Reporters sought UC Cooperative Extension expertise for recent articles about unusual farming efforts in two parts of California.
Fresno Bee reporter Robert Rodriguez covered the story of sisters in their early 20s who have settled on their dad's Laton alfalfa farm after he suffered complications from a black widow bite. The young women purchased chickens on a whim and began producing specialty eggs under the brand name "Just Got Laid."
Rodriguez spoke to Shermain Hardesty, UCCE specialist in the Department of Agriculture and Resource Economics at UC Davis, about trends in cottage farming.
"The timing is right for operators who can make a connection with consumers," Hardesty said. "People will support that."
Sacramento Bee reporter Edward Ortiz wrote about a return to dry-land farming in the Central Valley, with examples of farmers opting out of irrigation in producing particularly tasty apricots, wine grapes and tomatoes.
UC experts, however, commented on the difficulties associated with dry-land production in the valley.
"Dry farming would be a hard life because you're at the whim of the rains," said Jay Lund, director of the Center for Watershed Sciences at UC Davis. "It would have to be a fairly small-scale farm, and in some cases, it would be a good road to poverty."
Duncan said wine grape growers might withhold irrigation early in the growing season to control leaf growth and improve fruit quality, but water is still needed later on. He noted that the valley in the 19th century was widely planted with wheat that relied on rainfall. The boom ended when irrigation allowed diverse fruits, vegetables and other crops to be grown.
A Sudden Oak Death "Blitz" planned for Sonoma County June 15-16 will prepare local residents to spot infected plants, collect samples from their neighborhoods and submit them for laboratory testing, reported the Kenwood Press.
Trees susceptible to sudden oak death include California bay laurel, tan oak, live oak, black oak, canyon live oak and shreve oak. After the laboratory analysis is complete, Garbeletto will schedule a return visit to discuss the findings of the survey and provide guidelines for action.
"If the disease front is 100 yards away, then one needs to decide whether some of his oaks should be protected," Garbeletto said. "For oaks up to 30 inches in diameter, removal of small and medium size laurels for a 10-yard radius around the oak trunk plus the application of AgriFos on the bark each year or every other year will protect the oak."
The information collected by the citizen scientists will also be added to Garbelotto's OakMapper website, a portal where SOD appearance in California is monitored.
An image from the Oak Mapper website (oakmapper.org) where citizen-submitted scientific data is collected.
According to the Independent article, written by Mary Thieleke Jackson, director of the Santa Barbara County 4-H Management Board, a draft budget released Friday, May 10, does not include a county contribution to UC Cooperative Extension. Budget hearings are expected to take place the week of June 10-15.
Because the county faces a $10.5 million budget deficit, the board of supervisors is considering all options. If the proposed cut carries through to the final budget, 4-H will cease to exist in Santa Barbara County, the stories said.
"We have to set priorities and figure out what programs work and what programs don't," said Fifth District Supervisor Steve Lavagnino.
He says the board has to make up the budget losses somewhere and he hopes it doesn't include cutting funding for 4-H.
"I can't think of a better place to spend it than on our kids and teaching them about leadership and hard work," said Lavagnino.
The team compared the ratios of stable isotopes of carbon and nitrogen in the feathers, which revealed what the birds ate. They learned that, in the 19th and early 20th centuries, murrelets relied heavily on sardines, anchovies and squid. But as decades passed, anchovy, sardine and squid stocks plummeted due to overfishing and cooling waters.
The birds turned to less nutritious and lower-calorie inshore fish and krill, a move down the food chain that is threatening its survival and ability to feed their young, which wait dozens of miles away in nests high in old-growth forest tree branches for food.
This retrospective research is "a classic example of why natural history collections are important," noted the manager of Burke's Museum ornithology collection at University of Washington. "The only way to learn new things about past populations is by utilizing specimens that were collected and archived before the questions were asked.”
Joe Grant, UC Cooperative Extension advisor in San Joaquin County, said the cherry crop is light throughout the area, across orchards and varieties.
"That rules out orchard-to-orchard factors, management factors or disease factors," he said.
Crop losses are often weather-related, but early frosts, or wet or cold weather during the bloom were not factors.
"Right now, the only candidate ... is we had quite warm weather for a couple of days during bloom," Grant said. That heat may have affected pollination and reduced the amount of fruit each tree carries.
On the bright side, the fruit looks to be of good quality.