Cover Crops in Almonds Can Displace Annual Winter Weeds

Steve Haring Working With UC Davis on Cover Crops

By Mikenzi Meyers, Associate Editor

Depending on your location, cover crops can have a big impact on your fields. Steve Haring, second-year Ph.D. student in the Department of Plant Sciences at UC Davis, has been collecting research on how different climates influence the effectiveness of cover crops.

Almond Cover Crop Displacing Weeds

“As we try to design cover crops, there are a lot of different paths we can take, and it’s important to test these different things out and see what is best for the specific things we can use cover crops for in the Central Valley,” Haring said.

He further mentioned that for optimum weed control in the Valley, growers should plant in the early winter months in order to prevent annual winter weeds.

Haring worked with the UC Davis Cooperative Extension on three different sites across both the Central Valley and northern Sacramento Valley collecting data on growth rates for cover crops. He found that because the northern valley had more direct sunlight hit the ground, cover crops thrived, and as a result, weeds were minimized.

The research will not stop there, though, Haring ensured. “The study I’m working on is funded by the Almond Board, and it’s continuing for a second year and maybe a third, so we’re trying to repeat it and validate and then also sort and synthesize information because there are people working on weeds but also working on water, insect pests, pollinator health, nematodes, and call sorts of ecosystem services,” he concluded.

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Tomato Spotted Wilt Virus Fights Back

New Strain Creates Challenges

By Mikenzi Meyers, Associate Editor

A new strain of the Tomato Spotted Wilt Virus has created a challenge among vegetable growers, making integrated pest management, or IPM, increasingly critical. Bob Gilbertson, plant pathologist at UC Davis, has insight and advice as to how farmers should tackle this new strain.

“The first thing is to know what’s out in your field. And there’s a good diagnostic test for curly top, spotted wilt, alfalfa mosaic, and other viruses,” Gilbertson said.

Bob Gilbertson

After the virus is confirmed, he encourages growers to explore their options of treatment. Prior to the new spotted wilt virus strain, growers could turn to the SW-5 resistance gene to cure their field. Unfortunately, Gilbertson explained, the new strain actually breaks that resistance, which is where IPM becomes even more important.

In the future, Gilbertson hopes to find additional resistance genes to break the new strain. Until that time comes, he wants to use good IPM to manage it.

Gilbertson further added, “Increased sanitation, removing overwintering hosts, weeds, and bridge crops like lettuce, and then timing the applications of thrips management better, to slow down the appearance of adult thrips that carry the virus,” are all examples of good IPM.

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Curly Top Virus Light In 2018

CDFA Surveys Predict Curly Top Vectored by Leafhoppers

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

Curly top virus is a common disease in California. In its worst years, entire fields have been lost to curly top in the foothills of the Central Valley, and it can infect a variety of plants from a total of 44 plant families as well as 300 individual species.

Curly top commonly affects tomatoes, peppers, beets, spinach, potatoes, and beans, as well as a variety of weeds. A common characteristic of curly top is stunting of the plant as well as curling and twisting of the leaves, where it gets its name, curly top. Leafhoppers are the main vector of the virus.

Currently, the CDFA conducts a yearly curly top prediction where they monitor numbers and the leafhopper population as well as the prevalence of the virus to give a scope of what the upcoming year might look like.

“Curly top virus was very low in 2018 as predicted—based on the amount of virus carried by the leafhoppers and the leafhopper population,” said Bob Gilbertson, Plant Pathologist, Department of Plant Pathology at UC Davis.

“We hope that CDFA will continue to carry out the leafhopper screening for the virus and for the population so growers get a prediction of what the curly top incidents will be the coming year,” Gilbertson said. “It’s good that we can tell growers when there’s going to be a bad curly top year so they can implement additional strategies.”

These strategies include changing where they’re going to plant a field or using timed insecticides, particularly systemic insecticides like the new Verimark (From FMC) insecticide to manage curly top.

“We’ve already found that that material can slow down the spread of curly top in a field,” Gilbertson explained. “So in a year where it’s predicted to be bad—high populations of leafhoppers carrying high amounts of the virus—then you as a grower would then want to consider using some of these insecticide approaches.”

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Tea: A Potential High-Value Specialty Crop in California

California: The State That Really Grows It All—Even Tea

By Mikenzi Meyers, Associate Editor

New opportunities for California Farmers are on the rise. Jeff Dahlberg, director of the Kearney Ag Research and Extension Center in Parlier, recently gave California Ag Today insight into a new project on growing tea in the state.

“The folks up at Davis have been able to propagate enough tea to get us at least half an acre or a bit more planted, so we’re trying to get that planted this fall,” he explained.

However, this isn’t the first time the idea of growing tea has been introduced to California. In fact, Dahlberg noted that Richard Nixon actually traveled to China to look into bringing it back to the states. Although the idea didn’t progress much further, plants were saved, and the project is being brought back to life.

Dahlberg said that tea has a lot of potential as a high-value specialty crop for those looking to grow it.

“There are a lot of really, really interesting things coming down,” he promised.

For more information on the Global Tea Initiative, visit GlobalTea.UCDavis.Edu.

For more information on the Kearney Ag Research and Extension Center, visit their website at: kare.ucanr.edu

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Global Tea Initiative at UC Davis

UC Davis Could Be Center of Global Tea Research

By Jessica Theisman, Associate Editor

Researchers at the Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Parlier are testing whether or not tea can be grown in California. California Ag Today recently spoke with Jeff Dahlberg, director of the center. He told us about the Global Tea Initiative at UC Davis. The Global Tea Initiative looks to explore the history and cultural importance of tea.

Jeff Dahlberg, director of the Kearney Agriculture Research and Extension Center in Parlier, Fresno County
Jeff Dahlberg, director of the Kearney Agriculture Research and Extension Center in Parlier, Fresno County

“There’s lots of excitement about it, and people are really starting to take to the initiative,” said Dahlberg. “People are starting to look at the Global Tea Initiative as a leader for research in the U.S.

Dahlberg believes that the support exists because of the wide variety of diverse crops in California.

We grow 400 different crops in the state because California is one of the few places in the world that has that kind of diversity.

“I think it’s going to offer some unique opportunities to some farmers who really would like to diversify and perhaps get into something that may be really unique,” Dahlberg said.

For more information on the Global Tea Initiative, visit GlobalTea.UCDavis.Edu.

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UC and Israel Sign Agricultural Research Agreement

California and Israel Face Similar Challenges

By Pam Kan-Rice, UC ANR News
From left, Ermias Kebreab, Eli Feinerman, and Mark Bell sign the agreement for Israel and California scientists to collaborate more on water-related research and education.

Pledging to work together to solve water scarcity issues, Israel’s Agricultural Research Organization signed a memorandum of understanding with the University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources and UC Davis recently. The signing ceremony kicked off the 2018 Future of Water for Irrigation in California and Israel Workshop at the UC ANR building in Davis.

“Israel and California agriculture face similar challenges, including drought and climate change,” said Doug Parker, director of UC ANR’s California Institute for Water Resources. “In the memorandum of understanding, Israel’s Agricultural Research Organization, UC Davis and UC ANR pledge to work together more on research involving water, irrigation, technology and related topics that are important to both water-deficit countries.”

The agreement will enhance collaboration on research and extension for natural resources management in agriculture, with an emphasis on soil, irrigation and water resources, horticulture, food security and food safety.

“It’s a huge pleasure for us to sign an MOU with the world leaders in agricultural research like UC Davis and UC ANR,” said Eli Feinerman, director of Agricultural Research Organization of Israel. “When good people, smart people collaborate, the sky is the limit.”

Feinerman, Mark Bell (UC ANR vice provost) and Ermias Kebreab (UC Davis professor and associate vice provost of academic programs and global affairs) represented their respective institutions for the signing. Karen Ross (California Department of Food and Agriculture secretary) and Shlomi Kofman (Israel’s consul general to the Pacific Northwest) joined in celebrating the partnership.

“The important thing is to keep working together and develop additional frameworks that can bring the people of California and Israel together as researchers,” Kofman said. “But also to work together to make the world a better place.”

Ross said, “It’s so important for us to find ways and create forums to work together because water is the issue in this century and will continue to be.”

She explained that earlier this year, the World Bank and United Nations reported that 40 percent of the world population is living with water scarcity. 

“Over 700,000 people are at risk of relocation due to water scarcity,” Ross said. “We’re already seeing the refugee issues that are starting to happen because of drought, food insecurity and the lack of water.”

Ross touted the progress stemming from CDFA’s Healthy Soils Program to promote healthy soils on California’s farmlands and ranchlands and SWEEP, the State Water Efficiency and Enhancement Program, which has provided California farmers $62.7 million in grants for irrigation systems that reduce greenhouse gases and save water on agricultural operations.

“We need the answers of best practices that come from academia, through demonstration projects so that our farmers know what will really work,” Ross said.

As Parker opened the water workshop, sponsored by the U.S./Israel Binational Agricultural Research and Development (BARD) Program, Israel Agricultural Research Organization and UC ANR, he told the scientists, “The goal of this workshop is really to be creating new partnerships, meeting new people, networking and finding ways to work together in California with Israel, in Israel, with other parts of the world as well.”

Drawing on current events, Bell told the attendees, “If you look at the World Cup, it’s about effort, it’s about teamwork, it’s about diversity of skills, and I think that’s what this event does. It brings together those things.”

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Researchers Take a Look into the Future of Strawberries

Survey Coming to Growers to Gauge Interests

By Hannah Young, Associate Editor

A strawberries survey connected to a project that looks at the future of strawberry genetics will soon be sent to strawberry growers.

Daniel Tregeagle, a postdoctoral scholar of agricultural economics at UC Davis, is working on the survey.

“This project is being run over the state of California, through a number of different institutions, different universities, including the state of Florida,” Tregeagle said. “Strawberry growers all over the country are trying to find out what we should be breeding in the next generation of strawberry cultivars.”Strawberries

The project is part of a Specialty Crop Research Initiative, which is considering what growers are looking for in the next generation of strawberries, Tregeagle said.

“Do they want better yields? Do they want more attractive features that the consumers are going to like? Do they need disease resistance?” Tregeagle asked.

However, growers can’t have everything, because when a cultivar is strong in one area, they tend to be less strong in other areas.

“So what we’re doing in the survey is asking growers what are the main diseases that they’re facing, how are they managing those diseases currently and what would they do differently if they had a better, more resistant strawberry cultivar that could resist those particular diseases,” Tregeagle explained.

Researchers are also interested in looking at fumigation and how they might change in the presence of a more resistance cultivar, Tregeagle added.

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Agritourism in California

UC Davis Experts Help Farmers, Ranchers Profit  in Growing Trend

News Release Edited By Patrick Cavanaugh

Agritourism is growing in California, along with sales and production of much of the world’s fruits, vegetables, and nuts. More and more people are paying to enjoy the bounty and beauty of California’s farms and ranches by touring peach and cherry farms near Fresno, taking classes in beekeeping, attending festivals devoted to strawberries or attending a host of other activities offered by farmers and ranchers throughout the state.

Many farmers could benefit from agritourism and the added value it brings, but developing successful agritourism operations can be tricky. Experts at the Agricultural Sustainability Institute (ASI) at UC Davis are helping farmers and others in the agricultural community understand the regulations, permits, insurance, marketing and other considerations needed to succeed.agritourism

“Agritourism operations are more successful when they’re part of a supportive community of tourism professionals, county regulators, agriculture regulations and others,” says Gail Feenstra, ASI’s food, and society coordinator.

Feenstra and her team recently received a $73,000 grant from Western Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education, a U.S. Department of Agriculture program, to develop training, resources and peer support for farmers and ranchers considering agritourism. Feenstra is working with Penny Leff, ASI’s statewide agritourism coordinator and team project manager.

Leff led previous projects that offered agritourism education to groups of farmers, ranchers, and others involved in California agritourism. In this new project, Leff is providing comprehensive training to smaller, more targeted groups that will then offer training to others in their community.

“We’re helping farmers and ranchers assess their agritourism potential, whether it be U-pick farming, dinners on the farm, classes or even overnight lodging,” Leff says. “We help navigate everything from zoning ordinances to marketing plans.”

The project’s ultimate goal is to develop at least 24 clusters of vibrant agritourism operations in California that sustain producers, educate visitors and support the economic health of the entire community.

As Leff explained, “Agritourism is an exciting opportunity for farmers, and also for visitors who can learn about and enjoy what farm living has to offer.”

You can learn more about agritourism opportunities at the ASI agritourism website. For more information on upcoming workshops, contact Penny Leff at paleff@ucdavis.edu or call 530-752-5208.

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UC Davis Student Maureen Page Speaks for the Bees

Maureen Page to Spread Flowers for Bees

By Jessica Theisman, Associate Editor
Maureen Page pollination
Maureen Page

California Ag Today recently spoke with doctoral student Maureen Page of the Neal William’s lab at UC Davis, Department of Entomology and Nematology. She is the recipient of a prestigious three-year fellowship for promoting food security by optimizing wildflower planting. She supports the wild and bee management. We asked her about the flowers that she plans on planting to help those bees.

“I do believe that in general, flowers are really important for bees. Planting flowers are generally good for them,” she said.

Although planting is good for the bees, there are some precautions that need to be made.

“Some flowers can be somewhat toxic to bees. Some do not actually provide bees with pollen and nectar resources,” Page said.

There are many ornamental plants that are bred to not have much pollen so that people do not sneeze as much.

“On top of that, if you are planting non-native species that are really weedy, it may be great for the bees, but might not be great for other plant species,” Page said.

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UC Davis Tea Initiative Will Include Research and Teaching

Tea Initiative is First of Its Kind

By Jessica Theisman, Associate Editor

Katharine Burnett is a professor of Chinese Art History and Asian Art History at UC Davis. She spoke with California Ag Today recently about the Global Tea Initiative; a group focused on the culture and science of Tea through research outreach and teaching.

Katharine Burnett Will Head Up Tea Initiative

“The role of the Institute will be to tell the story of tea and all its dimensions, it will be to encourage research and to encourage interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research along with teaching,” she said.

The Global Tea Initiative wants to develop a curriculum for undergrads and grads. They plan on developing international partnerships as a research institution.

“We want to be the … institution that can help the researcher, scholar, industry member, and community member to be able to access evidence-based knowledge about tea and to help the consumer and industry better understand what it is and what it can do for us,” Burnett said.

The Global Tea Initiative is the first of its kind.

“Other institutions study their national product or their local product either from the perspective of science or from culture, but they don’t bring science and culture together and they do not study from a global perspective,” Burnett explained.

California does not have very much tea production. UC Davis hopes to be a neutral site that can be trusted by the industry, farmers, and scholars.

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