Yolo County Blogs
Water sloshes from a fill hole atop the plastic tank and strikes the dirt road in puffs of dust. With weathered hands, short nails and a once green felt cowboy hat, Adam Cline motors the water truck through the anxious herd. Piled on the floor beside him are several 40 pound bags of soybean meal, a more affordable protein supplement that protects the herd from malnourishment. Cline is fortunate: his cautious management strategies over the last two years will likely carry this operation through yet another drought year, without having to sell off any cows.
“Every rancher is equipped for an average drought,” he tells me. “But a drought like this is really hard to manage for… Emotionally it's like a battle every day to try to figure out how you can afford to feed your cows, how you're going to get water to them.”
Letters from the Dust Bowl
With as little as a quarter of the average rain in 2013, the drought in this region has now entered its third year, breaking records on a regular basis. It may be the worst here in 500 years. Many of the University of California researchers and farm advisors helping the state's agriculture industry prepare for the coming dry summer months are comparing the water shortage to the historic Dust Bowl of the 1930s, when many Oklahoma farmers and ranchers left their homes in hopes of a better life in California. In her "Letters from the Dust Bowl," Caroline Henderson captured the voices of agriculture's most difficult era in America.
In honor of Henderson's work, a team of UC researchers is developing a project that will use digital tools to capture the voices of the farming and ranching families who are today battling the worst drought they have witnessed. On one front, the project, called Farmer and Rancher Voices from the Drought, is cultivating a following through a new Facebook group. Later print and multimedia stories will be added to a UC Davis drought page.
Today, however, we are launching a new audio component, where farmers and ranchers are interviewed and recorded by a friend, colleague or loved one. They document their stories of the drought, explaining what practices have worked for them so that others dealing with these struggles can better cope. Through the broad 100-year Cooperative Extension effort at the University of California, faculty, staff and researchers are reaching out to the extensive network of farming and ranching families across the state, encouraging each of them to share their stories.
How the 'Voices' project works
The audio component of the project is hosted on SoundCloud, where anyone can easily record and upload an audio track to share. Our team is moderating the SoundCloud group and approving each recording. The tracks will be shared across our social media and web pages, where they will hopefully gain the attention of media as well as the general public.
We have developed a few guidelines to smooth the process:
- Create an account. Recording is easy, but first you must go to the SoundCloud site and sign up. You can also download and record with their smart phone app.
- Research your strategy. StoryCorps, a nonprofit project, has an excellent instruction guide for helping you record your interview. While you're there, we encourage you to also upload your finished story to the StoryCorps DIY page, where it will be preserved at the Library of Congress.
- Keep it short. By limiting your recording to three minutes, your story will keep listeners interested while maintaining its most essential parts.
- Frame your conversation around questions. Have your interviewer select from this list and add follow-ups:
- Provide your name, what you do and some background information on your farming or ranching operation.
- How has your operation been affected by the drought?
- What have been your management practices in response?
- What will you do differently if it continues?
- Is this the worst drought year you've experienced?
- What is your stocking and supplemental feed rates? Or how much land is planted versus fallow? Explain.
- What will your operation look like next year if the drought continues?
- How has this affected you and your family?
- What advice would you give others in similar situations?
- What should those outside California know about this drought?
- Finally, name it. Once you have successfully loaded your conversation onto our SoundCloud group, let us know more about yourself. Send us some details so we can follow up: an email address or phone number, the storyteller's name, the interviewer's name, the company name (if you're affiliated with an agricultural organization) and a photo.
Hilgard Lane. UCLA has Hilgard Avenue. There's even a mineral named hilgardite.
Why is the name Hilgard held in such high regard? Eugene W. Hilgard played a pivotal role in the development of California agriculture, from analyzing the Central Valley's potential as fertile farmland to promoting quality in the state's burgeoning wine industry.
Born in 1833 in Germany, Hilgard is considered the father of modern soil science in the United States. After stints at the University of Mississippi and University of Michigan, in 1875 Hilgard came to UC Berkeley as dean of the College of Agriculture and served as founding director of UC's Agricultural Experiment Station.
Hilgard began his 30-year UC career as a one-man operation, visiting farms throughout the state, inviting growers to send him their questions and answering their letters personally. He helped to inventory the state's diverse soils and taught farmers to better understand them. Under his supervision, soil maps were produced for the first time for many California counties. His research helped show how to remove salts from the alkali soils in the Central Valley, turning what was once barren land into one of the world's most productive farming regions.
With California agriculture now a $45 billion industry and Cooperative Extension celebrating its centennial, it's a good time to toast someone who helped lay the foundation for that success: Eugene Hilgard.
A friend sent me these photos from an alfalfa field near the Merced area in California's Central Valley. Can you diagnose what this is? We're not 100% sure what it is, but have a pretty good idea- and have provided a view at the end of this blog -...
Blue alfalfa aphid (BAA) populations have again been seen in southern and central California including locations in the Imperial, Palo Verde, Antelope, and San Joaquin Valleys (see Peter Goodell blog from 16 January 2014). In many locations, this was...
Scotch broom (Cytisus scoparius) and Portuguese broom (Cytisus striatus). Brooms were introduced as ornamentals, but also were used extensively for erosion control along roadsides and in mined areas.
Now growing profusely in California forests, on roadsides, and wildlands, brooms:
- Crowd out out desirable vegetation
- Form impenetrable thickets that limit access to some areas
- Shade out tree seedlings, and make reforestation difficult
- Burn readily, increasing the intensity of fire, and carry fire to the tree canopy
- Are toxic to cattle and horses and unpalatable to most wildlife
- Produce abundant, long-lived seed
- Are able to fix atmospheric nitrogen, giving broom a competitive advantage over native plants
Management of these and other weeds are presented in the recently published second edition of Forest and Right-of-Way Pest Control. Invasive species that create a dangerous wildfire hazard and crowd out desirable vegetation and wildlife are examples of why this book emphasizes vegetation management and pesticide handling, including correct equipment calibration and effective herbicide application. The second edition also provides broader coverage of insects, plant pathogens, vertebrate pests, and the various practices to manage them, recognizing that lands commonly have multiple uses and when and how pests are managed depends on many considerations with sometimes conflicting goals.
Experts with Cal-Fire, Caltrans, PG&E, USDA Forest Service, private industry, the University of California (UC) Berkeley and Davis campuses, UC County Cooperative Extension offices, and the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) contributed to Forest and Right-of-Way Pest Control, prepared by UC ANR's Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program.
Forest and Right-of-Way Pest Control is available for $35 online in the UC ANR Catalog. The table of contents and more information about the book are available on the UC IPM website. You can also preview and electronically search the contents on Google Books.