Posts Tagged: California
If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a colony of honey bees to show us how to divide the labor and work well together. And if you're...
UC Davis Chancellor Gary May congratulates the California Master Beekeeper Program. With him are co-program managers Wendy Mather and Kian Nikzad. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Elina Lastro Niño at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road, UC Davis. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Regional farms will demonstrate practices such as cover cropping, reduced tillage, compost and mulch use, hedgerow planting, optimized irrigation systems
To accelerate adoption of climate-smart farming practices, the University of California Office of the President has awarded nearly $2 million to a team of UC Cooperative Extension scientists and community partners working on a network of farm demonstration sites. The project will be led by Sonja Brodt, coordinator for agriculture and environment at the UC Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education Program. This UC Agriculture and Natural Resources project is one of 38 funded with $83.1 million allocated to UC by the State of California for climate action research and innovation.
Scaling up soil health and other climate-smart agricultural practices to sequester carbon, increase water and nutrient use efficiency, and improve the resilience of farms to climate-related threats like drought and floods is a core pillar identified in California's Natural and Working Lands Climate Smart Strategy.
“Our project will strengthen the nascent California Farm Demonstration Network for on-the-ground, regionally specific demonstration of a range of climate-smart practices,” said Brodt. “Regional farms will demonstrate practices such as cover cropping, reduced tillage, compost and mulch use, hedgerow planting, irrigation system optimization and more.”
The $1,999,524 project will pilot a participatory partnership extension model that allows farmers to learn from their peers to reduce adoption risks and adapt knowledge to an ever-changing environment, increasing the likelihood of farmer success and accelerating long-term uptake of complex, place-specific practices.
Building on the capacity of local trusted organizations, project collaborators will be organized in a hub-and-spoke network with three regional Farm Demonstration Hubs (Sacramento Valley, North Coast and Central Coast), a pilot Hmong/Mien Demonstration Hub, and a statewide Organic Demonstration Hub.
Collaborators at each hub will be responsible for identifying and nurturing farm demonstration sites, and conducting demonstration trials and farmer-to-farmer outreach activities. Centralized organization and capacity building will be provided by UC SAREP, UC Organic Agriculture Institute, the California Association of Resource Conservation Districts, the Community Alliance with Family Farmers, and the California Farm Demonstration Network Advisory Panel.
In addition to several UC Cooperative Extension advisors and specialists across the state, partners include the UC Hansen Research and Extension Center and the Rodale Institute California Organic Center, both in Ventura County, and the UC Climate Smart Agriculture Program. Eight Resource Conservation Districts will also be involved in leading Farm Demonstration Hubs.
The project will also conduct soil health assessment activities to inform soil health and resilience monitoring protocols in future research and extension efforts. Since many existing soil health metrics were designed for agroecosystems in the Midwest and Eastern U.S., this project aims to lay the groundwork for research to adapt soil health metrics to the arid and Mediterranean climates of California.
“By utilizing relationships built between demonstration hub managers and demonstration farms across different cropping systems, we will gather quantitative and qualitative soil health data, information about growers' management practices as well as their own perspectives of what they really need to know about their soils in order to better manage for climate resilience and mitigation,” said Brodt.
Ultimately, the project partners aim to establish an enduring on-farm extension and research system that will help thousands of farmers adopt climate-smart practices tailored to their farms.
Other grant-supported projects focus on water access, conservation
The largest of the Climate Action Matching Grants, an $8.2 million investment, supports the development of planning tools to advance sustainable, inclusive and equitable water distribution for California's 39 million people. The project is led by Ted Grantham, a UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management at UC Berkeley. Kristin Dobbin, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management at UC Berkeley, and Erik Porse, director of the California Institute for Water Resources are collaborating on the project.
Three other projects involving UC ANR researchers received California Climate Action Seed Grants and Matching Grants subawards:
- Development of a hydrogel that can work as a soil amendment to help small-scale vegetable farms conserve water led by UC San Diego associate professor Shengqiang Cai with Ruth Dahlquist-Willard, UC Cooperative Extension small farms advisor and interim director of UC SAREP; Mallika Nocco, UC Cooperative Extension specialist; and Matthew Gilbert, UC Davis professor of whole plant physiology. $297,979
- Development of a tool for predicting climate-water variation led by UC Irvine professor Isabella Velicogna with Tapan Pathak, UC Cooperative Extension specialist. $199,531
- A study of urban stream corridors led by UC Davis professor Gregory Pasternack with Igor Lacan, UC Cooperative Extension environmental horticulture and urban forestry advisor. $33,824
- A study of how California's housing crisis affects the growth of the wildland urban interface (WUI), where the fringes of development reach into natural areas led by UC Santa Cruz professor Miriam Greenberg, with Barb Satink Wolfson, UCCE fire advisor, Devii Rao, UCCE livestock and natural resources advisor, and the Central Coast Prescribed Burn Association.
Updated 8/31/23 to add the wildland urban interface study./h3>/h3>
Hear that buzz? National Honey Bee Day is Saturday, Aug. 19 and you're invited to join this oh-so-sweet celebration! Launched in 2009, National...
A honey bee foraging in a Mexican sunflower, Tithonia rotundifola. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
‘Ag Order' for San Diego County expected to be enforced by end of 2023
Generally known for its steady warmth and picturesque beaches, San Diego County is also home to nearly 5,000 small farms and is an economic hotspot for nurseries and floriculture. But the great diversity of ornamental crops that dominate the growing region and complexity of regulations make compliance challenging for growers, some of whom grow over 400 crop varieties.
“The regulatory environment for the growers is still complicated and overwhelming because, along with the Regional Water Board, growers are regulated by the County of San Diego,” said Gerardo “Gerry” Spinelli, University of California Cooperative Extension production horticulture advisor for San Diego County.
To help growers with compliance, Spinelli is prioritizing education and expanding growers' knowledge. By partnering with organizations such as the Farm Bureau of San Diego County and the San Diego Region Irrigated Lands Group, Spinelli works to reach more than 1,200 growers, supporting them as they navigate regulatory agencies.
Formally referred to as the Regional Water Quality Control Boards, the Regional Water Board aims to develop and enforce water quality objectives and implement plans to protect the beneficial uses of California's waters.
A unique place to grow in California
About 10 years ago, the Regional Water Board created the Agricultural Order (Ag Order), a set of rules outlining how growers manage water discharge from agricultural operations.
The new Ag Order for San Diego County, expected to be enforced by the end of 2023, will focus on nitrogen management and groundwater quality. However, new considerations are needed to address the variety of crops grown by a single farmer, a common practice in San Diego.
Calculating nitrogen input and output for more than 400 crop varieties is not feasible for small farmers, a challenge exacerbated by the meticulous attention needed for San Diego's high-end specialty crops like ornamentals, native plants and specialty fruit.
Furthermore, many San Diego growers have limited expertise and experience because they are entering agriculture as a second or third career. Many have become “accidental growers” in that they purchased land with a preexisting avocado or cherimoya grove, for example.
To help address these challenges, the grower community is emphasizing the need for more educational opportunities that are accessible and relatable.
Equipping growers through education
Enrico Ferro, president of the San Diego Region Irrigated Lands Group – a third-party entity that manages water sample testing on behalf of growers – has relied on Spinelli's teaching to “bridge the gap” for growers, including himself.
“Gerry has been great because he has expertise in nurseries, but the educational content he creates is relevant to all growers,” said Ferro, who is an avocado and citrus grower in San Diego's North County.
Spinelli, who specializes in containerized production in nurseries and floriculture, has been instrumental in providing technical assistance to growers since he joined Cooperative Extension in 2020.
“I started teaching over Zoom since I became an advisor during the pandemic, and I try to cover different topics for each training,” Spinelli said, adding that he teaches in English and Spanish, making his content more accessible to the grower community in San Diego.
For in-person educational opportunities, Spinelli created the “Last Wednesday” monthly meetings hosted at the Farm Bureau of San Diego County, which brings together growers and other agricultural experts to learn from one another.
“We try to get our information out in creative ways and Gerry is instrumental in that. He's our primary source of really wonderful information delivered in an engaging way,” said Tasha Ardalan, program coordinator for the SDRILG. “He's proactive and is always willing to try new things, too.”
Planning for San Diego's agricultural future
Currently, the Ag Order is modeled around regulations for the Central Valley. As conversations and planning for San Diego County continue, Spinelli is supporting the Regional Water Board with information on nurseries and greenhouses in hopes that the final Ag Order will better serve San Diego growers.
“I'm trying to help others understand how nursery and greenhouse production systems function, and how and why they are different from an almond orchard or tomato field in Fresno,” explained Spinelli.
Michael Mellano, CEO of Mellano & Company, a fresh cut flower grower and distributor in Oceanside, feels the impact of the Ag Order and its failure to account for variability. Growing over 100 varieties of flowers, Mellano said that for several plants there is little scientific research on how much nitrate to apply.
“Farmers want to do a good job. We make mistakes and we try to fix them as quickly as we can, and we try to educate others on what works,” said Mellano, who is also a member of the SDRILG.
Growers like Mellano and Ferro agree that the farming community in San Diego needs to be given the latitude to solve problems within their means, an ability that requires an understanding of San Diego's uniqueness.
“San Diego is significantly different, and we need an Ag Order that is reflective of our differences,” said Valerie Mellano, SDRILG consultant and former UCCE environmental issues farm advisor. “In developing the new Ag Order, there's a huge opportunity for education and research, something that we know Gerry can easily do and continue to support us in.”
Thus far, Spinelli's educational content has reached two-thirds of SDRILG's 1,200 members. In addition to the live training sessions, growers can watch videos that cover topics such as evapotranspiration, irrigation distribution uniformity, water quality indicators and more on Spinelli's YouTube channel.
Since the Ag Order requires all growers to complete two hours of water-quality education, the SDRILG has agreed to apply one hour of credit to growers who attend a one-on-one session with Spinelli.
As San Diego's growers continue to leverage educational opportunities – whether it's alongside Spinelli, SDRILG or learning from one another – Spinelli emphasized that their success also relies on an ag order that adheres to a distinctive landscape, multitude of specialty crops and growers with varying expertise.
A perfect match: a bumble bee foraging on a Mexican sunflower, Tithonia rotundifola. Lately we've been observing a bumble bee, identified as a...
A bumble bee, identified as a male Bombus californicus, foraging on Mexican sunflower, Tithonia rotundifola, in a Vacaville garden. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A male California bumble bee, Bombus californicus, peeks through the flower. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Over here is better. A male Bombus californicus foraging on a Tithonia rotundifola. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
The male California bumble bee, Bombus californicus, takes flight. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)