Annual Alfalfa and Forage Field Day Sept. 19

Mark Your Calendars for the Annual Alfalfa and Forage Field Day

By Mikenzi Meyers, Contributing Editor

The Annual Alfalfa and Forage Field Day is fast approaching, and it’s one you won’t want to miss! The field day will be held on Thursday, September 19th at the UC Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center, and cover a variety of topics from forages to crops.

Nicholas Clark, certified Crop and Farm Advisor in Agronomy and Nutrient Management for the University of California Cooperative Extension (Kings, Tulare and Fresno), is eager to spread the word and increase attendance for what is sure to be an educational day for all attendees.

“We try to make it a very comprehensive program in terms of covering the bases of different forages that are popular or emerging in popularity in the southern portion of the San Joaquin Valley,” Clark explained.

Although alfalfa and other forages are on the forefront of the event, Clark added that management practices, silage crops, and possibly also sugar beets are up for discussion.

Make sure to mark your calendars for the Annual Alfalfa and Forage Field Day on Thursday, September 19th at the UC Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center.

UC Davis Offering Beginner Beekeeping Classes

Do You Want to Become a Beekeeper or Learn More About Beekeeping?

News Release

The California Master Beekeeper Program (CAMBP), directed by Extension apiculturist Elina Lastro Niño of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, is hosting two short beekeeping classes in early August: one on “Planning Ahead for Your First Hives” and the other, “Working Your Colonies.”

Each will take place from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road, west of the central campus. The deadline to register is Thursday, Aug. 1.

“These courses are foundational to beekeeping husband excellence,” said Wendy Mather, program manager. “They are great for folks who are thinking about getting bees next season, as well as those who currently have bees and want to ensure they’re doing whatever they can to ensure the success of their hives.”

The classes are not required to become a California Master Beekeeper, but are highly recommended, as “they will help folks prepare to become a science-based beekeeping ambassador,” Mather said. Instructors are Elina Niño and CAMPB educational supervisor Bernardo Niño, a staff research assistant in the Niño lab.

Planning Ahead for Your First Hives
“Planning Ahead for Your First Hives” will take place Saturday, Aug. 3, and will include both lectures and hands-on activities. Participants will learn what’s necessary to get the colony started and keep it healthy and thriving. They will learn about bee biology, beekeeping equipment, how to install honey bee packages, how to monitor their colonies (that includes inspecting and monitoring for varroa mites) and other challenges with maintaining a healthy colony.

The course is limited to 25 participants. The $105 registration fee covers the cost of course materials (including a hive tool), lunch, and refreshments. Participants can bring their bee suit or veil if they have one, or protective gear can be provided. For more information or to register, see https://registration.ucdavis.edu/Item/Details/572.

 Working Your Colonies
“Working Your Colonies” will take place Sunday, Aug. 4, and will include both lectures and hands-on activities. Participants will learn what is necessary to maintain a healthy colony. Lectures will cover advanced honey bee biology, honey bee integrated pest management, and products of the hive. Participants also will learn about queen wrangling, honey extraction, splitting/combined colonies, and monitoring for varroa mites.

The course is limited to 25 participants per session. The $175 registration fee covers the cost of course materials, lunch, and refreshments. For more information or to register, see https://registration.ucdavis.edu/Item/Details/559.

Participants can bring their bee suit or veil if they have one, or protective gear can be provided. All participants are to wear closed-toed and closed-heel shoes, long pants and a long-sleeved shirt.

The California Master Beekeeping Program uses science-based information to educate stewards and ambassadors for honey bees and beekeeping. For more information, contact Mather at wmather@ucdavis.edu.

Even Organic Production of Strawberries Not Sustainable

Data Shows Even Organic Production Uses Resources

By Jessica Theisman, Associate Editor

Is growing strawberries organically sustainable? That’s something that Surendra Dara is trying to find out. Dara is a UC Cooperative Extension Advisor in Entomology and Biologicals. He is based in San Luis Obispo County as well as Santa Barbara County. Dara met with California Ag Today recently and let us in on his research and some of his findings.

“I have not come across a mainstream grower that has told me that organic is sustainable,” Dara said.

After pulling in data and understanding the inputs, Dara is asking if there is anybody out there that has a different opinion.

“When we are talking about sustainability, we are looking only in terms of non-chemical being the sustainable, ecological practice,” he said.

There are such things as organic pesticides that harm natural enemies.

“Some of the organic ones can be as bad as some of the chemicals,” Dara said.

Data is showing that growing strawberries organically has not been sustainable economically. In terms of the carbon footprint and the bigger picture, “even organic production is not sustainable with the resources because certainly some resources are being used up,” Dara said.

First-Ever UC Cost Study for Primocane-Bearing Blackberries Released

Primocane-Bearing Extends Production Season

By Pam Kan-Rice, UC ANR

The first-ever cost study of primocane-bearing blackberries in California has been published by UC ANR’s Agricultural Issues Center and UC Cooperative Extension. With primocane-bearing, growers can extend the blackberry production season.

“What differentiates primocane-bearing blackberry from the traditional floricane-bearing is that it bears fruit in the first year rather than the second,” explained co-author Mark Bolda, a UC Cooperative Extension advisor.

“Which, of course, opens a world of opportunity for growers, since they are able to produce fruit in the first year rather than the second, as has traditionally been the case,” Bolda said. “That’s what makes this study so interesting to us.”

Primocanes are the green, vegetative stalks of the blackberry plant, generally the first-year cane. The second year, they become floricanes, flowering and fruiting. 

The study presents sample costs to establish, produce, and harvest primocane-bearing blackberries in the Central Coast region of Santa Cruz, Monterey, and San Benito counties.

The analysis is based on a hypothetical well-managed farming operation using practices common to the region. The costs, materials and practices shown in this study will not apply to all farms. Growers, UC ANR Cooperative Extension farm advisors, and other agricultural associates provided input and reviewed the methods and findings of the study.

This study assumes a farm operation size of 30 contiguous acres of rented land, with primocane-bearing blackberries for fresh market planted on 15 acres. The crop is hand-harvested and packed into 4.5 pound trays. During the establishment year, there is a four-month harvest: July through August. Primocane blackberries can produce fruit on first-year growth. There is also a four-month harvest for each of the four production years.

The authors describe assumptions in detail and present a table of costs and returns based on those assumptions about production, input materials, prices, and yields. A ranging analysis shows the impact on net returns of alternative yields and prices. Other tables show the monthly cash costs; the costs and returns per acre; hourly equipment costs; and the whole farm annual equipment, investment, and business overhead costs.

The study also has an expanded section on labor, which includes information on California’s new minimum wage and overtime laws.

“This work investigating the economics of a newer cultural system for our area came out of a close collaboration between UCCE academics and area growers,” said Bolda, who serves Santa Cruz, Monterey and San Benito counties, “so the level of detail and accuracy is outstanding.”

Free copies of this study and other sample costs of production studies for many commodities are available. To download the cost studies, visit the UC Davis Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics website at https://coststudies.ucdavis.edu.

The cost and returns studies program is funded by the UC Agricultural Issues Center and UC Cooperative Extension, both of which are part of the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, and the UC Davis Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics.

For additional information or an explanation of the calculations used in the studies, contact the UC Agricultural Issues Center at (530) 752-4651 or UC Cooperative Extension advisors Mark Bolda (831) 763-8025 or Laura Tourte (831) 763-8005 in Santa Cruz County.

Berry Industry Without Methyl Bromide

Berry Industry Must Now Work Smarter in Post Methyl Bromide Era

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

The strawberry fruit production industry, with the exception of plant nurseries, has reached the point where methyl bromide is no longer available under any circumstances, and new alternatives or strategies must be found to protect strawberries from serious diseases.

The University of California is focused on a holistic approach, which includes the tried-and-true method of integrated pest management in this post Methyl Bromide era.

“None of the alternative fumigants are as good as methyl bromide,” said Mark Bolda, UC Cooperative Extension Farm Advisor for Santa Cruz County, who is working closely with growers on alternative methods. “So one area that we could focus on is different strategies at the time of planting. For example, strawberries have different chill times. You must add cold conditioning to give the plant more vigor.”

Mark Bolda

There are many questions. Could the colors of the plastic mulch that growers are using manage the temperatures of the soil? How about the amount of fertilizer that is being used?

“We need to start integrating these variables into the way we grow strawberries with the lack of fumigants that are as effective as methyl bromide,” Bolda explained. “We need to integrate all these things and others in order to grow berries with the lack of available fumigants that are as effective as methyl bromide.”

“It’s a little disappointing that here we are at zero-hour and we do not have this worked out,” he continued. “The University of California Cooperative Extension have had a number of meetings in my office, as well as other places where we get many people in the same room to try to figure out what we know and what we don’t know.”

“There’s a lot of smart people in the industry, and I know we can get on this and find solutions,” he said.

Preventing the Spread of ACP

Valley Citrus Growers Continue Vigilance

By Jessica Theisman, Associate Editor
ACP
USDA ACP Cooperative Program Map (Source:
California Citrus Pest & Disease Prevention Program)

The spread of Asian Citrus Psyllid (ACP) continues to be a looming threat for Central Valley citrus growers as it vectors Huanglongbing (HLB), a disease that destroys citrus trees. Greg Douhan, a University of California Cooperative Extension Tulare County citrus farm advisor reported to California Ag Today recently that, “There have been so many people onboard really working at this from multiple angles, and we’re in the eradication mode. We want to make sure the insect doesn’t get established in the San Joaquin Valley.”

“If one were to look at a map of ACP infestation in California [such as CDFA Quarantine Maps and California Citrus Pest & Disease Prevention Program Threat map], they may consider it to be endemic in the Los Angeles area. Rest assured that anytime ACP is found in a trap, the CDFA sprays everything in that area within 400 meters.”

Douhan said the Valley is on high alert to find ACP in traps. “

If researchers discover a cluster of finds in any particular area, we manage some spray programs and try to get all the growers to do a coordinated effort in order to try to combat it,” he said.

SaveOurCitrusIn addition, the SAVE OUR CITRUS app is a free USDA iPhone app to report and identify the four leading citrus diseases: citrus greening, citrus canker, citrus black spot and sweet orange scab. Report your symptoms, upload a photo, and citrus experts will respond.

So far, the practices have been working well.

“I think most of the growers are very well informed,” Douhan said, “and are taking this very seriously because it is this their livelihood.”

GMO Technology Can Help Prevent Starvation

First World Activists Dictate to Third World

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

Needed GMO technology to help citizens in Third World countries is being thwarted by activist groups in First World countries who are anti-GMO, said Alison Van Eenennaam, a UCANR Cooperative Extension Specialist focused on Animal Genomics at UC Davis.

“If the African people choose to use this to develop better bananas, they should have the right to use that and not be dictated to by activist groups in the First World promoting fear around this technology,” she said.

GMO technology could greatly benefit those in the developing world, especially those who struggle with starvation on a daily basis.

“Most people have never seen starvation. People take food for granted, and when you see people that have problems in their agricultural production systems that are actually affecting the food security, you have to address those problems, whether they be drought or disease problems,” Van Eenennaam explained.

“And I’m all for using whatever technology that works best to address a problem. Maybe it’s conventional breeding or maybe its GMO, or gene editing. I don’t really care. I just want to use the best tool that is available. But it doesn’t make sense to take some tools off the table for no reason, and I think that’s what’s happening around the debate of genetic engineering,” she said.

And the use of GMO crops in a third world country has dramatically decreased the use of pesticides, which should be celebrated by activists.

“About 90 percent of the farmers growing GMO crops are on small acreage producers in the developing world, that are growing insect-protected Bt cotton. And the dramatic decrease of insecticide use resulting from that—well environmentalist should be singing this from the rooftops,” Van Eenennaam said.

“It’s incomprehensible to me that if your real intent is to decrease pesticide use in agriculture, to not appreciate what those Bt crops have done for global insecticide use is to be willfully ignorant of what the data shows,” Van Eenennaam said. “It’s just a win-win for everyone.”

Grain Diseases Must Be Closely Monitored

Diseases are Always Evolving

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

Mark Lundy is a UC Cooperative Extension Specialist in grain cropping systems at UC Davis. Lundy runs trials on grain crops because California is such a diverse environment and there are different conditions from year to year so it’s important to be consistent in measuring yield and crop quality, grain diseases, and agronomic traits on small grains.

Lundy’s work is predominantly on California wheat, but there are many trials on barley.

“Improved varieties have been the mainstay of my work,” Lundy said. “I came at it from a water and nitrogen management background, and one of our goals is trying to disentangle the environment that you can’t control from the environment that you can control. But this is the second year where we have some of those gradients in there so we are trying to maintain the attributes we have, while also trying to add some value.”

And diseases have been closely monitored within the trial system, noted Lundy.

“We do try to keep track of disease, and so when there are diseases of concern such as stripe rust, which was historically a big problem for growers, it has been successfully addressed through breeding,” he said.

The breeding is spearheaded by Jorge Dubcovsky, a professor at UC Davis Department of Plant Sciences working on wheat genes.

“Stripe rust is still something we have to keep an eye on, and it’s certainly a disease that is always evolving,” Lundy said. “And because resistance is not permanent, we’re always looking for the big diseases that can be detrimental to the production system, such as stripe rust.”

“We also keeping track of leaf rust,” Lundy said. “I’m not a pathologist by training, so I’ve been learning on the job, and I’m grateful to the former UC Cooperative Extension Specialist Lee Jackson, who was a pathologist. He created a nice knowledge base for us to build on.”

Band Canker Affecting Younger Almonds

Almond Band Canker Becoming a Big Problem

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

Brent Holtz is a UC cooperative extension Pomology Farm Advisor for San Joaquin County. He recently told California Ag Today about how the fungus band canker on almonds is becoming more prevalent in the San Joaquin Valley.

“I’ve seen a lot more band canker, which is caused by a pathogenic fungus, Botryosphaeria dothidea, and we’re seeing it on young orchards, especially in in San Joaquin county,” said Holtz.  “We’ve seen that a lot out in the delta and we’ve seen it in eastern San Joaquin county where the soils tend to be a little heavier, maybe old dairy ground and richer and we don’t really know why.”

“We’re seeing so much more, but it’s a fungus that infects usually the trunk or the main scaffolds, and we call it band canker because sap balls will come out at the site of the infection and create a band that circles around the trunk or the scaffold,” Holtz explained. “That’s why we call it band canker.”

It’s starting to show up in the orchards that have not been shaken yet, as a wound needs to happen before the infection sets in.

“We think it’s showing up in a lot of orchards before we start shaking the trees and usually in most cankers, we would have to have a wound that would have to happen first before the infection would take place either through a wound or a wound from shaking the tree,” Holtz said.

“Some of these orchards with symptoms tend to be trees that are growing very vigorously, and we suspect maybe that they’re growing so fast, growth cracks are created that the fungus may have got in and caused the infection.”

Trees with band canker on the trunk may not survive. And band cankered scaffolds have to be removed, which affects the tree’s architecture and will reduce yields.

There is evidence that micro sprinklers hitting the trunk could also increase the start of an infection.

“It seems to be showing up a little higher concentration where it was on a micro sprinkler irrigation system, where the sprinkler was actually hitting the trunk,” Holtz said. “We don’t seem to see it as much in orchards with a drip irrigation, so we are advising growers to consider drip or to put a splitter in their micro sprinklers so it can avoid wetting the trunk repeatedly with each irrigation.”

Mills Seek Out California Cotton Crop

California Cotton Crop Has High Quality

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

California Ag Today recently spoke with Dan Munk, Irrigation Soils and Cotton Farm Advisor of the UC Cooperative Extension in Fresno County, about the state’s cotton crop. California farmers have an advantage in that they get a higher price per pound due to the high quality produced.

Dan Munk, UC Cooperative Extension, Fresno County

“The San Joaquin Valley, and really California, does enjoy the production of higher quality cotton,” Munk said. “When mills are looking for the highest quality, extra long staple cotton, oftentimes they’re going to be going straight to California because of the consistency of the crop, the good color, the good strength, the good fiber qualities that typically make up a good and optimum fiber for translating into fabric.”

Munk said that an extended gin period could be implemented due to the increased crop in the Valley. “I’m not aware of any closed gins that are going to be opening up after closure. Although that might be the case for one or two, I imagine we’ll see extended gin period this year to take care of the additional crop.”

And while there is a trend to go with innovative harvesters that produce round bales of cotton, that will only be true for bigger operations, Munk sad.

“It’s going to be popular for the larger growers, and so we are going to see increases in equipment for those round bales, but for the most part, many of the smaller growers will not be converting any time soon to move to those round bale producing pickers,” he said.

Munk explained that the rainstorm coming through the Central San Joaquin Valley in early September had a minimal effect on the cotton.

“Certainly, parts of Fresno, Tulare and Kings County … there’s parts of the Valley that got quite wet, I’m sure. But most of the cotton had not opened, and because of those delayed crops, we’re probably not going to be impacted in a significant way at all by the rains that we saw,” he said.