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Agriculture research not immune to drought

Ag research at the West Side Research and Extension Center and other sites has been impacted by the California drought.
Even as farmers across California struggle with the third year of drought, so do University of California agriculture researchers, reported Todd Fitchette in Western Farm Press.

Fitchette opened his story with the plight of ag research at the UC West Side Research and Extension Center near Five Points. Many of the farmers in the area will receive no surface water allocation this year; neither will the research center.

The facility can pull water from a deep well, but it is not enough nor is the water quality adequate for all the farming operations, said Bob Hutmacher, UC Cooperative Extension specialist and center director. He said scientists at the station must cut back their water use this year by 25 percent.

“I can speak for myself: I have about a half dozen cotton projects and a sorghum project, along with a sesame project and a couple of other things I'm working on,” he said. “I'm downsizing most of them to the greatest degree I can and I'm going to cancel one of them.”

One trial that will not go forward at West Side is an almond variety trial. However, UC Cooperative Extension advisors in other areas are working with the Almond Board to keep the research underway. UCCE advisors Joe Connell will oversee the Chico State almond variety trial, Roger Duncan the Salida trial, and Gurreet Brar the Madera County trial.

The Western Farm Press Story included drought-related ag research news from myriad UCCE academics:

  • Duncan said his work with fruit and nut crops has not been negatively impacted by the drought.

  • David Doll, UCCE advisor in Merced County, said the increased reliance on groundwater has ruined several orchard nitrogen trials because the groundwater in northern Merced has high rates of nitrate nitrogen, which acts as a nitrogen fertilizer.

  • Dan Munk, UCCE advisor in Fresno County, said he will continue putting off alfalfa trials at the WSREC “indefinitely until a more secure water supply is available.”

  • Scott Stoddard, UCCE advisor in Merced County, reports positive and negative impacts from the drought. He won't do tomato research at West Side REC, but will continue work in sweet potatoes to determine how little water they need to produce a reasonable crop.

  • Chris Greer, UCCE advisor in Sutter, Yuba, Colusa and Glenn counties, said some rangeland trials were impacted by the lack of rain.

  • Bruce Lampinen, UCCE specialist in the Department of Plant Sciences at UC Davis, has seen his orchard trials in Arbuckle severely impacted by the drought.
Posted on Friday, April 18, 2014 at 10:51 AM

UC president Janet Napolitano visits Kearney REC

UC President Janet Napolitano discusses California agriculture on an aerial tour with farmer Don Bransford, who chairs the President's Advisory Commission on Agriculture and Natural Resources. (Photo: Doug Parker)
University of California president Janet Napolitano visited the UC Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Parlier this week to consult with her top agricultural advisors about a new food security and sustainability initiative, reported Hannah Furfaro in the Fresno Bee.

On her way to Kearney, Napolitano viewed California cropland, rivers and reservoirs that have been impacted by three years of drought.

"There are areas that clearly are being allowed to remain fallow due to drought, there are hills that should be green that are brown, and there are reservoirs where you can clearly see the water mark," she said. "Through the extension service we will work with growers throughout the state to manage this the best way possible."

Ryan Jacobsen, Fresno County Farm Bureau executive director, said growers' relationship with the UC's extension field offices has historically played a big role in the success of the Valley's agricultural economy, Furfaro reported. Advances made in the lab quickly make it to the farms, he said, in large part because of how well regional centers work with farmers.

Alec Rosenberg of the UC Newsroom filed a detailed account of President Napolitano's visit to the San Joaquin Valley. The article said she met with the President's Advisory Commission on Agriculture and Natural Resources to discuss how to engage all 10 campuses in making UC the "go-to" institution in the world for all issues related to food, including sustainability and nutrition.

Napolitano toured the Kearney REC, where she learned about UC's role in helping establish a blueberry industry in the San Joaquin Valley, efforts to preserve the safety of pistachios and other nut crops, and work underway in the center's mosquito lab.

Napolitano noted that she recently made ANR vice president Barbara Allen-Diaz a direct report to her because agricultural issues matter to California and the world, Rosenberg reported.

“It's great to see the incredible depth and breadth of California agriculture, and show the link between UC research and extension and the development of agriculture in the state,” said Allen-Diaz, who accompanied Napolitano on the tour.

Additional coverage:

Napolitano, UC's Kearney center focus on drought relief
Benjamin Genta, UCLA Daily Bruin

Posted on Thursday, April 17, 2014 at 1:09 PM

Be on the lookout for spotted wing drosophila

Small hole or "sting" created by by SWD on a ripe cherry. (Photo by Larry L. Strand.)
It's cherry growing season and a good time to begin looking for spotted wing drosophila (SWD), Drosophila suzukii. SWD is a small fruit fly that attacks soft-flesh fruit such as cherry, blueberry, raspberry and blackberry. It first appeared in 2010, and its damage to fruit and increased management costs led to significant economic losses to cherry growers throughout California and the Pacific Northwest.

Unlike other fruit flies that infest rotted fruit, SWD attacks undamaged fruit. As cherry fruit begins to develop and starts to change color from light green to straw, SWD lays its eggs just under the skin of fruit, creating a small scar or a“sting.” One to three larvae may develop inside each cherry, feeding on the fruit and causing it to become brown and soft. Many times SWD flies are not noticed until fruit is mature, and by that time management is not very effective.

Adult male spotted wing drosophila. Note the dark spot on the tip of its wings. (Photo by Larry L. Strand.)
Prevention is the key, and one way to prevent damage is to monitor for the pest when it first becomes active. SWD can be monitored with several types of traps partly filled with apple cider vinegar to lure the pest. Monitor traps weekly through the end of harvest, and be sure to confirm the presence of SWD, as other Drosophila spp. may be present in trap catches. SWD males have a single dark spot on the tip of its wing and females have a large ovipositor. See the UC IPM Pest Management Guidelines for identification help and a dichotomous key.

Spotted wing drosophila is still a relatively new pest, and management information continues to change. David Haviland, UC Cooperative Extension advisor in Kern County, and other researchers have been working to provide what help they can. Haviland has designed a bucket trap called the “Haviland trap” and is working with others to field-test experimental lures for SWD. He's also studying a possible biological control agent. Research has led to new grower guidelines so that early season cherries can be produced and sold internationally. Check out the 2014 Recommendations for Sweet Cherry (PDF).

For management in backyard cherries or other urban areas, see the SWD Pest Note.

For more information about UC IPM's recent work, see the 2013 Annual Report.

The Haviland trap, named after UCCE advisor David Haviland. (Photo by D. Haviland.)
Posted on Wednesday, April 16, 2014 at 8:00 AM

Cooperative Extension's Mary Bianchi receives agricultural sustainability leadership award

Mary Bianchi, UC Cooperative Extension Farm Advisor and San Luis Obispo County Director
The Agricultural Sustainability Institute (ASI) at UC Davis announced today that Mary Bianchi of the University of California's Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources is this year's recipient of ASI's Eric Bradford and Charlie Rominger Agricultural Sustainability Leadership Award.

The annual award will be presented to Bianchi tomorrow, April 15, at a ceremony featuring distinguished speaker LaDonna Redmond.

The Bradford-Rominger award recognizes and honors individuals who exhibit the leadership, work ethic and integrity epitomized by the late Eric Bradford, a livestock geneticist who gave 50 years of service to UC Davis, and the late Charlie Rominger, a fifth-generation Yolo County farmer and land preservationist.

Bianchi has worked for UC Cooperative Extension for 20 years, currently serving as Farm Advisor and County Director for San Luis Obispo and northern Santa Barbara counties. Among her achievements include the development and implementation of a water quality workshop series that required collaboration of over 100 team members and brought timely and essential information on water quality management to 2,200 growers in California.

Bianchi is quick to share her success. “I've had partners in all the efforts that I've undertaken who just wanted to find a way to get information out to people so that they can make their own decision. Sometimes that means staying within the lines, and sometimes that means stretching and taking some risks and being willing to push the envelope. Growers, industry, agencies and universities have stepped up to find a way to make our efforts work.”

Eric Bradford and Charlie Rominger are remembered for their abilities to approach major agricultural challenges with grace, honesty, and a commitment to collaboration across disciplines and interests.

Sonja Brodt, Academic Coordinator at ASI says Bianchi “does not hesitate to address the critical needs of her clientele, even if they require extending herself into new subject areas. She is down-to-earth and creates the space in collaborations for each party's concerns to be heard and valued in the process to reach viable solutions.”

Bianchi's own work ethic reflects those qualities. “I think that you do create change one person at a time by listening to what they have to say and respecting the fact that they are bringing their own successes and constraints and baggage that you don't know about,” says Bianchi.

“Eric and Charlie were a lot the same way,” she continues. “If you see that there's a need, you just find a way to make it work. And you find the people that are willing to do that with you and it happens.”

Learn more about the award on the Agricultural Sustainability Institute's web site.

After the Bradford-Rominger award is presented to Bianchi at tomorrow's ceremony, distinguished speaker LaDonna Redmond will speak on “Food + Justice = Democracy.” Redmond is a food justice activist who was inspired to fight for a fairer food system after facing limited access to healthy, organic food in her Chicago community. To facilitate her community's food access, she launched an initiative converting vacant lots into urban farms.

She is founder of the Campaign for Food Justice Now, an organization focused on social justice within the food system, creating community-based solutions and engaged advocacy.

Eric Bradford and Charlie Rominger Agricultural Sustainability Leadership Award Ceremony

5:00 p.m., Wednesday, April 15

Buehler Alumni and Visitors Center

UC Davis campus

This event is free and open to the public. Students are encouraged to attend.

Posted on Monday, April 14, 2014 at 10:01 AM

Arroyo Grande psyllid has caused a big stir

One sign of potential Asian citrus psyllid infestation is waxy tubules on new growth. (Photo: M.E. Rogers)
The discovery last month of one Asian citrus psyllid on a sticky trap perched in an Arroyo Grande lemon tree has the citrus industry and agricultural commissioner on guard, reported Jono Kinkade in the San Luis Obispo New Times.

They've established a quarantine zone within a five-mile radius of the ACP find and monitoring has been stepped up in the area. Officials are concerned because of the psyllid's ability to spread huanglongbing disease, should the disease make its way into California. (So far, only one backyard tree has been found in California infected with huanglongbing.)

“If you don't have a vector like a psyllid, no big deal, but when you have a vector alive and moving around, then you have a big problem,” said Beth Grafton-Cardwell, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Entomology at UC Riverside.

The psyllid is established in some areas of Southern California and has been found in commercial orchards in the San Joaquin Valley, where an eradication plan is underway. In San Luis Obispo County, the main focus is on residential areas.

“It's so tiny that people don't even know they have it,” Grafton-Cardwell said. “It's very difficult to completely eradicate it because 60 percent of California [residences] have a citrus tree in their yard, so it can hop, skip, and jump.”

Comprehensive information about Asian citrus psyllid and huanglongbing disease is available on the UC ACP/HLB Distribution and Management website.

Posted on Thursday, April 10, 2014 at 2:05 PM

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