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Californians must adapt their lives to fire

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California is a place forged by fire, and its fierce fire-fighting policies are creating fuel-filled landscapes that will burn hotter and faster than ever, reported Lisa M. Krieger in the San Jose Mercury News.

"Unless we change course, we'll never work our way out of this dilemma," said UC fire scientist Scott Stephens. "Unless we can get ahead of it, it'll never get better."

 

The River Fire, part of the Mendocino Complex Fire, burned more than half of the UC Hopland Research and Extension Center in July 2018.

Strategies to live with fire were modeled at the UC Hopland Research and Extension Center when the Mendocino Complex Fire spread on its rolling oak woodland and chaparral landscape in late July. About 3,000 of the center's 5,300 acres burned.

In pastures where sheep had grazed, the oaks still have green leaves. In other areas not grazed since the 1950s, undergrowth provided a ladder for flames to reach oak canopies.

In areas were vegetation was reduced by grazing, "the fire was less intense. It skipped around more. It wasn't as complete a burn," said Hopland director John Bailey. "Having animals on the land reduced the hazard."

(Read more about the fire at Hopland in a blog post by community educator Hannah Bird.)

Prescribed burning is another strategy to maintain a forest that is resilient to fire.

“Prescribed burns are a really powerful and underused tool,” said UC Davis ecologist Malcolm North. When a wildfire hits pre-burned areas, “it just putzes along.”

Posted on Wednesday, September 19, 2018 at 1:50 PM

Dogs enlisted to sniff out disease in citrus trees

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The Citrus Research Board is arranging to bring specially trained dogs to the UC Lindcove Research and Extension Center to test their ability to sniff out the devastating citrus disease huanglongbing, reported Bob Rodriguez in the Fresno Bee.

CRB president Gary Schulz is working with the USDA, which is training dogs in Florida to identify trees with huanglongbing soon after the trees are infected. HLB has ravaged Florida's citrus industry. In California, the disease has been found about 800 Southern California backyard trees, but officials have so far managed to keep it out of the state's commercial orchards.

"The USDA has invested million of dollars in detector dogs and they have proven to be a credible diagnostic tool for early detection and screening trees," Schulz said.

The USDA has trained dogs to detect huanglongbing disease in Florida. (Photo: USDA)

HLB is spread by Asian citrus psyllids. Psyllids can pick up the the disease from infected trees and spread it to other trees as they feed. Symptoms may not show up in the tree until a year or two after it is infected. PCR (polymerase chain reaction) is the only way to positively identify huanglongbing infection in citrus. The process requires testing of many leaves or branches from the tree and may return a false negative if the samples selected for testing aren't infected, but other parts of the tree are.

Schulz said the HLB-detection dogs will start their California work in the southern part of the state before traveling north.

Posted on Tuesday, September 18, 2018 at 11:34 AM

UC Master Gardener program arrives in Stanislaus County

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UC Cooperative Extension in Stanislaus County is launching its first UC Master Gardener program to extend research-based gardening assistance and information to county residents, reported John Holland in the Modesto Bee.

“Our goal is to encourage healthy environments (and improve the appearance of our community) with sustainable landscaping and gardening, green waste reduction and water conservation,” said Roger Duncan, UCCE county director.

Since the UC Master Gardener program's inception, more than 5 million hours of volunteer service have been donated.

Gardening enthusiasts may apply for the first round of training until Sept. 28. Weekly training sessions will be from Jan. 30 to June 5, 2019. Tuition is $180. After certification, Master Gardeners volunteer 50 hours of service in the first 12 months, then 25 hours per year after that.

The training will be held in Stockton this year, along with UC Cooperative Extension in San Joaquin County.

"They are joining our regular training to help get their program up and running," said Marcy Sousa, the UC Master Gardener program coordinator in San Joaquin County.

The volunteers do not need to start out with detailed knowledge of gardening, said Kari Arnold, the UCCE farm advisor overseeing the program. That will come from experts tapping into university research on the various topics.

For more information and to apply, visit the Stanislaus County Master Gardeners website.

UC Master Gardener program, launched in California in 1981, now serves more than 50 California counties with 6,116 actives volunteers. 

Posted on Monday, September 17, 2018 at 10:13 AM

Open Farm paves the way for technology adaptation in agriculture

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The Third Annual Open Farm comes to the UC Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Parlier Oct. 3. Open Farm is a gathering hosted each year by the farming community to connect technology vendors, academics and growers to accelerate the digital transformation of the food and agriculture sector.

The meeting runs from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Registration is free for growers and government employees; $20 for representatives of power and water utilities; and $40 for vendors. Register on the Eventbrite webpage. (https://www.eventbrite.com/e/3rd-annual-open-farm-tickets-48793567875) Continuing education credits will be offered.

The Kearney REC is at 9240 S. Riverbend Ave., Parlier, Calif.

Technology demonstrations like this one at the UC Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center will be part of Open Farm Oct. 3, 2018.

The Open Farm event features:

  • Keynote address by Glenda Humiston, vice president, UC Agriculture and Natural Resources
  • Field demonstrations of 3D mapping of research fields using drones, automation of irrigation and fertigation, and comparison of water measurement methods to prepare for the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act
  • Peer reviewed research presentations on agronomy, monitoring, robotics and data mining
  • An industry panel with growers and food processors

Open Farm 2018 sponsors and partners are:

  • UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR)
  • The VINE, Verde Innovation Network for Entrepreneurship
  • West Hills College, Coalinga
  • California State University, Fresno
  • BlueTechValley
  • PowWow Energy
  • WiseConn Engineering
  • Pumpsight
  • Blue River Technologies
  • Bowles Farming Company

Open Farm started in 2016 at Terranova Ranch with the support of a research grant from the California Energy Commission (EPC-14-081). In 2017, the event grew to a wider gathering with peer-reviewed presentations organized by UC ANR and field demonstrations led by West Hills College. Both organizations are involved in the broadband initiative to bring better broadband services in the Central Valley.

“The future of ag tech innovation and implementation on the West Side depends on access to broadband internet in the fields,” said Terry Brase, ag science instructor at West Hills Community College. “West Hills is proud to partner with UC ANR to champion an initiative that would make this possible for local growers.”

PowWow Energy, Pumpsight and WiseConn Engineering are examples of companies that have worked with the farming community and established application programmable interfaces (API) that allow farmers to protect their data and get the different applications to talk to each other.

“It makes the lives of growers easier, not harder,” said Olivier Jerphagon, founder and CEO of PowWow Energy, Inc.

The three vendors went through the Water Energy Technology (WET) center at Fresno State, which is one of the incubators in California connected by the VINE.

“Agriculture needs standards to support the better integration of systems and data to make using technology easier and less expensive, while protecting the privacy of farms,” said Gabe Youtsey, UC ANR chief innovation officer. “We need to work together across industry, academia and government to share best practices and form partnerships to solve real problems and adapt the integration of software and data to the needs agriculture. This is why we started the VINE.”

The VINE – the Verde Innovation Network for Entrepreneurship – is a connected community of innovators and resources that sustainable agriculture and food innovators can leverage, including incubators, research labs, field testing facilities, mentors and industry experts.

“The food and agriculture industry is changing fast, and for an organization like ours to add value, we have to understand the diversity of innovation that is happening in the industry,” said Helle Petersen of Fresno State's WET Center. “The VINE community helps us navigate the field, and leverages the many assets of our region. The Open Farm is one of those opportunities, a unique event that brings together researchers, farmers, industry and others to share their knowledge, best practices and find opportunities for partnerships.”

Posted on Tuesday, September 11, 2018 at 10:52 AM

LA's concrete river revitalization unlikey to create habitat for steelhead trout

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The city of Los Angeles is preparing to remove parts of the LA River's concrete lining, but that may not be enough to bring back native fish, reported Zoie Matthew in Los Angeles Magazine.

"It's hard to do piece-by-piece restoration projects for things adapted to river and stream systems. And it's impossible for steelhead," said Sabrina Drill, UC Cooperative Extension natural resources advisor in Los Angeles and Ventura counties.

It is unlikely steelhead trout will return to the LA River. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Steelhead need a continuous, rapidly flowing channel to complete their life cycle. Other native fish, such as the Arroyo chub, will need gravel, plants, sediment and pools to be restored.

"Ecological heterogeneity is really important," Drill said. "Fish tend to need different kinds of habitat."

Warmer water temperature is another concern. The river lacks trees and plants to shade the water and concrete soaks up the sun's warmth, creating a habitat unsuitable for natives.

Drill said some of the new fish in the river have favorable characteristics. Mosquito fish help with pest control and carp make for good fishing.

"Part of (the river's) role is to provide low-income, underserved communities with a place to access nature, see native birds, and increase public health by having a safe area to walk and fish," Drill said. "I think there's value there too."

Posted on Monday, September 10, 2018 at 10:18 AM

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