said Whitney Brim-DeForest, UC Cooperative Extension rice advisor. “This tool gives them some preliminary data they can use to make a more informed decision.”

Crop Rotation a Potential Boon to Growers, Environment

UC Davis doctoral student Sara Rosenberg and Brim-DeForest, alongside other members of the UC rice research team, surveyed California rice growers in 2020 on their experiences with and perceptions of crop rotation. Although the practice is rare in the Sacramento Valley (only an estimated 10% of rice acreage is under rotation), some farmers reported benefits that could be crucial in a water-scarce future.

“From having conversations with growers who do rotate, one of the biggest benefits they describe is their flexibility in times of drought, where they can keep producing on their land when there isn’t enough water to grow rice,” said Rosenberg, noting that crop rotation could be one option in a “toolbox” of strategies that growers also use to manage fertilizer price shocks, herbicide resistance and other challenges.

During the ongoing drought that caused about half of California’s rice acreage to go fallow in 2022, Tibbitts said his water district was only able to allocate 10% of his usual allotment.
“With such a limited supply, it would have been tough to grow even one field of rice,” he said. “But it was enough water so that we could rent two of our fields to a tomato grower – tomatoes under drip irrigation use much less water than a flooded field of rice. We were also able to grow one field of sunflowers, which doesn’t need any irrigation at all if you can plant the seeds into existing moisture in the early spring.”

While drought is one motivating factor to rotate crops, Tibbitts said that on principle he avoids planting all his acreage in rice and “not have all (his) eggs in one basket.”
“My primary motivation for rotating into and out of rice has been to help with weed and disease control,” he added. “Crop rotation is a primary tool of IPM (integrated pest management), and I feel it has helped me greatly over the years.”

According to Brim-DeForest, rotating cropping systems can allow for the use of different weed control tools, such as different herbicide modes of action, and different cultural controls such as tillage, reducing the chances of selecting for herbicide-resistant weeds – an increasingly pervasive issue in rice systems.

Rosenberg noted that, in some situations – and depending on the crops in rotation – the practice can also disrupt the life cycles of insects and diseases and potentially improve soil structure and increase nutrient cycling and uptake, which may lead to a reduction in inputs such as fertilizer.

More Research on Crop Diversification Needed in Rice Systems

The benefits of crop rotation for California rice growers are largely theoretical and anecdotal, however, so the UC rice team is looking to add evidence-based grounding through a variety of studies – from looking at long-term effects on soil health indicators to testing various cover crops (which may deliver some benefits of diversification, similar to those of rotation).

“In California, there is no quantitative data on crop rotation in rice,” said Brim-DeForest. “You’d think after a hundred and some odd years (of UC agricultural research), all the research would have been done, but, no – there’s tons still to do.”

Through interviews with Sacramento Valley growers, researchers found that cost was frequently mentioned as a barrier to trying crop rotation, along with incompatible soil conditions and a lack of equipment, knowledge and experience.

To help clarify those economic uncertainties, the new calculator tool allows growers to enter baseline information specific to their circumstances – whether they rent or own their own land, whether they contract out the work to plant the rotational crop, and other factors. The calculator then generates potential costs and benefits of staying in rice versus rotating to dry beans, safflower, sunflower or tomato, during the first year and in an “average” year for those crops.

The upfront costs of rotation during “year one” can be daunting. Therefore, the tool only focuses on a short-term profitability perspective. Researchers are currently working on longer term modeling for crop rotation – incorporating the possibility of reduced herbicide use over time, and under different crop yield scenarios, for example – that could significantly change the growers’ calculus.

“You could actually be profitable in the long term, whereas this first, short glimpse is showing you a negative,” said Rosenberg.

In addition, thanks to collaboration with the UC IPM team, the rice rotation calculator is an evolving tool that will be continually improved based on user feedback and additional data. Brim-DeForest also said that it could be adapted to other cropping systems – for example, alfalfa going into another rotational crop.

The rice calculator tool can be found at: https://rice-rotation-calculator.ipm.ucanr.edu/.

Other contributors to the project include Bruce Linquist, Luis Espino, Ellen Bruno, Kassim Al-Khatib and Michelle Leinfelder-Miles of UCCE; Cameron Pittelkow of UC Davis; as well as UC IPM team members Chinh Lam, Tunyalee Martin and Hanna Zorlu; and the California rice growers and industry members who participated in the research.

2022-12-01T13:56:46-08:00December 1st, 2022|

New Interactive Web Tools Help Growers Cope With Climate Change

By Pam Kan-Rice, UCANR

UCCE, USDA California Climate Hub launch CalAgroClimate decision-support tool

Climate and weather variability pose increasing risks to farmers. As world leaders gather in Egypt at COP27 to address the climate crisis, University of California Cooperative Extension and the USDA California Climate Hub are launching new web-based tools to provide farmers with locally relevant and crop-specific information to make production decisions that reduce risk.

“Integrating historical weather data and forecast information with meaningful agricultural decision support information holds the potential to reduce a crop’s vulnerability to such risks,” said Tapan Pathak, UC Cooperative Extension climate adaptation specialist at UC Merced.

“To provide easy access to high-resolution data in the form of agroclimate tools and information, and to enhance agricultural resilience to climate and weather-related risks, we are launching CalAgroClimate,” Pathak said.

Pathak is collaborating on building the decision support tool with partners from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, California Climate Hub, UC Cooperative Extension and UC Agriculture and Natural Resources’ Informatics and Geographic Information Systems or IGIS.

“CalAgroClimate has been designed to support climate-enabled decision making for those working in the California specialty crop industry,” said Steven Ostoja, director of USDA California Climate Hub. “The USDA California Climate Hub is a proud collaborator on this important initiative to ensure the state’s agricultural industry can continue to thrive in a future of climate change.”

Shane Feirer and Robert Johnson of UC ANR IGIS designed the interactive tools on the website and Lauren Parker of the USDA California Climate Hub contributed to content organization.An advisory panel composed of colleagues from UCCE and the Natural Resources Conservation Service ensures CalAgroClimate tools are relevant to stakeholder needs.

“CalAgroClimate is an amazing new tool that puts comprehensive past and forecast weather data at any grower’s disposal,” said Mark Battany, UC Cooperative Extension water management and biometeorology advisor for San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties.

“California’s high-value crops are subject to a myriad of weather-related risk factors; this tool will allow growers to better address both near-term and long-term risks, and in the end grow more profitably,” said Battany, who is a member of the CalAgroClimate advisory panel.

Growers and crop consultants can use CalAgroClimate’s crop and location-specific tools and resources to help make on-farm decisions, such as preparing for frost or untimely rain and taking advantage of expected favorable conditions.

CalAgroClimate currently includes heat advisory, frost advisory, crop phenology and pest advisory tools.

Heat advisory tool: Extreme heat poses a danger for people, animals and crops. With this tool, users can select location and temperature threshold (e.g. 90 F, 95 F 100 F) based on their crop-specific heat tolerance level and the tool will provide a customized map of heat risk for the next seven days for that location, including the number of consecutive days with temperature above that threshold. Users also can assess overall heat risks across the state for a selected temperature threshold as well. With an early warning about hot temperatures, growers can take steps to reduce risks associated with extreme heat such as providing shade, changing farmworkers’ schedules and applying additional irrigation.

Frost advisory tool: Frost risk is a serious issue for many specialty crops across California. Similar to the heat advisory tool, this tool provides a customized map of frost advisory for the next seven days for a user’s location, and a forecast of consecutive days with temperature falling below the selected temperature thresholds (e.g. 35 F, 32 F, 28 F). Early warning about cold temperatures can provide growers some time to protect their crops from frost damage.

Crop phenology tool: The scientists have developed a-crop specific and location-specific crop phenology tool to help users keep track of growing degree days accumulations and estimate critical growth stages. CalAgroClimate uses a high-resolution PRISM dataset to provide near real-time crop phenology information to users. This tool will inform growers about how their crop development compares to previous years, which can be helpful in planning activities specific to critical growth stages.

Pest advisory tool: Similar to crop growth, development of certain pests and diseases is controlled by temperature and heat unit accumulations. With the pest advisory tool, growers can keep track of estimated pest generations during the growing season to make pest management decisions.

“We are launching the website with this initial set of tools while working on adding more crop-specific information and several new tools in the near future,” Pathak said. “We look forward to getting feedback from growers who use CalAgroClimate to make it even more useful.”

2022-11-22T09:16:52-08:00November 22nd, 2022|

Asian Citrus Psyllid Study: Vigilance Urged but ‘No Cause for Panic’

By Mike Hsu, UCANR

Preliminary results indicate 3.5% of ACP collected showed signs of bacterium that can cause huanglongbing

An ongoing study in the commercial citrus groves of coastal Southern California is looking at whether Asian citrus psyllids – the insect vector of huanglongbing “citrus greening” disease – are carrying the bacterium that can cause HLB.

Thus far, the project has tested more than 3,000 adult ACP collected from 15 commercial citrus sites across the region, of which 138 – just over 3.5% – had some level of the bacterium present, according to researchers from UC Agriculture and Natural Resources, UC Davis, UC Riverside and the University of Arizona, Tucson.

“While the results are a cause for concern, the situation in California is much better than in Florida and Texas, where ACP carrying the bacterium make up the majority of the population and HLB is widespread in commercial citrus,” said Neil McRoberts, a UC Davis plant pathologist and UC Integrated Pest Management program affiliate advisor. “The results indicate that there is no room for complacency, but also no cause for panic.”

Since the first HLB-infected tree in California was found in 2012, nearly 4,000 infected trees have been detected and removed from residential properties in Southern California, mainly in Orange and Los Angeles counties. According to McRoberts, “to date, no HLB has been found in commercial citrus” in California.

He stressed, however, that the aforementioned ACP study – funded by the HLB Multi Agency Coordination Group and managed by USDA-APHIS – does not involve any testing of trees for HLB and focuses only on looking at the insect which spreads the bacterium.

McRoberts also emphasized that the project’s detections of the bacterium cannot be considered “official” because the researchers’ lab procedures differ from the official testing protocols of the California Department of Food and Agriculture.

“Follow-up sampling by CDFA staff would allow official samples to be collected for further investigation, but is entirely voluntary for the growers involved,” he said, adding that his research team is currently wrapping up the sampling phase of the project, with data analysis continuing into 2023.

While commending the “huge coordinated effort” by the California citrus industry, California Department of Food and Agriculture, UC ANR and other partners to suppress the ACP vector and slow the spread of HLB, McRoberts also urged continued vigilance.

“Our study results indicate that it is not time to declare the emergency status for ACP/HLB in California over – the situation is still evolving,” he said.

2022-11-21T11:20:37-08:00November 21st, 2022|

Virtual Course on Nitrogen Management in Organic Production Offered by UCCE

By Pam Kan-Rice, UCANR

Growers of organic vegetables and strawberries across California are invited to attend an online training to learn how to manage nitrogen fertilization. UC Cooperative Extension is offering the three-part Nitrogen Planning and Management in Organic Production of Annual Crops Workshop on Nov. 29, Dec. 5 and Dec. 12.
Growers, certified crop advisers, pest control advisers and other agricultural professionals who are interested in learning about nitrogen management in organically farmed crops are encouraged to enroll.

The workshop is also available in Spanish.

Tuesday, Nov. 29, 1-3 p.m. – Part 1: Understanding nitrogen: the nutrient, the role of microbes and the relevance of soil organic matter. Daniel Geisseler, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in nutrient management at UC Davis; Radomir Schmidt, program manager for the Working Lands Innovation Center at the UC Davis Institute of the Environment; and Margaret Lloyd, UCCE small farms advisor will give an overview of the sources, transformations and fates of nitrogen in soil. They also will discuss the role and dynamics of microbes in nitrogen management, and how nitrogen fixation impacts management decisions.

Monday, Dec. 5, 1-3 p.m. – Part 2: Estimating nitrogen release from organic amendments and contributions from cover crops. Patricia Lazicki, a postdoctoral research associate at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and Lloyd will discuss estimating nitrogen release from compost, organic fertilizers, cover crops and crop residue and irrigation water.

Monday Dec. 12, 1-3 p.m. – Part 3: Putting it all together: Completing a nitrogen budget, synchronizing nitrogen release with nitrogen demand, and using soil tests. Joji Muramoto, UC Cooperative Extension organic production specialist; Richard Smith, UC Cooperative Extension vegetable crops advisor; and Lloyd will address nuances of organic soil fertility management in vegetables. Discussions will include crop nitrogen demand and strategies to supply demand, as well as using and interpreting soil testing. Specific references will be made to strategies for complying with forthcoming regulations. The session will conclude with a discussion on new frontiers in organic nitrogen management.

Registration for the virtual event is $25 and includes all three classes. A single registration can be shared by members of the same farm. Space is limited to 75 participants. To register, visit https://ucanr.edu/organiccrops22.

Participants may earn six hours of CDFA-INMTP continuing education credits (formerly CURES CE Credits) or six hours of CCA credits.

For more information, contact Margaret Lloyd at (530) 564-8642 or mglloyd@ucanr.edu.

2022-11-16T11:03:40-08:00November 16th, 2022|

UCCE Water Management Expert Helps Save Water, Increase Supply in SoCal

By Saoimanu Sope, UCANR

Earlier this year, officials in Southern California declared a water shortage emergency resulting in restrictions such as limiting outdoor water use to one day of the week. While mandatory restrictions vary across the region, Amir Haghverdi, UC Cooperative Extension specialist and associate professor of agricultural and urban water management at UC Riverside, is using research to pinpoint irrigation strategies that will help communities reduce their demand for water and increase supply.

Haghverdi and his team are responding to a hotter and drier California by working to identify changes that can make a substantial difference in water savings.

While behavioral changes such as preventing leaks and turning the faucet off while brushing teeth can help, Haghverdi’s research focuses on methodical changes like stressing green spaces, planting drought-tolerant plant species, using non-traditional water sources, and investing in technology to better control water use.

Testing a lawn’s limits

For six years, Haghverdi and his team have performed stress tests on turfgrass to identify the lowest percent of evapotranspiration rate (ETo) that it can withstand and still survive. To do this, Haghverdi’s team applies different percentages of ETo, obtained from weather stations, and monitors the performance of each landscape species over time.
While both cool-season and warm-season species can be stressed and still maintain their aesthetic value for a few weeks to several months, Haghverdi’s results showed that warm-season turfgrass species require less water and can withstand water stress better.

The actual duration that people can apply less water depends on the type of turfgrass, the weather conditions and the stress level. For example, results showed that hybrid bermudagrass (a warm-season turfgrass) during summer in inland Southern California could keep its aesthetic value above the minimum threshold for 30 to 50 days, depending on the weather conditions, with irrigation application as low as 40% ETo.

In contrast, tall fescue, a cool-season turfgrass, even with 20% more water, showed signs of stress after only a few weeks and could not maintain its minimum acceptable quality.

Plant drought-tolerant species

Haghverdi’s work demonstrates that when water conservation is the goal, alternative groundcover species are clearly superior to all turfgrass species and cultivars that they have tested so far. In fact, his team has identified drought-tolerant species that can maintain their aesthetic values with a third to a quarter less water than cool-season turfgrass (as low as 20% ETo) and can even withstand no-irrigation periods.

Furthermore, extensive field trials showed that new plant species from different regions could be as resilient as native species in withstanding drought and heat stress while maintaining their aesthetic beauty and cool canopy. Occasionally, they have outperformed native species, underscoring the advantages of drought- and heat-tolerant species that are non-native.
Based on Haghverdi’s preliminary results for minimum irrigation requirement in inland Southern California, creeping Australian saltbush, a non-native species originally from Australia, and coyote bush, native to California, were top performers. Considering cooling benefits, drought tolerance and sensitivity to over-irrigation, creeping Australian saltbush performed the best.
Ph.D. students Anish Sapkota and Jean Claude Iradukunda collect plant physiological data to understand how native and non-native irrigated groundcover species respond to periods of water stress and limited irrigation applications in inland Southern California.

Counties are already using recycled water

Although he recommends renewing your landscape with drought-tolerant or low-water use greenery and identifying how long your green spaces can live without water, Haghverdi acknowledges that, while contradictory, the cooling benefits of landscape irrigation are essential in Southern California.

“This is one of the tradeoffs of water conservation,” said Haghverdi. “If the only goal is to conserve water, maybe people will conclude that we don’t have enough water to irrigate landscape.”

Water conservation efforts could influence counties to stop or reduce landscape irrigation. The consequences, however, would result in hotter environments due to the heat island effect. The loss of landscapes means that the sun’s energy will be absorbed into the ground, instead of prompting transpiration in plants, which helps keep environments cool.

Thus, stressing green spaces and investing in drought-tolerant plant species help reduce the demand for water, but increasing water supply is just as vital. Haghverdi urges Southern California counties to prioritize a supplemental water supply such as recycled water – an approach already implemented in Ventura, Orange and San Diego counties.

The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California’s Pure Water Southern California Program, formerly known as the Regional Recycled Water Program, aims to do just that. In partnership with the Los Angeles County Sanitation Districts, the program will further purify wastewater to produce a sustainable source of high-quality water for the region.

According to the program’s website, this would “produce up to 150 million gallons of water daily when completed and provide purified water for up to 15 million people, making it one of the largest water reuse programs in the world.”

Smart controllers save time, money and water

Making the best use of the water you already have relies on efficiency. Sprinklers that are poorly placed, for example, are not as effective as they could be.

“What I see often while walking my dog in the neighborhood is that there’s a lot of runoff, bad irrigation and bad timing like when it’s windy,” Haghverdi observed. “People usually set their irrigation timer and then forget it, but they don’t adjust it based on the season or weather parameters. That’s not going to help us conserve water, a precious resource, in California.”

Thankfully, Haghverdi and his team have done extensive research on smart irrigation controllers, which, simply put, are irrigation timers with a sensor built in. Generally, there are two types of smart irrigation controllers: weather- and soil-based controllers.

Weather-based controllers use evapotranspiration data to automatically adjust their watering schedule according to local weather conditions. Soil-based controllers measure moisture at the root zone and start irrigating whenever the reading falls below a programmed threshold.

Smart controllers that have flowmeters can detect leaks and be activated automatically, whereas rain sensors can stop irrigation during rainfall. Although both additions are ideal for large irrigation landscapes such as parks and publicly maintained green spaces, rain sensors are easy to install and effective for residential areas too.

When asked about cost being a hindrance, Haghverdi responded, “Not a lot of people know that there are grants for smart controllers – some that will pay either all or a majority of the cost.”

To check if grants are available in your area, interested individuals are encouraged to contact their local water provider.

“We need to move towards autonomous and smart irrigation [strategies], and water management in urban areas. That’s the future. If we can build autonomous cars, why can’t we build smart water management systems that apply the right amount of water to each plant species, can detect leaks and prevent water waste?” said Haghverdi.

To learn more about or stay updated on Haghverdi’s research, visit www.ucrwater.com.

2022-11-15T13:09:22-08:00November 15th, 2022|
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