New Orchard Advisor Brings Research Background

By Tim Hearden, Western Farm Press

The central San Joaquin Valley has a new University of California Cooperative Extension orchard crops advisor who once took part in research into the way people pronounce the word “almond.”

Cameron Zuber, a UCCE staff researcher in Merced County since 2016, has been named the orchard crops advisor for Merced and Madera counties.

He will cover a variety of crops in Merced County, including walnuts, almonds and pistachios as well as figs and stone fruit, and will work with walnut growers in Madera County, according to the university.

Among his contributions to UCCE has been to keep alive a project on how Californians pronounce the word “almond” and mapping where they live, color-coding whether they pronounce the “l.”

The website https://ucanr.edu/sites/sayalmond was started by a marketing and social media expert who left the UC’s Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources a few years ago, spokeswoman Pamela Kan-Rice said.

Zuber earned his bachelor’s degree in environmental biology and management from UC Davis and a master’s in environmental systems from UC Merced before joining the university as a researcher.

For orchard crops, he has worked on fumigants and other soil pest controls, rootstocks and scion varietals, cultural practices related to tree spacing and whole orchard recycling, according to the university.

He also has experience in water management, having studied flood irrigation for groundwater recharge, irrigation and soil, water and air interactions.

A growing team

Zuber began his new position June 6, joining a growing team of Extension advisors and specialists as UCANR has received increased funding from Gov. Gavin Newsom and the state Legislature.

He was one of seven new advisors recently announced by the university, with others bringing expertise in wildfire, grapes, small-scale farms and youth development.

Among other advisors working with growers, Joy Hollingsworth began as the new table grape advisor serving Tulare and Kings counties on May 16; Kirsten Pearsons started as small farms advisor in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties on March 1; and Ricky Satomi joined UCCE Sutter-Yuba on March 15 as an area forestry and natural resources advisor in the Western Sierra Nevada region.

2022-07-28T14:58:19-07:00July 28th, 2022|

Congressman Valadao: Fewer Truckers on the Road will Worsen Supply Chain, Raise Costs

Today, Congressman David G. Valadao (CA-21) joined Congresswoman Michelle Steel (CA-48) and members of the California Republican congressional delegation in a letter to Governor Newsom urging him to take immediate action to prevent Assembly Bill 5 (AB5) from devastating the California trucking industry and further crippling nationwide supply chains.

“Central Valley families are paying more for just about everything, and they desperately need relief,” said Congressman Valadao. “The last thing we need is more burdensome regulations that will restrict the ability of truckers to move goods throughout our state. Fewer truckers on the road will worsen our supply chain bottlenecks and raise costs for Valley families.”

Read the lawmakers’ full letter here.

Congressman Valadao has been a strong voice in supporting balanced legislation to alleviate these supply chain backlogs:

  • Co-sponsored the TRANSPORT Act, which would temporarily waive operating standards should those standards be more stringent than the federal standard, allowing U.S. Department of Transportation-compliant trucks and drivers from other states to relieve ports and transport goods across the country.
  • Co-sponsored and voted in support of the Ocean Shipping Reform Act, which became law in June 2022.
  • Demanded vessel operating common carriers be held accountable when their practices intentionally harm farmers from the Central Valley.
  • Hosted a bipartisan roundtable with industry leaders on the ongoing supply chain crisis and the Ocean Shipping Reform Act.
  • Visited the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach and discussed lack of container access for agriculture exporters, significant backlogs and congestion, and burdensome trucking restrictions.
  • Led a letter to President Biden alerting the administration to the severe impact supply chain backlogs were having on agriculture exporters and urging immediate action to address the supply chain.

Background:

Inflation this week reached a record breaking 9.1% thanks in part to supply chain backlogs. The lawmakers sent the letter after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to take up California Trucking Association v. Bonta, a case challenging AB5. AB5 was enacted by state lawmakers in 2019 and reclassifies many independent contractors as “employees,” subjecting them to stricter regulations and increasing costs of operations. The law had been stayed pending appeal, but will now go into effect, potentially shrinking the number of critical independent truckers, further worsening the backlogs at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, and exacerbating the supply chain crisis.

2022-07-15T14:31:28-07:00July 15th, 2022|

New Research: Consumers Have Confidence in Farmers to Protect Produce Safety

By Alliance for Food and Farming

Consumers continue to trust farmers when it comes to protecting the safety of their fruits and vegetables. In a new survey conducted by the Alliance for Food and Farming (AFF), 76% of consumers said they have confidence in farmers to protect produce safety.

Government agencies are also trusted by consumers, according to the survey. Despite media reports and public statements to the contrary, 78% percent of survey participants responded they were confident in regulatory systems in place to protect public health.

The confidence shown in farmers is not unique to this research project. Consumers recognize that farming is hard work and it takes passionate and committed people to grow and nurture fruits and vegetables. For those of us who represent farmers, it is incumbent on us to continue to share information about farming practices, government safety requirements and regulations as well as the care farmers and farm workers take every day to produce these healthy foods.

Why is this so necessary? Because there are well-funded, well-connected groups that disparage the work of farmers and attempt to evoke unfounded fears about the safety of the food they grow. But it is gratifying when surveys like this show that those efforts may be failing. In fact, produce safety concerns have decreased by 20% since the AFF’s last survey in 2016. Concerns about residues have also dropped by 10%.

The AFF conducted this research to help improve overall information-sharing that will reassure consumers about produce safety. With only one in 10 of us eating enough of these nutrient-dense foods every day, it is important to understand consumer concerns as well as what science-based safety information helps them make the right shopping choices for themselves and their families.

A primary focus of the research was to share with participants safety information specific to pesticide residues as well as regulations and practices on pathogen prevention. This information generated strongly positive results with 76% to 83% of survey respondents stating they were confident in the safety of produce after reading each statement. A complete list of the science-based statements can be found here.

The AFF has developed a new webpage highlighting the research results. The consumer research project included three virtual focus groups followed by a nationwide survey with a 3.1 margin of error.

2022-07-05T11:01:30-07:00July 5th, 2022|

New Consumer Research Shows Progress in Produce Safety Outreach Efforts

By Alliance for Food and Farming

A new consumer research project conducted by the Alliance for Food and Farming shows a 20% decline in overall levels of concern about produce safety over 2016 survey levels. Concerns specific to pesticide residues have also decreased by 10% since 2016.

“These positive changes are likely the result of increased outreach, information sharing and transparency regarding produce safety as well as consumers being focused on the pandemic and other dominating issues since the survey was last conducted in 2016,” says Teresa Thorne, AFF Executive Director.

This comprehensive consumer research project included a series of virtual focus groups followed by a nationwide survey to determine changes in the levels of concern among consumers about safety issues specific to produce. This research was conducted to help improve overall information-sharing that will reassure consumers about produce safety. The AFF is the only organization that conducts broad-based, national research specific to produce safety.

“With only one in 10 of us eating enough of these nutrient-dense foods every day, it is important to understand consumer concerns as well as what science-based safety information helps them make the right shopping choices for themselves and their families,” Thorne explains.

Consumers Trust Farmers, Government Regulatory System
The survey shows consumers continue to trust farmers when it comes to produce safety. When asked “How confident are you in each of the following groups when it comes to protecting food safety,” farmers ranked highest with 76% of respondents expressing confidence in them.

When asked to “rate how much you trust each of the following sources to give you information about pesticide use and residues on fresh fruits and vegetables,” USDA, farmers, your doctor/health care provider and dietitians/nutritionists topped the list.

The survey also measured trust in the government regulatory systems. When asked: “How confident are you that government regulations and other food safety efforts are working well to protect public health,” 78% responded that they were very to somewhat confident with only nine percent stating they were not confident.

“Dirty Dozen” List
The “Dirty Dozen” list messaging was tested against AFF statements. By a two-to-one margin, survey respondents agreed with the AFF statements about produce safety versus safety claims made by the list authors.

“This two-to-one margin is a significant finding and underscores the importance of the objectives and work of the Safe Fruits and Veggies campaign to reach consumers through more balanced reporting on the list release as well as direct outreach strategies to target audiences and influencers,” Thorne says.

The “Dirty Dozen” list is released annually and inaccurately disparages the most popular produce items in an effort to promote one production method over another.

Information Sharing
A primary focus of the research was to determine what information helps consumers when making purchasing decisions as well as providing those results to members to assist them in their produce safety outreach.

Information was shared with respondents specific to pesticide residues as well as regulations and practices on pathogen prevention. This information generated strongly positive results with 76% to 83% of survey respondents stating they were confident in the safety of produce after reading each statement. A complete list of the science-based statements can be found here.

Research Conclusions

  • While declining produce safety concerns from 2016 survey levels shows progress, residues are still the top safety concern among consumers. Therefore efforts to provide consistent, science-based information to counter disinformation campaigns must continue to further alleviate unfounded safety fears about the more affordable and accessible forms of produce.
  • Continued sharing of regulatory protections and government produce safety data among key audiences is supported by the survey results.
  • Efforts to connect farmers to consumers and other key audiences to share information about their practices and care and commitment to grow healthy foods should remain an important component of outreach strategies specific to produce safety.
    The AFF has developed a new webpage at safefruitsandveggies.com highlighting the research results. The webpage includes a comprehensive white paper about the research project as well as a short, one-page review of the science-based information assessed by survey respondents.
2022-06-30T11:08:48-07:00June 30th, 2022|

Almond Alliance Supports Growers Whipsawed by Supply Chains, Water

By Farm Credit Alliance

Almonds may be California’s second-largest crop, bringing in $5.62 billion in sales in 2020, but almond growers feel whipsawed by two factors over which they have no control: water and supply chains.

That’s where the Almond Alliance comes in. A trade association devoted primarily to advocacy in Sacramento and Washington, D.C., the group formed in 1980 as the Almond Huller and Processors Association, but more recently changed its name and focus, said Aubrey Bettencourt, the organization’s new president and CEO – and a third-generation farmer.

“Our mission is to be the advocacy voice for the almond community in California and protect everything we need to create a thriving almond industry,” Bettencourt said. “The Almond Board does an amazing job as the research and development and market development arm for the industry. The Almond Alliance focuses on the advocacy and policy needed to allow us to continue to grow almonds.”

“The decisions made by policy makers at the state and federal level have a profound impact on California agriculture, which is why groups like the Almond Alliance are so important,” President and CEO of American AgCredit Curt Hudnutt said. “Our charitable contributions support advocacy organizations that allow the farmer’s voice to be heard when decisions are being made.”

This year, California’s Farm Credit institutions – American AgCredit, CoBank, Colusa-Glenn Farm Credit, Farm Credit West, and Fresno Madera Farm Credit – will contribute more than $280,000 to nonprofit organizations advocating for agriculture.

And there are plenty of issues affecting the almond industry.

The most recent crisis involves the worldwide supply chain breakdown. Bettencourt explained that shipping companies in China and other hubs are paying top dollar to get ships and their containers back as soon as possible to load up again after they discharge cargo in the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

“It used to take a container ship 15 days to get to L.A. Now it takes 50, and the same container that was worth $30 empty now is worth $30,000, so they’re not going to Oakland to pick up ag products. Or, if they do, they’ll give us four hours to put products on the ship instead of four days,” she said.

As most almonds are exported, Bettencourt worries that California growers could suffer irreparable harm if the supply chain issues aren’t fixed. The Almond Alliance is working closely with state and federal trade officials to take action to help protect California’s market share.

“The feds can use the influence of the federal government to explore their legal and emergency authorities. For example, the authority to enforce or incentivize foreign carriers to keep their booking schedules and delivery contracts and to take and deliver sold U.S. products in a timely manner, according to contracted agreements and schedules,” she said.

The second critical issue the Almond Alliance focuses on is water. California has experienced drought conditions for all but one year since 2011, and farmers are preparing for the worst in 2022. The lack of water is forcing many almond growers to cut down trees in their prime to allow limited water allocations to be used on the remainder of their orchards. At the same time, almond growers face criticism for the amount of water the trees need.

Farm water experts say almond growers get an undeserved rap for their water usage as most tree crops need about the same amount of water. And Bettencourt points out that growers have reduced the amount of water per pound of almonds by one-third over the past 20 years and are working to reduce the amount used today by another 20 percent by the middle of the decade.

While drought is a reality, Bettencourt argues that much of the problem facing agriculture is due to abrupt changes in how the system is managed, along with a lack of investment in the water infrastructure. No new storage facilities have been built in the past 50 years, and virtually all the $2.7 billion in bond funds approved by voters in 2014 for additional water storage remain unspent.

She said growers need certainty to plan operations.

“Instead of managing the system as part of the solution, it’s been thrown into uncertainty as a result of administrative discretion. Water should be used for environmental purposes while still providing water supplies for all users,” she said.

“The Almond Alliance will put pressure wherever possible at the state and federal level to get back to that certainty. Everyone needs to know the rules and follow them so we can have a viable agricultural community and safe and reliable water for all people.”

Due to worldwide demand, the USDA reports that 7,600 almond growers – mostly small family businesses – actively farm 1.6 million acres in California, and Bettencourt said the future is bright, so long as growers have a functioning supply chain and adequate water supplies.

“From a production standpoint, we are at the beginning of our prime,” she said. “Looking at acreage and production, California almonds are just at the beginning of where we could be, and the potential is exciting.”

As part of its charitable mission, Farm Credit provides donations to organizations focused on different commodity types, including almonds, said Mark Littlefield, President and CEO of Farm Credit West.

“Because of its importance to California agriculture, Farm Credit supports the Almond Alliance, the Almond Board and other organizations each year,” Littlefield said. “We work hard each year to direct support to nonprofits that really do a great job in their efforts to support farming and ranching.”

About Farm Credit:
American AgCredit, CoBank, Colusa Glenn Farm Credit, Farm Credit West, Fresno Madera Farm Credit, and Yosemite Farm Credit are cooperatively owned lending institutions providing agriculture and rural communities with a dependable source of credit. For more than 100 years, the Farm Credit System has specialized in financing farmers, ranchers, farmer-owned cooperatives, rural utilities and agribusinesses. Farm Credit offers a broad range of loan products and financial services, including long-term real estate loans, operating lines of credit, equipment and facility loans, cash management and appraisal and leasing services…everything a “growing” business needs. For more information, visit www.farmcreditalliance.com

About the Almond Alliance:
The Almond Alliance of California (AAC) is a trusted non-profit organization dedicated to advocating on behalf of the California almond community. California almonds generate more than $21 billion in economic revenue and directly contribute more than $11 billion to the state’s total economy. California’s top agricultural export, almonds create approximately 104,000 jobs statewide, over 97,000 in the Central Valley, which suffers from chronic unemployment. The AAC is dedicated to educating state legislators, policy makers and regulatory officials about the California almond community. As a membership-based organization, our members include almond processors, hullers/shellers, growers and allied businesses. Through workshops, newsletters, conferences, social media and personal meetings, AAC works to raise awareness, knowledge and provide a better understanding about the scope, size, value and sustainability of the California almond community. For more information on the Almond Alliance, visit www.almondalliance.org or check out the Almond Alliance on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

2022-06-29T13:22:12-07:00June 29th, 2022|

Famed UC Davis Apiculturist Eric Mussen Passes

Honey Bee Authority Dr. Eric Mussen Passes

Celebrated honey bee authority Dr. Eric Carnes Mussen, an internationally known 38-year California Cooperative Extension apiculturist and an invaluable member of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology faculty, died Friday, June 3 from liver cancer. He was 78.

Dr. Mussen, a resident of Davis, was admitted to a local hospital on May 25. He was diagnosed with liver cancer/failure on May 31 and returned to the family home June 1 for hospice care. He passed away the evening of June 3.

“Eric was a giant in the field of apiculture,” said Steve Nadler, professor and chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. “The impact of his work stretched far beyond California.”

Dr. Mussen, known to all as “Eric,” joined the UC Davis entomology department in 1976. Although he retired in 2014, he continued his many activities until a few weeks prior to his death. For nearly four decades, he drew praise as “the honey bee guru,” “the pulse of the bee industry” and as “the go-to person” when consumers, scientists, researchers, students, and the news media sought answers about honey bees.

“Eric’s passing is a huge loss,” said longtime colleague Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and a UC Davis distinguished professor of entomology. “He was always the go-to person for all things honey bee. He worked happily with hobbyists, commercial beekeepers and anyone just generally interested.”

Colleagues described Mussen as the “premier authority on bees and pollination in California, and one of the top beekeeping authorities nationwide,” “a treasure to the beekeeping industry,” and “a walking encyclopedia when it comes to honey bees.”

Norman Gary, a noted UC Davis emeritus professor of entomology who served as a faculty member from 1962 to 1994, described Eric as “by far, the best Extension apiculturist in this country.”

“Eric’s career was so productive and exciting that a book would be required to do justice for his many contributions to his profession as extension entomologist specializing in apiculture, better known as beekeeping,” Gary said. “His mission basically was facilitating productive and reciprocal communication between beekeeping researchers at UC Davis, commercial beekeeping as it affects California’s vast needs for the pollination of agricultural crops, providing helpful information to hobby beekeepers, and educating the general public concerning honey bees. His great professional successes in all areas have been recognized around the world. He has received numerous awards, especially from the beekeeping industry. He was by far the best Extension apiculturist in this country!”

“In addition to professional duties, he enthusiastically tackled other projects for entomology faculty,” Gary said. “For example, he critically reviewed most of my publications, including scientific papers, books, and bulletins. He worked diligently to help create the Western Apicultural Society and later served as president. (Mussen served six terms as president, the last term in 2017.) I especially appreciated his volunteering to moderate a video that historically summarized and recorded my entire 32-year career at UC Davis. And his tribute would not be complete without mentioning that he was one of my favorite fishing buddies.”

2022-06-14T10:20:05-07:00June 14th, 2022|

Heat Illness Prevention–Keep an Eye on Each Other

Be Aware of Heat Illness Prevention

By Patrick Cavanaugh, With the Ag Information Network

While temperatures rise in the Central Valley, those working outdoors should keep an eye on each other. You never know when someone’s coming down with a heat illness. Roger Isom is President and CEO of the Western Agricultural Processors Association based in Fresno.

“You’ve got to drink water before you get too thirsty. If you are possibly starting to have the symptoms of heat illness, get in the shade, and take a break,” said Isom. “And if you’re working with somebody, and you look at them, and you think they’re starting to do look faint, take them over, ‘Hey, you need a break, you need to get some water, get cooled down.’”

Isom said it’s very important for all the employees working in a field to keep an eye on each other. Some people don’t even understand when they’re getting heat illness.

“And you might not even realize that you’re starting to show those symptoms. And so if you’re looking out for everybody else, or they’re looking out for you, hopefully, they can prevent that more serious injury.

And foremen must know how to get emergency services to an employee in a remote area with maps.

“These fields or orchards might only have dirt roads to get back there. And if you’re working on one corner of the field, say the back corner of a section, you can’t tell somebody to come to the main intersection. You’ve got to be able to get them directed back to where the employee is,” said  “And so the maps really show that, so the foreman’s got it and he can direct the first aid responders in there to the exact spot of where the worker is. That’s the goal of the maps.”

2022-06-13T10:31:08-07:00June 13th, 2022|

Tres Osos Taggiasca and Coldani Olive Ranch Wins Olive Oil Competition

Big Fresno Fair Announces Winners of 7th Annual San Joaquin Valley Olive Oil Competition 

An incredible 69 entries were received by new and returning olive oil producers throughout California

 

After an extensive judging of quality California-produced olive oils, The Big Fresno Fair is excited to reveal the winners of the 7th Annual San Joaquin Valley Olive Oil Competition (SJVOOC). This competition, open to all olive oil producers in California with products made from their 2021 olive harvest, received a total of 69 entries from 25 olive oil producers from throughout the State.

 

Entries were received in two categories, Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) and Flavored Olive Oil, with 10 classes in total. Gold and Silver Medals were awarded, as well as an overall “Best of Show” and “Best of the Valley” selected from all of the highest scoring gold medal entries in both categories. In total there were 50 EVOO and 19 Flavored Olive Oil entries that were entered for judging. The winners of the 7th Annual San Joaquin Valley Olive Oil Competition are:

 

Best of Show

Tres Osos Taggiasca (Carmel Valley) – EVOO

Coldani Olive Ranch’s Calivirgin Habanero (Lodi) – Flavored Olive Oil

 

Best of the Valley

Coldani Olive Ranch’s Calivirgin Habanero (Lodi)

 

Extra Virgin Olive Oils

  • Gold Medal Winners
    • Spanish Blends: Fresno State Miller’s Blend (Fresno), Rancho Azul y Oro Olive Farm Estate Blend (San Miguel), Olivaia’s OLA Block X Blend (Lindsay), Cobram Estate Classic (Woodland)
    • Spanish Singles: Olivaia’s OLA Estate Sevillano (Lindsay), Mountain Springs Olive Ranch Arbequina (Paso Robles), The Olive Press Picual (Sonoma), Organic Roots Arbosana (Maxwell), Rio Bravo Ranch Picual (Bakersfield), Coppetti Olive Oil Manzanilla (Oakdale)
    • Italian Blends: Winter Creek Ruscello D’Inverno (Valley Springs), Tres Osos Robust (Carmel Valley), San Miguel Olive Farm Tuscan Gold Paradiso (San Miguel), San Miguel Olive Farm Tuscan Gold Magnifico (San Miguel), San Miguel Olive Farm Tuscan Gold Fantastico (San Miguel), Toothacre Ranch Old World Style EVOO (Ramona), Colomba Bianca (Clements)
    • Italian Singles: Tres Osos Taggiasca (Carmel Valley), Winter Creek Frantoio (Valley Springs), Coldani Olive Ranch Lodi Olive Oil Frantoio EVOO (Lodi), Cobram Estate Robust (Woodland)
2022-06-02T18:44:40-07:00June 2nd, 2022|

California Dairy Innovation Center Offers Opportunities For Cheese Education

2022 Dairy Short Course Programs and Conference Schedule Released

By California Milk Advisory Board

The California Dairy Innovation Center announced the latest list of short courses which will be offered this year in collaboration with the Pacific Coast Coalition and industry instructors. Dates for an inaugural Dairy Products, Processing, and Packaging Innovation Conference were also announced.

The Frozen Desserts Innovation short course will be held on June 28th and 29th at the Dairy Innovation Institute, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo with a focus on capturing consumer trends: sugar-free, lactose-free and high protein. The short course features both lectures, demonstrations and actual ice cream manufacture in the Cal Poly pilot plant and creamery. In addition, a sales and marketing educational segment will provide practical guidance to entrepreneurs, and established brands alike. Registration is open at: https://dairy.calpoly.edu/short-course-symposia

The Advanced Unit Operations short course will take place September 27-29. Designed for those working in dairy plants, this course delivers both theoretical and practical understanding and knowledge of pasteurization, separation, condensation, filtration systems, drying, as well as principles of food safety. Program and registration will open June 1.

The California Dairy Innovation Center, in collaboration with Cal Poly, The Dairy Business Innovation Initiative, Pacific Coast Alliance, and Fresno State will hold a first ever conference on Dairy Products Processing and Packaging Innovation in Shell Beach, Calif, October 12th-14th. Featuring both national and international speakers, the conference focuses on consumer-driven innovation and the latest technological advances. Program outline and registration is open at: https://dairy.calpoly.edu/short-course-symposia

California is the nation’s leading milk producer, and produces more butter, ice cream and nonfat dry milk than any other state. California is the second-largest producer of cheese and yogurt. California milk and dairy foods can be identified by the Real California Milk seal, which certifies they are made with milk from the state’s dairy farm families.

# # #

About the California Dairy Innovation Center
The California Dairy Innovation Center (CDIC) coordinates pre-competitive research and educational training in collaboration with industry, check-off programs, and research/academic institutions in support of a common set of innovation and productivity goals. The CDIC is guided by a Steering Committee that includes California Dairies Inc., California Dairy Research Foundation, California Milk Advisory Board, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, Dairy Management Inc., Fresno State University, Hilmar Cheese, Leprino Foods, and UC Davis.

About Real California Milk/California Milk Advisory Board
The California Milk Advisory Board (CMAB), an instrumentality of the California Department of Food and Agriculture, is funded by the state’s dairy farm families who lead the nation in sustainable dairy farming practices. With a vision to nourish the world with the wholesome goodness of Real California Milk, the CMAB’s programs focus on increasing demand for California’s sustainable dairy products in the state, across the U.S. and around the world through advertising, public relations, research, and retail and foodservice promotional programs. For more information and to connect with the CMAB, visit RealCaliforniaMilk.com, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.

2022-05-20T08:38:10-07:00May 20th, 2022|

Pest Variability Poorly Understood

UC Davis Ecologist Daniel Paredes: Understanding Pest Variability Key to Managing Pest Outbreaks

Newly published research led by UC Davis ecologist Daniel Paredes suggests that pest abundances are less variable in diverse landscapes comprised of multiple crop types and patches of natural habitat.

“As a result, pest outbreaks are less likely in diverse landscapes,” said Paredes, who analyzed a 13-year government database of diversified landscapes encompassing more than 1300 olive groves and vineyards in Spain. The database documented pests and pesticide applications.

The paper, “The Causes and Consequences of Pest Population Variability in Agricultural Landscapes,” appears in the Ecological Society of America journal, Ecological Applications. Co-authors are UC Davis distinguished professor Jay Rosenheim of the Department of Entomology and Nematology, and Daniel Karp, associate professor, Department of Wildlife, Fish, and Conservation Biology.  The research is online at https://bit.ly/3a64WRN.

Pest variability: an understudied but critical topic
Although population variability is often studied in natural systems, the need for long-term pest population data collected across many farms has largely prevented researchers from studying pest variability in agricultural systems, said Paredes, a postdoctoral fellow in the Karp lab.

“However, understanding variability in agriculture is key to understanding when pest outbreaks are likely to occur,” Paredes said. “Farmers are really risk averse, with fear of very rare but severe pest outbreaks driving their decisions.  But huge datasets are needed to understand when outbreaks are likely to occur and better inform management.”

“We found that more variable pest populations are more likely to downgrade crop quality and induce catastrophic damages,” Paredes said. “For example, the likelihood that olive flies consume more than 20 percent of olive crops doubled when comparing the most versus the least volatile populations.”

What causes a pest population to be variable?
Having shown that more pest-population variability is more likely to cause problems for farmers, the researchers then set out to discover what farmers could do to manage variability.

One key factor that emerged was the type of landscape the crops were grown in, specifically whether the landscape was dominated by vast fields of a single crop variety or more diversified. Pest populations were both more abundant and more variable in crop monocultures.

However, while landscape type influenced both pest population sizes and variability, this was not always the case for other variables. “This research shows that the factors that promote high overall mean pest density are not necessarily the same factors that promote high variability in pest density,” Rosenheim said. “So, mean densities, which is what researchers have been studying for decades and decades, are only part of the story.  Variation in density, and in particular unpredictable severe outbreaks, need to be studied separately.”

The take-away message?

“In Spain, planting multiple crops and retaining natural habitats would help stably suppress pests and prevent outbreaks,” said Paredes, a native of Spain who holds a doctorate in environmental sciences (2014) from the University of Granada. “Diversifying agricultural may be a win–win situation for conservation and farmers alike.”

“Therefore, we encourage agricultural stakeholders to increase the complexity of the landscapes surrounding their farms through conserving/restoring natural habitat and/or diversifying crops,” the researchers wrote in their abstract.

Tapping into other large datasets such as this one, will be key to understanding whether diversified landscapes also help mitigate pest variability and outbreaks in other areas, they said.

This project was funded by the National Science Foundation with funds from the Belmont Forum via the European Biodiversity Partnership: BiodivERsA. It was also supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

2022-05-19T13:47:29-07:00May 19th, 2022|
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