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Posts Tagged: Glenda Humiston

ANR in the news March 13-28

New Series of Nitrogen Management Advice Available

(Cal Ag Today) March 28

California growers can download a new series of publications summarizing efficient nitrogen management practices from UC Agriculture and Natural Resources. The publications are designed to assist growers in complying with state regulations for tracking and reporting nitrogen fertilizer applied to crops, in an effort to prevent nitrogen from leaching into groundwater.

https://californiaagtoday.com/new-series-of-nitrogen-management-advice-available

 

UC helps growers comply with new regulations

(Farm Press) Tim Hearden, March 27

A few months ago, while I was working with Todd Fitchette on a special package we were doing (or, he was doing and I was pitching in on) that focused on the 50th anniversary of the Citrus Research Board, I wrote a column about the benefits of land-grant universities such as the University of California (UC).

It's not an overstatement, I wrote, that the vast network of UC Cooperative Extension offices and research facilities has enabled agriculture in the Golden State to survive amid daunting challenges.

https://www.farmprogress.com/commentary/uc-helps-growers-comply-new-regulations

 

Communities come together to reforest Middletown Trailside Park

(Record Bee) Lucy Llewellyn Byard, March 27 

Outdoorsman Greg Gusti, a University of California cooperative extension director emeritus who specializes in forests and wild lands ecology, addressed the crowd and gave them instructions on how to plant the trees 20 feet apart; showed them what 20 feet looked like on a tape measure, told them to plant the green side up and to keep the roots straight.

… Students dug in groups, sharing shovels and gloves. Sofie Hall and Elissa Holyoke worked with Michael Jones, a UC Cooperative Extension Forestry Advisor to plant their saplings.

https://www.record-bee.com/2019/03/27/communities-come-together-to-reforest-middletown-trailside-park

 

The science and politics of genetically engineered salmon: 5 questions answered

(The Conversation) Alison Van Eenennaam, March 27

A Massachusetts-based company earlier this month cleared the last regulatory hurdle from the Food and Drug Administration to sell genetically engineered salmon in the U.S. Animal genomics expert Alison Van Eenennaam, who served on an advisory committee to the FDA to evaluate the AquAdvantage salmon, explains the significance of the FDA's move and why some have criticized its decision.

https://www.sfchronicle.com/news/article/The-science-and-politics-of-genetically-13719679.php

 

Students learn about insects at Farm Day in the City

(ABC 23) Amanda Mason, March 26

David Haviland, UCCE advisor in Kern County, taught students about good bugs and bad bugs at Farm Day in the City.

"Every single insect plays a role, even if it's only purpose is to get eaten by something. Everything is important," said Haviland.

David Haviland an entomologist at the University of California's Extension who studies insects and helps farmers manage agricultural pests, spent Tuesday at the Kern County Fairgrounds teaching students about good bugs and bad bugs at Farm Day in the City.

https://www.turnto23.com/homepage-showcase/students-learn-about-insects-at-farm-day-in-the-city

 

Expert: Speak up now about agriculture's carbon footprint

(Leader Telegram) Brooke Bechen, March 25

Dr. Frank Mitloehner, a professor and air quality extension specialist in the Department of Animal Science at the University of California-Davis, isn't afraid to speak up, particularly on Twitter where he writes under the handle @GHGGuru. He sees 2.5 million people visiting his Twitter account each month, which provides accurate information on air emissions and busts myths distributed by those looking to attack animal agriculture.

“Being in California is like being at Ground Zero,” he said. “There are urban centers of people who think they're food experts, but most of these people have never set foot on a farm and don't know anything about agriculture.

https://www.leadertelegram.com/country-today/farm/expert-speak-up-now-about-agriculture-s-carbon-footprint/article_888717c3-9cae-58c1-b004-e245cc7e2dc4.html

 

Wildfire Speaker Series Tonight: Fire Resistant Homes & Defensible Space

(YubaNet) March 25

…Dr. Kate Wilkin is the new Forest and Fire Adviser with UC Cooperative Extension in Butte, Nevada, Sutter, and Yuba Counties. She recently moved here from Berkeley, CA where she was postdoctoral researcher focused on wildfire emissions and fire-forest-water relations. Her PhD, also at UC Berkeley, focused on the efficacy of fuel treatments in Northern California shrublands to reduce fire hazards and on mixed conifer forest-fire-water and fire-biodiversity relations. Before moving to California, Kate grew up in rural Appalachia and then explored other fire-prone regions of the US as a natural resource manager and prescribed fire burner on public and nonprofit lands. Based on these experiences and more, she knows that we need to use solutions responsibly, both old and new, to solve our forest health crisis. Kate will be focusing on incorporating fire safe concepts into residential landscaping.

https://yubanet.com/regional/wildfire-speaker-series-tonight-fire-resistant-homes-defensible-space

 

UC Cooperative offers water-measurement class

(David Enterprise) March 25

California water rights holders are required by state law to measure and report the water they divert from surface streams. For people who wish to take the water measurements themselves, the University of California Cooperative Extension is offering training to receive certification April 4 in Redding and Woodland.

 https://www.davisenterprise.com/local-news/press-release/uc-cooperative-offers-water-measurement-class

Costa Mesa designates April as Coyote Awareness Month and approves further informational efforts to manage them

(Los Angeles Times) Luke Money, March 20

…In the past 30 days, about 20 coyote sightings or encounters in Costa Mesa were logged with Coyote Cacher, an online reporting system [created by Niamh Quinn, UCCE advisor, and IGIS].
https://www.latimes.com/socal/daily-pilot/news/tn-dpt-me-cm-coyote-plan-20190320-story.html

 

UCCE Biologicals Conference Introduces New Crop Protection Tools for Growers

(Vegetables West) Matthew Malcolm, March 19, 2019

Biocontrol agents, beneficial microbes, entomopathogenic fungi and bacteria that can enhance crop production — these were all topics of discussion at the recent UC Cooperative Extension Ag Innovations Conference in Santa Maria, led by UCCE Entomology & Biologicals Advisor Surendra Dara.  Watch this brief interview with Surendra as he shares more about what was discussed.

https://vegetableswest.com/2019/03/19/ucce-biologicals-conference-introduces-new-crop-protection-tools-for-growers

 

Landowners aim to fight fire with fire

(Benito Link) Blaire Strohn, March 19, 2019

The 2018 wildfire season in California was devastating, which left local landowners to consider how future blazes can be prevented. Their solution: more fire.

On March 14, The San Benito Working Landscapes Group and the UC Cooperative Extension (UCCE) hosted a meeting to discuss prescribed burning on San Benito County rangelands.

…UCCE livestock and natural resources advisor Devii Rao said the meeting also looked at Cal Fire funding and prescribed burn associations. She mentioned that last year former Gov. Jerry Brown signed two pieces of legislation related to prescribed burning:

Senate Bill 901 provides Cal Fire $1 billion for forest health, fuel load, and prescribed burns over five years, including $35 million a year for prescribed fire and other reduction projects.

Senate Bill 1260 requires Cal Fire to collaborate with public and private landowners on prescribed burns. They must also create a program for pre-certification for a “burn boss,” a private contractor that has experience in prescribed burning.

…In June, Rao will co-host a meeting with Lenya Quinn-Davidson and Jeff Stackhouse from UCCE Humboldt County. The meeting is expected to focus on how to develop a prescribed burn association, in addition to a small burn demonstration on a local private ranch.

https://benitolink.com/news/landowners-aim-fight-fire-fire

 

A More Humane Livestock Industry, Brought to You By Crispr

(Wired) Gregory Barber, March 19

Hopes were running high for cow 401, and cow 401 serenely bore the weight of expectations. She entered the cattle chute obligingly, and as the vet searched her uterus, making full use of the plastic glove that covered his arm up to his shoulder, she uttered nary a moo. A week ago, Cow 401 and four other members of her experimental herd at UC Davis were in the early stages of pregnancy. But now, following a string of disappointing checkups, it was all down to her. Alison Van Eenennaam, the animal geneticist in charge of the proceedings, kept watch from off to one side, galoshes firmly planted in the damp manure, eyes fixed on a portable ultrasound monitor. After a few moments, the vet delivered his fifth and final diagnosis. “She's not pregnant,” he said. Van Eenennaam looked up. “Ah, shit,” she muttered.

https://www.wired.com/story/crispr-gene-editing-humane-livestock

 

Climate change is hurting migrating waterbirds across the West. It could get worse

(Sacramento Bee) Andrew Sheeler, March 18

…Some birds, like the black-necked stilt and the sandhill crane, which breed early in the season, have thrived in the warming climate, said Mohammad Safeeq, a hydrologist with the Sierra Nevada Research Institute and an adjunct professor at UC Merced.

But others suffer. That includes the killdeer, the Wilson's snipe, the black tern, and the western and Clark's grebe.

“We have looked at 14 species and among eight open-water and shoreline foraging species that have undergone significant population declines, five were negatively associated with temperature increases,” Safeeq said in an email interview.

https://www.sacbee.com/news/local/environment/article227983859.html

 

Group seeks healthy, resilient forests and communities

(Plumas News) March 18

…A public workshop was held at the Quincy Library on Jan. 15th. Presenter Jeff Stackhouse, the Livestock and Natural Resources advisor for the U.C. Cooperative Extension in Humboldt, presents case studies from the prescribed burn association.

http://www.plumasnews.com/group-seeks-healthy-resilient-forests-and-communities

 

US researchers moving abroad to avoid FDA's CRISPR-edited animal regulations

(Genetic Literacy Project) Cameron English, Alison Van Eenennaam, March 14

One day soon, farmers may be able to raise food animals immune to deadly diseases and spare them painful but necessary procedures like horn removal. These innovations, made possible by CRISPR and other gene-editing techniques, could cut the cost of food production, reduce antibiotic use in agriculture and dramatically improve animal welfare. But federal regulation may very well stifle these developments in the US.

In 2017, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proposed a plan to regulate gene-edited animals as veterinary drugs under the 1938 Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, because their DNA is “intentionally altered.” The proposal has drawn harsh criticism from animal scientists, some of whom are packing up their labs and leaving the US to avoid the FDA's rules. Food animals, these experts say, should be regulated based on the risk they pose to human health, not the breeding method that produced them.

https://geneticliteracyproject.org/2019/03/14/us-researchers-moving-abroad-to-avoid-fdas-crispr-edited-animal-regulations

 

Corky Anderson's energy, innovation helped save California's pistachio industry

(Bakersfield Californian) Steven E. Mayer, March 13

"Corky was an important player in the early pistachio industry," said  a Kern County farm adviser with the UC Cooperative Extension who specializes in citrus and pistachios.

"And he was a great cooperator," Kallsen said. "He allowed lots of test trials on his properties."

… In 1980, Anderson and Puryear's first patented rootstock changed the industry, said Kevin Blackwell, general manager of Pioneer Nursery, the wholesale business founded by the two entrepreneurs.

 "In our heyday, we were selling a million trees a year," said Blackwell, who said he has known Anderson for 47 years.

No one does it alone, Kallsen noted. Anderson built and refined his patented rootstock based on earlier research by the University of California. 

https://www.bakersfield.com/news/corky-anderson-s-energy-innovation-helped-save-california-s-pistachio/article_51dff8d4-46a7-11e9-b960-b3bf5d47742f.html

 

Farmers protect crops in rain's aftermath

(Ag Alert) Ching Lee, March 13

Franz Niederholzer, University of California Cooperative Extension farm advisor in Colusa, Sutter and Yuba counties, said though cold weather does reduce the risk of most fungal diseases, other problems such as bacterial blast and jacket rot—also a fungal disease—are more prevalent during cool weather.

Cooler weather, however, does help to extend the bloom, he said. That allows farmers more time to apply fungicide, which is recommended at the beginning of bloom and again at full bloom, he said.

Brent Holtz, UCCE farm advisor in San Joaquin County, said he hasn't seen too many problems with fungal diseases at this point, because of how cool it's been, but there have been more incidents of bacterial blast, which can infect trees under stress. In orchards with high nematode populations, the bacteria can enter wounds on the surface of the plants created by frost, he noted.

"It blights the blossoms, and if the blossom is dead, they don't produce fruit," Holtz said.

 http://agalert.com/story/?id=12801

 

Michael learns about 4-H in Fresno County

(KMPH) Stephen Hawkins, March 13, 2019

The 4-H Youth Development Program is preparing for events all over the Central Valley and you are invited.

Michael Ikahihifo spent the morning at Dry Creek Park in Clovis to see what the local 4-H has planned.

https://kmph.com/great-day/michael-in-the-mix/michael-learns-about-4-h-in-fresno-county

 

The City of Cypress calls for its residents to be “Coyote Aware”

(OC Breeze) March 13

The Cypress City Council recently adopted a coyote management plan to address community concerns about the presence of coyotes in Cypress. While coyotes are generally reclusive animals who avoid human contact, it is important to be aware of their presence and take appropriate action to ensure the safety of your property and pets.

…Residents are encouraged to reportcoyote activity on Coyote Cacher:

ucanr.edu/sites/CoyoteCacher/

Coyote Cacher allows the City to monitor all reported encounters.
Residents can also use Coyote Cacher to view a map of reported
encounters and sign up to receive email alerts.

http://www.oc-breeze.com/2019/03/13/136176_the-city-of-cypress-calls-for-its-residents-to-be-coyote-aware

 

California's super bloom attracts swarms of migrating butterflies

(CNN) David Williams, March 13

"I saw more butterflies in the last 10 minutes than I've seen my entire life," Jason Suppes of UC South Coast REC wrote on Twitter.

This year's wildflower super bloom is not only filling California deserts with eye-popping displays of color -- it's also providing a feast for swarms of painted lady butterflies making their way north from Mexico.

"This is the biggest outbreak since 2005," said Art Shapiro, a professor at the University of California, Davis, who's been studying the migration of butterflies in the state since 1972.

…"I saw more butterflies in the last 10 minutes than I've seen my entire life," Jason Suppes wrote Tuesday on Twitter. Suppes is an education specialist at an agricultural research facility in Irvine.

http://edition.cnn.com/travel/article/california-butterflies-trnd/index.html

 

Grape growers continue push to mechanize

(Western Farm Press) Lee Allen, March 13

…In Fresno, growers affiliated with the San Joaquin Valley Winegrowers Association met to discuss the latest UC research on incidents of disease and machine injury to trunks and rootstock.

… “Growers are having a hard time finding workers to maintain their vineyards and increasing labor costs are challenging grape-farming's economic sustainability,” says UC Cooperative Extension viticulture advisor George Zhuang.  “We're studying the use of machines to reduce the number of people needed to perform tasks like pruning.

“Because canopy architecture and yield characteristics involving mechanically-pruned vines are much different from those that are hand-pruned, water and fertilizer requirements for the mechanically pruned vines can be quite different. Performance of different rootstocks in mechanical pruning systems is critical for both yield and fruit quality of grape production in the San Joaquin Valley.”

…Kaan Kurtural, UC Cooperative Extension viticulture specialist in the UC Davis Viticulture and Enology Department, whose research involves improving vineyard production efficiency through canopy and crop load management via mechanization, says the case for switching out hand labor with machines gets stronger with growers using such mechanization for pruning, suckering, and removing shoots and leaves.

“Mechanical pruning can produce more stable year-to-year fruit yields of better quality than traditional and more costly hand pruning spurs or canes.” His comments were based on a Kern County two-year research trial looking for ways for growers to reduce both cost and water use.

https://www.farmprogress.com/grapes/grape-growers-continue-push-mechanize

 

As Wildfires Devour Communities, Toxic Threats Emerge

(Reuters) Sharon Bernstein, March 13

At U.C. Davis, where researchers are studying eggs from backyard chickens that may have breathed smoke and pecked at ash in areas affected by wildfires, the work is complicated.

"In an urban fire you're dealing with contaminants that don't go away – arsenic, heavy metals, copper, lead, transformer fluid, brake fluid, fire retardant," said veterinarian Maurice Pitesky, who is leading the study.
https://www.usnews.com/news/us/articles/2019-03-13/as-wildfires-devour-communities-toxic-threats-emerge

 

DR. GLENDA HUMISTON: Managing our Lands to Manage our Water

Maven's Notebook, March 13, 2019

Dr. Glenda Humiston is Vice President of Agriculture & Natural Resources for the University of California. At the 2019 California Irrigation Institute conference, Dr. Humiston was the opening keynote speaker, and in her speech, she talked about work being done to address drought vulnerability, the importance of managing watersheds, the goals of the California Economic Summit, and the promising future of biomass.

She began by saying that we have known for a long time that water insecurity is a huge issue, and not just due to climate change or droughts; it's also policy, regulations, allocations and technology – there are a lot of issues and managing the effects of it are very challenging.

 https://mavensnotebook.com/2019/03/13/dr-glenda-humiston-managing-our-lands-to-manage-our-water/

 

Hearing planned to examine the future of development in California's most fire prone regions

(Lake County News) March 13

…The hearing, led by Senators Henry Stern and Mike McGuire, chair of the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee and the Senate Governance and Finance Committee, respectively, titled “Living Resiliently in the New Abnormal: The Future of Development in California's Most Fire Prone Regions” will be held Wednesday at 9:30 a.m. at the State Capitol in Room 4203. 

…Testifying at the hearing are:
· Mark Ghilarducci, director, California Office of Emergency Services;
· Bob Fenton, regional administrator, FEMA Region 9;
· Dr. Max Moritz, statewide wildfire specialist, University of California Cooperative Extension;
· Jeff Lambert, director of planning, city of Oxnard, past president, American Planning Association, California Chapter;
· Chief Kate Dargan, California State Fire Marshal (retired), Cal Fire;
· Chief Ken Pimlott, director (retired), Cal Fire;
· Scott Lotter, former mayor, city of Paradise;
· Tim Snellings, planning director, Butte County;
· Chief Michael McLaughlin, Cosumnes Community Services District Fire Department;
· Ty Bailey, California Professional Firefighters, president, Sacramento Area Firefighters, Local 522, fire captain, Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District.

https://goldrushcam.com/sierrasuntimes/index.php/news/local-news/17849-hearing-held-today-wednesday-will-examine-the-future-of-development-in-california-s-most-fire-prone-regions

Congress approves Farm Bill reauthorization

An orange orchard at Lindcove Research & Extension Center. The 2018 Farm Bill provides grants for citrus research.

The House and Senate have passed the compromise Farm Bill, sending the legislation to the president for his signature.

Capital Public Radio's Julia Mitric asked Glenda Humiston, UC vice president for agriculture and natural resources, what the Farm Bill holds for UC ANR and California.

"What's fascinating about the Farm Bill is, after all that hyper-partisan debate … it's really a lot of the same of what we already had," said Humiston, adding that it includes an increase of $25 million a year for research on specialty crops.

That's good news for California growers because nearly all of California's 400 crops are considered specialty crops in federal parlance and over 50 percent of the nation's fruits and vegetables are grown in California. Those federal grants will cover many areas, from developing climate-resilient farming practices to combating California's many invasive pests, Humiston said.

The Farm Bill removed hemp from the definition of a controlled substance, which will allow it once again be produced for agricultural purposes. This is exciting for UC Cooperative Extension researchers who are interested in helping farmers manage and grow this new crop.

Reauthorization of the Farm Bill is important to UC because it provides critical support for the nation's land-grant institutions, including agricultural research extension and infrastructure programs and nutrition education programs.

Overall, the final version of the Farm Bill represents a positive outcome for UC. In addition to specialty crop research, the bill contains strong support for organic agriculture research and also includes helpful provisions to address unnecessary regulatory burdens faced by researchers. The bill also preserves the competitive grants for citrus research.

Posted on Friday, December 14, 2018 at 5:51 PM
Tags: Farm Bill (10), Glenda Humiston (32)

Humiston to be honored as 2018 California Steward Leader at California Economic Summit

Glenda Humiston is named 2018 California Steward Leader by California Forward and the California Stewardship Network.

Glenda Humiston has always been involved in rural issues from her days growing up on a cattle ranch to her current efforts to connect rural communities to more resources as University of California vice president for agriculture and natural resources.

In recognition of her contributions to sustain California as a place to create and thrive and to bestow to future generations, Humiston will be presented the 2018 California Steward Leader Award by California Forward and the California Stewardship Network at the California Economic Summit in Santa Rosa on Nov. 16. She currently serves on the 2018 Economic Summit Steering Committee and is the Action Team co-lead for Working Landscapes and co-chair of Elevate Rural California.

For Elevate Rural California, Humiston is focusing on biomass, rural broadband and water infrastructure.
“I was really involved in the 1990s in trying to figure out how agriculture and environmental interests find common ground, as well as building bridges between rural and urban sectors,” Humiston said. ”In the 2000s, I started focusing on economic development and sustainability. In my current job, I'm bringing all of those together around the reality that sustainability truly has to be a triple bottom line. We've got to develop ways for people, the planet and prosperity to all thrive and enhance the synergies between them.”

She has been involved with the California Economic Summit from the beginning, chairing the Access to Capital Action Team at the first Summit in 2012. To raise awareness of innovative options for financing projects, she founded and chaired the California Financial Opportunities Roundtable and was instrumental in producing the Access to Capital Guidebook, a widely used resource for small business owners, policymakers and financial institutions.

Humiston served as deputy undersecretary for natural resources and environment at USDA from 1998 to 2001 under President Clinton. She then managed the Sustainable Development Institute at the 2002 World Summit for Sustainable Development in South Africa and the 2006 World Water Forum in Mexico City. In 2009, Humiston was appointed by President Obama to serve as the California State Director at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Rural Development.

Working landscapes a significant sector of the economy

The Access to Capital guide provides innovative options for financing projects for small business owners, policymakers and financial institutions.
Adam Livingston of the Sequoia Riverlands Trust applauded Humiston for making rural California a priority. “Glenda has an instrumental role, not just in the Working Landscapes Group, but the fact that Working Landscapes are even being considered as a significant sector of the economy.”

He added, “The fact that rural issues are on the agenda, the fact that we're talking about ecosystem services and the contributions that Working Landscapes can make in terms of meeting the Economic Summit's million-acre feet of water goal, Glenda has done a tremendous amount to make that possible.”

Sonoma County Supervisor James Gore agreed. “Glenda is a powerful and relentless advocate for triple bottom line prosperity. She has championed and delivered in every position I have seen her in. As one of the Co-chairs/Steering Committee for the Economic Summit, she has ensured that working landscapes remains a driver for rural prosperity.”

“Glenda embodies what CA Forward and the California Stewardship Network are all about: empowering regional hubs to own their own future,” added Gore, who served with Humiston at the U.S. Department of Agriculture as presidential appointees under President Obama.

Her work on rural issues continues. “Our Ecosystems Services Team has done a fantastic job in highlighting the opportunities for ecosystem services to be a powerful policy instrument as well as a compensation instrument for landowners to ensure that the many benefits from ecosystem services are available to the general public,” Humiston said. She added that recommendations from last year's Summit may be included in upcoming legislation.

Biomass, rural broadband and water infrastructure

As co-chair of Elevate Rural California, she is working on three main areas: biomass, rural broadband and water infrastructure. “We identified those issues at last year's Summit and worked this year to identify where the opportunities were as well as options to pursue.  We're bringing that information to the Summit this year to get people to really rally around those three issues and move forward working on implementation.”

To support these initiatives, Humiston is working to enhance economic development efforts throughout the state by ensuring that the research and resources of the University of California are delivered to every single community in the state. UC Cooperative Extension is in 70 communities and serves all 58 counties; its mission is to conduct research and extend knowledge that supports food security, healthy environments, science literacy, youth development and economic success in a global economy.   

Humiston, who joined the university in 2015 and clearly loves her work, said, “I love the mission of the programs I oversee for the University of California. This work is critical as we seek solutions to the challenges we all face: climate change, invasive species, changing workforce demands, water management and more.” 

Vision based on partnerships

Her vision is really based on partnerships. “I also see great opportunity for increased collaboration between UC, CSU and the Community Colleges," she said. "Working together we can offer more robust support for innovation, regional industry clusters, new business opportunities and other aspects of local economic development; we can bring a lot of resources to the table. Working with the California Economic Summit allows us to leverage the resources of various regional initiatives as well as other sectors; this helps all the Summit's efforts to be more successful.” 

As for the award, Humiston is humbled. “It's quite heart-warming to be selected by people I respect for something like that and certainly to be in the company of people who have won it in past years,” she said.

Previous recipients of the California Steward Leader Award include former California State Senator Becky Morgan, California Emerging Technology Fund's Sunne McPeak and Van Ton-Quinlivan, vice chancellor of the California Community Colleges.

Humiston will receive the award on Friday, Nov. 16, at the annual gathering of the California Economic Summit in Santa Rosa.

 

Posted on Friday, November 9, 2018 at 12:10 PM
Focus Area Tags: Innovation

Agtech is changing farming in California

Technology holds tremendous promise for the California agricultural industry, however there are challenges that must be better understood and managed, wrote Damon Kitney in an article distributed to participants in an Oct. 2 technology conference in San Francisco.

Using artificial intelligence to speed up genetic selection is one area where technology is evolving in the laboratories of the Silicon Valley. Glenda Humiston, the vice president for UC Agriculture and Natural Resources, was quoted extensively in Kitney's article about the potential of AI and other technologies in agriculture.

"Artificial intelligence is extremely difficult in agriculture because of the huge amount of variability in environmental conditions across a single field," Humiston said. "This requires many sensors, complex algorithms and large real-time data processing - all integrated and working together to inform decisions and actions."

Humiston said the ability to pull together an array of data - from drones, robots, sensors and genomics - and use it for informed decision making will require significant improvements in how 'big data' is managed. Point solutions are being developed by universities, startups and corporate innovators, but few are integrated to provide real-life solutions for farmers.

"Integration will be a key factor in making these technologies affordable and available to most farmers," she said. "Many startup technologies for agtech are hitting the market with glossy websites, pitch events and marketing materials that appeal to investors, but the science behind them is dubious."

Berries are soft fruit, so robotic harvesting is unlikely. The industry is looking to agtech to reduce the amount of labor needed and make it easier for farmworkers to pick and harvest the fields. (Photo: Pixabay)

A key issue covered in the article is the cost and availability of labor in berry production. About 60 percent of the costs associated with berries are labor. At times, a significant portion of berries are lost when farmers can't find labor to get them picked.

Despite the effort to find technology to cut labor needs, human labor in the field will never be replaced, according to Mark Bolda, UC Cooperative Extension strawberry and caneberry advisor for Santa Cruz County.

"It's not realistic to see robots as the full solution for our labor issues, rather more success will be found in berries by combining robots with already existing labor of humans," he said.

Berries are very soft fruits. Technology to find them, pick them and put them in a box does not exist, Bolda said. Robots of the future will likely transport full boxes out of the field, bring in new boxes, monitor the rate of picking and charting field issues.

UCCE farm management advisor Laura Torte concurs.

"Humans bring sensory attributes to agriculture that robotics and mechanization has not - yet - been able to perfect," she said.

Posted on Tuesday, October 30, 2018 at 9:33 AM
Focus Area Tags: Agriculture

CDFA and UC ANR join forces to advance climate-smart agriculture in California

California Secretary of Agriculture Karen Ross and UC Agriculture and Natural Resources vice president Glenda Humiston signed a memorandum of understanding in Sacramento Oct. 26 to initiate a new partnership to advance climate-smart agriculture in California.

This partnership will provide $1.1 million to hire 10 UC Cooperative Extension community education specialists who will be deployed to 10 counties statewide to assist and encourage farmers to participate in CDFA programs aimed at increasing adoption of smart farming and ranching practices.

UC ANR vice president Glenda Humiston (left), and California Secretary of Agriculture Karen Ross sign a memorandum of understanding to initiate the new partnership to advance climate-smart agriculture.

“Agriculture is an important part of the climate solution,” Ross said. “This funding enables CDFA and UC ANR to partner with farmers to scale-up climate smart agricultural practices.”

The new program is funded by California Climate Investments dollars through the Strategic Growth Council (SGC),

“Farmers and ranchers are key to carbon sequestration and a sustainable California,” said SGC chair Ken Alex.  “The Strategic Growth Council is pleased to fund this partnership for smart agricultural practices.”

The partnership is focused on implementing on-farm solutions to improve soil health, nutrient management, irrigation management, on-farm composting and manure management – smart farming practices that reduce greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere.

The CDFA programs involved are:

Memorandum of Understanding.
“This new joint effort reflects our commitment to extending research-supported solutions to our farming community so they have the information and tools they need to make climate-smart decisions,” Humiston said. “It also demonstrates our shared goal of promoting new practices that are grounded in science.”

The 10 new education specialists will serve in Mendocino, Glenn, Yolo, San Joaquin, Merced, Kern, Imperial, San Diego, San Luis Obispo and Santa Cruz counties.

Three UCCE advisors will mentor and assist the new educators: water quality and management advisor Laurent Ahiablame, based in San Diego County; area dairy advisor Betsy Karle, based in Glenn County; and irrigation and cotton advisor Dan Munk, based in Fresno County.

In addition to working with the new educators, the UCCE advisors conduct research on farming and ranching practices that boost efficiency and protect the climate, therefore serving as a conduit between discovery and implementation.

“This is a great opportunity to really support growers find the right balance between food production and effective management of natural resources,” Ahiablame said. “With the 10 community education specialists we will be one step closer to the producers across the state. I look forward to the opportunity to mentor these specialists, who in turn will be making direct impacts on the community.”

Karle said she was interested in participating in the program as a way to encourage dairy operators to try practices they are interested in but consider too costly.

“I've worked here locally with dairy producers who wanted to implement practices but need financial assistance in order to make it feasible,” Karle said. “They need assistance in the grant application process and technical support to make changes on their farms.”

Doug Parker, director of the UC California Institute for Water Resources, is the UC ANR point of contact and liaison with CDFA. To contact Parker, email doug.parker@ucop.edu.

The rapidity of water infiltration into the soil is a measure of soil health. Building soil health is one of the areas in which the UC ANR-CDFA partnership will help farmers implement climate-smart farming.
Posted on Wednesday, October 24, 2018 at 9:54 AM
Focus Area Tags: Agriculture

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