LearnAboutAg Classroom Conference 2021

Save the Date for the Virtual 2021 California Agriculture in the Classroom Conference, September 24-25, 2021


LearnAboutAg.org, the California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom has scheduled its  34th annual conference for educators—an online class

California agriculture is diverse—producing everything from vegetables, to milk, to fruits and nuts, and to field crops and livestock. Farming shapes the local landscape in each California county. The goal is to make sure students learn about agriculture and how it contributes to each and every one of our lives each and every day.

Teaching students about the journey their food and fiber undergoes from the farm to their everyday lives is an important message. Using Agriculture in the Classroom allows students to experience real-life lessons that they will remember for the rest of their lives.

Although the conference lasts only two days, it’s hoped that teachers continue to LearnAboutAg® all year long! LearnAboutAg is here to help you continue incorporating the theme of agriculture into your classroom, or for those of you new to our program, how to get started!

We look forward to your registration and “seeing” you on Zoom!

2021-09-16T19:29:18-07:00September 16th, 2021|

State Allocates $15 Million for Pollinators

Villapudua Leads Critical Investment Opportunity for Agriculture Community

California Assemblymember Carlos Villapudua (D-Stockton) celebrated the Assembly’s approval of $15 million recently to support our state’s pollinator habitats.

“Our agriculture community, and thus the world’s food supply, is greatly impacted by the wellbeing of our pollinating populations,” said Assemblymember Villapudua. “By prioritizing investments to support these pollinators and their habitats, we take the needed steps to care for and strengthen our agricultural output and further sustain California’s economy. These funds have never been more important as we navigate the difficult challenges our changing climate has presented for the Central Valley and will work to advance our biodiversity, climate resilience, and sustainable agriculture goals. I want to thank the Legislature and our Governor for recognizing this need and taking action to fund enhancements for these habitats.”

Our pollinators are responsible for bringing us one-third of every bite of food we take. Their pollinating activities help sustain our ecosystems and facilitate the reproduction of many flowering plants the produce fruits, vegetables, nuts, oils, fibers, and raw materials, and helps draw down carbon into plant material and soils to reduce erosion, suppress invasive weeds, and allow native plants and species to thrive.

“California almond farmers know that every almond exists because a honey bee visited an almond blossom. Honey bees and other pollinators need a varied and nutritious diet. State funding will help growers implement those important conservation practices that benefit honey bees as they forage for pollen and nectar in the orchard,” said Almond Alliance President, Elaine Trevino. “The Almond Alliance is pleased that the State Legislature has approved funding for this important activity. We thank Assemblymember Villapudua for his leadership on AB 391, which highlighted the need for funds to accelerate the adoption of conservation practices designed to integrate pollinator habitat and forage on working lands.”

The co-beneficial opportunity to expand pollinator habitats on working lands progress California towards our goals of conserving 30 percent of habitat biodiversity, enhancing our climate resilience, and bolstering our food supply.

2021-09-15T19:24:39-07:00September 15th, 2021|

Coating Crops For Protection

Crop Enhancement Developing Crop Camouflage


By Tim Hammerich with the Ag Information Network 


With increased consumer and regulatory pressure on crop protection products, many companies are looking to develop alternatives to legacy chemicals. Crop Enhancement is one such San Jose-based company that’s taking a novel approach to protection from insect pests.

“Our approach at Crop Enhancement has been to focus on the plant surface and we wanted to make that surface harder to attack. We’ve created non-toxic plant-based coatings that protect crops from pests and diseases. We supply them as a concentrate that gets diluted in a spray tank and applied just like other crop protectants,” said Company CEO Damian Hajduk.

Hajduk likens the product to camouflage, so that certain pests don’t recognize the plant as food.

“You know, we thought we were creating a shield on the plant surface that would block insects from reaching the fruit or the plant. But when we look closely, we saw something different. We were actually creating camouflage for plants. So when we place insects on a treated plant, they wander aimlessly over the surface. They don’t recognize it as something they want to eat or reproduce on. So they rarely stop to feed. They become malnourished and they gradually starve,” Hajduk said.

Learn more about the product, which is still in the development phase, at their website www.crop-enhancement.com.

2021-09-14T19:37:21-07:00September 14th, 2021|

Elaine Trevino is Tapped as U.S. Chief Agricultural Negotiator for the United States

Almond Alliance President Elaine Trevino Nominated as U.S. Chief Agricultural Negotiator 

Almond Alliance of California President Elaine Trevino has been nominated by President Biden as the Chief Agricultural Negotiator for the United States Trade Representative. The position is responsible for conducting and overseeing international negotiations related to trade of the nation’s agricultural products – including California almonds.

Almond Alliance Chairman Mike Curry commented, “Although we will miss Elaine’s leadership and energy, we are excited for the almond industry, the Central Valley (where she grew up) and California agriculture to have such a passionate and committed person serving in the Chief Agricultural Negotiator role. We are thrilled to see Elaine nominated for this position and know that her experience with us at the Almond Alliance will carry over into her new role – working for farmers and ranchers, their families and the workers and businesses in the rural communities where we live.”

Curry noted that Elaine’s nomination requires U.S. Senate confirmation. “We assure our members that the Board of Directors of the Almond Alliance will lead a smooth transition in partnership with Elaine to identify and hire her successor. While we’re transitioning, the Board, Elaine and the Almond Alliance team will not skip a beat in our advocacy work on behalf of California almonds, both on the state and federal levels.”

As President of the Almond Alliance of California (AAC), Elaine leads a member-based trade association that advocates on regulatory and legislative issues in areas of international trade, food safety, water quality and availability, crop protection, air quality, worker safety, supply chain and feed quality.

Elaine has worked on advocating for funding for COVID-19 relief, addressing retaliatory tariffs, climate smart farming, public private partnerships for opening new markets and strengthening existing markets and addressing technical sanitary and phytosanitary barriers. Elaine works at the local and federal levels on addressing port congestions and supply chain disruptions and excessive costs.

Elaine served as a Deputy Secretary at the California Department of Food and Agriculture for Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Governor Gray Davis.  She was responsible for the oversight of the international export and trade programs, specialty crop block grant funding, division of marketing services, plant health and pest prevention and the statewide county fair network. Elaine serves on USDA’s Agricultural Policy Advisory Committee (APAC).  Born and raised in the Central Valley of California, Elaine has a long history of community service and has a great respect for agriculture and the value of the industry to California’s economy. She received her undergraduate degree from the University of California Berkeley and attended the John F. Kennedy School of Government.

2021-09-14T17:05:19-07:00September 14th, 2021|

South of Delta Water Deliveries Not Hopeful


More Conveyance Needed for Ag Water


By Patrick Cavanaugh with the Ag Information Network


What’s the future look like in terms of water deliveries from the Delta for farmers? David Orth is a principal at New Current Water and Land based in Fresno, a consulting firm helping growers navigate SGMA.


“I believe that the long-term solution for the San Joaquin Valley is that we restore some of the surface water from Delta exports that we developed a lot of our property around to levels that pull us away from and allow us to sustainably use ground water.


“Again, having fought the battle of Delta exports for a couple of decades, I’m not optimistic that we’re going to solve that problem,” said Orth. “There are these little issues relative to the Endangered Species Act, the Environmental Protection Act, the Water Quality Acts that really impact our ability to export surface water back into the valley. And so we can talk about creating recharge basins, we can talk about in creating conveyance where there’s really high flow storm sewers and keeping more of that water here as opposed to flowing out of the Delta,” Orth said.

And Orth said, if something doesn’t seriously happen fast, it doesn’t look real good for the future.

There’s not 2 million-acre feet of water that can be developed under those strategies. There’s a fraction of that 2 million, so the reality is we’re going to see a shrinking of production land. There’s just, in my view, no way to get around it.

2021-09-09T20:27:50-07:00September 9th, 2021|

Trade Offs for Sustainability

Sustainability is All About Trade Offs

By Tim Hammerich, with the Ag Information Network

There is often misunderstanding and disagreement on what is truly sustainable when it comes to food and agriculture. Food futurist and author Jack Bobo said a lot of this difference in perspective comes from how localized your point of view is coming from. He says it’s a continuum that involves trade offs along the way.

“We need to think of sustainability, not in terms of good or bad or right or wrong, but in terms of choices and consequences. Consumers think of sustainability in terms of local sustainability,” Bobo said. “If I use less water, less fertilizer, less insecticides, that’s good. But agribusinesses think in terms of global sustainability. The more intensively I farm, the lower the impact in other places. And so it’s a continuum from local sustainability to global sustainability, and there will always be trade offs between the two.

“Organic has a lower local environmental footprint often, but it has a bigger global footprint because you just need more acres. Consumers though, are working with food companies and asking for regenerative because it has that local environmental benefit, but we need them to also understand the global consequences of that,” explained Bobo.

Bobo recently released a new book titled “Why Smart People Make Bad Food Choices”.

2021-09-08T21:07:09-07:00September 8th, 2021|

Ag-Tech Needs to Collaborate

Agtech Companies Need to Integrate and Collaborate

By Tim Hammerich with the Ag Information Network 

As technology for the farm has developed, new problems have emerged. Two big ones for autonomous farming, said Carbon Robotics CEO Paul Mikesell, are too many separate applications that don’t integrate, and no way for companies to interact with each other on the farm level.

“We have this sort of field readiness for autonomy problem that I think we’re going to have to work together to overcome so that we can have a cooperative environment. Airplanes do this with a system called ADS-B where they talk to each other. We need to have some way for these different companies to work together so that they don’t bump into each other, and so that they can schedule around each other. And it’s not even just the autonomous stuff, but it’s things like where are the center pivots and what direction are they going? And things like that,” said Mikesell.

Mikesell noted at an even more fundamental level, all of ag-tech needs better ways to integrate with each other so that farmers don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time they want to add a new tool.

“What I think would be bad for everybody is if all of these companies went out and had their own independent walled garden platform. And then as a farmer, you don’t have any, the ability to jump from one to the other or aggregate the data together.” explained Mikesell. “As a farmer, you want to be able to see all that stuff together, and if everybody’s doing this separate and there’s not an open platform, we’re going to wind up in a spot that just makes things worse. You know, like why do you have so many apps on your phone, right? It’s because well everything tries to keep itself separate.”

Carbon Robotics is one ag-tech company seeking collaboration in these areas.


2021-09-07T20:56:15-07:00September 7th, 2021|

Meat Costs Increase

USDA Forecast: Higher Prices For All Meat Categories


By David Sparks with the Ag Information Network


USDA is forecasting higher prices for all meat categories. “We increased our steer price by 50 cents a hundred weight, increased our hog price forecast by three dollars a hundred weight, which is a pretty big increase for one month, just reflecting strong demand. And that’s mostly domestic demand for pork,” said World AG Outlook Board Chair Mark Jekanowski.

Jekanowski said poultry price estimates also increased. “Broilers by one cent a pound and turkeys by 1.8 cents a pound. And those higher prices forecast into 2021 just reflect the expectations of tighter supplies, given the higher feed costs that that industry is going to be facing.”

Meanwhile, one notable change in the meat trade forecast: “We pulled back our pork export forecast and that is also just reflecting softer demand by several of our key markets, including China, where China is rebuilding their herd,” Jekanowski said.

Jekanowski noted USDA made mostly minor changes on its meat supply. “Looking forward into 2021 with the tighter supplies, especially of corn and soybeans and much higher prices that are expected to follow from that, we expect that that will show up in some reduced expectations for meat production,” he said. “As a result, we pulled back our forecasts for both broiler and turkey production. We also pulled back our forecast for beef production, and that reflects, in part lighter carcass weights.

He said the only increase expected for 2021 is in pork production. “That reflects the data that we got last month in the Hogs and Pigs report and also the slaughter data that we’ve been observing, suggesting that pork supplies are likely to increase. But even there, the increase in port production forecast is relatively small,” noted Jekanowski

2021-09-02T21:01:10-07:00September 2nd, 2021|

Field Bindweed And Tomatoes

Field Bindweed Yield Impacts on Processing Tomatoes May be Less Than Expected

By Scott Stoddard,  County Director and UCANR Farm Advisor, Merced County

Field bindweed (Convolvulsus arvensis) is considered by many tomato growers to be the most problematic of all weeds in California production areas. Indeed, field bindweed and the closely related morningglory weeds were ranked the 8th most troublesome weeds in North America in a recent survey by the Weed Science Society of America (Van Wychen, 2019).

The rapid adoption of drip irrigation and the economic necessity of maintaining the beds and replanting with only minimal tillage for multiple seasons in processing tomatoes has created a system where field bindweed has become more prevalent. Field bindweed is extremely difficult to control because it propagates from seed and vegetatively from buds formed in the roots. Seedlings can be controlled with tillage when very young, but they become perennial very rapidly. Chemical control of seedlings is possible, but established plants are much more difficult to control.

Established plants often have a large root system relative to the amount of top growth, and thus are extremely tolerant of post emergence herbicides such as carfentrazone (Shark), glufosinate (Rely), and glyphosate (Roundup).

Bindweed is a headache not only for its persistent and pernicious growth habit and ability to reduce tomato yields, but also because it can physically stop a processing tomato harvester in the field. Vigorously growing vines can become entangled around the shaker and conveyor belts, requiring the equipment operator to shut down and manually clear out the foliage.

Several years ago, myself and other UC researchers conducted herbicide trials evaluating field bindweed control — with marginal success. In a given year and location, most of the registered herbicides in tomatoes gave only temporary suppression – about 40 – 80% bindweed control at 8 weeks after transplanting. Best results were observed where herbicides were stacked: trifluralin (Treflan) pre-plant incorporated followed by rimsulfuron (Matrix) post. Glyphosate helped in situations where the bindweed emerged early and could be applied before transplanting.

2021-09-01T21:02:16-07:00September 1st, 2021|

Robotics vs Machinery


Robotics Companies Trying To Go Mainstream on Farms


By Tim Hammerich, with the Ag Information Network

Robotics companies are betting the farm on automation being adopted by agricultural producers. But in order for robots to be adopted by farmers, the perception needs to change from looking at them as simply another piece of farm machinery. Something that operates completely on its own, says Burro founder Charlie Andersen, needs to be evaluated differently than equipment that you have to operate.

“You look at a used tractor, that’s 80 horsepower, and it will sell for like 20 grand. Right? And I think that farmers in their heads, as they’re looking at these systems, they have a narrative of like, ‘here’s the piece of hardware that I used to buy’. And you’ve got these smaller devices or different shape devices. You’re not really buying a piece of hardware. You’re buying a thing that does a task on its own. People are really, really expensive and they’re oftentimes are much more expensive than the equipment that is doing a lot of the mechanized work. I think there’s a shifting perception in terms of autonomous systems versus what’s out there today,” said Anderson

Andersen’s company Burro offers a people-scale autonomous cart that transports hand picked produce during harvest.

“Like, you know, if you look at an ATV. An ATV in our case sells like eight grand, and we’re selling a product that’s roughly double that in the first year, but it’s worth that much more because it is driving itself. It’s not just a piece of hardware,” Anderson said.

This is one key challenge ag robotics companies need to overcome for more widespread adoption of this technology.

2021-08-31T20:34:52-07:00August 31st, 2021|
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