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Posts Tagged: Agriculture

Sustainability - what does it really mean?

What is sustainable agriculture?
Sustainability has become a buzzword. Everywhere you look it's sustainable this, sustainable that. But what does it really mean? What makes something truly sustainable? And what does it mean in terms of food production?

April's Global Food Systems Forum invigorated the conversation. The event convened some of agriculture's leading experts to address the plethora of challenges that face our global food systems. The conversation brought forward several hot topics: GMOs, large scale vs. small scale production, nutrition and more.

But even with the riveting debate, the question remains: What is sustainability? Is it focusing more on natural ecosystems? Is it being completely self-reliant, or turning only to organics? Is it focusing on a larger multi-national scale?

UC ANR has started holding a series of sustainability webinars to continue the conversation and tackle some of these questions. The first webinar took place on Feb. 15, 2013 with Tom Tomich, director of the UC Agricultural Sustainability Institute. The webinar tackled the issue of sustainability: What is it? Is there a sustainability science? What is at stake? The video can be seen on the ASI website.

The second webinar, on May 31, 2013 with Neil McRoberts, professor in the Department of Plant Pathology at UC Davis, focused on linking sustainability theory with practice. McRoberts addressed sustainability theory using formal models to plan and track extension outreach efforts, and linking interdisciplinary scientists. Though the webinar is not yet available online, it will be soon on the ASI website.

The next webinar is Thursday, June 13, from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. Featuring Ermias Kebreab, professor in the Department of Animal Science at UC Davis, the webinar centers on environmental sustainability of animal agriculture. Topics will include: sustainability as a "wicked" problem, water quality and livestock production, and the mitigation of air emissions from livestock operations. The webinar is free and open to the public. More information is available on the Agricultural Sustainability Institute website.

Sustainability is a complex issue. These questions about the definition and concept are not going to be answered overnight. But as long as these types of conversations and learning opportunities continue to take place, I'm confident we'll continue adapting and meeting the complex challenges with which we are faced.

Posted on Wednesday, June 5, 2013 at 8:48 AM
  • Author: Marissa Palin
Tags: agriculture (12), ASI (2), food system (1), sustainability (7), webinar (2)

Feeding billions in the face of climate change

As drought dries the landscape and rising global temperatures make for decreasing crop yields, farmers are faced with the question of how to feed billions of people in a way that both reduces global greenhouse gas emissions and adapts to the realities of climate change.

Scientists and policymakers from around the world will gather today through Friday, March 20-22, at the University of California, Davis, to grapple with the threats of climate change for global agriculture and recommend science-based actions to slow its effects while meeting the world's need for food, livelihood and sustainability.

The Climate-Smart Agriculture Global Science Conference, planned in coordination with the World Bank, builds on a 2011 international meeting on this theme in the Netherlands.

"Climate change, which brings severe weather events and more subtle but equally menacing temperature changes, presents unprecedented challenges to the global community," said UC Davis Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi.

"In California, where we rely heavily on snowmelt for irrigation to grow half of our nation's fruit and vegetables, we are acutely aware that scientists and policymakers must join forces to lessen the potential effects of climate change," she said.

Katehi will open the conference on Wednesday, March 20, along with Thomas Vilsack, secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (via video). The public is invited to attend the opening day’s program (8:45 a.m.-12:30 p.m), free of charge; and the closing day’s afternoon program (noon-3:45 p.m.), also  free of charge. These will be held in Jackson Hall of the Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts. (Lunches not included.)

Catherine Woteki, USDA undersecretary, will speak Thursday evening, March 21.

Other speakers will include: Ben Santer, climate researcher at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and a member of the National Academy of Sciences; Joseph Alcamo, chief scientist for the United Nations Environmental Program; and Patrick Caron, general director for research and strategy of the French Agricultural Research Center for International Development. Also speaking will be outstanding scientists from dozens of universities and research institutes from around the world.

Conference topics will focus on the implications of cutting-edge agricultural, ecological and environmental research for improved design of policies and actions affecting agricultural management and development; identifying farm and food-system issues, determining research gaps; highlighting emerging research initiatives; and developing transformative policies and institutions.

The conference will conclude with participants developing and endorsing a declaration regarding the key research and policy messages that result from conference presentations and discussions. This declaration is expected to point toward science-based policies and actions for global agriculture that will mitigate climate change and encourage adaptation to maintain food security, livelihoods and biodiversity.

 

Posted on Wednesday, March 20, 2013 at 6:45 AM

Biodynamic Gardening and Agriculture

Disclaimer: This article does not express the views held or advocated by UCCE or its affiliates with regard to biodynamic gardening or farming.  It only seeks to introduce the concept of biodynamics to readers as another alternative system of sustainable gardening.

For all of you gardening enthusiasts (which I assume all of you are, since you are reading this blog), it is likely that at some point, you have come across the term “biodynamic” gardening or farming.

Biodynamic gardening/farming is usually regarded as one of the earliest organized systems of organic gardening, emphasizing the interrelationships between soil, plant and livestock management (i.e., the garden or farm is regarded as an organism).  The foundation for biodynamic gardening or farming arises from a series of lectures given in 1924 by the Austrian philosopher, Rudolf Steiner, to farmers seeking his assistance.  Perhaps the defining feature of biodynamic gardening/agriculture and what people find most intriguing, is the use of what is known as “preparations,” (of which there are nine (9), divided between field and compost preparations) which generally consist of manure and/or specific flowers/herbs fermented in a vessel such as a cow horn or the bladder of a red deer/elk, as applicable.  The preparations are typically diluted with water, stirred in an exacting manner for a specific period of time, and then sprayed onto a field or compost to stimulate plant growth, as appropriate, and microbial activity.  Although these preparations sound esoteric and inaccessible to the average person, people seeking to incorporate biodynamic methods in their garden, may purchase preparations from biodynamic trade organizations and/or other biodynamic gardeners and farmers.

The popularity of biodynamics has gained steam in the mainstream, as many wineries, both local (some even in Napa and Sonoma Counties!) and abroad, have adopted such practices.

For further information on biodynamic gardening or farming, please feel free to visit https://attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/summaries/summary.php?pub=290 or google the term, “biodynamic gardening,” “biodynamic farming,” or “biodynamic agriculture.”

 

Posted on Wednesday, December 21, 2011 at 2:01 PM

Budget cuts felt on agricultural campuses

An article by Ching Lee in today's Ag Alert focused on the effects of budget cuts on agricultural student programs at California universities. "Budget cuts have had a profound effect on all areas of the campus," Diane Ullman, associate dean for undergraduate academic programs at UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, told the reporter. She explained the college faces challenges keeping agricultural production facilities, instructional equipment and technologies updated to deliver hands-on education — even though the office has seen student applications increase by 70–80 percent.

Tom Baldwin, dean of UC Riverside College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences, also commented on the challenges of serving students in the face of diminishing resources, saying the university is "moving heaven and earth" to do so.

The cuts are being felt at on-campus farms as well. Raoul Adamchak, of the UC Davis Student Farm, explained that the market garden generates its own income and provides a lesson to students on self-sustaining businesses. "Things cost money, and these are part of the expenses of farming, so it has to be factored in. They have to make decisions based on the cost of things and the returns," he said.

Peach association to major retailer: Buy U.S.-grown
Christine Souza, Ag Alert

The California Canning Peach Association has asked Target to consider California fruit for its Market Pantry-brand canned peaches, which are currently a product of China. Wal-Mart carries a comparable product made from California cling peaches, with a lower retail price.

Reporter Christine Souza sought expert commentary from Roberta Cook, UC Cooperative Extension marketing specialist at the Davis campus, on the current market for California cling peaches. "When you are talking about processed items, if another country can produce it a lot cheaper than you, then you will be vulnerable to competition. And consumer preferences have moved towards fresh. So [California cling-peach businesses] are hit by both factors," she told the reporter.

Related ANR News Blog post: Chinese farmers take a bite out of the California cling-peach market

California's cling peaches are facing competition from canned imports.


 

Posted on Wednesday, September 21, 2011 at 11:28 AM
Tags: agriculture (12), budget (31), cling peaches (3), peaches (17), Roberta Cook (2), students (6), UC Davis (201), UC Riverside (16)

Silicon Valley investors to focus on Central Valley ag

Silicon Valley venture capitalists will focus on investment opportunities in Central Valley agriculture during a conference at UC Davis this summer, Grow-California.com announced yesterday. The California Agriculture Innovation Conference takes place in Freeborn Hall July 20 and 21.

Conference participants will meet with policymakers such as California Department of Food and Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross and USDA Rural Development State Director Glenda Humiston. and “game changing” agriculture companies, the Grow-California news release said. LA Times reporter P.J. Huffstutter and Sacramento Bee columnist Dan Walters are also on the agenda. Other prominent speakers include the president of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, the dean of the UC Davis Graduate School of Management and a deputy editor of Forbes magazine.

Conference organizers believe that by bringing the venture capital community together with the agricultural community, there will be potential to create an innovative technology hub for agriculture in the Central Valley as was done in the Silicon Valley for high tech.

Grow-California was formed in April 2011, a spin-off of Golden Capital Network, the website said. The new company aims to foster job and wealth creation by connecting innovative entrepreneurs, growth companies and market leaders with capital, talent, academia, customers and partners.

Grow-California plans two other conferences this year, a Clean Tech Innovation conference in Oakland Sept. 14 and 15 and a Web & IT Innovation conference in Pleasanton November 16 and 17.

Online registration for the Agriculture Innovation Conference is available on the GrowCalifornia website. Registration for the two-day conference is $245. One day registration is $125. There is a $75 charge for the VIP dinner on July 20.

Posted on Tuesday, June 21, 2011 at 9:17 AM

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