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UCCE works with CDFA to help Hmong farmers conserve water and reduce emissions

California farmers Fong Tchieng and Vang C. Thao have a lot in common. They both have farming operations in the Central Valley. They both belong to the state's vibrant – and growing – Hmong farming community. And most importantly, they have both partnered with state agencies to save water and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Funded through California's Cap-and-Trade Program and administered by the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA), the State Water Efficiency and Enhancement Program, or SWEEP, has helped both these growers conserve water and reduce emissions by installing water and energy saving technologies.

Both Mr. Tchieng and Mr. Thao have used SWEEP dollars to invest in technologies like energy efficient pumps, drip irrigation systems and flow meters. According to the growers, these investments have helped them save water and reduce energy costs.

“This is a big upgrade compared to what we had,” said Kong Thao, who helps his father run their 34-acre farm in Fresno, Calif. “With the water system that we have now, we're finally at a point where we can relax a little and be able to do this for many years to come.”

Like other growers, California Hmong farmers have also struggled with the prolonged effects of the State's historic drought. According to a 2016 survey conducted by the University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE), 52 separate operations said the drought had affected their farm.  The survey also found that 22 percent of growers said their wells had dried up, and 51 percent reported a decreased water flow.

But unlike larger growers, many Hmong farmers do not always have the resources or necessary information to get help. To help bridge this gap, CDFA has partnered with UCCE to assist farmers in the SWEEP application process.

“California's Hmong community plays an integral role in this state's agricultural bounty,” said CDFA Secretary Karen Ross. “We need to continue working with our partners to make sure that SWEEP dollars are available for all those who qualify, regardless of their size or resources.”

UCCE advisor Ruth Dahlquist-Willard (right) demonstrates how to evaluate soil moisture with a soil sampler. In the center is UCCE Hmong ag assistant Michael Yang.

Since its inception in 2014, SWEEP has extended funding to 587 projects, totaling more than $62 million.  To learn more about SWEEP, please visit: https://www.cdfa.ca.gov/oefi/sweep/.  You can also click here to see more videos on additional SWEEP awardees.

The article and video are from the CDFA Planting Seeds Bloghttps://plantingseedsblog.cdfa.ca.gov/wordpress/?p=14436.

Posted on Thursday, January 11, 2018 at 8:03 AM

No need to pass on the Caesar's salad

At least 58 people have been sickened, and two — one in California and one in Canada — have died because they contracted E. coli O157:H7 in November and December, believed to be related to eating romaine lettuce or other leafy greens. In the United States, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control has linked at least 17 reports of illness in 13 states to the outbreak. 

That has many people passing on Caesar's salad. But UC Cooperative Extension specialist Trevor Suslow said it is unlikely that romaine now at grocery stores is contaminated, reported Bob Rodriguez in the Fresno Bee.

"It's not going to last that long, it's gone," Suslow said.

The CDC is conducting whole genome sequencing on samples of bacteria making people sick in the U.S. and Canada to determine whether they are related. Preliminary results show the type of E. coli is closely related genetically, the CDC reported

Officials believe romaine lettuce contaminated with E. coli O157:H7 is responsible for recent illnesses and two deaths in the U.S. and Canada. (Photo: Creative Commons 3 - CC BY-SA 3.0)

 

Posted on Tuesday, January 9, 2018 at 10:06 AM

Trends we're watching in 2018: experts weigh in on water, GM, science communication and more

As we settle into 2018, it's natural to wonder what the New Year may bring. There have been dozens of "trend pieces" discussing what's in store. In this wrap, we consider possible 2018 trends in water, the GM debate, science communication, and food and nutrition.

Water

After one of the driest Decembers on record, many Californians continue to worry about water supply. I turned to UC ANR water expert Faith Kearns. Faith is a scientist and communicator at the California Institute for Water Resources, a UC ANR-based "think-tank" that integrates California's research, extension, and education programs to develop research-based solutions to water resource challenges. Faith writes about water issues for a number of publications, including UC's Confluence blog. She was recently

 quoted in a Rolling Stone article about California's "climate emergency," penned by meteorologist/writer Eric Holthaus

Faith told me this:

"Water quantity and human use tend to be the dominant lenses that we use to talk about water in California, but they're not the only thing we need to be paying attention to. For example, water quality issues loom equally as large, and are of course related. But, even beyond that, there are also many non-use oriented ways that water impacts our lives - through recreation, aesthetics, and culture, just to name a few. A trend that I hope to see in 2018 is a broadening of the conversation on water, and an expansion of the kinds of knowledge that are brought to bear on water issues."

Editor's note: The quality of American drinking water continues to be a point of local and national concern; it will undoubtedly be an important topic in the 2018 midterm elections in certain congressional districts. Learn more about this vital public health and social justice issue by visiting the National Drinking Water Alliance website (NDWA). NDWA is funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and coordinated by UC ANR's Nutrition Policy Institute.

The debate over genetically modified food: Entering a new era?

UC Davis associate professor and plant pathologist Neil McRoberts - who was recently named co-leader of UC ANR's Strategic Initiative in Sustainable Food Systems - shared his ideas about where we might be headed in terms of framing the GM discussion.

"...The GM debate is entering a new era with the growing use of gene editing - CRSPR-Cas9technology. Interestingly, this time around the ethics and socio-economics debate seems to be keeping pace with the science, as witnessed by the latest issue of the Journal of Responsible Innovation, which focuses on gene drive technologies and their uses. The special issue grew out of a workshop hosted at NCSU last year. The use of CRSPR has re-opened debates about how genetic modification should be regulated and labeled."

Editor's note: You can learn more about Neil's work here. He recently wrote a guest blog post for UC Food Observer about the importance of cash crops to smallholder farmers in Uganda and Malaysia. For more about the GM debate, read the text of Mark Lynas' speech to the Oxford Farming Conference, in which he tries to "map out the contours of a potential peace treaty" between GM proponents and the technology's opponents. h/t Nathanael Johnson.

Will 2018 usher in an era of more civil communication around science-based topics?

*It depends on us.

Across the board, our public discourse took a dive in 2017 ... and that's a shame. Here's to a New Year ... and resolving to do a better job at communicating with clarity, integrity and with less judgment. The advancement of science (and perhaps the preservation of our sanity) depend upon it.

I loved this piece by Tamar Haspel, which recently appeared in the Washington Post and specifically addresses science communication and agriculture/food issues. Shorter: If we want to persuade people, we have to be respectful. She writes:

“Rudeness can increase polarization and entrench disagreements even further. Nasty begets nasty; it's regression toward the mean ..."

As both a scientist and a communicator, UC ANR's Faith Kearns also informed my thinking on where the communications trend line ought to go for 2018, telling me that:

"One of the bigger challenges, and opportunities, facing the science communication community is how to really push ourselves to better incorporate more perspectives from the social sciences and humanities. This is particularly true on issues like food, agriculture, and the environment where so much of what is truly challenging is related to human behavior, decision-making, and psychology. It's not just a matter of using research on science communication to inform practice, but also of responsibly integrating different forms of knowledge into communication efforts." 

Food and nutrition trends

There are an overwhelming number of food trend pieces out right now. The Hartman Group is a good account to follow to stay apprised of food trends throughout the year. Their Year in Review blog post is definitely worth a read. It identifies some trends from last year that will likely carry forward, including consumer demands for transparency, "conscious" consumerism, customized health and wellness, and the ways in which snacking is disrupting food culture. Bonus: you can access some of Hartman's industry reports via links included in the blog post.

For a largely culinary perspective of 2018 trends, check out the BBC's Good Food piece. Nationally-known dietitian Christy Brissette has written an interesting piece about nutrition trends (think algae, Stevia, chicory root fiber and eating for "Diabetes 3" - aka Alzheimer's).

And if you're having trouble keeping that New Year's resolution to exercise more, consider reading this piece, which reports on a study indicating that exercise alters our microbiome - which could improve our health and metabolism. Gretchen Reynolds for the New York Times.

Have a great week!

This article was first published in the UC Food Observer blog.

Posted on Tuesday, January 9, 2018 at 8:27 AM

Monthly news round up: January 2018

Bloomington nursery's citrus trees to be destroyed by California agriculture department

(ABC7 KABC) Rob McMillan, Jan. 17, 2018

Roxana Vallejo was 12 years old when her parents opened up Santa Ana Nursery in Bloomington.

On Wednesday, the California Department of Food and Agriculture will be at her business to destroy almost all of their citrus trees.

Vallejo said the combined value of the trees is almost $1 million.

"They're all fine, and look at all the new growth, it's pretty good," Vallejo said.

The reason they're being cut down is huanglongbing, or HLB, one of the world's worst citrus diseases. The insect that spreads HLB has taken a strong foothold in Southern California.

"It's estimated that the citrus industry may go commercially extinct unless they can get a handle on this problem," said Mark Hoddle, UC Cooperative Extension specialist at UC Riverside, more than one year ago.

http://abc7.com/food/ie-nurserys-citrus-trees-to-be-destroyed-by-ca-agriculture-department/2959173/

Farm advisor tests strategies for controlling horseweed

(Ag Alert) Bob Johnson, Jan. 10, 2018

One morning last summer, University of California Cooperative Extension vineyard weed control advisor John Roncoroni displayed a horseweed plant that had grown to more than 10 feet tall in a Yolo County vineyard.

Horseweed, which is widely seen on the sides of the state's highways, is among the glyphosate-resistant weed pests that can develop healthy populations in even well managed vineyards.

"We're really having problems with weeds coming in the fall that are resistant to Roundup," Roncoroni said. "Willow herb is tolerant; it's never been completely controlled by glyphosate."

http://www.agalert.com/story/?id=11460

 

Western Innovator: Promoting sustainable ranching

(Western Farm Press) Tim Hearden, Jan. 9, 2018

Tracy Schohr has devoted much of her career to promoting sustainability in ranching.

While at the California Cattlemen's Association, she put on an annual “rangeland summit” that brought ranchers together with environmental experts and climate change policymakers.

She also worked on a program to limit ranchers' risk of facing Endangered Species Act violations if they created habitat on their land.

After going back to school to earn her master's degree at the University of California-Davis, Schohr has become a UC Cooperative Extension livestock and natural resources adviser based in Plumas, Sierra and Butte counties.

http://www.capitalpress.com/California/20180108/western-innovator-promoting-sustainable-ranching 

Weed Control with Brad Hanson UC Cooperative Extension Weed Specialist at UC Davis 

(California Ag Today) Patrick Cavanaugh, Jan. 8, 2018

“Weeds are probably one of the year-in, year-out problems that growers face,” said Brad Hanson, UC Cooperative Extension, who discussed herbicide resistance with California Ag Today.

https://californiaagtoday.com/podcasts/brad-hanson-uc-cooperative-extension-weed-specialist-at-uc-davis-on-weed-control/

Building blocks for tending flocks

Workshop series to teach sheep handling and herding skills

(Auburn Journal) Julie Miller, Jan. 7, 2018

Counting sheep is no longer for the tired and sleepy.

Shepherding has become a booming industry in Placer County. At last count, there are 9,000 head of sheep registered with the county, said Dan Macon, livestock and natural resources advisor for University of California, for Placer and Nevada counties. And there may be more sheep that have not been registered, perhaps because they are in a smaller flock of 10 to 15, he said.

Sheep have proven to be versatile. Not only raised for the meat and milk, but also wool fibers, plus, they can help reduce fire danger by eating away tall grasses and shrubs.

http://www.auburnjournal.com/article/1/06/18/building-blocks-tending-flocks#

After a recent outbreak of E.coli, is it safe to eat romaine lettuce? Experts differ

(Fresno Bee) Robert Rodriguez, Jan. 5, 2018

If you are staying away from romaine lettuce because of an outbreak of E.coli, it's understandable. But at least one food safety expert says it may not be necessary.

…But University of California food safety expert Trevor Suslow said it's unlikely the lettuce you buy at the grocery store these days is going to do you any harm. That's because the illnesses happened from Nov. 15 through Dec. 8. Lettuce sold during that period wouldn't be around anymore.

“It's not going to last that long, it's gone,” Suslow said.

http://www.fresnobee.com/living/food-drink/article193301924.html

2017's natural disasters cost American agriculture over $5 billion

(New Food Economy) Sam Bloch, Jan. 4, 2018

Over a period of 10 months in 2017, America experienced 16 separate, billion-dollar weather and climate-related disasters. Those weather events carved paths of destruction straight through some of the most fertile and productive regions of the country, wreaking havoc on beef cattle ranches in Texas, soaking cotton and rice farms in Louisiana, orange groves in Florida, and burning up vineyards in California. And that was all before Southern California's still-active Thomas fire, which began on December 4, and then closed in on the country's primary avocado farms. It's now the state's largest-ever, in terms of total acreage.

Acres of cherimoya trees in Santa Barbara County destroyed by the Thomas fire: 100

Total dollar value of Santa Barbara cherimoya fruit damaged by fire: $5,000,000

~

Acres of avocado fields in Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties threatened by wildfire: 5,260

Estimated pounds of Hass avocados in Ventura County lost to wildfire: 8,060,000

Total dollar value of that lost harvest: $10,175,750

Approximate percentage of American avocado crop threatened by wildfire: 8

Expected effect of wildfire on avocado prices in America, due to reliance on imports: 0

~

Winegrape acreage in Napa and Sonoma Counties: 104,847

As a percentage of total California winegrape acreage: 22

~

Estimated dollar value of unharvested Cabernet grapes in those counties, before the wildfires: $175,000,000

Estimated dollar value of those grapes, now tainted by smoke: $29,000,000

Bottles of 2016 Napa Cabernet you can buy for the price of two 2017 vintages, due to winegrape scarcity: 3

California wildfire data from Daniel A. Sumner, Ph.D. of UC Agricultural Issues Center, USDA NASS, Ben Faber, Ph.D. of UC Cooperative Extension Ventura.

https://newfoodeconomy.org/2017-natural-disasters-agriculture-damage-5-billion/

There Is No “No-Fire” Option in California

(Bay Nature) Zach St. George, Jan. 2, 2018

As the use of prescribed fire by Cal Fire declined in recent decades, its use also declined with private landholders, says Lenya Quinn-Davidson, director of the Northern California Prescribed Fire Council, who leads prescribed burning workshops across the state. Scott Stephens, the UC Berkeley professor, concurs. Decades of suppression left the western U.S. with relatively few people trained to carry out the work: “We just don't have that experience to pass on.” But it's important not to let the current enthusiasm pass, he says—as climate change continues to push conditions toward extremes, as wildfires consume more and more of fire agency budgets, and as the wildland-urban interface expands, it will only become more difficult to bring fire back.

https://baynature.org/article/no-no-fire-option-california/

Tribute to Paul Verdegaal – one of Lodi's “men behind the curtain”

(Lodi Wine blog) Randy Caparoso, Jan. 1, 2018

This coming February 6, 2018, Lodi winegrowers will get together for their 66th Annual LODI GRAPE DAY. They will also mark the occasion with a celebration of the retirement of Paul Verdegaal, who has been working full-time as San Joaquin County's viticulture, bush berry and almond Farm Advisor under the auspices of UCCE (University of California Cooperative Extension) since 1986.

http://www.lodiwine.com/blog/Tribute-to-Paul-Verdegaal---one-of-Lodi-s--men-behind-the-curtain-

Posted on Monday, January 8, 2018 at 1:06 PM

San Joaquin County gardeners boost business with UC Cooperative Extension Green Gardener qualification

For a healthier family and environment, San Joaquin County homeowners can select a UC-qualified Green Gardener to take care of their lawns and landscapes.

Green Gardeners are landscape professionals who are trained and tested on up-to-date, environmentally friendly, science-based landscape practices.

“We're improving the knowledge and skill sets of workers who manage an enormous amount of urban acreage,” said Karrie Reid, the UC Cooperative Extension horticulture advisor in San Joaquin County. “We're helping them understand that they have the power to effect change in water conservation, quality of storm water runoff, and the amount of pesticides that are in the environment.”

UCCE advisor Karrie Reid (center) with Green Gardener training participants in San Joaquin County.

To become qualified as a Green Gardener, participants attend classes eight weeknight evenings and two Saturday mornings. The first module addresses the importance of healthy soil for healthy landscapes. UC Cooperative Extension scientists provide training on soil building, pest control and green waste management. The second module focuses on mastering efficient irrigation and conducting an irrigation audit. The final sessions focus on plants in the California landscape, including turfgrass, trees and shrubs.

Because the Green Gardener program is partially funded by a dumping fee paid by residents to the county landfill, green waste management is a key component of the program.

“We have to reduce our green waste,” Reid said. “Our urban soils are in need of organic matter. By building soil with green waste, we are solving two problems that inhibit our urban landscapes' sustainability.”

Beginning with Module 1, the Green Gardener qualification program is being held for the fifth time Jan. 16 to March 12, 2018. The registration deadline is Jan. 12.

On the first day of an earlier session, a landscaper wondered aloud if the $90 fee and, particularly, the time commitment, would be worth it. “Well, I know the answer is that it was worth it,” he said.

Qualified 'Green Gardeners' may use this logo in advertising.
In addition to all the knowledge gained, after passing the class, the participants can place the Green Gardener logo on their advertisements and be added to the online list of qualified UCCE Green Gardeners.

One Green Gardener, Jacob Wilson, wrote to Reid about a visit to a customer's property after a four-week break and found the lawn was significantly greener.

“I asked the customer if she had her sprinklers repaired,” Wilson said. “She said, ‘No, my sister adjusted the water schedule to two or three times during the night with shorter watering duration each time instead of watering once; like you said.'”

As his customer made her way back to the house, Wilson said he was feeling more like a professional.

Home gardeners aren't the only ones who can take advantage of the program. Reid has reached out to landscape professionals working in the county parks department and school districts. There are landscapers who tend apartment complex landscapes, commercial building landscapes, street medians and highway rights-of-way.

“I successfully pitched the program to the Sherriff's Department for their grounds landscape personnel,” Reid said.

For more information, visit the Green Gardener of San Joaquin County website at http://ucanr.edu/sites/GreenGardener.

Green Gardener training participants conduct a sprinkler test.
Posted on Monday, January 8, 2018 at 8:30 AM

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