The wildfire that roared through the orchards of California’s Ventura County destroyed much of the region’s avocado crop not just with flames, but also with fierce Santa Ana winds and a thick blanket of ash.…Avocados are the rare produce trees planted in hillside groves because of their shallow roots, said Ben Faber, a University of California farm advisor in Ventura. The fruit, typically harvested in February or March, is full-sized and a heavy fruit by December, held by a long stem. Those factors make avocados, already growing away from their natural environment in Central and South America, more vulnerable to the whipping winds than the lemon orchards dotting the flatlands of Ventura, Faber said.
San Francisco Chronicle
“All we can really do is make a difficult situation or a moderate situation better,” said Scott Stephens, a professor of fire science at UC Berkeley. “But I think we are beginning to see a change in our ability to deal with this. Even politicians are getting much more interested now. Not that they’re going to solve this,” he said, “but you have billions of dollars of losses and this type of havoc is becoming a big deal that has to be dealt with.”….“We’re increasing the probability of missing that season-ending rain and having the fire season continue further into the fall,” said LeRoy Westerling, a climate scientist at UC Merced. “A place like Napa or Sonoma is looking more like San Diego, while Southern California is having a fire season that extends all the way toward winter.”
Los Angeles Times
More than 66 animals are known to have died. At least 35 perished at San Luis Rey Downs on Thursday afternoon, and 29 at a Sylmar ranch overrun by the Creek fire Tuesday. There are reports of dead or missing horses and ponies from small farms and ranches throughout the region. Some owners won’t know the fate of their animals until evacuation orders are lifted and they can search their properties.
“It’s just tragic,” said John Madigan, an expert in animal disaster rescue who teaches at UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. He called the deaths “an unprecedented loss of life.”… [He] said that he had watched video of the frantic scene and thought the trainers and stable hands, far outnumbered by the horses, had acted correctly as the blaze bore down by opening stalls and hoping that horses would run to safety.
Orange County Register
And the houses themselves, when built, need to incorporate fire-resistant materials and structural techniques that make them less likely to burn. Roofing should be clay, tile or metal; eaves should be boxed in (and cleared of debris) and attics should include vents that can thwart the entrance of burning embers. Wood should not be exposed and patio decks should be made of something other than wood. Even the windows — double paned to reduce radiant heat that might ignite draperies and home furnishing — should be designed to prevent combustion. “If you build in chaparral, you make it a solid town, with (fire-resistant) streets and houses,” said Richard Minnich, a UC Riverside professor who has studied wildfires in Southern California and Baja California. “Asphalt, concrete and irrigated lawns are not good fuel. Ornamental vegetation and houses that are built properly: They are not good fuel.”
Public Radio International (PRI)
Alejandra Hilbert is spending a Saturday morning in November applying for CalFresh, the California program that used to be called “food stamps.” She is one of 8,000 students at the University of California, Berkeley who have been notified that they may be eligible for government assistance of up to $192 each month to help pay for groceries. Due to recent changes in state policies, more college students like Hilbert may qualify. One of the biggest changes is that students no longer need to work 20 hours per week if they are taking a full-time course load that will improve their chances of getting a job later.
This year has been a terrible one for wildfires. Millions of acres in Montana, Oklahoma, Florida, Texas and North Carolina and South Carolina have been damaged. There was the fire in California that killed 44 people and burned thousands of homes and businesses in wine country in October. And now, Los Angeles has entered its second week of the Thomas fire.
Marketplace Tech host Molly Wood talked with Brandon Collins, a research scientist at University of California, Berkeley's Center for Fire Research and Outreach, about how its lab is using technology in fire research. Below is an edited excerpt of their conversation.
Los Angeles Times
The shot hole borer could kill as many as 27 million trees in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties — roughly 38% of all trees in the urban region. Because such an unusually wide variety of tree species are susceptible to this pest-disease, it has spread quickly throughout urban forests, wildlands and avocado groves across Southern California.
To help meet California’s mandatory landscape ordinances for water conservation, Village Nurseries donated 300 plants to the University of California Landscape Plant Irrigation Trials. The studies, to be conducted at UC Davis and the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (ANR) South Coast Research and Extension Center in Irvine, aim to determine water needs for landscape plants. The goal is to develop information on water use of landscape plants in both locations. Principal investigator of the project is
, the UC Cooperative Extension Environmental Horticulture advisor in San Joaquin County.
is the project manager at SCREC.
A Spanish-speaking UC Cooperative Extension nutrition educator explained that the UCCE educators visit low-income schools to teach children how to improve their diets. For example, they remind the students that punch drinks are very high in sugar. Another educator says the lessons include directions for gardening and incorporating the fresh vegetables into meals.
Los Angeles Times
The causes of the Northern California wildfires in October are under investigation. But for a number of the fires, the prime suspects are sparking power lines and electrical equipment downed by winds that gusted to more than 70 mph. A few highly flammable parts of the world are taking tougher stands. National planning regulations in France now require communities in the country’s fire-prone south to bar development in certain high fire-hazard zones. “It’s not terribly popular. But they do have the ability to make that happen,” said
, a natural resources advisor with the UC Cooperative Extension who spent a sabbatical in France and recently published a research paper on the topic.
San Francisco Chronicle
University of California survey
of 9,000 students conducted by the UC Nutrition Policy Institute’s
, and UCSB’s Katie Maynard, sheds light on student hunger. It said nearly 1 in 5 students, 19 percent, said they had too little to eat “due to limited resources.” Another 23 percent routinely ate substandard food with little variation.
Funds for acquisition of open space lands in eastern Alameda County are available as a result of a legal settlement in connection with expansion of the Altamont Landfill. A subcommittee comprised of Livermore Councilmember Bob Woerner and Sierra Club representative Dick Schneider will work with
, UCCE specialist, Department of Environmental Science, Policy, & Management at UC Berkeley, to identify priority areas that could be purchased.
Capital Public Radio
Marijuana farms break up continuous stretches of forest into small pieces, an impact that is ecologically significant because it influences how nutrients cycle through the ecosystem and how wildlife moves. "It impacts what habitat are available for different species. Some species like large continuous areas of forest and other species like to live on the edge of forest," UC Cooperative Extension specialist
Santa Maria Times
4-H members from five low-income schools prepared dinner for more than 100 guests after hands-on learning taught them about nutrition, gardening and community service. The project, called 4-H SNAC (Student Nutrition Advisory Council) Clubs, is a collaboration between UC CalFresh Nutrition Education and UC 4-H Youth Development in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties and the schools.
The Butte County Farm Bureau and the UC Cooperative Extension nutrition education program put on an “agribee” program to educate students about agriculture and the role it plays in Butte County. The students spell and define words like xylem, weevil, phosophorus, anvil and apiary.
Orange County Register
The Orange County Farm Bureau has donated nearly $1 million dollars to four colleges and universities establishing scholarships and permanent endowments to support ag education. In January, a gift of $500,000 was made to UC Agriculture and Natural Resources, which established the OCFB Presidential Chair for Agriculture Education at the South Coast Research and Extension Center in Irvine. The gift was matched by the university to create a $1 million endowment. Three additional gifts of $165,000 each were given to Cal Poly Pomona, Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.
Oroville Mercury Register
Every year more than 150 fourth-grades learn about local agriculture and commodities at an agricultural field day sponsored by the Butte County Farm, Home and 4-H Support Group and coordinated by the Butte County Cooperative Extension’s UC CalFresh Nutrition Education Program. “It gives them hands-on exposure to agriculture in the county,” UC CalFresh Program Coordinator
said. “For many of them it’s their first exposure to agriculture and there’s a lot of excitement.”
Urban and suburban areas are susceptible to devastating blazes in Northern California. “I think (the Santa Rosa fire) served as a wake up for us that that sort of destruction could happen on such a scale,” said
, UCCE natural resources advisor. “We’ve gotten comfortable thinking it’s a Southern California problem, but clearly it’s not. This is California – we have to be thinking about all the hazards in our landscape.” The state’s Cal Fire agency maps fire hazard severity zones for California’s 58 counties. UCCE forestry specialist
, who helped draft the most recent maps in 2007, said the data was generated by examining a region’s topography and vegetation, and otherwise “wasn’t the most sophisticated model.”
it's hard to find an organism in any way connected to humans that hasn't been genetically modified, says
Alison Van Eenennaam
, UC Cooperative Extension animal biotechnology specialist. "I might argue that a great Dane or a Corgi are 'genetically modified' relative to their ancestor, the wolf," she said. "'GMO' is not a very useful term. Modified for what and why is really the more important question.”
Santa Maria Sun
The 4-H Student Nutrition Advisory Council (SNAC) clubs are providing local students with healthy food tastings, nutritional presentations, and gardening lessons so those kids can in turn teach their classmates and families about healthy choices. The 4-H SNAC program is a collaborative effort between UC CalFresh Nutrition Education, UC 4-H Youth Development, and the Santa Maria-Bonita School District. “For nutrition education, reaching low-income populations is critical and crucial,” said
, Cal Fresh Community Education Supervisor. “We know a lot of low-income communities don’t have the same access to healthy foods or places to get active.”
Woodland Daily Democrat
Morgan Doran, director of UC Cooperative Extension in Yolo County, dedicated drought-tolerant demonstration landscaping at the Woodland office last week. The landscape also controls flooding and offers better security. The garden was dedicated to UCCE advisor emeritus Kent Brittan, who died in March 2016.
Fox 5 San Diego
, which was started by the University of California’s Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, helps collect information on coyote encounters in California. Niamh Quinn, a UCCE human-wildlife interactions advisor who helped develop the app, said this time of year is prime for coyote activity and sightings. “This is what’s called dispersal season, it’s when a juvenile leaves the den to begin a life of their own,” Quinn said. “They’ll look for other mates and other coyotes to link up with.”
NBC Bay Area News
UCCE forestry specialist Bill Steward said Cal Fire isn’t equipped to coordinate aggressive fire prevention strategies. “I think Cal Fire at its core is basically a fire department,” Stewart said. “I do think fire mitigation is going to have to go up. That’s just been considered kind of a sideline program at Cal Fire.”
Between customers, retailers and growers, taxes on cannabis may reach as high as 45 percent in parts of the state, according to a Fitch Ratings report. Those high taxes may keep consumers away from legal marijuana stores once the recreational retail market goes live on January 1. Black market farmers also face other obstacles to becoming compliant with state law. UC Cooperative Extension specialist Van Bustic, a specialist in the environmental impact of cannabis cultivation, said that registering with the state and becoming compliant will cost about $100,000. He said that many Humboldt farmers are unlikely to shoulder that cost if they can continue to operate in the dark.
Ecological Society of America
Elise Gornish and Leslie Roche write: The U.S. land-grant mission and the Cooperative Extension system have initiated, developed, and implemented models of public engagement for the past 100 years. Cooperative Extension engages through trusted and established relationships, and collaboration and co-development of projects with the public.
Families whose homes were reduced to white ash by the October wildfires in Northern California must decide whether to rebuild quickly as things were, rebuild defensively against future fires, or abandon their burned neighborhood entirely. Ultimately, “all of us as taxpayers are sort of picking up the bill in one way or the other” for wildfires, said
, UC Cooperative Extension fire science specialist. If the public is subsidizing the costs, it should also have a say through regulations to determine where and how people can build, he said.
Fortunately for Northern California's 2017 vintage, most of the grapes had been harvested by the time the fires broke out there. People were concerned that the smoke could affect the already-picked grapes in fermenters, but according to
, an UCCE enology specialist, that's unlikely. "During fermentation these wines should have been protected due to a protective ‘blanket’ of carbon dioxide released during fermentation," she told Wine Spectator via email. "However, even if some volatile phenols from the smoke [are] absorbed in the wine, we do not expect any glycosylation to take place. So the problem of non-volatile precursors will not exist."
Riverside Press Enterprise
UCCE entomology specialist
is a principal player in the fight against the South American palm weevil. Hoddle and the Riverside biotech firm ISCA Technologies are teaming up to develop formulations from naturally occurring compounds to lure weevils to small but lethal doses of pesticide. Through this approach, less than one-hundredth of the volume of pesticide in traditional spray applications is used.
The California Aggie
UC Davis receives $760 million in funding, allowing faculty to tackle some of world’s most pressing issues. Among the programs noted in this article is the UC CalFresh Nutrition Education Program. “We’re funded to provide nutrition education for obesity prevention to help transform low-income communities and individuals, to improve access to healthy foods, to reduce food insecurity, to increase physical activity and to reduce obesity,” said
, the director of UC CalFresh.
Los Angeles Times
Deciding whether to go with the real thing or an artificial version involves lots of factors.
, who works with Christmas tree farmers in her role as farm advisor for the University of California Cooperative Extension, said many people assume the trees are cut down in forests and stolen from nature. In reality, Christmas trees are grown on farms in California, Oregon, Washington, Michigan, North Carolina, Tennessee and other states, and they are meant to be cut down....The total amount of raw materials needed to manufacture an artificial Christmas tree is roughly equal to the amount needed to make an upholstered patio chair....What happens to the tree after the presents have been opened is another factor to consider.
Napa Valley Register
UC Cooperative Extension advisors
organized the Napa Valley Vineyard Technical Group meeting in Napa for owners of private lands within the burn areas for the Atlas, Nuns and Tubbs wildfires of October 2017. “There are going to be days when you feel like you’re making it up as you go along,” said
, a UC Cooperative Extension advisor emeritus. “You are. You haven’t done this before.” Giusti talked about forest health and recovery strategies.
The Washington, D.C.-based Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research awarded a $150,000 grant to UC Riverside and a Riverside-based biotech firm to bolster their work in developing pesticides capable of eradicating insects that are destroying palm trees in California and elsewhere. “This funding has arrived a critical time. We need to get ahead of the weevil invasion in San Diego and this support provides the boost we need,” said UC Cooperative Extension specialist
, director of the Center for Invasive Species Research at UC Riverside.
New Food Economy
The University of California Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program defines IPM this way: “A process you can use to solve pest problems while minimizing risks to people and the environment. IPM can be used to manage all kinds of pests anywhere—in urban, agricultural, and wildland or natural areas.”