2019 Biological Opinion Lawsuit Grows

Ag Groups Weigh in on 2019 Biological Opinion Lawsuit

American Pistachio Growers, along with agricultural organizations, signed a letter to the Honorable Deb Haaland, Secretary U.S. Department of Interior, and the Honorable Wade Crowfoot, Secretary Natural Resources opposing new court filings in California’s lawsuit challenging the 2019 Biological Opinions on water projects.

The joint agricultural letter reads as follows:
We are opposed to new court filings in California’s lawsuit challenging the 2019 Biological Opinions for coordinated operations of the federal Central Valley Project (CVP) and the State Water Project (SWP). These filings include an unprecedented and unvetted interim operations plan for the upcoming water year in California.

As we have known – and has been highlighted over the last year and a half – facts and findings grounded on science need to be followed.  That ethos should also apply to the coordinated operations of the CVP and SWP.

We support continued efforts by your respective departments to work collaboratively to manage the operations of California’s major water infrastructure.  California communities are in desperate need of relief.  Many of our most disadvantaged communities are lacking reliable, clean drinking water.

In addition, Groundwater Sustainability Agencies are expediting enforcement actions to minimize negative impacts resulting from groundwater overdrafts.  We implore you to work together to alleviate these extreme circumstances, rather than exacerbate them.

We are willing to help provide solutions, along with bringing interested parties together to help the communities where we live, work, and grow to stay alive. Only by fostering partnership among all levels of government and among interested parties can we resolve California’s short- and long-term water issues.

2021-11-23T14:00:33-08:00November 23rd, 2021|

UC Davis Student Danielle Rutkowski Wins Top Honors At ESA Meeting

Danielle Rutkowski, UC Davis doctoral student, is framed by the award she won at the Entomological Society of America meeting. (Photo by the Entomological Society of America,

UC Davis Doctoral Candidate Wins High Honors at ESA Meeting

Doctoral student Danielle Rutkowski of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology received the  President’s Prize in her category for her research presentation at the recent Entomological Society of America (ESA) meeting in Denver.Rutkowski delivered her 10-minute presentation on “Fungicide Impacts on Bumble Bees are Mediated via Effects on Bee-Associated Fungi” in the category, Plant-Insect Ecosystems: Ecology 3.” She studies with community ecologist Rachel Vannette, associate professor, and is also advised by community ecologist and professor Rick Karban.

At the ESA’s annual meetings, students are offered the opportunity to present their research and win prizes. They can compete in 10-minute papers (oral), posters, or infographics. First-place winners receive a one-year free membership in ESA, a $75 cash prize, and a certificate. Second-winners score a one-year free membership in ESA and a certificate.

Rutkowski’s abstract:

“Native bees including bumble bees are important pollinators but face threats from multiple sources, including agrochemical application. Declining bumble bee populations have been linked to fungicide application, which could directly affect the fungi often found in the stored food and GI tract of healthy bumble bees. Here, we test the hypothesis that fungicides impact bee health by disrupting bumble bee -fungi interactions.

Using two species, Bombus vosnesenskii and B. impatiens, we test the interactive effect of the fungicide propiconazole and fungal supplementation on the survival, reproduction, and microbiome composition of microcolonies (queenless colonies). We found that both bee species benefitted from fungi, but were differentially affected by fungicides.

In B. vosnesenskii, fungicide exposure decreased survival while fungal supplementation mitigated fungicide effects. For B. impatiens, fungicide application had no effect, but fungal supplementation improved survival and offspring production. Fungicides altered fungal microbiome composition in both species, and reduced fungal abundance in B. vosnesenskii microcolonies, but not in B. impatiens, where instead fungal addition actually decreased fungal abundance.

Our results highlight species-specific differences in both response to fungicides and the nature of fungal associations with bees, and caution the use of results obtained using one species to predict the responses of other species. These results suggest that fungicides can alter bee- fungi interactions with consequences for bee survival and reproduction, and suggest that exploring the mechanisms of such interactions, including interactions within bee-associated fungal communities, may offer insights into bumble bee biology and bumble bee conservation strategies. (Paper co-authors are associate professor Rachel Vannette, Eliza Litsey and Isabelle Maalouf)

Rutkowski completed her bachelor’s degree at Cornell University, where she studied how the relationship between mycorrhizal fungi and their host plants impacts insect herbivores. She currently studies  “how bumble bees interact with the microbes, particularly fungi, in their environment, and how these relationships impact bee health.”

Two other UC Davis graduate students won second-place honors in their respective categories.

Maureen Page with the lab of pollinator ecologist Neal Williams, professor, UC Davis Department of Entomology  and Nematology, scored second place for her presentation, “Optimizing Pollinator-friendly Plant Mixes to Simultaneously Support Wild and Managed Bees.” She competed in the category, Plant-Insect Ecosystems: Pollinators.

Kyle Lewald, with the College of Biological Sciences and the Integrated Genomics and Genetics Graduate Group, but a member of the lab of molecular geneticist and physiologist Joanna Chiu, professor and vice chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, won second in his category, Systems, Evolution and Biodiversity: Genetics and Molecular Biology, with his speech on “Assembly of Highly Contiguous Diploid Genome for the Agricultural Pest, Tuta absoluta.” 

ESA, founded in 1889 and headquartered in Annapolis, Md., is the world’s largest organization serving the professional and scientific needs of entomologists and others in related disciplines. Its 7000 members are in educational institutions, health agencies, private industry, and government. 

2021-11-22T02:48:33-08:00November 22nd, 2021|

UC Educates Public on Cattle Production Cycles

New UC ANR Publication Educates Public on Cycles of Cattle Production, Grazing and Economics

By Mike Hsu, UCANR Senior Public Information Representative

 

The pandemic has brought more people into nearby parks and public lands for hiking, biking and other recreational activities. In areas like the East Bay Regional Parks – a San Francisco Bay Area park system totaling more than 120,000 acres where about 65% of the land is grazed by livestock – visitors might see goats, sheep and, most likely, cattle.

Those encounters with animals (or their manure) represent a prime opportunity for members of the public to learn about agriculture and the ecological benefits of rangelands, according to Larry Forero, a UC Cooperative Extension livestock and natural resources advisor.

“In addition to supporting the raising of meat and other by-products, rangelands provide a variety of ecosystem services, including vegetation and watershed management, fire fuel control, and, increasingly, management of habitat for rare and endangered species,” Forero explained, noting that working rangelands cover around 40% of California’s land area.

As livestock grazing (mostly by beef cattle) constitutes a significant portion of land use across the state, Forero – along with fellow UCCE advisors Sheila Barry and Stephanie Larson – recently authored a UC Agriculture and Natural Resources publication summarizing the mechanics of cattle production.

“Beef Cattle on California Annual Grasslands: Production Cycle and Economics,” published in October and available as a free download on the UC ANR Catalog, describes the seasonal phases of cattle production and the factors that impact ranchers’ financial calculations and management decisions.

“This concise publication walks through annual stock flows and calendar of operations and gives tables for estimating costs, return over cash, and gross income under various scenarios,” said Forero.

By covering care practices, infrastructure needs, grazing management and economics, Forero said the publication offers a succinct overview of beef cattle production and rangeland use for land managers, decision makers and the park interpreters (such as docents and guides) who educate visitors as well as the interested public.

“Even if only a relatively small percentage of park goers are interested, you still touch a lot of people with a document like this,” Forero explained.

He said he hopes park signage and QR codes will direct visitors to the publication for more information about the cattle and their seasonal movements.

“People often wonder where the cattle go when they leave the park and when they will return,” co-author Sheila Barry said. “The cattle may go to grass or feed yards in other places in California or even out of state.”

But, as this new UC ANR publication explains, the cattle production cycle turns over anew.

“There will be more cattle next fall, I promise,” Barry said.

2021-11-18T18:01:19-08:00November 18th, 2021|

Pistachios Crop Is Big for and Off Year

Pistachios Off-Year Crop Comes in Big this Season

 

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

  Pistachios are alternate bearing, meaning one year a heavy crop, the next year a lighter crop. But this year, an off-year came in very strong, according to Richard Matoian,  President of American Pistachio Growers. “It came as a surprise to everyone that this crop for 2021 is as large as it is. We certainly don’t have the final numbers in, but everyone is expecting it to end up somewhere between 1.15 to 1.2 billion pounds, which would be larger than the record crop we had in 2020, which was just over a billion pounds,” noted Matoian.

Matoian said they’ll have a better picture of this new crop in the next few weeks. And we asked Matoian what the theory is, what could cause this off-year crop to be such an on-year volume of crop? “So, what we saw in 2021 is that the individual nut size is smaller, and that has to do with the warm spring that we had and in some of the hot weather conditions, probably the lack of water in many of the growing areas as well. But despite the smaller-sized nuts, the trees produced at a pretty high level,” explained Matoian.

Matoian said he’s been talking to growers about it. “Growers in the on-year in 2020, didn’t have as large an on-year crop, and so that’s why we think that the trees just had enough capacity to produce at pretty high levels this year,” he noted. And of course, adding to the increased production was thousands a new acres of pistachio crop coming into production this year.

2021-11-17T06:25:27-08:00November 17th, 2021|

Ag Equipment Upgrades Funded $215 Million

Legislature Approves $215 million in Agricultural Equipment Upgrades

 

With only a few days left in the 2021 legislative session, the California State Legislature voted to approve a budget proposal that included over $215 million dollars dedicated to incentive programs. These programs focus on the replacement of Tier 0’s, 1’s and 2’s level equipment, and pay a percentage of the cost for a Tier 4 piece of equipment.

The popular FARMER Funding program will receive $170 million for this next year, with that chunk of money being split amongst all agricultural representative Air Districts. An additional funding allocation of $45 million was provided to the Carl Moyer Program. The Carl Moyer program is split amongst several funding programs that all target older, diesel-fired equipment. The FARMER Funding has been instrumental in helping the San Joaquin Valley replace a massive amount of older diesel equipment.

The San Joaquin Valley faces a mandatory rule to replace all Tier 0, 1 and 2 tractors and would require tractor fleets be reported to CARB similar to the Truck and Bus Regulation.

This proposed regulation is avoided if the agricultural industry is able to replace 12,000 tractors, or reduce emissions by a proposed 11 tons/day. CARB staff has recognized the extensive work that agriculture has been able to achieve, CARB has recommended supporting future incentive funding efforts to help achieve this goal. If you need any assistance in your incentive program application, please feel free to reach out to the Association for help.

2021-11-16T07:14:38-08:00November 16th, 2021|

California Dairies Get Big Award!

California Receives $1.8 Million Dairy Business Innovation Initiative Award from U.S. Department of Agriculture for “Pacific Coast Coalition”

 The California State University, Fresno Foundation, in partnership with the California Dairy Innovation Center (CDIC), today announced the receipt of a $1.8 million award from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service to create a “Pacific Coast Coalition” to support dairy businesses in California, Oregon and Washington in the development, production, marketing and distribution of dairy products. Dairy Business Innovation Initiatives provide direct technical assistance, educational support, and grants to dairy businesses.

The Pacific Coast Coalition will be led by host California State University, Fresno and will implement programs in partnership with CDIC and collaboration with Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, the University of California, Davis, Humboldt State University and Oregon State University. The CDIC, and its steering committee, will serve as an advisory board to the Coalition, bringing a comprehensive business perspective, and assisting with a sub-awards program which will make $300,000 in grant funding available to regional dairy businesses for innovation-related investments annually for three years.

Through this program, Fresno State and collaborating institutions will deliver hands-on technical assistance to dairy businesses, providing access to laboratory space and equipment to facilitate development and innovation. The Coalition has a strong focus on education as well and will offer learning opportunities on technical topics and related areas of interest such as supply chain innovation, distribution, packaging, marketing, and branding strategies.

Developing the regional workforce by offering online and bilingual programs will be key to offering opportunities for growth to the region’s diverse population while meeting the dairy industry’s needs. Recognizing the necessity of collaboratively addressing the significant issues facing the Pacific Coast region’s dairy industry, Fresno State will leverage its technical expertise and research capabilities in value-added dairy innovation with a remarkable set of academic and business partners.

John Talbot, CEO of the California Milk Advisory Board (CMAB) said, “This collaboration is why the CDIC was created, to support collaboration and attract investment in California’s dairy industry. We’re pleased to join the group of existing coalitions in Wisconsin, Vermont and Tennessee, in to advance our industry nationwide.”

California leads the nation in milk production and milk is the number one agricultural commodity in the state. California also is a leading exporter of dairy products. The Pacific Coast region is home to hundreds of dairy businesses that are well-positioned to serve the needs of growing markets in Asia and Latin America.

“The Pacific Coast Coalition will contribute to our competitive advantage in global markets and directly benefit our regional businesses. It will be instrumental to stimulating innovation and entrepreneurship, strengthening the development of our workforce pipeline, and ultimately leading to the increased use of our milk in value-added products,” added Talbot.

The USDA Dairy Business Innovation (DBI) Initiative supports dairy businesses in the development, production, marketing, and distribution of dairy products. DBI Initiatives provide direct technical assistance and grants to dairy businesses, including niche dairy products, such as specialty cheese, or dairy products derived from the milk of a dairy animal, including cow, sheep, and goat milk.

2021-11-22T02:46:12-08:00November 11th, 2021|

Farm Credit: Water for Food is Critical

Cultivate California Educates Residents About Farms’ Need For Water

Exceptional drought conditions mean Farm Credit’s support is crucial, as reminding people about link between water and their food is more important than ever

California is in the middle of one of its worst droughts on record. The federal government reports that showed that nearly half of the state – including the entire Central Valley – is in an exceptional drought as of mid-October. Overall, 2021 has been the ninth driest year in California since accurate records began being kept 127 years ago. Shasta Lake, the state’s largest reservoir, is at 23% of capacity and Lake Oroville, the second-largest reservoir, is at 22% of capacity.

No one knows how long these dry conditions will last, but the most recent drought lasted for 376 weeks, from December 2011 to March 2019. And the National Weather Service currently forecasts that drought conditions are likely to continue in California as a weak La Niña effect will likely see storms diverted to the Pacific Northwest this winter. And all of that is bad news for California agriculture.

Which is why Cultivate California’s program aimed at educating Californians about the connection between consumers, the food they love and the water needed to grow it is so important as its messaging reaches 16 million people a year.

Mike Wade, the program’s executive director, said getting out early this year with messaging about water was essential to counter messaging from other groups.

“Californians continue to get inundated with negative messages about farming,” Wade said. “The Cultivate California program was designed to help bolster the natural support people have for agriculture and farms and to continue providing them with facts and information about the connection between their food and the water supply.”

The need to counter misinformation about farmers’ use of water is why Farm Credit has been one of the program’s largest donors since 2018, said Curt Hudnutt, president and CEO of American AgCredit.

American AgCredit, along with CoBank, Colusa-Glenn Farm Credit, Farm Credit West, Fresno Madera Farm Credit, Golden State Farm Credit and Yosemite Farm Credit, collectively contribute $100,000 a year to help Cultivate California inform Californians. The organizations are part of the nationwide Farm Credit System – the largest provider of credit to U.S. agriculture.

“This year, many California farms had just 5% of their water supply this year to grow our food,” Hudnutt said. “Cultivate California is one of the most successful groups we have to educate people about the impacts the drought has on our food supply, and the need to improve our water storage to protect all of us in future droughts, and we are proud to help support them in their efforts.”

Wade said one important message this year is that farmers and irrigation districts need to have flexibility to transfer water supplies to areas in greater need without burdensome red tape. And he said improving the state’s water supply system is crucial.

“We need to look long-term, which we should have done after the last drought,” he said. “Eighteen trillion gallons of water fell in February 2019 when the last drought ended, but we didn’t have the facilities to capture it and recharge our groundwater so we would have more supply available now. Hopefully our leaders will act so next time a drought occurs we will be better prepared.”

Rob Faris, President and CEO, Golden State Farm Credit, said it’s essential that more Californians are exposed to one of Cultivate California’s key messages – that the state’s farmers are producing more food but using much less water.

“The value of the state’s farm production increased by 38% between 1980 and 2015 while our farmers used 14% less water,” Faris said. “Farmers continually invest in irrigation technology, such as new drip and micro-irrigation systems, soil moisture monitoring, remote sensing, and computerized irrigation controls. Today, nearly half of our 8.4 million acres of irrigated farmland use drip, micro or subsurface irrigation, and more savings are on the way. Farm Credit is committed to help our members finance these improvements.”

Wade said Farm Credit’s support has been invaluable.

“The support we get from Farm Credit is amazing and critically important,” he said. “It has helped attract other supporters as well, and the support and leadership we get from Farm Credit has been instrumental in helping this program succeed.”

2021-11-09T17:50:30-08:00November 9th, 2021|

Mario Santoyo: We Need Strong Water Leaders

A Conversation with Mario Santoyo

Mario Santoyo is the executive director of the Latino Water Coalition. He is also a civil engineer and serves as VP of Clean Water and Jobs for California, a Non-Profit representing primary water, business, environmental and Ag stakeholders. And since 1986, he has served as the Assistant General Manager of Friant Water Authority.

 

Patrick Cavanaugh: Looking back on Prop 1, which the voters passed in 2014? Thinking about the fact that we passed that, how much money was allocated? How many billions of dollars for storage?

Mario Santoyo: It was about $3 billion for storage.

Cavanaugh: And, of course, that money was used to get some storage going, right?

Santoyo:  Yes. Right.

Cavanaugh: And very little of that’s been used, I guess. Maybe Sites Reservoir is getting some funding, right?

 

temperance flat dam

Mario Santoyo

Santoyo: Well, Sites theoretically were to get a little bit, but they are having significant difficulty getting environmental permits to do anything. So, if it’s not one thing, it’s another that keeps big surface water projects from moving forward. There’s way too much influence in what I would call the administrations because the governor, whether they admit it or not, has a whole lot of pull in terms of how their agencies work. So, if the messaging is such that these big projects are not a very high priority because of the environmental issues, they do not move forward.

Cavanaugh:  We live, and that is the state where our rain and snow events are feast or famine. We have dry and wet years, and this has always been the narrative of why we must have the infrastructure on the wet years to get through the famine years. And yet, we are just coming out of the severe year of low water allocations because of the lack of rain and snow and empty reservoirs at the beginning of this season. However, the massive cyclone storm that battered California in late October brought in record rain and snow. So it’s another reminder that we need more storage for more rain and snow that may still come.

 Santoyo: The unfortunate fact is that the environmental community has made it a priority for there not to be any new dams or water storage in general, particularly here in California. And they have had a tremendous amount of influence with the legislature, so it keeps them from facilitating any actual funding and or process to build dams. But what’s exceedingly sad is that I think we’re losing the leadership skills in our water agencies.

The leaders that existed during my day were such that they were willing to take the hard road to try to make new surface storage projects even though any time they would do that, they would be hit and criticized because of many things, including the cost of the dam and so forth. But it didn’t stop those folks that made those critical decisions when they pushed for building Shasta, San Luis, Oroville, Friant, and others… They had the same issues then, but they had the willingness and the guts to move forward.

Cavanaugh: Yes, They had real grit back then.

Santoyo: Today, we have guys that want to take the easy road where they shoot for things that are easier to attain but have no long-term benefit, not significant benefit, and that’s what I see happening in these more recent times. And so, in a way, I’m kind of glad that I no longer am in the key water agency role because I don’t think I could stomach it anymore.

I was always very proud that we were doing our best for the farmers because the farmers depend on leadership by those who represent them. But, unfortunately, I don’t see that anymore. I see just everybody throwing their hands up, waving the white flag, and saying: groundwater, that’s the way we’re going to put our focus. Well, no, that’s where the environmentalists have always pushed because that’s the way that you can justify not building surface storage.

But these years, when we have an excessive amount of water, I can guarantee you that most of it is going to the ocean, and it’s not going to groundwater. And so it’s a sad situation. So, I wish things would change. But, I’m not sure how that’s going to happen, other than for the general public to rise up and say, “Hey, we need it, and we don’t care what people say. It’s common sense, and we need to do something for our future generations.”

Cavanaugh: Well, Mario, how much outrage does the public need to change something?

Santoyo: Well, I’m entirely frustrated because I started focusing on building Temperance Flat around. 2001.

Cavanaugh:  20 years ago?

Santoyo: In 2001 and there were many things we did in terms of funding for studies and getting things lined up so that when the opportunity came about, it did. In 2006 and 2007, the opportunity came about when both Senator Cogdill and Governor Schwarzenegger decided that they were going to push for surface storage. We took full advantage of that and helped facilitate the legislation passed in 2009 and eventually became the Water Bond in 2014, and there was funding. It took a long time, And it took a whole lot of effort, but that’s what it takes. There’s no shortcut to it, but unfortunately, there’s no willingness by existing water agency leaders anymore to take the that hard road. They’re very focused on what the environmentalists want, the easy road, but that easy road doesn’t get you what you need.

Cavanaugh: What about our congressmen?

Santoyo: The unfortunate situation is that Republicans haven’t had leadership roles because they haven’t been in the majority most of the time. And so, when they did have an opportunity to advance something through the Trump administration, they didn’t take full advantage of it.

It got sidelined with other controversial issues, and building surface storage did not rise to a priority, and so then the Trump years came and went. And now we’re back to administrations that don’t see storage as a big priority.

Cavanaugh: And that is even added frustration. Mario, with all this in mind and the political nature of California, SGMA, no additional storage for the wet years. What do you think the long-term is for California agriculture?

Santoyo: This is what I predict.  Right now, these water agency leaders who are pushing groundwater projects in lieu of service storage projects will end up getting in trouble when the farmers start realizing that their wells are going to be cut off because they have no surface water to replace the groundwater they’re taking, because we don’t have adequate surface storage.

Cavanaugh: Exactly.

Santoyo: That’s when the reality hits, and that’s what we’ve always argued, is that it’s not a matter of whether you need surface water or groundwater, you need both, but you need both of them to make each other work. And so that’s the part of the equation the environmentalists have always left off is that you don’t need surface storage for groundwater. Well, that’s completely wrong. SGMA will make that clear, but by the time it gets clear, it’ll be too late. The farmers will be cut off on their water, and then there’s not much to do.

Cavanaugh: It’s tough for many growers to rely only on groundwater. I mean, I’ve constantly been pushing out that the only solution to SGMA is surface water.

Santoyo: Absolutely, it’s not a complicated formula. But again, it all comes back down to that water leaders have to have some guts to go down the hard road and be open to criticism and keep pushing. But, unfortunately, right now, we don’t have those kinds of leaders anymore.

And that’s a sad statement. Because in my years in the water agencies, I was fortunate to be exposed to many strong leaders in the water agency business. Those days are over. We don’t have that anymore.

Cavanaugh: We used to have farmer-friendly board members on the California Water Board.

Santoyo: Absolutely, there’s no question about it. And this is now changing, and it’s driven by environmentalists that have found the magic ways of getting everybody to re-prioritize what should be done. Including, unfortunately, these water agency leaders. When I hear these guys talk about, “Oh, we have the perfect plan. It’s going to be groundwater projects,” I’m just shaking my head thinking, it’s unbelievable….

Cavanaugh: These groundwater projects. The water leaders are focused on that?

Santoyo: That’s right, and that’s the sad part of it, is that the farmers are depending on the leadership of these water agency leaders. And that’s a sad statement for me to be making because I was a water agency guy for such a long time, but that’s also is why I can say it because I was there when we had leadership.

I don’t know what you call these new generation guys. I guess they’re expecting somebody to give them the easy road. And you can never get anything worthwhile by going down an easy road.

 

 

 

2021-11-08T09:35:21-08:00November 8th, 2021|

Supply Chain Help Needed Now!

Congressman David G. Valadao Calls on Secretary Buttigieg to Help Alleviate Supply Chain Congestion

 

Congressman David G. Valadao and 10 of his colleagues co-sponsored Representative Tracey Mann’s legislation, the Truckers Responding At National Shipping Ports Overcoming Retail Turmoil (TRANSPORT) Act. This legislation would require the Secretary of Transportation to relieve congested ports during either a national state of emergency or when ports are congested by 50 percent or more.

“Our nation is facing horrific supply chain challenges, and it is vital that Congress acts. Billions of dollars worth of goods are currently sitting off the coast of California, yet the administration has put forward no serious solutions to resolve this crisis,” said Congressman Valadao. “That is why I am proud to co-sponsor the Truckers Responding At National Shipping Ports Overcoming Retail Turmoil Act. Through this legislation, we will alleviate our supply chain challenges and help our nations’ businesses to return to normal operations.”

The TRANSPORT Act would require the Secretary of Transportation to issue federal grants from unused relief dollars to motor carriers to transport goods from a port of entry to a destination point. It would also 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.

“I’ve heard from Kansas farmers and truck drivers who are prepared to drive to California and collect goods because they understand the looming catastrophic results of congestion continuing at our ports,” said Congressman Mann. “If we have truckers who are willing and able to drive across the country to secure and distribute goods that are backed up at ports in other states, the government should remove any red tape standing in the way of that solution. Implementing the TRANSPORT Act is a step towards solving the supply chain crisis, giving Americans the ability to help themselves and their neighbors, and making America’s economy strong again.”

2021-11-05T17:42:23-07:00November 5th, 2021|

Wheat Growers Get Help with Fertilizer

New ‘Big Data’ Tools Help California Wheat Farmers Reduce Fertilizer Guesswork

Growers in California grapple with plenty of climate uncertainty – but a new set of tools can help wheat farmers make crucial fertilizer decisions with more precision and confidence.

An interactive website integrates these tools – developed or adapted by researchers at the University of California, Davis and University of California Cooperative Extension – that provide farmers with recommendations for applying nitrogen fertilizers, specific to their own sites and conditions.

“The system is made for being flexible, for being reactive – and not having a cookie-cutter approach, year-in and year-out, because the weather is not cookie-cutter, year-in and year-out,” said Mark Lundy, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the UC Davis Department of Plant Sciences.

While factoring in those weather variables, the management tool also draws data from two indicators of nitrogen sufficiency or deficiency: the results of a soil nitrate quick test (a simple test previously used in vegetable crop systems along the coast), and comparisons of plant health in the broader field to that in a “nitrogen-rich reference zone” (a practice originally developed in the Midwest).

Using them in tandem, in the context of California wheat growing, is a novel approach. In a Nov. 4 webinar, Lundy will introduce the use of the nitrogen-rich reference zone, a small area in a field where extra fertilizer is added at the beginning of the season.

“This project is a unique example of digital agriculture at work in an applied setting,” he explained. “We are integrating ‘big data’ sources like site-specific soil and weather data, as well as satellite, drone and other sensor measurements into an interactive web interface. This allows users to receive straightforward yet highly customized recommendations from somewhat complex agronomic models.”

Since 2019, agronomists from UC Davis and UCCE have been testing these tools in real-world conditions, with support from the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s Fertilizer Research and Education Program and a Natural Resources Conservation Service Conservation Innovation Grant. The team conducted 11 on-farm demonstrations in fields representing a wide range of agroecosystems, including the Sacramento Valley, San Joaquin Valley, Delta region, and Tulelake Basin.

Fritz Durst, a western Yolo County-based grower who participated in one of the case studies, said that the process of gathering the data was “actually pretty simple” and the tool “eliminates much of the guesswork” for managing nitrogen fertilizers.

“This tool is extremely helpful for me to make decisions about the most efficient and cost-effective method for applying nitrogen to my wheat,” Durst said.

In addition to potentially increasing crop productivity and farmer net-income, the tool can benefit the environment by reducing the amount of nitrate leaching from fertilizer applications, according to Lundy.

“It’s not only trying to say how much fertilizer to put down, sometimes it’s trying to confirm you don’t really need any fertilizer,” he said.

More resources and events related to the Nitrogen Fertilizer Management Tool for California Wheat – including demonstration activities – will appear on the UC Small Grains blog.

2021-11-05T16:08:55-07:00November 5th, 2021|
Go to Top