Posts Tagged: Susie Kocher
The massive die-off of conifers in the Sierra Nevada between 2012 and 2018 was predictable and unprecedented. Sadly, it is also likely to happen again, said UC Cooperative Extension forestry advisor Susie Kocher.
To help landowners manage forests in a way that minimizes the risk of such catastrophic tree die-off and the threat of uncontrolled wildfire, Kocher and two colleagues produced a 20-page publication that summarizes current research on tree mortality and outlines actions that can be taken to make the forest more resilient. The publication, Mass Tree Mortality, Fuels, and Fire: A Guide for Sierra Nevada Forest Landowners, is available for free download from the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources catalog.
Written by Stanford graduate student Devin McMahon (now graduated), UC Berkeley Cooperative Extension forest health specialist Jodi Axelson and Kocher, the publication presents the extent of the die-off in the Sierra Nevada, and describes different factors that contributed to the vast loss of tree life – including land management practices, weather patterns and geography. It includes detailed reporting on the mortality's impacts on fuels and fire risk so landowners and managers can understand and develop strategies to prevent similar destruction in the future.
While about two-thirds of California's 33 million acres of forests are public lands held by state and federal government agencies, the rest is in private hands. Large companies manage millions of acres for commercial timber production, but about 9 million acres are owned by individuals. Nearly 90% of individuals own 50 acres or less; 87,000 landowners have 10 acres or more of forest.
“That's a really large number of people,” Kocher said. “That's one of the reasons why it is so difficult for landowners to manage land to improve forest health and reduce fire risk. It's not economical to do forest management on small areas.”
It's also very complicated. As natural processes play out over time in a forest with mass mortality, the fire risk changes dramatically.
“In the new publication, we help people understand the nuances of forest management so they understand what actions are most appropriate throughout the whole cycle,” she said.
Assessing and addressing the fire risk
The publication provides an overview of fire risk reduction. A table lays out the seven components of fire risk – fuel load, fuel moisture, fuel continuity, probability of ignition, weather conditions, topography and vulnerability to fire – along with mitigation actions for each that landowners can take.
Intentional, controlled burning, or prescribed fire, is often the most effective way to decrease fuel loads and future risk from fires, the researchers wrote. Other management actions include masticating – chewing up brush and branches with specialized equipment – felling and removing dying and dead standing trees, and thinning live trees.
The authors conclude with a glimmer of hope for the future of California forest lands. “Carefully planned forest management can reduce the amount and continuity of fuel on the landscape and limit the risk of destructive fire after tree mortality.”
Pandemic And Wildfire: California Is Preparing For A Crisis Within A Crisis
(CapRadio) Ezra David Romero, April 15
…To protect human health, prescribed burns are not allowed for the time being on Forest Service land. But Ryan Tompkins, a forest advisor with the UC Cooperative Extension for Plumas, Sierra, and Lassen counties, says it's still early enough to prepare for wildfire with other tools like thinning and in some cases burning.
“It is really difficult because of the concerns about smoke and COVID, but sort of now is our chance to be prepared,” said Tompkins.
…“We know the agencies are going to have maybe limited capacity, limited resources, they're going to have other strains on their organizations while dealing with this crisis,” Tompkins said. “So, I think it emphasizes in a silver lining way that we all have a piece to play or a role to play.”
Susie Kocher, a forest adviser for the Lake Tahoe region with the UC Cooperative Extension, is concerned about a triple threat of COVID-19, wildfires, and power shutoffs.
“These two potential situations just could stack on top of the uncertainty of what people need to do,” she said.
Pandemic Crisis Got You Planting a Garden? Join the Club. (18:23)
(BYU Radio) April 14
Guest: Rose Hayden-Smith, PhD, Kellogg Food and Society Policy Fellow, Emeritus Professor of Agriculture and Natural Resources for the University of California, Author of "Sowing the Seeds of Victory: American Gardening Programs of WWI"
The pandemic has sparked a moment of “crisis gardening” among Americans. It's not much different from the Victory Gardens that sprung up in yards around the country during World War I, and then again in World War II.
New fungicide approved for Calif. tree nuts
(Farm Press) Tim Hearden, April 14
… University of California, Riverside plant pathologist Jim Adaskaveg helped develop data to validate the efficacy of ManKocide for California tree nuts and says the product has advantages, including ease of use.
It is also highly effective against copper-resistant bacteria in California, Adaskaveg said in an email.
“The product has efficacy against the walnut blight and bacterial spot of almond pathogens and suppresses fire blight on pome fruit and bacterial blast on almond,” he said.
Adaskaveg said he is unaware of other products that have this combination as a premixture,
People are rushing to plant 'pandemic gardens' and seed companies say they can't keep up with the surge in demand
(Business Insider) Michelle Mark, April 14, 2020
…It's not the first time economic crises have led Americans to grow their own food. One food historian told HuffPost that the trend began during WWI and WWII.
"Crisis-gardening is not new," Rose Hayden-Smith, the author of "Sowing the Seeds of Victory," told the outlet.
4-H searches for locals to serve on sponsoring committee
(San Benito Link) Devii Rao, April 14
We are looking for a few local people to serve on a sponsoring committee to keep 4-H active and strong in San Benito County. The sponsoring committee will organize events such as letter writing campaigns, barn dances, dinners, silent and live auctions, fireworks booths, having 4-H youth sell treats at the fair, or your other creative ideas! Sponsoring committee members are not required to have any affiliation with 4-H. We are looking for business leaders and other people who are well connected in the community and who are motivated to provide educational and leadership opportunities to our youth.
California dairies dump milk, crops may be left to wither as coronavirus pandemic disrupts food system
(SF Chronicle) Kurtis Alexander, April 12
…“Everybody's scrambling. The whole food system is scrambling,” said Daniel Sumner, an agricultural economist at UC Davis. “I don't see a big supply-side issue for agriculture. It's really an issue with the food (delivery) system.”
Widespread shutdown order slams California dairy farmers, ‘You can't turn off the cows'
(Sacramento Bee) Michael Finch II, April 10
…“Like every part of the food system, there are complications. The issue for milk is you can't turn off the cows,” said Daniel A. Sumner, an agricultural economist and professor at UC Davis. “What's becoming more of a problem is the slightly longer-term outlook where we have a massive recession (coming).”
Dairy prices are regulated by the federal government and fluctuate on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. So the price of large quantities of milk, cheese, whey and milk powder is set based on data from the prior month, Sumner said.
In January, milk traded at nearly 18 cents per pound and by March the amount fell nearly five cents. Sumner said this suggests there is a price shock to come in the summer.
Grocers Serving Low-Income Neighborhoods Pinched by Shortages, Rising Prices
(KQED) Farida Jhabvala Romero, April 10
…“This hoarding behavior is unfortunate,” said Richard Sexton, a professor of agriculture and resource economics at UC Davis. “We can understand why people do it, but it is what's causing these disruptions.”
… The current shortages could deepen disadvantages for family-owned neighborhood stores, said Sexton, the UC Davis economist.
“The little guys, the small chains of just a few stores, could get the short end of the stick in this situation because food manufacturers and distributors are going to probably prioritize their biggest and best customers,” he said.
Private Grant Will Support New UC California Organic Institute
(Organic Farmer) Marni Katz, April 10
A $1 million endowment will establish the University of California's first institute for organic research and education within the UC's Agriculture and Natural Resources division (UC ANR), expanding the UC Cooperative Extension's research and outreach capacity to target organic growers in California.
UCANR points to help for Californians amid crisis
(Farm Press) Mark Bell, April 10
…In response to these pressing needs, UC Agriculture and Natural Resources, like many other universities and extension organizations across the country, are moving quickly to get more information online. While I haven't seen the actual numbers, we know millions of students (both high school and university) are quickly transitioning to online classes.
Scientists Worry Agency Plan to Prevent Fires Could Do Opposite
(Bloomberg) Bobby Magill, April 9
…Controlling wildfire in the region depends on how many firefighters the federal government has on the ground—and they'd have to be in the right place at the right time for the fuels reduction plan to work, said Max Moritz, a wildfire specialist at the University of California, Santa Barbara studying how wildfire affects broad landscapes.
As the climate changes, the effectiveness of fuels reductions projects and fuel breaks begins to fade, he said.
“Climate change seems to be priming the landscape for fires to ignite more easily, spread more easily, to burn hotter and larger—so all of these aspects of climate change would make one suspect that fuel breaks have a harder and harder time doing their job,” Moritz said.
The wildfire program is an “expensive large-scale experiment,” he said.
The real reason we're seeing more wildlife during the pandemic
(Pop Sci) Ula Chrobak, April 9
…In those cases, additional sightings might be due to simple behavior changes. But a less charismatic creature may be also on the rise due to an increased human presence at home. Niamh Quinn, a human-wildlife interactions advisor with the University of California, thinks that rat populations may be increasing in New Orleans and elsewhere. That's because people are cooking, storing, and disposing of at home, drawing rats away from closed restaurants and toward residences.
…Quinn agrees. Late last year, she radio-collared five coyotes in Los Angeles for a research project. She says that her coyotes haven't changed their routines since the shelter-in-place order went into effect, staying in their respective territories, which include areas near a shopping mall and golf course. Quinn adds that while the number of coyotes reported in San Francisco on the Coyote Cacher website isn't unusual, they could be moving about during the day more. “People are just at home noticing more things,” she says. “Especially in California, we're not all spending five hours a day on the freeway [now], you know?”
HLB spreads slowly, confined to residential citrus
(Capital Press) Padma Naggapan, April 9
…”It's slower than we expected, compared to Texas and Florida,” said Elizabeth Grafton-Cardwell. “In the Central Valley, homeowners and growers have been able to eradicate the pest, although it's been much more challenging in Southern California. But growers are doing an outstanding job of controlling the psyllids.”
Almond Update: Maximizing Yields and Sustainability from Start to Finish
(AgNet West) Taylor Hillman, April 9, 2020
Setting an orchard up for maximum yield and sustainability is a long game for producers. There are lots of variables, and some are unpredictable such as mother nature. But UC Cooperative Extension Tree Crop Advisor Franz Niederholzer said growers can do several things in the life of an orchard to stay in the game. He believes the most sustainable plan in every aspect of growing is to not focus on hitting home runs but instead have constant attention on management to help them avoid making outs.
Soil health practices show benefits
(Morning Ag Clips) Jeannette Warnert, April 9, 2020
A group of California organic farmers is sharing information about their efforts to combine reduced tillage with the use of cover crops, which they have been planting on their vegetable farms for decades to protect soil while adding carbon and diversity to their production systems.
“Every one of the pioneering farmers has seen tremendous benefits from the practices,” said Jeff Mitchell, UC Cooperative Extension vegetable crops specialist. “These are the very growing practices that we have demonstrated over two decades of research to benefit soil health, environmental conservation and the bottom line on plots near Five Points in Fresno County.”
Why are eggs getting so expensive? Blame coronavirus demand
(LA Times) Samantha Masunaga, April 8
…“Eggs are naturally, very often, one of the most price variable products in the supermarket,” said Daniel Sumner, UC Davis professor of agricultural economics and director of the UC Agricultural Issues Center.
…Egg prices could remain elevated for at least a few months, Sumner said. And the demand for eggs has been historically strong during tougher economic stretches. Eggs are a relatively cheap source of protein and aren't seen as a luxury food item.
“It may take longer to get back to normal for the egg business,” he said. “We can build supply, but it takes a few months.”
Rock Front Ranch permanently conserved for wildlife, grazing by Rangeland Trust
(Santa Maria Times) April 7
“To have this ranch be up against and abut to tens of thousands of acres of public lands is an indispensable connection to have in perpetuity,” said Matthew Shapero, livestock and range adviser in Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties for the University of California Cooperative Extension.
Nutrition experts fear 'dirty dozen' produce list will put off consumers
(UPI) Jessie Higgins, April 7
…"Our typical exposure to pesticides is far lower than levels of health concern," Carl Winter, an emeritus cooperative extension specialist in food and science technology at the University of California-Davis, said in an email.
"A graduate student and I published a paper in 2011 relating dietary exposure to toxicity for the 10 most frequently detected pesticides found on the EWG's 2010 Dirty Dozen list," he said. "Estimated exposures were far below levels of toxicological concern. Recommending consumers reduce their consumption of conventional fruits and vegetables on the Dirty Dozen list is unwarranted."
How to grow a vegetable garden, according to legendary chef Alice Waters
(Fast Company) Aimee Rawlins, April 7
… It's natural to want to go big and plant everything. But it's important to be realistic and start small, and not just because the productivity trap can be debilitating at a time like this.
“Right now we have enough on our plate. Start modestly and in a way that you can manage it,” says Missy Gable, director of the University of California's Master Gardener Program. “If you've never done this before, don't transform a quarter acre.”
… Because soil quality and composition varies depending on region and location, Gable recommends looking up your local master gardener extension program. These programs, which exist in all 50 states, offer classes and resources for home gardeners as well as knowledgable volunteers who are plugged in to local climate and soil particulars. Right now, some master gardener programs, like the one at Oregon State University, are also offering virtual classes. (OSU waived its fee for April and already has more than 17,000 participants.)
Pistachio Rootstock Options Today: Seedlings and Clones
(Pacific Nut Producer) Matthew Malcolm, April 6
Pistachio growers have more options today when it comes to varieties and rootstocks to plant with. Watch this brief interview with UCCE Farm Advisor Elizabeth Fichtner as she shares some of the characteristics of rootstocks currently available to growers and some of the pros and cons to planting on a seedling vs. clone. Read more in Pacific Nut Producer Magazine.
UC urges cattle producers to take precautions
(Farm Press) Larry Forero, Sheila Barry, Josh Davy, Gabrielle Maier, April 6
The COVID-19 pandemic has much of the California population staying home in an effort to reduce the spread of the virus. Across the state, many grocery stores have had shelves emptied of food and other day-to-day necessities as people have stockpiled these essentials.
Coronavirus hit California's cut-flower industry at the worst time
((LA Times) Geoffrey Mohan, April 4
…Cut flowers are a $1.3-billion industry nationwide, though most of that revenue comes from the sale of imported flowers, predominantly from Colombia, according to the UC Davis Agricultural Issues Center. Domestic growers account for about 27% of national sales, down from 37% roughly a decade ago. California-grown flowers account for three-quarters of the national domestic sales, according to the UC Davis researchers.
How The Coronavirus Pandemic Has Led To A Boom In Crisis Gardening
(Huff Post) Jodi Helmer, April 3
… Even though food supplies may be currently secure, said Rose Hayden-Smith, a food historian and author of “Sowing the Seeds of Victory,” understocked supermarket shelves are forcing shoppers to think about the source of their food, especially fruits and vegetables, often for the first time. And their fears have led them straight to the garden center.
“It's helpful to be productive and connect with nature and it's something that's within our control in a situation that feels entirely out of control,” she said.
Gardening during a pandemic
(Appeal Democrat) Chris Kaufman, April 3
Since the toilet paper panic-buying subsided, another item quietly flew off the shelves: garden seeds.
Springtime weather combined with shelter-in-place orders and empty shelves at stores has spurred a spike in seed sales, according to some gardening experts.
“I've seen an increase in seed sales because I've been looking around to see what people are doing and anticipating what kind of questions we will get once we open up again,” said Jan Kendel, a master gardener with the Sutter-Yuba University of California Cooperative Extension. “We've had some calls and emails from people wanting to know if it's a good time to plant tomatoes.”
Spotted Lanternfly is an Invasive Pest
(AgInfo) Tim Hammerich, April 2
The spotted lanternfly is a colorful insect pest that has been infesting vineyards and orchards in the eastern U.S. So far, we have been effective in our efforts to keep the pest away from California's multi-billion-dollar ag industry. But we must remain diligent in these efforts, says Dr. Surendra Dara, Entomology and Biologicals Advisor in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Counties.
“Spotted lanternfly is an invasive pest because of the reason we don't have any natural enemies that can suppress their populations in a natural way in a new environment," said Dara. "And it can actually infest grapes and several other hosts in California of commercial importance. So it is important for us to be aware of the potential impact and do the need to prevent the damage."
The Moment for Food Sovereignty is Now
(Civil Eats) Katie Brimm, April 2
… “People are thinking, ‘If I can't get toilet paper, am I going to be able to get food?'” said Rose Hayden-Smith, a longtime community gardener and a Victory Garden historian, who recently retired from the University of California.
… Hayden-Smith notes that, despite the fact that the coronavirus pandemic came on much more suddenly than either World War, individuals and communities are once again turning to gardening to create food security.
California's truffle industry could be poised for growth if top hunter helps find path
(Sac Bee) Becky Grunewald, April 1
… Her dining companion is a tall scientist with a gentle demeanor, Scott Oneto. Although he didn't command the attention of this room, his work could be key to whether truffle cultivation becomes big business in local farming, or just a flash in the (frying) pan.
Oneto, a sixth generation California farmer with a background in weed science, had to be coaxed into the project, according to O'Toole. Oneto said after a few years of requests, it took a much-needed sabbatical, at which he could “really dive into research” to catch him at the perfect point to start their (hopefully) fruitful collaboration.
An Aggie through-and-through, Oneto got both his bachelor's and master's degrees at UC Davis, and works for Agriculture and Natural Resources. ANR is an unsung arm of the University of California, with the mission to bring the latest in agricultural science to the California community. Oneto not only bridges the gap to farmers by translating academic science research into in-person workshops and handouts, he also tailors research to local needs.
“When I have a farmer or rancher who is presented with problems, whether it be a new pest, weed, pathogen, or the effects of climate change, we help them solve those problems so they can continue to be successful in agriculture,” Oneto said.
Humboldt Using Satellite Tech Against Illicit Cannabis
(TechWire) Carl Smith, April 1
…“Local zoning, permitting and enforcement is probably more important than state-level initiatives, although collaboration across units of government is also key,” said Van Butsic, co-director of the Cannabis Research Center at the University of California, Berkeley.
In fact, every available strategy is needed as California works to implement the “robust standards” that it envisions for cannabis cultivation. For one thing, growers who are willing to play by the rules still face competition from illicit operations. In 2019, sales of illegal cannabis products in California were expected to hit $8.7 billion, more than twice the total for legal sales.
“Larger producers have been able to navigate the system,” said Butsic. “Many smaller growers are going out of business or staying illegal.” Costs are also part of the equation. “The illegal market is competitive because legal marijuana is so expensive to produce under Prop. 64,” Dale Gieringer, director of Cal NORML, told The Los Angeles Times.
GMOs Are an Ally in a Changing Climate
(Wired) Emma Marris, April 1, 2020
In Davis, California, 190 miles from Terranova, I met up with Pamela Ronald, a plant geneticist at UC Davis who has worked to solve this problem. Climate change is making floods worse in parts of South Asia, and in 2006, Ronald helped create a kind of rice that can survive submersion in water. By 2017, some 6 million farmers in Bangladesh, Nepal, and India were growing this rice. We talked in her cozy office, where a painting hangs on the wall of a man under a deluge of rain struggling to plow a field.
College farms still functioning amid shutdowns
(Farm Press) Tim Hearden, April 1, 2020
…Most employees for the UC's Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources are working remotely during their normal business hours and visiting sites in person for essential duties such as feeding animals, officials said. All the UC Cooperative Extension's in-person seminars and workshops scheduled for April were cancelled.
At the research centers, UC leaders are considering which projects should continue and which ones could be postponed, said Mark Lagrimini, UCANR's vice provost of research and extension.
“With the research that can go forward, we're making sure that protection is provided for the workers and students,”Lagrimini said. “We do have staff out there working right now. We have over 500 projects going on. We're in the process of going through 500 projects and making sure they are all able to be conducted safely. It's a big job.
For millennia, fires periodically burned through California forests, thinning trees, reducing shrubbery and clearing out downed branches and debris. Without periodic fire, the forests became more dense, with spaces between large trees filling in with a thick carpet of duff, seedlings and shrubs.
As a result, today's forests are prone to more intense and damaging fires, like the Rim Fire, King Fire, and — most recently — the Camp Fire in Butte County. These fires are burning with unprecedented severity and speed, threatening large swaths of forest, towns, and even urban areas.
Using fire as part of forest management is not a new concept. Native Americans were known to burn brush to open up hunting grounds and clear shrubbery for gathering. Decades ago, iconic Berkeley forestry professor Harold Biswell said, “Fire in the Sierra Nevada is as important as rain.”
Competing forces, however, pushed foresters and fire officials toward fire prevention and suppression, particularly the cataclysmic fires of the early 20th century that leveled entire towns and left dozens of residents and firefighters dead. The fear of out-of-control blazes and the perceived damage to timber resources launched a war on fire that has lasted a hundred years. Some forest managers are urgently trying to negotiate a truce.
Making peace with fire and turning it into a useful tool, rather than a raging threat, was the objective of an October meeting in Shaver Lake of UC Cooperative Extension forestry and natural resources scientists, Southern California Edison forest managers, CALFIRE officials and U.S. Forest Service representatives.
The event also raised awareness of “pyrosilviculture,” a new forest management term coined by UC fire scientist Rob York to emphasize the importance of fire in silviculture, the management of forests for wood.
Forests have myriad benefits – recreational, environmental and economic. Nature lovers value the whisper of pine trees in the wind and green shade over hiking trails and ski slopes. Owls, bears, deer and other wildlife make their homes among firs, pines, oaks and cedars. Forests stabilize mountain slopes, which store water as snow for agriculture and drinking. People build their homes, businesses and schools out of the planks and boards cut from the straight, soft wood of conifer trees.
The value of California forest products was about $429 million in 2017, according to the USDA. Because fires can damage and destroy trees, the timber industry has historically been reluctant to use fire as a tool. That's changing.
“Fire is such an important ecological process, you can't manage for timber without fire,” York said.
York is the manager of the Blodgett Forest Research Station, UC Berkeley's 4,000-acre mixed conifer and oak forest near Georgetown where researchers study forest management practices for increasing timber yield while taking advantage of fire to enhance forest health and make forest stands more resilient to wildfire.
Controlled burning can be used to treat fuels and reverse these trends, but it has been inhibited by a number of barriers, including landowners' concerns about liability, risk aversion among fire management agencies, narrow burn windows, air quality limitations and other regulatory challenges. Now, public demand for prescribed fires is growing.
“I believe what moved the needle was, for several years in a row, there were high-severity fires in the news,” York said. “Wildfires were in the public zeitgeist. People began asking, ‘Why aren't we doing more prescribed fire?'”
Climate change is also intensifying the interest among the public and silviculture professionals. Because California is getting warmer and fire seasons are growing longer, high-severity fires are expected to increase.
“There would logically be a tipping point. Even though we reduce the growth of trees when we use fire, if it can prevent the loss of the forest entirely, it would be meeting the timber objective,” York said.
The vast tree die-off during the 2011-2016 drought was another jarring sign that the Sierra Nevada ecosystem is out of balance.
The U.S. Forest Service, which manages 20 million acres of forest in California, is using prescribed fire to reduce fire risk on federal forestlands, but scientists say it's not nearly enough to reduce the threat of catastrophic wildfire. CAL FIRE is ramping up its controlled burn efforts, but it will take time to address far-reaching areas of overgrown forestlands. The agency sometimes uses mechanical measures such as mastication and chaining before burning to pre-treat fuels and prepare units for burning.
“We need to work around communities first, and then move out to the wider landscape,” said CAL FIRE division chief Jim McDougald. “If a prescribed fire moves into a subdivision and burns houses, we take 100 steps back.”
“Burning is a key element of forestland management and it can be safe if done properly,” Kocher said. “We provide classroom instruction and invite participants to join a live prescribed fire at Blodgett Forest as part of their training so they become familiar with the process.”
At the training sessions, UC Cooperative Extension advisor Lenya Quinn-Davidson said that in some cases, private landowners can conduct burns themselves. In her hometown in Trinity County, many ranchers and landowners conduct small broadcast burns to reduce fuels and improve forage. These burns are typically quite small and usually conducted in the winter.
“This can be a good option for landowners who wish to burn small areas, but we need other options for bigger, more complex burns” Quinn-Davidson said.
In other parts of the country, landowners have formed Prescribed Burn Associations (PBAs) that allow landowners to work with neighbors and other community members on controlled burns, sharing equipment and labor while developing skills. The PBA model provides a low-cost, grassroots option for prescribed burning, and empowers landowners to work together, and with other key experts and partners, to bring fire back to the landscape, says Quinn-Davidson.
“People are desperate to do something about fire, and the PBA model gives them an option to actively engage with each other and with fire as a tool—it's very empowering,” said Quinn-Davidson.
Franz Niederholzer - 2019 New Year's Profile
(Appeal-Democrat), Dec 31
Keeping Up with Navel Infections
(Dairy Herd Management) Emre Gürdal and Noelia Silva del Rio, Dec. 31
How Do Wildfires Start?
(Live Science) Donavyn Coffey, Dec. 28
…In other words, "a source [of heat] hits receptive fuel that's dry enough to burn," said Lenya Quinn-Davidson, a fire analyst for the University of California Cooperative Extension forestry program in Northern California. In the right conditions, those three factors are all it takes to set a wildfire in motion.
…However, ignition is only the beginning. For a spark to grow into a sustained wildfire, there must be a perfect combination of factors, such as "dry conditions and really strong winds," Quinn-Davidson told Live Science. And because of climate change, dry conditions are lasting longer and, in turn, causing longer fire seasons.
Analyzing The Use of Selective Dry Cow Therapy
(Dairy Herd Management) Fernanda C. Ferreira and Emmanuel Okello, Dec 27
Private woodlands lost to California wildfire — and may not be replaced
(SF Chronicle) Peter Fimrite Dec. 25,
…It costs about $400 per acre to reforest land, said Bill Stewart, a forestry specialist at UC Berkeley who has studied forest restoration programs after fires.
“A lot of (small property owners) ... don't have the cash or professionals to do the job,” he said. They “take a big financial hit when their forests are caught in a wildfire.”
…Max Moritz, a wildfire specialist at the University of California Cooperative Extension, said wholesale clearing is not always necessary. The rush to clear the land, he said, can result in healthy trees being cut down.
“Many trees can survive pretty bad crown scorch, so there's generally no urgency to get them out, or there shouldn't be, anyway,” said Moritz, an adjunct professor at UC Santa Barbara. “This is especially true of species that resprout, like several of the oaks and also redwoods.”
Get to know your wasps: University of California entomologist addresses misconceptions
(Press Democrat) Kate Frey, Dec. 21
Rachael Long, a University of California Cooperative Extension entomologist and crop adviser, recently told me a story about three wasps that people frequently encounter around their homes and often have misconceptions about.
Gene Editing Finds its Way to the Farm
(Dairy Herd Management) Clinton Griffiths, Dec. 21
…Alison Van Eenennaam, animal geneticist, University of California-Davis, says edits that create polled herds will soon be common.
“It's kind of like a pair of molecular scissors, if you will, that you can tell to go and cut the DNA at a very precise location in the genome,” Van Eenennaam explains. “What that enables you to do is go in and very precisely alter one particular gene of the thousands of genes that make up the genome, and you can introduce useful genetic variations.”
Farm Bill Set to Bring Several Benefits to California Growers
(AgNet West) Brian German, Dec. 19
...“There's some really good stuff in it for California, I mean first of all, getting a farm bill is fantastic,” said Vice President of UC Agriculture and Natural Resources Glenda Humiston. “Some really good things for beginning farmers and ranchers, and veterans' efforts in ag. One thing that's really potentially exciting for California in the rural development title is increasing the eligibility of communities up to 50,000 for some of the programs.”
Gene-edited farm animals are coming. Will we eat them?
(Washington Post) Carolyn Y. Johnson, Dec. 17
...“Right now. This is exciting, right this minute,” animal geneticist Alison Van Eenennaam said as she waited for a tiny blob of a fetus to materialize on a laptop screen on a recent afternoon at the Beef Barn, part of the University of California at Davis's sprawling agricultural facilities for teaching and research.
Commentary: Is Atascadero prepared?
(Atascadero News) Ray Weymann, Dec. 14
…But often, even 10 feet from a house takes one into a neighbor's property. Whether this means mandating more aggressive tree and brush clearing, and reevaluation of building codes for new and existing structures, is something the new council should consider, availing themselves with input from our local fire department but also from people like Jack Cohen. Another wildfire expert, Max Moritz, suggests that governments must be more aggressive in not allowing development in areas especially vulnerable to wildfire.
Ceres Imaging unveils cumulative stress index
(Successful Farming) Laurie Bedord, Dec. 14
...“Findings over the last four years show that the average Ceres Imaging conductance measurement from its imagery over the season has provided the best correlation with applied water,” says Blake Sanden, a Kern County University of California Cooperative Extension farm adviser. “While there's no perfect predictor of final yield, Ceres Imaging aerial sensing of canopy plant stress has a significant relationship with final yield.”
New Farm Bill Provides Funds For Research In California ‘Ag,' But No Big Boons
(Capital Public Radio) Julia Mitric, Dec. 13
…"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 Glenda Humiston, vice president of University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources.
Humiston is pleased that California will get an increase of $25 million a year for research of specialty crops, agricultural jargon for fruits, vegetables and nuts, as opposed to commodity crops like soybeans, corn and wheat. Those federal grants will cover many areas, from adapting farming to the effects of climate change to finding cures for California's many invasive pests, Humiston said.
Can California Improve Forest Management And Prevent Wildfires Without Going Broke?
(Capital Public Radio) Ezra Romero, Dec. 13
...But can California expand programs like forest-thinning and controlled burns and manage its forests on the cheap?
UC Berkeley forestry specialist Bill Stewart says yes. “There's certain areas that it is going to cost you $700 an acre, but other acres you can treat for $50 or $100 an acre,” Stewart said.
Technology advances impact production efficiency
(AgriNews) Martha Blum, Dec. 13
“I'm passionate about genetics and sticking up for technology because if we don't stand up for it, we're not going to have access to it,” said Alison Van Eenennaam, Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Animal Science at University of California, Davis.
“The livestock industry doesn't have access to GMOs because of the debate around plant GMOs,” Van Eenennaam said during a presentation at the 2018 American Agri-Women Convention.
Lindcove squeezes 100 citrus varieties into one tasting
(Sun Gazette) Dec. 12
The University of California citrus research center swings open its doors this week to give farmers and the public the opportunity to view and taste more than 100 varieties of citrus.
Can Rakes Save Forests? Yes, As Long As You Have A Drip Torch In The Other Hand, UC ANR Says
(Sierra Sun-Times) Susie Kocher, Rob York, and Lenya Quinn-Davidson, Dec. 12
Have shears, will travel
(California Bountiful) Ching Lee
…Sheep owners, particularly those with small flocks, have had trouble finding shearers for years—and the smaller their flock, the harder it is to get someone to shear for them because shearers are paid by the number of animals they shear, said John Harper, a UC livestock and natural resources advisor who has run the annual shearing program for nearly 25 years.
Could legalizing cannabis help the environment?
(Physics World) Kate Ravilious, Dec. 11
Using high resolution satellite imagery for the years 2012 and 2016, Van Butsic from the University of California, Berkeley and his colleagues found a boom in cultivation of cannabis in Mendocino and Humboldt Counties. By zooming right in, the researchers could identify the distinctive shape of the cannabis plants, the regular pattern in which the crop is planted, and the greenhouses perched in unusual places.
...“The chances of environmental damage are much greater in these regions because of the high potential for erosion, which threatens water quality, high potential for using water directly from headwaters, and the need to build roads to access these farms,” says Butsic.
What Does It Take To Defend Your Home Against A Mega Wildfire Like The Camp Fire? Here's How One Couple Survived
(Capital Public Radio) Ezra David Romero, Dec. 11
...Earlier this year, University of California system forest advisor Yana Valachovic toured the Carr Fire burn area in Redding.
“What surprised me there was how many of the stucco homes were lost and they were surrounded by green lawn,” Valachovic recalled. “What the mechanism of entry was is that they had a ring of vegetation right around the outside of their house.”
Susie Kocher, a forest adviser for the Lake Tahoe region with the UC Cooperative Extension, often works with homeowners that live within the Angora Fire burn area. That blaze destroyed about 250 homes in Lake Tahoe in 2008. A decade later, Kocher said people still aren't properly preparing their homes.
“There's still a lot of flammable plants planted right under picture windows,” Kocher said, adding that people have almost set themselves up for failure, “perhaps in the mistaken belief that they are kind of safe now because there's no big trees.”
Wildfire scientists brace for hotter, more flammable future as Paradise lies in ashes
(CNN) Bill Weir, Dec. 10
…"Well, my colleague Katharine Hayhoe says climate change is like gravity," says Dr. Faith Kearns. "Climate change doesn't really care if you believe in it or not. It's reality. We have gravity, we have climate change."
Are Your Bananas at Risk?
(BYU Radio) Top of Mind, Dec. 10
Guest: Norman C. Ellstrand, Distinguished Professor of Genetics, Department of Botany and Plant Sciences, University of California, Riverside
...Here in the US, there's only one kind of banana in the supermarket – sweet, yellow, no seeds, about as long as your hand. It's a variety called Cavendish and it dominates the international banana market. Which turns out to be a big problem.
Jeff Mitchell: Conservation No-Till Is One Option For Water Conservation
(Cal Ag Today) Patrick Cavanaugh, Dec. 10
Jeff Mitchell is a Cropping Systems Specialist at UC Davis, based at the Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Parlier. He has devoted his 19 years to improving nitrogen and water use efficiencies in food, feed, fuel and fiber in no-till cropping systems.
Solano 4-H schedules Fairfield open house
(Fairfield Daily Republic) Susan Hiland, Dec. 9
The Solano County 4-H Youth Development Program will host a 4-H open house from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday on the first floor of the University of California Cooperative Extension Office, 501 Texas St.
California State Fair Extra Virgin Olive Oil Competition opens Jan. 8
(Lake Co News) Dec. 8
…The California State Fair is proud to announce the head judge for the 2019 competition, Mr. Paul Vossen. Vossen will employ his expertise and experience at the California State Fair olive oil judging to lead the team of 15 Judges and ensure a fair and ethical judging process.
With more than 30 years of experience in the field as a University of California Cooperative Extension Farm Advisor in Sonoma County, Paul Vossen offers practical advice to large commercial ventures and hobby farmers alike for clients around the world.
Getting the Facts Straight on Dairies
(California Dairy) Dec. 7
The inaugural California Dairy Sustainability Summit in Sacramento last month was a big hit. Conference presentations not only focused on what California dairy producers can do to increase their sustainability efforts, but also on how producers can better share their stories and correct some of the common misconceptions that have been circulating the public. Check out this video with Frank Mitloehner, Air Quality Specialist from the Department of Animal Science at UC Davis, who shared the facts, and read more about it in California Dairy Magazine.
Why Californians Were Drawn Toward the Fire Zones
(Wall St Journal) Jeffrey Ball, Dec. 7
…Lax building codes are at the base of the problem. Even in California, which has some of the toughest such rules in the country, they often aren't adequate or adequately enforced. The codes often dictate the use of fire-retardant materials in house construction but typically say nothing about how a development must be situated on the landscape—and that can help determine whether that development will burn in a fire, says Max Moritz, a cooperative-extension wildfire specialist at the University of California, Santa Barbara. “So the developers are able to come in, propose something, and often, without too much oversight, walk away after having built something in a dangerous place,” he says. “And we pick up the tab.”
Cutting down Christmas trees on public land is good for forest management: expert
(KTVU) Lisa Fernandez, Dec. 7
A forestry advisor for the University of California is a big proponent of cutting down Christmas trees on public land as an inexpensive, family-friendly holiday ritual and a way to thin the forests of excessive small trees.
Researchers study how to enrich soil
(Appeal-Democrat) Ruby Larson, Dec. 6
Soil health and research on using cover crops were discussed by farmers, researchers and others at the University of California Cooperative Extension's Soil Health and Cover Crop Field Day on Thursday morning.
Dozens gathered for a presentation on the Healthy Soils Project, which the local UCCE is participating in. The project focuses on managing soil health, changes in soil carbon and reducing greenhouse gases.
…Amber Vinchesi and Sarah Light, agronomy adviser for UCCE Sutter-Yuba, gave a demonstration on how they would test for greenhouse gasses during the course of the project.
Climate Extremes: the New Norm
(Santa Barbara Independent) Laura Capps, Dec. 6
...“We need to change our perspective to one of co-existing with fire instead of fighting it,” said Dr. Max Moritz, a University of California wildfire scientist. “Fire isn't going away anytime soon. We need to locate and build our communities accordingly so that we reduce our vulnerability over the long term to this essential and inevitable natural process that is wildfire.”
Will More Permits To Chop Down Christmas Trees Help Thin California Forests And Prevent Wildfires? (AUDIO)
(Capital Public Radio) Ezra David Romero, Dec 5
In a patch of forest a few miles from Lake Tahoe's shore, Susie Kocher and her family are crunching through the snow to find a Christmas tree.
…"It's a great win-win solution,” said Kocher, who is also a forest advisor for the University of California Cooperative Extension for the Lake Tahoe area. “You get the public out in the forest, you do good work reducing the density of the trees."
Wildland fire research and impacts on nut orchards
(Western Farm Press) Logan Hawkes, Dec 5
..So far, tree nut damages or other agricultural losses in the deadly Camp Fire are unknown according to UCANR Sustainable Orchard Farm Advisor Luke Milliron in Butte County.
Fruit tree owners get free lesson in pruning
(The Californian) John Karlik, Dec 5
Even those with the greenest thumbs may need some guidance when it comes to pruning trees. The University of California Cooperative Extension office is here to help again with its annual fruit tree pruning demonstrations on Dec. 12 and 13.
Starting at noon both days in the orchard of the cooperative's office, ag adviser Mohammad Yaghmour will show attendees how to trim back trees including apple, apricot, cherry and almond as well as grapevines.
Camp Fire Impacted Local Prescribed Fire Training
(My Mother Lode) Tracey Petersen, Dec 5
...The 20 participants were to get hands-on fire experience to better understand the art and science of fire management and ecology. However, organizer and Natural Resources Advisor at the University of California Cooperative Extension – Central Sierra Susan Kocher relays that due to the explosion of the Camp Fire no flames could be ignited for the training because the required back up resources were called to battle the mega blaze. She adds it is an ongoing problem regarding using prescribed burns for fire prevention. “I really think it shows just our exact dilemma. It's hard to get ahead of disasters because you're busy responding to disasters,” advised Kocher. “So, we just need to do everything we can to try and burn at all times of year to try to get ahead of these tragic wildfires that are happening.”
The New Abnormal: A Town Hall on California's Fires and the Future
(Commonwealth Club) Dec. 4, 2018
… To address some of these critical and urgent questions, please join The Commonwealth Club for a special free town hall on California's fires and what can be done in the short and long term to prepare for them.
J. Keith Gilless, Chair, California Board of Forestry and Fire Protection; Professor of Forest Economics, UC Berkeley
Thom Porter, Chief of Strategic Planning, California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE)
Kurtis Alexander, Water, Wildfire and Climate Writer, San Francisco Chronicle
Maggi Kelly, Professor and Cooperative Extension Specialist in the Environmental Science, Policy and Management
Valley's Gold: Food Safety
(Valley's Gold) Dec. 4
Learn about the economic engine that drives the region, Agriculture. With host Ryan Jacobsen
UC CalFresh Nutrition Education Specialist Elizabeth Lopez shares food safety tips and tools in this PBS episode starting at the 18:32 mark.
San Diego County wants to build 10,000 new homes in fire-prone areas
(San Diego Union Tribune) Joshua Emerson Smith, Dec. 3
…What these building codes and other rules don't take into account is whether a particular project should be built at all, said Max Moritz, a cooperative extension specialist in wildfire at the Bren School at UC Santa Barbara.
“There's all these hazards that we use to guide our building and our zoning from floods to landslides, and fire is not one of them,” Moritz said.
“In the end, the taxpayer is left holding the bill for all this,” he added. “The developer may do a really good job at designing and convincing everybody that it's the right thing to do, but after they walk away, the public is left doing fuels maintenance for decades, and the public picks up the bill when there's a disaster.”
California is managing its forests — but is the president managing its federal lands?
(NBC News) James Rainey, Dec. 2
...Scott Stephens, a University of California, Berkeley professor of fire science, said the fire cataclysms of the last two years seem to have ended a long era of inattention.
“We will start to change the trajectory,” he said, “so we won't have tragedies like we had in Paradise.”
Subfreezing temperatures predicted for early Monday in Modesto area
(Modesto Bee) Deke Farrow, Dec. 2
...The University of California Cooperative Extension in Sacramento County offers more
The humble rake has been in the spotlight in recent weeks, and its role as a forest management tool ridiculed and scorned. However, most fire professionals believe rakes are a necessary part of saving California's forests.
Those who are familiar with fire are undoubtedly familiar with the McLeod, which is a standard firefighting tool and … it is essentially a rake (one side is a rake with coarse tines and the other side has a flat sharpened hoe). The McLeod was created in 1905 by a U.S. Forest Service ranger who wanted a single tool that could rake fire lines (with the teeth) and cut branches and roots (with the sharpened hoe edge). The McCleod is used to scrape fuels off of a fire line, preventing fire spread. The use of hand tools like the McLeod continues to be one of the standard ways that wildfires are stopped (although often aided by the rake's bigger and more powerful cousin: the bulldozer).
While the McLeod is a fire-fighting tool, it is also an essential fire-managing tool. When conducting controlled burns (i.e., purposeful fire), the fire is contained within desired areas by diligent raking with McLeods and other hand tools. These tools are necessary for conducting controlled burns.
While it isn't feasible to reduce fire risk by raking the forest with hand tools, if you hold a drip torch in the other hand, you could get the work done.
A drip torch consists of a canister for holding fuel that comes out of a spout (with a loop to prevent fire from entering the fuel canister) and a wick from which flaming fuel is dropped to the ground when the wick is ignited. The drip torch is the most common tool for lighting prescribed burns, which can be used to remove excess fuel buildup in the forest.
In a forest setting, these two tools — the rake and the torch — must be used together. Without a rake, the fire is not easily contained. And without a drip torch, the fuel that was raked cannot burn. Of course, prescribed burns rely on a number of other pre-specified factors (the prescription), including wind, temperature and humidity.
Using fire in a controlled manner drastically reduces the impacts of wildfire in a forest. Typically flames are kept low and most or all of the trees survive the fire, while much of the dead material on the forest floor (the “fuel”) is consumed. This reduces the risk of the forest burning at high severity in the future, thereby protecting nearby homes and towns. It also reintroduces fire as an important ecosystem process, which improves the health and biodiversity of forests and maintains the ecosystem services they provide, including wildlife habitat, water filtration and carbon sequestration.
Use of a rake and a drip torch together could make a great difference for reducing the impacts of wildfire in California and the West. The National Interagency Fire Center reported that during 2017, only half a million acres were treated with prescribed fire in the West, while 7.4 million acres (almost 15 times more) burned in wildfires. In the Southeastern U.S., where there is a long-standing tradition of prescribed burning, only 2 million acres burned in wildfires while over 5.5 million were burned using prescribed fire.
This was not always the case. Use of prescribed fire, or ‘light burning,' was once common in California until it was outlawed by federal and state policy in 1924. Although the merits of expanding its use are widely known and appreciated, it has been very difficult to do because of concerns about air quality, liability and lack of skilled burners. One of the biggest constraints is that we have very few people who have experience with ‘good fire' and very few qualified people who know how to safely burn.
As foresters and educators for the University of California Cooperative Extension, we are working to expand the use of prescribed fire on private forest and grasslands in California. Central to our efforts are educational events that give people an opportunity to experience prescribed fire first-hand. In the last two years, we have hosted workshops throughout northern California, and many of our workshops have included a live-fire component where landowners and other community members can try their hand at prescribed burning, under the direction and guidance of more experienced burners.
Our efforts in California are inspired by approaches in other parts of the country, including “Learn and Burn” events in the Southeast, prescribed burn associations in the Great Plains, and prescribed fire training exchanges (TREXs), an innovative training model developed by The Nature Conservancy's Fire Learning Network. All of these efforts have a focus on reconnecting people with fire, and they give participants the skills and experience needed to put fire back in the management toolbox.
We hope that by empowering people to pick up the drip torch (and the rake) on their own properties, we can help them reduce the risk of wildfire and improve the health of their forest and range lands. There is no time to waste.