UCCE Humboldt - Del Norte Counties
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UCCE Humboldt - Del Norte Counties


Non-native snails introduced by French for escargot

The brown garden snail is found in 26 California counties. It was introduced from Europe 'with an eye to the pot.'
A perennial bane in many California gardens, brown snails were intentionally introduced into a vineyard in the mid-1800s in Santa Clara County "with an eye to the pot," reported Dan Brekke on KQED News. The snails are highly prized in Europe as escargot. The brown snail joined many other species of native and non-native snails and slugs that are detailed on a UC Agriculture and Natural Resources website dedicated to the slimy mollusks.

Approximately 280 species of snails and slugs are found in California; 242 are thought to be native. The vast majority of the native species are not considered to be pests of nurseries or other production systems. 

The most damaging snails and slugs are those that have been accidentally or purposely introduced from areas outside of the US. Most of California's pest gastropods are European species.

Other news:

The Chico News & Review published a profile of local UC ANR Cooperative Extension farm advsior Dani Lightle. Lightle works with Glenn County growers of walnuts, almonds, prunes, olives, pistachios, pecans and fruit. “Basically, if it grows on a tree, it comes my way,” said Lightle, referring to the calls she receives at her Orland office. The article provided background information about UC Cooperative Extension and ANR. "The system's purpose was to be a bridge between public universities and the general public," the article says.

The news website Ensia.com reported on research underway in Northern California on the role of bats in orchard pest control. An intern, under the guidance of UC ANR farm advisor Rachael Long, is comparing orchards with nearby bat boxes with orchards that do not have the convenient dwellings for the flying rodents. "If you increase diversity by relying on insects, bats, raptors, etc., you help strengthen your farming system," Long said.


Posted on Monday, September 28, 2015 at 11:28 AM
Tags: bats (3), Dani Lightle (1), Rachael Long (7), slugs (1), snails (1)

Samuel Sandoval Solis shares his passion for water resource management

UC ANR's Samuel Sandoval Solis is featured on the cover of Vision Magazine.
The cover story in the most recent issue of Visión Magazine details the passion and expertise of UC Agriculture and Natural Resources' water resources scientist Samuel Sandoval Solis, a UC ANR Cooperative Extension specialist based at UC Davis.

Solis was born in Mexico City and began contributing to the family income at the age of 13 as a grocery store bagger. He earned a bachelor's degree in civil engineering at Instituto Politecnico Nacional.

When Solis was hired to help a community of 300 manage its water resources, he was nervous about his abilities, the article said.

"However, like many hardworking Latinos, Samuel put his fear and doubts to the side, and decided to pursue this great opportunity," wrote reporter Vanessa Parra. 

Solis earned a master's degree in hydraulics at Instituto Politecnico Nacional, and a Ph.D. in environmental and water resources engineering at the University of Texas, Austin. His research centered on the Rio Grande, a river shared by Mexico and the U.S. (Mexicans call the river Rio Bravo.)

"I was under friendly fire from people of both nations," Solis said. "Because I was doing my research in the Rio Grande/Bravo while living in Texas, people from the U.S. thought I was a spy and people from Mexico thought that I was a traitor," he said.

The language and culture barriers that Solis once perceived as negative characteristics became valuable assets when he joined the University of California. He is able to communicate with Spanish-speaking farmers on a personal level. 

Solis began his work in California just as it was caught in the grip of the current four-year drought. The dry period, he said, can be viewed as a "tipping point" to change the way the state uses and manages its water. His research focuses on water planning and management.

"We develop methods for finding strategies to better distribute water, ensuring adequate quality and the right timing," Solis said. "We consider the scientific, social, environmental, and economic aspects of basins. Our goal is to improve California's water management through cooperation, shared vision and science-based solutions."

Posted on Thursday, September 24, 2015 at 11:02 AM
Tags: drought (114), Samuel Sandoval Solis (1), water (44)

Research and outreach support culture of health and fitness

Nutrition, physical activity and community-building part of obesity prevention in Firebaugh.
The small, mostly Mexican-immigrant Central Valley community of Firebaugh has been at the center of an extensive UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) research and outreach project that is aiming to reduce the incidence of childhood obesity, reported Alexandra Wilson on the USDA Blog

The project, called Niños sanos, familia sana (Healthy children, healthy family) has turned into a community-wide effort and a new culture of health for families. Lucia Kaiser, UC ANR Cooperative Extension specialist, is leading the project. Outreach involves UC ANR Cooperative Extension advisors and staff in Tulare, Yolo, Kern and Fresno counties and the UC CalFresh and EFNEP programs.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years.

“The lasting impact that Niños Sanos, Familia Sana will have in Firebaugh is precisely the goal of the childhood obesity prevention program – working at the family, school, and community levels to make healthy kids and healthy families a part of everyday life,” said Deirdra Chester, NIFA's national program leader for applied nutrition research.

According to the USDA blog post, Niños sanos, familia sana has contributed to changes in the community:

  • Slower weight gain among obese boys
  • Reduction in children's consumption of high-fat/high-sugar foods
  • Growing interest in programs and policy reflecting local commitment to improved health and nutrition

For more information, see a story and video snapshot in the UC Food Blog.


Posted on Tuesday, September 22, 2015 at 3:31 PM

Too many California pistachios coming up empty

A lack of winter chill can increase the number of pistachio blanks. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
Some California pistachio farmers are facing one of their worst harvests ever, reported Sarah Zhang on Wired.com.

UC Agriculture and Natural Resources experts said the dip in yield cannot be blamed on the drought, but a warming climate may be coming into play. Pistachios require cold winter temperatures to reset their biological clocks.

“They use the temperature to know when winter is over,” said Craig Kallsen, UC Cooperative Extension advisor in Kern County. “And if they don't get the message, they get confused.”

Male trees then end up blooming after the female tree. If female plants don't get fertilized when they bloom, they still produce shells—just empty ones. 

Kallsen said the hardest hit regions are in the Southern San Joaquin Valley.

"We're looking at a record low (yield)," Kallsen said.

Farmers to the north had more chilling hours, so they are seeing a normal or low number of empty pistachio shells.

Growers have found that spraying oil can help trees bloom more uniformly, however, it doesn't always seem to help, the story said.

“There are a lot of things we're still trying to understand,” said Gurreet Brar, UC Cooperative Extension advisor in Fresno County. “Oil applied at the wrong time or in inappropriate conditions like water stress conditions can injure the plant.” 

Posted on Wednesday, September 16, 2015 at 3:47 PM

Living lawns keep yards cooler

Artificial turf doesn't have the cooling effect of a living lawn. (Photo: Bitjungle)
Three UC Agriculture and Natural Resources researchers in Southern California have raised concerns about the trend in California to remove lawns to cope with the drought, reported Janet Zimmerman in the Riverside Press-Enterprise

They believe living lawns need not be sacrificed to meet mandatory water-conservation goals set by Gov. Jerry Brown. Turf simply needs to be managed better, said Dennis Pittenger, UC ANR Cooperative Extension advisor based at UC Riverside. Pittenger co-wrote a white paper with UC ANR Cooperative Extension advisor Don Hodel in which they contend the push to remove grass is a knee-jerk reaction to the drought, the article said.

Pittenger provided five ways to reduce the amount of water needed for grass maintenance:

  • Switching from fescue and other cool-season grasses to warm-season varieties such as Bermuda and St. Augustine, which go dormant in the winter. Warm-season grasses use 20 percent less water, when irrigated properly, than cool-season varieties.

  • Ensuring sprinklers are working correctly, with overlap and good distribution.

  • Using the appropriate amount of water. Lawns can survive on much less water than most people give them.

  • Reducing or stopping fertilizer use, which prompts growth and increases water demands.

  • Raising the mowing height to at least 3 inches to encourage grass to develop deeper roots.

“Do all those things before you consider taking out turf,” Pittenger said. “That will save quite a bit of water and maybe enough to get the savings necessary to meet goals.”

Jim Baird, UC ANR Cooperative Extension turfgrass specialist based at UC Riverside, said grass' contribution to increased property values and psychological well-being cannot be overstated, and it can be maintained with little water. Both Pittenger and Baird told the reporter they maintain living lawns at their own homes with minimal irrigation.

In an article on The Confluence blog, a team of UC ANR academics outlined "Practical advice on drought-tolerant landscaping in California." 

They wrote that, "Trading in your turf for concrete, rock, or artificial turf are options. However, none of these selections promote healthy soils and other ecosystem services. In fact, all of these options can be problematic because they create a heat island effect and may have water infiltration or runoff issues."

Posted on Monday, September 14, 2015 at 3:05 PM
Tags: Dennis Pittenger (3), Don Hodel (2), Jim Baird (2), turf (3)

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