California Dairy Research Foundation Awarded $85 Million from USDA for Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities Project

By Jennifer Giambroni, California Milk Advisory Board

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture is investing up to $2.8 billion in projects selected under the first pool of the Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities funding opportunity. Applicants submitted more than 450 project proposals; 70 were selected for funding.

The California Dairy Research Foundation, in partnership with more than 20 other dairy organizations, was among the recipients. CDRF’s grant partners include California governmental organizations, corporations and cooperatives, universities, producer organizations, environmental organizations, and others. The USDA has established an estimated funding ceiling of $85 million for this project to advance climate-smart dairy farming; the final award will be granted in the coming months.

“CDRF is extremely pleased to have received this grant on behalf of the entire collaborative team. The project brings together organizations throughout the value chain to the benefit of our hard-working dairy producers and the environment. We look forward to working with the California Department of Food and Agriculture, the California Milk Advisory Board, Dairy Cares, the universities and others to implement this advanced climate-smart ag project in California’s dairy industry,” said CDRF’s Executive Director Denise Mullinax.

Over the next five years, the project, “Partnering to Invest in and Build Markets for California’s Climate-Smart Dairy Producers,” will work to build climate-smart dairy markets and provide financial incentives for California dairy producers to adopt climate-smart manure management practices to reduce both methane emissions and nitrogen surplus and will leverage matching funding from non-federal sources.

“This funding represents the next critical installment and chapter in California’s world-leading dairy methane reduction efforts,” said Michael Boccadoro, Executive Director of Dairy Cares. “On-farm projects will be designed to not only reduce methane but will significantly improve water quality outcomes, ensuring broad benefits for our rural farm communities.

Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities is part of USDA’s broader strategy to position agriculture and forestry as leaders in climate change mitigation through voluntary, incentive-based, market-driven approaches.

“Dairy families in California continue to step up to ensure the agriculture sector contributes to climate change mitigation and adaptation,” said Karen Ross, Secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture. “The partnership between the State and dairy families has resulted in significant methane emission reductions making California a national and international leader in supporting on-farm livestock methane reductions using climate-smart agricultural management approaches and other environmental benefits, including improved water quality from dairy farms”.

Other partners supporting this project are California Department of Food and Agriculture, California Association of Resource Conservation Districts, California Milk Advisory Board, Dairy Cares, California Dairy Campaign, California Dairy Quality Assurance Program, Milk Producers Council, National Milk Producers Federation, Sustainable Conservation, Western United Dairies, California Farm Bureau Federation, University of California, Davis, University of California, Riverside, University of California Cooperative Extension, Truterra, California Dairies, Inc., Challenge Dairy Products, Nestlé.

2022-09-21T10:17:24-07:00September 21st, 2022|

World Agricultural Robotics Expo to Launch Oct. 18 in Fresno

Robots to ease labor shortage, climate concerns

By Pam Kan-Rice, UCANR

Drought, climate change and labor scarcity are driving farmers to seek new ways of accomplishing farming tasks. Sensors enable more precise application of precious irrigation water. Robotic machinery help plant, weed, prune and harvest, even in triple-digit weather. What other problems can technology solve?

World FIRA, the leading event in Ag Robotics, will launch FIRA USA in Fresno on Oct. 18, to provide autonomous systems and robots to California and North American growers.

Jointly organized between the French association GOFAR, the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources, Western Growers Association and the Fresno-Merced Future of Food (F3) Initiative, FIRA USA 2022 will bring together people with diverse expertise for three days of problem-solving, decision-making and planning.

  • WHAT: World FIRA (International Forum of Agricultural Robotics) to bring together representatives of the agricultural, technology and finance industries for a fresh approach to adapting to climate change and labor issues.
  • WHO: Specialty crop growers, robot manufacturers, scientists, technologists, startup owners and investors
  • WHEN: From Tuesday, Oct. 18, at 8 a.m. to Thursday, Oct. 20, at 7 p.m. Free registration for journalists at https://avolio.swapcard.com/FIRAUSA22/registrations/Start.
  • WHERE: Fresno Convention & Entertainment Center, 848 M St, Fresno, CA 93721
  • VISUALS: Robots performing tasks such as planting, weeding and harvesting in the field Oct. 20 at 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
  • SPEAKERS: Karen Ross, Secretary of the CDFA; Ben Alfi, Co-Founder of Blue White Robotics; Erez Fait, Co-founder of Agrinoz; Walt Duflock, Vice President of Vice President of Western Growers; Mark Borman, President of Taylor Farms California; Aubrey Bettencourt, CEO of Almond Alliance; Erez Fait, Chairman and Co-founder of Agrinoze; and more. See full list: https://bit.ly/3B8hGT6

The three-day event will feature ample opportunities to interview panelists, growers, robotics manufacturers and other participants. To learn more about FIRA USA , visit www.fira-agtech.com/event/fira-usa.

2022-09-21T10:10:50-07:00September 21st, 2022|

San Joaquin Valley Farm and Food Project Awarded $16 Million in Federal Funds

By Pam Kan-Rice, UCANR

Local food marketing, business and market support for small-scale farmers and food producers, new agricultural products and technology development are parts of a University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources project designed to boost jobs and farm resiliency in the San Joaquin Valley.

The Fresno-Merced Future of Food Innovation Coalition, or F3, received a $65.1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s $1 billion Build Back Better Regional Challenge. Of that award, about $16 million is designated for the Local Farm and Food Innovation initiative led by UC ANR. With the addition of matching share of cost contributions, the total budget for UC ANR’s project is over $20.5 million.

“As a key part of the broader F3 project, this Local Farm and Food Innovation initiative is going to be transformative,” said Glenda Humiston, University of California vice president for agriculture and natural resources. “By strengthening the parts of the food system to better support each other and drive innovation across the region, it’s going to deliver many environmental and economic benefits to Californians.”

Gabriel Youtsey is chief innovation officer for The VINE, a UC ANR initiative that helps new technology make it to market and businesses get off the ground by connecting entrepreneurs with mentors and resources, and aligning university and startup technology development with industry needs.

“The Local Farm and Food Innovation initiative is a win for inclusive innovation in agriculture in the San Joaquin Valley and a critical part of the F3 project,” said Youtsey. “It provides a broad set of training and support resources and expertise to help farms, food producers and vendors of all sizes to grow their businesses profitably and sustainably, in alignment with the economic goals of the region.”

To ensure technology solutions address the needs of small-scale farmers, food business owners and local communities, they will be invited to participate in directing the innovation activities, Youtsey said.

“With our deep roots in the San Joaquin Valley, UC Cooperative Extension is uniquely positioned to draw expertise from other parts of UC and expand its efforts in helping farmers and food entrepreneurs realize enduring prosperity and community resilience,” Humiston said. “UC ANR experts are already helping immigrants and other underserved communities adapt to climate change, add flexibility to supply chains and grow grassroots innovations. We are excited the federal government is investing in making food systems more equitable and profitable, and the solutions more scalable.”

To assist small-scale farmers in complying with new regulations and production challenges, adapting to climate change and finding new markets for their produce, UC ANR is convening the Small Farms Technology and Innovation Alliance. They are collaborating with the Community Alliance with Family Farmers and other nonprofit organizations to provide translation services, training and marketing assistance to farmers and food producers.

Ruth Dahlquist-Willard, UC Cooperative Extension small farms advisor for Fresno and Tulare counties, and Houston Wilson, UC Organic Agriculture Institute director and UC Cooperative Extension tree crops entomology specialist based at UC Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Parlier, are leading outreach and engagement with small-scale and organic farmers.

“While we certainly need to create new tools to address the unique challenges of organic agriculture, it is critical that farmers and other end-users be involved from start to finish,” said Wilson. “The development of appropriate technology requires communication across a wide range of stakeholders.”

To make new technology more accessible for small farmers and food producers, UC ANR will create a new team to test and demonstrate technology that is developed as part of F3 and by startups around the world. To promote adoption, the team will create a tool lending library so farmers can borrow and try out equipment and get training to use it.

“This project will expand on current efforts to support small-scale farmers with access to equipment, new markets and technical support,” said Dahlquist-Willard. “Our team is committed to meaningful engagement of farmers and San Joaquin Valley communities in the development of new tools and resources for the benefit of the region.”

For local food entrepreneurs and vendors, UC ANR will launch the Cultiva La Salud Kitchen and Food Academy and the Saint Rest Food Entrepreneurship Program, which will provide a kitchen, equipment and training. These will create new jobs and, over time, provide a marketplace to sell those products. The Local Food Marketing Assistance Program will promote purchases of locally grown produce and food products.

The Fresno-Merced project was one of 21 projects funded of the 529 proposed for the Build Back Better Regional Challenge intended to uplift underserved communities.

2022-09-16T09:02:43-07:00September 16th, 2022|

Wildfire Poses Greater Threat to Cannabis Than Other California Crops

By Pam Kan-Rice, UCANR

Wildfires are an increasing threat to people’s lives, property and livelihoods, especially in rural California communities. Cannabis, one of California’s newer and more lucrative commercial crops, may be at a higher risk of loss from wildfire because it is mostly confined to being grown in rural areas, according to new research by scientists in the Department of Environmental Science Policy and Management at UC Berkeley.

“Our findings affirm that cannabis agriculture is geographically more threatened by wildfire than any other agricultural crop in California,” said Christopher Dillis, lead author of the study and a postdoctoral researcher at UC Berkeley’s Cannabis Research Center. “This is an issue in almost all major cannabis-producing counties, not only those in Northern California.”

With licensing to grow commercially in the state only since 2018, the $3 billion cannabis industry is already one of California’s top five grossing agricultural commodities (though not included in the California Agricultural Production Statistics because USDA doesn’t recognize cannabis as an agricultural crop). In 2020, California tax revenues from legal cannabis sales amounted to over $780 million.

To assess the risk of cannabis crops being burned by wildfire, the researchers analyzed licensed cannabis farms in 11 cannabis-producing counties. Dillis and his colleagues overlaid CAL FIRE maps of fire hazard severity zones, historic wildfire perimeters and areas likely to experience increased fire activity in the future with the locations of cannabis farms and other crops in Humboldt, Lake, Mendocino, Monterey, Nevada, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz, Sonoma, Trinity and Yolo counties. Legal cannabis cultivation is still prohibited in most other parts of the state.

CAL FIRE classifies fire hazard based on vegetation, topography, climate, crown fire potential, ember production and movement and fire history.

The researchers found cannabis fields were located in “high” and “very high” fire hazard zones and closer to wildfire perimeters more than any other crop. About 36% of the cannabis cultivation area, or 986 farms, were in high fire hazard zones and 24%, or 788 farms, were in very high fire hazard zones. Grapes had the next largest percentage of acreage in high (8.8%) or very high fire hazard zones (2.9%), followed by pasture at 4.3% and 1.7%, respectively.

“This work only serves as a starting point for understanding how vulnerable cannabis farms may be to wildfire, as this analysis did not include indirect impacts, such as smoke and ash damage, which may be far-reaching,” Dillis said. “However, we can confidently say that the places where cannabis continues to be grown are at greater risk now, and likely in the future as well.”

For cannabis farms already established in high-risk areas, the authors recommend fire-safety programs to reduce the impacts of wildfire to crops and human health. They suggest traditional wildfire-risk reduction activities, such as managing vegetation and creating fire breaks, but also measures to prevent exposure of farmworkers and crops to wildfire smoke. In addition, they recommend the state pursue options for providing crop insurance to licensed cannabis farmers, which are available for most other agricultural crops through federal programs, but not cannabis.

“In light of the sector’s growing economic importance in the state, the vulnerability of cannabis to wildfire should be considered in future cannabis and rural development policies,” said co-author Ted Grantham, UC Cooperative Extension specialist and director of UC Berkeley’s Cannabis Research Center.

“The legal cannabis market in California is facing substantial headwinds from both market forces and a burdensome regulatory environment,” Grantham said. “This study shows that cannabis agriculture is uniquely exposed to wildfire impacts, which presents yet another challenge for licensed cultivators in the state.”

The Cannabis Research Center is currently conducting a statewide survey of licensed cannabis cultivators to better understand the impacts of wildfire on crops, infrastructure and farmworkers. The survey is funded through a grant from California’s Department of Cannabis Control.

The study “The threat of wildfire is unique to cannabis among agricultural sectors in California” is published in Ecosphere and authored by Dillis, UC Cooperative Extension specialist Van Butsic, postdoctoral researchers Diana Moanga and Ariani Wattenberg, graduate student Phoebe Parker-Shames and Grantham.

2022-09-08T08:22:50-07:00September 8th, 2022|

CDFA Accepting Grant Applications For Pollinator Habitat Program

By CDFA

The California Department of Food and Agriculture is now accepting grant applications for the Pollinator Habitat Program administered by its Office of Environmental Farming and Innovation.

The 12-week application period opened August 31, 2022 and will close on November 23, 2022 at 5 p.m. PT.

Detailed information, including application processes and requirements, and registration links for two informational webinars to review program guidelines can be found on the program website at www.cdfa.ca.gov/oefi/php.

Pollinators are essential to many of California’s agricultural crops and to the vast biodiversity of the state’s natural ecosystems. The Pollinator Habitat Program’s primary objective is to support pollinators through the provision of floral resources, host plants, and other elements of suitable habitat. The program is designed to help strengthen pollinator populations and improve pollinator health. Projects funded through the PHP can be expected to have additional benefits to California’s biodiversity and agricultural production.

The program was established by the Budget Act of 2021 (Senate Bill 170, Skinner). An appropriation of $15 million to CDFA will provide grant funding for the establishment of pollinator habitats on agricultural lands throughout California.

Eligible entities can apply for up to $2 million in PHP grants to work with farmers and ranchers to install pollinator habitat on agricultural lands throughout California. Eligible entities include Resource Conservation Districts, non-profits, Tribes, and California public higher learning institutions. For more information about eligibility and a full list of eligible applicants and funded pollinator practices, visit the program website at www.cdfa.ca.gov/oefi/php.

Please sign up for the PHP email subscription to receive updates regarding the PHP by clicking on the following link www.cdfa.ca.gov/subscriptions/MailChimp-signup.html

2022-09-02T09:51:13-07:00September 2nd, 2022|

Mexican Fruit Fly Quarantine in Portion of San Diego County

By CDFA

A portion of San Diego County has been placed under quarantine for the Mexican fruit fly following the detection of six flies and one larva in and around the unincorporated area of Valley Center.  The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the San Diego County Agricultural Commissioner, and the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) are working collaboratively on this project.

The quarantine area in San Diego County measures 77 square miles, bordered on the north by Wilderness Gardens Preserve; on the south by the Lake Wohlford Park; on the west by Moosa Canyon; and on the east by Hellhole Canyon Preserve.  A link to the quarantine map may be found here: www.cdfa.ca.gov/plant/mexfly/regulation.html.

As part of the eradication effort, approximately 250,000 sterile males will be released per square mile per week in an area of 43 square miles around the infestation.  Sterile male flies mate with fertile wild female flies but produce no offspring.  This reduces the Mexican fruit fly population as wild flies reach the end of their natural life span with no offspring to replace them, ultimately resulting in the eradication of the pest.  In addition, properties within 200 meters of detections are being treated with an organic formulation of Spinosad, which originates from naturally-occurring bacteria, in order to remove any live fruit flies and reduce the density of the population.  Fruit will also be removed within 100 meters of properties with larval detections and/or female fly detections.

The quarantine will affect any growers, wholesalers, and retailers of host fruit in the area as well as nurseries with Mexican fruit fly host plants. Local residents and home gardeners affected by the quarantine should consume homegrown produce on-site, to include canning, freezing or juicing and should not move host items from their property.  These actions protect against the spread of the infestation to nearby regions which may affect California’s food supply and our backyard gardens and landscapes.

The Mexican fruit fly can lay its eggs in and infest more than 50 types of fruits and vegetables, severely impacting California agricultural exports and backyard gardens alike.  For more information on the pest, please see the pest profile at: www.cdfa.ca.gov/plant/go/MexFly.  Residents who believe their fruits and vegetables may be infested with fruit fly larvae are encouraged to call the state’s toll-free Pest Hotline at 1-800-491-1899.

The eradication approach used in the Valley Center area of San Diego County is the standard program used by CDFA and it is the safest and most effective and efficient response program available.

While fruit flies and other invasive species that threaten California’s crops and natural environment are sometimes detected in agricultural areas, the vast majority are found in urban and suburban communities.  The most common pathway for these invasive species to enter our state is by “hitchhiking” in fruits and vegetables brought back illegally by travelers as they return from infested regions of the world.  To help protect California’s agriculture and natural resources, CDFA urges travelers to follow the Don’t Pack a Pest program guidelines (www.dontpackapest.com).

Federal, state, and county agricultural officials work year-round, 365 days a year, to prevent, deter, detect, and eliminate the threat of invasive species and diseases that can damage or destroy our agricultural products and natural environment.  These efforts are aimed at keeping California’s natural environment and food supply plentiful, safe, and pest-free.

2022-08-24T11:30:52-07:00August 24th, 2022|

Less Water, More Watermelon: Grafting Can Help Growers Yield More

UC Cooperative Extension advisor tests ancient technique, new to California melons

By Mike Hsu, UC ANR

As growers across California navigate severe drought, supply-chain challenges and rising inflation, reducing inputs has become an existential necessity. And for watermelon growers, a new twist on a thousands-year-old practice is showing real promise.

In the summer of 2018, watermelon growers brought a pressing problem to Zheng Wang, who had recently joined University of California Cooperative Extension as the vegetable crops and irrigation advisor for Stanislaus, San Joaquin and Merced counties.

Growers were seeing an increasing number of their cartons rejected by supermarkets and other buyers because of the melons’ inconsistent quality, and Wang wondered if the ancient technique of grafting would help the state’s melon growers, who plant about 10,000 acres of the crop each year.

Although California is the No. 3 watermelon-producing state in the U.S. (behind Florida and Georgia), there has been relatively little research on the melon across the state.

“Watermelons seem to have attracted not too much attention compared to other cucurbits, both Extension- and research-wise,” said Wang.

Fresh from his postdoctoral work at The Ohio State University on grafting fresh market tomatoes, Wang knew that vegetable growers understood the theoretical benefits of grafting, which combines a scion (the above-ground part of a plant) with the sturdy rootstock of a related plant.

But watermelon growers needed to make sure the added expense of using grafted plants would pay off. They were looking for science-backed evidence that the technique could actually reduce costs overall, while maintaining or boosting productivity.

“Sometimes as farmers we want to test a new cultural practice or crop product,” said David Jarrett, field manager at Van Groningen & Sons, who grows watermelons in the San Joaquin Valley. “A person like Zheng can set up a meaningful experiment and he has the tools for qualitative and quantitative analysis; Zheng knows how to measure a hunch and assign it a verifiable number measuring success.”

In his first trials in partnership with growers in 2019, Wang tested whether they could plant fewer watermelon plants, spaced at greater distances apart, while producing a stable yield of high-quality melons. The idea was that grafted plants, which are more vigorous and grow larger leaves and wider canopies, would produce consistently marketable melons that could be picked up to seven or eight times during an extended harvest season.

“That way we can make one plant equal ‘two,’” explained Wang, noting that non-grafted plants tend to produce only two or three picks of good melons, with quality declining rapidly afterward.

Grafting shows ‘a lot of potential for the future’

After two years of trials, the growers determined, with strong confidence, that watermelons planted 4-5 feet apart could produce a yield equal to – or surpassing – that of plants 3 feet apart (the standard for their non-grafted counterparts).

According to Wang, growers reported that, on average, their successfully grafted fields produced 15% to 25% more watermelons than non-grafted fields per acre, while using 30% fewer plants and the same amount of water and fertilizers.

With the potential for greater profitability, grafting could be a major boon during a particularly challenging time for growers.

“California agriculture is stressed competing for finite resources such as land, water, fertilizer and other safe but effective chemical tools, but outside of this realm we can improve some of our crops by grafting,” Jarrett explained. “Just as many tree crops are grafted, we are learning that other crops can be successfully grafted too; the goal is to create a heartier plant, which may grow better in marginal soils with reduced inputs.”

Confidence in the technique has led to a significant increase in the planted acreage of grafted watermelon across California – from less than 250 acres in 2018 to more than 1,500 acres in 2021. At the same time, growers have adopted 4 or 5 feet as the new “standard” spacing for their watermelon plants, enabling them to reduce their populations while maintaining or boosting yield.

“Using grafting has kind of opened a new channel in the watermelon world, and for all vegetable production in California,” Wang said.

Next up for Wang is testing various combinations of scions and rootstocks. This year, he began variety trials with rootstocks of various cucurbit family members (like hybrid squashes, Citron and bottle gourd), with hopes of producing results that watermelon growers could use to decide the best options for their local conditions.

“In sum, there are a lot of unknowns – but also a lot of potential for the future,” he said.

2022-08-24T11:25:54-07:00August 22nd, 2022|

Henderson Confirmed as DPR Director

California’s new Department of Pesticide Regulation leader will focus on transitioning to safer, more sustainable ways to manage pests

The California State Senate confirmed the appointment of Julie Henderson as director of the California Department of Pesticide Regulation.

Henderson’s formal confirmation – passed on a 29 to 0 vote – follows her appointment by Gov. Gavin Newsom in December 2021.

Henderson was acting director from July 2021 until her appointment. Prior to joining DPR, Henderson served as the California Environmental Protection Agency’s Deputy Secretary for Public Policy, beginning in November 2017.

“Julie’s vision of collaboration, equity and sustainability will move this department forward as the state works to support a thriving agricultural sector while elevating public health and the environment,” said Jared Blumenfeld, California Secretary for Environmental Protection. “Californians will benefit from her continued focus on the adoption of safer, more sustainable pest management practices.”

“I’m honored to serve in this position to help protect all Californians and our environment,” Henderson said. “I’m grateful to Governor Newsom for giving me this opportunity and to the Senate for their confirmation of my appointment.”

Since joining DPR, Henderson has led several environmental, public health and community engagement initiatives with DPR staff and state agency partners. Under Henderson’s leadership, DPR worked with CalEPA and the Department of Food and Agriculture in convening the Sustainable Pest Management Work Group in 2021.

The group is preparing to release a draft roadmap focused on accelerating the systemwide adoption of sustainable pest management in agricultural and urban settings to promote human health and safety, ecosystem resilience, agricultural sustainability, community wellbeing and economic vitality. The work group includes by representatives of a wide range of industry, community and environmental stakeholders, along with academic and government partners. The roadmap is expected to be released this fall.

Henderson also led DPR in awarding $3.15 million in grants in July to fund research into sustainable pest management practices in agricultural, urban, and wildland settings. The department also awarded about $1.8 million in grants to fund projects that promote implementation and use of sustainable pest management strategies.

“This is an exciting time for DPR and the state as a whole,” said Henderson. “I’m honored to be a part of this important work.”

 

2022-08-16T13:10:17-07:00August 16th, 2022|

UC Davis Community Ecologist Louie Yang Shares Expertise at National Monarch Summit

By Kathy Keatley Garvey, UC Davis

UC Davis community ecologist  Louie Yang, professor of entomology, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, was one of 12 invited scientists nationwide who delivered a presentation during the two-day Monarch Butterfly Summit, held recently at the Capitol in Washington D.C. and organized by Sen. Jeffrey Merkley of Oregon.

It was a gathering of science experts and policymakers to share science and conservation actions to help the declining western monarch population. The scientists discussed the natural history of the monarch (Danaus plexippus), its population status, habitats and barriers to conservation success.

“It was a great group of folks working hard to connect science and policy to improve monarch conservation,” Yang said. “It was a privilege to part of it.’

During the summit, the Department of the Interior announced a $1 million award to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s (NFWF) Monarch Butterfly and Pollinators Conservation Fund, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) announced a Pollinator Conservation Center.

Last year two bills to support the Monarch Action, Recovery, and Conservation of Habitat (MONARCH) Act and the Monarch and Pollinator Highway Act were proposed; and if passed, these acts would support a variety of initiatives focused on monarch research and conservation.

Sen. Merkley organized the summit in collaboration with the Department of the Interior. Officials attending included Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland; Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon; Sen. Alex Padilla of California; Cong. Jimmy Panetta of California; Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks (USFWS) Shannon Estenoz; and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service  Director Martha Williams.

In addition to Professor Yang, three other scientists affiliated with UC Davis gave scientific presentations:

  • Professor Matt Forister, the Trevor J. McMinn Endowed Professor in Biology, Foundation Professor, at the University of Nevada, Reno. He holds a doctorate in ecology (2004) from UC Davis where he studied with major professor Art Shapiro, distinguished professor of evolution and ecology
  • Elizabeth Crone, professor and population ecologist at Tufts University and a UC Davis collaborator who recently completed a six-month sabbatical at UC Davis.
  • Sarina Jepsen, director of the Xerces Society’s Endangered Species and Aquatic Program, who holds a master’s degree (2006) in entomology from UC Davis. She studied with major professor Jay Rosenheim, distinguished professor of entomology.

Others giving scientific presentations were Amanda Barth, Western Monarch and Native Pollinator Working GroupWendy Caldwell, executive director, Monarch Joint VentureRyan Drum, wildlife biologist, USFWS; Wayne Thogmartin, quantitative ecologist, U. S. Geological Survey;  Cat Darst, wildlife biologist, USFWS, Cheryl Schultz, professor, Washington State University, Pullman; Sarah Hoyle, pesticide program specialist policy lead, Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation; and Francis Villablanca, professor, California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo.

“Senator Merkley has been a champion for conservation since he entered the senate,” blogged Scott Hoffman Black, executive director of the Xerces Society. “Mace Vaughan and I have worked with his staff in the past on improving pollinator provisions in the Farm Bill, and I have had the pleasure of meeting with him several times.  He is also very interested and worried about western monarchs.  Sarina, Jennifer Hopwood Emma Pelton, and I worked with his staff on the Monarch and Pollinator Highway Act (which passed but is awaiting funding) and the Monarch Action, Recovery, and Conservation of Habitat Act of 2021 (or MONARCH Act).  Sarina also met with him at Pismo Beach to see overwintering monarchs during this past year.”

“The Senator convened the Monarch Butterfly Summit to elevate the conservation issues that western monarchs face, and to include policy makers in work sessions to identify solutions,” Black noted. “Working closely with the USFWS and Xerces, Senator Merkley ensured that issues like pesticides, the availability of early emerging native milkweeds in the spring breeding areas, loss and degradation of western monarch overwintering sites, and other important issues would be highlighted throughout the meeting.  Sarina and Sarah did an amazing job representing Xerces – not only in their talks, but in the working groups.”

Black wrote that the event “raised the profile of western monarchs. One participant that came up to me enthusiastically and said, ‘This was incredible.  I have been working on monarchs for decades and never expected to come to a meeting where three U.S. Senators [Merkley, Padilla-CA, Wyden-OR] a congressperson [Panetta-CA] and the Secretary of Interior [Deb Haaland] come to talk about western monarchs!'”

“We hope will lead to additional focus on key priorities for recovering the western monarch population, such as the essential need to protect overwintering sites and invest in their restoration, and the need to scale up the production of early-emerging native milkweeds, such as Asclepias californica, to support the first generation of monarchs in the Priority 1 Restoration Zone and a focus on protecting habitat from insecticides that can harm monarchs.”

In a news release, the U.S. Department of Interior noted: “In the 1980s, more than 4.5 million monarchs overwintered along the California Coast. Currently, the western overwintering population has declined by more than 95 percent. In 2020, western monarch numbers dropped to all-time lows when only 1,900 overwintering monarchs were observed. In 2021, biologists and the public alike were greeted with the news that monarch numbers were heading in the right direction with approximately 250,000 monarchs estimated at overwintering groves along the coast of California.”

“There is no single cause for the extreme multi-decade drop in the western monarch butterflyoverwintering population numbers,” according to the Department of Interior, which aims to play “a central role in how the United States stewards its public lands, increases environmental protections, pursues environmental justice, and honors our nation-to-nation relationship with Tribes.

“Multiple factors have contributed to the long-term decline, including habitat loss and degradation in overwintering groves and breeding areas, pesticides, and the effects of climate change, including drought, increased storm frequency and severity, and temperature extremes,” the news release related. “As with many insects, monarch populations likely fluctuate in response to changes in temperature, precipitation, and other environmental factors. Conservation efforts are focused on an all-hands-on-deck collaborative approach, engaging a broad array of partners to enact large and small-scale conservation efforts for the benefit of monarchs and their habitats. Outcomes from this week’s summit will further contribute to the conservation of this iconic species.”

On July 21, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which works in the field of nature conservation and sustainable use of natural resources, listed the migratory monarch on its Red List of Threatened Species (Endangered). It is not yet listed as endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, but is listed (as of Dec. 15, 2020) as a candidate. (See more on the monarch butterfly on the USFWS website.)

Monarch-Milkweed Interactions.

Professor Yang recently authored newly published research investigating wild monarch-native milkweed interactions in rural Davis over a three-year period that yielded three key findings in the search for what factors constrain monarch development.

“First, we documented early and late seasonal windows of opportunity in the wild, migratory western monarch population,” the UC Davis professor said. “Second, our data suggest that early and late seasonal windows were constrained by different factors. Third, climatic and microclimatic variation had a strong effect on the timing and importance of multiple factors affecting monarch development. Broadly, we hope that this study contributes to a more temporally detailed understanding of the complex factors that contribute to year-to-year variation in monarch breeding success.”

The project, funded by two of Yang’s National Science Foundation grants, involved UC Davis, Davis Senior High School and the Center for Land-Based learning. Among them were 107 high school students and a K-12 teacher, 18 UC Davis undergraduate students,  three graduate students and two post-graduate researchers.

“This study collected a high-resolution temporal dataset on milkweed-monarch interactions during the last three years prior to the precipitous single-year population decline of western monarchs in 2018,” Yang said. He organized and led a 135-member team, all co-authors of the paper, “Different Factors Limit Early- and Late-Season Windows of Opportunity for Monarch Development,” published in the journal  Ecology and Evolution. (This document is open access at https://bit.ly/3volFaI.)

Other monarch research from the Yang lab is pending publication.

2022-08-10T08:36:26-07:00August 10th, 2022|

Confirmation of New Citrus Virus in California

By Citrus Insider

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has confirmed positive identifications of Citrus yellow vein clearing virus (CYVCV) in the city of Tulare detected during California Department of Food and Agriculture’s (CDFA) routine multi-pest survey. This is the first detection of CYVCV in the United States. CDFA is surveying for the disease in Tulare County residential and commercial properties and will survey in Fresno and Kings counties in the coming months to fully determine the extent of the disease’s presence (which is currently limited to the city of Tulare). The survey results will inform the regulatory approach taken by CDFA and APHIS.

CDFA began initial delimitation survey work in March in a 1-mile core radius area around the initial find site. Since then, CDFA has conducted additional surveys in the surrounding areas, which have resulted in additional CYVCV confirmations in the city of Tulare, expanding the survey area. CDFA is conducting these surveys to gain knowledge on the extent of the infestation and potential impacts of CYVCV, and surveys will be ongoing for the near future. Since the detection of this virus is new to the United States, these learnings – CDFA’s robust pest prevention system that focuses on exclusion and monitoring, as well as CDFA and USDA’s experience responding to other vectored disease threats – will be critical in developing an appropriate regulatory response.

CYVCV can be spread by vectors as they move from tree to tree feeding on foliage. The vectors include citrus whitefly, green citrus aphid, melon or cotton aphid, and cowpea aphid, which are all known to be present in California. CYVCV can also be spread through grafting and the movement of infected propagative materials and rootstocks, or contaminated tools and equipment. While there is no treatment for CYVCV, as of now the best mitigation measure is to control the vector and sanitize tools and equipment. To the greatest extent possible, growers are encouraged to urge their field crews to clean and sanitize all their equipment thoroughly in between jobs or when moving between groves.

For any questions about CYVCV, please call the CDFA Pest Hotline at 1-800-491-1899 or contact your local Grower Liaison.

2022-08-05T08:35:57-07:00August 5th, 2022|
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