"We see clearly what a bust cycle looks like," said Mark Battany, UC Agriculture and Natural Resources viticulture and soils advisor in SLO County. "Ranchers have no choice but to sell off their cows and rebuild the herd when the rain comes back."
Sahagun reported that ranchers in the area have suffered severe drought for centuries.
"During a drought that ended in 1864, some ranchers drove their herds off cliffs and into the ocean below to stop their suffering," the article said.
The current drought is leaving landowners few options. The county placed a two-year moratorium on new agriculture that depending on the aquifer, so rangeland can't be converted to vineyards at the moment.
"Ranchers are getting hit hard from every direction," said Royce Larsen, UC ANR natural resource watershed advisor in SLO County. "It's a grim and desperate outlook."
Other news over the weekend included:
Holy S***! Almonds require a ton of bees
Tom Philpott, Mother Jones, May 25, 2015
Growing almonds in California takes about 1.7 million bee hives, drawing a large fraction of the nation's available bee hives. Why don't they stay in California? The state is already home to 500,000 of the nation's 2.7 million hives, said Eric Mussen, UC ANR specialist emeritus based at UC Davis. The almond bloom is great for a few weeks, but in terms of year-round foraging, "California is already at or near its carrying capacity for honeybees," he said.
Farm Beat: Here is how hikers, cattle can coexist
John Holland, Modesto Bee, May 22, 2015
UC ANR released a five-page brochure last month that shows how hikers and other visitors can avoid conflicts with cattle that graze on public land. Cattle fatten up nicely when they can graze calmly – good for the rancher and good for the buyer of the meat down the line, the story said.
Alison Van Eenennaam, UC ANR Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Animal Sciences at UC Davis, said research has shown that genetically engineered crops do not pose a risk to human health.
"There's a recent review paper where they summarized data from 1,700 different studies, and about half of those are publicly funded. And basically the results of those studies have been that there haven't been any unique risks or hazards associated with the use of this breeding method in the production of crops," she said.
The counter point was offered by Thierry Vrain, a soil biologist and genetic engineer with Agriculture Canada. He focused on the fact that more than 90 percent of the genetically engineered crops now in use were altered to be resistant to the herbicide glyphosate. He said this fact results in overuse of the herbicide.
"In terms of specific toxicity of the molecule glyphosate, which has very little acute toxicity - as it is advertised, it is safer than table salt. But in terms of chronic toxicity over time, over weeks and months, it will damage the microbiome and induce all kinds, all kinds of symptoms. In mice, and probably in humans," Vrain said.
Van Eenannaam tried to keep the discussion focused on the safety of GMOs.
"I think the most misunderstood thing is it's a breeding method that can be used to introduce all sorts of crop traits into crops and animals, and we always seem to get discussing the one particular application rather than looking at how it could be used to address many different problems that are associated with agriculture, including things like drought tolerance, disease resistance, biofortification of crops," she said.
Vrain agreed with most of Van Eenennaam's points.
"I agree with you, Alison, that GMOs are not necessarily toxic, et cetera, et cetera," he said. "There's all kinds of benefits, it's a very powerful technology. Used properly, it's probably very beneficial to humanity.
At the end of the debate Vrain reiterated his concern that the preponderance of GMOs are for glyphosate-resistant crops.
"We're all in a fish bowl built out of a magnifying glass," a Berkeley City Councilmember told the panellists, referring to the national attention and strong community interest in the initiative.
Berkeley taxes sugar-sweetened beverages one cent per ounce. The tax generated $116,000 in its first month of operation.
The UC ANR panelist is Pat Crawford, the senior director of research for the Nutrition Policy Insititute, an organization of experts from throughout the University of California system brought together to share, synthesize, develop and collaborate on nutrition policy research.
In a recent Q&A with the UC Food Observer, Crawford commented on efforts to reduce consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages.
"We have strong evidence of sugar's contribution to diabetes, heart disease, obesity and dental caries," she said. "Hopefully educational materials for the public, including MyPlate, can begin to include water as the beverage that is first for thirst."
The 2015 UC ANR Joint Strategic Initiative Conference will be held October 5-7 at the Sheraton Grand Hotel, 1230 J Street, in Sacramento.
Who should attend: Academics affiliated with ANR – UCCE Advisors, UCCE Specialists, AES Faculty, Program Directors and Academic Coordinators.
Submit a poster abstract to participate in a poster session. To be given priority consideration, please submit poster abstracts by June 1. For details, see http://ucanr.edu/sites/2015jointsiconference/Call_for_Posters.
At the conference, you'll have the opportunity to
- Meet the new Vice President (to be invited) at the Monday evening reception.
- Participate in planning sessions for the Strategic Initiatives.
- Learn about successful research projects.
- Take advantage of free training sessions.
- Request space for your Program Team or Workgroups to meet.
- Network at the Stakeholders' Reception on Tuesday evening.
The conference is being coordinated through the five UC ANR Strategic Initiatives:
- Endemic and Invasive Pests and Diseases (EIPD)
- Healthy Families and Communities (HFC)
- Sustainable Food Systems (SFS)
- Sustainable Natural Ecosystems (SNE)
- Water Quality, Quantity and Security (Water)
For more information, visit http://ucanr.edu/sites/2015jointsiconference or contact conference co-chairs Doug Parker, (510) 987-0036, and David Doll, (209) 385-7403. For logistics, contact UC ANR Program Support Unit, Sherry Cooper, (530) 750-1256, or Saundra Wais, (530) 750-1260.
View or leave comments for ANR Leadership at http://ucanr.edu/sites/ANRUpdate/Comments.
This announcement is also posted and archived on the ANR Update pages.
The UC Hopland Research and Extension Center, a UC ANR facility, hosts an annual Sheep Shearing School, thought to be the only one in California. The students take a five-day hands-on course to learn how to maintain a quality wool clip and minimize stress to the sheep.
"It's like learning to square dance," said instructor Gary Vorderbruggen. "Except you're learning to dance with an unwilling partner."
UC ANR Cooperative Extension natural resources advisor John Harper facilitates the school in Mendocino County.
"I always say, you'll never be unemployed if you learn how to shear," Harper said. "There's never enough shearers."
One local resident who attended Sheep Shearing School twice, Matthew Gilbert, was inspired to open a local wool processing enterprise.
"It's the perfect fit for this county, because it will provide jobs for this rural economy," Harper said.
Many wineries are using sheep to clip cover crops because the sheep can't get up on their hind legs like goats to reach the foliage. Even as more sheep are working local vineyards, "we're losing the infrastructure to support the (sheep) industry," Harper said.
Last week, the Ukiah Planning Commission unanimously approved permits for Gilbert to operate a wool mill and food truck on his property, said another article in the Ukiah Daily Journal. The food truck will help supplement the family's income for the first couple of years until the mill becomes established.
Further enhancing local interest in the Mendocino County sheep industry, the Hopland REC hosts a Barn to Yarn event from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. May 23. Visitors will see shearing, spinning and weaving demonstrations and learn how to class wool and dye it using Kool-Aid. Admission is $5 per person, and children under 12 are free. The Hopland REC is at 4070 University Rd., Hopland. For more information, call Hannah Bird at (707) 744-1424, ext. 105.