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.
- Author: Jeannette E. Warnert
“This is an interesting year for forages to say the least,” said Dan Putnam, University of California Cooperative Extension alfalfa specialist and conference chair. “Hay prices are at record high levels in many states, and dairies have found it difficult going as a result. Costs have gone up considerably for hay producers and dairy producers alike.”
The conference is broken into half-day sessions with presentations by a diverse array of speakers, including farmers, Cooperative Extension advisors and specialists, and representatives from commodity groups and industry. The sessions are:
- Hay industry trends
- Irrigation and soils
- Producing quality forages for different markets
- GMOs and Roundup Ready Alfalfa
- Biofuels in the West
“This is a terrific opportunity to learn more about forages, to meet industry members, other farmers and pest control advisers,” Putnam said.
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack is scheduled to present the keynote address at the Tuesday, Dec. 13, banquet.
Early registration for Western Alfalfa & Forage Conference closes Friday, Nov. 18
Early registration for the Western Alfalfa & Forage Conference has been extended to Nov. 18. The cost for early registration is $165; general registration after Nov. 18 is $195. Walk-up registration is $225. There is a separate registration fee of $55 for the Dec. 13 afternoon biofuels workshop and Vilsack presentation.
Online conference registration, the complete conference agenda, and lodging and exhibit information are available at the conference website, http://ucanr.org/sites/Alfalfa_Forages. The pre-symposium field tour on Dec. 11 is sold out.
For more information, contact Sherry Cooper at (530) 752-1581 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Posted By: Sandra Willard
- Written by: Janet Byron, (510) 665-2194, email@example.com and Janet White, (510) 665-2201, firstname.lastname@example.org
Cultivated on 1.1 million acres, alfalfa is the largest consumer of water among all crops in California, accounting for up to 27 percent of the state’s irrigation water use. Alfalfa is usually flood irrigated, often leading to overirrigation. Water is pumped in at the top of field rows and flows down to the end. If the flow is not turned off before it reaches the bottom, substantial runoff occurs.
The new system employs sensors to track the advance of water down a field, a model that predicts when water will reach the tail end of the field, and a cellular communications system that sends a cell phone alert to the irrigator to turn off the water. It was field-tested during two seasons on the UC Davis campus; the results — zero tail water drainage from the trial fields compared with thousands of liters of runoff from control fields — are reported in the October–December 2011 issue of the University of California’s California Agriculture journal.
“Under current practice, the alfalfa irrigator makes several trips to the field to determine when the wetting front has reached a certain distance from the bottom end of the check [irrigation channel] before turning off the irrigation,” writes lead author Rajat Saha, assistant engineer for MBK Engineers in Sacramento. “Even making several trips, the irrigator may miss the wetting front advance, which results in excessive tail water drainage.”
The system, developed by Saha and coauthors at UC Davis while Saha was a UC Davis graduate student, was successfully demonstrated to dozens of farmers last year at the Alfalfa Field Day. The components are relatively inexpensive: the sensors (three per check) cost about $25 each; the data logger and modem, which can be easily moved from one location to another to reduce the initial installation investment, about $500 and $200, respectively.
If the new system, which may be commercially available in early 2012, were used for the typical five irrigations per alfalfa season, “water savings could be about 35,000 to 60,000 liters per acre,” Saha reports.
The research article, and the entire October–December 2011 issue, can be downloaded at http://californiaagriculture.ucanr.org.
California Agriculture is the University of California’s peer-reviewed journal of research in agricultural, human and natural resources. For a free subscription, go to: http://californiaagriculture.ucanr.org, or write to email@example.com.
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