Central Sierra
University of California
Central Sierra

UCCE News

Kiwifruit industry is making a comeback in California

California kiwifruit was valued at $23 million in 2012. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons.)
Kiwifruit, the 67th most-valuable crop in California, had its heyday in the 70s and 80s, before production slowed somewhat, reported Reed Fujii in the Stockton Record. However, UC Cooperative Extension advisor Janine Hasey, says it appears to be growing in popularity once again.

All of U.S. kiwifruit is grown in California. Hasey told the reporter that most kiwifruit come from Sutter, Yuba and Butte counties, as well as the southern San Joaquin Valley. Strong market demand and prices have prompted at least one major grower to expand.

"They actually plan to plant 800 acres in Yuba County, which is a huge increase," Hasey said.

Kiwis are native to China, but are commonly associated with New Zealand. Called the Chinese gooseberry, they were renamed "kiwifruit" - after flightless birds native to New Zealand - for the export market in the 1950s. Kiwifruit vines are frost sensitive and require plenty of heat in the summer. Of the 27 most commonly eaten fruits, kiwis are the fourth most nutrient dense, following papayas, mangos and oranges, according to the Network for a Healthy California's Harvest of the Month.

Hasey said consumers are drawn to the fruit's sweet-tart taste and nutritional value.

“They're really packed with potassium and vitamins and antioxidants, and a lot of people like them,” she said.

Posted on Monday, October 20, 2014 at 4:20 PM

UCCE partners with UC Merced on critical issues

University of California Cooperative Extension has headquartered two new specialists on the UC Merced campus, reported Scott Hernandez-Jason of UC Merced University News. Karina Diaz-Rios, specialist for nutrition, family and consumer sciences, joined UCCE on Sept. 2. Tapan Pathak, specialist for climate adaptation in agriculture, will start Feb. 2, 2015.

"These positions come with a focus on interacting with the community, conducting applied research, and translating UC research to help the ag economy and local residents,” said Tom Peterson, UC Merced Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor. “We are pleased that UC Merced can partner with UC ANR (UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources) on these important issues.”

Karina Diaz-Rios
According to the news release, Diaz-Rios will be housed in UC Merced's Health Sciences Research Institute and focus on nutrition research and education and food security. She will connect with a larger team of nutrition researchers and educators throughout the UC system addressing issues related to healthy food and human health.

Tapan Pathak
Pathak, who will be housed in the Sierra Nevada Research Institute at UC Merced, will help farmers and ranchers adapt to new conditions created by variable and changing climate. He will collaborate with UC colleagues and state and federal agencies in statewide efforts to address climate variability and climate change adaptation and mitigation. He is currently an extension educator in climate variability at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

UC ANR continuously provides research-based solutions to the California agriculture industry, said Barbara Allen-Diaz, ANR vice president.

“California agriculture is a world-recognized marvel, and we'd like to think the university, through ANR's research and outreach, is a big reason why,” she said. “Adding UC Merced to our existing, thriving partnerships with UC Davis, UC Berkeley and UC Riverside will only strengthen UC efforts in helping California and the world to sustainably feed itself.”

Posted on Wednesday, October 15, 2014 at 10:03 AM

A guide for California wanna-bees

A sweat bee collects pollen from a California poppy. (Photo: Rollin Coville)

The 1,600 species of wild bees that buzz their way to California gardens and green spaces get hungry, and there's a lot city dwellers and suburbanites can do to create an appealing buffet for the valuable pollinators. California Bees & Blooms: A Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists is a friendly new guidebook that shows readers how to make native bees thrive in an urban environment—and makes the case for why it's important to help them do so.

Home gardeners will want to post the chapter “Urban California's Best Bee Attractors” in their toolsheds for constant reference at planting time. Naturalists and other curious types wanting to identify and learn about the bees already visiting their gardens or communities can browse accessible chapters parsing the huge diversity of species. Educators will find general information useful for lessons for even the youngest of audiences, including who stings and why, where bees sleep at night, and who does the “waggle dance,” a “figure-eight shimmy” used for communication in hives.

An ochraceous chimney bee rests on a bushmallow flower. (Photo: Rollin Coville)
With honeybee populations declining due to colony collapse disorder, the role of wild bees as pollinators is more important than ever — to everyone, not just large-scale farmers. The beautifully illustrated book, including stunning critter close-ups by photographer Rollin E. Coville, offers a wealth of information. In addition to expansive advice for growing and managing bee-friendly plants, the book even includes a section describing citizen science projects enthusiasts can participate in.

The book project is a University of California-grown collaboration. Co-authors are Gordon Frankie, a UC Berkeley professor of entomology; Robbin W. Thorp, a professor emeritus of entomology at UC Davis; Coville, an insect and spider photographer who received a Ph.D. in entomology from Berkeley; and Barbara Ertter, a curator at the UC Berkeley-based University and Jepson Herbaria.

The book is published by Heyday Books in collaboration with the California Native Plant Society.

Related

Foodie Bees: Insects Head Downtown for Dinner, National Geographic article.

Posted on Wednesday, October 15, 2014 at 8:09 AM

Lessons from California’s urban farms

Urban farmer Pilar Rebar gives a UC ANR team a tour of her organic seedling operation in Richmond, Calif.
Urban farms are popping up around the state, and a UC ANR team recently took a close-up look at urban agriculture in California. In particular, we wanted to learn about farms in cities and on the edges of cities that are selling or distributing their products. We visited urban farms and interviewed farmers to find out about their operations, their challenges, and especially, what UC ANR could offer that would be most helpful. We used what we learned to create the UC ANR Urban Agriculture website, a portal where California's urban farmers can find information they need on a wide array of topics. Here are a few of the insights we gained on our visits.

California's urban farms are usually small, but not always.

Among the 27 farms we visited, the median size was one acre (in other words, half of the farms were larger than an acre, and half were smaller). And the range in size was wide. The smallest was 3,000 square feet, while the largest was 1,000 acres! Excluding the 1,000-acre farm, the average size was 2.8 acres. Compared to the average size of a farm in California, which is 328 acres, according to the 2012 USDA Census of Agriculture, urban farms are very small.   

Some experienced farmers, many beginners

Two farms were multi-generation family farms started in the 1950s by the current farmers' parents or grandparents and these farmers are highly experienced. Although their farms now operate in urban environments, they didn't start out as urban farms. “The city came to us,” as one farmer put it. The other farmers we interviewed have been learning farming from the ground up.

Not-for-profit models are prevalent

Among the urban farms we visited, most are part of a non-profit organization or government agency with a larger mission. Urban farming is used as a vehicle for reaching the organization's goals, for example, teaching business skills to youth, or improving healthy food access in under-served communities. 

Many challenges starting up

When asked about challenges in starting up their urban farms, the most common issues farmers mentioned were business and financial planning, marketing, and accessing land. From a business perspective, most urban farmers were still learning how to make their enterprises profitable. They also struggled with production issues such as crop planning, pests, and irrigation. And many had encountered confusing zoning issues and regulations.

Urban farmers dive into policy

Of the 27 urban farmers we interviewed, 19 were also involved in advocating for local policy change to facilitate urban agriculture. As one interviewee said: “In order to start the urban farm, we have had to jump into policy work to get it off the ground.”

How can UC ANR help?

One theme that emerged through our visits and discussions with urban farmers is the need for a ready and reliable source of information on everything from starting a farm to production to local regulations. With experts around the state, UC ANR has access to research and information on a wide variety of farming and related topics. The UC ANR Urban Agriculture website has been created as a resource for urban farmers in California, where we'll continue to add helpful material, urban farm stories from around the state, and updates on policies in our metropolitan areas. We encourage urban farmers and urban agriculture advocates in California to connect. Suggest ideas for our blog, share information and photos about your urban farm, and ask questions, via our Facebook page and Twitter. We look forward to hearing from you!

Posted on Tuesday, October 14, 2014 at 5:28 AM

Drought is driving interest in high-tech irrigation systems

Overhead irrigation systems can be part of an agricultural system that improves irrigation management, increases carbon storage and builds soil quality.
Interest in new irrigation technology is getting a boost from the ongoing California drought, reported Kate Campbell in AgAlert.

Allan Fulton, UC Cooperative Extension advisor for Glenn, Shasta and Tehama counties, said technology is improving the ability to organize crop data and get it to farm managers on the fly.

"With the right system," Fulton said, "farmers can get almost to-the-minute information on every aspect of their crop."

As new, integrated database systems are being created, new data-gathering equipment also is advancing for field use to further aid on-farm decisions, the article said. For example, the California Department of Food and Agriculture announced last week a $286,000 grant to UC Davis for work on a continuous leaf moisture monitoring system. Using thermal infrared sensors along with environmental sensors that measure ambient temperature and relative humidity, wind speed and incident radiation, the system's goal is to detect crop water status to support irrigation management.

Jeff Mitchell, a UCCE specialist in the Department of Plant Sciences at UC Davis, is evaluating overhead, or center pivot, irrigation technology, especially in a system that includes conservation tillage. The research is being conducted at the UC West Side Research and Extension Center in Five Points with equipment donated by industry.

The work group focuses on emerging crop- and soil-management techniques — conservation tillage, high-surface residue preservation, cover crops — to improve irrigation management, increase carbon storage and build soil quality.

"We're developing completely new cropping systems for the valley," Mitchell said, "and these get at the so-called three E's of farming—integration of equipment, economics and ecology."

Kings County farmer Dino Giacomazzi, said growers are thinking in terms of systems these days. Giacomazzi is a founding member of UC's Conservation Agriculture Systems Innovation, a workgroup that Mitchell chairs.

"It's very difficult to put things together piecemeal. Even to get advice about these more advanced systems is difficult," Giacomazzi said.

Posted on Wednesday, October 8, 2014 at 7:41 PM

Next 5 stories | Last story

Webmaster Email: cecentralsierra@ucdavis.edu