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

Tea: More Than Just a Drink

Rich American History Around Tea

By Mikenzi Meyers, Associate Editor

As the weather starts to get colder in California, nothing sounds better than a cup of warm tea on a chilly day. When reaching for what might be your favorite winter drink, Jeff Dahlberg, director of the Kearney Ag Research and Extension Center, urges you to think about the rich history behind it.

Dahlberg explained that, “Americans have been drinking tea for a long time. Back in the 1700s, as I understand it, there used to be tea shops everywhere in the U.S.”

Jeff Dahlberg

He further emphasized the importance of truly educating yourself on the drink, which will only add to your ability to select the teas that best suit your pallet.

Even better, Dalhberg believes that first-class teas can be grown right here in California—an opportunity that the Global Tea Initiative in Davis is already looking into.

“Bottom line, we can actually grow pretty high-quality, high-yielding teas here in the state, and the folks at Davis are really excited about that,” he said.

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


The California Department of Food and Agriculture’s Fertilizer Research and Education Program (FREP) is currently accepting concept proposals for the 2015 grant cycle. FREP’s competitive grant program funds research that advances the environmentally safe and agronomically sound use of fertilizing materials.

The 2015 Request for Proposals (RFP) includes several initiatives put forth by the department to help effectively manage nitrogen fertilizers in agriculture. New this year is a call for integrating different aspects of nutrient management, including fertigation, irrigation, crop development and soil fertility into easy-to-use decision making tools and concepts that can help improve management practices. Additionally, the FREP seeks concepts and proposals to provide strong education and outreach opportunities on effectively and efficiently managing fertilizing materials.

Proposals for research projects are requested to fill gaps in nitrogen management information for specific crops, including corn, pima cotton, processing tomatoes, walnuts, citrus, and deep rooted vegetables such as carrots. Furthermore, the FREP is encouraging the development and submission of concepts that will demonstrate effective nutrient management practices that have been developed through experimental research trials (e.g., prior FREP research findings).

These demonstrations should implement practices at the field scale in organic and conventional fertilizers. Other priority research areas are developing Best Management Practices (BMPs), along with evaluating strategies and potential technologies to increase crop nitrogen fertilizer uptake; reduce nitrogen movement off irrigated agricultural lands, including nitrate leaching below the root zone; and minimize nitrous oxide emissions from nitrogen fertilizers.

Applicants are invited to submit two-page concept proposals to the FREP by Friday, January 16, 2015. Concepts submitted should be in line with at least one of the program’s identified priority research areas. Further information on the 2015 FREP request for concept proposals, including timelines, application criteria, priority research areas, and examples of successful proposals are available at: www.cdfa.ca.gov/is/ffldrs/frep/CompetitiveGrantProgram.html

In addition to the FREP’s regular RFP, CDFA is preparing a special RFP as part of its nitrogen initiatives. The priority areas for this special RFP are scheduled to be announced early January 2015. 

All concept proposals will be reviewed by the FREP’s Technical Advisory Subcommittee (TASC). Concept proposals that are selected by the TASC will be invited for development into full project proposals.

Applicants may also send e-mail inquiries to FREP@cdfa.ca.gov

Since 1990, the Fertilizer Research and Education Program has funded more than 160 research projects focusing on California’s important and environmentally sensitive cropping systems. A database of completed and ongoing research is publically available at: www.cdfa.ca.gov/is/ffldrs/frep.html

In collaboration with the University of California Davis, FREP is developing fertilization guidelines for major crops grown in California. The guidelines are uploaded on a flow basis and are available to growers and crop advisors through this web-based platform: http://apps.cdfa.ca.gov/frep/docs/guidelines.html

State Board of Food and Agriculture to Discuss Agricultural Careers, Innovation and Industry Advancements

The California State Board of Food and Agriculture will discuss issues related to innovations, advancements and careers within the agricultural sector at its upcoming meeting on Tuesday, May 6th at the World Food Center at UC Davis.

This meeting will be held from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. at the Walter A. Buehler Alumni Center, University of California, Davis One Shields Avenue, Davis, CA, 95616.

“California is at the cutting edge of innovation within the agriculture sector from water use efficiency to research advancements and product development,” said CDFA Secretary Karen Ross. “The careers of the future can be found in the agricultural sector and our universities and businesses are leading the way in supporting a vibrant, high-skilled jobs market.”

On average, California agriculture supports approximately 400,000 on-farm jobs related to crop production, harvesting and overall farming. This does not include the non-farm jobs directly related to agriculture such as transportation, marketing and sales.

Nationally it is estimated that more than 16 million jobs are supported through farm and agricultural related activities. As global consumer preferences, food manufacturing and agricultural production continue to evolve, the employment needs of businesses and employee skill-sets will need to change as well.

Invited speakers include: Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi, University of California, Davis; Roger Beachy and Josette Lewis, UC Davis World Food Center; Lance Donny, OnFarm; Helene Dillard, Dean of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, UC Davis; Chuck Nichols, Nichols Farms; Dave Dever, Sun World; Dr. Tim Conner, Monsanto; Shane MacKenzie, Superior Farms; Jacob Gomez, UC Davis Aggie Ambassadors; Vanessa Alexander, CalPoly Agricultural Ambassadors; and Katie Fyhrie, California Farm Academy participant.

“Technology is making rapid on-farm advances that benefit farmers and farm workers,” said Craig McNamara, president of the California State Board of Food and Agriculture. “We need to encourage more individuals to see that all facets of agricultural production support highly skilled and technical career paths.”

The California State Board of Food and Agriculture advises the governor and the CDFA secretary on agricultural issues and consumer needs.

The state board conducts forums that bring together local, state and federal government officials, agricultural representative and citizens to discuss current issues of concern to California agriculture.

Follow the board on Twitter at: www.twitter.com/Cafood_agboard