California Naturalist
California Naturalist
California Naturalist
University of California
California Naturalist

ANR Green Blog

The UC Pest Management Guidelines just got spicier!

Whether or not your favorite team is playing in Sunday's big game, the Super Bowl is often a great excuse to gather with friends and family and enjoy some tasty treats. Maybe your favorite snack involves chips with salsa or guacamole, or perhaps you prefer shrimp with a delicious avocado dip. Whatever your snack of choice, chances are that you might spice it up with a little cilantro or parsley.

Cilantro and parsley growers have something else to be happy about: The UC Statewide IPM Program just released new Pest Management Guidelines for Cilantro and Parsley.

Cilantro and parsley are herbs used both fresh and dry for preparation of many popular dishes in almost all parts of the world including California. Apart from their pleasant flavor, both plants are also known for a number of nutritional and health benefits.

In California, cilantro and parsley are grown commercially on more than 7,000 acres, primarily along the southern and central coast. Cilantro (also known as Chinese or Mexican parsley) and parsley are examples of specialty vegetable crops important in crop rotations and in contributing to California's overall agricultural diversity.

Cabbage looper larvae can contaminate leaves, reducing crop marketability.
Although pest problems aren't too common for home gardeners growing cilantro or parsley, for commercial growers, crop damage due to insect pests
Bacterial leaf spot on cilantro can be a serious problem.
and diseases may be devastating and cause important economic losses.The new UC IPM Pest Management Guidelines for cilantro and parsley provide pest and management information for insects pests (including beet armyworm, cabbage looper, and aphids), diseases (including apium virus Y, bacterial leaf spot, carrot motley dwarf, cilantro yellow blotch, Fusarium wilt, and septoria leaf spot), and nematodes. Because weed management costs can be very high in cilantro and parsley unless weed control programs are carefully planned and implemented, a comprehensive weed management section is also included.

Check out the new guidelines and other pest management information on the UC IPM website.

Posted on Thursday, February 4, 2016 at 10:48 AM

Research can help Californians live safely with wildlife

A ewe and her lamb at the UC Hopland Research and Extension Center. (Photo: Robert Keiffer)
Winter is typically lambing season on Northern California sheep ranches - a perilous time of year. Baby lambs are vulnerable prey for wildlife like coyotes, mountain lions and bears. With increasing numbers of wildlife, both rural and urban neighborhoods are being impacted.

At the UC Hopland Research and Extension Center, we are braced for our first winter under a new policy that minimizes the use of lethal control against native wildlife that prey on our lambs and ewes. As director of the 5,300-acre Mendocino County research facility, I'm nervous for the well-being of our 500 sheep and lambs soon to be born. 

The animals are defenseless, therefore it is our responsibility to protect them from predation by wildlife or other animals, such as domestic dogs. Many non-lethal methods of protecting the sheep have been implemented over the past several months. We installed and repaired fences and brought in five new guard dogs to protect the sheep.

Our new practices seemed to work last spring and summer. We can't draw research conclusions from one year of data, but the number of sheep confirmed killed by wild carnivores in 2015 was much smaller than the year before, 10 vs. 48. And the number of coyotes taken so far in 2014 – 15 – was about half the amount in 2014.

I'm encouraged by the numbers. But we want to do better. As a University of California research center, Hopland is the ideal place to study ways for sheep ranchers throughout Northern California to maintain sustainable flocks even in the presence of the growing, and increasingly diverse, wildlife population. At Hopland, we are interested in learning more about how to prevent conflicts with wild animals and reduce the need for lethal control of wildlife. This information will inform policies for wildlife control in cities, rural areas and on ranches.

The Hopland REC was a working sheep ranch when it was purchased by the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources for rangeland and animal management research in 1951. From the 1990s to the 2000s, 10 to 15 percent of lambs or more were killed each year by predators – mainly coyotes – despite aggressive non-lethal and legal lethal control, according to Bob Timm, a UC Cooperative Extension specialist who served as director of the station for 30 years before retiring in 2014.

We will always have predators threatening our sheep. We need research-based information to inform us how to deal with them humanely while maintaining economically viable ranching operations in Mendocino County and throughout California.

Justin Brashares, a professor of wildlife ecology at UC Berkeley, has developed a research plan for the center. We are seeking funding and, in the coming years, will use Hopland as a living laboratory to answer many questions scientists and ranchers have about wildlife in Northern California. The research will help us estimate the wildlife population. We plan to use high-technology GPS collars on prey and predator species to develop very fine-scale information about their interactions. Hopland will also be a site to study the very fencing we and other sheep producers are earnestly installing to protect our sheep from hungry carnivores.

I believe we are lucky to have the wildlife among us. I'm committed to helping our community protect wildlife and raise sheep with research and education programs at Hopland. 

We will always have predators threatening our sheep. We need research-based information to inform us how to deal with them humanely while maintaining economically viable ranching operations in Mendocino County and throughout California.

Posted on Friday, January 15, 2016 at 8:53 AM
  • Author: Kimberly Rodrigues

International experts to discuss water pricing Feb. 2-3 in Sacramento

Although rain has begun falling in California after four years of drought, living with limited water is the new normal for Californians, according to University of California water experts. To manage its water for the future, California needs to look into a long-term set of policies that change the way water is valued and used in the state.

On Feb. 2 and 3, international experts will convene in Sacramento to share their experiences with the use of market-based incentives to address water scarcity. The workshop “Water Pricing for a Dry Future: Policy Ideas from Abroad and their Relevance to California” will be held at the University of California Center at 1130 K Street in Sacramento. The public is welcome to attend.

“The workshop will provide an opportunity for individuals in various sectors to interact with scholars from several countries who will illustrate how water-pricing mechanisms have been used creatively in their countries to promote water conservation,” said Ariel Dinar, UC Riverside professor of environmental economics and policy, who is co-organizing the workshop.

Experts from Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, France, Israel, South Africa, Spain and California, will present their water-pricing cases. California-based researchers, water district staff, representatives of government agencies and policymakers will be participating in the workshop.

“The discussions will help people realize how economic incentives might be used to address some of the challenges faced by California's water economy,” Dinar said.

Policies to address water scarcity include water-use quotas, water rights trading, promotion of water conservation technologies, and water pricing. Available water-pricing mechanisms can range from simple cost recovery to sophisticated economic incentives in the form of budget block-rate structures.

The workshop is sponsored by the University of California Center at Sacramento, UC Riverside School of Public Policy, UC Berkeley, UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Giannini Foundation of Agricultural Economics, Public Policy Institute of California Water Policy Center and Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.

For more information about the workshop, visit http://spp.ucr.edu/waterpricing. Registration is free, but space is limited and Jan. 26 is the last day to register.

Posted on Wednesday, January 13, 2016 at 3:46 PM
Tags: Ariel Dinar (1), drought (29), Water (10), water pricing (1)

Pastured poultry farm to foster innovation for small chicken farms

Student creators of the Eggmobile. (Photo: Don Preisler)
UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) provided seed money to launch a new Pastured Poultry Farm at UC Davis. The farm is home to 150 young chickens and a living laboratory where students and faculty researchers hope to develop innovative solutions benefiting pasture-based farms, integrative crop-and-poultry farms and backyard flocks.

Pasture-based chicken production offers many benefits as well as some challenges in terms of food safety, animal health and welfare, and environmental impacts, said Maurice Pitesky, UC ANR Cooperative Extension poultry specialist with the School of Veterinary Medicine and co-leader of the poultry project.

The new 4.5-acre farm, located about one mile west of the central UC Davis campus, includes a seeded, irrigated pasture, where the chickens can forage. In the center is a bright red student-built Eggmobile for night time housing. The ‘coop on wheels' can be strategically moved around the land for consistent fertilization. The pasture uses a portable electronic fence to protect against predators and is surrounded by a 50-foot band of uncultivated land to serve as a wildlife buffer.

“This is a unique innovation, research and outreach resource for the Western United States,” Pitesky said. “The project includes faculty and students with expertise in veterinary medicine, husbandry, welfare, pasture management and engineering, which allows us to address issues related to predator control, welfare, food safety and food efficiency.”

Debbie Niemeier, professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and her team have already developed a number of innovations for the project, including a tarp-pulley system, portable-shade and predator-mitigation structures, an automatic watering system, and modular roll-out nest boxes.

One of the advantages of the pasture-based system is the opportunity for a farmer to integrate chicken production with a farm's existing cropping system, with the chickens providing natural fertilizer for the crops.

“It's also a way for crop farmers to move into poultry production without expanding their land or adding nitrogen fertilizer to their farming system,” Pitesky said.

Chickens walking the ramp to the Eggmobile. (Photo: Don Preisler)
The new project is largely driven by students - drawn from the School of Veterinary Medicine, College of Engineering, and College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences - who designed and constructed the Eggmobile. The mobile barn includes 32 nest boxes, each capable of accommodating several chickens. As it is moved to different locations in the pasture, chicken droppings gradually fertilize the grass. The student and faculty research teams will be delving into issues involving diseases and chicken health, predation by wildlife, and occupational health for workers.

Eggs produced by the project's flock will initially be donated to food shelters. The potential for eventual egg sales to the community is being explored. Eventually, the research team hopes to construct multiple Eggmobiles with different designs, and in time would like to expand the project to include broiler chickens, as well as cropping systems that integrate poultry, in order to fully maximize the potential of the land for food production.

A list of donors and other information about the UC Davis Pastured Poultry Farm can be found online. The School of Veterinary Medicine has established an online site where individuals interesting in supporting the UC Davis Pastured Poultry Farm financially can make donations.

Author: Patricia Bailey

Farmers can use micro-sprinklers in strawberries to cut water use

Using microsprinklers instead of aluminum sprinkler sets to establish strawberries offers significant water savings.
Substituting micro-sprinklers for aluminum sets when strawberries are first planted presents another opportunity for farmers to reduce their water use without sacrificing yield, according to research recently completed by Surendra Dara, UC Agriculture and Natural Resources Cooperative Extension advisor on the Central Coast.

Each fall, strawberry farmers put young strawberry transplants in the ground through holes cut in plastic mulch. Beneath the mulch are drip lines that will serve to irrigate the plants as they reach maturity. But early on, farmers typically install solid-set aluminum sprinklers in the furrows to get the plants started and leach salts below the strawberry plants' root zone.

“In some areas, overhead aluminum sprinkler irrigation is considered very important to prevent dry conditions which could result from Santa Ana winds,” Dara said. “However, the aluminum sprinkler irrigation requires a significant amount of water and can be inefficient.”

During the 2014-15 strawberry season, Dara worked with farmer Dave Peck of Manzanita Berry Farms in Santa Maria to compare micro-sprinklers with the more commonly used aluminum sprinkler systems. The experimental plots were planted in early November and carefully monitored throughout the growing and harvest season, which ended in June. The two types of sprinkler irrigation were used for about one month, then the grower switched to using exclusively the drip irrigation installed underneath the mulch.

Dara found that micro-sprinkler irrigation cut water use by 32 percent compared to the area where aluminum sprinklers were used, and resulted in no significant difference in total marketable yield.

Strawberry plant vigor was measured each month during the study. At first, the plants in the micro-sprinkler treatment area were significantly smaller, but they caught up with the rest by March. Sprinkler irrigation is also thought to help control twospotted spider mites and predatory mites. In Dara's experiment, however, the pests' sparse numbers did not allow for useful data to be collected.

The sprinkler comparison did offer insight on powdery mildew, a serious disease problem, particularly for organic strawberry growers. Sampling for powdery mildew in the plots showed that its severity was significantly less in the micro-sprinkler treatment. Another common strawberry production problem, botrytis fruit rot, was also eased with the micro-sprinkler treatment.

RDO Water and Netafim were partial funders of the project.

The full research report is posted on Dara's eNewsletter.

An initiative to improve California water quality, quantity and security is part of the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources Strategic Vision 2025.

Author: Jeannette Warnert

Posted on Friday, December 11, 2015 at 8:45 AM
Tags: drought (29), strawberries (3), Surandra Dara (2)

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