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California's three-part drought survival plan

Anglers hike down to the water's edge at the San Luis Reservoir. The reservoir is at 30 percent of capacity.
National Public Radio reporter Kurt Siegler spoke to the director of the UC California Institute for Water Resources, Doug Parker, to set the stage for a five-minute report on the California drought for All Things Considered. (The story is embedded below.)

In California, Siegler reported, water is moved through a network of dams, canals and pipes from the places where it rains and snows, to places where it is needed, like farms and cities.

"The system that we have was designed back in the 1930s through 1950s to meet population and land use needs of the time," Parker said. "Now things have changed in the state and that system really hasn't evolved to keep up with the times in California."

The system was designed when the California population was about 10 million. Now the population is 38 million. It was also designed during an unusually wet period of history.

"And the question is, how is that system going to perform in 2050?" Parker said.

The story outlines three ways the state is coping with the drought:

  • A $7 billion water bond to upgrade that massive infrastructure system is on the Nov. 4 ballot. The measure would pay for building two new large reservoirs and the expansion of dozens more. There is also tens of millions of dollars earmarked for water recycling and reuse.
  • Efficiency, such as capturing urban waste water, treating it and using it on farms. Passage of the water bond will allow for this strategy to expand.
  • Water conservation. The example Siegler gave was an executive order by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, which aims to cut freshwater use in his city by 20 percent in the next three years.

Listen to the NPR story here:

 

 

Posted on Thursday, October 23, 2014 at 8:50 AM
Tags: Doug Parker (7), drought (66)

Reporter ponders UC Cooperative Extension pepper research

Capsaicin, the yellow line of fluid, gives jalapeƱo peppers their heat.
A column in the Salinas Californian playfully reflected on UC Cooperative Extension research that aims to turn up the heat in the mighty jalapeño pepper.

Writer Dennis Taylor reported that Aziz Baameur, UCCE farm advisor in Santa Clara and San Benito counties, is trying to increase the Scoville units in hot peppers by adjusting on-farm practices.

"The trend lately is toward hotter items," said Jeff Sanders of George Chiala Farms in Morgan Hill, the site of the research project.

Taylor waxes on about super hot peppers that are being grown around the world - including the current record holder, according to Guinness, the Carolina Reaper, which is 900 times hotter than the jalapeño.

He wrote that he asked a newsroom colleague, UCCE Master Gardener Laramie Trevino, whether she would prefer more heat in jalapeños, and he mentioned a plan to call Baameur and Sanders to learn more about the motives behind their research work.

For more information about the hot pepper research, see: Some like it hotter: UC Cooperative Extension tries to grow a spicier jalapeño.

Posted on Tuesday, October 21, 2014 at 4:39 PM
Tags: Aziz Baameur (1), pepper (1)

Kiwifruit industry is making a comeback in California

California kiwifruit was valued at $23 million in 2012. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons.)
Kiwifruit, the 67th most-valuable crop in California, had its heyday in the 70s and 80s, before production slowed somewhat, reported Reed Fujii in the Stockton Record. However, UC Cooperative Extension advisor Janine Hasey, says it appears to be growing in popularity once again.

All of U.S. kiwifruit is grown in California. Hasey told the reporter that most kiwifruit come from Sutter, Yuba and Butte counties, as well as the southern San Joaquin Valley. Strong market demand and prices have prompted at least one major grower to expand.

"They actually plan to plant 800 acres in Yuba County, which is a huge increase," Hasey said.

Kiwis are native to China, but are commonly associated with New Zealand. Called the Chinese gooseberry, they were renamed "kiwifruit" - after flightless birds native to New Zealand - for the export market in the 1950s. Kiwifruit vines are frost sensitive and require plenty of heat in the summer. Of the 27 most commonly eaten fruits, kiwis are the fourth most nutrient dense, following papayas, mangos and oranges, according to the Network for a Healthy California's Harvest of the Month.

Hasey said consumers are drawn to the fruit's sweet-tart taste and nutritional value.

“They're really packed with potassium and vitamins and antioxidants, and a lot of people like them,” she said.

Posted on Monday, October 20, 2014 at 4:20 PM
Tags: Janine Hasey (3), kiwifruit (1)

UCCE partners with UC Merced on critical issues

University of California Cooperative Extension has headquartered two new specialists on the UC Merced campus, reported Scott Hernandez-Jason of UC Merced University News. Karina Diaz-Rios, specialist for nutrition, family and consumer sciences, joined UCCE on Sept. 2. Tapan Pathak, specialist for climate adaptation in agriculture, will start Feb. 2, 2015.

"These positions come with a focus on interacting with the community, conducting applied research, and translating UC research to help the ag economy and local residents,” said Tom Peterson, UC Merced Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor. “We are pleased that UC Merced can partner with UC ANR (UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources) on these important issues.”

Karina Diaz-Rios
According to the news release, Diaz-Rios will be housed in UC Merced's Health Sciences Research Institute and focus on nutrition research and education and food security. She will connect with a larger team of nutrition researchers and educators throughout the UC system addressing issues related to healthy food and human health.

Tapan Pathak
Pathak, who will be housed in the Sierra Nevada Research Institute at UC Merced, will help farmers and ranchers adapt to new conditions created by variable and changing climate. He will collaborate with UC colleagues and state and federal agencies in statewide efforts to address climate variability and climate change adaptation and mitigation. He is currently an extension educator in climate variability at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

UC ANR continuously provides research-based solutions to the California agriculture industry, said Barbara Allen-Diaz, ANR vice president.

“California agriculture is a world-recognized marvel, and we'd like to think the university, through ANR's research and outreach, is a big reason why,” she said. “Adding UC Merced to our existing, thriving partnerships with UC Davis, UC Berkeley and UC Riverside will only strengthen UC efforts in helping California and the world to sustainably feed itself.”

Posted on Wednesday, October 15, 2014 at 10:03 AM

Drought is driving interest in high-tech irrigation systems

Overhead irrigation systems can be part of an agricultural system that improves irrigation management, increases carbon storage and builds soil quality.
Interest in new irrigation technology is getting a boost from the ongoing California drought, reported Kate Campbell in AgAlert.

Allan Fulton, UC Cooperative Extension advisor for Glenn, Shasta and Tehama counties, said technology is improving the ability to organize crop data and get it to farm managers on the fly.

"With the right system," Fulton said, "farmers can get almost to-the-minute information on every aspect of their crop."

As new, integrated database systems are being created, new data-gathering equipment also is advancing for field use to further aid on-farm decisions, the article said. For example, the California Department of Food and Agriculture announced last week a $286,000 grant to UC Davis for work on a continuous leaf moisture monitoring system. Using thermal infrared sensors along with environmental sensors that measure ambient temperature and relative humidity, wind speed and incident radiation, the system's goal is to detect crop water status to support irrigation management.

Jeff Mitchell, a UCCE specialist in the Department of Plant Sciences at UC Davis, is evaluating overhead, or center pivot, irrigation technology, especially in a system that includes conservation tillage. The research is being conducted at the UC West Side Research and Extension Center in Five Points with equipment donated by industry.

The work group focuses on emerging crop- and soil-management techniques — conservation tillage, high-surface residue preservation, cover crops — to improve irrigation management, increase carbon storage and build soil quality.

"We're developing completely new cropping systems for the valley," Mitchell said, "and these get at the so-called three E's of farming—integration of equipment, economics and ecology."

Kings County farmer Dino Giacomazzi, said growers are thinking in terms of systems these days. Giacomazzi is a founding member of UC's Conservation Agriculture Systems Innovation, a workgroup that Mitchell chairs.

"It's very difficult to put things together piecemeal. Even to get advice about these more advanced systems is difficult," Giacomazzi said.

Posted on Wednesday, October 8, 2014 at 7:41 PM
Tags: Alan Fulton (3), CASI (6), Jeff Mitchell (11)

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