World Ag Expo recap

 

This is part two of a recap of a Newsmakers’ Seminar held at the 49th World Ag Expo. The seminar, held Tuesday, Feb. 9, was open only to members of the news media with credentials from the World Ag Expo Media Center.

The Newsmakers’ Seminar provided an opportunity for members of the news media to network with a panel of University of California Agricultural and Natural Resources scientists. The UC ANR, as it is known in academia, is a bridge between local farmers and ranchers dealing with ongoing challenges of being more productive and finding ways and applications to make what they do more sustainable.

ANR’s advisors conduct their research based at UC Davis or UC Riverside or any of the nine UC Cooperative Research and Extension Centers located throughout California. 

There is one center near Three Rivers, at Lindcove (between Lemon Cove and Mehrten Valley), established in 1959 by San Joaquin Valley citrus growers and UC Riverside.

The Kaweah Commonwealth furnished each of the members of the panel with the same question: How will the work/research you are currently doing help agriculture to be more sustainable?

Last week’s installment may be read online at: www.kaweahcommonwealth.com/news/cutting-edge-agriculture.

 

CLIMATE

 

Tapan Pathak, Ph.D.  

UC ANR-Cooperative Extension (CE) researcher

Specialty: Climate Change 

Location: UC Merced

Changes in the current and projected climate pose many challenges for agriculture. Temperature increases, increased frequency of extreme events, reduced number of winter chill hours, decreased snowpack, and sustainable water supply are examples of current and projected impacts of climate change. 

Well-coordinated research and Extension efforts in climate adaptation are extremely important to make California agriculture resilient and sustainable to climate risks.

One of the recent team projects is UC ANR, California USDA climate sub-hub, UC Berkeley, and Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory collaborating jointly on a project to identify the climate information needs of Central Valley almond growers and utilizing these responses to bridge the gap between climate-model outputs and farmer decision-making needs. 

The goals of this project are to identify key climatic metrics that are relevant to decision-making for almond growers and to generate climate-decision support material for all crops using the experiences of stakeholder engagements. One of the leading recommendations in the California Department of Food and Agriculture report on “Climate Change Consortium for Strategies for Resilience” was to compile a list of grower needs for weather data and forecast products. 

Outcome from this project will provide useful information for various climate adaptation efforts. As a continued effort, we are planning to extend this effort to additional crops. 

 

DROUGHT

 

Jeff Dahlberg, Ph.D.

UC ANR-CE; REC director

Specialty: Agronomy

Location: 

Kearney Agricultural Center

(Fresno County)

UC-ANR is working on several sorghum projects that will explore the mechanisms and genetic control of drought tolerance using sorghum — a major source of grain and of feed for livestock — as a model crop for this type of research. Sorghum is the fifth most important cereal crop worldwide and has inherent drought tolerance. 

Using drone technology to collect phenotypic data, and coupling that with genetic expression, we are attempting to identify key genes that are responsible for drought tolerance in sorghum. These gene mechanisms are proposed to be common throughout other cereals and, if this is true, we can use sorghum to model those genes and then use that information to assist in creating a greater pool of cereal crops with enhanced drought tolerance.

In addition, we have been working to evaluate both grain and forage sorghums and the role they might play here in California. Forage sorghums offer an excellent alternative to corn forages for the dairy industry as they look for a forage that uses less water and less inputs.

Research results for the last several years can be found at www.sorghum.ucanr.edu. 

A new ANR project will look at the economics of sorghum forages as well as its ability to utilize nitrogen in the dairy systems commonly used in California.

We are also looking at the impact of drought on soil microbial communities and exploring the relationship between those communities and sorghum’s ability to withstand drought. It is thought that some of these communities might enhance the roots of crops to utilize water resources, and we are testing this theory in the field. 

Using sophisticated genetic studies, we hope to see the impact of pre-flowering and post -flowering stress on the makeup of these communities and how they might compare to well-watered sorghum. We hope to develop a better understanding of what is occurring below ground, how these soil communities respond to sorghum, and if these findings can help us understand some of the mechanisms that sorghum uses to react to drought.

 

CITRUS

 

Beth Grafton-Cardwell, Ph.D.

UC ANR-CE researcher; REC director

Specialty: Citrus Entomology

Location: UC Lindcove Research and Extension Center

 

My work is helping agriculture be more sustainable by training citrus growers and the general public about how best to detect and manage the Asian citrus psyllid to reduce the spread of the deadly bacterial disease huanglongbing (HLB) that is threatening California citrus.

 

POULTRY

Maurice Pitesky, Ph.D.

UC ANR-CE researcher

Specialty: Poultry/Food Safety

Location: UC Davis

Our group is trying to address challenges in non-conventional commercial poultry production with respect to food safety, welfare, environmental management, and the economic sustainability of the poultry farmers. One way we can do this is by using technology including remote-sensing technology linked to photovoltaic solar panels so we can optimize the amount of light that egg-laying hens are exposed to and hence increase the egg production of the hens.

Non-conventional or “micro commercial” poultry production is described as production systems that for the most part are smaller (i.e., <3,000 laying hens) and utilize some type of free-range or pastured poultry husbandry system.

In addition, by optimizing the welfare of the birds, we can mitigate predator issues and also food-safety challenges associated with Salmonella exposure. Our group is focused on using the best practices to minimize the risk of Salmonella. 

For example, by increasing the number of enrichments away from the egg mobile, we can have the birds spend greater amounts of time during the day away from this portable henhouse and, hence, will more evenly distribute the manure on the pasture and reduce the exposure of birds to feces that may have Salmonella present.

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