UCANR’s Jeannette Warnert Retires

Warnert Served 31 years as a UC Communications Specialist

Communication methods have rapidly evolved over the past three decades. To ANR’s benefit, Jeannette Warnert has been an enthusiastic early adopter, figuring out how to use new media to deliver ANR news.

“When I started with UC ANR, there was no internet and no email,” Warnert said. “We photocopied news releases and mailed them to media, who transcribed them if they wanted to use the material. Film was dropped off at a lab, which provided us a proof sheet from which we could select black-and-white prints to mail to the media. Our jobs evolved rapidly and we had to continually update our skills as new technologies were introduced over the years.”

Along the way, she tutored her colleagues to use the World Wide Web and social media to disseminate information.

“I’m continually impressed by Jeannette’s work ethic, can-do attitude, the quality of her writing, and her willingness to take on new projects,” said Linda Forbes, Strategic Communications director. “She is incredibly organized, always reliable, has great ideas and she’s passionate about ANR’s mission and people.”

Before joining UC ANR, Warnert worked as a reporter at a small daily newspaper in Los Angeles, in a hospital public relations department, and in public relations for Toyota Motor Sales. After marrying and moving to Fresno, she worked briefly for the Fresno Fair and Radio Bilingue, then accepted the UC ANR public information representative job in 1990.

“I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to learn about agricultural science and work with so many intelligent and dedicated academics and staff,” Warnert said. “Knowing about the work of UC ANR makes me hopeful about the future, even as we face so many threats like drought, wildfire, climate change, invasive pests, etc. I especially enjoyed covering conservation agriculture for more than 20 years with stories about the potential for no-till and cover crops to improve soil health, sequester carbon, reduce dust emissions, and use less water while maintaining farms’ economic viability.”

Jeff Mitchell, UC Cooperative Extension conservation agriculture specialist based at Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center, described her as a “wonderful encourager and lifelong very good friend.”

“I consider Jeannette Warnert one of the exceptionally valuable workgroup colleagues that we could have ever had,” Mitchell said. “She was ever-ready in the trenches during our early formative days with superbly crafted communications, clear advice and guidance on outreach issues, and just an all-around level-headed colleague. She contributed so much to all that we have done over the years.”

Warnert, whose parents immigrated from The Netherlands, is fluent in conversational Spanish and often collaborated with the News and Information Outreach in the Spanish team.

In retirement, Warnert plans to spend more time with family – including her baby granddaughter and 90-year-old mother. “I hope to volunteer with the California Naturalist program and plan to apply to be a UC Master Gardener volunteer in Fresno County when the next class opens,” she said. “I’m also looking forward to more traveling, hiking, gardening, knitting, sewing, and cooking.”

2021-07-06T15:02:17-07:00July 6th, 2021|

Breeding Drought Resistant Crops Part Two

Drought-Resilient Tomatoes – Part Two

By Tim Hammerich with the Ag Information Network

As thousands of acres of California cropland are going fallow due to lack of water availability this year, researchers at UC Davis are trying to understand how to breed more drought-resilient crops. Some of that work is being done on tomatoes by Siobhan Brady and her colleagues, who are focused on cells within the plant’s roots.

“For the first time, we actually looked at what’s happening in those individual cells both in a lab, but also in a field environment. And that’s the first time that’s really been done at this resolution, which is really, really exciting. The second really high level of finding is that we’re able to integrate some genetic information from wild populations that are drought tolerant. And to be able to look at how xylem cells are formed,” said Brady.

 

“So the xylem are basically these long hollow pipes. They’re the ones that are responsible for transporting the water from below ground to above ground. Or transporting the nitrogen, the phosphate, etc. And so we now understand some of the genes that control that. And some of them were the ones that we expected from other species, and some of them were new and really unexpected.”

 

Brady hopes this work can be applied not only to tomatoes, but to other crops as well.

2021-06-30T20:06:20-07:00June 30th, 2021|

Ag Burning Alternatives

Agricultural Organizations Demonstrate Alternatives to Agricultural Burning

 

On June 29, Nisei Farmers League, along with other agricultural organizations, held an in-person demonstration pilot project at a vineyard in Madera County to display alternatives to agricultural burning. The project is looking for cost-effective solutions to orchard and vineyard removals due to most agricultural burning being phased out by December 31, 2024, as passed earlier this year by the California Air Resources Board (CARB).

 

Participating in the event were Jared Blumenfeld, Secretary of Cal-EPA; Carlos Suarez, State Conservationist for USDA-NRCS; Richard Corey, Executive Officer for California Air Resources Board; Samir Sheikh, Executive Director and Air Pollution Control Officer for the San Joaquin Air Pollution Control District (SJVAPCD); Dr. Tania Pacheco-Werner, CARB and SJVAPCD board member; Fresno County Supervisor Buddy Mendes, as well as SJVAPCD board member; Madera County Supervisor Tom Wheeler, as well as SJVAPCD board member; and City of Los Banos Mayor Pro Tem Deborah Lewis, as well as SJVAPCD board member.

 

Equipment demonstrated included:

 

  • An air curtain burner built by AirBurners. This machine utilizes a constant stream of air on the top of the wood waste to push emissions/smoke back into the fire to reburn, which significantly reduces particulate matter.

 

  • A horizontal grinder, provided by Bandit Industries, that chips wood debris and can remove metal, including wire, from the material.

 

  • A vineyard mulcher, built by Seppi, which drives over the top of the vine and mulches it back into the soil.

 

  • A mobile grinder that would grind trees, brush and vines (material that does not include metal.)

 

Other equipment used in the demonstration process included excavators, tree grapple machines, and log and brush loading equipment.

With some agricultural entities losing the ability to burn by December 31 of this year, finding economical alternatives quickly has become a top priority. Agricultural organizations are working with the SJVAPCD and CARB to locate and distribute funds for these alternative methods. All the demonstrated alternatives are many times more expensive than open burning because of the additional labor and equipment needed.

Agricultural groups sponsoring the event included: Fresno County Farm Bureau; Allied Grape Growers; California Fresh Fruit Association; California Cotton Ginners and Growers; Western Agricultural Processors Association; and

Nisei Farmers League. Other participating agricultural groups included: Sun-Maid Growers of California, Madera County Farm Bureau, Tulare County Farm Bureau, Raisin Bargaining Association and Milk Producers Council.

Equipment being demonstrated was provided by Shawn Sage, Cal-Line Equipment and Bandit Enterprises; Ed Martinez, Mowbray’s Tree Service; John Yergat, JFS Enterprises; and Jordan Harris, Seppi Subsoiler. Special thanks to these companies and their employees.

Local chippers and grinders participating included: Bill Boos of William Boos and Company; Lionudakis Orchard Removal; and Myron and Ryan Liebelt.

Special thanks go to Samir Sheikh and his staff at the SJVAPCD for helping with the demonstration, the documentation and acquiring the funding needed to make the alternatives available to growers in the San Joaquin Valley.

Lastly, a special thanks to Daniel Hartwig and Woolf Farms for providing the vineyard site.

 

Nisei Farmers League will continue seeking viable alternative to agricultural burning over the coming months.

2021-06-30T17:54:52-07:00June 30th, 2021|

Congressional Leaders Learn About Almond Pollination

Almond Board Briefs Congressional Caucus About Pollinator Coalition


Chief Scientific Officer Josette Lewis highlights coordinated efforts of state’s farm and conservation communities.

 

Lewis was one of four speakers, and the only representative from agriculture, at the virtual congressional briefing on the status of pollinators convened by Reps. Rodney Davis (R-IL) and Jimmy Panetta (D-CA) during National Pollinator Week. They are co-chairs of the Congressional Pollinator Protection Caucus.

“This hearing, and this week, were extremely valuable because they helped raise awareness about the need to protect all pollinators and their habitats,” Lewis said. “For the California almond industry, every week is pollinator week. This is something we work hard at every day.”

During the briefing, Lewis detailed the steps being taken by the California Pollinator Coalition and why its brand of collaborative conservation is a strong model to both bolster the health of pollinators and to set an example for a range of effective environmental alliances among independent groups.

The pollinator coalition includes more than 20 California organizations and was spearheaded by the Almond Board of California (ABC) along with the Pollinator Partnership and the state Department of Food and Agriculture. It represents the large majority of agricultural acreage in the state and its goal is to expand pollinator health and habitats on working ag lands.

bee protection

Bees pollenating almonds.

“The representatives heard how the coalition represents agriculture putting its best foot forward,” Lewis said. “Given the crucial importance of pollinators to food production and to ecosystems, it’s essential that agriculture be part of the solution. That’s one reason ABC partnered with the Pollinator Partnership to help build this coalition. We know the almond industry and the ag community can continue to help.”

A key subject the congressional leaders wanted Lewis to address was the value of collaborations like the Pollinator Coalition, how they can be built and how they can help in areas ranging from research to shared incentive programs.

One incentive example is ABC’s Bee+ Scholarship program, which pays up to $2,000 of the cost of seeds for pollinator-friendly cover crops and has added 15,000 acres of pollinator habitat in almond orchards in its first year. It will also cover the fees to register as a Bee Friendly Farm.

“The goal is to reduce the risks to growers to try new practices that can benefit pollinators and growers alike. One size does not fit all growers, so this offers a chance to try something new,” Lewis said. “Collaborations are effective because everyone has a stake in healthy ecosystems and healthy food, and together we can help each other take actions and make a difference.”

 

2021-06-30T12:52:43-07:00June 30th, 2021|

Tomato Roots Studied for Drought Resilient

Drought-Resilient Tomatoes – Part One

By Tim Hammerich with the Ag Information Network

The key to drought resilience in crops like tomatoes most likely lies in the roots, which are hard to study because they are of course underground. Siobhan Brady and a team of researchers at UC Davis have been working on creating a molecular atlas of tomato roots, where plants first detect the effects of drought and other environmental threats.

“We wanted to be able to first try to understand what is happening in the individual cells within those roots underground. And then to use that as a platform to try to understand similarities and differences in other root cells of other species,” said Brady.

Among many discoveries in this research, Brady and his team have been able to better understand how the exodermis helps make plants more drought resilient.

“It hadn’t really been molecularly characterized before, but it produces this barrier. And that barrier is thought to be really important for protecting the root when there isn’t enough water. In the ground. So it kind of forms a barrier to keep that water in. And so now we have the genes that we think are controlling that, and so we can study that process more and hopefully be able to breed more drought-resilient tomatoes,” noted Brady.

 

2021-06-28T18:33:53-07:00June 28th, 2021|

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|

Slowing Development Over Farmland

California Farmland Trust to Host Event to Slow Pace of Farmland Loss to Development

 

 California Farmland Trust (CFT) will be hosting the inaugural Race to Slow the Pace run at Bokisch Vineyards on Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021. This live (virtual optional) 5K fundraiser aims to connect people with nature, the environment and the family farms that feed them. The run will foster a connection to the land and the importance of slowing the pace of development to protect valuable farmland.

“We believe in connecting people with the land that feeds our families and the Race to Slow the Pace is a fun, healthy opportunity to take in the climate resilient environment that farmland provides,” shared Charlotte Mitchell, executive director at California Farmland Trust. “When we were brainstorming locations, Bokisch Vineyards was an obvious fit. Markus and Liz have a true appreciation for the land and have championed our mission. Not to mention, the course offers breath-taking views and opportunities to learn what makes Bokisch Vineyards unique.”

California Winegrape Vineyard

California Winegrape Vineyard

Race to Slow the Pace runners will weave through the scenic Bokisch Vineyards, kicking-off where the winery meets the vineyard, continuing through the property on a maintained terrain, taking in the vines and the habitat, and eventually crossing the finish line at Bokisch’s infamous oak tree picnic area. Runners and registered guests will be served a paella lunch and celebrate with awards and Bokisch wine.

“We’re honored to host the inaugural Race to Slow the Pace benefitting California Farmland Trust,” shared Markus and Liz Bokisch. “It’s been our mission to leave the land better than we found it, for our children and our children’s children, while also teaching and inspiring others towards that cause. We look forward to having trained runners, casual joggers, wine enthusiasts, and those that simply love the land, visit our vineyard.”

 

For event information visit www.cafarmtrust.org/racetoslowthepace. To learn more about Bokisch Vineyards visit www.bokischvineyards.com/.

2021-06-24T21:35:08-07:00June 24th, 2021|

Climate Change Affecting Water Availability

Climate Impact on Water Management

By Tim Hammerich, with the Ag Information Network

Unfortunately, California has had a lot of experience in dealing with drought. While that is not new to the state, what has changed are temperatures, which have a big impact on how we manage our water resources. Dr. Safeeq Khan is a water and watershed sciences extension specialist with the University of California Ag and Natural Resources.

“With a warmer climate, what is happening is actually the precipitation phase itself is shifting from snow to rain. So we’re getting a lot more rain. All the precipitation is falling as rain. So what is happening is, you know, all the water is actually hitting the creek and the stream and, you know, flowing down the stream. So it’s not being held, um, in any type of storage. So that’s one thing that has changed, right? So our capacity to store water has shifted drastically,” said Khan.

Dr. Khan adds that not only do these changing temperatures affect how much water we can capture, but it also increases the amount of water that we lose even if it is captured due to evaporation.

Khan… “Because of the warmer temperature of the atmosphere itself, you know, it’s warmer, right? So the hot air can boil a lot more water. So, the natural vegetation and evaporation from the water surfaces, be it a lake, or reservoirs, whatever. All of those things are increasing.”

2021-06-22T21:16:01-07:00June 22nd, 2021|

Patrick Cavanaugh Retires as Long-Time Print Editor

Cavanaugh Will Continue as Editor of CaliforniaAgToday.com and Broadcast Radio Reports

 

Following more than 36 years at the editor’s desk, Patrick Cavanaugh decided to end his month-to-month deadlines for Pacific Nut Producer (PNP) and Vegetables West magazines. Since his first stories in 1985, where he felt like an undergrad in a Ph.D. class until the April 2021 editions, Cavanaugh has written more than 2000 feature stories and edited both magazines.

“My career has been a rewarding journey of discovery, an appreciation of the movers and shakers in this innovative industry that feeds the world, and an opportunity to convey the challenges, complexities, and forward-thinking leadership that have shaped this essential industry,” noted Cavanaugh,

“When I first began my agriculture journalism work in California, it was for another publishing company no longer in business. In 1995 I left that company to launch PNP, which I co-owned with Dan Malcolm, Malcolm Media,” said Cavanaugh.  “After the first issues were published, the other publishing company, who published Nut Grower magazine, went out of business. It was time for PNP to take off, and it did.”

Tree nut nurseries were providing new and better varieties, and growers were planting them.  It was great seeing the dynamic industry become the dominant business that it is.

Looking back on those early days of covering the industries, there is a vast difference now. “For example, I remember the early Almond Board Annual meeting that consisted of a long table on a riser with elected handlers and growers sitting in particular seats. It was a half-day meeting. Today, the annual Almond Board Meeting has been expanded to nearly three days with scores of educational talks and a massive trade show,” said Cavanaugh.

Cavanaugh in his Tucson office.

“From my vantage point, I have witnessed the incredible growth of this dynamic industry. In 1985, Almonds were on 400,000 acres, Pistachios were on 51,000 acres, and walnuts on about 134,000 acres. Tree nut nurseries have been providing new and better varieties, an increasing number of growers were planting these permanent crops, and tree nut acreage has more than doubled,” he said.

“Among the most important stories I’ve covered for Vegetables West was in 2007.  Following a tragic outbreak of E. coli linked to fresh spinach that sickened more than 200 people,” said Cavanaugh. “California farmers made an unprecedented commitment to protecting public health by creating the California Leafy Green Products Handler Marketing Agreement (LGMA). The program’s goal is to assure safe leafy greens and confidence in our food safety programs,” he noted.

Cavanaugh grew up in Florida and became very interested in agriculture. He studied agricultural production at the University of Florida. Upon graduating, he moved to Tucson to escape the humidity of the south.

Farmed Jojoba and Table Grapes in Arizona

While in Tucson, he worked for an Ag Management company producing 500 acres of jojoba that we pressed the oil from and sold the oil to cosmetic companies. The farm was near Casa Grande, about an hour north of Tucson. Cavanaugh was the ranch manager, and the company eventually converted the jojoba ranch into table grapes. Once we had Arizona’s Finest crop in cold storage, it would be sold and distributed to grocery stores in Phoenix and Tucson, as well as surrounding areas.

While at the ranch, Cavanaugh began writing freelance articles for the original company.  Eventually, Harry Cline, the company’s editor, made an offer to come to Fresno and work for the company. “That’s what I did.  And Harry became a valuable mentor,” he said.

While his magazine writing career is ending, he will still oversee CaliforniaAgToday.com and broadcast a daily Tree Nut Report for the Ag Information Network. That report is broadcasted throughout the state.

“Two years ago, my wife Laurie and I moved back to Tucson. We love the Southwest and wanted to return,” noted Cavanaugh.

“Lastly, I want to say that I am in awe of farmers, and I am grateful for their work to provide food for all of us. It has been a true joy to know so many growers and being on your farms,” he said.

2021-06-21T15:37:25-07:00June 21st, 2021|

Mask Rule Dropped for Ag Employees

Cal/OSHA Votes To Drop Workplace Mask Rule For Fully Vaccinated Workers

On Thursday, June 17th, California regulators approved revised worksite pandemic rules that allow fully vaccinated employees the same freedoms as when they are off the job. The revised regulations adopted come after weeks of confusion. They conform with general state guidelines by ending most mask rules for people who are vaccinated against the coronavirus.

Governor Gavin Newsom issued an executive order enabling the revisions to take effect without the normal 10-day approval period by the state Office of Administrative Law. See the COVID Prevention Emergency Readoption Standard here.

The key change in the revisions is abandoning a controversial provision where all employees would have had to wear masks indoors if there were unvaccinated employees in the workplace. Physical distancing and barriers are removed from the ETS, regardless of vaccination status. Physical distancing rules in employer-provided housing and transportation also are eliminated, if all employees are vaccinated.

Watch for additional details of the revised standard in Monday’s edition of the Update and register for the “Impacts of New COVID Rules on Ag Labor” webinar (see below).

2021-06-18T08:28:35-07:00June 18th, 2021|
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