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From the UC Blogosphere...

Farm advisors are go-to people for the press.

Two northern San Joaquin Valley newspapers turned to UC Cooperative Extension farm advisors for stories published yesterday. The Merced Sun-Star published a feature story about hydroponic farmers Kevin and Patty Olds of Le Grand. Hydroponic farming "beats Mother Nature out of her game," reporter Dhyana Levey quoted Mr. Olds.

Levey went to Merced County UCCE farm advisor Scott Stoddard for comment.

"Of course, it's that controlled environment that's nice," he is quoted. "And you can really extend your season - grow into the winter months. Those are the main reasons."

Stoddard also shared the fact that hydroponic greenhouse production takes a high level of management expertise.

"Pest management can be difficult. You have to be 'Johnny on the Spot' and catch things," Stoddard is quoted in the article.

The second north valley story appeared in yesterday's Stockton Record. By longtime ag reporter Reed Fujii, the story is written in response to a series of newspaper ads asking Lodi-area growers to consider replacing their vineyards with olives. The article doesn't say whether it was the Lodi Farming Company that placed the ads, but it does quote the president of the organization, Jeff Colombini, extensively.

"There's 70 million gallons of olive oil consumed in this country and 99.5 percent are produced outside the country," said Colombini, according to the article.

For this story, Fujii sought comment from UCCE's resident olive oil expert Paul Vossen of Sonoma County. Vossen feels California growers can compete in the global market in olive production. He compared it to the success the state's growers have had with almonds.

"Spain was the No. 1 producer of almonds in the world, and all of a suden here comes California," he is quoted in the article. "Why is that? It's all mechanical."

Olives growing in super-high-density orchards can be similarly automated, Vossen told the newspaper.

Posted on Thursday, June 14, 2007 at 9:29 AM

Today's cowboy rides an ATV.

The image of Western cowboys herding cattle on horseback with their well-trained dogs may become a romantic visage of the past. Today, many ranchers are getting around on all-terrain vehicles (ATVs). AgAlert reporter Kathy Coatney wrote two articles on ATV use for the June 6 issue, one noting the increased popularity of ATVs among cattle ranchers and the other about growing ATV safety concerns. She sought comment from UC ANR experts for both. (AgAlert posts only selected stories on its Web site and these are not among them. They are only available in the newspaper.)

Coatney spoke to Glen Nader, the UC Cooperative Extension livestock advisor for Butte, Sutter and Yuba counties, who said ATVs can cover more country much faster than a horse -- without needing rest. They save both time and labor.

On the down side, ATVs sent 136,000 Americans to emergency rooms in 2004, according to statistics Coatney gave from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Coatney went to the director of the Western Center for Agriculltural Health and Safety at UC Davis, Mark Schenker, for comment.

"We certainly are seeing more injuries and fatalities," he was quoted in the article. "Those have been going up (in all ATV use). I think that's a red flag that attention is needed."

Schenker told the reporter he believes ATV riders should wear helmets.

"For head injuuries, helmets would reduce the risk (of injury) by 64 percent, and they reduce the risk of death by 42 percent. Those are pretty significant," Schenker is quoted.


Posted on Wednesday, June 13, 2007 at 9:48 AM

Northern California ranchers to look at medusahead trials.

UC Cooperative Extension Lassen County farm advisor Rob Wilson will take ranchers on a tour Thursday of a ranch two miles south of Likely, Calif., to see medusahead control trials. Wilson will show a variety of methods for restoring rangeland where the agressive and invasive non-native annual grass medusahead is growing. According to the USDA, medusahead is native to the Mediterranean region and was probably introduced to the western U.S. accidentally as a seed contaminant. Wilson will go over trials involving a new herbicide "Matrix" for selective medusahead and downy brome control in sagebrush/perennial grass communities and low rates of Roundup for medusahead control.

According to a UC Delivers impact article by UCCE Mendocino County farm advisor Morgan Doran, medusahead is growing on more than a million acres of grassland, oak woodland and chaparral shrubland in California. "The presence of medusahead can reduce the land's livestock carrying capacity by as much as 75 percent," Doran wrote. Doran has studied the use of intensive grazing and mowing to control medusahead. As a result of Doran's research, the practice of using livestock for controlling medusahead and other noxious weeds is being tested by rangeland managers and ranchers throughout California.

Medusahead (USDA photo)
Medusahead (USDA photo)

Posted on Tuesday, June 12, 2007 at 9:13 AM

E. coli in meat making the news.

With summer and outdoor barbecues in full swing, Americans are once again being faced with E. coli worries. Over the weekend, the Associated Press reported that United Food Group LLC expanded a ground beef recall, which now includes about 5.7 million pounds of fresh and frozen meat that may be contaminated with E. coli. Here is the article in the San Francisco Chronicle. Recently in Fresno, The Meat Market catering sold pre-cooked tri-tip contaminated with E. coli, which made 11 people ill, according to the Fresno Bee.

I have noticed in the news coverage, the general media outlets say "E. coli" when they mean "E. coli 0157:H7." According to the USDA, it is the virulent strain of the bacteria that was detected in the meat distributed by United Food Group LLC.

Almost all people and animals have E. coli in their systems. It is harmless, according to Edward "Rob" Atwill, a UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine specialist in waterborne infectious diseases. In 1982, the O157:H7 strain first became known as a result of an outbreak associated with hamburger meat. E. coli O157:H7 is a potentially deadly bacterium that can cause bloody diarrhea, dehydration and lead to kidney failure. Children, senior citizens and people with compromised immune systems are most susceptible.

According to Atwill, scientists believe that only 10 to 100 bacteria can cause disease in humans; a large animal with E. coli O157:H7, such as a cow, sometimes can shed millions of bacteria per gram of feces. For more information, see the UC Cooperative Extension food safety media kit.

Rob Atwill
Rob Atwill

Posted on Sunday, June 10, 2007 at 4:21 PM

California farmers are on their way to the Mid West.

Next Tuesday, a group of 14 California farmers will join UC vegetable crops specialist Jeff Mitchell for a five-day tour of farms using conservation tillage techniques in Colorado, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wyoming. In previous years, Mitchell has brought specialists from other parts of the country to speak to growers in California about their experiences with conservation tillage. This is the first time he has organized a group of farmers to go see successful CT farms in other states for themselves.

The potential to conserve energy, equipment and labor costs while boosting soil organic matter and saving water is prompting more California farmers to pay attention to conservation tillage.

"Conservation tillage has been around for a long time," Mitchell said in 2001, "but it is only now beginning to catch on in California." Since that time, many farmers have gotten on board, and are working in close collaboration with UC Cooperative Extension specialists and farm advisors to try the new techniques in their commercial settings.

Cotton is one crop in which conservation tillage hasn't yet caught on. The Capital Press newspaper reported last week on a recent conservation tillage meeting at the UC West Side Research and Extension Center that focused on cotton. The article, written by Cecelia Parsons, quotes Bob Hutmacher, the UC extension specialist in cotton: "This has been solutions-oriented research, what works and what doesn't."

Mitchell explained some of the research underway on CT cotton. "At first, it wasn't the best, but the last two years there was not a lot of statistical difference," the article quoted Mitchell. "There has been a lot of learning. We have made enough progress to begin sharing our information."

Corn growing in a CT production system.
Corn growing in a CT production system.

Posted on Friday, June 8, 2007 at 10:24 AM

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