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Low residual dry matter on rangeland a concern heading into wet season

Leaving sufficient dry matter on rangeland prevents soil erosion and creates a conducive environment for diverse plant communities to thrive.
Over the past few years, drought has negatively affected everyone in the state and ranchers are no exception. Due to the drought, most areas have seen a decline in forage production and water availability, and as a result many livestock producers reduced their herd sizes and grazing season.

With some recent forecasts bringing encouraging news about a potential El Niño, some ranchers have been asking about what they should expect in terms of forage production, if and when the rains come. What they want to know is how soon rangeland productivity will reach the pre-drought levels again. One issue that I always draw their attention to is the levels of residual dry matter (RDM) on the rangelands. Even with the reduction in herd sizes and shorter grazing seasons employed by most producers, more rangelands now have less than recommended RDM levels.

RDM is a measure of the old plant material (without counting summer annuals) that are left standing or on the ground before the fall precipitation comes. It is a great indicator of both forage production and grazing intensity. These leftover plant materials are critical on California rangelands to reduce erosion and nutrient loss, and to create a conducive environment for diverse plant communities to thrive. Optimum RDM levels are site specific, they range from 100-2,100 pounds per acre, and depend on precipitation zone, slope and tree canopy cover. Ideal RDM levels increases with precipitation and slope, and decreases with tree cover. Studies show that too low or too high RDM levels will reduce species composition and forage production, both factors critical to any livestock production system. The good news is that annual rangelands are resilient and will likely return to normal production within two years after bringing RDM level to recommended standards.

Knowing the RDM standards for one's rangeland and continuously monitoring is an important step towards achieving sustainable rangeland management and livestock production.

Details about RDM standards, data collection methods and more can be found in the free UC Agriculture and Natural Resources publication Guidelines for Residual Dry Matter on Coastal and Foothill Rangelands in California

Author: Fadzayi Mashiri, Ph.D.

Posted on Friday, October 2, 2015 at 10:24 AM

It's time to get serious about food waste

Here's my take on food waste. It goes back in part to lessons I've learned from studying World War I, when the American government set food conservation goals (along with goals for local food production via Liberty - later Victory - Gardens). I'm a big proponent of both reducing food waste and producing more food in communities via school, home and community gardens. Big point: the World War I poster included in this post has advice we'd be well served to heed today.

"Food waste is both an ethical and environmental issue. It should concern us that we waste nearly 40 percent of the food we produce and purchase in this food-abundant nation.

For an interesting comparative statistic, consider this: our nation produced nearly 40 percent of the fruits and vegetables we consumed on the American home front during World War II in school, home, community and workplace gardens."

Poster from the collection of the Museum of Ventura County. (Credit: Aysen Tan)
Period piece or photoshopped image?

It's an iconic poster from World War 1. Food...don't waste it. The image is regularly shared on Twitter and Facebook.

The original was produced in 1919 by the United States Food Administration, under the direction of the newly appointed food "czar" - Herbert Hoover.

The poster was reissued during World War II. It's been revised in recent years, by individuals and organizations interested in encouraging an ethos incorporating local foods and sustainability.

While I'm the UC Food Observer, I also dabble in the history of wartime poster art. I'm often asked if this is a contemporary mock-up made to look and feel vintage.

It's not a mock-up. It's the real deal, produced 95 years ago, with messages we should embrace today.

History of poster art

The First World War marked the first large-scale use of propaganda posters by governments. Posters, with easy-to-understand slogans and compelling images, made powerful propaganda tools. The government needed to shape public opinion, recruit soldiers, raise funds and conserve resources and mobilize citizens to important home front activities ... including gardening, food conservation and food preservation. In an era before television and widespread radio and movies, posters were a form of mass media. And they appeared in windows and were posted on walls everywhere, in as many languages as were spoken in this nation of immigrants.

If you want to dig a little deeper, the poster art of WWI was influenced by the La Belle Epoque - the beautiful era - named in retrospect, after the full horror of WWI had been revealed. The Art Nouveau movement in France and the rise of modern advertising were also important in shaping how posters were used during wartime. Technical improvements in printing, including a process called chromolithography, facilitated mass production of posters.

The original poster: Yes: 'buy local foods' is rule 4

The original poster has six rules that we'd be well served to follow today. The fourth rule - buy local foods - is somewhat of a surprise to people today, because the notion of buying local seems somewhat modern. But in WWI, the U.S. government encouraged the local production and consumption of food, in part, to free trains to more effectively ship troops and war materiel.

Tackling food waste through preservation: today's Master Food Preserver Program

UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) hosts a UC Master Food Preserver Program. The program teaches best practices on food safety and preservation to volunteers. The extensive training program prepares the volunteers to work in their community educating others on the safe practices of food preservation, including pickling, drying, freezing, canning and fruit preserves.

Thinking about gardening? Do we have resources for you!

UC ANR also has the UC Master Gardener Program, which fields more than 5,000 volunteers in communities across the state. The Master Gardener Program is a national program, housed at the land grant institution in each state, but it's also connected to the USDA. Free gardening resources are available here. Advice to grow by...just ask.

This is an excerpt of an article from a post on the UC Food Observer blog, used with permission.

Posted on Thursday, October 1, 2015 at 11:01 AM

Fostering changes one #healthyselfie at a time

A group of participants in the UC CalFresh Nutrition Education program will graduate next week ready to use the knowledge and skills they have acquired to make healthy choices for themselves and their families. Let's find out what healthy changes they have made:

A collage of the #healthyselfies by Jobs 2000 participants.

“I added whole grains.”

“Put more vegetables in daily diet.”

“Serving more fruits and veggies.”

“Eating more greens and less fatty foods.”

 “Eating more colorful vegetables.”

“Don't leave meat out!”

“Eating more vegetables and fruits.”

“Being more physically active.”

The UC CalFresh Nutrition Education program is a no-cost, evidence-based course focusing on nutrition, physical activity, food safety and resource management offered to low-income youth and adults. Community partnerships are essential for successful, sustainable programming. 

The Fresno-Madera County UC CalFresh Nutrition Education Program is currently hosting an Eat Smart, Being Active class series in partnership with a local job training agency. Participants attending Proteus' Jobs 2000 classes are offered nutrition education as part of their ongoing education, job training and job placement services. UC CalFresh maintains an ongoing partnership with Proteus Inc., enabling us to expand our reach and assist low-income families to make informed and educated decisions when it comes to their health.

Nutrition Educator Angelica Perez engages and teaches participants about lean protein choices and the importance of portion size.

The current class has covered topics including:

  • Incorporating a variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins into meals and snacks.
  • The importance of physical activity, and the health benefits one derives from maintaining a healthy diet alongside an active lifestyle.
  • Resource management, to encourage participants to stretch food dollars while making the healthiest food choices.
  • The importance of dairy foods and calcium for bone health.

As a nutrition educator, I always encourage participants to make healthy lifestyle changes, regardless of how incrementally it's done. Whether it means walking around the block during lunch or breaks, or adding more fruits and vegetables to everyday meals, no change is too small. Health changes made gradually enable us to maintain them over time.

Below are a few tips I like to provide series participants:

  • Start with a goal that is achievable and time bound.
  • As you achieve your health goals, challenge yourself further. For example, you may be accustomed to drinking whole milk and have effectively transitioned to reduced-fat milk (2%). Don't stop there, challenge yourself and go for low-fat (1%) milk. 
  • Write down your health goal, this will keep you accountable.
  • Your health goal should be fun and enjoyable, involve your family or friends to make it social. For example, create a neighborhood walking club and encourage others in your community to be more active.
  • Celebrate your successes!
  • For more tips, I encourage participants to visit There are always new resources available to make a healthy lifestyle easier.

Lifestyle changes happen gradually, and Jobs 2000 participants are leading the way toward building healthier families, while encouraging others to do so too. Together we can inspire others to make healthy changes!

I want to encourage you to take a #healthyselfie to inspire others within your community to make healthy lifestyle changes. 

Pictured above is Donald, his #healthyselfie is centered on adding more vegetables into his daily diet.
Pictured above are Ermila (left) and Abigail. Their #healthyselfies is to keep food safe when preparing meals and adding more whole grains.

Use the hashtags #UCCE and #healthyselfie, and follow @UCCalFreshFC and @UCANR to stay connected with our social media platforms, for more healthy tips, and for updates about events and classes in the Central Valley. You can join and stay connected to the work being done in Fresno and Madera counties across many platforms including: FacebookTwitterInstagram,  YouTube, and our Blog.

Pictured above are (clockwise, from upper left) Brenda, Cheyenne and Mercedes who showcase their #healthyselfie with goals for food safety, eating more leafy greens and being more physically active.
Pictured above are (clockwise, from upper left) Brenda, Cheyenne and Mercedes who showcase their #healthyselfie with goals for food safety, eating more leafy greens and being more physically active.

Posted on Tuesday, September 29, 2015 at 7:54 AM

Use compost for water conservation

Organic matter from the garden can be turned into compost and added to landscape soil to increase water holding capacity.
Some of the best practices for maintaining healthy home gardens and landscapes also cut water use, a particularly important benefit during the drought. That's the case with compost. UC Agriculture and Natural Resources' environmental horticulture advisors and UC Master Gardeners have long encouraged Californians to liberally use compost to improve their soil.

“Adding compost to your soil on a regular basis increases the amount of water your soil can hold, therefore decreasing the amount of times you need to apply water to your landscape,” says Missy Gable, the director of the UC Master Gardener program, in the final installment of a six-part video series on water conservation in the home landscape.

Compost is organic matter – grass clippings, fallen leaves, spent bedding plants, vegetable peels, coffee grounds, etc. – that has been dampened and turned regularly so it is broken down by worms and micro-organisms. The finished compost, a dark black blend with a pleasant earthy smell, can be mixed into the native soil in the landscape.

Compost improves the soil texture, holds moisture, provides food for beneficial bacteria, and nutrients for plants.

View the video below:

Detailed information about the benefits of compost and instructions for home composting can be found in Composting is Good for Your Garden and the Environment, a UC ANR publication available for free download from the UC ANR publications catalog.

Additional videos in the UC ANR series on saving water in the landscape.

Prioritize your plants

Early-morning watering is best

Remove weeds from your landscape

Mulch the soil surface

Skip landscape fertilization

The videos are also available on the UC ANR YouTube channel.

An initiative to improve California water quality, quantity and security is part of the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources Strategic Vision 2025.

Posted on Monday, September 28, 2015 at 10:49 AM

Sudden oak death moving to urban areas; 3 steps to protect oaks

Doug Schmidt, standing, and Matteo Garbelotto examine a bay laurel on the UC Berkeley campus.
Drought is decreasing but not defeating the pathogen that causes sudden oak death, according to a citizen science-assisted survey conducted this spring by a UC Agriculture and Natural Resources forest pathologist.

Results of the 2015 Sudden Oak Death Blitz survey reveal coastal mountain infestations in areas such as Big Sur (19% infection), the Santa Cruz Mountains (13% infection), and western Sonoma County (12% infection) remain high despite an overall decline in infection rates from 4.4% to 3.7% across California's 15 infested counties.

Sudden oak death (SOD) symptoms have been seen in Alameda, Contra Costa, Humboldt, Lake, Marin, Mendocino, Monterey, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Solano, Sonoma and Trinity counties.

“Understanding the current disease distribution is key to preventing sudden oak death spread. Citizen scientists have been an invaluable help with this task over the last decade,” said Matteo Garbelotto, UC ANR Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management at UC Berkeley, who organizes the annual SOD Blitz.

Several new SOD outbreaks of note were identified during the blitzes. Two infected California bay laurel trees were confirmed near UC Berkeley's West Gate, a high-traffic, high-risk area with many heritage oaks. An infected California lilac shrub was found in the Presidio of San Francisco's (part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area) southeastern quadrant. An infected California bay laurel tree was confirmed in Danville (eastern Contra Costa County) in an area where SOD had not previously been reported, and an urban park in Saratoga was found infested for the first time.

These bay laurel leaves show P. ramorum symptoms.
“In an effort to protect habitat restoration in the Presidio, we are working to strengthen Best Management Practices to prevent the spread of SOD based on the Garbelotto lab recommendations,” said Christa Conforti, integrated pest management specialist at Presidio Trust in San Francisco. “In partnership with UC, the National Park Service, and the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, we are developing a Phytophthora prevention, detection and control strategy, which includes active participation in SOD Blitzes.”

Nineteen citizen science-based SOD Blitzes (largest number of blitzes to date) were held this spring, two of which were new this year – one in Trinity County and one on Kashia Band of Pomo Indian land in Mendocino County. The 504 volunteers surveyed nearly 10,000 trees from San Luis Obispo County, north to Mendocino and Trinity counties. Each volunteer was trained to identify Phytophthora ramorum (the plant pathogen known to cause SOD) symptoms on California bay laurel and tanoak leaves. “Blitzers” had up to three days to collect and record locations of symptomatic samples, which were then sent to the Garbelotto lab for DNA analysis to determine the presence or absence of the pathogen.

The SODMap mobile app shows a map of sampled trees.
SOD management workshops

Garbelotto is sharing results from the spring blitzes as well as new recommendations for SOD management at workshops being held around the Bay Area. Workshops will be held in Sebastopol on Nov. 3, in Berkeley on Nov. 4, andin San Rafael on Nov. 13. For details, see “Community meetings” at

For landowners in infested areas concerned about protecting their oak trees, Garbelotto will reveal his updated three-step SOD management plan. He will show them how to:

  1. Use the SODMap mobile app to help assess risk of oak infection (see
  2. Determine if California bay laurel trees near high-value oaks should be considered for removal (using a new buffer zone new chart -
  3. Apply phosphonates to high-value oak and tanoak trees to boost immunity (updated dosages and application frequencies at

Infection on California bay laurel and tanoak leaves indicates arrival of P. ramorum to an area, but true oak (California black oak, coast live oak, canyon live oak and Shreve's oak) infection typically requires a couple of years with wet conditions after pathogen arrival. Therefore, preventatively treating oaks to help ward off infection is best done when early indicator species first show symptoms, prior to oak infection and optimal conditions for the pathogen – cool and moist.

These surveys are made possible thanks to funding from the USDA Forest Service and the PG&E Foundation as well as help from the California Native Plant Society.

For more information on the workshops, go to or contact Katie Harrell at (510) 847-5482 or For more information on sudden oak death and P. ramorum, visit the California Oak Mortality Task Force website at


Posted on Friday, September 25, 2015 at 11:38 AM

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