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Lighter crop of wine grapes blamed on drought

Sangiovese grapes.
Wine grape growers are expecting a lighter than normal crop in 2014 due to the drought, reported Jeremy Thomas in the Contra Costa Times.

"The drought is impacting everybody," said Kevin Zollinger, a Livermore vintner. "Everybody's cutting back. Are our vines more stressed this year? Yeah, probably, because you don't have the charge in the soil that you normally have."

The winegrape grower said he and other farmers are holding back water as much as possible without stressing the vines.

Janet Capriele, UC Cooperative Extension advisor in Contra Costa County, said winemakers typically withhold water to limit vine growth and intensify berry flavor and color. However, excessive underwatering could be harmful.

"We're already cutting back, so the plants are already a bit stressed," Caprile said. "With these additional cutbacks, we may be stressing the grapes beyond the quality you'd want. We'd expect to have smaller crops and smaller berries."

 

 

 

Posted on Friday, August 29, 2014 at 4:28 PM
Tags: drought (56), Janet Caprile (1)

143-year-old Washington navel mother tree gets special care

The mother of millions of navel orange trees around the world, a 143-year-old Washington navel orange tree in Riverside, is carefully protected by UC scientists and the Riverside parks department, reported Suzanne Hurt in the Riverside Press-Enterprise.

Georgios Vidalakis vows to protect the Washington navel 'mother tree.'
"We're not going to let this tree die," said Georgios Vidalakis, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Plant Pathology at UC Riverside. Vidalakis is the director of the UC Citrus Clonal Protection Program.

Scientists protect the tree using special tools, insecticides and disease monitoring.

According to legend, the seedless and sweet Washington navel was an accidental mutant that appeared on the grounds of a Brazil monastery in the early 1800s. Tree clones were sent to USDA in Washington, D.C., and from there acquired by Eliza Tibbets, who tended the trees at her home in Riverside.

"Producing budding stock to make other saplings, Tibbets' trees birthed a citrus industry dubbed California's second gold rush," the Press-Enterprise story said.

John Bash, a UC Riverside staff researcher who worked with the Washington navel for 32 years, called the mother tree "one of the world's agricultural icons."

"There are literally millions and millions of trees that can trace their ancestry back to that single tree," Bash said.

Posted on Friday, August 29, 2014 at 9:17 AM

California's 'exceptional drought' to cost the state millions

California suffered severe droughts in the 1970s, 80s and early 90s, but the current drought is the worst in history, according to Daniel Summer, director of the UC Agricultural Issues Center. He outlined the reasons in a story published on Food, Nutrition and Science.

For one thing, the state's population is larger than ever before, requiring more water resources. Increased planting of trees and vines in the state has given farmers less flexibility. In addition, recent increases in crop and livestock prices increase losses from lower production, Sumner said. He suggests the drought can be a lesson for the future.

"This current drought has highlighted some weaknesses in drought preparation that could be improved for future drought scenarios," the story said.

In dry years, California relies heavily on groundwater. Sumner said the aggregate measures of groundwater depth over time and space are good, but their estimates of regional groundwater use are poor and need improvement. Improved management of groundwater basins will be key to securing California's agriculture in the future, Sumner said.

The story also quoted Leslie Roche, postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Plant Sciences at UC Davis. Roche said the drought will have lasting impacts on how ranchers plan and prepare for future droughts.

"There is a deep undercurrent of concern within the ranching community that this drought will persist, and that practical options to maintain productivity in that event are very limited. This is true throughout all quarters of California's agricultural community,” Roche said.

Key proactive measures for ranchers to cope with drought include using conservative livestock numbers and resting pastures from grazing to enhance forage growth and storage.
Posted on Thursday, August 28, 2014 at 9:04 AM
Tags: Daniel Sumner (11), drought (56)

California drought steps-up need for high-tech solutions

Ken Shackel (right) demonstrates a pressure chamber
With California suffering through the third year of drought, more farmers are turning to technology that will help them make smart irrigation decisions, reported Sarah Shoen in the Fresno Bee.

The story focused on Tom Chandler, a fourth-generation Sanger farmer who uses a pressure chamber to measure the amount of water is in the leaves of his almond trees.

"Using the pressure chambers is like having a fuel gauge for your plants," Chandler said.

For the story, Shoen talked to Allan Fulton, the UC Cooperative Extension irrigation and water resources advisor in Glenn, Colusa and Shasta counties. Fulton has experience with pressure chambers stretching back more than a decade.

"Understanding what the chamber is trying to tell you helps farmers concentrate water in areas that need it the most," Fulton said. "This means more production while using the same amount of water."

The pressure chamber results show farmers whether the crops need water, or if they can get by without water at the moment.

Ken Shackel, professor in the Department of Plant Sciences at UC Davis, learned by conducting research that dry soil doesn't mean the plant is suffering.

"You can save tons of water thanks to the chambers," Shackel said.

Posted on Wednesday, August 27, 2014 at 1:18 PM
Tags: Allan Fulton (2), drought (56), Ken Shackel (1)

UCCE plays a significant role in valley ag education

The UCCE 4-H program focuses on citizenship, leadership and learning life skills. (Photo: Kathy Keatley Garvey)
When the director of the Fresno Farm Bureau, Ryan Jacobsen, developed an episode of the half-hour Valley's Gold program on ag education, he included two segments on UC Cooperative Extension.

"I'm a very proud 4-H member, from 4th grade to early college, in beef, rocketry and sugar beet (projects)," Jacobsen said. "When we think of 4-H, it's just so much more than those projects. There are so many leadership opportunities for these kids."

Jacobsen interviewed John Borba, the 4-H youth development advisor for UCCE in Kern county.

"4-H has an emphasis on citizenship, leadership and learning life skills," Borba said. "We encourage youth to take on leadership responsibilities, where the older youth mentor the younger youth."

Borba said 4-H program in California, which has 120,000 youth participants and 14,000 adult volunteers, isn't just for rural kids.

"In the San Joaquin Valley, 4-H is offered in the traditional mode, 4-H clubs, where volunteer leaders assist the youth in different programs. But we also have programs on military bases, active duty and national guard, and we have after-school programs where we teach the staff ... to provide 4-H programs after school."

Jacobsen interviewed Shanon Mueller, the director of UCCE in Fresno County, at the Garden of the Sun, a one-acre demonstration garden created and maintained by the UCCE Master Gardener program.

She explained the role of UCCE's farm advisors and nutrition educators.

"Farm advisors bring the research-based information to the county," Mueller said. "A lot of times we can't directly import that. We will adapt that research so it's locally relevant. We do research trials, demonstration trials. We have field days, workshops, meetings."

Mueller continued, "Our goal is to bring the most up-to-date information to growers on varieties, production practices, irrigation, pest management. Any component that relates to agriculture to make sure we keep our ag economy strong."

Mueller said Fresno County UCCE maintains one of the premiere nutrition programs in the state. Much of the nutrition education takes place in Fresno County schools.

"They talk about good nutrition, physical activity and health issues in classrooms," Mueller said. "One of the fun activities they do is monthly tasting time. They will bring some product for the kids to taste in a comfortable environment. All the kids are tasting jicama, apricots or something they haven't tried before in hopes that they'll try it and like it and that their parents will buy it at the grocery store."

Valley's Gold is produced by the Fresno County Farm Bureau and appears on the local PBS affiliate, KVPT.

The ag education episode can also be viewed below. Borba's interview begins at 12:25 and Mueller's at 15:08.

Posted on Thursday, August 21, 2014 at 10:45 AM

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