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UC to host drought summit April 25 in Sacramento

Oak tree stressed by drought. Photo by Larry Costello
As Californians struggle through a third consecutive dry year, nearly 300 people are expected to attend the UC Drought Science, Policy and Management Summit on Friday, April 25, at the State Capitol.

In January, when California was facing one of the most severe droughts on record, Governor Jerry Brown declared a drought State of Emergency  and directed state officials to take all necessary actions to prepare for water shortages.

“While the water picture has improved since January, we are still experiencing severe drought conditions,” said Doug Parker, director of the UC California Institute for Water Resources. “The drought summit will provide information about UC's contribution to drought solutions in both the near term and long term.”

The free public summit will bring together a wide range of experts in water sciences, water management and policymaking from UC campuses and other California institutions to discuss immediate and long-term water management strategies. They will cover topics ranging from agricultural production and employment to the California economy, energy production and use, fish and wildlife, water conservation, public health and wildfires. There will be water-saving advice for residents, farmers and business owners.

Barbara Allen-Diaz, UC vice president for Agriculture and Natural Resources, and Matthew St. Clair, UC sustainability manager, will open the event with a review of what UC is doing to conserve water.

“Given the UC's unique role and public service responsibility, we called for a summit of faculty from across our campuses and others to explore the best ways to mitigate effects of the current drought and prepare for future water shortages," UC President Janet Napolitano and UC Davis Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi said in a jointly signed statement.

“We expect the summit will spur collaborative problem-solving engagements that outlast the current drought,” said Jay Lund, director of the Center for Watershed Sciences at UC Davis, which is organizing the summit.

The discussion panels and presentations will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in Room 4202 of the Capitol, followed by a reception at the UC Center Sacramento. To see the agenda and to register, visit http://drought.ucdavis.edu/UC%20Drought%20Summit.html.

California Drought Resources

California Drought Watch

Drought Resources in Spanish

Posted on Tuesday, April 22, 2014 at 2:49 PM

Earth Day conservation tips come from UCCE

Substituting drought-tolerant plants and mulching the soil surface are other ways to conserve water.
Small changes in irrigation habits can result in big water savings said an Earth Day report in the Merced Sun-Star written by Thaddeus Miller.

The article focused on the Earth Day festivities at UC Merced, but the water-savings tips came from David Doll, UC Cooperative Extension advisor in Merced County. A large fraction of home water use happens in the yard. Doll said reducing lawn watering time and fixing broken sprinklers are important first steps to water conservation.

Grass lawn can use more water than many agricultural crops - including almonds, walnuts and tomatoes. Generally residents can cut back lawn irrigation and keep it green.

Doll shared a simple test to prevent excessive landscape irrigation. Pinch the soil between the thumb and index finger. If dirt crumbles and falls away, it needs water. But if it forms into a ribbon one-inch wide or longer, it can go another day or two without water, Miller reported.

Water conservation is part of the citizen science project being launched May 8 by UC Cooperative Extension to mark its 100th anniversary. On the Day of Science and Service all Californians are asked to report their water saving strategies. To participate, go to http://beascientist.ucanr.edu.





Posted on Tuesday, April 22, 2014 at 1:57 PM

The joy of eating green: Ten things you should know about saving money and eating healthier

Amy Block Joy (Photo by Fred Speiser)
You skipped breakfast and you're walking into the supermarket without a shopping list. Distracted by several two-legged and four-legged members of your household trying to compete for your attention, you left the list clipped to your refrigerator door.

You're famished. The potato chips look good. The glazed doughnuts look even better. And that chocolate candy bar? To die for.

Bring ‘em on!

No, wait a minute. Let's get real, let's get green and let's get healthy. And let's save some money.

Nutritionist Amy Block Joy,  Cooperative Extension specialist emeritus, teaches a University of California, Davis, freshman class on “Eating Green” and we asked her for the 10 best ways to save money and eat healthier.

Joy, who holds a doctorate in nutritional sciences from UC Berkeley, specializes in nutrition and health disparities of diverse populations and nutritional ecology, as well as workplace ethics.

 Her advice needs to be posted on every refrigerator in the country. (Along with that shopping list!)

  1. Shop with a list: Using a list will keep you focused on meal planning and reduce the temptation to buy unneeded items.

  2. Don't shop when you're hungry: Temptation is high when you're hungry. Eat first and you'll be less inclined to spend extra dollars on those food items placed near the check-out stand that are high in calories and fat and low in nutrition. That would be snacks! Try shopping after a meal and you will find yourself less tempted by those chocolate-covered pretzels!

  3. Please don't pass by the peas. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
    Read the nutrition facts label:
    When shopping for the healthiest foods, you should read the nutrition fact labels to check out fat, calories, fiber, carbohydrates and sodium. Aim for low-fat, high-fiber foods that have essential vitamins and minerals. For example, if you want the best source of fiber - buy fresh oranges and eat them raw rather than selecting orange juice. However, if you want juice, be sure that you are getting real juice. And, some juices are now fortified with calcium - a big plus for increasing your calcium intake if you are not drinking milk. 

  4. Read the ingredient lists: The ingredient list will provide important clues on products that you'll want to include in your diet. One of them is to look for whole grains. The information on the product may make you think the product is "natural" but what does that really mean? Not much because the phrase you want to look for is the "USDA organic" label. With so many choices of breads these days, you'll want to find ones that have whole grains and fiber. Find the information by reading the label (compare fiber amounts) and ingredients (look for "whole" grains).

  5. Asparagus is part of going green. There's also a white variety now. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
    Compare prices:
    Supermarkets provide price-comparison information located by their products. You can compare the "unit" costs so that you'll be able to determine the lowest cost of the product. Two words of caution: products "on sale" may not be the best bargains.

  6. Shop the perimeter of the store: Marketing experts have placed the healthiest foods at the farthest corners of the store so that the shopper has to stroll through the other items before finding fruits and vegetables, protein sources (poultry, meats), dairy products and cereal products. 

  7. Think protein: Buy meat and poultry on sale and use these foods to make stews, soups and chili. This way you can stretch these more expensive food sources. Beans are a great source of protein and are low fat and high in fiber. 

  8. Plan meals ahead: The best way to save money is to plan your meals in advance. Buying unprocessed foods will improve your health and also save money. It costs to add preservatives, food additives and packaging of products that you, the consumer, are paying for. It's much cheaper to buy rice in bulk rather than already prepared rice products. Brown rice contains more fiber than white rice.

  9. Cook! Your grandmother was right. Food prepared from scratch will taste better, be healthier and save money. Research has shown that cooking not only saves money but improves nutrition.  

  10. Enjoy! Food is meant to be a pleasant happy experience. Don't forget to enjoy it!

So, the next time you're racing out the door on your way to the supermarket, be sure to eat first so you're not tempted by foods that you know aren't good for you.

And that shopping list? You can also key that in on your cell phone so neither the list, nor your phone, will get left behind.

Meanwhile, we all ought to follow Amy Block Joy's great advice on saving money, eating green, and being healthier.  

As I wrote on one of my college essays, "We have a choice in the matter and it matters that we have a choice."

The produce aisle is a good place to
The produce aisle is a good place to "go green and eat healthier." (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

The produce aisle is a good place to "go green and eat healthier." (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Grocery stores usually place fruits and vegetables around the perimeter. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Grocery stores usually place fruits and vegetables around the perimeter. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Grocery stores usually place fruits and vegetables around the perimeter. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Broccoli--a food everyone should love. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Broccoli--a food everyone should love. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Broccoli--a food everyone should love. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Tuesday, April 22, 2014 at 12:54 PM

UC conservation ag specialist is no-till farming's 'Johnny Appleseed'

Jeff Mitchell, left, at a conservation agriculture field day.
The untiring leader of the UC Conservation Agriculture Systems Innovation Center, Jeff Mitchell, was compared to the legendary American farming pioneer Johnny Appleseed by the author of The Grist's Thought for Food blog, Nathanael Johnson.

Mitchell, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Plant Sciences at UC Davis, took Johnson to research fields and farms to show progress being made toward more sustainable production practices in California row-crop farming. Johnson turned the visit into a 1,300-word feature that included links to conservation agriculture research Mitchell has published in California Agriculture journal.

"There's a soil scientist at Berkeley, Garrison Sposito, who says it may be just once or twice in a century that agriculture has an opportunity to re-create itself in a revolutionary way," Mitchell said. "... I think that's what's happening with conservation agriculture. It's energizing for me to wake up to that every day.”

Mitchell and his colleagues are proponents of four tenants of conservation farming:

  • Don't disturb the soil
  • Maximize the diversity of plants, insects, fungi and microbiota
  • Keep living roots in the soil
  • Keep the ground covered with plant residues

Mitchell took the writer to the UC West Side Research and Extension Center in Five Points to see research plots that have been farmed continuously with conservation techniques. The beds "have not been worked in 15 years," Mitchell said. “There's more organic material going into the soil, more carbon and more nitrogen. There's more capture of water, and the shade and residue reduces soil water evaporation.”

As the years passed, the soil improved. Instead of the farm equipment needing to break up clots of compacted soil, the researchers found they were planting into soft, fine-grained earth, continuously tilled by worms and roots and microorganisms.

Mitchell learned that residues and no-till practices can reduce irrigation water needs by 16 percent, as well as cut down dust emissions and store extra carbon in the soil.

Posted on Monday, April 21, 2014 at 2:18 PM

How are you conserving?

Overhead irrigation can help save water on farms.
People, animals and plants all need water to survive, yet we have less than 1 percent of the earth's water available for our use. And our water supply is diminishing. This year's record California drought conditions mean that now, more than ever, every drop counts.

Californians currently use an average of 196 gallons of water per person per day, including all business operations other than agriculture. The average household uses 30 percent of its water outdoors for landscaping and gardening. Inside the home, the majority is used in the bathroom. Just shortening your daily shower by a minute or two can save as much as 700 gallons of water every month!

Did you know that if everyone in the state reduced her or his water consumption by 10 gallons a month, California would save a total of 4.56 billion gallons every year?

The University of California is pledging to reduce its water consumption by 20 percent by 2020. Now we want to know, how are you conserving?

On May 8, 2014, we're asking you to tell us what you are doing to conserve water.

Have you started to take shorter showers? Invested in low-flow faucets and toilets? Let your grass go brown or swapped it for drought-tolerant landscaping? If you're a farmer, do you use new, higher-efficiency irrigation technology?

Maybe you already are conserving water; maybe you aren't. Either way, we want to know about it — and remember, in a survey like this there's no wrong answer. Your answers will help create a clearer picture of what all of us are doing — and can do — to protect our water resources.

Build a more secure future for you and your community in five simple steps:


On May 8, 2014, go online and visit the map at beascientist.ucanr.edu/water.


Enter your ZIP Code or zoom to your current location on the map.


Click on your location.


Use the online checklist to select all of the ways you are conserving water.


Attach a photo showing how you're conserving water!

Visit beascientist.ucanr.edu to learn more about this project and record your observations.

For an overview, see the video below:

Content of this post by the education team: Steven Worker, Melissa Womack, Marisa Neelon, Karey Winfield-Royas, Pam Kan-Rice and Jennifer Rindahl. Video production by Alberto Hauffen.

Posted on Monday, April 21, 2014 at 1:42 PM

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