1996-97 Research & Education Projects
SAREP Funds New Projects
by Claudette Cervinka, guest writer
Thirty-one research and education projects have been granted a total of $267,535 by UC SAREP in the 1996-97 funding cycle, according to Bill Liebhardt, SAREP director. New projects were chosen in four areas: production, community development and public policy, educational events, and graduate student awards. Additionally nine continuing projects received $81,539, bringing SAREP's total grant funding for 1996-97 to $349,074.
Brief descriptions of the new projects, principal investigators and amounts awarded for the first year follow.
(12 projects; $150,767)
Steven Temple, Extension Agronomist, Agronomy and Range Science, UC Davis, "The Transition from Conventional to Low-Input or Organic Farming Systems:
Soil Biology, Soil Chemistry, Soil Physics, Energy Utilization, Economics and Risk": $45,661 for first year in another four-year cycle. The Sustainable Agriculture Farming Systems (SAFS) project at UC Davis compares four farming systems with varying levels of dependence on external resources over a 12-year period. Changes in soil biology and fertility are becoming apparent. Steady-state conditions have not been reached in all systems, and soil fertility and other problems will require remedial management. Shifts have occurred in pest populations in the different farming systems, particularly in weed and soil pathogen communities. An eight-acre companion site for novel farming practices tests the reduction of non-renewable resource inputs. Outreach through field days and workshops and grower adoption of emerging technologies continue as primary objectives.
Richard Engel, Project Coordinator, California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom, "Farming, Agriculture and Resource Management for Sustainability (FARMS)": $15,000. This project combines hands-on science, agriculture and education to provide a base for informed decision-making on agricultural issues for high school students. It will enhance their understanding of the role of agriculture, its social and economic significance and its relation to human health and the environment. Included will be student-teacher-farmer informational programs, workshops and farm stays as well as campus information on agriculture and environmental science careers. A partnership between private orchards, UC Davis, the California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom and the Yolo County Resource Conservation District, this project will be a model for developing outreach programs.
John Maas, Extension Veterinarian, Veterinary Medicine Extension, UC Davis, "Environmental Fate and Characterization of Selenium Supplemented to Intensively Grazed Beef Cattle": $14,800 for first year. Selenium supplementation is necessary and widespread in livestock production, but there is also concern about the potential for environmental selenium accumulation. There is a critical need for data charting the environmental fate of selenium supplemented to cattle. This project will quantify selenium concentrations in soils, plants and water in treated and control pastures.
Stephen Welter, Associate Professor and Entomologist, Insect Biology Division, Environmental Science, Policy and Management, UC Berkeley, "Impact of Border Companion Plants on Natural Enemy Performance in an Augmentative Biological Control Program in California Strawberries": $13,187 for first year. The $600 million California strawberry accounts for 75 percent of fresh strawberries consumed in the U.S. Two-thirds of the crop is grown on the Central Coast and in Santa Maria, where its primary pest is the native tarnished plant bug, Lygus hesperus. Current control strategies involve multiple applications of insecticides, including pyrethroids, which are disruptive to natural enemies of other strawberry pests. An alternative, more selective control strategy for the tarnished plant bug may include the use of its natural enemy Anaphes iole, a native egg parasitoid. Preliminary studies show a need to increase the effectiveness of the insects after release by studying their performance and biological constraints. The effectiveness of strawberry flowers and border companion plants as nectar sources will be examined as factors that enhance the establishment of resident insect populations of Anaphes iole. Researchers will conduct field trials in collaboration with conventional growers in the area. Comparisons will be made on the tarnished plant bug densities, fruit damage, parasitism levels and predator populations with and without bordering comparison plants. If successful, this program may help strawberry growers reduce the use of insecticides.
Gary Bender, San Diego County Farm Advisor, "Alternate Side Irrigation to Control Root Rot in Avocados": $10,000. Phytophthora root rot has devastated thousands of acres of avocado trees in California. Chemical treatments are being withdrawn or are too expensive. This project will test the efficacy of using alternate side irrigation with and without mulch applications as part of an integrated pest management program to control root rot. Rather than watering the same part of the tree's root zone during each irrigation, irrigation water will be applied on alternating sides of each tree row. Alternating dry/wet cycles are expected to diminish the infection while allowing for feeder root development. The use of a series of control practices is expected to provide better disease control for longer time.
Patrick Brown, Associate Professor, Pomology, UC Davis, "Development of a N-Fertilizer Recommendation Model to Improve N-Use Efficiency and to Alleviate Nitrate Pollution to Ground Water from Almond Orchards": $10,000 for first year. Fertilizer management advice for California orchard crops like almonds has depended on generalized recommendations. This may contribute to high nitrate levels in some California groundwater. A reliable tool for measuring tree N status will aid growers in using nitrogen efficiently. The goal of this study is to develop and test better tools for precision nitrogen measurement in the field (leaf nitrate analysis), determine seasonal as well as total nitrogen demands, and prepare a user-friendly computer program for growers so they can enter local variables and receive best management recommendations for N fertilization.
Joseph Hancock, Professor and Plant Pathologist, Environmental Science, Policy and Management, UC Berkeley, "Role of the Soil Microbial Community in Suppression of Rhizoctonia Stem Rot Disease of Cauliflower": $9,200 for first year. Fungicides are applied in the greenhouse plant production industries (ornamental and vegetable) to control soil borne plant pathogens. The intense cultural and management practices in these industries also lend themselves to integrated pest management programs that include the use of biologicals. This project should provide an improved means of selecting microbial biological control agents. Researchers will build on information from preliminary studies with Rhizoctonia solani suppressive soils identified in a field at the UC West Side Research and Extension Center. Microbes will be tested for their ability to suppress stem rot in a range of amended soils. Depending upon the results of this work, it may be possible to extend this method to other disease suppressive soils. A simple method of forecasting soil suppressiveness (and lack of it) to certain diseases could have very wide application in crop planning.
Jeffrey Granett, Professor, Entomology, UC Davis, "Do Soils Suppressive of Phylloxera Exist?": $8,287. Grape phylloxera is one of the most serious pests of California vineyards, feeding on roots and allowing entry of secondary fungal rot organisms. No work has been done on the community ecology/natural enemy complex of the insect. This study will conclude whether there is potential for biological control of phylloxera by finding out if there are vineyard soils or management methods that suppress the pest.
Lynn Epstein, Associate Professor, Environmental Science, Policy and Management, UC Berkeley, "The Impact of a Sustainable Agricultural Practice with Grapes on Pesticide Use in California": $8,573. Since the late 1980s, canopy leaf removal has been a sustainable, non-pesticidal means to control Botrytis bunch rot, an economically important grape fungal disease. By using the California Department of Pesticide Regulations' Pesticide Use Report database, the study will document changes in fungicide use on grapes between 1990 and 1995. This is the first time the impact of a sustainable alternative has been determined using actual pesticide use data. It will also estimate the extent to which leaf removal has become a standard practice, analyze comparative costs of leaf pruningversus fungicide application, and assess the reasons for success or impediments to further use of this sustainable practice.
Larry Forero, Shasta-Trinity Counties Livestock and Natural Resources Advisor, "History of Grazing on the Shasta-Trinity National Forest: Implications for the Future": $5,919. This project was funded by SAREP in 1995-96 to reconstruct the history of grazing in the Shasta Trinity National Forest and determine the causes for the reduction of grazing in the area since the 1930s. Additional funding will complete the project with data from the National Archives. Allotment maps will be digitized and an interview instrument will be developed. This project will provide insight into how changes in access to federal forage areas translate to private sector land use and management decisions.
Melvin George, Extension Agronomist, Agronomy and Range Science, UC Davis, "The Contribution of Ranch Roads, Cattle Trails and Bed Load to the Sediment Budget for a Grazed Watershed in the Central Sierra Foothills": $5,700 for first year. The sustainability of rangeland ecosystems depends upon owners' knowledge about their lands and the impacts of their livestock. Water quality is a high priority rangeland and livestock production issue; livestock producers must assess nonpoint pollution sources on their ranches to show that voluntary compliance is a viable alternative to regulation. Current national and state watershed studies in a grazed watershed in Madera County have not measured sediment from dirt roads and cattle trails or bed load sediments in the stream channel. This project will measure those sediment budget components that are not currently being measured; existing funding will continue measurements begun two years ago of hill slope and streambank erosion, suspended sediment, flow and precipitation. The results of this project will be communicated to community and clientele groups by the Rangeland Watershed Program, which focuses on managing the rangeland forage crop and livestock in ways that support economic returns while reducing impacts on the resource base.
Jeff Mitchell, Extension Vegetable Crops Specialist, Kearney Agricultural Center, "Use of Cover Crop Mulches in Processing Tomato Production Systems": $4,440 for first year. In recent years there has been a shift in land use on the West Side of the Central San Joaquin Valley. Thirty years ago more than 60 percent of the land was planted to wheat, barley and safflower. By 1994, however, this percentage had slipped to less than seven percent. Higher value crops, including many vegetables and cotton, are now common in West Side rotations. The increase in these high-value crops has led to fewer additions of organic matter to the soil, more aggressive tillage operations and a reported decline in soil quality. Preserving soil health and improving nutrient use efficiencies are compelling reasons for renewed interest among a number of farmers in more biologically based soil-building alternatives. This project will evaluate the effectiveness of surface organic mulches in no-till processing tomatoes for suppressing weeds without herbicides and providing nutrients, maintaining optimal soil temperatures, and increasing crop water use efficiencies. Companion cover crop trials for no-till techniques will also be included.
Community Development and Public Policy Projects
(7 projects; $99,303)
Adina Merenlender, Extension Specialist, Environmental Sciences, Policy and Management, UC Berkeley, "A Spatially Explicit Vineyard Model: Addressing Crop Production, Public Policy and Environmental Concerns": $22,000 for first year. A team of UC research and extension personnel and members of the Sonoma County Grape Growers Association will develop a model to predict where new vineyards are likely to expand in the Russian River and Alexander valleys, and will evaluate their potential impact on oak woodlands and watersheds. Available digital information will be integrated to predict and test this model with recently established vineyards. First-year data collection on grape growing in the area will include grower interviews and a literature search.
Glenn Nader, Lassen County Livestock and Natural Resources Advisor, "Natural Beef: Consumer Acceptability, Market Development and Economics": $14,948. A team of ranchers, California State University, Chico and UC Cooperative Extension researchers is developing more sustainable marketing alternatives for Northern California beef producers by evaluating consumer acceptability of grass-fed natural beef, identifying the demographics of this potential market, determining its economic feasibility, and developing marketing plans for producers.
Carol Shennan, Associate Professor, Vegetable Crops, UC Davis, "Socio-Economic Analysis of Rotational Management of Wetlands and Cropland in the Tulelake Basin": $14,440. This project is examining the merits and costs of managing agricultural lands and wetland reserves in the Tulelake Basin. It has previously received federal grants to study the impacts of wetland/cropland rotations on water use and quality, seasonal patterns of nutrient release, crop productivity, pest populations, and quality of wildlife habitat. SAREP funds will support interviews with farmers, farm advisors, hunters, environmentalists, agencies and local businesses, and the organization of information gathered into a better decision-making framework.
Yolanda Huang, Coordinator, Willard Greening Project, "Urban Food Project": $18,225. The Willard Greening Project in the Berkeley Unified School District is joining forces with the Urban Gardening Project to expand inner city agriculture and make fresh, organic food available to low-income urban people using vacant and public lands. Homeless people will be trained in intensive farming methods and efficient market delivery systems will be developed. The food produced is for school use, the local farmers' market or for community lunch programs.
Andrew Fisher, Coordinator, Community Food Security Coalition, "Evaluating Farmers' Markets in Low Income Communities": $9,540. Factors contributing to successful farmers' markets in low-income areas will be evaluated and case studies of inner city markets from across the country will be developed. Researchers will also examine existing information on failed or successful California markets and will identify public policies that affect the success of farmers' markets. Those involved with farmers' markets will be educated about the steps needed to make them successful.
Sibella Kraus, Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture, "Market Cooking for Kids: In-Season Cooking and Science for School Children": $10,000. This project extends for a second year the successful hands-on cooking and science program developed for children at Oakland and San Francisco elementary schools. The focus is to help urban children understand the relationships between healthy, fresh food and regional sustainable agriculture. It involves collaboration among teachers, science educators, chefs, produce wholesalers and farmers. A primary goal is the production of A Young People's Reference Guide to Fresh, Local Foods, so other children may benefit from the work developed in this program.
Laura Lawson, Berkeley Youth Alternatives, "Rethinking Direct Marketing Approaches Appropriate to Low Income Communities and Urban Market Gardens": $10,150 for first year. To better integrate urban market gardening into low-income neighborhood food consumption patterns, surveys will be conducted with Berkeley farmers' market consumers, West Berkeley residents and families affiliated with the Berkeley Youth Alternatives organization. Data will be used to develop a direct marketing pilot project designed to serve low-income urban communities.