ANR Development Environment - Click to Move
Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources
University of California
Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources

NEWS FEED

Military veterans and beginning farmers invited to poultry workshops

Egg-laying chickens pose at the UC Davis Pastured Poultry Farm. Photo by Trina Wood
Prospective, beginner or intermediate farmers interested in raising poultry flocks on pasture or free-range are invited to attend poultry workshops. The lessons will apply to both egg-laying hens and broilers. UC Agriculture and Natural Resources, the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) and the Farmer Veteran Coalition have partnered to provide training for military veterans who are embarking on careers in farming, but all farmers are welcome to the workshops.

Workshops will be held in Davis, San Diego and Santa Rosa.

“California has the largest number of farmer veterans in the country, with over 1,000,” said Michael O'Gorman, executive director of Farmer Veteran Coalition, which supports military veterans with the resources they need to launch successful farm businesses. “Pastured poultry operations are a growing and profitable sector of California agriculture, and FVC is excited to partner with the University of California to provide trainings on this burgeoning field!”

A four-day workshop covering several aspects of pasture-poultry production will be held Dec. 4-7, 2017, from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., at UC Davis.

“In addition to the more traditional topics such as flock husbandry, biosecurity, food safety, nutrition or equipment needed, we will discuss records management, marketing options and using mobile apps to capture better data,” said Maurice Pitesky, UC Cooperative Extension poultry specialist in the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, who is organizing the workshops.

The poultry workshops will take a participatory learning approach, rotating between presentations, scenario discussions, Q & A sessions and hands-on demonstrations. 

During the demonstrations, beginning farmers will have a chance to perform health and welfare assessments of laying hens, on-site Salmonella enteritidis testing, egg candling and safe handling.

Speakers and facilitators will be experts from UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, the National Center for Appropriate Technology, California Department of Food and Agriculture and UC Cooperative Extension.

Each day will include 90 minutes of networking opportunities with other beginning farmers. The registration fee is $80 and includes lunch. To register, visit http://ucanr.edu/newpoultryfarmer.

Beginning farmers will gain insightful information on successfully raising poultry flocks on pasture, as well as practical expertise, connections with other farmers and professionals in the field, and better awareness and knowledge of resources and opportunities available.

One-day workshops are being planned for Jan. 17, 2018, in San Diego, May 16 in Santa Rosa and Aug. 8 in Davis. More information will be available at http://ucanr.edu/newpoultryfarmer.

To better communicate with backyard poultry enthusiasts and to protect flocks from disease outbreaks, people who raise backyard poultry are encouraged to participate in a voluntary survey for the UCCE California Poultry Census at http://ucanr.edu/sites/poultry/California_Poultry_Census. If there is an outbreak of the highly pathogenic avian influenza, for example, UCCE will notify participants by email and warn them to keep their birds indoors.

 

Poultry in pasture

Related links

Pastured Poultry Farm website http://ucanr.edu/sites/poultry/UC_Davis_Pasture_Poultry_and_Innovation_Farm

California Poultry Census survey http://ucanr.edu/sites/poultry/California_Poultry_Census

UC Food Observer's Q & A with Maurice Pitesky http://ucfoodobserver.com/2016/04/14/california-poultry-update 

Posted on Tuesday, November 7, 2017 at 1:52 PM

Joining forces to promote child health and wellness

drinking fountain

According to current statistics, approximately 40 percent of school-age children in the U.S. are overweight or obese. This statistic is reflected in rising rates of diabetes, pre-diabetes, and heart disease risk factors. Nearly one-quarter of all children are pre-diabetic or diabetic at the time when they leave high school, a figure that has increased dramatically in the last decade. Dental problems, the other very common health problem of youth, carry the potential for current and future pain, infection, and tooth loss. Although low-income children and children of color are at particular risk for both conditions, risk is unacceptably high for all children.

It is important to note that these all-too-common conditions share the same critical risk factor: consumption of sugary foods and beverages. Unknown to many, over half of the added sugar consumed by children is ingested in liquid form—soda, fruit drinks, sports drinks, energy drinks, and other pre-sweetened beverages including iced teas and others. For teenagers sugar-sweetened beverages are the single largest source of calories in their daily diet. Further, research has demonstrated that liquid sugar is more highly related to obesity than added sugar coming in solid form. 

To improve the medical and dental health of our children we need to help children and families find ways to reduce their consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages.

children drinking water

Fortunately research is being conducted to find effective ways to reduce children's sweetened beverage consumption. 

  • Reduce provision of sweetened beverages in the school, after school and childcare settings. UC ANR's Nutrition Policy Institute (NPI) has documented dramatic reductions in sugary beverage consumption after the enactment of state restrictions on the sale of highly sugared beverages in California schools and childcare. While much has been accomplished, more can be done to see that these kinds of restrictions are fully maintained.
  • Offering children easy access to water stations and other free tap water sources in childcare settings, schools and recreational facilities provides a healthful alternative to sugary beverages.
  • Encourage strong nutrition education programs for children. UC Cooperative Extension's EFNEP and statewide SNAP-Ed programs have been leading efforts to educate children on the value of a healthy diet including the risk of consuming too many sugary beverages.
  • Similarly, educating families on healthy eating and on the benefits of reducing sugar-sweetened beverage consumption can support and reinforce the messages to children in the school-based programs.

A consistent message on sugary beverages delivered to families by dental and medical health practitioners, in tandem with other educational and community efforts, can substantially benefit children's health. As respected community members, dental and medical health practitioners are in a position to deliver consistent messages to families and also to work with community agencies and groups, including UC ANR and its affiliates, to initiate and support efforts to reduce children's and families' sugary beverage consumption. Our children deserve a healthy start.

For more information, see:

Posted on Monday, November 6, 2017 at 5:00 PM

Digging Deep: Exploring the diversity of soils in the Sacramento Valley

P1430217

Not more than three months on the job and Konrad Mathesius is hard at work bringing farmers together to discuss the unique challenges that Sacramento Valley farmers face. As the new UCCE agronomy advisor for Sacramento, Solano and Yolo counties, his role is designed specifically to help growers with their crop issues – pests, disease and fertility – but with a strong background in soil science, Mathesius hopes to shed light on the diversity of soils in the region and the unique management considerations that each necessitates.

In hopes of highlighting this diversity of soils and encouraging growers to dig a little deeper to better inform their management practices, Konrad enlisted the help of UCCE soil resource specialist Toby O'Geen to lead a field tour of three major soils in the southern Sacramento Valley. The event included three pit stops on two Yolo County farms and brought out a diversity of participants from USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service agents, to resource conservationists, to farmers and crop advisors.

Kicking things off at Rominger Brother's Ranch -- a diversified family farm in Winters that grows everything from wine grapes to processing tomatoes to rice, wheat, corn, onions, alfalfa and hay -- O'Geen took the audience on a journey back in time, describing the rich natural history of the former floodplain that has given rise to the rich, productive soils that support California agriculture today. After introducing himself as a pedologist, or a scientist who studies the nature and properties of soil, he went on to introduce the five soil forming factors and their role in molding initial (1) parent material (i.e. rocks), under the influence of (2) climate, (3) topography and (4) organisms and over a given period of (5) time into soils. 

toby ogeen pit

Proving that soil scientists take the term “pit stop” literally, Mathesius shifted the conversation to a 1.5-meter deep hole in the ground, dug out the day before with a back hoe. Step by step, he walked participants through the process of analyzing a soil pit – cleaning the face, identifying horizons or individual layers and using the senses to assess soil properties and determine function. As he struck the face of the pit with a rock hammer, an audible difference was detected between the surface layers and the subsurface. 

Working backwards from the sound, he explained that the subsurface was significantly harder, which he attributed to a finer texture and ultimately identified as a clay pan, a restrictive layer that prevents roots from penetrating deeply and has the capacity to waterlog soils, due to poor drainage. O'Geen offered some tangible advice as to how to manage these soils, quipping that a deep rip would be no better than cutting butter with a knife (eventually it all just settles back into place) while likening a slip plow to a giant shank that just inverts the soil, mixing things to about a depth of 6 feet and permanently eliminating the problem.

P1430320

From there, Mathesius segued into a hands-on exercise to determine the soil texture, or percent distribution of various size particles, allowing participants to work on their pottery skills making balls and ribbons with the clay-rich soils.  Discussing the many functions that soil texture controls, led the conversation down a rabbit-hole around water holding capacity and how to calculate the range of plant available water for your soil.

With the demos out of the way, they voyaged to the next pre-dug pit, bringing participants face to face with the harsh reality of soil heterogeneity. Just 300 feet away and it was as if we had ventured into another environment altogether, yet these soils formed in the same place, under the same climate and similar vegetation, but in a completely different time with slightly different starting material.

By changing just a couple of the ingredients in the special sauce of soil formation the results are completely different featuring a clay dominant surface soil and entirely different water management challenges. And these aren't just any clays, but a special class that swell and shrink as they wet and dry, oftentimes shearing roots under the pressure and creating a hospitable environment for disease to thrive.  O'Geen suggested trying to keep them in the sweet spot where they are consistently moist, but not wet, and never allowed to dry out. Unfortunately, there is no precise measurement to that formula, “you just have to be almost like an artist. It's a lot of feel to it and the numbers sometimes just don't work out. It just comes with years of experience. Its one of those native intelligence things that you just have to feel your way through,” he noted.

Pit 3 - Yolo Loam

Caravanning 20 miles back towards Davis, the tour arrived at the third and final pit, located at Triad Farms, a tomato operation in Dixon. Well-drained, young and fertile, Yolo loam soils are the poster children of agriculture, owing in large part to regular deposits of silts from past flood events. With not many management challenges to speak of, conversation immediately shifted towards an undocumented challenge that farmers on the eastern side of the Sacramento Valley are all too familiar with – the unavailability of potassium, even under intensive fertilization regimes. While the jury is still out on the cause and while it contradicts what soil scientists expect to find in those regions, possible explanations were tossed around and O'Geen used the opportunity to stress the importance of speaking up about things growers or advisors see going on in their area. Turns out the USDA-NRCS is working on updating its inventory of soil surveys, documenting soils across the nation and is currently seeking input on what's working for growers and where things are differing on the ground.

Ultimately, in closing, Mathesius called for more engagement between the university, extension and growers. O'Geen reminded everyone that “You can really learn a lot by digging a hole, looking at stuff, and developing theories.  Sometimes you're wrong, but they're kind of fun to talk about."

Posted on Monday, October 30, 2017 at 3:03 PM

Cannabis crop expansion into forests threatens wildlife habitat

This series of satellite images shows the development of a greenhouse complex in a Humboldt County forest.

Planting cannabis for commercial production in remote locations is creating forest fragmentation, stream modification, soil erosion and landslides. Without land-use policies to limit its environmental footprint, the impacts of cannabis farming could get worse, according to a new study published in the November issue of Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment.

“Despite its small current footprint, the boom in cannabis agriculture poses a significant threat to our environment,” said co-author Van Butsic a UC Cooperative Extension specialist in UC Agriculture and Natural Resources and the UC Berkeley Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management. “To mitigate the anticipated environmental impacts, now is the time for policymakers and land-use planners to set regulations to manage the spatial pattern of cannabis expansion before crop production becomes established.”

Earlier studies have shown that cannabis production causes environmental damage, including rodenticide poisoning of forest mammals and dewatering of streams due to improper irrigation.

Cannabis grows near a salmon stream Humboldt. Diverting water to irrigate cannabis can dewater streams during the summer and impact wildlife.

Cannabis, as either a medicinal or recreational drug, is now legal in more than 30 U.S. states and in several countries. In California, where medicinal marijuana has been legal since 1996, voters in November approved the sale and possession of one ounce of marijuana for recreational use. As a result, cannabis production is ramping up.

Effective policymaking for a new crop can be challenging without scientific data. In this study, Butsic and Ian J. Wang, assistant professor in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management at UC Berkeley, and Jacob C. Brenner, associate professor in the Department of Environmental Studies and Sciences at Ithaca College in New York, present an approach for early assessment of landscape changes resulting from new agricultural activities. 

Their approach uses per-unit-area analysis of landscape change. To study forest fragmentation in northern California, the scientists compared the effects of cannabis cultivation to those of timber harvest from 2000 to 2013 in Humboldt County.  

Based on the size, shape and placement of the cannabis grows among 62 randomly selected watersheds, they quantified the impacts relative to those of timber harvest.

Satellite A shows a clearing with greenhouses (upper left in clearing) and rows of cannabis plants (lower right in clearing), surrounded by a buffer area. Image B shows a typical pattern of large areas of clear‐cuts for timber harvest and various stages of regrowth.

“We found that although timber has greater landscape impacts overall, cannabis causes far greater changes in key metrics on a per-unit-area basis,” Butsic said. 

On a per-unit-area basis, the cannabis grows resulted in 1.5 times more forest loss and 2.5 times greater fragmentation of the landscape, breaking up large, contiguous forest into smaller patches and reducing wildlife habitat.

“The results show how important it is to consider environmental impacts at different scales,” Brenner said.

Current California law caps the size of outdoor cannabis production to 1 acre per parcel, to prohibit the development of industrial-scale cannabis operations outdoors. An unintended consequence of this law may be small dispersed cannabis grows that edge out wildlife.

While the long-term effects of cannabis cultivation on the environment are unknown, the researchers concluded that land management and agricultural policy informed by further research may reduce these threats in California and in other states and countries where cannabis production can be regulated.

“Studies like this one have the potential to directly inform local land-use policy and state environmental regulation,” Brenner said. “It's exciting to be a part of this research because it is capturing a human-environment phenomenon at the moment of its emergence.” 

 

 

Posted on Monday, October 30, 2017 at 3:03 PM

Tree fruit and nut growers invited to two-week UC orchard management course

Kevin Day, center, discusses tree development in a young orchard.

Tree fruit and nut growers are invited to attend the “Principles of Fruit and Nut Tree Growth, Cropping and Management” course offered by the UC Fruit and Nut Research and Information Center. The annual two-week course will be held from Feb. 19, 2018, through March 1, 2018, at the UC Davis Activities and Recreation Center (ARC).

Understanding the fundamentals of tree biology is essential to making sound orchard management and business decisions in the fruit and nut industries. However, access to educational courses on basic fruit and nut tree biology, and how it relates to horticultural practices, is limited. This course incorporates lecture, lab exercises and field demonstrations to provide information on all aspects of plant biology and the relationship between tree physiology and orchard management.

Week 1 (Feb. 19 – Feb. 23) – Five days of lectures, hands-on exercises, demonstrations and field tour at the UC Davis Activities and Recreation Center and UC Davis teaching orchards. 

Week 2 (Feb. 26 –March 1) – A four-day field tour throughout tree fruit and nut growing regions in Northern and Central California. The field tour includes visits to current UC experiments, processing facilities and orchards in a wide range of tree fruit and nut crops.

This course is designed by UC Cooperative Extension and UC Davis Department of Plant Sciences scientists for tree fruit and nut growers and professionals. People who have small acreage farms or who are new to the fruit and nut business are also welcome.

Ted DeJong examines the root structure of an established tree.Lecture topics include:

  • The basics of how trees work
  • Ideal climatic and soil conditions for tree fruit and nut crops
  • Dormancy, chill requirements and rest breaking
  • How trees grow and what determines architecture
  • Understanding cropping, pollination and fruit set
  • How trees use water and nutrients
  • Fruit growth and development
  • Harvest and harvest indices
  • Postharvest quality and technology

Hands-on exercises and field demonstrations include:

  • Bearing habits
  • Measuring fruit quality and fruit tasting
  • Pruning, training and light management
  • Measurement of plant water status and irrigation scheduling
  • Measurement of plant nutrient status and fertilization scheduling

The course instructors are experts in fruit and nut tree production:

  • Ted DeJong, professor in the Department of Plant Sciences at UC Davis
  • Carlos Crisosto, UCCE specialist and director of the Fruit and Nut Research and Information Center
  • Patrick Brown, professor in the Department of Plant Sciences at UC Davis
  • Astrid Volder, professor in the Department of Plant Sciences at UC Davis
  • Kevin Day, UC Cooperative Extension farm advisor in Tulare County
  • Ken Shackel, professor in the Department of Plant Sciences at UC Davis

There is no known comparable course in the United States that provides instruction by faculty and Cooperative Extension researchers in university research facilities. The course provides a UC Davis pomology education in a shorter time frame and at a reduced cost than is currently available through traditional university classes.

In previous years, participants have included first-time growers as well as established members of the California fruit and nut tree industries, growing almonds, walnuts, pistachios, stone fruit, pome fruit, and specialty tree crops. In course evaluations, participants stated that the course was “superb,” “an amazing opportunity” and “an interesting week of fruit tree wisdom. 

Attendees will receive a certificate after completing the course.

The fee is $2,850 for the entire course (plus the lodging cost for the field trips), or $1,850 for the first week only. A scholarship is available for California growers under specific criteria.

Visit http://fruitandnuteducation.ucdavis.edu/education/principles to register and for more information about the program and instructors.

If you have any questions, please contact Julie Jacquemin at the Fruit and Nut Research Center at fruitsandnuts@ucdavis.edu or (530) 754-9708.

 

 

 

Posted on Monday, October 30, 2017 at 10:52 AM

First storyPrevious 5 stories  |  Next 5 stories | Last story

 
E-mail
 
Webmaster Email: jewarnert@ucanr.edu