UCCE Sonoma County
University of California
UCCE Sonoma County

UC Agriculture & Natural Resources News

In Case You Missed It....We Have a Winner in Beer-for-a-Butterfly Contest!

This is the first-collected cabbage white butterfly of the year in the three-county area of Sacramento, Yolo and Solano. It's the winner of the Beer-for-a-Butterfly Contest and the winner is Professor Art Shapiro! (Photo by Sherri Mann of the UC Davis Department of Evolution and Ecology)

In case you missed it...we have a winner in the 2018 Beer-for-a-Butterfly Contest, sponsored by Art Shapiro, UC Davis distinguished professor of evolution and ecology. And the winner is…drumroll…Art Shapiro. Yes, he's won again! We're not sure how many folks were out searching in...

Annual Bluegrass Emergence Pattern

InkedIMG 6508 LI

I visited an onion field where I saw this interesting emergence pattern with annual bluegrass (Poa annua L.). Onion beds are listed in east-west orientation (as seen in pictures). We can see annual bluegrass emergence only on the south facing slopes and none on bed-tops or north facing slopes....

Posted on Monday, January 22, 2018 at 10:00 AM
Focus Area Tags: Pest Management

New project seeks to build on the benefits of elderberries

Can plants typically grown for hedgerows also be a source of income? That's the question guiding a new UC study on the potential for farmers to grow elderberries as a commercial crop.

Blue elderberry, a California native plant with clusters of small bluish-black berries and a sweet-tart flavor, have long been eaten by Native Americans in the western states and are used today in jam, syrups, wines and liqueurs. And while elderberry orchards are popping up in parts of the Midwest, California's elderberries are usually just grown on field edges, and elderberry products sold retail rely mostly on foraged crops or imports.

Elderberries are a rich source of vitamin C, and also contain vitamin B6 and iron.

Farmers at The Cloverleaf Farm near Davis are already selling elderberry products from plants grown on their farm, alongside their blackberries and stone fruits. And they find that customers love them. The farmers want to understand the viability of growing elderberries for market beyond their nascent effort, bringing some of the out-of-state production home.

Elderberry products from the Cloverleaf Farm

The UC Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (SAREP) launched a project in collaboration with the Cloverleaf Farm, the UC Agriculture Issues Center, UC Davis Department of Food Science and Technology, and four Central Valley farmers to assess the farm management practices, nutritional content, and market potential for elderberry and elderberry products in California.

“I think a lot about the long-term systems sustainability of our food system,” said Katie Fyhrie, one of the farmers at the Cloverleaf. “I keep thinking about how much we focus on production of blackberries and blueberries, when the elderberry also achieves that dark berry color and flavor people like with much fewer resources.”  

Elderberries are typically grown on farms as hedgerows for their ability to attract beneficial insects, act as a windbreak, and sequester carbon, benefiting the overall health of the farm, but not providing direct benefit to a farmer's bottom line. Despite long-running federal cost-share programs for planting hedgerows, the number planted in California is still quite small relative to the large expanses of farmland in the state. Adding a financial incentive to planting elderberries may help increase the popularity of hedgerows amongst farmers.

A newly planted Elderberry hedgerow in Yolo County.
“When we think about building sustainable farming practices, we can think about the whole farm as being a site of both conservation and profitability,” said Sonja Brodt, the project's principal researcher at UC SAREP. “Elderberries may have the potential to combine crop production with environmental conservation functions in a way not typically seen on California farms. This model would enable small- and medium-scale farmers to receive a direct income from a farm practice that benefits the ecosystem as well.”

As climate change impacts California with heat and unpredictable water availability, some studies suggest farmers may need to consider diversifying the crops they grow to adapt to changing local climates.

Elderberries, which grow in arid California regions along the coast and into the mountains, have the potential to grow in a range of climates and adapt to changing California ecosystems in the future.

It is unlikely that farmers would plant entire orchards of elderberries, in part because of restrictions on pruning elderberries that may be home to the Valley elderberry longhorn beetle, a federally threatened species. But for small- and medium-scale growers looking to diversify their income sources, elderberries may provide a boost. 

The two-year elderberry project now underway will conclude with a growers' production guide, cost of production study, an assessment of market demand and nutritional contents, and workshops to help link growers with buyers interested in elderberry products. The project will also address issues related to the Valley elderberry longhorn beetle and generating income from hedgerows.

“Elderberry juice is already in so many products,” Fyrhie said, “so building a market for locally grown elderberries seems like a no-lose situation.”

For farmers interested in learning more about incorporating perennials into annual crop farms and similar agroforestry practices, view a webinar on the topic recently hosted by UC SAREP here. 

Posted on Monday, January 22, 2018 at 9:32 AM
Focus Area Tags: Economic Development Food

The Amazing Art of Entomologists

This stunning praying mantis illustration is the work of Ivana Li, UC Davis entomologist and artist. It  will be among the art displayed at the Bohart Museum of Entomology's open house on Jan. 21.

Oh, that praying mantis! Oh, that jumping spider! When you attend the UC Davis Bohart Museum of Entomology's open house on Sunday, Jan. 21, featuring insect art, you will find art so intricate and so breathtaking that you may change your career path! The family friendly event, free and open to...

Posted on Friday, January 19, 2018 at 5:39 PM

Flooding alfalfa fields has high potential for groundwater recharge

A rigorous field study in two California climate zones has found that alfalfa can tolerate very heavy winter flooding for groundwater recharge. The research was published online Jan. 16 in California Agriculture journal.

The alfalfa research is the latest in a series of projects studying the effects of using land planted with permanent crops – including almond orchards and vineyards – to capture and bank winter storm water. Such projects have great promise but also require collaboration across multiple jurisdictions and agencies. UC Agriculture and Natural Resources vice president Glenda Humiston has made groundwater recharge on working lands and open spaces a division priority and is working with water and land use leaders around the state to facilitate it through policy recommendations and cross-agency collaboration.

Flooding an alfalfa field for groundwater recharge. (Photo: Andrew Brown)

Groundwater is a critical water reserve in California, particularly during droughts when surface water supplies are low. Water slowly filled California's aquifers over tens of thousands of years. Beginning in the early 20th century and continuing in the present day, groundwater has been consistently withdrawn at a higher rate that it can be replenished naturally. In 2014, the California Legislature enacted the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, which requires all critically overdrafted groundwater basins to have a groundwater sustainability plan in place by 2020. 

Flooding agricultural land during the winter, when surplus surface water is often available, is one promising strategy for replenishing overdrafted aquifers.

View a four-minute video about on-farm flooding for groundwater recharge on the UCTV Sustainable California channel. In the video, Professor Helen Dahlke discusses the work she and her fellow UC Davis researchers, UC Cooperative Extension advisors and specialists, and California farmers are undertaking to test the impacts of irrigating almond orchards in the winter to recharge groundwater.

For the alfalfa flooding research, UC Davis and UC Cooperative Extension scientists flooded two established alfalfa stands, one near Davis and one in the Scott Valley, Siskiyou County, during the winters of 2015 and 2016. The sites were selected because the soils in those areas have relatively high water percolation rates.

Integrated hydrologic science professor Helen Dahlke in an almond orchard being flooded for groundwater recharge.

“We found that most of the applied water percolated to the groundwater table,” wrote lead author Helen Dahlke, integrated hydrologic science professor at UC Davis.

The alfalfa endured saturated conditions in the root zone for a short time, but the yield loss was minimal.

Dahlke and her co-authors – USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service soil scientist Andrew Brown, and UC Cooperative Extension specialists Dan Putnam and Toby O'Geen and the late UCCE advisor Steve Orloff  – noted that the positive results of the alfalfa trial show tremendous potential for the state's groundwater basins. Using an index created by O'Geen that identifies the locations of California soils suitable for on-farm groundwater recharge, the scientists calculated the potential groundwater recharge. If all the suitable alfalfa acreage were flooded with six feet of winter water, and assuming 90 percent percolates past the root zone, it would be possible to bank 1.6 million ac-ft. of groundwater per year.

“For reference, the Oroville reservoir, second largest in the state, has a storage capacity of 3.5 million ac-ft.,” Dahlke wrote.

Leigh Bernacchi, program coordinator of UC Water at UC Merced, interviewed Helen Dahlke to get more details on groundwater recharge strategies for California. Read the Q&A on the UC Water Center website.

Additional reading:

Posted on Friday, January 19, 2018 at 8:41 AM
Tags: groundwater (18), Helen Dahlke (6)
Focus Area Tags: Agriculture Natural Resources

Next 5 stories | Last story

 
E-mail
 

University of California Cooperative Extension, Sonoma County
133 Aviation Blvd Suite 109, Santa Rosa, CA 95403  Phone: 707.565.2621  Fax: 707.565.2623
Office Hours:  M-F, 8am-Noon & 1pm-4pm

Like us on Facebook: UCCE Sonoma                        Follow us on Twitter @UCCESonoma 

Webmaster Email: klgiov@ucanr.edu