Farm Bill Proves to be Crucial Lifeline for Calif. Agriculture, National Food Security

By William Bourdeau

As we continue to navigate the complex challenges of the 21st century, one thing remains clear: our nation’s food security is paramount. This truth is particularly evident in California, a state renowned for its agricultural diversity and productivity. The current deliberations over the Farm Bill, a key piece of federal legislation that shapes our agricultural policy, present us with a critical opportunity to secure the future of our food system.

The Farm Bill’s comprehensive approach to agricultural policy impacts every facet of our food system – from the major commodity crops that feed our nation, to the specialty crops that diversify our diets and support local economies. In California, these specialty crops, such as fruits, vegetables, and nuts, form the backbone of our agricultural sector. But our growers face unique challenges, including crop-specific diseases and pests, that require flexible, robust support programs.

Moreover, despite our rich agricultural diversity, a disconcerting health crisis persists: most Americans do not meet recommended fruit, vegetable and nut intake, contributing to widespread obesity and metabolic health issues. Addressing these problems is not just a health imperative, but a call for diversified agricultural support in the Farm Bill, particularly for our specialty crop growers.

These producers face additional challenges – from the perishable nature of their products, to structural barriers that limit their participation in USDA conservation programs. To ensure a robust and healthy food system, the Farm Bill must tackle these issues head-on. By bolstering support for specialty crop growers, we can enhance their role in conservation efforts, broaden their access to international markets, and contribute to healthier dietary choices for Americans.

The Farm Bill also plays an indispensable role in sustaining our rural communities. It is vital that the Rural Development title within the bill continues its commitment to fostering growth and prosperity in these areas. By supporting initiatives for water storage infrastructure and providing emergency community grants following natural disasters, and fostering public-private partnerships to generate capital for rural businesses and communities, this legislation can fuel the engine of rural development.

Crop insurance and standing disaster programs like the Noninsured Crop Assistance Program, Livestock Indemnity Program, Livestock Forage Disaster Program, Tree Assistance Program, and Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honey Bees, and Farm-Raised Fish Program are vital for managing risk and recovering from unexpected disasters. These programs provide a safety net, helping farmers weather the storms of uncertainty inherent in farming.

In addition to these considerations, the 2023 Farm Bill conservation title programs must be administered efficiently and effectively, supporting projects like irrigation modernization that provide multiple, stacked benefits, rather than focusing solely on climate fixes. Working lands programs such as the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, which is widely used in California, should be enhanced to continue assisting growers achieve greater conservation goals. Conservation program management should emphasize a stronger role for state and local decision-making, reflecting the unique needs and conditions of different regions.

Furthermore, much of the water we use in California and the West originates on forested land managed by federal agencies. It’s essential to restore these dead and dying forest lands through active forest management, and to better quantify watershed health improvements associated with these and other water conservation actions. Agencies like the U.S. Forest Service need to better manage the land and tackle critical challenges like wildfire, insects, and disease on an expedited schedule.

The Farm Bill plays a pivotal role in maintaining our national food security. In an era marked by global turmoil, with escalating water supply regulatory constraints and other systemic challenges, a stable domestic food supply chain is more crucial than ever.

The economic implications of the Farm Bill extend far beyond our fields and pastures. The bill impacts international trade, affecting our ability to compete in global markets. Without the support mechanisms in the Farm Bill, our competitiveness on the global stage, our domestic food security, and the resilience of our agricultural sector could be threatened.

However, the benefits that the Farm Bill brings will only be realized if it is passed. Failure to do so could have dire consequences. From potential supply chain disruptions to reduced international competitiveness and an increased risk of food insecurity, the stakes are high.

As citizens, we have a role to play. We must raise our voices, reach out to our representatives, and express our support for the Farm Bill. This legislation is not just about supporting farmers and ranchers; it’s about safeguarding our nation’s food security, bolstering our economy, and ensuring a sustainable future for all.

Now is the time to act. For the sake of California’s agricultural sector, and for the future of our national food security, we must stand together in support of the Farm Bill.

2023-05-25T10:50:27-07:00May 25th, 2023|

UC Ag Experts Talk About Upcoming Webinars

May 31, 2023 (3:00 to 4:00 pm) – Flatheaded Borer Concerns in California Walnuts

In this webinar, Dr. Jhalendra Rijal, UCCE Area IPM Advisor in Merced and San Joaquin Counties, will discuss flatheaded borer and how it is an old pest but has become a new problem in California walnuts. This presentation will cover various aspects of flatheaded borer IPM management including the behavior and biology of the borer, adult emergence timing, monitoring tools, and cultural and insecticidal control methods.

1.0 CEU (other) from DPR, 1.0 CEU (IPM) from CCA, and 1.0 CEU Certified Arborists, 0.5 CEU Board Certified Arborists from WC-ISA are approved.

Register Now

May 30, 2023 (1:00 to 3:00 pm) – Science for Citrus Health: Research Update on Asian Citrus Psyllid Development

The Science for Citrus Health Webinar will focus on recent research on the survival and development of Asian citrus psyllid under California conditions and research from the University of Florida on biological control of Asian citrus psyllid.

2.0 CEU (other) from DPR and 2.0 CEU (IPM) from CCA are approved.

Register Now

June 5 to 9, 2023 (12:00 to 1:00 pm each day) – Invasive Species Action Week Lunchtime Talks

Invasive species are arriving in California with increasing frequency. The best time to stop them is before they arrive, and federal, state, and local agencies are keeping their eyes out for new arrivals and threats on the horizon. When they do arrive, Early Detection and Rapid Response are critical to their management. Many detections are made by individuals not associated with any agency or university, and through community/participatory science programs, almost anyone can help to spot the next invasive.

Webinars are free, but registration is required for each day. Visit the California Invasive Species Action Week Lunchtime Talks website for more information and registration.

There are NO CEUs offered for these webinars. Please contact Randall Oliver (rdoliver@ucanr.edu) with any questions.

  • Monday, June 5 – Rapid Response and Eradication of Caulerpa in California: Lessons Learned by Rachel Woodfield
  • Tuesday, June 6 – Participatory Science as a Tool to Monitor Invasive Tree Pests by Dr. Beatriz Nobua-Behmann
  • Wednesday, June 7 – Proactive Biological Control of Invasive Pests by Dr. Ricky Lara
  • Thursday, June 8 – Early Detection and Rapid Response for Invasive Plants in California by Dr. Chris McDonald
  • Friday, June 9 – Rapid Spread of Invasive Aquatic Plants in the Changing San Francisco Bay-Delta Estuary by Dr. Brenda Grewell

Register Now

2023-05-25T08:34:10-07:00May 25th, 2023|

AFBF Establishes 2023 Farm Bill Priorities

By Mike Tomko and Bailey Corwine, American Farm Bureau Federation

The American Farm Bureau Federation today released its priorities for what may be the most consequential legislation for agriculture in 2023 – renewal of the farm bill. The priorities were identified by a working group of Farm Bureau members and staff from across the country.

AFBF’s overarching priorities include:

  • Continuing current farm bill program funding;
  • Maintaining a unified farm bill that includes nutrition programs and farm programs together;
  • Prioritizing risk management tools that include federal crop insurance and commodity programs;
  • Ensuring adequate USDA staffing and resources to provide technical assistance.

“The farm bill is the most significant piece of legislation that affects farmers and ranchers across the country,” said AFBF President Zippy Duvall. “Since enactment of the 2018 farm bill, farmers have faced significant challenges from market volatility, increased input costs and devastating natural disasters. Despite these headwinds, farmers and ranchers have met the needs of consumers both here and abroad while continuing to improve our environmental stewardship. We look forward to working with Congress to ensure the appropriate resources are available to craft farm policy that reduces food insecurity, bolsters national security and encourages long-term stability for all of our farm and ranch families.”

The priorities include more than 60 recommendations over multiple titles of the farm bill including reference price increases for commodities, more transparency for milk checks, funding for conservation programs, rural development, and streamlining of nutrition programs to get food to those who need it most.

The AFBF board of directors voted unanimously to approve the recommendations. Final approval of policy priorities will be accomplished by a vote of delegates at the AFBF Convention in Puerto Rico in January 2023.

Read AFBF farm bill priorities here.

2022-10-18T09:49:06-07:00October 18th, 2022|

Franzia Credits SJV Wine Growers

Longtime California vintner Fred Franzia, the co-founder of Bronco Wine Co. best-known for his Charles Shaw brand, aka “Two Buck Chuck,” passed away Sept. 13 at age 79.

Following is a 2017 interview that we did with Franzia

Fred Franzia: SJV Is Critical for Nation’s Wine Industry

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

California Ag Today recently had an exclusive interview with Fred Franzia the CEO and co-founder of one of the biggest wineries in the nation, Franzia Winery, which is the maker of the famous Two Buck Chuck sold in Trader Joe’s. We asked him how it all started.

“My Grandfather came to America in 1893, arrived in Ellis Island, went to San Francisco, eventually got into the Lodi/Linden area. He saved enough money to buy his first ranch in an area between Ripon and Manteca in an unincorporated community called Atlanta, and that’s where he started with 80 acres – the place where Franzia Winery is today,” he said.

Franzia said the major factor in the U.S. wine industry is the San Joaquin Valley where 76 of the total wine grapes in California are produced.

“There wouldn’t be a wine business in the U.S. if it wasn’t for the San Joaquin Valley. It’s as simple as that,” according to Franzia.

And he explained the reasons behind that pronouncement.

“We have all the right varieties, and they’re priced right, so the consumer can afford to buy them every day and enjoy it. That’s what we’re trying to do with the wines,” he said.

And there is a misnomer among some consumers that quality wine cannot be produced in the San Joaquin Valley.

“All they have to do is have blind tastings with any wines they want, and we’ll win nine out of 10,” Franzia said.

And Franzia Winery, which also owns the Bronco Wine Company, produces a lot of wine.

“We have close to 150 labels. The most famous one, I think, is the Charles Shaw, which is one of the best selling products ever sold at Trader Joe’s. And that wine is affectionately known as Two Buck Chuck,” he said. “It’s sold over a billion bottles so far, so we’re into that one pretty heavy.”

We asked Franzia why Two Buck Chuck is so popular? Of course, we know it’s got a good price and the quality’s there. “Can’t say it any better,” Franzia said.

 

2022-09-14T09:28:12-07:00September 14th, 2022|

Electric Tractors Reduce Carbon Emissions at UC ANR Research and Extension Centers

Zero-emission tractors perform many tasks of diesel tractors, without noise or exhaust

By Pam Kan-Rice, UCANR

The University of California, a national leader in sustainability, has pledged to become carbon neutral by 2025. To reduce its reliance on fossil fuels, UC Agriculture and Natural Resources has replaced several of its diesel-powered tractors with electric tractors at its research and extension centers.

Seven of the nine UC research and extension centers – Intermountain located in Siskiyou County, Hopland in Mendocino County, Kearney and West Side in Fresno County, Lindcove in Tulare County, Desert in Imperial County and Hansen in Ventura County – started using the Solectrac e25 in July. The researchers plan to share what they learn from using the electric tractors.

“Charging is easy, we are using a standard 110V connection, no charging station needed,” said John Bailey, director of the University of California Hopland Research and Extension Center. “For faster charging, you can use a 220V connection – again, no charging station needed, just a regular receptacle – but we haven’t gone there yet.”

The electric tractor runs for about five hours, depending on the type of use and the speed, on a charge.

“We will use the electric tractor to mix the soil for planting trees in the greenhouse,” said Ashraf El-kereamy, director of UC Lindcove Research and Extension Center in Exeter, which focuses on citrus research. “Also, for pulling the trailer with the fruit bins during harvest, it will be good as it does not emit any gases.”

The electric tractor is being used to move materials in the loader at UC Hopland REC. “It has worked well for this, functioning similarly to a standard diesel tractor,” said Bailey.

“We have also used it to clean our sheep barn, scraping the pens to get ready for lambing season,” Bailey said. “This involves pushing or dragging straw bedding and manure. The tractor functions well in tight spaces due to its compact size.”

Bailey learned one downside is that the front end is a little too light, making it difficult to generate enough downward pressure with the loader to effectively scrape the floor without reducing the front wheel traction.

“We are planning to add some weight to the front, a standard practice with tractors to increase traction. The tractor has the mounting to enable this so it should not be a big deal,” Bailey said. “Our operators really appreciate the lack of noise and exhaust, especially when working in the barn or in tight spaces.”

The small electric tractor is also being used in tight places at the UC Intermountain Research and Extension Center in Tulelake.

“The tractor that we obtained from the company is too small for the majority of our farm needs,” said Rob Wilson, Intermountain REC director. “We purchased a small box scraper and rototiller for the tractor and we are using it around our facility grounds. We also use it out in the field in tight spaces that are too small for our larger tractors to operate.”

“The tractor is quiet, powerful for its size and operates very similar to the diesel-powered tractors with regard to the controls, hydraulics and three-point assembly. The tractor also has a lot of torque and speed.”

Annemiek Schilder, director of UC Hansen Agricultural REC, added, “I think another advantage is that the tractors can go very slowly, which is helpful for some uses such as harvesting.”

The researchers will continue to evaluate the electric tractors throughout the year.

“Our main usage will come in the spring, mowing around our headquarters and on roadsides,” Bailey said. “We are purchasing a 4-foot flail mower that can mount to the rear PTO, but won’t really put it into use until April.” The power take-off, or PTO, is the shaft that transfers power from the tractor to the attachment.

Other benefits of electric tractors include no engine oil to change and no diesel fuel.

“If the farmer already has solar, they will see close to zero fuel charges,” Bailey added. “Even without solar, their fuel costs should be reduced depending on local electrical cost. Also, the engine only has one moving part compared to dozens in a diesel tractor so maintenance costs should be reduced significantly, something that is proving true in electric cars.”

The Solectrac e25 tractors each cost $27,999 and the optional loader was about $4,000.

The California Air Resources Board is offering incentives to buy zero-emission equipment through its Funding Agricultural Replacement Measures for Emission Reductions Program. FARMER provides funding through local air districts for agricultural harvesting equipment, heavy-duty trucks, agricultural pump engines, tractors and other equipment used in agricultural operations.

2022-08-30T10:21:20-07:00August 30th, 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|

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|

Western Drought Will Impact All Americans

Congress Seeks Solutions

By  Family Farm Alliance

The U.S. is facing yet another record-breaking drought year in the West. Farmers and ranchers in some of these areas are receiving little to no water from federal water projects as they enter the dry summer months.

Meanwhile, the Russian invasion of Ukraine has decreased and destabilized worldwide agricultural commodity production and availability. Rising input costs, combined with the ongoing energy and supply chain crises, continue to impact food supply and demand.

“We’re seeing reports that the war in Ukraine, sanctions and destroyed ports could take nearly 30% of the world’s grain supply out of production or off the market this year,” Family Farm Alliance Executive Director Dan Keppen recently said at a Congressional drought forum hosted by House GOP Members.

All of the above factors have combined to cause significant inflation – food prices alone have increased 9 percent this year – that will impact all Americans.

Loss of Agricultural Water Means Less Food on Grocery Store Shelves

Many Western farmers rely on federal Bureau of Reclamation projects for irrigation water. Over the decades the operations for several of these projects – including the Klamath Project (California and Oregon) and California’s Central Valley Project – have been significantly impacted by government decisions that disproportionately direct water to perceived environmental needs.

Every acre of farmland taken out of production equates to a loss of real food that could help replenish grocery store shelves that may soon run short of once-plentiful food products.

“When people talk about taking millions of acres of California farmland out of production, those are just numbers,” said Bill Diedrich, a fourth-generation California farmer said at the recent Congressional drought forum. “Let me put them in perspective for you. For every acre that is left unplanted because of a lack of irrigation water, it is the equivalent of 50,000 salads that will not be available to consumers.”

Mr. Diedrich also serves as President of the California Farm Water Coalition.

“Our food supply is just as much a national security issue as energy,” he said. “If we fail to recognize that, we put the country at risk.”

Sacramento Valley Farmers and Business Leaders Talk About This Dry Year 

As NCWA President David Guy recently wrote, California farmers are no strangers to drought, although one of the driest years in California has widespread and significant impacts in the Sacramento Valley.

To provide some context for the dry year and the economic impacts, see the recent paper prepared by Dr. Dan Sumner at UC Davis entitled, Continued Drought in 2022 Ravages California’s Sacramento Valley EconomyIn sum, the report suggests there will be 14,000 lost jobs, with $1.315B in impacts for those who rely on agriculture in the Sacramento Valley.

In a recent Ingrained Podcast, Jim Morris was able to catch up with several farmers and business leaders on the west-side of the Sacramento Valley to talk about the dry year and the impacts they will see this year.

“We’re down to 25 percent of normal rice acreage,” said grower Kurt Richter, who farms in Colusa County. “For a westside operation, that figure is actually very high this year. I’m the only person I know who is on the west side who is even planting rice at all.”

We encourage you to listen to the Ingrained Podcast to hear firsthand how the dry year will impact people and businesses in the region.

Water Allotment to Klamath Basin Farmers Hindering Food Production Amid High Market

Many farmers across the Klamath Basin are currently in the stages of planting their crops following the first few water deliveries from irrigation districts. However, with only 50,000 acre-feet of surface water allocated by Reclamation, one farmer says the impacts of another low production year will continue to hurt the community and the farming industry.

“It’s about to get a lot worse because the entire West is in this situation and food scarcity is going to be a real thing this year,” said Scott Seus, a farmer, Tulelake Irrigation District board member, and member of the Family Farm Alliance.

CLICK HERE for the interview Scott did with CBS affiliate KTVL TV (Medford, Oregon).  

Clearly, federal management of water has become too inflexible in places like California and Central Oregon, where a frog protected by the ESA impacts water deliveries to Deschutes River Basin producers.

“We must restore balance in federal decision-making regarding water allocation, particularly in times of drought,” said Alliance President Patrick O’Toole, a rancher from Wyoming. “This is one of several solutions needed to maintain food security for the nation and the economic wellbeing of the Western landscape.”

Congress Proposes Measures to Increase Western Water Supplies

Democrats and Republicans in both houses of Congress bill are advancing additional measures that would increase water supply and modernize water infrastructure in California and other areas of the Western U.S.

A suite of new water supply enhancement projects and demand management programs can also help alleviate the stress on existing Western water supplies. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, signed into law last November by President Biden, provides a once-in-a-generation federal investment towards this end. Legislative proposals made in the House and Senate seek to further improve water supplies for the West.

In February 2021, U.S. Representative David G. Valadao introduced the Responsible, No-Cost Extension of Western Water Infrastructure Improvements, or RENEW WIIN, Act, a no-cost, clean extension of operations and storage provisions of the WIIN Act (P.L. 114-322).

“Food prices are at a record high, and people are struggling to put food on the table,” Rep. Valadao recently wrote in a recent blog, titled “Severe drought threatens America’s farmers and food supply”. “The ongoing war in Ukraine is destabilizing worldwide agricultural commodity production. Experts are warning about the very real possibility of a global food shortage. Now more than ever, we need to do everything in our power to support our domestic farmers, ranchers, and producers to provide much needed stability to our global food supply.”

The RENEW WIIN Act – supported by the Alliance and several of its member agencies – would extend the general and operations provisions of Subtitle J of the WIIN Act and extend the provision requiring consultation on coordinated operations of the Central Valley Project and State Water Project. The legislation would also extend the authorization of appropriations for water storage projects that the Secretary of the Interior finds feasible.

“Making sure our agriculture producers have access to safe, clean, and reliable water is critical,” said Rep. Valadao.

Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) on May 17 introduced S.4231, the Support to Rehydrate the Environment, Agriculture and Municipalities Act or STREAM Act, a bill that would increase water supply and modernize water infrastructure in California and throughout the West.

“If we don’t take action now to improve our drought resilience, it’s only going to get worse,” said Senator Feinstein. “We need an ‘all-of-the-above’ strategy to meet this challenge, including increasing our water supply, incentivizing projects that provide environmental benefits and drinking water for disadvantaged communities, and investing in environmental restoration efforts.”

Click here for the press release issued by Senator Feinstein’s office, which includes links to a one-page summary of the bill, a section-by-section analysis, and a list of supporters, which includes the Family Farm Alliance.

“We appreciate the increased attention that many Western Members of Congress recognize the importance of modernizing and expanding our water infrastructure,” said Mr. Keppen. “There is still time for all of our state and federal officials to right this ship and recognize the importance of storing water and growing food with it.”

2022-05-23T09:24:15-07:00May 23rd, 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|

Westlands Water District awarded $7.6 Million Grant by the California Department of Water Resources

Grant Funds Will Help Create Drought Resilience, Increase Investment In Recharge Projects, and Drive Regional Groundwater Sustainability

 Today the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) awarded Westlands Water District, which serves as the Groundwater Sustainability Agency (GSA) for the Westside Subbasin, a $7.6 million grant as part of the Department’s Sustainable Groundwater Management (SGM) Proposition 68 Implementation Grant Program. This grant provides critical investment in the District’s efforts to ensure a sustainable groundwater basin.
“As we enter the third year of historic drought, Westlands remains committed to utilizing the most proactive, innovative, and scientifically-sound strategies in groundwater management,” said Tom Birmingham, general manager of Westlands. “This grant funding from DWR will be instrumental to the District’s implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act and to achieving groundwater sustainability. We are grateful for the support and investment in these vital projects.”
The grant funding will further three key efforts within the Subbasin: the Storage Treatment Aquifer Recharge (STAR) Program, Phase 1; the Westside Subbasin Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP) 5-year Update; and the Westside Subbasin Geophysical Investigation for Recharge Potential.
The STAR Program will establish a network of treatment and aquifer storage and recovery (ASR) facilities in the Westside Subbasin. These facilities will treat water from the unconfined upper aquifer and provide temporary storage of surplus supplies. Based on current design, each treatment facility could treat up to 10,000 acre-feet a year and each ASR well could inject up to 1,200 gallons per minute to be stored for later use. Phase 1 of the STAR Program includes planning and identification of locations for the treatment facilities.
The funding will also support the District’s 5-year review and update of the Westside Subbasin GSP. This update enables the District to assess the implementation of the GSP and incorporate the latest information on groundwater conditions, technology, and science. The 2025 update will reflect progress towards achieving the Westside Subbasin 2040 sustainability goals, key groundwater project, and SGMA regulations compliance.
Lastly, the grant provided by DWR will also provide funding for the Westside Subbasin Geophysical Investigation for Recharge Potential. This Investigation consists of conducting geotechnical examinations on lands within the Westside Subbasin to identify groundwater recharge potential. The data collected will help interested parties, such as growers and/or the District, determine if a proposed site is feasible for groundwater
2022-05-03T11:03:46-07:00May 3rd, 2022|
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