Williamson Act cuts put rangeland conservation at risk
Rangeland covers more than half of California, 57 million acres that provide water purification, wildlife habitat, open space, and carbon storage (reducing greenhouse gases) — as well as grazing land.
Nearly all our surface water, the drinking water for millions of Californians, is filtered and purified as it passes through rangeland.
For many years California has protected this working landscape by providing tax relief to the owners of 15 million acres of ranches and farms, through landmark legislation known as the Williamson Act (1965).
However, recent budget cuts have slashed funding for the act. New research reveals that if state cutbacks continue and the act is eliminated, owners of ranch land plan to sell 20 percent of their total acres. Of those, 76% predicted the land would be developed for nonagricultural uses (such as housing developments).
California ranching is a vulnerable low-profit industry, researchers found; for many ranchers, tax relief makes the difference between a small profit and a loss.
Above, the Koopmann family ranches in Sunol, surrounded by freeways in the middle of the Bay Area. They have made ranching more sustainable through conservation efforts to improve rangeland health and provide havens for wildlife and endangered species, such as the California tiger salamander.
Video by California Beef Council
Conservation tillage saves oil, soil and toil in cotton
A 12-year study published in California Agriculture journal shows that cotton grown in rotation with tomatoes — using lower-impact conservation tillage — can produce yields similar to standard cultivation methods and at lower cost.
Conservation tillage reduces tractor passes across a field, protecting soil from erosion and compaction while saving time, fuel and labor. Cotton crops are planted directly into tomato crop stubble. Conservation tillage is common in some regions of the United States and the world, and is now gaining favor in California.
In a study conducted from 2000 to 2011 at the UC West Side Research and Extension Center (southwest of Fresno), tractor passes for a cotton-tomato rotation grown with a cover crop were reduced from 20 in the standard treatment to 13 with conservation tillage. By the final years of the study, cotton lint yields were equivalent to or higher than those in standard cultivation.
Lead author Jeff Mitchell is a founder of Conservation Agriculture Systems Innovation (CASI), a diverse group of more than 1,800 farmers, industry members, faculty and public agencies (http://ucanr.edu/CASI). These videos — developed by CASI and produced by Dave Tanner and Jason Payne of North by Northwest of Spokane, WA — show how conservation tillage can protect the environment and its farmers’ bottom lines.
Morrill Act anniversary: Celebrating 150 years of public higher education
In 1862, in a nation torn by secession and Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln signed a law that laid the cornerstone of public higher education. The Morrill Land-Grant College Act gave federal public lands to states, allotting 30,000 acres for each senator and representative. The total endowment was 17.4 million acres, which at the time yielded $7.55 million. Each state that accepted the "land grant" agreed to create a permanent endowment for higher education, and establish at least one land-grant college.
Today, more than 100 land-grant universities serve the nation and the world, including preeminent public universities such as the University of California. This slide show produced by the UC Office of the President explores the impacts of the Morrill Act 150 years after its passage.
The April-June California Agriculture includes extensive special coverage of the Act's historic impact.
Click here for full information on historic cover photos.
Community Supported Agriculture grows rapidly nationally and in California
At 47th Avenue Farm in Portland, Ore., an urban farmer produces crops that are fresh, environmentally friendly, and profitable — a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) business that offers local members a stake in the harvest crops.
CSAs eliminate the middleman, forging direct connections between farmers and consumers. Californians support hundreds of CSAs, and there are more than 3,500 nationally.
Membership in CSAs is growing rapidly in California’s Central Valley and surrounding foothills, and most such operations report significant annual profits, according to a new study published in the January-March 2012 issue of California Agriculture. UC researchers asked CSA farmers about their growing practices, farm economics, demographics, motivations and other factors.
Grain CSA thrives in Northern California
This video from KVIE-TV features Jennifer Greene, a grain farmer in Northern California specializing in heirloom and old varieties of wheat. Her unique CSA farm offers subscribers monthly bags of whole grains, hot cereals, beans and flour. Greene is also passionate about educating children and encouraging women to become farmers.
UC Food Blogs
Forest, rangeland owners share views
In recent decades, development has fragmented large tracts of California and Oregon forest and rangeland, impairing vital ecosystem services (such as water purification, carbon sequestration, and wildlife habitat). From 1940 to 2000, 10% of California's private forests and rangelands were carved into much smaller parcels (more than one house per 20 acres).
“The Final Crop” describes the impact of these changes in California and Oregon. It is one segment of “Out of the Past,” a film describing the loss of family ranches and its impact on sustainable food production (by Autonomy Productions).
In this California Agriculture, UC scientists report on the first large-scale survey of private forest and rangeland owners — who manage one-third of the state's entire land area, 34 million acres.
Biofactors in foods may reduce chronic diseases
Some foods contain biofactors — biologically active compounds — that may prevent and treat illnesses including asthma, diabetes, heart disease and even Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases. In January 2010, the Journal of the American Medical Association published research from UC San Francisco reporting higher omega-3 fatty acid levels may slow biological aging in cardiac patients.
This issue of California Agriculture journal also reports UC research into plant compounds with health benefits. Articles focus on how micronutrients,biofactors and phytochemicals (plant compounds) can help reduce the risk of chronic diseases.
For example, the omega-3 fatty acids in foods such as walnuts, flax seeds and salmon may protect against a range of diseases associated with inflammation, including asthma and the hypertension-related inflammation that can damage kidneys.
California Agriculture launches E-Edition, allowing faster publication of peer-reviewed research
California Agriculture journal launched its first E-Edition in the July-September 2011 issue, providing an expanded venue for the rapid publication of time-sensitive research.
“Initially, E-Edition is being offered to authors who have been waiting for publication due to a backlog brought on by the statewide budget crisis,” says Janet White, California Agriculture’s executive editor.
California Agriculture is the University of California’s journal of peer-reviewed research and news in agriculture, natural resources and human resources. It has been continuously published for 65 years.
E-Edition articles are laid out just like print articles, with tables, figures and photographs. Readers can download and print copies in HTML or PDF format. Authors will be able to print articles on demand for distribution to target audiences.
“Readers of the print journal can preview abstracts and introductory comments of E-Edition articles in the pages of the journal,” White says. “Space permitting, E-Edition articles may be printed in future issues.”
E-Edition also means that, with the July-September 2011 issue, California Agriculture will switch from print to electronic “version of record,” the online version becoming the authoritative version to be indexed by databases and repositories. Like all published articles, E-Edition articles will benefit fromCalifornia Agriculture’s augmented electronic presence.
The journal is posted in full on the California Digital Library and in the ANR Repository, and it ranks high in Google and Google Scholar searches. It appears in numerous indexes and databases including Thomson ISI (Agriculture, Biology and environmental Sciences, and the SCIE databases), EBSCO, Gale, Elsevier, AGRICOLA, Proquest, Commonwealth Agricultural Bureau (CAB) and open-access journal databases.
Agritourism generates income for small farms
Agritourism is any income-generating activity conducted at a working farm or ranch for the enjoyment and education of visitors (as seen on ABC news in Sonoma County). It can include on-farm produce stands, pumpkin patches, corn mazes, U-pick operations and special events such as weddings and conferences, as well as overnight stays, cooking classes, festivals, tours and lectures.
Such activities are a “vital strategy for diversifying and boosting profit for a small but significant number of California farms,” says Ellie Rilla, community development advisor for UC Cooperative Extension in Marin County. Rilla and colleagues conducted the first economic survey of agritourism in California, published in the April-June 2011 issue of California Agriculture journal.
Likewise, First Crush offers a winemaking weekend in Paso Robles for those who want to experience the complete winemaking process from berry to bottle.
California olive oil quality, acreage, soar
Today 99% of the olive oil Americans consume is imported, but California growers are expanding olive acreage to begin producing a significant amount of oil for the U.S. market.
Acres planted in oil olives have doubled since 2007, and current production of premium-quality olive oil is expected to double in the next 3 years, from 800,000 to 1.6 million gallons.
California olive oil quality rose dramatically after the development of the state's first sensory taste panel in the late 1990s. Spearheaded by UC Cooperative Extension, the panel became the first in the United States to be certified by the International Olive Council (IOC) in 2001.
Many California olive oils are "extra virgin" – cold-pressed without the use of heat or chemicals to retain desirable flavors and high nutritional values. Evidence suggests these oils have health benefits greater than those of other olive oils.
Above, Fox News reports on the development of super-high-density oil-olive acreage as a complement to vineyards.
Campus trees yield olive oil, body-care products
Since 2005, UC Davis has been producing olive oil from its more than 2,000 olive trees. Before that, many of the olives from those trees in the campus landscape fell on bike paths and walkways, posing maintenance and safety challenges. By harvesting and processing the olives, the campus keeps the olives out of the waste stream while generating revenue for teaching and research at the UC Davis Olive Center.
UC Davis now has its own popular olive oil, sold in the campus bookstore and online, and recently launched the UC-wide “President’s Blend.” Most recently, the UC Davis Olive Center teamed up with alumna Kacie Klein to produce a new collection of olive-oil-based body-care products.
UC Davis olive products are sold in the UC Davis Bookstore and can be ordered online from the its “campus produced” section.
Cost of care for older residents to challenge California
The first of the baby boomers — born from 1946 to 1964 — turn 65 in 2011, and demographers predict that California’s current population over age 65 (11%) will double or even triple by 2030.
As life expectancy rises, seniors are increasingly living with chronic illnesses that require support from paid caregivers or unpaid family members. Nationally and in California, 80% of elders over age 65 have one chronic condition and 50% have at least two.
Caregivers themselves often face a variety of physical, emotional and financial stressors, increasing the probability that they will suffer from breakdown, neglect and abuse. This video describes a national study of caregiving costs conducted in 2007 by the National Alliance for Caregiving, a nonprofit organization, and Evercare, a health-care coordination company.
Memory loss and old age
Memory problems affecting the day-to-day functioning of the elderly are not inevitable. To the contrary, 85% of adults 65 and older can live independently; and Alzheimer’s disease affects about 1%, 4% and 15% of those aged 65, 75 and 85, respectively. Only episodic or “event” memory undergoes significant declines in normal aging, while semantic and procedural memory — including how to play the piano (as does this couple of 62 years videotaped at the Mayo Clinic) — improve or remain the same in older age.
Growth and conflict where country meets city
While sustaining the nation's largest agricultural economy, California also adds about 400,000 new residents each year. Today, about 2.5 million farm acres are located next to, or near by, urban or suburban residences in California, which can lead to "edge" conflicts between new residents and farmers.
In this Market to Market segment from Iowa Public Television (http://www.iptv.org), originally broadcast on Aug. 28, 2009, producers, developers and academics weigh the pros and cons of urban sprawl.
The current California Agriculture cover article explores the most likely areas of urban-rural edge conflicts, including confined-animal facilities such as dairies, poultry ranches and hog farms.
California spans 101 million acres, more than half of it rangeland. This land not only hosts wildlife and provides cattle forage — it filters and purifies much of our water supply.
Rangeland forms the major drainage basins of the state. Almost all of California's surface water — the drinking water for millions of people — passes through it.
UC scientists at the Sierra Foothill Research and Extension Center (SFREC, 60 miles northeast of Sacramento) have been researching how to sustain this ecosystem for 50 years, and helping managers to use it wisely. This edition pays tribute to them.
HOW TO USE:
- When you get to the map, click Earth icon at left.
- Choose “SFREC data.”
- Open “Sierra Foothill REC Data," at right.
- Check layers of interest.
- To see hyperlinks, press "blue tools cube" near Earth icon.
- When box appears, click on blue dot, "Identify with Hyperlink." Data will appear where you point cursor on the map!
- Circled numbers? These are page numbers of related articles; Click on orange arrow -- it will take you to the article.
(Click-and-drag to reposition map; zoom using control +/- or command +/-. Scroll down in menus to see all.)
Credits: Data used in the flyover is the 10m national elevation dataset from the United States Geologic Survey. Data in the interactive map is from he Summer 2005 imagery in the National Agriculture Inventory Program (NAIP) from the USDA. The Sierra Foothills Boundary is from SFREC. The video and the interactive map were produced using ESRI ArcScene software, by Shane Feirer, Hopland
Research and Extension Center.
California’s 1 million farmworkers face increased risk of diabetes, as well as respiratory diseases related to poor air quality. In the current California Agriculture, scientists from the UC Western Center for Agricultural Health and Safety review the impact of environmental factors such as pesticide exposure on diabetes rates, and report potential respiratory health effects of breathing air laden with particulate matter. Find the Center at UC Davis.
Above: In Yuma County, Arizona, a nonprofit organization called Campesinos Sin Fronteras (http://www.campesinossinfronteras.org) provides a unique model for health-related outreach to farmworkers.
Video en Español: Low-income women at high risk for depression
Quest for biofuels: Oct-Dec 2009
For years there's been buzz — both positive and negative — about generating ethanol fuel from corn. Thanks to recent developments, the Bay Area is rapidly becoming a world center for the next generation of green fuel alternatives. In an April 2009 video by KQED's Quest, meet some of the scientists investigating the newest methods for converting what we grow into what makes us go.
The current issue of California Agriculture journal features new findings from University of California research teams.
Also of interest:
On Oct. 7, Orange County’s largest 4-H club, the Trabuco Trailblazers, explored the power of biofuels with a series of experiments, part of National Youth Science Day. In this video produced by the Orange County Register, 4-H-ers use the power of the chemical reactions to blow up balloons, noting how balloon size changes with the materials used and the time elapsed.
Attracting wild bees: July-September 2009
University of California entomologist Gordon Frankie is researching what plants are best at luring honey bees and wild bees. Join us as he gives a tour of his garden and bee denizens in downtown Berkeley.
QUEST on KQED Public Media.
Video feature from April-June 2009
Climate change: Tracking raindrops
Scientists at UC Berkeley’s Hydrowatch Project are leading a 4-year effort to monitor and measure water and its pathways in two watersheds, one in Coastal Mendocino County and one in the mountains north of Lake Tahoe. Studies will help researchers to predict the impact of climate change on our fresh water supplies
UCB atmospheric scientist Inez Fung, project leader, says, "I asked what I thought was a very simple question: How old is the water in the stream? Is it from yesterday's rain, is it from last year's rain or this season's rain, or is it a hundred, thousand years old?"
Fung and colleagues, including UCB plant biologist Todd Dawson, are looking at isotopes of oxygen in water samples — an ingenious way to help trace the source of water in a stream, the soil, and the trees. Isotopes of an element have variable numbers of neutrons in their nuclei and so different atomic weights. Each water source has an isotopic "fingerprint,” which can be used to identify and quantify how that source contributes to watershed processes.
Dawson notes, "As water undergoes evaporation, condensation or freezing into snow or ice, it changes its isotope values. Scientists can actually learn if it came from a cold storm or a warm storm, whether it came from snow, or fog. Scientists can trace these unique fingerprints as the water moves through different watersheds."
Knowing where the water comes from and how fast it’s moving through a watershed enables the investigators to create computer simulations of different water scenarios.With these, they can predict how climate change might affect our fresh water supplies.
“We are predicting [[that]] where it is warm or hot, it's going be hotter and drier,” says Fung. “That means less water available to the plants. And if the plants are not there, then we have less transpiration, less communication of water from the soil to the atmosphere, and we're in for a drought. And that's what we're predicting.”
Studies are ongoing at UC Natural Reserve System sites, and the accompanying video is a joint project of UC and KQED Television.