Leadership of California’s higher education systems made the funding available to jointly address issues in agriculture, natural resources and human sciences. Project criteria include collaborative research, teaching, or course development; development of student internship opportunities; and workshops, conferences, and symposia. Eight projects totaling more than $79,500 were selected from 30 proposals submitted.
“These research projects will help leverage limited resources to produce quick results on important issues in California,” said Neal Van Alfen, dean of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences at UC Davis. “They are also building stronger connections among researchers throughout the state and providing hands-on learning opportunities for students.”
Researchers involved in this year’s projects are from UC Davis, UC Berkeley and California State University campuses at Chico, Fresno, Humboldt, Pomona, Sonoma, San Marcos and San Luis Obispo. The awarded projects, with principal investigators, are listed below:
- “Estimating residential water demand functions in urban California regions” — Economists from UC Berkeley and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo will estimate residential water demand of municipalities and water companies that serve 19 million people in the Bay Area and Southern California. (Maximilian Auffhammer, Stephen Hamilton)
- “Reintroduced mammals and plant invaders as key drivers of ecosystem processes in coastal and interior grasslands” — Researchers from Sonoma State University and UC Davis will study how reintroducing tule elk and reducing invasive Harding grass affects the availability of soil nutrients and the composition of plant communities. (Caroline Christian, J. Hall Cushman, Valerie Eviner)
- “Genetics of plant defense responses to pesticides and spider mites on grapes” — Scientists from UC Davis and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo will conduct laboratory, greenhouse and field studies to learn more about factors affecting grapevine response to spider mites, including cultivar resistance, drought impact and pesticide exposure. (Michael Costello, Richard Karban, Andrew Walker, Jeffrey Wong)
- “Defining the functions of polyphenol oxidase in walnut” — Through genetic analysis, researchers at CSU San Marcos and UC Davis seek to learn more about an enzyme involved in the postharvest browning of cut or bruised fruit. (Matthew Escobar, Monica Britton, Abhaya Dandekar)
- “Modeling the costs of hazardous fuel reduction thinning treatments and removal of woody biomass for energy” — Researchers from Humboldt State University, UC Davis, and the U.S. Forest Service will develop a model to estimate the costs of removing hazardous wildland fuels with different equipment and systems over a wide range of forest stand, site and road conditions. (Han-Sup Han, Bruce Hartsough)
- “Restoration of pollinator communities and pollination function in riparian habitats” — Researchers from California State University, Chico, and UC Davis will characterize native pollinator communities at restored riparian habitats within the Central Valley and test whether successful restoration of pollinator communities also leads to restoration of pollination. (Christopher Ivey, Neal Williams)
- “Estimating alfalfa’s impact on regional nitrogen budgets and nitrate leaching losses in the Central Valley of California” — Researchers from California State University, Fresno, and UC Davis will collect alfalfa and non-legume plants from irrigated fields and also identify San Joaquin Valley farm sites for a multi-year study of alfalfa’s impact on regional nitrogen budgets, groundwater nitrate leaching, and nitrogen requirements of rotation crops. (Bruce Roberts, Stuart Pettygrove, Daniel Putnam)
- “Community and ecosystem response to elevated nitrogen in managed grassland ecosystems” — Restoration ecologists from Cal Poly Pomona and UC Berkeley will investigate how elevated nitrogen levels affect competition among native and exotic plant species with regard to fuel characteristics at UC’s South Coast Research and Extension Center. (Erin Questad, Katharine Suding)
Reports on project outcomes are expected in December 2012.
Conservationists, growers, food safety experts discuss food safety, water quality
Fresh produce growers are encouraged and sometimes required by law to protect soil and water quality on their farms as well as support wildlife populations by preserving their habitat. At the same time, growers must protect their crops from contamination by pathogens that can cause foodborne illnesses.
Strategies to ensure food safety while protecting natural resources was the subject of lively discussion among conservation and food safety professionals, auditors, federal and state agencies, environmental groups, scientists and members of the agricultural industry who gathered in Watsonville on Wednesday, April 18.
Achieving food safety and conservation objectives while maintaining a strong bottom line is extremely challenging for the produce industry at all levels of the supply chain.
Hank Giclas, senior vice president for strategic planning, science and technology at Western Growers said, "Despite the challenges, growers are committed to providing safe food while ensuring conservation of vital natural resources and these forums are important settings in which a free flow of ideas and experiences are exchanged to further both objectives."
The University of California Cooperative Extension, in collaboration with the Farm Food Safety and Conservation Network brought together 100 people for the fifth annual Food Safety and Water Quality Co-management Forum.
Those attending heard the latest information on existing and pending regulations and food safety guidelines that affect co-management and the most recent science of risk assessment. They also engaged in frank discussion of co-management challenges and solutions at all levels of the supply chain, from large company policies to field level practices of individual growers.
"Co-management requires networking among stakeholders to understand different types of risks in the produce industry," explained Mary Bianchi, UC Cooperative Extension advisor in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties.
Co-management takes into consideration that practices designed to conserve natural resources may impact food safety, and food safety practices may impact natural resources. For example, produce buyers often prefer bare ground around crops because they allow food safety managers to observe tracks indicating animal intrusion in the crop, but vegetation buffers may be more effective at reducing movement of pollutants to surface waters. A co-management approach might minimize the use of bare-ground buffers near waterways to reduce adverse impacts on water quality management. Food safety professionals with co-management savvy will also recognize that vegetated buffers between areas frequented by wildlife, such as rangeland, can minimize the movement of pathogens in surface waters flowing toward the crop, particularly on sloped terrain.
Bianchi, who helped organize the meeting, was pleased with the results of the event.
"We surveyed the participants before and after the forum," she said. "Before the forum, 27 percent of the participants said they felt they had adequate access to science-based information about co-management. After the forum, 55 percent of the participants felt they had access to science-based that would help them make decisions, and 79 percent of the participants felt that they could incorporate what they learned into the decisions they make."
A panel of industry leaders discussed the evolving food safety guidelines and policy, including the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, the California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement, and Good Agricultural Practices harmonization. The panel included Greg Komar, Growers Express director of food safety; Laura Giudici-Mills, owner of LGM Consulting; and Dave Runsten, Community Alliance with Family Farmers director of policy and programs; and Giclas of Western Growers.
Scientists led a discussion on the fate and transport of pathogens in the farm landscape and how science can be applied to assess risk and inform co-management decisions in the field. The scientific panel included Mark Ibekwe, USDA Agricultural Research Service microbiologist; Trevor Suslow, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Plant Sciences at UC Davis; Michele Jay-Russell, Western Institute for Food Safety and Security program manager at UC Davis; Andy Gordus, California Department of Fish and Game environmental scientist; and Bianchi.
Following the panel discussions, participants visited an organic vegetable and berry farm near the Watsonville Sloughs. The landowner, growers and food safety professionals discussed how they manage for food safety and environmental quality.
"We had a very diverse group attending, which is what the goal of the Farm Food Safety and Conservation Network is, to bring together diverse stakeholders in the hopes of building collaborative relationships around the topic of co-management," said Komar of Growers Express. "This forum, in my opinion, was very successful at doing just that."
Mary Bianchi, UC Cooperation Extension farm advisor, (805) 781-5949, email@example.com
Lisa Lurie, Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, Farm Food Safety and Conservation Network Coordinator (831) 420-3662, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Morrill Land-Grant College Act of 1862 gave federal public lands to states, allotting 30,000 acres for each senator and representative. States were encouraged to sell these “land grants” to raise money for new public universities that would educate Americans in agriculture, science and mechanical arts.
California legislators took the federal government up on its offer in 1864, and the first buildings of the University of California were completed in 1868 on the banks of Strawberry Creek, in the Berkeley hills.
In honor of the Morrill Act’s sesquicentennial, the April-June 2012 issue of California Agriculture journal includes extensive special coverage of how the 150-year-old land-grant law launched one of the world’s greatest systems of public higher education — the University of California.
“The nationwide university access the Morrill Act provided was certainly a game-changer in social mobility and economic prosperity,” UC President Mark G. Yudof wrote in California Agriculture. “Just as important was the Act’s intention to apply scientific research to farming methods and resources stewardship.”
California Agriculture’s special coverage of the Morrill Act anniversary includes an editorial by Yudof; an essay by Rose Hayden-Smith, UC Cooperative Extension advisor in Ventura County and historian; and a four-page photo gallery of rare and historic images. The entire April-June 2012 issue of California Agriculture can be viewed online at http://californiaagriculture.ucanr.edu.
In subsequent years, UC developed comprehensive statewide facilities that offered research, teaching and extension in agricultural, natural and human resources. The University Farm, established in Davis in 1906 as a teaching farm for UC Berkeley students, would later become UC Davis. The Citrus Experiment Station, founded in Riverside in 1907 to support California’s developing citrus industry, would become UC Riverside. And UC Cooperative Extension, established in 1914 as a federal, state and local partnership, works closely with the Agricultural Experiment Station to connect research with Californians in every county.
In her California Agriculture essay, Hayden-Smith describes the critical role that UC played in national wartime efforts.
“The importance of scientific agriculture and the role of land-grant institutions in promoting agricultural productivity were highlighted during World War I, when agricultural production and food security were viewed as vital to national security and victory ‘over there’,” wrote Hayden-Smith, a 4-H youth, family and community development advisor. UC provided instrumental support for undertakings such as victory gardens and school gardens, the Women’s Land Army, the Emergency Federal Labor Project, food conservation projects and new agricultural land settlements. In turn, these projects helped to build UC.
After World War II, the GI Bill of Rights spurred tremendous growth in college enrollment and further expansion of the University of California system, which now includes 10 campuses and generates some $46 billion in economic activity annually.
“The challenges we face together are far more complex than those California farmers faced in the 19th century,” Yudof wrote in California Agriculture. “Today we deal with issues like climate change, exotic invasive pests, food security, nutrition and childhood obesity, to name a few…True to the Morrill Act’s philosophy of melding science and agriculture, UC brings to the table the most visionary, industry-transformative research methods.”
Also in the April-June 2012 issue of California Agriculture:
Conservation tillage reduces water usage (research): UC researchers demonstrate that reducing or even eliminating tractor passes in Central Valley crop rotations — while maintaining crop residues on the soil surface — can significantly reduce the evaporation of irrigation water during typical growing seasons. Such methods, called conservation tillage, are gaining wider acceptance in California; a news story in the current California Agriculture notes that conservation tillage was used on more than 344,000 acres in the Central Valley in 2010. Additional research in 2011 showed that yields in cotton and tomato fields using conservation tillage were the same as in adjacent plots cultivated with conventional tillage.
Biotech strategies for fruit and nuts (research): A survey of major crop problems in California’s top 10 fruit and nut crops found that over the past 10 years little biotechnology research was directed toward these identified concerns. Likewise, the number of field permits issued for testing genetically engineered plants in California did not generally coincide with the major crop problems identified. The study found that citrus and grape are the focus of most current genetic engineering research and field permits in fruits, and walnut, rather than the more widely planted almond, is the focus among nut crops. The authors propose that transgrafting — the grafting of conventional scions onto genetically engineered rootstock — is a promising approach, but could result in regulatory questions for exported crops.
New quality index for kiwifruit (research): UC postharvest researchers propose that dry matter content, coupled with acidity measurements, are a better quality index for kiwifruit than soluble solids concentrations, which are currently used by most kiwifruit-producing countries. Consumer tests in 1999 and 2008 indicated that dry matter and ripe titratable acidity were related to in-store acceptance of kiwifruit. Likewise, a six-year survey of California kiwifruit harvested from vineyards in the Central Valley found that dry matter levels were highly variable among vineyards and seasons, but acidity levels varied more among seasons than between vineyards.
Sierra Nevada fire prevention (news): The Sierra Nevada Adaptive Management Project (SNAMP) — a unique collaboration between the U.S. Forest Service, UC and state and federal agencies — is developing methods to improve forest health and diminish fire danger in California via strategic fuel reduction treatments. As described in a California Agriculture news story, SNAMP research projects are focusing on forest health, public participation, water quality, ecosystem mapping, and the California spotted owl and Pacific fisher (http://snamp.cnr.berkeley.edu).
California Agriculture is the University of California’s peer-reviewed journal of research in agricultural, natural and human resources. For a free subscription, go to: http://californiaagriculture.ucanr.edu, or write to email@example.com.
- Contact: Pamela Kan-Rice, (530) 754-3912, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Author: Brenda Dawson, (530) 754-3912, email@example.com
The new Rod Shippey Educational Facility and Field Laboratory at the UC Hopland Research and Extension Center is currently under construction, scheduled for completion in June. The facility is being constructed to meet standards equivalent to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification, per University of California requirements of new buildings.
“We want this building to be educational itself,” said Bob Keiffer, superintendent of the UC Hopland Research and Extension Center. “We are trying every which way possible to incorporate ‘green aspects’ into this building.”
As early as October the building will welcome visitors to learn about natural resources, agriculture and science. It is expected to comfortably seat 180 to 200 people.
“We envision this building as being used by the entire community of the North Coast. There’s no other large meeting facility of this kind in Mendocino County that we know of and that will have this connection to the outdoors,” Keiffer said.
Community members are also contributing to the project. Six 27-foot tall reclaimed Douglas fir posts will greet visitors at the entry of the Rod Shippey Facility, a feature made possible in part to a donation by North Cal Wood Products, a Ukiah company that specializes in reclaimed and recycled wood. These posts, with 13 smaller timbers along the breezeway, have been reclaimed from the Pacific Lumber Company mill in Scotia, once the largest redwood mill ever constructed.
“We went out to the yard and saw them slice open the first timber,” said Shawn Tibor, director of facilities for UC Agriculture and Natural Resources. “With the timbers being 100 years old from another structure, we had to decide on-site where to position each post’s face. They have character, let’s put it that way. But all of them are standing now and have been stained.”
The Penofin wood stain was donated by another Ukiah company, Performance Coatings.
“We have one of the densest populations of acorn woodpeckers anywhere in the state. The woodpeckers form granaries where they store acorns, sometimes in trees — and sometimes in buildings,” Keiffer said. “They can actually be quite destructive, with a series of half-inch holes all over the place.”
Impervious siding seemed like a requirement for the new building, until designers praised the weathered characteristics of historic barns on the property.
“We really tried to design this building so that it ties people to the natural world,” Keiffer said. “We want a very close relationship between the building and what’s outside—and the acorn woodpecker is a major part of that.”
So the building materials actually encourage woodpeckers to make use of the building. Cedar siding, soft enough to welcome woodpeckers, was sourced from UC Berkeley’s Blodgett Forest Research Station and fitted to a waterproof membrane that will help further protect the building.
First UC building with siding from a UC-managed forest
No other University of California building has sourced wood directly from the Blodgett Forest before, according to Robert York, research stations manager with the Center for Forestry at UC Berkeley.
The Blodgett Forest in the Sierra Nevada near Georgetown in El Dorado County, is harvested each year in the context of the station’s research, usually with contractors harvesting the trees and commercial sawmills purchasing the logs. Tracking wood from a single forest through a commercial mill would be difficult, so instead logs for the Hopland facility’s 7,500 board-feet of 1-inch siding went to the station’s own small sawmill, which is more commonly used for educational demonstrations.
“It was actually me out there doing most of the milling of the siding,” York said.
“I think it does represent the kind of collaboration that we can have between research sites in California,” York said. “We're all trying to improve ways of managing and understanding natural resources. Whether it's a forest or a grassland, we all have this objective that's shared between us.”
Efficiency within a narrow budget
Plans for the building have evolved when it comes to funding, efficiency and green design. The building was originally slated for $1.7 million capital funding in the state’s 2007 budget, which was later frozen until January 2010. Private donations, including an anonymous $750,000 pledge, have helped make the building a reality.
Budget restrictions have meant cutting back on some of the more innovative systems that could further lower heating costs, reduce water needs and improve the building’s overall eco-friendliness. Passive heating, cooling and indoor-comfort measures have been implemented in the meantime, and construction has moved forward keeping as many other options open as possible. For example, the building’s restrooms are plumbed with separate grey-water and black-water pipes, which would make plans for on-site black-water treatment more feasible in the future.
“We’re situated so that if next year we get funded for something more integrative or progressive, the possibilities remain,” Tibor said. “There’s no limit to great, innovative ideas; it’s the budget that drives things.”
Get construction update and more details about green features at the facility's website http://ucanr.org/sites/Rod_Shippey_Facility.
- Author: John Stumbos
The projects address water quality, reproduction, animal welfare, greenhouse gases, weed control, and extending knowledge. The endowment is administered through the UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CA&ES). Priorities are established by an advisory committee comprised of range cattle industry representatives and UC academics.
“The goal of this program is to promote collaboration and strengthen the continuum between range cattle producers, Cooperative Extension specialists and other research faculty, and county-based Cooperative Extension advisors,” said DeeDee Kitterman, CA&ES executive director of research and outreach. “Ultimately, this helps provide practical answers to critical issues and challenges facing the industry.”
Funding has been made available for this problem-solving research and outreach by endowment earnings from a gift to the university from the estate of Russell Rustici, a Lake County cattle rancher who passed away in 2008.
“Mr. Rustici worked closely with our scientists for many years,” said Neal Van Alfen, CA&ES dean. “His legacy is an enduring commitment to university research that will help us address issues of concern to the California cattle industry for a long time to come.”
This is the first year grant awards are being conferred to UC researchers through an annual competitive process. Grants for this year’s projects totaled more than $339,400. Three of the projects may receive second-year funding totaling nearly $105,000. Projects and lead researchers include:
- Statewide coordination of scientific research information regarding livestock grazing and microbial water quality (Edward R. Atwill, UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine)
- Effects of road transport on physiological stress and pathogen shedding in adult beef cows (Xunde Li, Western Institute for Food Safety and Security, UC Davis)
- Development and testing of a recombinant heat shock protein vaccine for epizootic bovine abortion, commonly known as “foothill abortion” (Jeffrey Stott, UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine)
- A new producer-friendly tool to diagnose bovine respiratory disease virus infections (Beate Crossley, California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory System, UC Davis)
- Coordinated electronic extension of research-based information to cattlemen (Glenn Nader, UC Cooperative Extension, Yuba/Sutter/Butte counties)
- Testing of new management tools for controlling medusahead (a rangeland weed) in California (Josh Davy, UC Cooperative Extension, Tehama/Glenn/Colusa counties)
- Evaluation and validation of a PCR assay to detect Tritrichomonas foetus (trichomoniasis pathogen) in modified media (Kristin Clothier, California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory System, UC Davis)
- Beef cattle welfare: assessment of pain relief and healing after hot-iron branding and castration (Cassandra Tucker, UC Davis Department of Animal Science)
For additional information about these research projects, please contact DeeDee Kitterman, (530) 752-9484, firstname.lastname@example.org.