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Non-lethal predator wildlife control helps keep livestock safe

A coyote very near one of HREC's main pastures that holds lambs. (Photo: Robert J. Keiffer)
Five guard dogs are part of the team protecting sheep at a UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) research center in Mendocino County. The director of the UC Hopland Research and Extension Center (HREC) Kim Rodriguez is optimistic the dogs and other non-lethal wildlife control efforts being used at the station will allow peaceful grazing animals to share land with natural predators, reported Sarah Reith in the Ukiah Daily Journal.

Rodrigues initiated a new standard operating procedure (SOP) at Hopland early this year for predator animal control. The policy involves guard dogs, improved fencing and pasture management to protect sheep from coyotes, rather than shooting the predators. Jim Lewers, senior animal technician at HREC, said the "losses have declined" since the new policy was put in place. 

Hannah Bird, HREC community educator, said 10 sheep at the center were killed by coyotes in 2015, while 43 were killed in 2014.

Rodrigues told the reporter that it is hard to attribute declines in animal deaths to a single strategy. She hopes to eventually make Hopland a hub for research and information sharing with local landowners on wildlife control.

That effort begins next week. On Dec. 1 and 2, HREC will offer two separate workshops on wildlife management. The first day will include representatives from USDA Wildlife Services, the California Dept. of Fish and Wildlife, and Defenders of Wildlife. On the second day, local ranchers and UC ANR representatives will speak about their chosen methods of wildlife management. Registration is $30 per day. Registration for the two days is separate, and the deadline is Saturday, Nov. 28. 

Click here to register for the Dec. 1 workshop.

Click here to register for the Dec. 2 workshop.

Posted on Wednesday, November 25, 2015 at 9:20 AM

The science of sensory evaluation

Mouth-watering anticipation of holiday food is part of the science of sensory evaluation. (Photo: Pixabay.com)
Holidays fan the flames of our love affair with food. As soon as summer melts into fall, our thoughts leap ahead with mouth-watering anticipation to family gatherings around a Thanksgiving or Christmas feast with all the trimmings. Months before the turkey is carved, you can almost smell it roasting in the oven. You can almost taste the salty goodness of stuffing and gravy. You can almost see colorful visions of home-baked treats dancing in your head.

Your sense of taste, smell, sight, hearing and touch sends signals to your brain that the holiday feasting season has arrived. These basic senses are the tools that influence how much you like – or dislike – the foods you eat.

Sensory evaluation also has practical applications in agriculture. UC Agriculture and Natural Resources researchers and their colleagues often conduct sensory panels for specific food crop studies. Recently volunteer evaluators filed into the sensory evaluation lab at the UC Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center to participate in a grape sensory panel. UC researcher Mary Lu Arpaia and USDA researcher David Obenland collected data for a study on the impacts of various storage conditions on grape varieties.

David Obenland of the USDA prepares citrus samples for evaluation.
Evaluators tasted grape samples and recorded their responses to appearance, taste and texture. Samples given to each evaluator were randomly ordered to eliminate bias in the test results. Evaluators were instructed to sip water between tastings to cleanse the palate. Evaluation procedures can vary slightly from product to product. When sensory panels are conducted for avocados, evaluators are instructed to munch on raw carrots before sipping water due to the oil in avocados. The coarse texture of carrots more fully cleanses the palate between avocado tastings. Other sensory panels have been conducted on citrus.

“There's a bit of psychology involved as well. How the product looks can influence your perception of how it tastes. To further eliminate bias, evaluators are intentionally isolated in individual stations so as not to be influenced by their neighbors' reactions,” explained David Obenland.

Grapes are displayed for evaluators to rate fruit appearance.
Sensory evaluation is used by commodity groups like the Table Grape Commission too. Data collected from a grape sensory panel provides important feedback to growers to identify factors that will inform marketing strategies and produce a quality product that consumers are more likely to buy. Evaluators can be recruited from industry groups, in which case they are considered to be “semi-experts,” or from the general public which are classified as “true consumers.”

The sensory evaluation lab at the Kearney Agricultural REC reflects the current philosophy of fruit commodity research that the industry's focus should be on sensory evaluation, from new pest management to horticultural practices to varietal improvements. The lab was completed and dedicated in April 2008 with support from the California Avocado Inspection Committee, Citrus Research Board, Food Machinery Corporation, Peach, Plum and Nectarine Growers of California, Sunkist and Table Grape Commission.

Author: Roberta Barton

Posted on Wednesday, November 25, 2015 at 8:37 AM

Passage of TPP would boost California ag exports to Asia

Daniel Sumner is director of the UC ANR Agricultural Issues Center. (Photo: CAES)
President Obama won support from Congress in October for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a proposed trade deal that would boost California agricultural exports by billions of dollars, reported Ken Wayne of KTVU TV in San Francisco. A vote on the deal is expected in Congress next summer, but may be delayed until after the 2016 election.

If passed, the TPP would open up ag trade with countries like Vietnam, Japan, Australia and Malasia, who are clamoring for California fruit, vegetables, nuts and wine. China is not part of the proposed trade deal.

Wayne's story featured clips from a lengthy interview with the director of the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) Agricultural Issues Center Dan Sumner, who explained why Pacific rim countries want to purchase California agricultural products.

"We're good at it," Sumner said. "They want our stuff. The governments get in the way. The more we can get the governmental barriers out of the way, the more their consumers can take our stuff."

The vote last month gave the president the ability to "fast-track" negotiations with the Pacific Rim countries. Congress can still reject the deal.

Sumner said it is a shame that the $9 billion dairy industry was left out of the TPP. 

"Asia and other Pacific rim countries want our products," he said. "We left some barriers in place that should have come down further."

Sumner said California farmers and their allies are pushing to get TPP approved.

Posted on Tuesday, November 24, 2015 at 3:46 PM

Living with wildlife while managing working landscapes

Good fencing is one tool that allows coyotes and sheep to share the open range.
The UC Hopland Research and Extension Center (UC HREC) will host workshops on Dec. 1 and 2 to foster understanding and encourage community dialog about ranching on a landscape with populations of coyote, black bear, mountain lions and other wildlife.

“Mendocino County supports many ranchers and our communities enjoy locally produced lamb, beef, milk, cheese and other agricultural products,” said Kimberley Rodrigues, director of UC HREC. “Along with these opportunities come challenges associated with living alongside some of our resident wildlife. The workshops will help local residents deal with these challenges.”

Rodrigues – who has a doctorate degree in environmental science and has been a leader in outreach, strategic facilitation and partnership development for 25 years – has been actively involved in wildlife management at the 5,300-acre HREC since she arrived in mid-2014.

“I quickly realized the biggest challenge to maintaining a sustainable flock of sheep here in our location is addressing predation issues, primarily by coyotes,” Rodrigues said. “With some improvements to our fences, changes in pasture rotations and increased use of guard dogs, losses of sheep to coyotes are now at an acceptable level. We hope to share our own experience, hear from diverse perspectives and experiences at these events and would like HREC to become a hub for future learning on this topic.”

Recent discussion and decisions made by the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors regarding their contract with USDA Wildlife Services (WS) and their use of an integrated wildlife damage management program prompted UC HREC to provide a space for two workshops to allow learning on wildlife management and community conversation.

The Dec. 1 workshop will focus on scientific design and is implemented by USDA WS. It provides an opportunity to hear experts from USDA, the Californi Department of Fish and Wildlife, UC Cooperative Extension and Defenders of Wildlife to discuss the most up-to-date research in wildlife behavior and non-lethal control methods.

The Dec. 2 community conversation workshop is hosted by UC HREC and includes current research from UC Agriculture and Natural Resources, wildlife biologists and discussion of the challenges associated with ranching in Mendocino County from the Magruder family and other local ranchers. The day will culminate in discussion groups on topics ranging from integrated wildlife management tools to understanding local, state and federal connections.

The public may attend either day or both days. Registration for the two workshops is separate.

“Topography, surrounding environments, community viewpoints, available funds and the kind of animals being farmed are all part of the picture – there is no easy solution,” said Hannah Bird, UC HREC community educator. “Ranchers and land managers need to know what tools are available to them and the implications and benefits of each of these tools. Attending both workshops will provide a deeper understanding of the issues.”

Community members, ranchers, land managers and members of non-profit organizations are invited to attend. The workshops will be at the Rod Shippey Hall, Hopland Research and Extension Center, 4070 University Road, Hopland, CA 95449. Registration is $30 for each day (including lunch) and must be made in advance. The registration deadline is Nov. 23. Space is limited.

Sign up for the Dec. 1 USDA WS workshop at http://ow.ly/TYhBd and the Dec. 2 community conversation workshop at http://ow.ly/TYhos.

More on the University of California Hopland Research and Extension Center:

The Hopland Research and Extension Center is a multi-disciplinary research and education facility run by the University of California, Agriculture and Natural Resources Division. As stewards of more than 5,300 acres of oak woodland, grassland, chaparral, and riparian environments their mission is to find better ways to manage our natural resources and conduct sustainable agricultural practices, through science, for the benefit of California's citizens.

Author: Hannah Bird

Posted on Monday, November 23, 2015 at 10:38 AM

Valley farmer honored by White House for conservation practices

Farmer Jesse Sanchez hosted an agricultural tour from Afghanistan at Sano Farms last year as part of his involvement with UC ANR's Conservation Agriculture Systems Innovation Center.
Jesse Sanchez, a farm manager for Sano Farms near Firebaugh and Mendota, was honored by the White House as a "Champion of Change" last month for his commitment to building healthy soils, reported Megan Ginise in the Fresno Bee.

Sanchez is an active member of the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) Conservation Agriculture Systems Innovation Center (CASI), a diverse group of UC researchers, farmers, and representatives of public agencies, private industry and environmental groups that work together to develop knowledge and exchange information on conservation-oriented production systems in California. 

In 2009, CASI named Sanchez and his employer, Alan Sano, its "Conservation Agriculture Innovators of the Year." The 2015 honor from the White House is another recognition for efforts to make soil health a priority on the 4,000-acre farm that produces garbanzo beans, garlic, processing and fresh market tomatoes, along with pistachios and almonds.

Jeff Mitchell, UC ANR Cooperative Extension specialist and CASI chair, said the White House's acknowledgment, which honors 'everyday Americans who are doing extraordinary things,' is a very fitting recognition for Sanchez and all of Sano Farms.

"They're very much pioneers, very innovative and persistent as well," Mitchell said. "What they've done through the vision they have had, sticking with it, learning step-by-step how to improve the system how to adjust things."

A story about Sanchez' White House honor also appeared on the USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service website

The NRCS article noted that Sanchez and Sano have long shared their work with Mitchell, and through Mitchell with other farmers interested in conservation agriculture systems. 



Posted on Monday, November 23, 2015 at 9:24 AM

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