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Posts Tagged: climate change

Entomologist Michael Hoffmann: Our Distinguished Alumnus

Michael Hoffmann sharing his expertise on climate change.

Congratulations to noted entomologist Michael Hoffmann, an emeritus professor at Cornell University, for his selection as the 2020 Thomas and Nina...

Michael Hoffmann sharing his expertise on climate change.
Michael Hoffmann sharing his expertise on climate change.

Michael Hoffmann sharing his expertise on climate change.

California trees are suffering under climate change and invasive pests

Branch die-back in a Chinese flame tree because of invasive shothole borer infestation. (Photo: Beatriz Nobua-Behrmann)
Trees are facing stress from a variety of pressures in California, including climate change and exotic invasive pests, reported Jeanette Marantos in the Los Angeles Times

“There are lots of invasive pests everywhere because of global warming and the movement of plant materials in general,” said Philippe Rolshausen, UC Cooperative Extension subtropical tree specialist at UC Riverside.

Yellowing leaves, a thinning canopy and branch die-back are symptoms that the tree is sick. UC Master Gardeners, headquartered in UCCE county offices across the state, can provide free help, the article said.

Marantos listed possible reasons for common tree symptoms:

Yellow leaves: May be due to a lack of nutrients. A sudden jolt of fertilizer isn't the best solution. Homeowners often remove the best fertilizer and mulch for trees — their own fallen leaves.

Thinning canopies and branch die-back: May be the result of a soil-born disease, such a phytophthora, caused by excessive water. “Homeowners have a tendency to over-irrigate a tree that's not doing well, but soil-borne diseases actually thrive in wet soils, so that's making things even worse,” Rolshausen said. “Trees don't like standing water on their root systems because they can't breathe.”

Huanglongbing of citrus: Invested trees send up shoots of bright yellow leaves. Eventually, new leaves get twisted and mottled and the fruit stops ripening. The disease was first spotted in Southern California in the late 1990s and has since been detected in Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino and Riverside counties, according to a map prepared by University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources.

The Times article also recommended the UC Integrated Pest Management Program website to learn how to diagnose and control tree insects and diseases.

Posted on Monday, March 2, 2020 at 8:59 AM
Focus Area Tags: Yard & Garden

Warm winter renews concerns about orchard chill

National Public Radio highlighted a growing concern for San Joaquin Valley tree fruit and nut farmers - diminishing winter chill in an age of climate change. "Warm winters mess with nut trees' sex lives," reported Lauren Summer on Morning Edition.

For example, adequate winter chill allows female and male pistachio trees to wake up simultaneously, which is ideal for pollen to be available for wind to carry it to blooms on female trees.

Fresno State agriculture professor Gurreet Brar, a former UC Cooperative Extension advisor, is testing whether horticultural spray application at different chill-hour intervals will trick trees into thinking they've been colder. Normally, the spray is used on fruit and nut trees to control insects, but it's also known to alter the tree's dormancy period.

"It's supposed to help the tree and buds wake up normally and have a normal bloom," Brar said.

Summer also spoke to Katherine Jarvis-Shean, UC Cooperative Extension orchard systems advisor in Yolo County. 

"We're on this (climate change) march and it's really just a matter of how bad it's going to be, not whether it's happening or not," Jarvis-Shean said. "Threatening those crops is really threatening the livelihoods of a lot of Californians."

Fruit and nut trees that require the most winter chill will run into trouble by mid-century, when experts predict consistently warmer weather, Summer reported.

Bing cherries need about 1,000 hours under 45 degrees for healthy dormancy, a level that they are achieving less frequently due to climate change.

"Bing cherries, which is really the marquee variety in California, won't get enough chill," Jarvis-Shean said. "We'll need to be breeding new varieties that still have that rich ruby flesh and that juicy flavor that can do well under those low chill conditions."

Better-adapted trees may be the only strategy in the long-run, she said. Efforts are already underway to breed new varieties of pistachios that can handle warmer winters.



Posted on Wednesday, February 19, 2020 at 9:27 AM
Focus Area Tags: Agriculture

UC Cooperative Extension deploys a team of 10 to help farmers practice climate-smart agriculture

Scientists are developing climate-smart farming practices, California is offering financial incentives to implement them, and now a group of 10 UC Cooperative Extension climate-smart educators are taking the program to the next level.

To help farmers apply for grants to improve soil quality and enhance irrigation systems, UC Agriculture and Natural Resources partnered with the California Department of Food and Agriculture to put climate smart educators in 10 California communities. The educators are working closely with UCCE advisors to help farmers and ranchers improve soil health, irrigation practices and manure management.

The climate smart programs offered by CDFA and promoted by UC ANR educators are:

The educators provide hands-on assistance to farmers and ranchers through the complex application process, conduct field days with climate-smart farmers, establish demonstration plots to share the practices, and work with farmers who are voluntarily implementing climate-smart farming.

Most of the educators were hired in early 2019, just weeks before the application deadline. They are now gearing up for a second cycle of applications. The state funded 194 projects in 2018, and 217 in 2019.

Each of the educators has a passion for agriculture and the environment, shaped by their upbringing, experiences and education.

“I am interested in carrying out research that focuses on the adoption and economics of climate change best management practices. The practices should help farmers continue their business,” said Esther Mosase, climate-smart educator in San Diego County. “I'm interested in seeing policymakers making policies that have a farmer as a focal point. They have been here long, they have been tilling the land, they can also contribute in coming up with better solutions that reduce climate change.”

The state is providing incentives for farmers to improve soil health in order to moderate the conditions that are driving global climate change. Improving soil health increases its ability to store carbon and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Side benefits include improved water infiltration, nutrient cycling and dust control.

Farmers can apply for three-year grants to implement new practices on their farm, such as reducing tillage, growing cover crops and applying compost. Conventional farm practices turn the earth, releasing the stored carbon back into the atmosphere.

UC Cooperative Extension's climate-smart community educators. (Not pictured: Sami Budhathoki)

UCCE's 10 new climate-smart educators are:

Britta Baskerville
UC Cooperative Extension, Mendocino County
blbaskerville@ucanr.edu, (707) 463-4158

Baskerville started college as a theater major in Sacramento, then realized that wouldn't result in a viable career. After suffering from an autoimmune disease tied to microbiome health, she began to understand the important role of the food and agricultural industries in public health. Baskerville earned a bachelor's degree from UC Berkeley that combines sustainable agriculture with the sociological and ecological impacts of agriculture, natural resources conservation and public health.

Last summer, Baskerville served as a program coordinator in an adaptive agriculture learning environment, where she designed two practicum programs for adults. She is considering a career in the food industry.

Climate-smart educator Britta Baskerville, right, makes a point at a UCCE meeting on climate change and environmental justice.

Caddie Bergren
UC Cooperative Extension, Merced County
cmbergren@ucanr.edu, (209) 385-7403

Bergren grew up in a small fishing town on an island in Alaska. She earned a bachelor's degree in earth systems at Stanford University in 2013, and then spent two and a half years in Paraguay as a Peace Corps volunteer. Bergren worked with a women's garden cooperative and with subsistence farmers. She spent the last three years as a community organizer.

“I was so excited to find this job, which combines my interests in working directly with all kinds of people on the intersection of agriculture and climate change,” Bergren said. “I've especially enjoyed using my Spanish-language skills to work with traditionally underserved farmers in this area.”

Dana Brady
UC Cooperative Extension, Glenn County
dmbrady@ucanr.edu
, (530) 517-8187

Brady completed a bachelor's degree in animal science at Chico State University in 2018. She was familiar with UC Cooperative Extension through school and had visited UCCE research sites.

Brady grew up in a farming and ranching family in rural Linden, southeast of Stockton.

“My earliest memory is of my grandfather's farm, where he had an emu, donkey and llama,” she said. “I was in 4-H and FFA as long as I can remember.”

In addition to working directly with farmers on grant applications, Brady has been helping advisors in Glenn County on research projects and building relationships in the community through workshops and seminars.

“I am also very excited for an upcoming event at an elementary school farm day to present about Climate Smart Agriculture and presenting at some bigger events later this year with a few others in the cohort,” Brady said.

Samikshya (Sami) Budhathoki
UC Cooperative Extension, Fresno and Madera counties
sbudhathoki@ucanr.edu, (559) 241-7515

A native of Nepal, Budhathoki traveled to the United States in 2015 to attend college at Fresno State, where she graduated with a bachelor's degree in plant science. During her studies, she completed a weed and salinity management project with professor Anil Shrestha. Budhathoki served as an intern in plant pathology with Bayer Crop Science.

She developed in interest in agriculture because of the industry's importance to society and the world.

“Some people don't get enough to eat even once a day. I wanted to join the effort to end world hunger and food insecurity,” Budhathoki said.

Budhathoke said she also is concerned about climate change and welcomes the opportunity to help farmers maintain a sustainable agriculture industry even in the face of climate change.

In the future, she plans to pursue graduate studies in climate change or water management.

UCCE climate-smart educators, left to right, Emily Lovell, Shulamit Shroder and Caddi Bergren presented information about CDFA's climate-smart incentive programs at a field meeting.

Emily Lovell
UC Cooperative Extension, Yolo, Solano and Sacramento counties
ejlovell@ucanr.edu, (530) 405-9777

Lovell grew up in Sacramento and developed an interest in agriculture when she was overcoming a serious illness. She graduated from UC Davis in 2016 with a bachelor's degree in sustainable agriculture and food systems.

“Originally, I didn't want to make money in agriculture,” she said. “I wanted to live off the land. I believe farming is a political act and I wanted to help return power to the people through farming and land ownership.”

Lovell said she is interested in pursuing a graduate degree in an area that combines community resiliency through localized food systems and economics and, eventually, becoming a crop adviser.

Esther Mosase
San Diego County
enmosase@ucanr.edu, (858) 282-6737

Mosase has a master's degree in agricultural engineering from Botswana College of Agriculture and a doctorate from South Dakota State University in civil engineering. Her master's research focused on water resources, watershed modeling and management.

Raised in a farming family in Botswana, Mosase experienced the impact of climate change firsthand.

“I remember we had drought years, normal years and extremely wet years,” she said. “Twenty years ago, it was not uncommon for open water to freeze. But now we get mild winters and very hot summers. Rain-fed agriculture is now a risky enterprise compared to two decades ago.”

In addition to helping farmers with the climate-smart farming grant applications, Mosase is helping farmers cope with water quality concerns.

“For instance, one farmer wanted to improve the water quality at the edge of his avocado and citrus farm before it enters the stream. He also wanted to be helped with pools of standing water in the farm that usually affect the health of avocado trees,” Mosase said. “We advised him on what to do regarding the standing water, but for the edge of the field treatment, we decided to install bioreactors.”

Mosase will help collect field data on the bioreactors' effectiveness and plans to publish the results.

Valerie Perez
UC Cooperative Extension, Santa Cruz County
valperez@ucanr.edu, (831) 763-8028

Perez earned a bachelor's degree in agricultural business at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo in 2018. She accepted an internship with a large animal veterinarian, and found her passion, she said. In addition to working as a climate smart community educator, Perez is taking prerequisite courses for veterinary school. She hopes her career will lead to conducting research to benefit the meat industry.

“I've always been interested in ways to better agriculture and how our systems could improve, but it wasn't until I received this job that my interest for climate-smart agriculture really peaked,” Perez said. “Agriculture is such an important industry, it is vital that we find ways to educate one another on how to better what we have been doing for so many years.”

Allison Rowe
UC Cooperative Extension, Ventura County
amrowe@ucanr.edu
, (805) 645-1464

Rowe has a bachelor's degree in biology from Colorado College in Colorado Springs and a master's degree from the Bren School of Environmental Science and Management at UC Santa Barbara. Her background and interests focus on the interface of land management and climate change.

“Everyone and everything is interwoven with our food system and yet so much of how we produce food accelerates climate change,” Rowe said. “I enjoy being at the interface of science and education, where the rubber meets the road. I wanted to find a role where I could work with people on the ground and implement solutions to climate change while contributing to resilient farming economies.”

She said it is encouraging to see that farmers and ranchers are interested in climate-smart agriculture and welcome the technical assistance.

Kristian Salgado
UC Cooperative Extension, Imperial County
kmsalgado@ucanr.edu, (442) 265-7700

Salgado attended San Diego State University, where she earned a bachelor's degree in 2014 with a double major in psychology and environmental studies and minors in counseling and social change. She earned a master's degree in social science at Humboldt State University in 2018.

“My background in agriculture is very broad ranging, from topics relating to public health concerns connected to agriculture production – pesticide drift and agricultural burning – to food insecurity in low-income communities,” Salgado said.

Salgado is a native of Calexico, a city located across the border from its sister city, Mexicali, Mexico. Her farming experience centers on urban agriculture.

“Growing food on non-agricultural land has allowed me to learn the technical/scientific processes that go into growing food,” she said.

Salgado plans to continue her education in a doctoral program in ethnic studies at UC San Diego, where she can focus on several overlapping areas of interest, including race studies, food justice, sustainable agriculture, climate change, environmental decision-making processes, and participatory action research methodology and practices.

Shulamit Shroder
UC Cooperative Extension, Kern County
sashroder@ucanr.edu, (661) 868-2168

Shroder attended college at the University of Maryland in College Park, earning bachelor's degrees in environmental science and policy and in Spanish language, literature and cultures. She has worked in an agricultural research lab, in the gardens at the University of Maryland and in a nearby organic farm. After graduating in 2016, Shroder volunteered with the Peace Corps in Senegal, West Africa, where she trained farmers on gardening and agroforestry techniques and extended improved varieties of staple crops like beans, corn, millet and sorghum.

“While serving in Senegal, I saw firsthand the effects of desertification and erratic rainfall on the ability of the community to feed itself,” she said

Shroder intends to earn a master's degree and continue to research and promote sustainable agriculture techniques.

UCCE climate-smart educator Esther Mosase, left, and UCCE specialist Jeff Mitchell at a field day.
UCCE climate-smart educator Esther Mosase, left, and UCCE specialist Jeff Mitchell at a field day.

Posted on Tuesday, December 3, 2019 at 9:52 AM
Focus Area Tags: Agriculture Environment

Genomic gymnastics help sorghum plant survive drought

Scorching temperatures and parched earth are no match for the sorghum plant — this cereal crop, native to Africa, will remain green and productive, even under conditions that would render other plants brown, brittle and barren.

A new study published this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences provides the first detailed look at how the plant exercises exquisite control over its genome — switching some genes on and some genes off at the first sign of water scarcity, and again when water returns — to survive when its surroundings turn harsh and arid. 

“With this research, we are laying the groundwork for understanding drought tolerance in cereal crops,” said Jeff Dahlberg, UC Cooperative Extension sorghum specialist. Dahlberg, co-author of the study, is also director the UC Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Parlier, one of nine research and extension centers in California that are part of UC Agriculture and Natural Resources.

Dahlberg said researchers can use the knowledge gained from this project to search for drought genes in other cereal crops.

“That has implications for feeding the world, particularly considering changing climate and weather patterns,” he said.

The research team set up mobile labs in the field at the UC Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center to rapidly freeze harvested sorghum plants for later gene sequencing. (Photo: Peggy Lemaux)

The massive dataset, collected from 400 samples of sorghum plants grown during 17 weeks at Kearney, reveals that the plant modulates the expression of a total of 10,727 genes, or more than 40% of its genome, in response to drought stress. Many of these changes occur within a week of the plant missing a weekly watering or after it is first watered after weeks of no precipitation or irrigation.

Kearney is a 330-acre agriculture research facility in the heart of California's Central Valley, where field-scale, real-world research can be conducted on drought impact on plants and soil microbial communities. The climate is naturally dry throughout the summer, making it ideal to mimic drought conditions by withholding irrigation water.

“People have really shied away from doing these types of experiments in the field and instead conduct them under controlled conditions in the laboratory or greenhouse. But I believe that the investment of time and resources that we put into it is going to pay off, in terms of the quality of the answers that we get, in terms of understanding real-world drought situations,” said Peggy Lemaux, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in UC Berkeley's Department of Plant and Microbial Biology and co-author of the paper.

Frozen samples were processed and sequenced by researchers at the Energy Department’s Joint Genome Institute (JGI). (Photo: Peggy Lemaux)
The data was collected as part of the Epigenetic Control of Drought Response in Sorghum, or EPICON, project, a five-year, $12.3 million study into how the sorghum plant is able to survive the stress of drought. The EPICON study is run as a partnership between UC Berkeley researchers and scientists at UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR), the Energy Department's Joint Genome Institute (JGI) and that agency's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL).

To conduct the research, the team cultivated sorghum plants under three different irrigation conditions — pre-flowering drought, post-flowering drought and controlled applications of water — over three consecutive years at Kearney.

Each week during the growing season, members of the research team carefully harvested samples from the leaves and roots of selected plants and set up a mobile lab in the field where they could rapidly freeze the samples until they were processed for analysis. Then, researchers at JGI sequenced the RNA in each sample to create the transcriptome data, which reveals which of the plant's tens of thousands of genes are being transcribed and used to make proteins at particular times.

Finally, statisticians led by UC Berkeley statistics professor Elizabeth Purdom parsed the massive transcriptome data set to pinpoint how gene expression changed as the plants grew and were subjected to drought or relief from drought conditions.

“We very carefully controlled the watering conditions, and we sampled over the entire developmental timeframe of sorghum, so [researchers] could actually use this data not only to study drought stress, but also to study plant development,” Lemaux said.

The researchers noticed a few interesting patterns in the transcriptome data. First, they found that a set of genes known to help the plant foster symbiotic relationships with a type of fungus that lives around its roots was switched off in drought conditions. This set of genes exhibited the most dramatic changes in gene activity that they observed.

“That was interesting, because it hinted that the plants were turning off these associations [with fungi] when they were dry,” said John Vogel, a staff scientist at JGI and co-author of the paper. “That meshed well with findings that showed that the abundance of these fungi around the roots was decreasing at the same time.”

Second, they noticed that certain genes known to be involved with photosynthesis were also turned off in response to drought and turned up during drought recovery. While the team doesn't yet know why these changes might help the plant, they provide interesting clues for follow-up.

The data in the current paper show the plant's transcriptome under both normal conditions and drought conditions over the course of a single growing season. In the future, the team also plans to publish data from the other two years of the experiment, as well as proteomic and metabolomic data.

Understanding how sorghum survives harsh conditions could help researchers identify cereal crop cultivars that are more resilient to climate change. (Photo: Peggy Lemaux)

Nelle Varoquaux and Cheng Gao of UC Berkeley and Benjamin Cole of JGI are co-first-authors of the study. Other co-authors include Grady Pierroz, Christopher R. Baker, Dhruv Patel, Mary Madera, Tim Jeffers, Judith A. Owiti, Stephanie DeGraaf, Ling Xu, Krishna K. Niyogi, Devin Coleman-Derr and John W. Taylor of UC Berkeley; Joy Hollingsworth, Julie Sievert and Jeffery Dahlberg of UC ANR KARE; Yuko Yoshinaga, Vasanth R. Singan, Matthew J. Blow, Axel Visel and Ronan O'Malley of JGI; Maria J. Harrison of the Boyce Thompson Institute; Christer Jansson of PNNL and Robert Hutmacher of UC ANR.

This research was funded in part by the Department of Energy (DOE) grant DE-SC001408; the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation grant GBMF3834; the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation grant
2013-10-27; L'Ecole NormaleSupérieure-Capital Fund Management data science chair and the DOE's Office of Biological and Environmental Research grant DE-SC0012460. Work conducted by the DOE JointGenome Institute is supported by the Office of Science of the DOE contractDE-AC02-05CH11231.

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Posted on Monday, December 2, 2019 at 1:30 PM
  • Author: Kara Menke, kjmanke@berkeley.edu
Tags: climate change (92), drought (163), Jeff Dahlberg (17), Peggy Lemaux (8), sorghum (11)
Focus Area Tags: Agriculture

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