Posts Tagged: Rachael Long
Enjoying a tasty sunflower seed snack? Cooking with sunflower oil? Thank a California sunflower seed grower for producing the hybrid seed that's used for planting sunflower crops throughout the United States and the world, for confectionery and oil seed production.
California farmers grow about 70,000 acres of sunflower, mostly in the Sacramento Valley, for hybrid seed stock.
“We have perfect conditions for growing sunflowers, with hot, dry summers and plenty of good irrigation water for producing high quality seed,” says Rachael Long, UC Cooperative Extension farm advisor in Yolo, Solano and Sacramento counties. “We also have good pollination by honey bees and field isolation from wild sunflowers, needed for high yields and genetic purity of planting seed stock.”
Indeed, take a look at the lovely fields of sunflowers blooming in the summertime. Their striking show of bright yellow faces across the valley's vast agricultural landscapes elicit feelings of warmth and happiness.
“But don't stop there!” says Long. “Take a closer look at the fields and you'll see rows of plants with single large flowers alternating with rows of smaller plants with multiple flowers. Stalks with single flowers are female, smaller ones are male; cross pollination occurs by honey bees to produce the hybrid planting seed, harvested from the single female flowers.”
To assist farmers in producing hybrid sunflower seed crops, Long led a team of researchers to produce a new 2019 sunflower hybrid seed production manual for California. The manual provides information on production needs, such as irrigation and nutrient management, as well as a color guide to insect pests, diseases, and weeds of concern for hybrid sunflower seed production.
“In order to ship seed to worldwide markets, strict field certifications are in place to ensure that pests endemic to California are not spread elsewhere,” Long says. Weeds, insects and diseases growers should watch for are identified in the manual.
“Sunflower Hybrid Seed Production in California” is available for free download at https://anrcatalog.ucanr.edu/Details.aspx?itemNo=8638. In addition to Long, authors of the manual include UC Cooperative Extension farm advisors Sarah Light and Konrad Mathesius, retired USDA plant pathologist Thomas Gulya, UC Cooperative Extension irrigation specialist Khaled Bali, and emeritus UC Cooperative Extension soils specialist Roland Meyer.
“A special thanks to the sunflower seed industry and associate editor Dan Putnam, UC ANR agronomist at UC Davis, for their extensive contributions to this manual to make it a valuable resource for sunflower seed growers,” Long adds. “All of us are also grateful to UC ANR Communication Services for putting together a high quality publication!”
Try topping your salads with some tasty garbanzo beans this summer. Not only are they a healthful source of protein, vitamins and minerals, but the ‘green' legumes are produced in California with a small environmental footprint!
California farmers grow about 10,000 acres of garbanzo beans, mostly for the canning market.
“We have the right growing conditions, including cool, wet winters and hot, dry summers, to produce high-quality, large, creamy-white garbanzo beans for high-end markets, like salad bars,” says Rachael Long, UC Cooperative Extension farm advisor for Sacramento, Solano and Yolo counties. “Other areas, such as Washington State, grow a smaller garbanzo bean destined for processing, like hummus, a creamy vegetable spread.”
Garbanzos, also called chickpeas, are originally from the Middle East, where they have been farmed since ancient times. In California, their heritage dates back to the Spanish Mission era. California garbanzo beans are grown in the winter time, minimizing water use. The nitrogen-fixing legumes supply their own nitrogen and require few pesticides for production as the plants secrete acids that ward off insect pests.
To assist farmers in production practices, Long led a team of researchers to produce a new 2019 Garbanzo (chickpea) production manual for the dry bean industry in California.
“This is a great resource for farmers and the industry,” says Nathan Sano, manager for the California Dry Bean Advisory Board, about the publication, which covers garbanzo production from seed selection to harvesting and markets.
The manual identifies garbanzo varieties that have pest and disease resistance. Nutrient management information helps growers comply with regulations for protecting groundwater from nitrate. The irrigation section provides tables on water needs for crops grown in different areas of California, helping to conserve water.
“Our UC ANR Grain-Legume workgroup started this production manual back in 1992,” Long said. “I'm thankful for a strong team and grower and industry input and support. I also appreciate the incredible mentoring and reviews of this manual by Roland Meyer, UC Cooperative Extension emeritus soil specialist, and a fantastic editor, UC Cooperative Extension agronomy specialist Dan Putnam, to make this publication a reality. This was a big group effort, and I appreciate everyone's contributions to make this a valuable resource for the California dry bean industry.”
The California garbanzo bean production manual is available for free online at https://anrcatalog.ucanr.edu/Details.aspx?itemNo=8634.
In addition to Long and Meyer, co-authors include UC Cooperative Extension farm advisors Michelle Leinfelder-Miles, Konrad Mathesius, Sarah Light, Mariano Galla, Shannon Mueller, Allan Fulton and Nick Clark, and UC Cooperative Extension irrigation specialist Khaled Bali.
Rachael Long, UC Cooperative Extension advisor covering integrated pest management for field crops in Yolo, Solano and Sacramento counties, is the recipient of the 2019 Bradford Rominger Agricultural Sustainability Leadership Award.
Long will receive the award at a presentation at 4:30 p.m. May 28 in the Alpha Gamma Rho Hall (AGR) room of the Walter A. Buehler Alumni Center. A reception begins at 4.
The award, established in 2008, honors individuals who have a broad understanding of agricultural systems and the environment, takes the long view, and aims high to make a difference in the world. Awardees exhibit the leadership, work ethic and integrity epitomized by the late Eric Bradford, a livestock geneticist who served UC Davis for 50 years, and the late Charlie Rominger, a fifth-generation Yolo County farmer and land preservationist.
The award presentation prefaces the Agricultural Sustainability Institute's Distinguished Speakers' Seminar, “Building a Better World, the Opportunity to Achieve Climate Drawdown and a Safe Future" by environmental scientist Jonathan Foley, executive director of Drawdown. Foley, ranked by Thomas Reuters as among the top 1 percent of the most cited global scientists, will address the audience from 5 to 6 p.m.
Long received her bachelor's degree in biology from UC Berkeley and her master's degree in entomology from UC Davis. She was hired as one of the first sustainable agriculture advisors with UCCE in 1992, with a charge to, “Develop, evaluate, and implement nonchemical approaches to pest management in field crop production that maintains environmental and economic viability of agriculture."
During her career with UCCE, Rachael was a pioneer in developing practices to protect water quality from agricultural crop production, helping farmers meet state mandates for clean surface water. She worked on hedgerows, documenting that field edge plantings of native California plants attract beneficial insects, including bees and natural enemies, for better pest control and pollination in adjacent crops. She documented that birds and bats are farmer allies; they help control codling moth pests in walnut orchards. She's promoted hawks and barn owls for control of rodent pests. She has also written numerous publications focusing on agronomic practices for managing pest, weeds, and diseases in field crop production.
At the time she started her research projects over 25 years ago, her ideas were way outside the box and on the fringe. Now her work is mainstream with the UC IPM guidelines incorporating the value of habitat planting for enhancing natural enemies and pollinators on farms for better pollination and biocontrol of crop pests. The California Healthy Soils Initiative and Natural Resource Conservation Service have cost share funding for hedgerow establishment on farms, for pest management and carbon sequestration. She continues to do research on hedgerows, but more importantly, she strives to be a leader by teaching others about agriculture and the need to have co-existence between farming, food production, and wildlife conservation for a better world for all. Her work is documented in many peer-reviewed publications, UC ANR blogs, cost studies and crop production manuals.
“I'm honored to receive this award, especially in recognition of two extraordinary people, Charlie and Eric," Long said. "I owe thanks to so many people who helped in this journey and feel lucky to work in a community that is open to new ideas. I'm especially grateful to farmers in the Sacramento Valley who allowed me to work on their farms. I couldn't have done all this work without their support.”
Across the globe, scientists have shown that birds can be farmer allies. Insectivorous birds feed on damaging insect pests in many crops including coffee, cacao, oil palm, corn, cabbage and apples. Raptors, including hawks and barn owls, feed on rodents, including gophers, voles and mice (see blog, Barn owls help clean up rodents naturally).
Despite this deep historic knowledge that birds are important predators of crop pests, over time the perception of birds as natural enemies of pests has been generally replaced with the idea that birds are often major crop pests themselves. Indeed, some bird species — like some types of insects — can cause trouble for farmers, but many others — especially those that eat insects and rodents — can be beneficial.
Do birds control insect pests on farms in California's Central Valley?
They do! Recent studies by Dr. Sacha Heath, UC Davis, and Rachael Long, field crops and pest management advisor, UC Cooperative Extension, showed that birds help control insect pests in walnut orchards. Dr. Sara Kross (UC Davis postdoctoral alumnus, now with Columbia University) showed that birds help control alfalfa insect pests.
Birds are voracious predators of codling moth pests in walnuts
Codling moth is a major worm-like pest that infests walnuts, apples and pears. The larvae go dormant during winter, living in cocoons in crevices in trees. Adult moths emerge in the spring, lay eggs and infest crops.
We evaluated bird predation of codling moth using “sentinel prey” and exclosure cages. We glued codling moth cocoons to walnut trunks and covered them with cages, allowing insects and spiders to access the cocoons, but not bird predators. This allowed us to count how many larvae were eaten inside and outside of the cages to estimate pest reduction by birds.
What did we find?
Natural enemies, like parasitic wasps and lacewings, alone reduced codling moth larval numbers by 11%; adding birds into the pest control system reduced them by 46%! Nuttall's woodpeckers and white-breasted nuthatches did a lot of the work; these birds travel up and down the trunks of trees, searching for insects.
Above, a white-breasted nuthatch preys on a codling moth larva “sentinel cocoon” on a walnut tree. Video by Sacha Heath.
Alfalfa weevils are no match for insectivorous birds
Alfalfa weevils are key pests of alfalfa, reducing yields and hay quality if left uncontrolled. Dr. Sara Kross looked at bird predation of this pest by excluding birds from alfalfa plants via cages, and counting the number of weevils inside and outside the cages. She found that birds reduced the number of weevils by more than 30%, showing their importance in helping to protect alfalfa from this serious pest.
Does field edge habitat, like hedgerows, help attract beneficial birds?
Yes! Hedgerows are important habitat for beneficial birds, serving as nesting, foraging and roosting sites. In a study in the Sacramento Valley, crop margins with hedgerows, tree lines and riparian buffers harbored up to six times more birds and up to three times more bird species than bare or weedy margins.
Walnut orchards adjacent to hedgerows and riparian areas had higher numbers of beneficial birds along with more species. In alfalfa, there were more beneficial birds in fields when at least two tall trees were present along the field edges. More beneficial birds were associated with better pest control, that is, fewer codling moth cocoons and alfalfa weevils.
Birds have large territories, fly long distances, and are influenced by what happens on the farm as well as by what happens in the landscape around the farm. For example, we found that codling moth predation by birds greatly increased in walnut orchards as the amount of habitat in the landscape around the orchards increased (including hedgerows, tree lines, riparian and oak woodlands, and grasslands).
Will hedgerows increase the numbers of pest birds?
Pest birds are present on farms regardless of field edge habitat (such as weedy vegetation or hedgerows). Cases will be different, depending on the crop, but in the fields and orchards of Yolo County, researcher Hillary White (formerly with UCCE and now with U.S. Fish and Wildlife) found that three of the most common avian crop pests (American crow, red-winged blackbird and Brewer's blackbird), were up to 10 times more abundant in agricultural fields with bare or weedy margins than in fields with hedgerows.
What can I do to attract beneficial birds to my farm?
Our avian research team has been quantifying the conditions under which birds are helpful or harmful to growers. We are looking for ways to help farmers create bird habitat on their farms to harness the beneficial pest control services birds can provide, while also protecting crops from the damaging effects of some bird species. This information is available in the new publication “Supporting Beneficial Birds and Managing Pest Birds,” co-authored by the Wild Farm Alliance and Drs. Kross and Heath, and technically advised by UC Cooperative Extension and several farmers. This is a user-friendly guide for farmers and conservation practitioners, with the goal of co-managing farmlands for biodiversity and farming.
A white-breasted nuthatch preys on a codling moth larva “sentinel cocoon” on a walnut tree. (Video still: Sacha Heath)
UC Cooperative Extension advisors are on the front line and get the most interesting questions from our community. Someone brought some wasps into our office, and was worried they were invading her home, and wondered how to get rid of them. They were identified by the UC Davis Entomology Museum as black and yellow solitary mud dauber wasps, which are natural predators of spiders, and hence beneficial! Before you reach for that can of insecticide or heaven forbid, a blow torch to control spiders, talk to a UCCE advisor or Master Gardener in your county and read this blog for more information on managing them.
Here's all you need to know about mud daubers and spider control
That mud you track into your house is nothing compared to what mud daubers can do — and what they do to spiders. Female mud daubers, or wasps, build mud nests for their young — and provision them with spiders.
Where are the nests and what do they look like?
Female mud daubers, the architects, build those characteristic rectangular mud nests in protected areas of our homes, shops and garages, such as along eaves, walls or ceilings. Mud daubers are black and yellow solitary wasps (Sceliphron caementarium) that hunt spiders for their young. Another wasp, the blue mud wasp, reuses the black and yellow mud dauber wasp nests and primarily preys on black widow spiders.
Do mud daubers sting or bite?
Mud daubers do not aggressively protect their nests. Unlike hornets and other social wasps, they are generally docile and rarely sting.
Are mud daubers dangerous?
No, mud daubers are harmless and actually beneficial. They prey on spiders, including black widows, a favorite prey. They pack each cell with up to 25 to 30 spiders for their young. With about 15 to 20 cells per nest, that's over 500 spiders eaten. This is good news, especially for those of us who fear black widow spiders. True, mud daubers can be a nuisance, as their mud nests look messy, but they are generally peaceful.
How do they make their nests?
Females construct their nests by gathering globs of mud in their mandibles (jaws) from a nearby source of wet dirt. They carry the mud to a protected nest site, where they construct a cell. Then they begin hunting for spiders to provision the cell for their young, and lay a single egg inside. When they capture a spider, they sting it, permanently paralyzing it. This preserves the spider until their larvae are ready to eat it. When the cell is full of spiders, the female mud dauber caps it with more mud and builds another cell next to it. After the egg hatches and the food gone, she pupates. When an adult emerges, it opens the cap, leaving holes behind in the nest for the next cycle.
Mud daubers have a low reproductive rate, with about 15 to 20 eggs per female. Adults are active during the day during spring and summer with multiple generations per year. Queens overwinter in the cells in the larval stage. Adults sip nectar from flowers, where the male mud daubers are often found. Mud dauber wasps have good vision and use landmarks to locate nests and hunt spiders. They prefer protected areas where there are plenty of spiders. Sometimes you might see them going in and out of your house vents, hunting for spiders in your basement or attic.
How do mud daubers avoid being eaten by spiders?
Some are able to land on webs without getting entangled, and pluck the web to simulate an insect in distress. When the spider rushes to capture its prey, it becomes a victim of the wasp's paralyzing sting. The wasp then carries it back to her mud nest.
How do you get rid of mud dauber nests?
Although mud daubers are considered beneficial, you can remove the nests by scraping them off with a paint scraper or a knife into a dust pan, and then tossing them or moving them somewhere else where you don't mind their activity. The best time to remove the nests is in the late evenings when wasps are not active, or during the wintertime when they are dormant.
Do I have to worry about getting stung by a wasp or bit by a spider during nest removal?
No, the spiders are paralyzed and the wasps are not aggressive. Mud daubers can sting, but only if directly handled or if they accidentally snag in your clothing.
What's the best way to get rid of spiders?
Overall, spiders are beneficial because they're predators and feed on pests like flies. Most spiders cannot harm people. Those that might injure people — for example, black widows — generally spend most of their time hidden under furniture or boxes, or in woodpiles, corners or crevices. The spiders that we commonly see out in the open during the day are not aggressive toward people. The brown recluse spider has occasionally been brought into California in household furnishings, and other items, but it does not reside here. Spiders enter houses and other structures through cracks and are also carried inside on plants, firewood and boxes.
According to the UC IPM Spider Management Guidelines, the best approach for controlling spiders in and around your home is to remove hiding spots for secretive spiders such as black widows, and regularly brush or vacuum webs from windows, corners of rooms, storage areas, basements and other seldom used areas. This is effective because their soft bodies generally cannot survive this process. If you see a dust-covered web indoors, it's no doubt an old web that a spider is no longer using.
Why should one protect mud dauber nests?
Because mud daubers eat spiders, especially the cryptic black widows. In the process of cleaning spiders and webs, be sure to try protect those mud nests, because mud daubers naturally help control spiders in and around your home.