Environment

Conversion to Organics Could Increase Food Prices, Shrink Farm Profits

By Peter Hecht, California Farm Bureau

A European Union policy goal to exponentially increase organic farming to 30% of all agricultural production by 2030 is expected to be considered by Gov. Gavin Newsom for next year’s budget. However, a new economic analysis says such a plan would dramatically increase the price of food for many consumers and jeopardize the solvency of organic farms.

California currently has an estimated 7.35 million acres of irrigated cropland, of which 460,000 acres—or 6%—is certified as organic and not all of that is farmed in any given year.

A preliminary analysis by ERA Economics, a Davis-based consultancy specializing in the economics of agriculture and water resources in California, focused on the potential challenges of applying the EU standards to one California crop: tomatoes. The state produces 95% of America’s processing tomatoes and the total annual tomato crop is valued at $1.2 billion.

Only 5% of California’s 228,000 processing tomato acreage is currently needed to meet consumer demand for organic. The study found that reaching 30% organic production by 2030 would cause substantial disruptions to the market. The farmgate price of conventional tomatoes was estimated to rise by more than 11%. And, importantly, the price for organic tomatoes was estimated to fall by 28% at the farmgate level—potentially putting the market price below the cost of production.

That could mean organic farmers would be forced to cease production, sell, or farm something else—a result that could potentially crash the organic market and ultimately drive-up consumer prices. Mandating an increase in organic acreage without a clear connection to consumer demand could result in market disruptions that would hurt farmers, farm employees and consumers alike, the study noted.

Any initial organic price drop would mostly benefit wealthier consumers who purchase organically grown products, with lower-income customers paying more for traditionally grown products. All tomato farmers, organic or not, could see reduced profits, according to the analysis.

“Farming works when we are able to grow what the consumer actually wants and not what government mandates. California consumers are already struggling to afford higher prices for food than other states because of government mandates and these types of proposals just make things worse,” said Jamie Johansson, president of the California Farm Bureau. “When the government increases the price of food, it acts like a regressive tax, hurting lower- and middle-income families the hardest. At the end of the day, the government needs to let organic markets grow organically.”

The study was funded by Californians for Smart Pesticide Policy, a coalition of farmers and businesses the rely on farmers, focused on educating policymakers on the benefits of modern scientific agricultural tools. It was undertaken on behalf of the California Bountiful Foundation, the 501(c)(3) science and research arm of the California Farm Bureau. The full report may be found at https://www.californiabountifulfoundation.com/research/.

A recently released report (https://www.fb.org/newsroom/farm-bureau-survey-shows-thanksgiving-dinner-cost-up-20) by the American Farm Bureau Federation shows that the average cost of a family’s Thanksgiving dinner—now $64.05—is up 20% from 2021 and nearly 36% from 2020.

The findings by ERA Economics include the following:

• To increase organic acreage for processing tomatoes from an average of 4% to 30% would represent a five- to six-fold increase in current acreage. Tomato growers and processors interviewed for the analysis confirmed industry data regarding consumers’ finite desire to purchase organic tomato products.

• Tomato growers may specialize in organic, non-organic or both, depending on market demands and conditions. By mandating a specific growing method, it could greatly impact the ability of farmers to keep their operation sustainable, both financially and as they encounter other challenges, such as climate change and pests and disease.

• Both conventional and organic farmers of processing tomatoes face risks of economic losses. Conventional growers, with likely reduced acreage, could see a 17% potential downside cost from expected earnings.

• Organic production presents greater risk of crop failure, higher production costs and lower crop yields. As a result, organic farmers are likely to see less stability. They face a potential downside cost of 36% of anticipated net returns, making it potentially unprofitable to grow organic processing tomatoes.

2022-11-23T09:00:36-08:00November 23rd, 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|

Farmers Fear Zero-Emission Trucking Proposal Could Strand Farm Products

By Caleb Hampton, California Farm Bureau

The California Air Resources Board is considering a proposed regulation to phase out big rigs and other trucks with internal combustion engines and replace them with zero-emission vehicles.

The proposed Advanced Clean Fleets regulation would include vehicles that transport agricultural commodities.

It would follow a 2020 executive order by Gov. Gavin Newsom banning the sale of new gas-powered cars by 2030, and apply to medium-duty and heavy-duty internal combustion vehicles. The proposal would force some federal agencies and trucking companies to begin converting their fleets to zero-emission vehicles in 2024 and prohibit the sale of all new fossil-fueled trucks by 2040.

Replacing these trucks and large delivery vehicles with zero-emission vehicles would augment California’s push to reduce air pollution and carbon emissions. While diesel-powered trucks represent a small fraction of the 30 million vehicles registered in the state, they produce about 70% of its smog-forming gases and 80% of carcinogenic diesel pollutants, according to the air resources board.

During a public hearing on Oct. 27, environmental advocates and industry groups clashed over the proposed rule. Environmentalists pushed for tighter rules and faster deadlines. Trucking industry leaders raised concerns about costs and the readiness of the electrical grid, vehicle technology and charging infrastructure for a statewide transition to zero-emission trucks within the proposed timeframe.

California farmers who rely on trucking companies for the timely transport of fresh commodities have also voiced concerns.

“Their concept is great, but the application is going to be hard,” said Keith Nilmeier, who farms 220 acres of oranges, peaches, apricots and grapes in Fresno County, and runs a trucking business with a fleet of 18 trucks. “They’re trying to drop it way too fast.”

Farming groups have pointed to a lack of rural charging stations and the limited range of zero-emission trucks, which they fear could slow or disrupt agricultural transport.

“Livestock, fruits and vegetables need to be transported in a timely manner to ensure food and animal safety,” Katie Little, policy advocate for the California Farm Bureau, said at the air resources board hearing. “The time required to charge these vehicles, in addition to the time needed to travel to these charging facilities, could jeopardize food security and availability.”

In typical tomato haul, for instance, a truck might travel over 800 miles in a 24-hour period. If the zero-emission vehicle’s range isn’t far enough, the charging infrastructure is not in place, or the electrical grid can’t handle the amount of big rig truck batteries that need to be charged, that could leave vehicles stranded in hot temperatures with thousands of pounds of fresh tomatoes.

State officials are pledging to invest $10 billion over several years to expand charging infrastructure and transition to zero-emission vehicles. But there currently are fewer than 2,000 zero-emission medium-duty and heavy-duty vehicles on California roads.

Joe Antonini, owner of Stockton-based Antonini Freight Express, which trucks tomatoes, almonds, walnuts and olives, said, “The infrastructure needs to be built prior to putting in place mandates.”

A coalition of commercial, transportation and agricultural organizations, including the California Farm Bureau, raised concerns about the proposed rule.

“We are extremely concerned that the proposed ACF rule will be unworkable in the real world and could result in compromising the delivery of essential goods and services to Californians,” the groups said in a letter to the air resources board.

Even if the basic infrastructure were in place, trucking company owners say the rule would impose significant hurdles.

Due to the weight of an electric truck battery, trucks could have their load capacity reduced by around 8,000 pounds, forcing companies to operate more vehicles in order to move the same tonnage. And with some of those vehicles sidelined while they charge, Antonini said his company, which has 240 trucks, may need as many as 50% more vehicles to move its freight.

With the sector already facing a driver shortage, the need for trucking companies to scale up their fleets could cause disruptions that impact farmers. “There are so many challenges on the ag side,” Antonini said. “This whole legislation will, in my opinion, have a very negative impact on California agriculture.”

Other farmers and trucking company owners raised questions about the cost of zero-emission vehicles, how long it might take to charge them and how many trucks could charge simultaneously at a single charging station.

“It’s terrifying for me to even think about,” said Tom Barcellos, owner of Barcellos Farms, a Tipton-based dairy farm and trucking company.

The upfront cost of an electric truck exceeds that of a conventional one, though the state’s air board staff project the cost of a zero-emission truck will go down as more models enter the market. They estimate that by 2035 it will be cheaper to buy and operate an electric semi-truck than a conventional one.

Nonetheless, farmers and trucking company owners expressed anxiety over the proposed timeline for transitioning the state’s fleets from diesel to electric. With diesel trucks, Barcellos said, “we can turn the key and go whenever we need to.”

The air resources board is set to hold a second hearing and a vote on the proposed rule in the spring. After a regulation is finalized, it would be subject to a public comment period.

2022-11-16T11:11:56-08:00November 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|

UC California Naturalist Conference, Oct. 7–9, highlights environmental challenges, diverse voices

Program has trained more than 6,500 participants statewide by partnering with over 80 organizations

By Mike Hsu, UCANR

Climate change, extreme drought, intense wildfires and the COVID-19 pandemic can all be linked to humanity’s troubled relationship with the natural world.

For more than a decade, healing and deepening connections between people and the environment have been pillars of the UC California Naturalist Program. Partnering with over 80 organizations across the state, the program – a part of University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources – has trained over 6,500 participants and certified more than 5,350 volunteers who engage fellow community members in advancing environmental stewardship and climate resilience.

To celebrate its 10th anniversary, the program is convening a statewide conference Oct. 7–9 along the north shore of Lake Tahoe, under the theme of “Celebrating Community, Nature and Resilience for a Just Future.” Keynote speakers are José González, founder of Latino Outdoors; Rhiana Jones, director of the Washoe Environmental Protection Department; and Obi Kaufmann, artist and eco-philosopher. Members of the public are invited to register for the conference.

UC Naturalists and Climate Stewards (the latter program was established in 2020), as well as instructors for both certification courses, will gather with community members to reflect on their work, share best practices and chart a path toward a more sustainable and equitable future.

“We’re striving to create a welcoming and safe space where we can challenge our own long-standing assumptions and perspectives and hear from a wide range of voices on crucial topics, including the latest on climate change and resilience; participatory science; and equity, diversity and inclusion in the conservation space,” said Gregory Ira, director of the UC California Naturalist Program.

Ira also highlighted the conference’s equity-based registration fee structure, aimed at minimizing cost as a barrier to participation.

“We encourage anyone with an interest in learning more about California’s unique ecosystems – and becoming a better steward of the environment – to join us for the weekend,” he said. “We truly value the perspectives and experiences you can bring to our conference.”

The conference agenda will feature engaging presentations, hands-on workshops and field trips to the area’s natural wonders. Presenters include:

  • Herman Fillmore, culture/language resources director, Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California
  • Don Hankins, Professor, Geography and Planning, Chico State University
  • Patricia Maloney, Forest and Conservation Biologist, Tahoe Environmental Research Center, UC Davis
  • Adina Merenlender, co-founder of the California Naturalist Program and UC Cooperative Extension professor in conservation science
  • Jennifer Norris, deputy secretary for biodiversity and habitat, California Natural Resources Agency
  • Ken-ichi Ueda, co-founder and co-director of iNaturalist, UC Berkeley School of Information

For more information and to register, visit the conference website at ucanr.edu/sites/2022CalNatCon/.

2022-09-28T12:27:38-07:00September 28th, 2022|

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|

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|

Managing Wildland Weeds

UC Launches WeedCUT,  To Manage Invasive Weeds in Wildlands 

California has abundant wildlands — forests, rangeland, open areas, wildlife refuges and national, state, and local parks — that need protection from invasive plants. Invasive plants affect all Californians by increasing wildfire potential; reducing water resources; accelerating erosion and flooding; threatening wildlife; degrading range, crop and timberland; and diminishing outdoor recreation opportunities. According to the California Invasive Plant Council (Cal-IPC), more than 200 identified plant species harm California’s wildlands.

Cal-IPC and the University of California Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program (UC IPM), with funding from the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) Alliance Grants Program, developed two resources that provide land managers access to the latest information on non-herbicide practices for managing weeds in wildlands. Best Management Practices for Non-Chemical Weed Control is a free downloadable manual. The same information has been incorporated into an interactive online tool called WeedCUT (Weed Control User Tool: weedcut.ipm.ucanr.edu).

“We anticipate WeedCUT will increase the use of more mechanical, physical, or biological practices, and potentially result in the reduction of herbicides used to manage wildland invasive weeds,” said area IPM advisor emeritus Cheryl Wilen. “Best Management Practices for Non-Chemical Weed Control and WeedCUT were developed so land managers can become more knowledgeable and skilled in the use of non-herbicide methods as part of an IPM program.”

Best Management Practices for Non-Chemical Weed Control provides comprehensive descriptions of 21 commonly used non-herbicide weed control techniques and biological control agents for 18 invasive plants. Each chapter is the synthesis of research and on-the-ground knowledge from practitioners about non-herbicide methods. The chapters describe how a technique is best applied, the types of invasive plants and environmental conditions where it is most effective, and what its shortfalls might be. Environmental, cultural, and human safety risks are highlighted to help support the safe and effective use of these methods.

Wildland Weeds Harm Cattle

WeedCUT is the online version and can be used to learn about the different non-herbicide management methods, including the section on biological control. To filter through the database and learn which management practice to consider for a particular site and invasive plant type, a simple interface allows users to pick characteristics that describe their site and invasive plant problem. The tool then filters through the database to display the practices ranked by efficacy (excellent, good, fair, poor or ineffective). As in the manual, use of the technique and potential hazards are covered.

Best Management Practices for Non-Chemical Weed Control and WeedCUT are designed to be the go-to resources for practitioners that complement their conventional weed management work with non-herbicide techniques or are restricted in their use of herbicides. Both resources will help practitioners manage weeds more effectively.

“Many experts in the field have contributed to create the manual and WeedCUT. It has been exciting to see these techniques described and reviewed so carefully. We’re looking forward to seeing land managers, as well as all folks fighting weeds, incorporating the information from the manual and WeedCUT into their work,” said Jutta Burger, science program director and project lead with Cal-IPC.

While the manual and tool focus on non-herbicide methods, the hope is future funding can be found to continue the work and integrate herbicide options online.

“Land managers typically use both herbicide and non-herbicide methods, alone and in combination, to manage invasive plants in wildlands,” said UC Cooperative Extension advisor and UC IPM-affiliated advisor Tom Getts. “A tool that combined both herbicide and non-herbicide methods would guide land managers to determine the most effective overall management program for their particular site.”

2021-06-25T19:08:48-07:00June 25th, 2021|

Climate-Smart Team Announced for Farmers

UC Cooperative Extension Deploys Team of 10 to Help Farmers Practice Climate-Smart Agriculture

By Jeannette Warnert, UCANR Communications Specialist

Scientists are developing climate-smart farming practices, California is offering financial incentives to implement them, and now a group of 10 UC Cooperative Extension climate-smart educators are taking the program to the next level.

To help farmers apply for grants to improve soil quality and enhance irrigation systems, UC Agriculture and Natural Resources partnered with the California Department of Food and Agriculture to put climate smart educators in 10 California communities.  The educators are working closely with UCCE advisors to help farmers and ranchers improve soil health, irrigation practices and manure management.

The climate smart programs offered by CDFA and promoted by UC ANR educators are:

The educators provide hands-on assistance to farmers and ranchers through the complex application process, conduct field days with climate-smart farmers, establish demonstration plots to share the practices, and work with farmers who are voluntarily implementing climate-smart farming.

Most of the educators were hired in early 2019, just weeks before the application deadline. They are now gearing up for a second cycle of applications. The state funded 194 projects in 2018, and 217 in 2019.

Each of the educators has a passion for agriculture and the environment, shaped by their upbringing, experiences and education.

“I am interested in carrying out research that focuses on the adoption and economics of climate change best management practices. The practices should help farmers continue their business,” said Esther Mosase, climate-smart educator in San Diego County. “I’m interested in seeing policymakers making policies that have a farmer as a focal point. They have been here long, they have been tilling the land, they can also contribute in coming up with better solutions that reduce climate change.”

The state is providing incentives for farmers to improve soil health in order to moderate the conditions that are driving global climate change. Improving soil health increases its ability to store carbon and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Side benefits include improved water infiltration, nutrient cycling and dust control.

Farmers can apply for three-year grants to implement new practices on their farm, such as reducing tillage, growing cover crops and applying compost. Conventional farm practices turn the earth, releasing the stored carbon back into the atmosphere.

UCCE’s 10 new climate-smart educators are:

Britta Baskerville
UC Cooperative Extension, Mendocino County
blbaskerville@ucanr.edu, (707) 463-4158

Baskerville started college as a theater major in Sacramento, then realized that wouldn’t result in a viable career. After suffering from an autoimmune disease tied to microbiome health, she began to understand the important role of the food and agricultural industries in public health. Baskerville earned a bachelor’s degree from UC Berkeley that combines sustainable agriculture with the sociological and ecological impacts of agriculture, natural resources conservation and public health.

Last summer, Baskerville served as a program coordinator in an adaptive agriculture learning environment, where she designed two practicum programs for adults. She is considering a career in the food industry.

Caddie Bergren
UC Cooperative Extension, Merced County
cmbergren@ucanr.edu, (209) 385-7403

Bergren grew up in a small fishing town on an island in Alaska. She earned a bachelor’s degree in earth systems at Stanford University in 2013, and then spent two and a half years in Paraguay as a Peace Corps volunteer. Bergren worked with a women’s garden cooperative and with subsistence farmers. She spent the last three years as a community organizer.

“I was so excited to find this job, which combines my interests in working directly with all kinds of people on the intersection of agriculture and climate change,” Bergren said. “I’ve especially enjoyed using my Spanish-language skills to work with traditionally underserved farmers in this area.”

Dana Brady
UC Cooperative Extension, Glenn County
dmbrady@ucanr.edu
, (530) 517-8187

Brady completed a bachelor’s degree in animal science at Chico State University in 2018. She was familiar with UC Cooperative Extension through school and had visited UCCE research sites.

Brady grew up in a farming and ranching family in rural Linden, southeast of Stockton.

“My earliest memory is of my grandfather’s farm, where he had an emu, donkey and llama,” she said. “I was in 4-H and FFA as long as I can remember.”

In addition to working directly with farmers on grant applications, Brady has been helping advisors in Glenn County on research projects and building relationships in the community through workshops and seminars.

“I am also very excited for an upcoming event at an elementary school farm day to present about Climate Smart Agriculture and presenting at some bigger events later this year with a few others in the cohort,” Brady said.

Samikshya (Sami) Budhathoki
UC Cooperative Extension, Fresno and Madera counties
sbudhathoki@ucanr.edu, (559) 241-7515

A native of Nepal, Budhathoki traveled to the United States in 2015 to attend college at Fresno State, where she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in plant science. During her studies, she completed a weed and salinity management project with professor Anil Shrestha. Budhathoki served as an intern in plant pathology with Bayer Crop Science.

She developed in interest in agriculture because of the industry’s importance to society and the world.

“Some people don’t get enough to eat even once a day. I wanted to join the effort to end world hunger and food insecurity,” Budhathoki said.

Budhathoke said she also is concerned about climate change and welcomes the opportunity to help farmers maintain a sustainable agriculture industry even in the face of climate change.

In the future, she plans to pursue graduate studies in climate change or water management.

Emily Lovell
UC Cooperative Extension, Yolo, Solano and Sacramento counties
ejlovell@ucanr.edu, (530) 405-9777

Lovell grew up in Sacramento and developed an interest in agriculture when she was overcoming a serious illness. She graduated from UC Davis in 2016 with a bachelor’s degree in sustainable agriculture and food systems.

“Originally, I didn’t want to make money in agriculture,” she said. “I wanted to live off the land. I believe farming is a political act and I wanted to help return power to the people through farming and land ownership.”

Lovell said she is interested in pursuing a graduate degree in an area that combines community resiliency through localized food systems and economics and, eventually, becoming a crop adviser.

Esther Mosase
San Diego County
enmosase@ucanr.edu, (858) 282-6737

Mosase has a master’s degree in agricultural engineering from Botswana College of Agriculture and a doctorate from South Dakota State University in civil engineering. Her master’s research focused on water resources, watershed modeling and management.

Raised in a farming family in Botswana, Mosase experienced the impact of climate change firsthand.

“I remember we had drought years, normal years and extremely wet years,” she said. “Twenty years ago, it was not uncommon for open water to freeze. But now we get mild winters and very hot summers. Rain-fed agriculture is now a risky enterprise compared to two decades ago.”

In addition to helping farmers with the climate-smart farming grant applications, Mosase is helping farmers cope with water quality concerns.

“For instance, one farmer wanted to improve the water quality at the edge of his avocado and citrus farm before it enters the stream. He also wanted to be helped with pools of standing water in the farm that usually affect the health of avocado trees,” Mosase said. “We advised him on what to do regarding the standing water, but for the edge of the field treatment, we decided to install bioreactors.”

Mosase will help collect field data on the bioreactors’ effectiveness and plans to publish the results.

Valerie Perez
UC Cooperative Extension, Santa Cruz County
valperez@ucanr.edu, (831) 763-8028

Perez earned a bachelor’s degree in agricultural business at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo in 2018. She accepted an internship with a large animal veterinarian, and found her passion, she said. In addition to working as a climate smart community educator, Perez is taking prerequisite courses for veterinary school. She hopes her career will lead to conducting research to benefit the meat industry.

“I’ve always been interested in ways to better agriculture and how our systems could improve, but it wasn’t until I received this job that my interest for climate-smart agriculture really peaked,” Perez said. “Agriculture is such an important industry, it is vital that we find ways to educate one another on how to better what we have been doing for so many years.”

Allison Rowe
UC Cooperative Extension, Ventura County
amrowe@ucanr.edu
, (805) 645-1464

Rowe has a bachelor’s degree in biology from Colorado College in Colorado Springs and a master’s degree from the Bren School of Environmental Science and Management at UC Santa Barbara. Her background and interests focus on the interface of land management and climate change.

“Everyone and everything is interwoven with our food system and yet so much of how we produce food accelerates climate change,” Rowe said. “I enjoy being at the interface of science and education, where the rubber meets the road. I wanted to find a role where I could work with people on the ground and implement solutions to climate change while contributing to resilient farming economies.”

She said it is encouraging to see that farmers and ranchers are interested in climate-smart agriculture and welcome the technical assistance.

Kristian Salgado
UC Cooperative Extension, Imperial County
kmsalgado@ucanr.edu, (442) 265-7700

Salgado attended San Diego State University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in 2014 with a double major in psychology and environmental studies and minors in counseling and social change. She earned a master’s degree in social science at Humboldt State University in 2018.

“My background in agriculture is very broad ranging, from topics relating to public health concerns connected to agriculture production – pesticide drift and agricultural burning – to food insecurity in low-income communities,” Salgado said.

Salgado is a native of Calexico, a city located across the border from its sister city, Mexicali, Mexico. Her farming experience centers on urban agriculture.

“Growing food on non-agricultural land has allowed me to learn the technical/scientific processes that go into growing food,” she said.

Salgado plans to continue her education in a doctoral program in ethnic studies at UC San Diego, where she can focus on several overlapping areas of interest, including race studies, food justice, sustainable agriculture, climate change, environmental decision-making processes, and participatory action research methodology and practices.

Shulamit Shroder
UC Cooperative Extension, Kern County
sashroder@ucanr.edu, (661) 868-2168

Shroder attended college at the University of Maryland in College Park, earning bachelor’s degrees in environmental science and policy and in Spanish language, literature and cultures. She has worked in an agricultural research lab, in the gardens at the University of Maryland and in a nearby organic farm. After graduating in 2016, Shroder volunteered with the Peace Corps in Senegal, West Africa, where she trained farmers on gardening and agroforestry techniques and extended improved varieties of staple crops like beans, corn, millet and sorghum.

“While serving in Senegal, I saw firsthand the effects of desertification and erratic rainfall on the ability of the community to feed itself,” she said

Shroder intends to earn a master’s degree and continue to research and promote sustainable agriculture techniques.

2019-12-06T17:15:40-08:00December 5th, 2019|

Produce Passes All Residue Testing in 2017

FDA Produce Residue Sampling “Once Again” Verifies Safety

Last week the Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released its 2017 pesticide residue sampling data results. FDA concluded: “The latest set of results demonstrate once again that the majority of the foods we test are well below the federal limits set by the Environmental Protection Agency.”

Note the term “once again” in FDA’s statement. They used it because government residue sampling data year after year reaffirms the safety of our food and the exceptionally high level of compliance among farmers with laws and regulations covering the use of organic and conventional pesticides.

Let’s get a little technical for a moment and focus on how FDA residue sampling is protective of consumers. FDA employs a three-fold strategy to enforce the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) tolerances or safety standards for pesticide residues.
If you haven’t heard – September is National Fruit and Vegetable month. Yes, it is time to celebrate the only food group health experts and nutritionists agree we should all eat more of every day for better health and a longer life.
While decades of studies have shown the nutritional benefits of fruits and vegetables are overwhelming and significant, the safety of both organic and conventional produce is also impressive. Government sampling data shows an over 99% compliance rate among farmers with the laws and regulations required for pesticide applications on organic and conventional fruit and vegetable crops. This led the United States Department of Agriculture to state that: “The U.S. food supply is among the safest in the world.”

Many health organizations are promoting National Fruit and Vegetable month to remind consumers about the importance of increasing consumption – only one in 10 of us eat enough of these nutrient-packed foods each day.

However, studies show a growing barrier to consumption is fear-based messaging which inaccurately calls into question the safety of the more affordable and accessible fruits and veggies. This messaging is predominantly carried by the same activist groups year after year despite studies which show that “prescriptions” for fruits and veggies could reduce health care costs by $40 billion annually. Or that 20,000 cancer cases could be prevented each year.

2019-09-23T15:06:22-07:00September 23rd, 2019|
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