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Update Meeting focused on Sugarcane Aphid affecting Sorghum

A meeting is scheduled to update growers and allied industry on the sugarcane aphid impacting sorghum. Please see the attached flyer for details.

Sugar Cane Aphid Update Flyer
Sugar Cane Aphid Update Flyer

Posted on Tuesday, February 21, 2017 at 11:00 AM
  • Author: Jeff Dahlberg

Building trust in food systems – here and in Cambodia

What is the role of trust in our food system? Here in the United States, our trust in food is often implicit. We can generally trust that the fruits and vegetables we buy at a grocery store or farmers market are safe to eat — and we are often free to shop without even thinking about that trust.

Between farmers and agricultural scientists too, trust often plays an important role. If you're a farmer, you need to be able to trust that investing your time or money in a new technique or in attending a workshop will indeed improve your business.

But it can be easy to forget that trust is a critical first step in many of these agricultural relationships.

Thort Chuong (now a Fulbright scholar and UC Davis grad student) welcomes us into a nethouse in Cambodia, owned by a farmer who tried it after joining a savings group and hearing about this new way he could grow vegetables without spraying pesticides. Karen LeGrand of UC Davis stands inside, among the leafy green seedlings in the nethouse.

Establishing trust between actors in a food system has been critical for a Horticulture Innovation Lab project in Cambodia, focused on increasing the amount of safe vegetables available to Cambodian consumers.  Project leaders from UC Davis and UC ANR — Glenn YoungJim Hill, Cary Trexler, David Miller and Karen LeGrand — are actually traveling right now in Cambodia to launch a new phase of this project. They are partnering with scientists from Cambodia's Royal University of Agriculture and the University of Battambang. The researchers plan to expand upon their past successes, working together with farmers, marketers, and input suppliers to build trust while building safe vegetable value chains.

One key to their past success was that before introducing farmers to new agricultural technologies, the researchers first connected with farmers socially, by starting community savings groups. In these savings groups, farmers could build relationships and trust, while increasing their own savings and accessing small loans.

This social aspect of the project was the focus of a video made by UC Davis graduate students Thort Chuong, Elyssa Lewis, and Katie Hoeberling. This 3-minute video was a finalist in the World Food Day Video Challenge:

Building trust and resilience in a safe vegetable value chain in Cambodia Interviews for the video were conducted as part of a student thesis and supported by the U.S. Borlaug Graduate Research Fellowship program. 


Though he is now studying at UC Davis as a Fulbright Fellow, Chuong was originally hired to work with farmers on the first phase of this project in Kandal province as an agronomist and field facilitator.

“At first I just wanted to focus on the agronomy part,” he said. “But then I saw the advantages of being a [savings group] member and thought, wow, this is a great thing to do.”

In fact the advantages were so great that on the weekends he returned to his hometown, gathering his neighbors and relatives together to start their own savings groups. Members have a safe way to save money, an easier way to secure small loans, and earn a little interest too.

Farmers in these savings groups were able to save considerable amounts of money and provide loans to each other for things like seeds, field preparation, labor costs, school fees, wedding costs, even in one case a new house — with each member contributing $5-25 per week for a year.

With trust and community established, some of the farmers in the savings groups also decided to try out a new agricultural technology in partnership with the scientists, using nethouses for pest management to avoid spraying pesticides. (In many countries where pesticide information is inaccessible to the average farmer, it is not uncommon for farmers to keep a separate garden to feed their family — in order to avoid eating even their own crops that they are selling to the market.)

The new, safe vegetable value chain they were part of grew and strengthened, as the international team connected these farmers to a marketer who needed to source vegetables grown without pesticides. That marketer then sells those vegetables to consumers in the capital city of Phnom Penh, who were able to trust the vegetables they bought from her are indeed safe to eat.

The Horticulture Innovation Lab is led by a team at UC Davis, with funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development, as part of the U.S. government's global hunger and food security initiative called Feed the Future. Learn more about Horticulture Innovation Lab researchers and their projects in Asia, Africa and Central America.

Savings group members count out Cambodian riel, during an annual ceremony where members are repaid their share of funds (their own savings plus interest), after repaying all of their community loans. After the Horticulture Innovation Lab research was complete in their community, these farmers have continued to expand both their savings groups and their use of new agricultural technologies.

 

Posted on Tuesday, February 21, 2017 at 8:50 AM

Sorghum for silage meetings to be held in the San Joaquin Valley - March 7 and March 9, 2017

Sorghum

UCCE researchers are currently working on a project to determine the value of sorghum silage in California dairy systems.  Sorghum has gained attention in recent years as it is well adapted to drought/water stress conditions, but very little...

Sorghum Silage Meeting Announcement
Sorghum Silage Meeting Announcement

Posted on Wednesday, February 15, 2017 at 12:03 PM

New mobile app to track close encounters with coyotes

A coyote pup is captured on a game camera in Irvine. Hikers can use the Coyote Cacher app to report coyote sightings.

As urban coyote numbers rise, the animals are increasingly crossing paths with residents. There have been police reports of coyotes attacking pets and even people, but there has been no place to report casual coyote encounters. Now there is a new mobile app to help keep track of where those wily coyotes are coming into contact with people. Hikers and people walking their dogs can use Coyote Cacher, created by the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources, to report coyote sightings.

“I'm so excited about this app because it will help us to collect better information on coyote conflict in California,” said Niamh Quinn, UC Cooperative Extension advisor, who studies human-wildlife interactions. “Coyote conflict appears to be particularly high in Southern California and it seems to be emerging in other areas. The information people provide through Coyote Cacher will help inform government agencies, wildlife researchers, park managers and residents to make better coyote management decisions.”

By reporting encounters with coyotes in their neighborhoods, residents can share information to help neighbors keep their pets and children safe.  

“There is a coyote encounter map that will allow the public to keep track of what is happening in their areas,” said Quinn, who is based in Orange County.

Individuals can use the app to check a map to see locations of coyote sightings. Pet owners may decide not to let their pets out at night unsupervised in areas where coyotes have been reported. 

Coyote Cacher's map shows locations of coyote encounters. Green dots are the lowest level alert, yellow indicates a pet interaction and red, the most serious, warns of an attack on a pet on a leash or person.

“The app allows users to sign up for email alerts,” Quinn said. “These alerts – green, yellow and red – notify users when there is a coyote encounter reported in their zip code.”  

Green is the lowest alert level and will give alerts for all coyote encounters in the user's zip code, from sightings to a person being bitten. Yellow will not alert users about sightings, but will let them know about all levels of pet interactions, including pets being chased or attacked off-leash by coyotes, and red alerts. Red is the highest alert level and allows for users to be informed only about the more serious incidents, for example, a coyote attacking a pet on a leash or biting a person. 

“This app will also allow me to gather baseline information on coyote activity and the success of community hazing,” Quinn said.

Community hazing involves people shouting and waving their arms at coyotes and generally being obnoxious to make the nuisance animals afraid of humans.

“It would be great if everyone would do this when they see a coyote, but at the moment this is not really happening,” Quinn said. “Also, coyotes in Southern California appear to take a lot of risks and come in close contact with humans so community hazing may not deter them.”

More intense hazing, like shooting them with paintball guns, might be more effective techniques for government agencies to manage urban coyotes, she said.

To find out if any of these techniques work, the UC wildlife scientist would like to put collars on urban coyotes to study whether the animals move away from locations after hazing.   

Quinn would like to put collars on urban coyotes to study whether the animals move away from locations after hazing.

“We are seeking funding to collar coyotes to find out more about their activity and social structure and how they react to different types of management,” Quinn said. “We would need to figure out if the effects of the hazing are long-lasting, or if the coyotes just revert to ‘bad behavior' when the hazing is stopped.”

Although Quinn's research is focused on California, Coyote Cacher can be used anywhere in the United States. The website also offers information about urban coyotes.

Coyote Cacher can be used on a computer or on a mobile device at http://ucanr.edu/CoyoteCacher.

The Coyote Cacher app was designed by UC ANR's Informatics and Geographic Information Systems and funded by UC Cooperative Extension in Orange County.

 

Posted on Monday, February 13, 2017 at 12:07 PM
Tags: Coyote Cacher (1), coyotes (3), Niamh Quinn (3)

DOES NITROGEN ASSIST ALFALFA IN RECOVERING FROM FLOOD DAMAGE?

Fig1

Yellow plants equals nitrogen deficits—right?   Maybe not! When we have a very wet winter or spring, alfalfa fields may look yellow with diseased-looking leaves and delayed growth. As farmers know, yellowing of leaves is a strong...

Posted on Friday, February 10, 2017 at 9:54 PM
Tags: alfalfa (24), flooding (4), nitrogen (6)

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