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4-H teaches responsibility

The October issue of Central Valley magazine.
Fresno County 4-H member Tanner Rosales and his goat Bonnie graced the cover of October's Central Valley magazine as time for showing the animal at the Big Fresno Fair approaches.

Tanner, 10, hails from a family with a long 4-H tradition. Mom Kellie Rosales started in 4-H at age 9. Grandma Teri Penfold grew up in 4-H and is now a leader.

With more than 6 million members, 4-H is the nation's largest youth development organization, supporting students ages 9 to 19 through an expansive and varied program designed to shape future leaders and innovators, the article said.

In California, 4-H is part of UC Cooperative Extension.

The article described the months-long process Tanner has undertaken to show a farm animal at the fair. He meets weekly with the 4-H goat leader and makes one or two additional trips to work with Bonnie on his own.

4-H members are responsible for regularly walking their animals, feeding them, weekly weigh-ins, giving any oral medications, practicing showing in a ring and touching the animals so they're used to being handled.

"The 4-H program teaches the commitment needed to properly prepare a goat for show - and more importantly - how to see a project through to completion," the article said.

Rosales said she appreciated the opportunities and experiences that 4-H provided.

"I just want that for my kids," she said. "I want them to know they're going to work hard, and when they work hard it's going to pay off."

Posted on Monday, September 29, 2014 at 8:49 AM

Drought is slowing the spread of sudden oak death

A coast live oak killed by sudden oak death. (Photo: Bruce Hagen)
Finally, some good news about the drought. Dry conditions have apparently curbed the spread of sudden oak death in 12 coastal California counties, reported Guy Kovner in the Santa Rosa Press Democrat.

"If we had one more year of drought, it would really be ideal," said Matteo Garbelotto, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management at UC Berkeley.

The article said Garbelotto isn't hoping for more drought, but evidence shows that the drought is helping reduce SOD infection rates and in some cases is curing infected trees, "because the pathogen dies."

Each spring, the UC Berkeley SOD lab hosts a "blitz" to gauge the spread of Sudden Oak Death. Volunteers fan out across areas susceptible to SOD and collect leaf samples for analysis.

In the Cloverdale area, where an outbreak was confirmed last year, none of the trees sampled had the disease this year, the article reported.

"I would say it is there, but we just didn't find it," Garbelotto said.

East of Highway 101, the rate dropped from 26 percent infected last year to 23.3 percent in 2014, the story said.

Complete SOD blitz results will be available Sept. 29 on the UC Berkeley Forest Pathology and Mycology Lab website.

Posted on Thursday, September 25, 2014 at 10:51 AM

Drought puts a damper on autumn

Drought may impact fall colors in California.
The calendar says fall, but California's mild climate isn't the only thing that's confusing the seasons. An expert with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California says the lack of rainfall, declining groundwater levels and irrigation cutbacks due to the drought are causing some trees to drop leaves early, reported Jan Sears in the Riverside Press Enterprise.

"If you live on a street with sycamores or maples, you usually get a little treat in the fall when they turn colors," Bill Patzert said. "This year, you have already been raking their leaves."

Patzert believes the fall may be colorless in Southern California this year, but Louis Santiago, professor of botany and plant sciences at UC Riverside, said he's not too worried about that.

“A lot of the trees we see turn colors are urban trees, and they tend to be irrigated so the drought has less of an effect on them,” Santiago said. “I wouldn't say we're going to have a terrible fall.”

For the story, UC Cooperative Extension advisor Janet Hartin provided a primer on fall colors.

When nighttime temperatures drop, leaves stop creating chlorophyll. In spring and summer, the green of chlorophyll covers up the yellow, orange and brown hues produced by carotenoids. When chlorophyll disappears, bright sunshine promotes the production of anthocyanins, which create red and orange colors.

“So in reality, foliage doesn't ‘turn' orange or red at all,” Hartin said. “Carotenoids and anthocyanins are always in the leaves; they are simply unmasked once the active growing season is finished.”

Posted on Wednesday, September 24, 2014 at 3:38 PM

Outreach lessons for the information age

Researchers, farmers, and agricultural professionals learn from one another in discussion at a recent field day.
In the information age, helpful information can be amazingly hard to find. Certainly for agriculture, the landscape is rife with expertise, experience, and knowhow. But connecting to the knowledge and linking knowledge-seekers with knowledge-holders can feel like an imperfect science. Research relevant to one crop may be irrelevant to the more than 300 crops grown in California. The unique experience of an individual farmer can be difficult to transfer to another.  

As an outreach professional working with the University, I am constantly seeking new ways to engage with the agricultural community, and ways to improve how agricultural knowledge is produced and transmitted. How can solutions to agricultural and sustainability challenges be informed by farmer experience and scientific research together? And how can we best provide specific information when and where it is needed?

In the new publication, “Extension 3.0: Managing Agricultural Knowledge Systems in the Network Age” by Mark Lubell, UC Davis professor of environmental acience and policy, UC Davis ecology alumna Meredith Niles, and Matthew Hoffman of the Lodi Winegrape Commission, I've gleaned some important lessons that can guide my own work and the work of my organization in trying to effectively find solutions to California's agricultural challenges. A few to share include:

  • Knowledge is produced and distributed by a network, not an individual. Understanding key linkages in a community or area of research can dramatically shorten the distance between knowledge-seekers and knowledge-holders. Track and understand how farmers and agricultural professionals learn from one another, and understand who they go to for their information and who they trust.
  • Boundary-spanning partnerships across different agricultural sectors serve to connect different actors together, building social networks that co-create and distribute knowledge. This practice is common for many. But these partnerships can always grow, and unexpected partners can breathe new life into existing collaborations.
  • Online information technologies can be innovative ways to connect and learn, but will never be a substitute for personal and in-person connections. A combination of the two may provide extended platforms for knowledge sharing, and help expand networks.

Lubell's article calls on extension systems and professionals to be “experimental, adaptive, and creative with program design and implementation.” At the UC Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program, we are working to integrate some of these principles into our own projects. One effort, the Solution Center for Nutrient Management, will incorporate in-person and online discussions about seasonally-relevant nutrient management topics. Our goals are to create helpful ways for researchers to conduct outreach, improve access to research on nutrient management, and better connect different groups to share their nutrient management knowledge and experience through social networks.

Extension 3.0 offers a strong way to harness all that's developed in the information age and turn it into useful, accessible, and trusted knowledge. Many UC offices are taking up the charge, and we're excited every time a new effort arises.

Learn more from the article, and connect with Mark Lubell, Matthew Hoffman, and Meredith Niles on Twitter.    

Posted on Wednesday, September 24, 2014 at 10:18 AM

It's been a tough year for gardeners, but don't despair

LA Times columnist Sandy Banks reached the conclusion that gardening is not for dilettantes.
When Los Angeles Times columnist Sandy Banks shared her disappointment with her summer garden, she got words of encouragement straight from Missy Gable, the director of the UC's Statewide Master Gardener Program. Gable commiserated with Banks, saying her own homegrown tomatoes wound up with blossom end rot because of irrigation difficulties this year.

"I had the same experience that most people did," Gable said.

Banks began the 2014 summer gardening season like most home gardeners, full of hope and enthusiasm. But as fall approached she found herself with "a few spindly stalks of okra, a tangle of barren melon vines and a pepper plant loaded with misshapen pods."

Gable and another UC Cooperative Extension advisor, Janet Hartin, chalked up this year's garden frustrations in part to the state of California's water woes.

"A lot of people are calling and want to rip out their whole garden and just put in native plants," Hartin told the columnist.

But she and Gable assured the writer that vegetables are well worth the water it takes to grow them.

"... By growing fruits and vegetables, you're decreasing your carbon footprint," Gable said. "You're not using pesticides, not making trips to the grocery store.... The environmental and health benefits of home gardens are lasting and important."

Gable offered some suggestions to improve the chances for success:

  • Add compost to the soil to provide nutrients and increase water-holding capacity
  • Switch to water-conserving drip irrigation
  • Insulate the soil surface with a thick layer of mulch
  • Make careful planting decisions

"(Gable) steered me to a bevy of experts who take questions by email and phone through the University of California's Cooperative Extension Master Gardener program. I've bookmarked local planting guides and advice online at http://www.ucanr.edu," Banks wrote.

Posted on Tuesday, September 23, 2014 at 9:20 AM

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