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UCCE small farms advisor Mark Gaskell retires

Mark Gaskell shown among blackberries bushes, but the UC Cooperative Extension advisor is known for his pioneering work on blueberries and coffee in California.

Mark Gaskell is best known these days for cultivating the idea of California-grown coffee that launched the emerging industry. But coffee isn't the first crop that Gaskell convinced California farmers could be locally grown. For more than 23 years, the UC Cooperative Extension advisor has been researching new specialty crops, such as blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, kiwi berries, Pakistani mulberries, sweet onions, lychees and longans, for small farms to grow for a profit.

Gaskell, who began his career with the University of California's Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources as an advisor for small farms and specialty crops in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties in 1995, retired July 1.

Blueberries become a California crop

"Everything I know about farming, I owe to Mark,” says San Luis Obispo County grower Tony Chavez, right, shown with Gaskell and Glenda Humiston, vice president for UC ANR.

Blueberries weren't grown in California until Gaskell planted test plots of southern highbush blueberries in 1996 to give small-scale growers a new crop option. He hosted his first blueberry field day in 1998. In collaboration with UC Cooperative Extension advisors in other counties, Gaskell identified varieties suited to the local climate and developed cultural practices for California growers to successfully produce blueberries. What was once a niche crop is now planted on over 7,000 acres in the state, according to the California Blueberry Commission. California currently leads U.S. production of fresh blueberries, Gaskell said.

“If it wasn't for Mark Gaskell, I wouldn't have lasted three years,” said Tony Chavez, who grows 40 acres of blueberries, blackberries and some raspberries in Nipomo.

Chavez had grown bored after selling La Tapatia Norcal, a tortilla shop that he operated for 34 years, and retiring in San Luis Obispo County.

“After I retired, I started a little farm. I started with blackberries,” Chavez said. “I have friends who farm. I didn't realize it would be such hard work.”

Someone told Chavez that Gaskell helps small farmers. “He's been my teacher about how to grow berries. Everything I know about farming, I owe to Mark,” said Chavez, who has been working with Gaskell for about 10 years. “I don't know what I'm going to do after he retires. He's a wonderful person and very, very knowledgeable.”

California-grown coffee

Jay Ruskey and Gaskell, shown at a California-grown coffee tasting in 2015, have been studying coffee growing together since 2002.

Recently Gaskell's knowledge of coffee production has been in demand.

“Personally, I would not be where I am today professionally without Mark's guidance, support and friendship,” said Jay Ruskey, CEO and co-founder of Good Land Organics.

“I met Mark in 1996 through the California Rare Fruit Growers,” Ruskey said. “We started work with lychee and longans and we worked for several years on bringing in plant material and planting trials. He brought me my first coffee plants in 2002.”

The exotic fruit didn't work out for the Goleta grower, but with Gaskell's research-based advice Ruskey has produced premium coffee. His Caturra coffee made Coffee Review's Top 30 coffees in 2014 and in 2017 Daily Coffee News reported that Blue Bottle was selling the California-grown coffee for $18 per ounce.

Prior to joining UC, Gaskell had worked for several years in Central America in coffee growing areas.

“I became curious about coffee in 2000 after I had seen some plants growing at botanical gardens in SoCal, but I assumed the hand labor and processing requirements would prevent profitable growing here,” Gaskell recalled. “About that time, I had the opportunity to visit the coffee production area in Kona on a totally unrelated project – we were doing research with lychees and longans and that is how I began to work with Jay. But visiting coffee farms and the coffee cooperative in Kona made me rethink coffee in SoCal because of similarities to coastal sites around Santa Barbara – Jay's farm – and the fact that costs of water, land and labor were high in Kona and yet they were making a business out of coffee.”

Mark Gaskell examines fiber cloth that protects coffee plants from cold and wind during the first year at Jason Mraz's coffee and avocado farm in San Diego County.

California is now in the coffee business with 15 varieties of Arabica coffee that Gaskell's research has shown are growing well with acceptable yields and high quality.

“Currently, there are about 30 farms with maybe 30,000 coffee plants between San Luis Obispo and San Diego counties,” Gaskell said. “I would expect that to double this year and again next year.”

Ruskey recently co-founded Frinj Coffee, Inc., a company that provides aspiring California coffee growers with plant material and production and marketing advice.

“Industry-wide, there are many farmers who have benefited directly from working with Mark, but there are far more farmers who are currently benefiting today from the specific crops and farming systems he has introduced through his service as a University of California farm advisor,”Ruskey said. “Mark's retirement will certainly leave a resource void for farmers who are looking for allies to help them navigate the complex and dynamic world of farming.”

Gaskell, right, coaches Jennifer and Chuck Lenet on acidifying the soil and maintaining adequate drainage in 1999

Educating growers beyond California

Gaskell began his career as an agronomy instructor for four years at Iowa State University, after earning his B.S. in agronomy and his M.S. and Ph.D. in crop physiology and production at Iowa's land-grant college. He became an assistant professor of agronomy from 1980 to 1987 at Rutgers University, where he began working with small farmers in Panama. For two years, he conducted agricultural research in Central America for the U.S. Agency for International Development and became fluent in Spanish. From 1989 to 1992, Gaskell was director of agricultural technical services, overseeing crop production in Latin America and Central America for Chestnut Hill Farms in Miami, before returning to USAID to develop new crops for farmers in Central America.

After joining UC in 1995, the Iowa native continued his international work through consulting projects and sabbatical leave, sharing his expertise in Albania, Portugal, Turkey, Italy, Sicily, France and Spain, Argentina, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bolivia, Uruguay, El Salvador and Nicaragua.

As a Fulbright Senior Scholar, 2011 to 2014, Gaskell worked with the Moroccan National Agronomic Research Institute training growers and establishing a national research program to develop blueberries, blackberries and raspberries as alternative crops.

Gaskell's achievements were recognized by USDA-National Institute for Food and Agriculture with the 2010 National Extension Excellence Program Award for the UC Small Farm Program Team. In 2007, he was named “Outstanding Educator” by UC Agriculture and Natural Resources.

“My work in California - beyond horticulture and agronomy – has been one of relationships,” Gaskell said. “I have worked with dozens of farmers in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties, in many cases, for more than 20 years. These farmers have often been collaborators for on-farm trials or educational events, or I have assisted them with farming and marketing, problem-solving with diverse crops and settings. These have been very rich, enjoyable and fulfilling relationships that I will truly miss.”  

 

Posted on Friday, June 29, 2018 at 6:27 PM

Chinese scientists visit UC ANR's research center in Tulelake

UC Agriculture and Natural Resources vice president Glenda Humiston welcomed a delegation of Chinese agricultural scientists to UC ANR's Intermountain Research and Extension Center in Tulelake in June, reported Danielle Jester in the Siskiyou Daily News

"They're trying to improve their agriculture," Humiston said. "We need all farmers and ag working together, and we need a good working relationship with China – there's a big market there.”

UC ANR vice president Glenda Humiston, center, and IREC director Rob Wilson (to her left) hosted a delegation of Chinese agricultural scientists at the UC Intermountain Research and Extension Center in Tulelake. (Photo: Danielle Jester, used with permission.)

During her opening remarks, Humiston said Chinese farmers faced many of the same issues as those in the U.S. 

"They are responding to global climate change, drought and pests while trying to improve food security and water use efficiency," Humiston said. "They see UC Cooperative Extension as an effective research model; we hope that scientific collaborations will accelerate solutions and help maintain relations for California agriculture with China."

The group toured the Intermountain Research and Extension Center, the northernmost of UC ANR's nine research and extension centers.The 140-acre facility is four miles south of the Oregon border. Research at the center is focused on irrigated field and vegetable crops, weed, insect and disease management, water conservation and plant fertility.

During the tour of the station, one of the Chinese scientists asked what factors the researchers look at to determine the health of the soil. In response, center director Rob Wilson listed the soil's nutrients, its bulk density, pH, organic matter content, carbon to nitrogen ratios, existence of microbes, and existence of disease in the soil, Jester reported.

Posted on Monday, June 25, 2018 at 9:54 AM

UC ANR scientist debates conservation tillage practices with industry leader

Alan Wilcox of Wilcox Agri-Products and UC Cooperative Extension specialist Jeff Mitchell debated the challenges and opportunities for increased implementation of conservation tillage practices on California farms during the World Ag Expo in February, reported Alan Stenum in Farm Equipment magazine.

Wilcox said farmers are going to be resistant to anything they suspect will affect yield. Mitchell said creative innovation underway will have a big impact on some of the more challenging crops that are grown in California.

Alan Wilcox, left, and Jeff Mitchell debate the challenges and opportunities for conservation tillage. (Photo by Farm Equipment magazine, used with permission)

"This is a region where costs are high. The cost of doing business is high, and maximum yields on any crop are important to even break even," Wilcox said. "We're going to be intensely committed to water management and the maximum amount of water."

Mitchell said farmers in other parts of the U.S. started to switch to reduced disturbance no-till systems to conserve water.

"The recognition of the value of that opportunity to reduce soil water evaporation and have more water going through the crops through transpiration hasn't really sunk in here in California in large fashion," Mitchell said.

While Mitchell noted that water is essential to the discussion of conservation agriculture, there are other important aspects to consider.

"Biological cycling of nutrients in the soil, tightening up the system so there are fewer losses, either to the groundwater as some sort of pollution, or improving the overall soil function and nutrition provision capacity of the soil - that's not a small aspect of the overall system, nor are the opportunities for reducing costs," Mitchell said.

Wilcox said he would characterize the argument differently.

"The point is in all of our tillage strategies - and in every situation - we never compromise yield," he said.

Read the complete debate in Farm Equipment magazine.

More information about the use of conservation agriculture practices can be found on the UC Conservation Agriculture Systems Innovation website.

Posted on Thursday, June 14, 2018 at 8:46 AM

Is climate change chasing away 'June Gloom'?

Low-lying morning clouds in Southern California coastal areas form the predictable "June Gloom" in early summer - at least, they used to. The combination of urbanization and a warming climate are driving up summer temperatures, reducing cloud cover and increasing the risk of bigger and more intense wildfires, reported Julie Cohen of UC Santa Barbara's The Current.

UC Cooperative Extension specialist Max Moritz, UC Santa Barbara geography professor Dar Roberts and colleagues published the study results in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

The scientists compared hourly cloud observations recorded by Southern California airports since the 1970s with a large database of vegetation moisture levels in the hills outside of Los Angeles. They found that periods of less cloud cover during the summer correlated with lower vegetation moisture and increased fire danger. 

“Because fires can already be very difficult to control in these areas, a reduction in cloud cover and its effects on fuel moisture is likely to increase fire activity overall,” Moritz said. “In areas where clouds have decreased, fires could get larger and harder to contain.”

Conditions vary year to year, but Moritz said he expects fire danger to increase in California as climate change accelerates.

Early summer cloud cover at Seal Beach in June 2013. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
 
Lead author of the research is A. Park Williams. In addition to Moritz and Roberts, Pierre Gentine and John T. Abatzoglou are co-authors.
 
 
Posted on Thursday, May 31, 2018 at 3:17 PM

May 2018 News Clips

Mien farmers get advice for growing strawberries in Yolo County

(Woodland Daily Democrat) ANR news release, May 31

http://www.dailydemocrat.com/business/20180531/mien-farmers-get-advice-for-growing-strawberries-in-yolo-county

Abnormal Weather Takes a Toll on California Olive Crop

(Ag Net West) Brian German, May 30

The late winter freeze caused significant issues for several different commodities throughout the state and has been especially problematic for the California olive crop.  The fluctuating temperatures have created substantial concern among the industry as bloom looks to be far below normal levels.

“Overall we're a little on the pessimistic side.  The bloom, on the whole, has been pretty poor, many orchards actually have a very light, to next to no bloom at all,” said Dani Lightle, Cooperative Extension Orchard Systems Advisor for Glenn County.  “There's an orchard here or there that looks pretty good, but on the whole, it is a little bit dismal.”

http://agnetwest.com/weather-takes-toll-california-olive-crop/


How Avocados Define LA and the Secret to Making the Best Damn Avocado Toas
t

(LA Taco) Gab Chabran, May 29

…Eric Focht who is a staff research associate in the lab of Mary Lu Arpaia at UC Riverside through UC Agriculture and Natural Resources and the Department of Botany and Plant Sciences tells L.A. Taco that the recent avocado economy boom is “similar to what we see today with something like bitcoin.” He helps run a breeding program at UCR studying different avocados varieties, focusing mostly on Hass avocados but also looking at other less known versions of the popular fruit.

In short, he is working on breeding the perfect avocado that tastes great and is easier, faster, and less water-dependent to grow. This year is shaping out to be a good one for avocados, but this issue is always one to keep in mind.

Focht states that in the future, there will likely be more variety available in the mainstream marketplace. One varietal that Focht gets excited about is the Reed avocado which has now been popping up in places such as Whole Foods. It's known for its round, dinosaur egg shape and is about the size of a softball. It has a relatively large seed but the edible flesh is sometimes double or even triple that of a Haas that can make a lot more people happier per individual fruit.

http://www.lataco.com/how-avocados-define-l-a-and-the-secret-to-making-the-best-damn-avocado-toast/

Amazing graze

(Chico News & Review) Ashiah Scharaga, May 24

When drifting clouds dapple the sky and vibrant wildflowers—tickled pink buds, honey-hued petals and virent stems—awaken in the verdant fields of Table Mountain, explorers quicken their pace. They spot trickling streams and grazing cattle. Occasionally, they look straight down, turning anxious eyes to their mud-slicked heels—did they step in one of the fertile cow-pie mines littered across the landscape?

That may seem a nuisance, but it's a necessity. Tracy Schohr, a livestock and natural resources adviser for University of California Cooperative Extension, said the natural magic of the popular Butte County recreational spot is made possible because of a long-standing grazing program. “If cattle were not actually on Table Mountain Ecological Reserve,” she said, “essentially those invasive species would choke out those native plants, and they wouldn't be there.”

… In the past, grazing was misunderstood and primarily viewed as destructive, said Dave Daley, a fifth-generation Butte County cattleman and associate dean of Chico State's College of Agriculture. He credits changing perspectives to the development of grazing science, fueled by people such as Schohr and Kate Wilkin, a UC Cooperative Extension forestry, fire science and natural resource adviser for Butte, Yuba, Sutter and Nevada counties. (Schohr covers Butte, Plumas and Sierra counties.)

https://www.newsreview.com/chico/amazing-graze/content?oid=26315855

Sheep Shearing 101: Why Aspiring Shavers Flock to This California School

(KQED) Tiffany Camhi, May 23

…“We try to get the students shearing the first day because they make a lot of mistakes,” says John Harper, head of the UC Cooperative Extension Sheep Shearing School in Hopland.

Harper says if you can make the right moves with your feet, everything else falls into place.

“We're dancing instructors,” says Harper. “It's like 'Dancing With The Stars' on steroids, but with sheep.”

Around this time of year, hundreds of thousands of sheep in California need to have their wool shaved off. But Harper says there's a shortage of sheep shearers worldwide.

That's why he started the school in Hopland about 25 years ago.

Dan Macon of the California Wool Growers Association says the growing popularity of backyard flocks in California (usually just a handful of sheep) is adding to the demand for shearers, too.

“Infrastructure of the sheep industry is a key component,” says Macon. “Having people with that kind of skill and willingness to work hard is desperately needed.”

https://www.kqed.org/news/11669643/sheep-shearing-101-why-aspiring-shavers-flock-to-this-california-school

AUDIO: Hey, Salad Lovers: It's OK To Eat Romaine Lettuce Again

(NPR Morning Edition) Allison Aubrey, May 23

…After a big foodborne illness outbreak linked to baby spinach back in 2006, the leafy greens industry put in place a number of procedures to prevent contamination. "Prevention became the major focus after that outbreak," says Michele Jay-Russell, a food safety researcher at the University of California, Davis.

"They set up intensive testing protocols to monitor water quality," Jay-Russell says. The industry also agreed on standardized setbacks — or buffers — to separate growing fields from livestock operations, which can be a source of E.coli contamination. "You want a safe distance from where you're growing fresh produce and where you have concentrations of animals, like on a feedlot or dairy," she says.

https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2018/05/22/613254356/cdc-gives-the-all-clear-to-start-eating-romaine-lettuce-again

Are avocados toast?

(Grist) Nathanael Johnson, May 22

…When Katherine Jarvis-Shean was a doctoral candidate researching the decline of cold winters a few years back, she thought more farmers should be freaking out. “I used to think, ‘Why aren't you guys more worried about this? It's going to be the end of the world.'”

After all, many fruit and nut trees require a good winter chill to bear fruit. But after spending a few years as an extension agent for the University of California — working directly with farmers and translating science into techniques they can apply on the land — she understands better. It comes down to this: Farmers have a ton of concerns, and the climate is just one of them.

“If you decide what to plant based on climate, but then can't make the lease payment, that's not sustainable,” Jarvis-Shean said.

https://grist.org/article/whatll-we-eat-in-2050-california-farmers-are-placing-bets/ https://www.wired.com/story/are-avocados-toast/

Lanternflies Eat Everything in Sight. The U.S. Is Looking Delicious.

(New York Times) Zach Montague, May 21

…Native to Asia, lanternflies first appeared in Pennsylvania in 2014. Despite a quarantine effort, they have also been discovered in small numbers in New York, Delaware and Virginia.

… “Most pests deposit their eggs on their host plant, or very close, so they already have food available,” said Surendra Dara, an adviser at the University of California Cooperative Extension.

“Those that have the advantage of being able to lay eggs on non-plant material obviously have a better chance of surviving and spreading,” he added.

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/21/science/lanternflies-pennsylvania-crops.html

Garbanzos are catching on in Yolo County

(Woodland Daily Democrat, Ag Alert) Bob Johnson, May 19

…“The largest part of our crop goes to canning, maybe 90 percent,” said Paul Gepts, UC Davis plant sciences professor and legume breeder. “California can only compete with high quality products. We have other varieties with higher yields, but the seeds are too small. The growers get a premium for larger, high quality seeds.”

Gepts developed the two newest UC garbanzo varieties, Vega and Pegasus. Both have large, attractive seeds well suited for the canning market, and both have resistance to Ascochyta blight, a fungal disease that can devastate the crop.

… “I think growers are more interested in garbanzos because it's a winter crop, and wheat prices are low,” said Rachael Long, UC Cooperative Extension farm adviser in Sacramento, Solano and Yolo counties. Long is finishing up UC's first Garbanzo Production Manual, which should be available before the end of the year.

http://www.dailydemocrat.com/article/NI/20180519/NEWS/180519787

A French Broom smack-down

(Napa Valley Register) Elaine de Man, May 18

…If we all pull together and pay attention, we can eradicate French broom and send it packing. But it's going to take many, many hands and a concerted effort. It's going to take a village.

1. U.C. Agriculture and Natural Resources, Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program, http://ipm.ucanr.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn74147.html

https://napavalleyregister.com/lifestyles/home-and-garden/a-french-broom-smack-down/article_cac2f485-4881-563b-84c9-0a5029b1ee40.html

Kale, Not Jail: Urban Farming Nonprofit Helps Ex-Cons Re-enter Society

(New York Times) Patricia Leigh Brown, May 17

Even by the standards of the Bay Area, where sourcing local, organic chicken feed is seen as something of a political act, the spectacle of 30,000 fruit and nut trees being tended by formerly incarcerated orchardists is novel.

…Jennifer Sowerwine, an urban agriculture specialist for the University of California Cooperative Extension at Berkeley, said that Ms. Haleh and Mr. Raders have “shifted the conversation around food justice.”

“It's not just about food security, but the security of providing living wages,” she said. That's no mean feat in a foodie monoculture.

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/17/business/urban-farming-exconvicts-recidivism.html 

Tough winter weather devastates local cherry, blueberry crops

(Bakersfield Californian) John Cox, May 16

It's hard to say at this point just how much damage blueberry fields and cherry orchards sustained during the winter, said Ashraf El-kereamy, viticulture and small fruits advisor with the University of California Cooperative Extension in Kern County.

http://www.bakersfield.com/news/tough-winter-weather-devastates-local-cherry-blueberry-crops/article_3f65d3ce-5957-11e8-9fb4-6779205d0a66.html

Machines take over for people at Napa vineyard

(Capital Press) Tim Hearden, May 14

In the heart of the Napa Valley, a vineyard produces fine Cabernet Sauvignon with virtually no help from laborers.

The 40-acre “touchless vineyard” was established by Kaan Kurtural, a University of California Cooperative Extension specialist who has devoted much of his career to improving production efficiency in vineyards as labor shortages have worsened.

…When Kurtural started experimenting with vineyard automation 10 years ago, his primary goal was to save growers money in labor costs, he said. But since then, research has shown that grape quality is superior, largely because the tall canopy protects grapes from sun damage, he said. The system also uses less water than others, he said.

http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Orchard/20180514/machines-take-over-for-people-at-napa-vineyard

Dozens of strawberry growers gather in Santa Maria to learn latest industry advancements

(KSBY Staff) May 9

More than 100 farmers and growers took park in a meeting teaching them on the best way to grow a healthy strawberry.

The University of California put on the annual event which was free to the public.

Growers discussed improvements handling weeds, disease, and insects.

The Santa Maria Valley is the second largest strawberry growing area in California after the Salinas Valley.

The crop means a lot to people in Santa Maria.

"We've got a number of challenges to the California strawberry industry and we're doing are best to work together," said Steven Fennimore of University of California Cooperative Extension Agriculture and Natural Resources. "I'm optimistic that we'll find some satisfactory solutions."

Growers talked about all kinds of different ways to boost their crop including ways of using images from aircraft to detect stress in plants.

http://www.ksby.com/story/38155207/dozens-of-strawberry-growers-gather-in-santa-maria-to-learn-latest-industry-advancements

Pesticide Use on California Farms at Near-Record Levels

(Fair Warning) Paul Feldman, May 9

…Some experts say long-term changes in the mix of items farmers produce in California, including increases in almonds and other high value crops, give the agriculture industry the incentive to use more pesticides. Such crops present “a larger economic risk if pests are not controlled,”said Brad Hanson, a weed specialist at the University of California, Davis, plant science department.

Jim Farrar, director of the University of California's statewide integrated pest management program, added that more pesticides are needed when “you move from something like alfalfa and sorghum for dairies, where cosmetic injury isn't a problem … to something like oranges where if there's a blemish on the rind you get downgraded even if the orange is perfectly healthy.”

https://www.fairwarning.org/2018/05/pesticides/

Cherry growers expect lighter crop yields

(Ag Alert) Ching Lee, May 9,

…Kari Arnold, a University of California Cooperative Extension farm advisor in Stanislaus County, said she's careful not to paint the 2018 cherry season as a disaster year "because it's really not." The crop may not be as robust, she said, but this was somewhat expected, because last year's crop was so big.

What wasn't expected, she said, was the freeze in the spring, which "did cause some damage to flowers." But the damage varied depending on the location of the orchard and whether growers were able to apply frost protection, she added.

"It's still going to be a good crop," she said. "It may not be the same as last year, but they're going to be good cherries. They're probably going to sell at a higher price because there'll be less of them."

She said she's concerned that word of it being a light crop may scare away field help, adding that "it's hard enough to get field labor in the first place anymore, because labor is becoming more and more difficult to come by and more difficult to keep."

http://www.agalert.com/story/?id=11854

Peak Avocado Is Yet to Come

(The Atlantic) Cynthia Graber, Nicola Twilley, May 9

…Its partners in evolution—the giant, elephant-like gomphotheres and three-ton ground sloths that dined on its fruit in return for transporting and then pooping out its giant seed—went extinct soon after the first bipedal apes arrived in the region. Rodents, jaguars, and eventually humans stepped in as dispersal mechanisms, albeit significantly less effective ones. The flourishing avocado forests that carpeted much of Mesoamerica dwindled and died out. And, as Mary Lu Arpaia, who runs the avocado breeding program at the University of California at Riverside, explained, the avocado became a backyard fruit, enjoyed by first the indigenous peoples and later the conquistadors, but rarely cultivated intensively—until recent decades.

https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2018/05/peak-avocado-is-yet-to-come/559883/ 

Climate change ruining California's environment, report warns
(SF Chronicle) Peter Fimrite, May 8, 2018 
“If I were going to look across North America, ground zero for climate change is the Arctic. It is just changing really, really rapidly,” said Steven Beissinger, professor of conservation biology at UC Berkeley. “But California is an important laboratory to understand the effects of climate change on biodiversity.”

https://www.sfchronicle.com/news/article/Climate-change-ruining-California-s-12899272.php

More illnesses with later onset dates linked to romaine outbreak

(The Packer) Ashley Nickle, May 8, 2018

Richard Smith, a University of California Cooperative Extension advisor based in Salinas, also said the outbreak is hurting sales.

“It's having an effect,” Smith said May 7. “This is the problem — lettuce is pretty expensive to grow, and you've got to cover your costs. You can lose money, at this point the bigger growers can afford to lose for a period of time, but then they've got to make it up, and it just makes it hard. We're not sure how the year's going to go.

“I guess the good news is that the consumers are being sophisticated enough to be focusing on the romaine (versus all lettuce) ... The reality is I guess the FDA doesn't want to clear romaine yet because they think that the lettuce from Yuma might have a 21-day shelf life, so until the FDA clears it and then that news gets clearly articulated, I think it's going to be a damper.

https://www.thepacker.com/article/more-illnesses-later-onset-dates-linked-romaine-outbreak

AEI economists say farmers have ‘beef' with Trump

(Hagstrom Report) May 7, 2018

…Daniel Sumner of the University of California at Davis also told The Hagstrom Report that farmers hurt by the administration's trade policies have "a beef" with Trump.

Sumner said that even though the tariffs on Chinese steel and aluminum have not yet gone into effect, California farmers including wine and almond producers are already worried. "Even if the tariffs don't happen, the rhetoric has effects," he said.

Sumner also said that Mexican buyers of U.S. dairy products — "reasonable business people in Mexico" — began months ago to contact New Zealand dairy producers about becoming a supplier because the Mexicans are worried about the impact of the North American Free Trade Agreement renegotiation.

https://www.thefencepost.com/news/aei-economists-say-farmers-have-beef-with-trump/

City Visions: Tech and the future of smart, sustainable farming

KALW, May 7, 2018

Host Ethan Elkind and guests explore the impact of new technologies on our agricultural industry.

What are the biggest challenges to our current food production system?  And, how are Bay Area innovators meeting these challenges while promoting sustainability, efficiency and profitability?

Guests:

- Charles Baron, co-founder and vice-president of product at Farmer's Business Network.

- Jaleh Daie, Ph.D., founder and chair of AgriFood Tech and partner at Aurora Equity.

- Glenda Humiston, Ph.D., vice president of University of California's Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

http://kalw.org/post/city-visions-tech-and-future-smart-sustainable-farming#stream/0

Workshop planned on Napa fire prevention and best practices

(Napa Valley Register), May 7, 2018

A one-day seminar is planned for May 30 to look at the Napa ecosystem's recovery after the October wildfires and what policies are needed to reduce future fire impacts.

The workshop will be Wednesday, May 30, from 8 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. at Napa Valley College's Performing Arts Center, 2277 Napa Vallejo Highway.

Cost is $15 per person, with registration required at http://ucanr.edu/napafireworkshop2018. For more information, call 530-666-8143. 

The program is sponsored by UC Cooperative Extension, Napa County Farm Bureau and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service.

https://napavalleyregister.com/news/local/workshop-planned-on-napa-fire-prevention-and-best-practices/article_571e3754-8904-580e-b620-4fe3fd0e4e91.html

Egg prices plunge as supplies rebound

(Capital Press) Tim Hearden, May 4

 Commercial egg prices in California are plummeting, and a slow global economy combined with a rebounding chicken flock after last year's devastating avian flu outbreak are among the contributing factors.

…At first, Midwestern egg producers that didn't want to retrofit their barns simply avoided California. Those that did want to market to California found confusion in what actually constituted a Proposition 2-compliant cage, said Joy Mench, a University of California-Davis animal science professor.

“(T)he wording of Prop. 2 does not allow it to be regulated, so there is no official definition of what it means,” Mench said in an email. “That will have to be decided in the courts, either because there is a lawsuit or because someone is prosecuted.”

In enforcing the initiative, the CDFA uses the federal Shell Egg Food Safety rule, whose space requirement is larger than the United Egg Producer guidelines that most of the other states use, noted Maurice Pitesky, a poultry specialist at the UC-Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.

http://www.capitalpress.com/Business/20160504/egg-prices-plunge-as-supplies-rebound  

Farming takes center stage at Yolo County Fairgrounds

Woodland Daily Democrat) Cutter Hicks, May 4

Field trips to the fairgrounds led to a farming experience for students as the Yolo County 4-H and Farm Bureau hosted its 10th annual Farm Connection Day to kick off the Spring Show this weekend.

The four-hour event Friday featured more than 100 agricultural displays and hands-on activities for kids of all ages as nearly 2,500 visitors walked through the gates.

Farm Connection Day was open to the public and more than 200 4-H students teamed up to host the event — with a little help from adult volunteers. Their focus was to teach students of Yolo County the aspects of the organization before judging shows later that day.

DeAnn Tenhunfeld, a Farm Connection Day organizer, said that the attendance was the largest seen since she founded it in 2008.

http://www.dailydemocrat.com/business/20180504/farming-takes-center-stage-at-yolo-county-fairgrounds

Frost damage varied for California nut trees

(Farm Press) Robyn Rominger, May 2, 2018
Some almond growers experienced frost damage from recent freezing conditions, say University of California experts.

“There's really a lot of damage,” says Katherine Jarvis-Shean, UC Cooperative Extension orchard systems advisor for Sacramento, Solano, and Yolo counties. “The earlier varieties really took a hit. Some trees even dropped their nuts due to frost damage. It's pretty bad in some orchards.”

… Bruce Lampinen, UCCE almond and walnut specialist, measured temperatures in an almond trial at Davis, and notes that “Feb. 20 and 24 were the coldest days. It was very problematic because that's when the trees were in full bloom.” At full bloom, temperatures below 28 degrees F. can cause crop loss.

…Phoebe Gordon, UCCE orchard systems advisor for Madera and Merced counties, says, “From what I've seen and heard, the damage has been variable. Some orchards weren't hit that hard, and others were hit very hard. I think it depended a lot on micro-climate and what stage the trees were in. They become more susceptible to frost damage as they transition from dormant to full bloom, and to nut set. I don't think we'll really know until ‘June drop' is finished what the final load is.” 

Dani Lightle, UCCE orchard systems advisor in Glenn and Butte counties, says, “Almonds were right in the middle of full bloom when the frost happened. Most of the orchards in my area seem to have escaped. We didn't seem to cross the threshold to where there was heavy damage. Of course, there are exceptions, but by and large we came out better in the end than we thought we would.”

http://www.westernfarmpress.com/tree-nuts/frost-damage-varied-california-nut-trees

New weapon in fight against walnut blight

(Farm Press) Robyn Rominger, May 2, 2018
Walnut growers have a new tool to help manage blight disease in their orchards — Kasumin 2L, manufactured by Arysta LifeScience, is the trade name for kasugamycin, and is available as part of a strategy to control the disease.

The new bactericide was discussed at a recent University of California Cooperative Extension breakfast meeting at Yuba City. “It's great to have another chemistry in the rotational loop for blight management in walnuts,” says Emily Symmes, UCCE integrated pest management advisor.

http://www.westernfarmpress.com/tree-nuts/new-weapon-fight-against-walnut-blight

Posted on Thursday, May 31, 2018 at 10:59 AM

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