July 2019 News clips (July 1-15)

Jul 31, 2019

Inside The Lives Of Farmworkers: Top 5 Lessons I Learned On The Ground

(NPR) Dan Charles, July 15

Philip Martin, an economist at the University of California, Davis, who's spent his professional life studying farm labor markets, says employers are adapting to the worker shortage in four different ways: offering incentives to workers and treating them better; bringing in technologies (like conveyor belts in the fields) that allow fewer workers to do the same amount of work; replacing workers with machines; and bringing in foreign workers using special visas, called H-2A visas, that are available for seasonal farm labor. The number of these "guest workers" has been increasing sharply in recent years. Martin estimates that they now account for 10 percent of "long-season jobs on crop farms." They represent the majority of workers in Florida's citrus groves and North Carolina's sweet potato fields. 



Where Do We Get Our Water?

(MyMotherlode) Rebecca Miller-Cripps, July 15

For most of us who live in Tuolumne and Calaveras Counties, the essential link to our water supply is the Stanislaus River (“The Stan”). Creeks that drain melting run-off from Sierra snowpack feed the Stanislaus River and are impounded in reservoirs ranging from Union and Utica in the north to Spicer and Donnell, Pinecrest and Lyons, and Phoenix Lake and Lake Tulloch farther south and west. Eventually, the multiple branches of the Stanislaus find their way to New Melones Reservoir, operated by the United States Department of the Interior Bureau of Reclamation. From there the Stanislaus eventually joins the San Joaquin River and flows out to San Francisco Bay, mingling with waters from the Sacramento River flowing down from the north. In addition, rivers that supply water to Calaveras and Tuolumne Counties include the Mokelumne in the north and the Tuolumne, originating in Yosemite National Park, to the south.


Repairing pet damage to the lawn

(The Day) July 12, 2019

Lawn spots are one of the most common problems dog owners encounter. These manifest as small brown spots in the grass, and sometimes as lush green spots.

These spots will appear if you take your dog into the yard to do his or her business. Dog urine includes high levels of nitrogen and salts, which can damage the grass. Ali Harivandi, writing for the University of California Cooperative Extension, says these materials help dry out the grass and create an effect similar to a burn caused by an excessive application of fertilizer.


Master Gardeners: Gardening for the birds

(Napa Valley Register) T. Eric Nightingale, UC Master Gardener, July 12

Gardening is fun, of that there is little doubt. It begins with a trip to the nursery, picking out those perfect plants from the multitudes of foliage. Then the dirty work begins.


If there are gophers in your yard, follow these tips to get rid of them

(Redding Record Searchlight) Leimone Waite, Master Gardeners

…A: Mounds of fresh soil indicate a gopher's presence. Be sure to confirm the mounds are from gophers and not moles. Many gardeners mistake mole mounds for gophers and this can lead to frustration as moles are controlled a different way than a gopher.  Gopher mounds typically are crescent- or horse-shoe-shaped when viewed from above. The hole, which is off to one side of the mound, is usually plugged.


Ag at Large: Forests suffering from lack of care

(Hanford Sentinel) Don Curlee, July 11

Trees in California's forests are transmitting the message that the state's farmers can recite in their sleep – neglect our care and we crumble. Disease, predatory insects and lack of routine care have brought much of the state's forest land to a deplorable condition.

… The bright spot in the equation is the dialogue that has begun among University of California scientists, forest managers and public agencies to manage the consequences of the unprecedented tree die-off and increase the resiliency of forests to future droughts. A report on that effort is part of the article in the April-June(current) issue of the university's quarterly publication California Agriculture.



Fly fishing for ‘sewer salmon' in the L.A. River

(LA Times) Jesse Pearson, July 11

…Before our meal, I asked Sabrina Drill, an expert in urban ecology and aquatic invasive species, if we were idiots for doing this.

In 2007, Drill took part in a study of toxicity levels in L.A. River-caught fish including carp. They were tested for fillet content of PCBs and mercury, and all the fish were under the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment's limit for those contaminants.

"Now, we didn't test them for everything," she cautioned. "It wasn't a huge sample size, and it wasn't a study that was designed for the primary intent to answer the question: Is it safe to consume [these] fish?"



Buzzing With Promise, Effort Aims To Make Marina A Drone Hub

(KAZU) Erika Mahoney, July 11

The global commercial drone market is valued at $1.6 billion and growing quickly. Communities around the world, including the Monterey Bay area, are trying to get a piece of that economic growth.

The City of Marina is already working to establish itself as a place where drone businesses can thrive. It welcomed the University of California's third annual Drone Camp this summer. Over three days in late June, the 70 participants learned about safety, regulations and data processing. They also practiced flying over open space on the former Fort Ord.   

“That's what this drone camp is all about, is providing all of these folks the basic background to incorporate UAVS [unmanned aerial vehicles] into their workflows,” says UC Professor Maggi Kelly.  She runs the camp.



One place at the State Fair stays true to agricultural roots

(Sacramento News & Review) Debbie Arrington July 11, 2019

…During the fair, more than 100 UC Cooperative Extension master gardeners staff The Farm's question booth. Got a pest dilemma or a mystery plant? They're ready to tackle all sorts of garden issues.



Water needs for roses rise with summer temperatures

(San Diego Union Tribune) Rita Perwich, Master Gardener, July 11

The summer months draw our attention to our roses' need for more water. Water is indispensable for photosynthesis and vital to the transport of all the fertilizers and amendments that we add to the soil to feed our roses. In short, adequate water is essential to produce healthy, beautiful roses. But of course, it is imperative to make every valuable drop count and avoid water wastage.



What's Growing On: How to use the Master Gardener Help Desk

(Stockton Record) Kathy Ikeda, July 11

The San Joaquin Master Gardener Program, administered by the University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE), has a Help Desk service specifically intended to help answer these types of questions. Here's a brief summary of our contact information:



Almond Matters: Preventing Ant Damage in Orchards

(AgNet West) Valent sponsored content, July 11

“There's some people that monitor and treat as needed which is certainly acceptable.  Some people just put a bait on every field every year.  They just do that, they're comfortable with those programs, the baits are relatively cheap and easy to apply,” said David Haviland, Entomology Farm Advisor with UC Cooperative Extension in Kern County.  “Then some people will put two applications on a year, in places that historically have problems.”



Can you taste barley varieties in beer?

(Farm Press) ANR news release, July 11

Different varieties of hops can be used to create an array of flavors and styles of beer. Does the variety of barley used in beer-making affect the flavor of the brew?

This is a question UC Cooperative Extension advisor Konrad Mathesius hopes beer drinkers will answer on Friday, July 12, at YOLO Brewing Company in West Sacramento.



Cannabis growers asked to comment on permit process

(Madera Tribune) July 10

The majority of cannabis farmers are not joining the legal market and we want to know why. The objective is to identify barriers to joining the legal market, according to California officials.

California has legalized marijuana, but commercial cannabis growers have been slow to obtain the required state and local permits. To find out what deters them from complying with new laws, University of California scientists are asking cannabis growers to participate in a survey about their experiences with the regulated market.

“The majority of cannabis farmers are not joining the legal market and we want to know why,” said Van Butsic, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy & Management at UC Berkeley. “The objective is to identify barriers to joining the legal market.”



Watch Bed Bugs Get Stopped in Their Tracks

(KQED) Gabriela Quirós, July 9

…Apartment dwellers are more vulnerable to infestation, as bugs can crawl from one flat to another. Because bed bugs hide away, they're difficult to treat without the help of a professional, which can be expensive.

“If you think you have bed bugs, let your landlord know right away,” said entomologist Andrew Sutherland, the University of California's urban pest management adviser for the San Francisco Bay Area. “It's their responsibility to do inspections and to hire a reputable pest control operator to take care of the problem.”



Rural connectivity needed for ag technology

(Farm Press) ANR news release, July 9

…The effort to extend broadband access to rural communities in California is a priority for UC Agriculture and Natural Resources vice president Glenda Humiston. While it is potentially expensive to bring internet connectivity to every resident of the state – from the far reaches of Modoc County in the north to remote desert communities near the Mexican border in the south – those communities' lack of high-speed internet is exacting a high economic, medical, social and educational cost.



Swine, sheep and steer move into Santa Maria Fairpark ahead of 128th Santa Barbara County Fair

(Santa Maria Times) Mathew Burciaga, July 9

…First-timer Tiana Terrones, 10, got some advice on raising her hog, Bella, from her older sister Tara, 11, who has raised three pigs — including Pearl, her entrant this year — since joining the Lompoc Valley 4-H club. 

"I like that you get to have a pet, but also you get to learn responsibility," Tiana said. "You have to take good care of it. If you don't, the pig won't feel very good or make weight."



Latest almond crop report estimates slow down in nut production

(Chico Enterprise-Record) Brody Fernandez, July 8

Luke Milliron, an orchard farm adviser for the University of California Cooperative Extension in the northern Sacramento Valley, said this report is pretty standard given the conditions the north valley has faced.

“The objective estimate isn't too surprising to folks in our area,” Milliron said. “I think this is fairly conventional and with the two previous springs we have had, it's not optimal for nut set when there are prolonged wet and cold periods during bloom. From what I've heard from our growers up here, orchards that had poor yields last year look good this year and vice versa. We've had really tough conditions but I doubt this is any surprise.”



How an Agriculture App that Spills the Dirt on Soil Got a Second Life

(NextGov.com) Brandi Vincent, July 8

Soil holds powerful insights about what America is made of and many people leverage historical data about it to make better use of their land. 

SoilWeb 2.0, a revamped smartphone app from Agriculture Department's Natural Resources Conservation Service and the University of California at Davis' Soil Resource Laboratory, translates the world's largest database of soil information into a smart and simple interface that teaches people about their present-day surroundings. 

…SoilWeb is the brainchild of NRCS Soil Scientist Dylan Beaudette and UC Davis Professor and Cooperative Extension specialist Anthony O'Geen. Beaudette was a student at the school in 2005, and quickly learned that he and O'Geen shared an interest in the digital representation of soil survey and making dense scientific information seem more applicable to all people. 



California's not enforcing wildfire-prevention rules for homeowners, leaving tens of thousands of properties vulnerable to big blazes

(San Diego Union-Tribune) Joshua Emerson Smith, July 7

… Those visits also serve as a chance for inspectors to point out improvements that residents can make to their homes, such as closing off open eaves and fixing torn vents to prevent embers.

“The under-appreciated aspect of the whole inspection process is that interaction with the homeowner where they get information about structure-ignition vulnerabilities,” said Max Moritz, a wildfire specialist with the University of California Cooperative Extension. “That could be the most important reason for inspections.”

… Beyond noting whether a home is out of compliance and why, inspectors have started tracking everything from roof types to the conditions of vents to the materials used to construct a porch or deck.

The new data collection endeavor has two main purposes — informing firefighters of home conditions during a blaze and, after the event, helping researchers evaluate what features best served to protect structures.

“We haven't had data like that for post-fire analyses, so that's going to be really interesting,” said Moritz, with the University of California Cooperative Extension.



Next climate challenge: Getting the smoky taste out of wine

(E&E News) Marc Heller, July 3

…"Growers are keenly aware," said Karen Block, director of industry relations for viticulture and enology at the University of California, Davis, who added that some growers are adjusting their insurance policies in response.

The ensuing research, though, focuses mostly on wine, and whether something can be done to remove the smoky tones, but nothing else.

"The problem with filtering is maybe you filter out some of the things you want," Block said.

Researchers at UC Davis led by Anita Oberholster launched a project after the fires to find out more about how smoke affects grapes and, in turn, wine. They discussed the issue earlier this month with former Gov. Jerry Brown (D), who visited the campus for a climate change discussion titled "Wine, Wildfire and Climate Change."



Rural connectivity necessary for agriculture

(Morning Ag Clips) July 3

…The effort to extend broadband access to rural communities in California is a priority for UC Agriculture and Natural Resources vice president Glenda Humiston. While it is potentially expensive to bring internet connectivity to every resident of the state – from the far reaches of Modoc County in the north to remote desert communities near the Mexican border in the south – those communities' lack of high-speed internet is exacting a high economic, medical, social and educational cost.

Humiston was part of a Summit panel that discussed how to cultivate the next generation of leadership in farming. The panelists said future ag industry leaders will need traditional leadership skills – communicating and listening well – but with the growth of agricultural technology, digital literacy is imperative. Using these new high-technology tools will also require broadband coverage, Humiston said.



New acting DPR director answers questions on future of regulatory agency

(Farm Press) Todd Fitchette, July 3

New Department of Pesticide Regulation Acting Director Val Dolcini recently sat down with Farm Press editors for an exclusive interview to discuss the state of the regulatory agency going forward and his dual role in the California Environmental Protection Agency.

Question: What role can the University of California Cooperative Extension play in decisions made by DPR?

Dolcini: I think on the chlorpyrifos working group, cooperative extension and folks at UC will be incredibly valuable. They provide a resource to the state that's extraordinarily valuable to work that farmers and ranchers do.

We've got wonderful folks at Cooperative Extension who are doing great things every day and in mostly unheralded fashion. I think that most Californians probably don't truly appreciate the value of UC Cooperative Extension.



Wine Grape Pruning Expenses Slashed with Mechanization

(Growing Produce) David Eddy, July 2

George Zhuang is so close to his goal, he can almost taste it, and it would be as exquisite as the finest wine.

Zhuang is a University of California Cooperative Extension Viticulture Advisor in Fresno County, where most growers have successfully implemented mechanical harvesting, so Zhuang and colleagues such as Kaan Kurtural, a UCCE Specialist in the UC Davis Department of Viticulture and Enology, are tackling mechanical pruning.



Guest Opinion: Challenges for direct-market meat production

(Western Livestock Journal) Dan Macon, University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources advisor, July 2

Direct marketing, for some farmers and ranchers, can be a way to capture more of the consumer dollar. By bypassing the middlemen—wholesalers, distributors and retailers—direct marketing can allow a producer to receive retail value for his or her product. But direct-market meat is a different story. Direct-market meat requires substantial processing—the harvest and cut-and-wrap services provided by processing facilities and butchers require significant skill and capital investment. Over the last 50 years, we've lost local meat processing capacity—small local butchers simply don't exist in very many places. Many of us assume that increasing this processing capacity would solve the problem. In my experience, the solution isn't quite so simple. As someone who has marketed meat directly to consumers at a modest scale (120 or more lambs per year at our peak), I have observed a variety of complicated questions regarding the real issues involved in increasing harvest and processing capacity.



Feral Horses, Fierce Controversy

 (Alta) Jason G. Goldman, July 1

…As the horse population has exploded, hunters, wildlife conservationists, and even water- and soil-quality advocates have found themselves aligned with cattle ranchers opposite horse advocacy groups. The ranchers—especially those who rely on government-subsidized public land grazing—represent an obvious foil for horse advocates, who sometimes cite the caricature of the villainous 19th-century cattle baron to garner public support.

In reality, many of the folks affected by the presence of the wild horses, at least in Modoc County, are from small, family-owned ranches. “These families have had those permits for two or three generations; they've been grazing that land for 50 years,” says ecologist Laura Snell, natural resource adviser for Modoc County through the University of California Cooperative Extension. “And now they're being told they can't graze anymore because of the horses, and we don't have any [alternative] land for them to go to instead.”



Fearful of being the next Paradise, Grass Valley confronts its fire vulnerability

(San Francisco Chronicle) Kurtis Alexander, July 1

When Josiah Johnston and his wife, Kate Wilkin, hung flyers around their neighborhood last year, they didn't know how many people might respond to their invitation to discuss fire safety.

…Wilkin lends fire expertise to the coalition. She's employed by the University of California's Cooperative Extension program as a natural resource adviser. At home, she's put her know-how to use preparing the yard to resist flames, recently removing a lattice that was covered in a blanket of ignitable pine needles.

“People are working hard, but there's a lot to do,” she said. She admits that the unremitting fire danger has her second-guessing her move to Grass Valley to start a family. “I don't know if I would have made the decision today.”



UC ANR On What To Replant After the Trees Die

(Sierra Sun Times) Susie Kocher, July 1

Background: California, and the Sierra Nevada in particular, is experiencing an unprecedented die off of trees on both private and public lands. Aerial detection surveys done in 2016 showed that over 102 million trees have died since 2010 coinciding with four years of drought, including over 62 million in 2016 alone. The scale of tree mortality is the largest in the southern Sierra, significant in the central Sierra, and patchy in the northern Sierra. Mortality is concentrated at lower elevations though significant mortality is also occurring at higher elevations in the southern Sierra. The hardest hit species has been ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa), but many incense cedars (Calocedrus decurrens), sugar pine (Pinus lambertiana), white fir (Abies concolor), and some oaks have experience mortality as well. At higher elevations, Jeffrey pine (Pinus jeffreyi) and lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta) have also died.



What to expect if HLB is found near you

(Citrograph) Victoria Hornbaker, Summer Issue

…The grower is required to apply both foliar and systemic insecticides to all HLB host material within 400 meters of the detection. If the grower does not show proof of treatment, the CDFA or the CAC will treat the property, the grower will be billed for the treatment and a lien will be issued on the property. Growers should consult the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources' (UCANR) recommended list of ACP-effective insecticides when choosing treatments.


By Pamela Kan-Rice
Author - Assistant Director, News and Information Outreach