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Central Sierra


Dry-land farming of winegrapes has a place in Napa and Sonoma

Grapes farmed in Northern California's famed "Wine Country" can be successfully produced with no irrigation water applied at all, reported Ellen Knickmeyer of the Associated Press.

She spoke to farmer Frank Leeds, who produces grapes in Napa Valley without adding water, not because of the drought, but because he believes the practice produces the best wine. Another option some farmers are using is deficit irrigation, which provides irrigation water at carefully timed intervals.

The farmers believe dryland farming and deficit irrigation force the vines to develop deeper roots that give wine distinctive "terroir" notes, flavor character it derives from the environment. But they must be cautious to avoid the dreaded "r" word - raisin, said an UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) expert.

"I do know that (various) wineries have a preference, but the overarching preference is that the fruit is sound and it arrives at the winery not shriveled up as a raisin," said UC ANR Cooperative Extension advisor Rhonda Smith.

Northern California wines can be produced with or without irrigation water. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
Posted on Thursday, October 8, 2015 at 3:27 PM

UC invites community to view archaeological sites at research center

Dozens of northern California residents are expected at the UC Hopland Research and Extension Center on Saturday to take part in activities to celebrate California Archeology Month, reported Sarah Reith in the Ukiah Daily Journal.

"Archaeology for All" is offered jointly by Hopland and local Tribal Historic Preservation Offices. The research center is located on historic Hopland Pomo land and is the site of many rocks that were used in rituals thousands of years ago, the article says. Visitors on Saturday will see tribal markings on the site which are thought to be more than 5,000 years old. 

"It's not artwork," said Donna Gillette, an archaeologist who specializes in rock art. "It's a good chance (the markings) are the result of ritualistic quarrying of material, probably for increase," or human fertility.

Before beginning to study rocks at Hopland, Gillette asked permission from the tribal group. The Historic Preservation Offices assigned Shawn Padi to work with her. Padi and another representative of the Tribal Historic Preservation Offices, Hillary Renick, will present talks at Saturday's event. Renick also plans to prepare and serve acorns, a traditional Native Californian stable, to participants. 

The event will be at Rod Shippey Hall, 4070 University Road, in Hopland, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 10. Tickets are $10 for adults. Children under 12 will be admitted free. Advance reservation required. For more information, call Hannah Bird at (707) 744-1424 ext. 105.

A rock at the UC Hopland Research and Extension Center that was worked by Native Californians. (Photo: Robert Keiffer)
Posted on Thursday, October 8, 2015 at 2:39 PM

Antibiotic drug use in food animals focus of October workshop

Cows feed at a California dairy. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
New guidelines being implemented by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration – effective Jan. 1, 2017 - require label changes allowing only therapeutic uses of some medically important antimicrobial drugs, and call for increased veterinarian oversight for these drugs used in animal feed. The drugs are currently sold over the counter with unrestricted access. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, overuse may be related to the development of antibiotic-resistance-related infections, which kill 23,000 people and sicken millions each year.

The UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine and the Farm Foundation recently brought together the state's livestock and poultry producers, their feed suppliers, veterinarians and UC Agriculture and Natural Resources Cooperative Extension specialists to discuss a changing landscape of antibiotic drug use in food animals.

Regional industry leaders were among the speakers at the workshop, held at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. They included Chuck Ahlem of Hilmar Farms, Bill Mattos of the California Poultry Federation, Dr. Stuart Hall of Feedlot Health Management Services, and Dr. Marit Arana of A.L. Gilbert Company. Dr. Craig Lewis of the U.S. FDA and Dr. Kathe Bjork of the USDA were also present to provide an overview of the complex public health issue of antibiotic resistance, the new guidelines and available to answer questions from the nearly 70 participants.

A welcome by Sheldon Jones with the Farm Foundation, Dean Michael Lairmore with the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine and meeting facilitator Kevin Ochsner kicked off the morning. In his address, Lairmore emphasized the important role the school plays in reducing antibiotic resistance and working with its partners to build consumer trust in a safe food supply.

“Our school's role is critical in training the next generation of veterinarians on this issue and providing evidence-based science on the ethical, proper use of antimicrobials in food animals,” said Lairmore said.  “Our ability to bring people together around important topics like this and our research and public service programs place UC Davis veterinary scientists at the forefront of this issue."

Dean Lairmore, Chuck Ahlem with Hilmar Farms and VMTRC's Terry Lehenbauer

How to best move forward with the new guidelines was a central theme among featured speakers representing producers, veterinarians and the feed industry.

Chuck Ahlem with Hilmar Farms, the world's largest single site cheese and whey manufacturer that sells products in more than 40 countries, said he believes the changes will help strengthen the relationship between producers and veterinarians. Bill Mattos with the California Poultry Federation emphasized how important the issue is to the state's poultry industry, citing California as producing more chickens this year without antibiotics than any other state.

State Veterinarian Dr. Annette Jones provided an overview of CA Senate Bill 27
Lunch speaker California State Veterinarian Dr. Annette Jones provided an overview of CA Senate Bill 27 - passed by the legislature and currently before Gov. Jerry Brown – that would put into place the FDA guidelines and eliminate the unnecessary use of antibiotics in animals, such as those used to promote growth. If the bill becomes law, California will lead the nation in addressing the serious public health threat of antibiotic resistance.

Afternoon break-out sessions allowed participants to discuss the management challenges and impacts ahead due to the changes, and provided state and federal agency staff, veterinary medicine faculty and UC Agriculture and Natural Resources Cooperative Extension specialists insight into the changes needed to meet the requirements.

The Davis workshop was one of 12 that the Farm Foundation is hosting across the country. A report based on comments gathered at the workshop will be presented at a national summit to be convened by the Farm Foundation later in 2015 to advance the conversation on the industry's adaptation to the changing landscape of antibiotic drug use.

Examples of the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine's programs to help prevent unwanted drugs from entering the food supply include the resources of the federally funded Food Animal Residue Avoidance Databank, research and vaccine development through the Center for Food Animal Health, surveillance and diagnostic testing at the California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory System and international outreach conducted by the Western Institute for Food Safety and Security. (Read more about these programs and the critical role veterinarians play in food safety and public health in Dean Lairmore's recent op-ed in the Sacramento Bee.)

Author: Monique Garcia Gunther

Posted on Thursday, October 8, 2015 at 1:28 PM

Low residual dry matter on rangeland a concern heading into wet season

Leaving sufficient dry matter on rangeland prevents soil erosion and creates a conducive environment for diverse plant communities to thrive.
Over the past few years, drought has negatively affected everyone in the state and ranchers are no exception. Due to the drought, most areas have seen a decline in forage production and water availability, and as a result many livestock producers reduced their herd sizes and grazing season.

With some recent forecasts bringing encouraging news about a potential El Niño, some ranchers have been asking about what they should expect in terms of forage production, if and when the rains come. What they want to know is how soon rangeland productivity will reach the pre-drought levels again. One issue that I always draw their attention to is the levels of residual dry matter (RDM) on the rangelands. Even with the reduction in herd sizes and shorter grazing seasons employed by most producers, more rangelands now have less than recommended RDM levels.

RDM is a measure of the old plant material (without counting summer annuals) that are left standing or on the ground before the fall precipitation comes. It is a great indicator of both forage production and grazing intensity. These leftover plant materials are critical on California rangelands to reduce erosion and nutrient loss, and to create a conducive environment for diverse plant communities to thrive. Optimum RDM levels are site specific, they range from 100-2,100 pounds per acre, and depend on precipitation zone, slope and tree canopy cover. Ideal RDM levels increases with precipitation and slope, and decreases with tree cover. Studies show that too low or too high RDM levels will reduce species composition and forage production, both factors critical to any livestock production system. The good news is that annual rangelands are resilient and will likely return to normal production within two years after bringing RDM level to recommended standards.

Knowing the RDM standards for one's rangeland and continuously monitoring is an important step towards achieving sustainable rangeland management and livestock production.

Details about RDM standards, data collection methods and more can be found in the free UC Agriculture and Natural Resources publication Guidelines for Residual Dry Matter on Coastal and Foothill Rangelands in California

Author: Fadzayi Mashiri, Ph.D.

Posted on Friday, October 2, 2015 at 10:24 AM

It's time to get serious about food waste

Here's my take on food waste. It goes back in part to lessons I've learned from studying World War I, when the American government set food conservation goals (along with goals for local food production via Liberty - later Victory - Gardens). I'm a big proponent of both reducing food waste and producing more food in communities via school, home and community gardens. Big point: the World War I poster included in this post has advice we'd be well served to heed today.

"Food waste is both an ethical and environmental issue. It should concern us that we waste nearly 40 percent of the food we produce and purchase in this food-abundant nation.

For an interesting comparative statistic, consider this: our nation produced nearly 40 percent of the fruits and vegetables we consumed on the American home front during World War II in school, home, community and workplace gardens."

Poster from the collection of the Museum of Ventura County. (Credit: Aysen Tan)
Period piece or photoshopped image?

It's an iconic poster from World War 1. Food...don't waste it. The image is regularly shared on Twitter and Facebook.

The original was produced in 1919 by the United States Food Administration, under the direction of the newly appointed food "czar" - Herbert Hoover.

The poster was reissued during World War II. It's been revised in recent years, by individuals and organizations interested in encouraging an ethos incorporating local foods and sustainability.

While I'm the UC Food Observer, I also dabble in the history of wartime poster art. I'm often asked if this is a contemporary mock-up made to look and feel vintage.

It's not a mock-up. It's the real deal, produced 95 years ago, with messages we should embrace today.

History of poster art

The First World War marked the first large-scale use of propaganda posters by governments. Posters, with easy-to-understand slogans and compelling images, made powerful propaganda tools. The government needed to shape public opinion, recruit soldiers, raise funds and conserve resources and mobilize citizens to important home front activities ... including gardening, food conservation and food preservation. In an era before television and widespread radio and movies, posters were a form of mass media. And they appeared in windows and were posted on walls everywhere, in as many languages as were spoken in this nation of immigrants.

If you want to dig a little deeper, the poster art of WWI was influenced by the La Belle Epoque - the beautiful era - named in retrospect, after the full horror of WWI had been revealed. The Art Nouveau movement in France and the rise of modern advertising were also important in shaping how posters were used during wartime. Technical improvements in printing, including a process called chromolithography, facilitated mass production of posters.

The original poster: Yes: 'buy local foods' is rule 4

The original poster has six rules that we'd be well served to follow today. The fourth rule - buy local foods - is somewhat of a surprise to people today, because the notion of buying local seems somewhat modern. But in WWI, the U.S. government encouraged the local production and consumption of food, in part, to free trains to more effectively ship troops and war materiel.

Tackling food waste through preservation: today's Master Food Preserver Program

UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) hosts a UC Master Food Preserver Program. The program teaches best practices on food safety and preservation to volunteers. The extensive training program prepares the volunteers to work in their community educating others on the safe practices of food preservation, including pickling, drying, freezing, canning and fruit preserves.

Thinking about gardening? Do we have resources for you!

UC ANR also has the UC Master Gardener Program, which fields more than 5,000 volunteers in communities across the state. The Master Gardener Program is a national program, housed at the land grant institution in each state, but it's also connected to the USDA. Free gardening resources are available here. Advice to grow by...just ask.

This is an excerpt of an article from a post on the UC Food Observer blog, used with permission.

Posted on Thursday, October 1, 2015 at 11:01 AM

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