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Congress approves Farm Bill reauthorization

An orange orchard at Lindcove Research & Extension Center. The 2018 Farm Bill provides grants for citrus research.

The House and Senate have passed the compromise Farm Bill, sending the legislation to the president for his signature.

Capital Public Radio's Julia Mitric asked Glenda Humiston, UC vice president for agriculture and natural resources, what the Farm Bill holds for UC ANR and California.

"What's fascinating about the Farm Bill is, after all that hyper-partisan debate … it's really a lot of the same of what we already had," said Humiston, adding that it includes an increase of $25 million a year for research on specialty crops.

That's good news for California growers because nearly all of California's 400 crops are considered specialty crops in federal parlance and over 50 percent of the nation's fruits and vegetables are grown in California. Those federal grants will cover many areas, from developing climate-resilient farming practices to combating California's many invasive pests, Humiston said.

The Farm Bill removed hemp from the definition of a controlled substance, which will allow it once again be produced for agricultural purposes. This is exciting for UC Cooperative Extension researchers who are interested in helping farmers manage and grow this new crop.

Reauthorization of the Farm Bill is important to UC because it provides critical support for the nation's land-grant institutions, including agricultural research extension and infrastructure programs and nutrition education programs.

Overall, the final version of the Farm Bill represents a positive outcome for UC. In addition to specialty crop research, the bill contains strong support for organic agriculture research and also includes helpful provisions to address unnecessary regulatory burdens faced by researchers. The bill also preserves the competitive grants for citrus research.

Posted on Friday, December 14, 2018 at 5:51 PM
Tags: Farm Bill (5), Glenda Humiston (17)

Goodbye Old Friend

I said goodbye to an old friend this week.  We had been friends and sometimes not so friendly but I always loved my friend.

My old friend was a Salvia greggi (red), yes a plant.  We had been together here at this house over 25 years.  But as time passed my friend started to age and look old.  She, yes she, was gone on the inside but still had leaves and blossoms on the outside.

So we thought let us prune her down and see if she sprouts new growth and can be saved, but the more we pruned the more we found she could not be saved, so we just did a light tug and out she came.

Now I have a large empty space where my old friend was, soon to a new friend for that spot.

Spot where 'she' lived. (photo by Betty Victor)
Spot where 'she' lived. (photo by Betty Victor)

Posted on Friday, December 14, 2018 at 3:16 PM

Something Sweet and Something Neat: Entomological Holiday Gifts at UC Davis

Sweet! The UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center is selling honey and offering free recipes.

Just call these "something sweet" and "something neat." Yesterday on Bug Squad we featured holiday gifts available at the Bohart Museum of...

Sweet! The UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center is selling honey and offering free recipes.
Sweet! The UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center is selling honey and offering free recipes.

Sweet! The UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center is selling honey and offering free recipes.

UC Davis Entomology Graduate Student Association (EGSA) offers t-shirts year-around and they're especially popular during the hoidays. From left are president Brendon Boudintot, t-shirt coordinator Jill Oberski and Corwin Parker with their award-winning shirts. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
UC Davis Entomology Graduate Student Association (EGSA) offers t-shirts year-around and they're especially popular during the hoidays. From left are president Brendon Boudintot, t-shirt coordinator Jill Oberski and Corwin Parker with their award-winning shirts. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

UC Davis Entomology Graduate Student Association (EGSA) offers t-shirts year-around and they're especially popular during the hoidays. From left are president Brendon Boudintot, t-shirt coordinator Jill Oberski and Corwin Parker with their award-winning shirts. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

In Search of the Perfect Entomological Gift

Bohart associate Emma Cluff cuddles a tardigrade, one of the stuffed animals available for sale in the Bohart Museum of Entomology's gift shop. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

If you're looking for the perfect "bugly" entomological gift, be sure to stop by the Bohart Museum of Entomology, University of California,...

Bohart associate Emma Cluff cuddles a tardigrade, one of the stuffed animals available for sale in the Bohart Museum of Entomology's gift shop. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Bohart associate Emma Cluff cuddles a tardigrade, one of the stuffed animals available for sale in the Bohart Museum of Entomology's gift shop. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Bohart associate Emma Cluff cuddles a tardigrade, one of the stuffed animals available for sale in the Bohart Museum of Entomology's gift shop. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

This humorous mayfly illustration,
This humorous mayfly illustration, "The swarmers are attracted to lights and tend to expose themselves in the evenings," appears in the 2019 Bohart Museum calendar. That sentence was written by a UC Davis student in Professor Lynn Kimsey's class. The calendar illustrations are all the work of entomologist/artist Karissa Merritt, a UC Davis student. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

This humorous mayfly illustration, "The swarmers are attracted to lights and tend to expose themselves in the evenings," appears in the 2019 Bohart Museum calendar. That sentence was written by a UC Davis student in Professor Lynn Kimsey's class. The calendar illustrations are all the work of entomologist/artist Karissa Merritt, a UC Davis student. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Thursday, December 13, 2018 at 3:52 PM

Fruiting Plants Blooming Out of Season

Last summer I lightly pruned my apple espalier to remove some wayward growth.  A few months later, in late summer, I was surprised to see apple blossoms on the tree!

This November, I was surprised to find two of my blueberry plants absolutely thick with blossoms. The photos don't do them justice.

What is going on with these plants blooming out-of-season? And more immediately, should the flowers be removed?  Should winter pruning be deferred?

In making a decision whether to remove the flowers or to prune, it is helpful to understand why the plant may be blooming out of season.  Spring-blooming trees and shrubs form their flower buds in late summer. Environmental stresses, such as heat or drought, can induce a temporary dormancy.  The plants may have set their flower buds as usual but go dormant when stressed.  After the heat wave or drought conditions end, dormancy ends.  If conditions are just right for flowering, the plant will flower just as if were springtime.  But there may not be enough time for the fruit to mature, particularly in frost-prone areas.  Luckily, with fruit trees at least, the trees do not usually expend all of their blossom buds at this time, so there should be more flowers in the spring and yields should not be significantly affected.

In the case of the apple espalier, I had lightly pruned the apple espalier in the summer to restrict wayward growth.  For example, pruning foliage on new shoots can help prevent ripening fruit from being shaded from the sun.  It also encourages fruit buds to form.  We then had a heat wave, which may have stressed the tree into a temporary dormancy.  I don't know whether the summer pruning or the subsequent heat wave or a combination of the two, resulted in the apple espalier blooming.  There were only a few blossoms and clearly not enough time for any apples to ripen before winter, so the decision to remove the blossoms was fairly straightforward. 

Blueberry bushes care typically spring bloomers.  They can produce so many fruit buds that their berries are undersized; pruning the bushes can prevent overbearing.  Most references recommend removing flowers from first-year plants to prevent them from bearing at all so that the plant can grow more fruiting wood.  Mature plants are pruned to remove weak or dead shoots and to keep the plants productive.  The plants are usually pruned in late winter when fruit buds are visible. 

But here it was early November and my blueberry bushes were swarming with blossoms! I didn't know whether the plants were merely setting fruit for an extremely early spring crop or whether they were blooming out of season and the fruit wouldn't mature.  Should I prune or not? 

Last spring, I repotted one mature blueberry plant into a bigger pot with another new blueberry plant last spring.   I consulted with our knowledgeable Master Gardener Program Coordinator, Jennifer Baumbach, who knew just the right person to ask for more information.  Given that the plants had been repotted this year, and we had warmer temperatures than usual later this year, it turns out the plants might just be confused.  I decided to remove the flowers now and then to prune the plants later in the winter as normal.  I experimented both with stripping the blossoms off the brunch and lightly pruning certain branches to remove 8-10” of a blooming branch all at once.  We will see if either approach makes a difference.  But, because I'm a little bit of a softy (sometimes) and I couldn't bear the thought of removing all of those beautiful blossoms, I left a blooming branch or two (or three?) just to see what happens!

 

Apple blossoms. (photos by Erin Mahaney)
Apple blossoms. (photos by Erin Mahaney)

Blueberry flowers.
Blueberry flowers.

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Posted on Thursday, December 13, 2018 at 9:08 AM

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