Livestock Owners Asked to Weigh in on Fire Impact

Livestock Owners Should Participate in Fire Survey

By Pam Kan-Rice, UC Agriculture & Natural Resources

Preparing a farm for wildfire is more complicated when it involves protecting live animals. To assess the impact of wildfire on livestock production, University of California researchers are asking livestock producers to participate in a survey. 

People raising cattle, sheep, goats, poultry, swine, horses, llamas, alpacas, aquaculture species or other production-oriented animals in California who have experienced at least one wildfire on their property within the last 10 years are asked to participate in the FIRE survey.

“We will aim to quantify the impact of wildfires in different livestock production systems,” said Beatriz Martinez Lopez, director of the Center for Animal Disease Modeling and Surveillance in the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. “The idea is also to create a risk map showing areas more likely to experience wildfires with high economic impact in California.

“This economic and risk assessment, to the best of our knowledge, has not been done, and we hope to identify potential actions that ranchers can take to reduce or mitigate their losses if their property is hit by wildfire.”

Martínez López, who is also an associate professor in the Department of Medicine & Epidemiology at UC Davis, is teaming up with UC Cooperative Extension livestock and natural resources advisors and wildfire specialists around the state to conduct the study.

“Right now, we have no good estimate of the real cost of wildfire to livestock producers in California,” said Rebecca Ozeran, UC Cooperative Extension livestock and natural resources advisor for Fresno and Madera counties. “Existing UCCE forage loss worksheets cannot account for the many other ways that wildfire affects livestock farms and ranches. As such, we need producers’ input to help us calculate the range of immediate and long-term costs of wildfire.”

Stephanie Larson, UC Cooperative Extension livestock and range management advisor for Sonoma and Marin counties, agreed, saying, “The more producers who participate, the more accurate and useful our results will be.”

“We hope the survey results will be used by producers across the state to prepare for wildfire,” said Matthew Shapero, UC Cooperative Extension livestock and natural resources advisor for Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, “And by federal and private agencies to better allocate funds for postfire programs available to livestock producers.”

The survey is online at http://bit.ly/FIREsurvey. It takes 15 to 30 minutes, depending on the number of properties the participant has that have been affected by wildfire.

“Survey answers are completely confidential and the results will be released only as summaries in which no individual’s answers can be identified,” said Martínez López. “This survey will provide critical information to create the foundation for future fire economic assessments and management decisions.”

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Spotted Wilt Virus Light This Season on Tomatoes

Thrips Widespread But Yields are High

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

Spotted wilt virus on tomatoes was a big concern at the beginning of the season. California Ag Today spoke with Tom Turini, vegetable crops farm advisor for the University of California Cooperative Extension in Fresno County, about the topic. We caught up with him on the west side of Fresno County. He said despite the potential virus pressure, tomato yields have been very high this year.

“Thrips are the vector of tomato spotted wilt, and while the thrip distribution is much wider than it was last year, it doesn’t look like we’re seeing the level of economic damage,” Turini said.

Tom Turini

“We had had concerns initially about problems, and of course that could get worse as we get later in the season, but so far our yields have been very, very high,” Turini said.

He explained that the strong yields is in part due to the mild temperatures during the spring, so there was good early fruit set. “Even that, I would expect that now with these higher temperatures over the last six weeks, we’re going to start seeing the effects of the yield-robbing virus with a later harvest, he said.

Last year, the concern was with fresh market tomatoes.

“We had concerns late last year in the fresh market, but this year it’s at moderate levels of economic impact. “It doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen in the future, but at this point, it looks like we were spared, at least for the early season crop.

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Spotted Wilt Virus Impacting Tomatoes Again

Virus has Gotten Past Resistant Gene

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

Tomato spotted wilt virus is becoming big in the central San Joaquin Valley, according to Tom Turini, University of California Cooperative Extension Farm Advisor in Fresno County for vegetable crops. The virus had earlier been spotted in lettuce, and this has caused some concern in this season’s tomato crop.

Tom Turini

“We had some concerns early in the season that we might be looking at a year where it’ll become a challenge, because we were finding it in lettuce back in February and March in the Huron area,” Turini said. “And then we notice that tomatoes were showing the virus symptoms. We had been managing tomato spotted wilt in processing and fresh market tomatoes largely with a resistance gene, and it seemed that the resistance was breaking.”

The virus is spread by thrips, and the gene in the tomato was the biggest deterrent in combating thrips.

“We were also talking about an IPM program, but the industry was leaning on this gene. This gene became a big part of their spotted wilt prevention program,” Turini said. “While sanitation of weeds was practiced, and there was some thrips management, it was really dependent upon this single gene resistance in the tomatoes, and as of 2016, we saw evidence that that gene was no longer performing.”

Because the virus can wipe out entire tomato fields, researchers are scrambling to find a new way to deter the thrip spreading the virus on tomatoes.

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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.”

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Pistachios Suffer Navel Orangeworm Damage

Overwintering NOW Population Must Be Reduced

By Robert H. Beede, UCCE Farm Advisor, Emeritus

The following is a special report by Robert H. Beede, UCCE Farm Advisor, Emeritus, on the state of the pistachio harvest and the fight against navel orangeworm damage.

Season Wrap Up: It looks like we wound up with about 600 million pounds. Only God knows how many million navel orangeworm got, but you all know it was a bunch! Processors have their hands full delivering the quality nut California is known for. Many growers I speak to ask, “What happened?” From my discussions with many crop consultants, what DIDN’T happen was sanitation! This was not only true for the pistachio growers, but almond producers as well.

Growers barked at me about the wet weather making orchard access difficult to impossible, the size of the trees making sanitation cost prohibitive, and the difficulty in getting the nuts out of the trees. These issues are all true. So, if you decide that you cannot sanitize, then you had best figure out how you are going to run the ranch on pistachios that are 30 to 40 cents less valuable than those with low worm damage.

I know I sound like the donkey’s behind with all the answers, but the pistachio industry needs to join forces with the almond guys to determine what we can collectively do to reduce the overwintering NOW population.

There has been millions spent studying NOW, and I have NEVER waivered on the fact that sanitation is the cornerstone to controlling this beast! I also still think that once we get the kinks out of mating disruption, that everyone should use it as a means to SUPPRESS the population. Note that I did NOT say, “Control it as a stand-alone program,” just in case someone out there wants to stuff words in my pie hole!

We are in DESPERATE need of an effective adult monitoring tool for NOW mating disruption. I hope this comes soon, in order to give pest managers a method of knowing when the pheromone is not reducing mating sufficiently. We also need more research on the cultural and environmental factors affecting the number of early split nuts, which become the NOW link to the new crop at harvest.

Sanitation: Now is the time to begin winter sanitation by removing the nuts that did not come off during harvest. Many of these nuts are blank, but do not assume that all of them are. Research by many good scientists has proven that winter sanitation is the key to breaking the overwintering NOW population cycle, which looms ever greater when the winter is warm and dry. Beginning the season with a large overwintering population simply reduces the effectiveness of your in-season sprays. Although the research has not been done, to my knowledge, the TIMING of sanitation may be a factor in its efficacy.

Nut removal and destruction early in the fall may be more effective, because the percentage of NOW larva in the early instar stages should be greater. This is due to the large peak in egg laying that occurs during hull degradation. Thus, they may be more susceptible to desiccation or fungal attack because of their smaller size. Disturbing their overwintering site from the tree onto the ground early also places more environmental pressure on their survival. This is just my opinion; it may be worthy of investigation.

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Spray Safe Meeting Nov. 17 in Modesto

Event Organized by Stanislaus County Farm Bureau

By Laurie Greene, Founding Editor

Wayne Zipser, executive director of the Stanislaus County Farm Bureau, announced the Farm Bureau will hold a Safe Spray and Safety Event on November 17, at the Modesto Junior College’s West Campus Ag Pavilion, located at 2201 Blue Gum Ave. in Modesto. The Stanislaus County Farm Bureau is a non-profit, volunteer membership organization that provides many programs like Spray Safe to assist its members and to educate the general public.

“The Spray Safe meeting will be a big event,” Zipser said, “not only because will it cover how to safely apply pesticides, but also provide tractor safety training, [pesticide application] mask fit testing and physicals [if needed for mask fit testing] for farm employees.”

“Registration opens at 7 AM,” Zipser explained. “A grower panel will start the day at 8 AM with a discussion of the safety and procedure challenges encountered by some of our folks who do pesticide applications. Given the new rules for pesticide applications around schools and preschools, we want to hear how they cope with and mitigate these new challenges.”

The Safe Spray Meeting will also feature a trade show. Attendance is free, courtesy of event sponsors, and lunch is provided.

Additional topics will include: drift prevention, school notification requirements, calibration, sexual harassment prevention, equipment safety and heat illness prevention. The meeting also offers 4 hours of Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) Continuing Education (CE) credit.

The all-Ag committee coordinating the event includes the Stanislaus County Farm Bureau, the Ag Commissioner’s Office, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and the University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE).

For more information, contact the Stanislaus County Farm Bureau at 209-522-7278.

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Fresno County Cotton Bloom Nearing

Cotton Bloom Is Later This Year

By Melissa Moe, Associate Editor

Cotton is an important crop in the Central Valley. We spoke with Daniel Munk, an irrigation, crop nutrition management, and cotton production systems farm advisor for UC Cooperative Extension, Fresno County. He told us about the heat that Fresno has been seeing and it’s effect on the upcoming cotton bloom in the area.

“The only good side on the heat is that we haven’t had this heavy, very high temperature heatwave occurring during the bloom period. The problem with heatwaves is that you can get pollen sterilization and incomplete pollenization of the flower. With that, you can get reduced seed count and you get flower drop. Certainly don’t want to have these above average temperatures well into 105 and beyond during our bloom period,” Munk said.

“I think we’ll see some of our early bloom fields occur right about July 4th, which is a little bit later than we’d like to see it. We’re talking Pima and Acala as far as the bloom period. Well over 90% of our cotton here in California is Pima cotton,” he said.

It’s advised that farmers monitor their crop for necessary nutrient application, and consider their options when doing so.

“I think with the variable stands that we have out there right now and the variable productivity of those stands, it’s certainly appropriate to consider the variation and nutrient availability and requirements out there. This would be a good year to look at differential applications of a nutrients in a field, particularly where there’s some stand issues,” Munk said.

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Fine Tuning Almond Irrigation

New technology helps farmers use water to maximum effectiveness

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

At the recent big Almond Conference in Sacramento, there were a lot of discussions on water use in almonds. And while growers are doing a great job in conserving, there’s always ways to improve, according to Larry Schwankl, UC Cooperative Extension Irrigation Specialist Emeritus. He shared with California Ag Today the take-home points of his talk in front of several hundred growers.

larry_schwankl
Irrigation Specialist Larry Schwankl

“We have been researching, ‘How much do growers need to irrigate?’ We want to make sure that their irrigation system are effective and that they know how long to operate it and then ways of checking to make sure that they’re doing a good job and utilizing soil moisture sensors and devices,” Schwankl said.

Schwankl also suggested that growers use pressure bomb to accurately measure the pressure of water inside a leaf. When used, it’s possible to measure the approximate water status of plant tissues.

In using a pressure bomb, the stem of a leaf is placed in a sealed chamber, and pressurized gas is added to the chamber slowly. The device has been calibrated to indicate whether or not that leaf is stressed for water.

“We can predict how much water the tree’s going to need, and we can predict how much an irrigation system is going to put on, but there’s errors in all predictions,” Schwankl said.   “We need to go back and check and make sure that we’re staying on target. That’s where knowing the soil moisture and the plant water status really helps.”

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Initial Walnut Irrigation Can be Delayed

Walnut Irrigation Research Update

By Brian German, Associate Broadcaster

 

First springtime walnut irrigation can be delayed, according to a UC Cooperative Extension team in Tehama County working on some fascinating research regarding irrigation practices. Allan Fulton is an Irrigation and Water Resource Advisor who covers Tehama, Colusa, Shasta and Glenn counties. “We actually just finished one of our irrigation experiment harvests this weekend. It was looking at early season water management decisions, basically deciding when to begin the irrigation season,” Fulton said.

allan_fulton
Allan Fulton, UC Cooperative Extension Irrigation Specialist

Growers typically begin irrigating their walnuts sometime between late April and early May. In order to be as thorough as possible in their experiment, Fulton and his team have been pushing the limits beyond what most growers would ever consider. “We had some treatments that got no irrigation until almost the end of June,” Fulton explained.

Now in its third year, the research experiment is generating information that will provide a variety of benefits. “The whole motivation is to avoid possible injury to the trees from irrigating too much, too early, from lack of aeration and damage to the root system,” Fulton said. Delayed irrigation, while having no impact on yield or nut size, can also provide a bit of water savings. “We’re trying to look for the sweet spot,” with less intensive early season irrigation in favor of root health, tree health and disease prevention.

California walnut orchard, walnut irrigationThe research is being conducted in the northern Sacramento Valley primarily using the Chandler variety of walnut trees. Fulton has spent some time working in the San Joaquin Valley as well and understands different weather conditions can be a significant factor when applying their findings to other regions. “Our spring rainfall is quite a bit different than other walnut growing areas. Usually we’ve got an added source of water that sometimes you might not have in the southern San Joaquin Valley,” Fulton noted. From his experience, he suggested growers could usually wait until “the first week of May in most years, before really getting pressed for irrigation.”

The location of the research exposes groves to the opportunity to receive “more rain during the dormant season with a better chance at a deeper profile in moisture before you ever break dormancy,” Fulton said. More regional rainfall is possible in the spring as well, while the trees are growing.

The information gathered so far indicates growers should not jump the gun on springtime irrigation, particularly if there is still any kind of standing water issues. “The data is starting to suggest that you’ve got some room. You don’t have to irrigate at the first sign of heat; you can use a little bit of the stored moisture coming out of winter,” Fulton said. He also noted “It’s a lot more difficult to recover from a damaged tree with a sick roots system,” than it is to recover from a lack of early season irrigation.

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Weed Control in Rice Fields

Controlling Herbicide-Resistant Weeds in California Rice Fields

By Emily McKay Johnson, Associate Editor

Whitney Brim-DeForest, UC ANR Cooperative Extension rice farm advisor for Sutter, Yuba, Placer and Sacramento Counties in California, currently works in all rice production areas across the state to identify problematic weeds in rice fields.

Given her background in weed science, Brim-DeForest explained California rice growers flood their fields for weed suppression, as well as use herbicides for weed control and management. “I’d say that we do have quite a few herbicides right now. As we continue to get new herbicide resistant weeds every year,” said Brim-DeForest, “we are starting to run out of options, especially for some growers who encounter herbicide resistance.”

Brim-DeForest believes herbicide resistance was first discovered in the early 1990’s, but “has become significantly problematic for growers within the last 20 years. Because of the herbicides we use and the limited number that we have, we have ended up with an increasing number of weeds that are herbicide resistant every year. Since about 2000,  we’ve had a new species or herbicide that encounters resistance every year,” she stated.

Brim-DeForest treats a multitude of weed species in her line of work. “I would say the watergrass species is our biggest problem,” she noted. “We also have a weedy red rice that was discovered in the early 2000s. It is not widespread, but we do have a few fields with it,” she explained.

Featured Photo: Whitney Brim-DeForest, UC ANR Cooperative Extension rice farm advisor.

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