Central Sierra
University of California
Central Sierra

UCCE News

More irrigation for climate-smart farming and food security in Guatemala

Connecting 9,000 rural households in Guatemala with improved water management and climate-smart agriculture strategies is the goal of a new project led by a team at UC Davis, to ultimately increase food security and reduce poverty in Guatemala's Western Highlands.

Meagan Terry, left, a UC Davis researcher with the Horticulture Innovation Lab in Guatemala, discusses conservation agriculture with a Guatemalan consultant and a local youth group member. (Photo by Beth Mitcham)
Called MásRiego (“more irrigation”), the project aims to increase farmers' incomes and their use of climate-smart strategies, including drip irrigation, rainwater harvesting, reduced tillage, mulch use and diverse crop rotation. To enable farmers to adopt these new practices, the team will not only provide trainings but also build partnerships to increase farmers' access to needed micro-credit financing and irrigation equipment.

“The opportunity to impact so many farmers' lives on this scale is exciting,” said Beth Mitcham, director of the Horticulture Innovation Lab and a UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the UC Davis Department of Plant Sciences. “We're taking lessons learned from our previous research — in Guatemala, Honduras and Cambodia — and building a team to help more small-scale farmers apply our findings and successfully use these innovative practices.”

The new project is part of the U.S. government's global hunger and food security initiative, Feed the Future. The project represents an additional $3.4 million investment in the UC Davis-led Horticulture Innovation Lab by the U.S. Agency for International Development's mission in Guatemala.

The project's international team also includes representatives from Kansas State University; North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University; the Centro de Paz Bárbara Ford in Guatemala; Universidad Rafael Landívar in Guatemala; and the Panamerican Agricultural School, Zamorano, in Honduras.

“The learning shared between these three U.S. universities and the universities in Honduras and Guatemala will be enriching for all of the institutions involved,” said Manuel Reyes, research professor at Kansas State University who is part of the team. “I find it satisfying that these academic institutions will be investing intellectually in marginalized groups in Guatemala's Western Highlands — and in turn, learning from them too.”

Helping youth envision a future in agriculture

Miguel Isaias Sanchez has started farming with drip irrigation and a water tower, using information from one of the first MásRiego trainings. (Photo by Beth Mitcham)
The new MásRiego project will focus on helping farmers, particularly women and youth, grow high-value crops on very small plots of land (200 square meters minimum), in the Quiché, Quetzaltenango and Totonicapán departments of Guatemala's Western Highlands.

By partnering with local youth groups and agricultural schools, the team will better prepare students for jobs in commercial agriculture and agricultural extension with knowledge of climate-resilient conservation and water management practices.

“Our local team is training youth as entrepreneurs, to see agriculture as an economic opportunity instead of just back-breaking work,” said Meagan Terry, UC Davis junior specialist who is managing the project in Guatemala for the Horticulture Innovation Lab. “They can envision a future in agriculture, with innovative ways to create value-added products or grow high-value crops for niche markets.”

As rainfall patterns vary with climate change, farmers in this region are expected to face increased competition for water. Practices such as rainwater harvesting, drip irrigation and conservation agriculture will become more necessary for small-scale farmers.

Climate-smart lessons from conservation agriculture, drip irrigation

In previous research, the Horticulture Innovation Lab has found that combining drip irrigation with conservation agriculture practices can successfully grow vegetables on small plots of land, without significant yield reductions. These practices improve soil structure, moisture retention and soil health.

Additionally, women farmers who participated in the Horticulture Innovation Lab studies in Cambodia, Honduras and Guatemala favored using these practices for another important reason: reduced labor in relation to controlling weeds, vegetable bed preparation and manual watering.

“I dream for many women, youth and their families, that their lives will be better off because of 'MasRiego' and the science behind this work,” Reyes said. “As for the research, we are learning how to improve this suite of practices so they can be tailor fitted globally. I am convinced that if this picks up, steep sloping lands can be farmed with the soil quality not being degraded — but even being enriched.”

These lessons, as well as findings from the program's “Advancing Horticulture” report about horticultural sector growth in Central America, lay the foundation for this new project.

A previous version of this article was published by UC Davis News Service and on the Horticulture Innovation Lab blog


Curious about partnering with the Horticulture Innovation Lab? The Horticulture Innovation Lab builds partnerships between agricultural researchers in the United States and researchers in developing countries, to conduct fruit and vegetable research that improves livelihoods in developing countries. The program currently has three research grant opportunities for U.S. researchers: one focused on tomatoes, another on apricots, and a third on integrated crop-livestock systems. 

Posted on Tuesday, August 30, 2016 at 8:02 AM

Ojai 4-H member earns enough for new wheelchair by raising a sheep

In 4-H animal science projects, youth learn about animals and their behavior, health and reproduction.
Eleven-year-oild Demisu Evans of Ojai will get a new custom-made wheelchair after raising a sheep and selling it at the Ventura County Fair, reported Anne Kallas in the Ventura County Star.

4-H, offered in all California counties by UC Cooperative Extension, engages youth agest5 to 19 in reaching their fullest potential. Club and after-school programs are designed to provide knowledge, expertise and skills that will help youth develop into responsible, self-directed, and productive people. 4-H encourages family involvement. 

The Ventura County Star's heart-warming story traces Demisu's journey from his native Ethiopia to a ranch in rural Upper Ojai. One of 10 children, three adopted from the west African nation, Demisu has triplegia, the use of only his right arm. The rocky and uneven terrain at the family's ranch made it difficult for Demisu to get around, so he decided to raise funds for a heavy-duty wheelchair that he can operate with one hand. The cost is $6,000.

Demisu raised a 113-pound lamb, and sold it for $75 a pound to the Wood-Claeyssens Foundation. At market, sheep are typically valued at about $1 to $2 per pound, according to Sheep101.com. Bidding for Demisu's sheep went through the roof when bidders learned he would be using the money for the new, custom wheelchair.

Posted on Monday, August 29, 2016 at 9:46 AM

California's new groundwater law leaves unanswered questions

The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) is a revolutionary law that will have profound impacts on the state's agriculture industry, however, it also leaves out many implementation details, according to Michael Kiparsky, director of the Wheeler Water Institute at UC Berkeley. Kiparsky authored the article Unanswered questions for implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, which was published online by California Agriculture journal.

Groundwater is drawn by a pump to irrigate almonds in Fresno County.

"SGMA is unprecedented, hugely impactful and a work in progress," Kiparsky said in a videotaped keynote presentation at the 2nd International Groundwater and Agriculture Conference in June 2016. The California Agriculture article is based on his remarks at the conference.

Kiparsky said SGMA defines sustainable management as avoidance of six specific undesirable results:

  • Lowering of groundwater levels
  • Reduction in groundwater storage
  • Seawater intrusion
  • Water quality degradation
  • Land subsidence
  • Impacts on beneficial uses of interconnected surface waters

SGMA relies on local control, with an "enforcement backstop" provided by the State Water Resources Control Board. New local entities called groundwater sustainability agencies (GSAs) will implement SGMA.

In the article, the author outlined what he considers the 7 most important unknowns about California's water future under SGMA.

  1. Governance. Decisions about governance and institutional design are being made now, so immediate attention to this question is imperative, he said.

  2. Translating sustainability goals into practice. "In many of the 127 groundwater basins governed by SGMA, the status quo is simply unsustainable," Kiparsky said. "The amount and patterns of groundwater use will need to change."

  3. Groundwater-surface water interactions. "Many groundwater users are expecting to augment water supplies by buying water within the basins or outside. Markets can be excellent tools for efficiency," he said.

  4. The role of markets. "Whether and how GSAs can design effective and fair markets as part of their efforts to achieve sustainability will be quite fascinating to observe," Kiparsky said.

  5. The role of data. SGMA empowers, but does not require, GSAs to collect groundwater extraction data from individual wells. The law requires only aggregated extraction data to be shared and reported to the state.

  6. The role of the State Water Board. Serving as "backstop" enforcement to the GSAs is a new role for the Board. "We don't know how it will approach the role in practice," Kiparsky said.

  7. "Significant and unreasonable." SGMA calls to avoid significant and unreasonable impacts, but it doesn't define the meaning of "significant and unreasonable." GSAs will need to define the terms themselves.

Kiparsky ended his article on a positive note with examples of research projects already underway aimed at helping meet the goals of SGMA legislation.

"Both projects illustrate how SGMA already is forcing and enabling creative thinking," Kiparsky said. "This type of creative thinking will be critical for California to implement SGMA successfully and transform from a national laggard in groundwater management into an international leader."

California Agriculture journal is the peer-reviewed research journal of UC Agriculture and Natural Resources.

Posted on Thursday, August 25, 2016 at 11:37 AM

Protect bees from pesticides by using bee precaution ratings from UC IPM

According to a UC Berkeley news report, about one-third of the value of California agriculture comes from pollinator-dependent crops, representing a net value of $11.7 billion per year.
Various insects, birds and other animals pollinate plants. Bees, especially honey bees, are the most vital for pollinating food crops. Many California crops rely on bees to pollinate their flowers and ensure a good yield of seeds, fruit and nuts. Pesticides, especially insecticides, can harm bees if they are applied or allowed to drift to plants that are flowering.

Our mission at the University of California Agricultural and Natural Resources (UC ANR), Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program (UC IPM) is to protect the environment by reducing risks caused by pest management practices. UC IPM developed Bee Precaution Pesticide Ratings to help pest managers make an informed decision about how to protect bees when choosing or applying pesticides. You can find and compare ratings for pesticide active ingredients including acaricides (miticides), bactericides, fungicides, herbicides and insecticides, and select the one that poses the least harm to bees.

Ratings fall into three categories. Red, or rated I, pesticides should not be applied or allowed to drift to plants that are flowering. Plants include the crop AND nearby weeds. Yellow, or rated II, pesticides should not be applied or allowed to drift to plants that are flowering, except when the application is made between sunset and midnight if allowed by the pesticide label and regulations. Finally, green, or rated III, pesticides have no bee precautions, except when required by the pesticide label or regulations. Pesticide users must follow the product directions for handling and use and take at least the minimum precautions required by the pesticide label and regulations.

The bee precaution pesticide ratings from UC IPM will help pest managers make informed decisions when choosing and applying pesticides.

A group of bee experts in California, Oregon and Washington worked with UC IPM to develop the Bee Precaution Pesticide Ratings. They reviewed studies published in scientific journals and summary reports from European and United States pesticide regulatory agencies. While the protection statements on the pesticide labels were taken into account when determining the ratings, it is important to stress that UC IPM's ratings are not the pollinator protection statements on the pesticide labels. In a number of cases, the ratings suggest a more protective action than the pesticide label.

The UC IPM ratings also include active ingredients that may not be registered in your state; please follow local regulations. In California, the suggested use of the Bee Precaution Pesticide Ratings is in conjunction with UC Pest Management Guidelines (for commercial agriculture) and Pest Notes (for gardeners). Each crop in the UC Pest Management Guidelines has a link to the Bee Precaution Pesticide Ratings database and provides guidance on how to reduce bee poisoning from pesticides.

For more information on protecting bees from pesticides, see UC IPM's Protecting Natural Enemies and Pollinators, and use the Bee Precaution Pesticide Ratings.

Posted on Monday, August 22, 2016 at 11:05 AM
  • Author: UC Statewide IPM Program

The battle against Aedes aegypti, the mosquito that spreads Zika

Aedes aegypti mosquito.
The UC Mosquito Research Laboratory in Parlier is the epicenter of California research on the Aedes aegypti mosquito, a tiny, black and white mosquito that can spread the Zika virus.

Aedes aegypti were first identified in California in June 2013, when they were found in the San Joaquin Valley communities of Clovis and Madera. They have now been detected in certain Fresno County neighborhoods, plus the Bay Area, and Southern California, according to the California Department of Public Health.

To date, the Zika virus hasn't been found in the California mosquitoes, however with thousands of Americans traveling to Brazil for the 2016 Olympics, plus travelers regularly visiting other countries with outbreaks of Zika, some could be carriers of the virus when they come home.

The UC Mosquito Research Laboratory, located at the 300-acre UC Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center, is led by entomologist Anthony Cornel, Ph.D. He is working with the Consolidated Mosquito Abatement District (CMAD) on research projects aimed at controlling this new mosquito menace.

“When Aedes aegypti first came to the United States a few hundred years ago, there were major epidemics of yellow fever in the East and South,” Cornel said. “Today this mosquito serves as the vector of three other serious viruses, dengue, Chikungunya and Zika, which are major threats to global public health.”

What keeps him up at night, Cornel said, is grave concern that there will be a Zika outbreak in California.

“Right now, our only control tool in response to a disease outbreak is use of insecticides,” Cornel said. “If Zika breaks out here, we will have to do whatever we can to reduce the number of adult Aedes aegypti mosquitoes right away, and a single insecticide application isn't going to do it.”

Anthony Cornel, Ph.D., UC Davis entomologist and UC ANR researcher, based at the UC Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Parlier.

The Cornel lab at Kearney and the Consolidated Mosquito Abatement District are conducting myriad laboratory and field research trials to evaluate insecticide treatment options, to minimize potential mosquito breeding sites, and to understand Aedes aegypti biology and behavior in order to inform control decisions should such an outbreak occur. Following are summaries of research underway that involves the UC Mosquito Research Laboratory in the fight against the Zika vector Aedes aegypti.

Make female mosquitoes infertile

Working in cooperation with scientists at the University of Kentucky and MosquitoMate Inc., Cornel and CMAD staff are releasing male mosquitoes that have been infected with a bacterium, Wolbachia pipientis. When these males mate with local females, the females pick up Wolbachia, which causes them to lay eggs that will not hatch.

“The infected male mosquitoes are shipped to us from Kentucky overnight twice a week and we release them in the test area in Clovis,” Cornel said. “These male mosquitoes are harmless to humans. They do not bite and can't transmit disease.”

Special traps have been placed in the treatment area and in a nearby control area, where no Wolbachia-infected mosquitoes are released.

“Right now, the number of eggs we are getting is very much reduced in the treated site,” Cornel said.

A colony of Aedes agypti mosquitoes that originated in Clovis, Calif.

Pesticide applications and mosquito resistance

Mosquitoes are generally susceptible to the lethal effects of insecticides.

“In mosquito control, we use insecticide concentrations much lower than is typically used for controlling other pests that hamper agricultural operations,” Cornel said.

But Aedes aegypti appear to quickly develop insecticide resistance. In laboratory and field research, Cornel is studying Aedes aegypti's uncanny ability to survive certain insecticide treatments.

Cornel maintains colonies of Aedes aegypti in the lab that are susceptible to insecticides. “These are colonies that have been with us for many years,” he said.

For comparison, the scientists have collected mosquitoes that are living in local neighborhoods. Mosquitoes representing different colonies are dropped inside glass bottles that are coated inside with insecticides. The scientists record how many of the mosquitoes are knocked down and how many die.

The experiments have shown that mosquitoes collected locally are resistant to almost all pyrethroid insecticides except one, Deltamethrin, which is not registered for mosquito control in California. However, these mosquitoes are also susceptible to organophosphate insecticides.

“Deltamethrin is used effectively in the European Union and other countries, but unfortunately, it is not yet available for use here,” Cornel said. “The company that makes the product is working to get California Department of Pesticide Regulation approval for using it in the state.”

The Cornel lab has also studied various insecticides in field applications.

“We placed susceptible and local mosquitoes in sentinel cages in a field and sprayed them from a truck 100-, 200- and 300-feet away in an open field situation,” Cornel said. “We recorded knockdown and mortality one hour and 24 hours after application.”

The field studies verified what the scientists found in their lab tests: local Aedes aegypti have developed resistance to most pyrethroids, but organophosphate insecticides offer effective control. However, the study doesn't prove what will happen in residential areas.

“We were in an open field, with no trees and houses to block the spread of the chemical,” Cornel said. “Now we should evaluate the efficacy of ultra-low-volume applications of malathion, an organophosphate, in a residential area.”

Underground drains that channel irrigation and rain runoff from backyards to the front are suspected Aedes aegypti breeding areas.

Reduce mosquito breeding

A well-known approach to reducing mosquito populations is elimination of standing water where mosquitoes can breed. Bird baths, abandoned toys, old tires and drainage plates under potted plants are all potential receptacles for standing water and should be discarded or kept dry. Less obvious are underground yard drains often found in newer housing developments. The scientists believe that the drains, designed to channel rain or irrigation runoff to the gutter in front of the house, may leave a perpetual supply of standing water in the buried pipe beneath the soil surface, which provide sites for mosquito development.

To test the theory, the CMAD personnel went door to door in a Clovis neighborhood to work with residents to eliminate water sources and to place fine netting on the ends of the drainage pipes.

“We have 80 percent compliance in the testing area,” Cornel said. “A few people have refused, which surprised me. But most of the residents were willing to help.”

The district is monitoring mosquito traps placed in the test area and in another Clovis neighborhood where yard drains haven't been netted.

“We have no results yet. When the study is done, CMAD will give me the data and I will analyze it,” Cornel said. “If I do see a statistically significant impact on mosquito populations, then that will confirm our suspicions and give us more convincing information to share in communities with Aedes aegypti to get them to eliminate even unseen potential mosquito breeding sites.”

If the yard drains are a confirmed mosquito breeding location, it may require a redesign to make sure that they do not hold water.

Aedes aegypti mosquito larvae incubating in a tray at the UC Mosquito Research Laboratory, on the grounds of the UC Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Parlier.

Genetics

Scientists have sequenced the genome of Aedes aegypti and are using genetics to understand the movement of the pest in California.

“We want to know if the population in California comes from multiple introductions, or from a single introduction that has subsequently spread,” Cornel said.

This research is being done in collaboration with Gregory Lanzaro, Ph.D., and Yoosook Lee, Ph.D., in the Department of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology at UC Davis, and has not yet been published, but preliminary results show that the population of Aedes aegypti that is south of the Tehachapi Mountains is probably from a separate introduction than the one that settled in Fresno, Clovis and Madera.

The scientists are also using genetics to determine the mosquitoes' dispersal patterns.

“We need to know this to help us develop effective control strategies,” Cornel said. “For example, if we've located an area with a large number of mosquitoes, we need to know how large an area we have to treat.”

The general consensus from studies around the world is that these mosquitoes don't fly very far from their development site.

“We're finding much the same here, usually no more than 80 meters,” he said. “Except, there are always a few males that disperse long distances within 24 hours – sometimes over 300 meters in one night.”

UC ANR entomologist Anthony Cornel, left, and U.S. Congressman Jim Costa watch as male mosquitoes infected with Wolbachia pipientis are released in a Clovis neighborhood on Aug. 16, 2016. Costa is calling on Congress to provide funding for Aedes aegypti research and control.
Posted on Monday, August 22, 2016 at 11:05 AM

Next 5 stories | Last story

 
E-mail
 
Webmaster Email: cecentralsierra@ucdavis.edu