Palo Verde Valley Prepares for Fall Crops

Dr. Vonny Barlow, a UC Cooperative Extension Entomology Farm Advisor in Blythe located in Imperial County, reports the Palo Verde Valley has a lot of activity this time of year.

“Currently we’re transitioning out of the summer crops; temperatures are getting cooler; we’re no longer in the 114° to 116° F zone; and nighttime temperatures are dropping. So we are transitioning to our late fall/winter crops, which is predominantly lettuce in the Palo Verde Valley,” said Barlow.

“A lot of those growers out there are pre-irrigating their fields now to increase soil friability—to break it up so that when they come in and mulch the soil, they can create fine soil and soil particles—because lettuce seed needs good soil contact for it to imbibe water and germinate,” said Barlow.

“The Palo Verde Valley is unique in the desert in that it is a highly productive agricultural region. It’s the second largest alfalfa production in that area outside the San Joaquin Valley, and it actually has greater production than the inner-mountain areas in Northern California. We have plentiful sunshine, good soil types, easily-drained soils, and available water for irrigation, so that’s the trifecta for agriculture,” said Barlow.

Record Walnut Crop Harvest

By Colby Tibbet, California Ag Today Reporter

With a predicted record 545,000 tons to be harvested, the walnut industry is getting very busy this time of year.

Janine Hasey is a UC Cooperative Extension Tree Crops Farm Advisor and County Director for Sutter-Yuba Counties. She also assists growers in Colusa County.

“We started early up here, but the hot weather we’ve had has slowed things down again. So we’re working on early varieties, a lot of Serrs are in; Vinas are in, and Tulares are being harvested, and we are trying to get the Howards harvested.”

“Right now it sounds like we’re on track for that record production prediction to come true,” said Hasey. “Growers are now harvesting early varieties; I have just talked to a grower who doubled Serr production from last year, and her Ashley production has tripled or more,” Hasey commented.

Growers have used a lot of Ethrel, a common late-season spray, to help speed up harvest and trigger a more even harvest period. “Some growers are saying it has worked, while others say maybe not so well,” said Hasey.

In addition to the hot temperatures and dryness, Hasey said, “we’ve had a little bit of dew last week. We are expecting some possible rain showers on Thursday…which would be really good to get the walnut hulls splitting, and get things moving again.”

Drought lessons from a sheep rancher

Source: Brad Hooker, UC Davis

While a severe drought continues to devastate California agriculture, one sheep rancher in Oroville has found a centuries-old solution at the bottom of his wood stove — and researchers at UC Davis are paying attention.

After dumping ash from a weekend cookout in his backyard, Mel Thompson noticed the grass grew a little better. On the advice of Glenn Nader, a UC Cooperative Extension farm advisor based in Yuba City, Thompson took the initiative to research wood ash on his own, going as far as to establish a connection with an Oroville-based energy plant 20 minutes away, which was paying millions to deliver wood ash to the landfill.

Today, the difference in growth from that wood ash can be seen in two adjoining pastures on Thompson’s foothill ranch. One layered in ash three years ago has chest-high grass despite the drought, while the untreated pasture has considerably shorter ground cover.

While the benefits of supplementing crops with ash have long been known, the UC Davis researchers were interested in specifically how it was altering the soil composition to promote plant growth and how it could help other ranchers in this Northern California region.

“It has improved our feed production significantly,” says Thompson. “With that, in conjunction with fencing and the rotational grazing, we seem to be doing OK through this drought period.”

Ken Tate, a plant sciences professor and a Cooperative Extension rangeland watershed specialist, recently surveyed more than 500 ranchers and says Thompson falls into the roughly 5 percent of California ranchers practicing these types of strategies in hopes of gaining more productivity from their land.

“Mel is what we call an early adopter, someone who has a large toolbox and a lot of information that he makes use of,” Tate says. “He’s an innovator and experimenter in the industry.”

UC leads a long tradition of environmental stewardship in California

By  Brook Gamble, Community Education Specialist, UC ANR California Naturalist Program, Hopland Research & Extension Center

Featured Photo:  Jeannette Warnert

 

Stewardship: \ˈstü-ərd-ˌship: the activity or job of protecting and being responsible for something.

In 1862 the Morrill Act was passed to support and maintain colleges of agriculture and mechanical arts, including a later provision that included the donation of public land. As one of the first land grant Universities, the University of California was well positioned to manage agricultural extension across the state as part of the Smith Lever Act of 1915. Today, many people think of California agriculture as strawberries, broccoli and rice; but it is livestock and forestry that dominated California working landscapes in those early days.

Farmer seeks assistance from UCCE farm advisor on the running board of a historic UC Cooperative Extension vehicle.
Farmer seeks assistance from UCCE farm advisor on the running board of a historic UC Cooperative Extension vehicle.

Research and extension efforts to improve forestry practices and range production throughout California have evolved over time. Research questions gradually changed over the last 100 years from a “how can we economically produce more” perspective to how can rangeland management practices improve ecosystem composition and function? How can extension programs be employed to educate stakeholders and help land managers implement change? How can we conserve working landscapes for biodiversity conservation in a period of rapid development? How can we assess and monitor management effectiveness?

This year, the University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources celebrates 100 years of UC Cooperative Extension serving as a research and outreach partner in communities throughout California. For an interesting read on this rich history and the evolution of UC rangeland management perspectives, see M. George, and W. J. Clawson’s The History of UC RangelandExtension, Research, and Teaching: A Perspective (2014). Additionally, UC ANR California Rangelands Website includes a free Annual Rangeland E-book; current project descriptions, publications, and online learning modules: http://californiarangeland.ucdavis.edu/.

Maintaining and improving environmental quality on public and private land requires an informed strategy that encourages stewardship by land owners and community members. In present times, we face the challenges of managing land in the face of growing population, drought, invasive species, and climate change, just to name a few forces of global change. Out of necessity, our broader perspective on land management has shifted to one of “ecosystem stewardship” which is defined as a strategy to respond to and shape social-ecological systems under conditions of uncertainty and change to sustain the supply and opportunities for use of ecosystem services to support human well-being (Chapin et al. 2010). The stewardship framework focuses on the dynamics of ecological change and assesses management options that may influence the path or rate of that change.

Using an ecosystem stewardship framework, the UC ANR’s California Naturalist Program is building astatewide network of environmental stewards. The program is designed to introduce the public, teachers, interpreters, docents, green collar workers, natural resource managers, and budding scientists to the wonders of our unique ecology and engage these individuals in the stewardship of California’s natural communities.

Tejon Ranch Conservancy California Naturalists help with a pipe capping project to keep small animals and birds from getting trapped (Photo: Scot Pipkin)
Tejon Ranch Conservancy California Naturalists help with a
pipe capping project to keep small animals and birds from
getting trapped (Photo: Scot Pipkin)

The California Naturalist Program uses a science curriculum which includeschapters in forest, woodland, and range resources and management, geology, climate, water, wildlife, and plants. Experiential learning and service projects instill a deep appreciation for the natural communities of the state and serve to engage people in natural resource conservation.

Land management is the focus of many of the partnering organizations that offer the California Naturalist Program. For example, land conservancies and preserves are involved including, Tejon Ranch Conservancy, at 270,000 acres the largest contiguous private ranch in California; Pepperwood Preserve, a private rangeland preserve dedicated to conservation science in the Northern SF Bay Area; UC Berkeley’s Sagehen Creek Field Station, a forested research station in the Sierra; UC Hopland Research & Extension Center, a rangeland research and education facility in California’s north coast region; and the Sierra Foothill Conservancy, a non-profit land trust in the Western Sierra Nevada including Fresno, Madera, eastern Merced, and Mariposa counties. Land trusts are increasingly responsible for conserving working landscapes and open space across the state and often rely on a trained volunteer corps to steward these valuable landscapes. UC ANR is pleased to advance training opportunities for those actively managing these lands.

California Naturalists trained at these locations and more are involved in ecosystem stewardship, rangeland management, watershed restoration, and helping outdoor education programs that benefit the environment and people of all ages. Naturalists have donated over 13,000 hours of in state service in the last three years. These types of stewardship opportunities are essential for the active adaptive management that both public and private lands need to ensure resilience and continue to provide ecosystem services that we all rely on. These trained environmental stewards are an important part of this growing community of practice who not only steward land but also pass on critical knowledge about California’s natural and managed ecosystems.

With Special Thanks to Brook Gamble.

 

UC Berkeley’s Sagehen Creek Field Station

 

California Naturalists examine watershed maps

Cottage Food Industry on Growth Trend in California

A little more than a year ago, a California law went into effect that gave small farmers and even home gardeners a new opportunity to sell value-added products.

Shermain Hardesty_Page_1
Shermain Hardesty

The California Homemade Food Act permits individuals to produce certain types of cottage food in home kitchens to sell in limited quantities to the public.

That sounds simple, but like most laws, there are plenty of caveats. The legislation has stipulations about the types of foods allowable, registration, permits and labeling requirements.

UC Cooperative Extension has been helping farmers and home gardeners who produce fruits, vegetables, nuts, herbs, and honey take advantage of the new opportunity at workshops around the state, reported the Stockton Record.

Shermain Hardesty, UC Small Farm Program extension economist, is coordinating the project. Hardesty thinks that marketing may be the hardest part of creating a successful cottage food businesses for many farmers and other entrepreneurs.

At the workshops, Hardesty teaches the basic “Four P’s” of marketing: product, place, price and promotion.

Could more dryland farming be in California’s future?

By Todd Fitchette; Farm Press Blog 

Slate.com’s “Thirsty West: The No-Water Way” is the latest in a string of popular press articles to suggest that California might be better off relying less on irrigated agriculture and more on dryland farming.

Generations ago, California settlers and residents established a system of water conveyance that allowed great cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco to be built and agriculture to flourish.

Modern irrigation paved the way for greater crop yields and the ability to feed a growing society that left the farm starting with the industrial revolution.

What would an article in the popular press be without a few gross misstatements, such as the oft-repeated meme that California agriculture uses 80 percent of the state’s water supply in an average year?

This is far from an average year. Still, agriculture typically uses about 43 percent of the water allotted while 46 percent is consumed by the environment. For California, that means much of that 46 percent is allowed to flow unimpeded to the Pacific Ocean.

Urban users consume the remaining 11 percent, according to the State of California.

With no surface water allotted to much of California agriculture this year, and the ever-shrinking ground water supplies, California agriculture will have a fraction of its typical annual supply of irrigation water for the few crops farmers can maintain.

We really do not know how much remains in underground aquifers, though it’s a safe bet to suggest “not enough.”

The premise behind dryland farming comes at a time when drought awareness has increased, though not entirely in practice as California lawns remain watered and cars are washed in driveways.

While dryland farming has its challenges, maybe it’s time for modern agriculture to consider the benefits of the water-thrifty practice and tackle the challenges with all the fervor of a sergeant told by his lieutenant “that can’t be done!”

While dryland farming is utilized to a small extent in California, its close cousin could be the no-till practices recommended by researchers Jeff Mitchell of the University of California.

Mitchell continually promotes the benefits of no-till and strip-till conservation practices that help hold in soil moisture and provide a host of other benefits to growers. He’ll readily admit there are challenges under California’s current farming systems.

While farmers elsewhere in the U.S. successfully employ the practice, California farmers seem reluctant to do the same.

Still, Mitchell works with California growers to employ conservation tillage practices that work and to transform machinery used in standard farming practices to achieve results.

Since Mitchell works with UC Cooperative Extension, his efforts move beyond the purely academic to the practical.

As California agriculture continues to seek ways to be as water thrifty as possible, and new technologies are developed to meet those ends, we need not be so quick to say “that won’t work” and instead embrace ideas that right now might only be a “what-if” conversation between a third-year undergrad and her college Ag professor.

Ventura County ACP Report Less Than Uplifting

Joanne O’Sullivan, a licensed PCA and QAL (Qualified Applicator), and a Citrus Pest & Disease Prevention Program Grower Liaison in Ventura County, reported TODAY that four new urban settings with 25 or more citrus trees on the property have been discovered in Asian citrus psyllid treatment areas in recent weeks. These four finds are within the same area as the commercial Camarillo find in March.

CDFA deems these orchards also as commercial; therefore, the homeowners are financially responsible for the treatment.

O’Sullivan said, “The first two homeowners I contacted were more than willing to cooperate and take on the financial costs of spraying. They understand it is necessary for the benefit of both their trees and the health of Ventura County’s citrus industry. The third homeowner opted to remove 15 of his trees and CDFA then sprayed the remaining ten. The last and remaining homeowner will take a bit more convincing, but I am confident they will come to see the great benefits of working with us.”

“On a less uplifting note,” O’Sullivan continued, “it has been an unlucky month for Fillmore and Piru producers. Piru has been hit again in the Bardsdale area with two ACP confirmations in the same week. These same growers had completed the ACP psyllid spray protocol in November of last year. It goes without saying that the producers are less than delighted to be repeating treatment again so soon.”

She reiterated a very important element in the ACP/HLB program,
”The goal of the [Ventura County ACP-HLB] Task Force has been to delay as long as possible the introduction of HLB into Ventura County. As a result of the progressive and aggressive work from producers, packers, pest advisors, operators and the CDFA and county trapping programs, Ventura remains one of the most successful ACP/HLB programs in the state.

A critical element of ACP treatment protocol for organic growers is the importance of scouting post-treatment. All blocks must be aggressively monitored following applications, using the sampling protocol that is included in the ACP CONFIRMATION IN YOUR AREA packet.

Current protocol requires organic producers to sample every two weeks after the third treatment. Sampling every two weeks allows the grower to document control. Early detection and swift eradication is our best defensive against the introduction of HLB and its devastating effects on Ventura citrus producers.

Every producer – commercial and organic – should be familiar with the signs of Asian citrus psyllid. Literature on identifying ACP is available at the CRB, UCIPM, UC Cooperative Extension as well as from CDFA. Share it with your workers. If you have any doubts about your ability to identify adults, nymphs, and eggs, please contact me, I am always glad to meet with you on your ranch and help you scout.

In closing, I was forwarded an interesting short news article outlining the economic hit Florida has taken as the result of HLB, with annual production dropping from 1,000,000 boxes of fruit to 750,000. This news story is a not- so-gentle reminder of why it is vitally important that everyone working together in a cooperative spirit can keep Florida’s scenario from happening in California.

Take a look:

https://uk.news.yahoo.com/us-orange-production-hit-disease-041911170.html#rOCRoWr

And let’s all keep up the diligent efforts that help keep Ventura’s citrus industry strong.

 

CPDPP

The California Citrus Pest & Disease Prevention Program is a grower-funded program administered by the Citrus Pest & Disease Prevention Committee, which was established to advise the California Secretary of Agriculture and the agricultural industry about efforts to combat serious pests and diseases that could threaten our state’s citrus industry.

Key responsibilities are:

  • Develop informational programs to educate and train residential owners of citrus fruit, local communities, groups and individuals on the prevention/detection of pests, diseases and their vectors specific to citrus.
  • Develop programs for surveying, detecting, analyzing, and treating citrus pests and diseases.
  • Set box assessment to help pay for citrus pest and disease detection, treatment and educational outreach programs.

Photo Credit: UC ANR News Blog

Fresno County Residents Join Immense Statewide Citizen Science Project

The public is invited to join hundreds of elementary school students, Master Gardeners, 4-H members, farm advisors, scientists and nutrition educators at the Garden of the Sun in Fresno from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. May 8 for UC’s largest-ever one-day citizen science project.

The Garden of the Sun is at 1750 N. Winery Ave.

The event is part of the University of California’s statewide Day of Science and Service. Californians throughout the state will take to their smart phones and computers on May 8 to participate in the unprecedented crowd-sourced data collection effort.

(See details at http://beascientist.ucanr.edu.)

Everyone in California is invited to take part by recording observations on three questions:

  • How many pollinators do you see?
  • How do you conserve water?
  • Where is food grown in your community?

The Day of Science and Service marks the 100th birthday of UC Cooperative Extension. In 1914, Congress and the president realized that, in order to feed a great nation, ag research advances from top universities had to reach farmers, so they created the Cooperative Extension.

For 100 years, Cooperative Extension academics have worked side-by-side with farmers to boost yields, battle pests, ensure food safety, protect the environment and make the best use of available irrigation water.

“There is probably no other county that has benefited more from Cooperative Extension than Fresno County,” said Shannon Mueller, director of Fresno County UCCE. “Over the years, our county has become the No. 1 ag county in the world. Agricultural research and teaching have played a tremendous role in achieving that milestone and will continue to do so in the future.”

Fresno County residents can be part of the Day of Science and Service while they enjoy birthday cake, spin a prize wheel, stroll the Garden of the Sun and learn about the UC services that touch their lives and the local economy.

During the opening ceremony at 10:30 a.m., Fresno County Supervisor, District 1, Phil Larson will present a county proclamation honoring Fresno County UC Cooperative Extension’s centennial.

University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources is celebrating 100 years of UC Cooperative Extension researchers and educators drawing on local expertise to conduct agricultural, environmental, economic, youth development and nutrition research that helps California thrive.

Pistachio Growers: Beware of Gill’s Mealybug

David Haviland
David Haviland says pistachio growers should be aware of the damage caused by Gill’s Mealybug.

Gill’s Mealybug May Appear in Orchards Over the Next Few Weeks

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

As Gill’s Mealybug overwinters, a new generation will appear in May, and growers should treat the first generation around June 1.

Gill’s mealybug is a relatively new pest of pistachios in California. “It was first recognized in the late 1990s in a an orchard near Tulare. It has now spread up to Colusa County and has move down to Kern County,” said David Haviland, UC Cooperative Extension Kern County, who organized the field day with Elizabeth Fichtner, UC Cooperative Extension Tulare County.

Tulare County is a hot spot with most pistachio orchards having the bug, which has three generations per year. “Right about harvest time there are a whole bunch of mealybug crawlers hatching, and then they overwinter and become adults in May. These adults will produce an enormous amount of new crawlers the first week of June, which is an important treatment time, right when those crawlers come out,” said Haviland. “The ones that are born the first week of June will become adults in about mid-to-late July, which is the second generation. The mealybugs that are in the tree now are the start of the third generation when they become adults then hatch more young bugs at harvest.”

“Population-wise, growers will get millions of crawlers at harvest, but if you come back to the tree in the spring, you will see maybe one or two per pistachio cluster, so there is a huge winter mortality,” said Haviland.

Haviland stood by a tree that had only about one mealybug per 10 clusters in the May, but now the untreated trees in the trial have clusters that are covered with honeydew, and now blackened with sooty mold, with 30 or 40 adults on the clusters. The lower leaves on the trees were turning black from the sooty mold.

“Typically growers go out in their orchards April and May and see about one mealybug for every 10 clusters. In fact they might not even notice it. But that mealy bug produces about 20 live young, which increases the count to about one per cluster, but now those adults give rise to 15 or 20 crawlers per cluster which causes clusters to be moist and black,” said Haviland. “So the point is that one or two per cluster can cause many more per cluster near harvest time, so May is the time to be thinking about spraying the first of June.”

Haviland looked back at the tree he was standing next to, and said: “If you have tree that looks like this, with a lot of mealybugs and sooty mold, let it go; you can’t do anything about it. Come back the first week of June 2014 and treat it with an insecticide and you should be clean at harvest next year. It’s really that simple.

Insecticide timing is important, but there is a widow. Of all the products registered, they are most effective on crawlers. “So you really want to get them the first week of June when the crawlers are out regardless of which product your using,” Haviland said.

During the upcoming harvest season, Haviland warn growers to ask the harvest crew to wash down the harvesting equipment and make sure no tree debris from another orchard is on the equipment. “And if growers have an orchard with mealybug, please inform the harvest crews so that they clean the equipment before moving to another site, which may not have mealybug.

“The harvest crew should blow off all leaf trash and hose the equipment down before it goes from property to property. Growers should insist upon this,” Haviland said.