Posts Tagged: Jeff Dahlberg
University of California students are taking a long journey through California to trace the state's complicated and critical water supply. The recent graduates and upper-division co-eds from UC Merced, UC Santa Cruz, UC Berkeley and UC Davis are part of the UC Water Academy, a course that combines online training with a two-week field trip for first-hand knowledge about California water.
The tour began June 18 at Lake Shasta, the state's largest reservoir, and followed the water's course to the Sacramento Valley, through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and south along the Delta-Mendota Canal. Since a key water destination is agriculture, the UC Water Academy toured the UC Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension June 23, where research is underway to determine how the state's water supply can be most efficiently transformed into a food supply for Americans.
“You're visiting a place ideal for growing high-quality fruits and vegetables, because of the Mediterranean climate and low insect and disease pressure,” said Jeff Dahlberg, director of the UC KREC.
UC Cooperative Extension water management specialist Khaled Bali joined the students next to his alfalfa research plot, where different irrigation regimens are compared to determine the maximum yield that can be harvested with the minimum amount of water.
“It used to be that the No. 1 objective was to maximize yield,” Bali said. “But with the limited supplies and the cost of water, now the No. 1 objective is to get the maximum economic return. Growers might be better off selling some of their water to other jurisdictions.”
A water tour wouldn't be complete without an introduction to drought research. A recently planted sorghum trial provided the backdrop.
“California is a great place to study drought tolerance,” Dahlberg said, “because you can induce a drought by withholding irrigation.”
The sizable field contains 1,800 plots with 600 sorghum cultivars under three irrigation schemes: one irrigated as usual, one in which water is cut off before the plants flower, and the final one where water is cut off after the plants flower.
“Every week, a drone flies over to collect data on the leaf area, plant height and biomass,” Dalberg said. “Hopefully we will get associations with gene expression and this phenotype data."
Dahlberg and his collaborating researchers believe identifying the genes responsible for drought tolerance in sorghum will help scientists find drought-tolerant genes in other cereal crops – such as wheat, corn, rice and millet. “This will go a long way to feeding the people of the world,” he said.
There is still much to learn about sorghum drought tolerance – is it conferred by the plant's waxy leaves, the way stomata are controlled, accumulation of sugar in the leaves, or a mechanism in the roots?
“These are all questions you will have to answer to feed the world,” Dahlberg said. “That's why I would encourage you to continue studying water. There's a lot for you to get into.”
A third-year earth science student at UC Santa Cruz and a member of the academy, Denise Payan, said the sense of responsibility for the future is not daunting, but encouraging.
“It makes me feel like I can make a difference,” she said. The tour through California is shaping her plans for the future, which may include a career at the intersection of geology and biology.
“This has opened my eyes to a lot of issues,” she said.
The next stop for the UC Water Academy is the vast Tulare Lake basin to learn about groundwater recharge before heading east to the Owens Valley and the shores of Mono Lake. From there the academy turns to the Sierra Nevada to visit San Francisco's water supply, which is collected by Hetch Hetchy Dam. The field trip ends with a two-day rafting trip on the American River.
The UC Water Academy is offered through UC Water and led by UC Merced professor Joshua Viers and UC Cooperative Extension water management specialist Ted Grantham. In addition to the two-week tour, students participated in weekly online meetings and complete a project on communicating California water issues to public stakeholders. Students receive 1 unit of academic credit.
Record winter rainfall during the 2016-17 winter has enabled farms to emerge from survival mode in the short term, but scientists are still working hard to be ready for the next drought, reported Tim Hearden in Capital Press.
Hearden spent a day at the UC Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Parlier to learn how researchers at the facility and the UC West Side Research and Extension Center near Five Points are combining technology with management practices to put every drop of irrigation water to work.
“This is one of the few places in the world where you can do drought research on a field level,” said Jeff Dahlberg, director of the 330-acre Kearney facility. “What I'm planning is a world-class drought nursery.”
At the West Side REC, researchers are working with farmers to perfect micro-irrigation efficiency and test drought stress on the area's most prevalent crops.
“We'll grow a tremendous number of cultivars of a crop” and identify “what seem to be the most promising cultivars when you grow them under drought conditions,” said Bob Hutmacher, a cotton specialist and the center's director.
Hearden spoke to Jeff Mitchell, UCCE cropping systems specialist and director of the Conservation Agriculture Systems Innovation center (CASI). CASI is encouraging farmers to adopt farming practices that save water, reduce dust and help improve the condition of soil, such as subsurface drip irrigation, overhead irrigation, minimum tillage, cover crops and crop residues.
“This is not done right now in California,” Mitchell said. “In the future, there may be a strong likelihood of certain agricultural sectors adopting these practices.”
Other subsurface irrigation trials are showing dramatic increases in yields. Khaled Bali, an irrigation water management specialist at Kearney, said underground drip systems in alfalfa fields have achieved 20 to 30 percent more yields while in some cases using 20 percent less water.
Kevin Day, a UCCE pomology advisor in Tulare County, is trying subsurface drip in a peach and nectarine orchard after working with the USDA to use it for pomegranates. He's seen as much as a 90 percent reduction in weeds because there's no surface water to feed them.
“Fewer weeds, fewer pesticides,” he said. “We use high-frequency irrigation. We irrigate as the crop needs it. When you do that, you keep the roots deeper, which makes for better aeration.”
Tea that was planted 50 years ago at the UC Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center may revive interest in growing the popular beverage in the San Joaquin Valley, reported Dale Yurong on ABC30 Action News. The reporter visited the 330-acre ag research facility Jan. 2 to get a first-hand look at what center director Jeff Dahlberg calls a "beautiful hedge."
In fact, the 13 landscape shrubs represent the best tea cultivars grown at Kearney when Lipton Tea was funding research to determine whether the Valley soils and climate could support production of plants to be used to manufacture instant tea. Today, a new trend is clearly brewing, Yurong said.
"Folks can't get enough tea," he said.
A researcher at UC Davis, who learned of the tea plants from documents stored by the campus' new Global Tea Initiative, was surprised to learn that the 50-year-old tea plants have survived and thrived. UC Davis chemistry professor Jacquelyn Gervay-Hague plans to study the soil where tea is growing to learn about the impact microbes in the rootzone may have on the health attributes of brewed tea.
Dahlberg has looped in the small-scale farm advisor for UC Cooperative Extension in Fresno County, Ruth Dahlquist-Willard, to research tea production at Kearney.
"I think (tea) does have potential for some high-value tea products," he said. "And I can really envision some small farmers getting involved in this."
Read more about the tea at Kearney here.
University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) and the Corporation for Education Network Initiatives in California (CENIC) have connected key UC ANR facilities to CENIC's ultra-fast 100Gbps research and education network, extending ultra-broadband capacity to UC researchers in rural sites across California.
UC ANR is comprised of nine research and extension centers (RECS) and 57 local UC Cooperative Extension offices. These facilities, until now, have been hampered by poor Internet connectivity to support the 700 UC academic researchers who are engaged with community and industry partners to ensure that California has healthy food systems, environments and communities.
The UC ANR RECS extend from the Oregon border in the north, through the Sierra foothills and Central Valley, along the Pacific Coast and south to the Mexican border. The REC facilities are situated among California's rich and unique agricultural and natural resources and they connect both applied and basic scientific research and extension activities to regional challenges and issues in these diverse settings. Today nearly all research and data analysis involves remote collaboration. In order to work effectively and efficiently on multi-institutional projects, researchers depend heavily on high-speed networks and access to large datasets and computing resources.
One of the first RECS to be connected is the UC Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center, located in rural Fresno County between the small cities of Parlier and Reedley. The Kearney REC now has very high speed broadband capability, far surpassing the speeds typically available outside urban centers.
“The Internet at Kearney was like a drinking straw delivering and retrieving information, when what we needed was a fire hose,” said Gabe Youtsey, chief information officer for UC ANR. “High-speed, broadband Internet at Kearney will allow UC ANR to lead innovative, on-farm agriculture technology research and extension for the UC in the Central Valley. It will allow Kearney researchers to share big data and big computing among UCs and globally.”
Currently, offices, laboratories and meeting facilities at Kearney have access to this high-speed Internet. In the coming months, high-speed wireless connectivity will become available throughout 330-acre center. Researchers will be able to collect and upload data without having to make a stop in their offices or laboratories.
“You can't do big data with dial-up Internet speed,” said Jeffery Dahlberg, director of the UC ANR Kearney REC. “Before this upgrade, our Internet was slower than my home Internet speeds. Now we have speeds more like you will find on UC campuses.”
Dahlberg said high-speed Internet will become a powerful research tool allowing researchers to collect and share data in real time.
“For instance, a researcher can use an infrared camera in a field collecting readings to determine how a crop responds to heat as it changes throughout the day, but even this modest instrument needs significant bandwidth,” he said. “We now have the bandwidth to do that.”
The research center draws hundreds of farmers to the site for meetings and field days. With the new capability, who that live too far way to travel to Kearney will be able to tune in to real-time video streams.
Many of UC ANR's research and extension centers are even more remote than Kearney. The Hopland (Mendocino County) and Desert (Holtville, Imperial County) RECs are now online and connected to the CENIC Network. By the end of the academic year (June 2017), West Side (western San Joaquin Valley), Hansen (Santa Clara Valley), South Coast (Orange County), Intermountain (Tulelake), Sierra Foothill (Browns Valley) and Lindcove (Tulare County), will all be on the CENIC Network. UC's environmental education center for Bay Area youth, Elkus Ranch, will also be connected to high-speed Internet via CENIC.
“CENIC is one of the most advanced research and education networks in the world and a critical resource for University of California research, education and clinical communities,” said Tom Andriola, UC Vice President and Chief Information Officer and CENIC Board member. “Extending the CENIC network to the full UC community — including UC ANR's key research and education sites — is essential to the UC mission. Today we have achieved a significant milestone, thanks to the dedication of both CENIC and ANR leadership.”
About UC ANR www.ucanr.edu
The Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources (ANR) is a statewide network of University of California researchers and educators dedicated to the creation, development and application of knowledge in agricultural, natural and human resources. The University of California's Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources is the bridge between local issues and the power of UC research. ANR's advisors, specialists and faculty bring practical, science-based answers to Californians.
ANR works hand in hand with industry to enhance agricultural markets, help the balance of trade, address environmental concerns, protect plant health, and provide farmers with scientifically tested production techniques and Californians with increased food safety. ANR is comprised of
- 200 locally based Cooperative Extension advisors and specialists
- 57 local offices throughout California
- 130 campus-based Cooperative Extension specialists
- 9 Research and Extension Centers
- 6 statewide programs
- 700 academic researchers in 40 departments at 3 colleges and 1 professional school:
UC Berkeley College of Natural Resources
UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences
UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine
UC Riverside College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences
About CENIC www.cenic.org
CENIC connects California to the world — advancing education and research statewide by providing the world-class network essential for innovation, collaboration and economic growth. This nonprofit organization operates the California Research & Education Network (CalREN), a high-capacity network designed to meet the unique requirements of over 20 million users, including the vast majority of K-20 students, together with educators, researchers, and other vital public-serving institutions. CENIC's Charter Associates are part of the world's largest education system; they include the California K-12 system, California Community Colleges, the California State University system, California's Public Libraries, the University of California system, Stanford, Caltech, and USC. CENIC also provides connectivity to leading-edge institutions and industry research organizations around the world, serving the public as a catalyst for a vibrant California.
Fifty-five years ago, Thomas J. Lipton Inc. funded a tea study at the UC Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Parlier, which is piquing the interest of scientists today. For 18 years, researchers pampered and coaxed 41 tea clones to determine whether tea plantations could be a lucrative alternative for San Joaquin Valley farmers.
Scientists of the time predicted a potential $25,000 economic value of future California tea plantings. Today, tea is a $3.8 billion business in the U.S. and UC Davis recently launched a Global Tea Initiative. Kearney submitted its yellowed research reports, correspondence and newspaper clippings about the long-ago tea research to the initiative's collection of research, teaching and outreach spanning agriculture, social sciences, health, culture and economics of all things tea.
That got the attention of UC Davis chemistry professor Jacquelyn Gervay-Hague, who is studying microbes in the soil where tea is grown and their potential impact on the health attributes of tea.
“I believe there is a microbial exchange that ends up in the cup,” she said.
When the Kearney tea research program was scrapped in 1981, a prescient researcher had a handful of the best tea clones planted in the landscape around buildings at Kearney, where they stand today as fall-blooming non-descript shrubs.
Hague, who with her students frequently travels overseas to sample soil on tea plantations, learned of the plants at Kearney and recognized the opportunity to conduct studies in California.
“It's really remarkable,” she said.
Kearney director Jeff Dahlberg believes the renewed interest in the center's tea, growing awareness about the healthful properties of tea, and increasing enthusiasm for artisanal tea and locally grown food could turn tea into a lucrative specialty crop for small-scale San Joaquin Valley farmers.
“This may be something like blueberries,” he said. “Twenty years ago, people thought they couldn't be grown in California. But with research conducted here at Kearney, there is now a thriving blueberry industry in the San Joaquin Valley and on the coast.”
It was the same intention that prompted Dahlberg's predecessors to support the tea studies in the 1960s and 70s.
At that time, 41 clones were propagated in a lathe house at Kearney, and later planted in a half-acre field plot. In 1967, UC Cooperative Extension agronomy researcher Karl H. Ingebretsen told a newspaper reporter that the plants came from clones that survived a similar USDA trial in the 1880s.
“Most of the imported plants were taken from some growing in South Carolina, where the Lipton company found them 10 years ago growing wild,” Ingebretsen said in 1967.
The Kearney superintendent at that time, Frank Coddington, said the scientists hoped successful experimentation would lead to varieties of tea suitable for mechanical harvest and the production of instant tea, a product that in those days was becoming more and more popular.
The tea clones at Kearney grew well and appeared healthy, the reports said. Tea plants tolerated California's dry climate and stood the heat when irrigated properly. Five of the 41 clones were reported to show “real promise,” but when the tea project was terminated in 1981, only a few plants representing two of the clones were saved as landscape shrubs. Nine plants now grow on the west side of a corrugated tin warehouse, and four in the shade of knobby flowering pear trees just south of the original building at the site.
Gervay-Hague plans to build on the results from early Kearney research with 21st Century agricultural production tools.
“I won't repeat the work done in the 60s, but they didn't know about the microbiome or genetics back then,” she said. “UC Davis has 3D imaging capability, which I want to use to watch the plants change. I would like to do DNA testing.”
The UC Davis chemist is applying for grants to build a repository of plants that may become the foundation of commercial tea gardens in California.
This story en español.