California Agriculture, May-June 1998
Volume 52, Number 3
Where city meets country: farming at the fragile edge
peer-reviewed research articles
Perspective: Statewide farmland protection is fragmented, limited
by Steve Sanders
Fueled by a search for affordable land to house 600,000 new California residents each year, conversion of farmland to development has proceeded at a rapid pace since 1950. The impact of growth and development on open space and agricultural land is a critical issue for a very simple reason: the areas best suited for cropland — those favored by good weather, flat terrain and access to water — are also the areas most in demand for new homes and businesses. If meaningful farmland protection is to be enacted, California's farm community itself must become more united and aggressive, forming a broad coalition with water suppliers, environmentalists, local officials, and business and community leaders.
Urban growth squeezes agriculture
by Albert G. Medvitz
Conflicts arise on the urban fringe
by Mary E. Handel
The frequent expansion of urban edges presents a challenge for California agriculture as the state's rich farmland base is consumed by nonfarm development. Some issues of conflict emerge as a part of the struggle for limited resources while others are related to the proximity of urban development and agriculture. Other conflicts reflect the urban resident's and farmer's different perspectives on the purpose or value of farmland. Local governments need to establish firm urban-growth boundaries, create buffers between agriculture and urban land uses, and zone to eliminate incompatible land uses in agricultural areas. For its part, the agricultural community needs to educate the urban public to help them understand why particular farm management practices are necessary.
Views in the Suisun Valley: Rural dwellers divided on how to head off urbanization
by Mary Handel , Al Sokolow
North Bay leads Central Valley in protecting farmland
by Alvin D. Sokolow
In a comparison of four counties in the San Francisco North Bay area with seven Central Valley counties, researchers found that the coastal jurisdictions are more aggressive in limiting the conversion of farmland to urban uses and preserving open space. The North Bay counties make more use of innovative programs — primarily the acquisition of conservation easements on farmland by nonprofit land trusts and local governments, but also the adoption of growth boundaries. Local political variations account for much of these regional policy differences. Especially notable is the greater mobilization of conservation coalitions, including the more extensive use of the ballot box to protect open space, in the North Bay than in the Central Valley.
Permissive growth policies may encourage speculative investment in farmland
by Michal C. Moore
Agricultural land is at risk in much of California, especially near the boundaries of rapidly growing communities. A study of five cities in Ventura County, which is roughly 60 miles east of Los Angeles, strongly suggests that traditional policies for protecting farmland may be ineffective. These policies exist in tension with tremendous growth pressure generated both by local economic development policies and by urban expansion from the Los Angeles region. Development interests tend to bid on farmland in areas anticipated to be most susceptible to changes in land-use regulations.
Land trusts conserve California farmland
by Erik Vink
Communities can conserve farmland with land-use plans and zoning ordinances, but regulatory efforts are often transitory because future elected officials can revise them. To protect the land in the long term, agricultural land trusts work on a voluntary basis with individual landowners to acquire conservation easements that permanently restrict nonagricultural development of farmland. Farmers and ranchers are beginning to accept and support agricultural land trusts, which indicates that these trusts will continue to thrive.
Fungal pathogen controls thrips in greenhouse flowers
by Brook C. Murphy , Tunyalee A. Morisawa , Julie P. Newman , Steve A. Tjosvold , Michael P. Parrella
Western flower thrips cause considerable losses in a wide range of agricultural crops by feeding on leaves and fruit, laying eggs in fruit and transmitting diseases. Repeated pesticide application is currently the only method that reduces populations to acceptable levels. Biological control efforts have focused on using predators and have been largely unsuccessful. However, entomopathogenic fungi could also be used as biological controls for western flower thrips, Laboratory and field trials show that commercial formulations of Beauveria bassiana (GHA strain) can infect and reduce western flower thrips numbers in greenhouse floriculture crops, thus demonstrating its potential as an alternative to conventional pesticides.
Legumes show success on Central Coast rangeland
by William H. Weitkamp , Walter L. Graves
Improvements for rangeland and ley farming systems must be economical and long-lasting if they are to be used by ranchers in low-rainfall areas of California. Commercial and research seedings of annual legumes dating back to the 1970s and 1980s prove that certain medic varieties can be established economically and will remain productive for decades on rangelands with neutral to basic soils. In a 12-year variety trial conducted in eastern San Luis Obispo County, 13 of 18 medics survived.
editorial, news, letters & science briefs
Steering a course to farmland protection
by Alvin Sokolow