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.
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.
“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.
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.”
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.”
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.
More California Ag News
Agritourism in California UC Davis Experts Help Farmers, Ranchers Profit in Growing Trend
News Release Edited By Patrick Cavanaugh
Agritourism is growing in California, alon...
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 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.”
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.
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.
“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.
UC Davis Engineers, Economists, Advisors gather at World Ag Expo
By Diane Nelson, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences dean’s office
UC Davis specialists in everything from grapes to livestock to irrigation management will join staff and students at the World Ag Expo in Tulare, February 13-15, to chat with farmers, prospective students, alumni and leaders throughout the agricultural industry.
More than 100,000 people are expected to attend the 51st annual event, where 1,500 exhibitors display cutting-edge agricultural technology and equipment over a massive 2.6 million square feet of show grounds.
“We’re thrilled to be taking part in this incredible agricultural exhibition and reconnecting with alumni from the Central Valley and beyond,” said Sue Ebeler, an associate dean for the UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and professor of viticulture and enology. “Faculty will be in town and available to discuss current agricultural research and our Aggie Ambassadors can answer questions about our majors and campus life.”
The UC Davis team will be located in the World Ag Women’s Pavilion. In addition to Professor Ebeler, dean of undergraduate academic programs for the college, seven faculty experts will attend portions of the three-day event. They include:
Rachel Goodhue, professor and chair of the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics,
Deanne Meyer, Cooperative Extension specialist in livestock waste management,
Samuel Sandoval Solis, associate Cooperative Extension specialist in water management,
Ali Pourreza, assistant Cooperative Extension specialist in agricultural mechanization and precision agriculture,
Matt Fidelibus, Cooperative Extension specialist in grape production
Anna Denicol, assistant professor and veterinarian who specializes in reproductive biology, and
Jeff Mitchell, Cooperative Extension specialist in conservation agriculture.
UC Davis is ranked number 1 in the nation for agriculture, plant sciences, animal science and agricultural economics. The College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences enrolled more than 2,000 new students in the fall of 2017, many of them from California’s Central Valley. The college offers 29 majors—everything from agriculture to nutrition to global disease biology.
“Prospective students can learn about all our majors and the career paths they provide,” Ebeler said. “At the World Ag Expo, we get to meet with agricultural leaders from around the world, as well as so many passionate young people who will become tomorrow’s leaders.”
Diane Nelson, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences dean’s office, 530-752-1969, email@example.com
Sue Ebeler, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences dean’s office, 530-752-7150, firstname.lastname@example.org
Themis Michailides, a UC Davis Plant Pathologist based at the Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center, recently told California Ag Today that almond band canker is becoming a big problem.
“This was a very old disease, and almost forgotten, but now we have major problems, particularly in the young orchards, first leaf, second leaf, third leaf, and it can also be found in six year old trees,” Michailides said.
Band canker is a fungal disease caused by a group of Botryosphaeria fungi that are very common in major crops like grapes, almonds, pistachios, walnuts, avocados, citrus and other crops, so they have a large range.
Band canker establishes itself as a spore inoculum that resides outside and also inside of orchards and waits for the right conditions, which are wetness and also high temperatures.
“It develops first like a ring, a canker that is a horizontal canker on the trunks of the trees and decays the wood and produces sap. It’s a disease that can kill young trees in the orchards,” Michailides said.
“Once you have the cankers developed in the trunks of the trees, there’s no cure, but we can prevent it by managing irrigation, trying to keep the trunks of the trees dry,” he said. “We need to develop protective sprays in order to avoid the development of the disease in young trees.”
“Once we have the water and the temperatures rise above 50 degrees Fahrenheit, the conidia – the spores of this fungi – will germinate and infect vigorous varieties we have now through the growth cracks,” Michailides said.
“It’s getting more serious, especially now, because we see that the disease is uniformly distributed throughout the orchard, which indicates to me perhaps that the inoculum is in the trees and not coming from the outside sources. We don’t see the patterns we saw years ago, where we had the source and then a center of disease close to the source,” Michalides explained.
Vigilant Seed Bank Reduction: Whatever it takes, don’t let weeds set seed.
By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director
For the past 15 years, Robert Norris, professor emeritus and vegetable crops weed specialist, UC Davis Department of Plant Sciences, has continued to attend Weed Day each year at UC Davis and to contribute weed photography for CalPhotos, a UC Berkeley Digital Library Project photo database of world-wide plants, animals, landscapes, and other natural history subjects developed to provide a testbed of digital images for computer science researchers to study digital image retrieval techniques. Norris was involved with initiating the Plant Protection and Pest Management Graduate Program at UC Davis.
“I’ve been a botanist since I was 14 years old,” Norris said, “and I still have a lot of passion regarding weed control.” Norris has a strong and steady philosophy on weed control and it all comes down to seeds. “The last 25 years of my work, I looked at population dynamics of weeds, like seed longevity in the soil and what we call the size of the seed bank also known as the seed production by weeds. That’s really where I spent most of my time.
“I found that most people have a very poor idea of how many seeds are produced by a weed. This led me to question some of our current management philosophies; namely, the one that comes out of entomology—the use of thresholds (or how many weeds need to be present before treating them),” noted Norris. “I felt that for weed science, thresholds were not the way to go, and my position has been vindicated by the problems we’ve run into using thresholds.”
Norris offered the example, “Barnyard grasses are probably one of our most serious summer grass weeds. A small plant can produce 100,000 seeds; while a big plant, well over a million. I can remember going put in a tomato field years ago and looking at one barnyard grass plant. Because I had been working with it, I can say that plant probably put out 50,000 seeds. If you spread those seeds around an acre, that’s enough to give you serious yield loss the next year,” Norris explained. “Again, that’s one plant, spread out over an acre. Obviously its seeds wouldn’t spread over an acre [on their own], but with our tillage equipment we would move it around quite a bit.”
“My bottom line for about 30 years now is: Don’t let the weeds set seed.Whatever it takes, don’t let them set seed,” Norris said. If you follow that philosophy, Norris said after a while you drive the seed bank down.
“Many people don’t realize this, but some of our really big growers got on to it a long time ago. One farming operation I worked with for years, J. G. Boswell Co., with most of its land in Kings County. “I knew the manager in the late ’50s, into the ’70s. He now is retired now, but he came to this conclusion himself back in the late ’50s,” Norris said. “I haven’t been on Boswell’s property now for 20 years, because I retired. However, if you go down there, you will not see a weed problem, at least not like most growers.”
“The difficulty really is, in order to carry out this philosophy, you need to use hand labor for weed management and it is becoming less and less easy to find,” explained Norris. “Most weed management is done on a one-year one-crop basis; whereas, the type of management we’re talking about where we’re really thinking seed bank dynamics, has to be done over multiple years. Another big problem that I still see is if you miss one year, you can undo 5 to 10 years of what you’ve just been doing, because of this high seed output,” he said.