The natural magic of grazing at the Table Mountain Ecological Reserve in Butte County is made possible by running cattle in targeted areas for carefully planned periods of time, reported Ashiah Scharaga in the Chico News & Review.
"If we reduce the amount of vegetation that is there through livestock grazing, we can reduce the amount of fuels that would be available to help a fire spread and carry and build up intensity," said Tracy Schohr, UC Cooperative Extension livestock and natural resources advisor in Butte, Plumas and Sierra counties.
Targeted grazing, Schohr said, also keeps down grasses, weeds and invasive species, serving as an element in the land management "toolbox."
"If cattle were not actually on Table Mountain Ecological Reserve, essentially those invasive species would choke out those native plants, and they wouldn't be there," Schohr said.
In the past, grazing was considered destructive, however, perspectives have changed with fire science research. One such researcher is Kate Wilkin, the fire science and natural resources advisor for UCCE in Butte, Yuba, Sutter and Nevada counties.
Wilkin said that there has been a long history of grazing in the West, dating to the 1700s. Livestock historically overwhelmed the environment, causing degradation to wetlands and meadows especially. Using animals in a targeted way, however, can reduce fire risk without destroying the natural landscape.
Schohr and Wilkin will host a day-long Irrigated Pasture and Annual Rangeland Management Workshop May 31 at the Chico State University Farm.
Aspiring sheep shearers flocked to the UC Hopland Research and Extension Center in May for a week of training on the proper techniques for harvesting wool from sheep, reported Tiffany Camhi on KQED Radio News.
“We try to get the students shearing the first day because they make a lot of mistakes,” said UC Cooperative Extension advisor John Harper, who heads up the annual training session.
The school teaches the New Zealand style of shearing, which causes the least amount of stress for the sheep and the shearer. It involves some fancy footwork, which Harper likens to a dance.
“We're dancing instructors,” Harper said. “It's like 'Dancing With The Stars' on steroids, but with sheep.”
Expert sheep shearers can expect to find work that pays well.
UCCE advisor Dan Macon said the growing popularity of backyard flocks in California is adding to the demand for shearers.
“Infrastructure of the sheep industry is a key component,” Macon said. “Having people with that kind of skill and willingness to work hard is desperately needed.”
Read more about the UCCE Sheep Shearing school here: UC sheep shearing school prepares students for gainful employment
New York Times.
“They've been appearing in grapes, and we have reports from growers last year of a 90 percent loss,” said Julie Urban, a senior research associate at Penn State.
The reporter also contacted UC Cooperative Extension advisor Surendra Dara, who published an article in 2014 about spotted lanternfly in Pest News, a UC Agriculture and Natural Resources eJournal about endemic and invasive pests in California.
Asian citrus psyllid, the Bagrada bug, and the brown marmorated stink bug are still underway, there is a new pest that could potentially impact industries ranging from lumber to wine."
Dara told Times' reporter that lanternfly has the unusual ability to lay eggs on almost any surface — plants and soil as well as wheel wells, train cars and shipping containers.
“Most pests deposit their eggs on their host plant, or very close, so they already have food available,” Dara said. “Those that have the advantage of being able to lay eggs on non-plant material obviously have a better chance of surviving and spreading."
The East Oakland non-profit organization Planting Justice hires former inmates, many from San Quentin, and pays them a family sustaining wage to work on urban farms, orchards and nurseries, and offer environmental education, reported Patti Brown in the New York Times.
Of the 35 formerly incarcerated workers hired by Planting Justice since 2009, only one is known to have returned to prison. Employees must commit to staying sober and drug free.
Jennifer Sowerwine, UC Cooperative Extension specialist at UC Berkeley, said that the organization's founders, Haleh Zandi and Gavin Raders, have “shifted the conversation around food justice.”
“It's not just about food security, but the security of providing living wages,” she said.
Sowerwine said she learned about Planting Justice a few years ago in an urban farming focus group and worked with the program on many projects. She suggested the New York Times reporter do a feature story on Planting Justice, set up the interview and attended the site visit to support the introduction.
Planting Justice, in partnership with the Multinational Exchange for Sustainable Agriculture, were recipients of a Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program Grant from USDA at the same time as Sowerwine.
"We collaborate and support each other's programs through providing mutual guidance, co-sponsoring events, and offering opportunities for shared learning for our participants," Sowerwine said. "We are exploring deeper partnerships with a MESA/PJ training program at the Gill Tract as well in an effort to raise the profile of urban farming, and amplify successful and innovative urban agriculture approaches."
“We set this up to be a no-touch vineyard,” Kurtural said. “All the cultural practices are done by machine.”
Kurtural's original intent was to help farmers deal with labor shortages, but the trial also produced superior winegrapes.
“When I took the job at the University of California, the labor situation started to get worse,” Kurtural said. “If we didn't have people to prune grapes, we weren't able to finish pruning. So we said, ‘We are a research station, let's develop a solution.'”
In the research vinyard:
- A machine equipped with telemetry and GPS sensors prunes the vines
- Soil and canopy data are collected manually
- Spurs and suckers are thinned with a specially designed pruner
- Clusters are thinned mechanically
- The grapes are harvested mechanically
“We can do all the practices mechanically now,” he said. “There was no economic need to do this previously, but now there is.”
Kurtural attributes the winegrape quality improvements to the tall canopy, which protects grapes from sun damage. The system also uses less water.
For complete details, watch a 40-minute lecture by Kaan Kutural online