1996-97 Research & Education Projects

SAREP Funds New Projects

by Claudette Cervinka, guest writer

Thirty-one research and education projects have been granted a total of
$267,535 by UC SAREP in the 1996-97 funding cycle, according to Bill
Liebhardt, SAREP director. New projects were chosen in four areas:
production, community development and public policy, educational events,
and graduate student awards. Additionally nine continuing projects received
$81,539, bringing SAREP's total grant funding for 1996-97 to $349,074.
Brief descriptions of the new projects, principal investigators and amounts
awarded for the first year follow.

Production Projects

(12 projects; $150,767)

Steven Temple, Extension Agronomist, Agronomy and Range Science, UC Davis,
"The Transition from Conventional to Low-Input or Organic Farming Systems:
Soil Biology, Soil Chemistry, Soil Physics, Energy Utilization, Economics
and Risk": $45,661 for first year in another four-year cycle. The
Sustainable Agriculture Farming Systems (SAFS) project at UC Davis compares
four farming systems with varying levels of dependence on external
resources over a 12-year period. Changes in soil biology and fertility are
becoming apparent. Steady-state conditions have not been reached in all
systems, and soil fertility and other problems will require remedial
management. Shifts have occurred in pest populations in the different
farming systems, particularly in weed and soil pathogen communities. An
eight-acre companion site for novel farming practices tests the reduction
of non-renewable resource inputs. Outreach through field days and workshops
and grower adoption of emerging technologies continue as primary
objectives.

Richard Engel, Project Coordinator, California Foundation for Agriculture
in the Classroom, "Farming, Agriculture and Resource Management for
Sustainability (FARMS)": $15,000. This project combines hands-on science,
agriculture and education to provide a base for informed decision-making on
agricultural issues for high school students. It will enhance their
understanding of the role of agriculture, its social and economic
significance and its relation to human health and the environment. Included
will be student-teacher-farmer informational programs, workshops and farm
stays as well as campus information on agriculture and environmental
science careers. A partnership between private orchards, UC Davis, the
California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom and the Yolo County
Resource Conservation District, this project will be a model for developing
outreach programs.

John Maas, Extension Veterinarian, Veterinary Medicine Extension, UC Davis,
"Environmental Fate and Characterization of Selenium Supplemented to
Intensively Grazed Beef Cattle": $14,800 for first year. Selenium
supplementation is necessary and widespread in livestock production, but
there is also concern about the potential for environmental selenium
accumulation. There is a critical need for data charting the environmental
fate of selenium supplemented to cattle. This project will quantify
selenium concentrations in soils, plants and water in treated and control
pastures.

Stephen Welter, Associate Professor and Entomologist, Insect Biology
Division, Environmental Science, Policy and Management, UC Berkeley,
"Impact of Border Companion Plants on Natural Enemy Performance in an
Augmentative Biological Control Program in California Strawberries":
$13,187 for first year. The $600 million California strawberry accounts for
75 percent of fresh strawberries consumed in the U.S. Two-thirds of the
crop is grown on the Central Coast and in Santa Maria, where its primary
pest is the native tarnished plant bug, Lygus hesperus. Current control
strategies involve multiple applications of insecticides, including
pyrethroids, which are disruptive to natural enemies of other strawberry
pests. An alternative, more selective control strategy for the tarnished
plant bug may include the use of its natural enemy Anaphes iole, a native
egg parasitoid. Preliminary studies show a need to increase the
effectiveness of the insects after release by studying their performance
and biological constraints. The effectiveness of strawberry flowers and
border companion plants as nectar sources will be examined as factors that
enhance the establishment of resident insect populations of Anaphes iole.
Researchers will conduct field trials in collaboration with conventional
growers in the area. Comparisons will be made on the tarnished plant bug
densities, fruit damage, parasitism levels and predator populations with
and without bordering comparison plants. If successful, this program may
help strawberry growers reduce the use of insecticides.

Gary Bender, San Diego County Farm Advisor, "Alternate Side Irrigation to
Control Root Rot in Avocados": $10,000. Phytophthora root rot has
devastated thousands of acres of avocado trees in California. Chemical
treatments are being withdrawn or are too expensive. This project will test
the efficacy of using alternate side irrigation with and without mulch
applications as part of an integrated pest management program to control
root rot. Rather than watering the same part of the tree's root zone during
each irrigation, irrigation water will be applied on alternating sides of
each tree row. Alternating dry/wet cycles are expected to diminish the
infection while allowing for feeder root development. The use of a series
of control practices is expected to provide better disease control for
longer time.

Patrick Brown, Associate Professor, Pomology, UC Davis, "Development of a
N-Fertilizer Recommendation Model to Improve N-Use Efficiency and to
Alleviate Nitrate Pollution to Ground Water from Almond Orchards": $10,000
for first year. Fertilizer management advice for California orchard crops
like almonds has depended on generalized recommendations. This may
contribute to high nitrate levels in some California groundwater. A
reliable tool for measuring tree N status will aid growers in using
nitrogen efficiently. The goal of this study is to develop and test better
tools for precision nitrogen measurement in the field (leaf nitrate
analysis), determine seasonal as well as total nitrogen demands, and
prepare a user-friendly computer program for growers so they can enter
local variables and receive best management recommendations for N
fertilization.

Joseph Hancock, Professor and Plant Pathologist, Environmental Science,
Policy and Management, UC Berkeley, "Role of the Soil Microbial Community
in Suppression of Rhizoctonia Stem Rot Disease of Cauliflower": $9,200 for
first year. Fungicides are applied in the greenhouse plant production
industries (ornamental and vegetable) to control soil borne plant
pathogens. The intense cultural and management practices in these
industries also lend themselves to integrated pest management programs that
include the use of biologicals. This project should provide an improved
means of selecting microbial biological control agents. Researchers will
build on information from preliminary studies with Rhizoctonia solani
suppressive soils identified in a field at the UC West Side Research and
Extension Center. Microbes will be tested for their ability to suppress
stem rot in a range of amended soils. Depending upon the results of this
work, it may be possible to extend this method to other disease suppressive
soils. A simple method of forecasting soil suppressiveness (and lack of it)
to certain diseases could have very wide application in crop planning.

Jeffrey Granett, Professor, Entomology, UC Davis, "Do Soils Suppressive of
Phylloxera Exist?": $8,287. Grape phylloxera is one of the most serious
pests of California vineyards, feeding on roots and allowing entry of
secondary fungal rot organisms. No work has been done on the community
ecology/natural enemy complex of the insect. This study will conclude
whether there is potential for biological control of phylloxera by finding
out if there are vineyard soils or management methods that suppress the
pest.

Lynn Epstein, Associate Professor, Environmental Science, Policy and
Management, UC Berkeley, "The Impact of a Sustainable Agricultural Practice
with Grapes on Pesticide Use in California": $8,573. Since the late 1980s,
canopy leaf removal has been a sustainable, non-pesticidal means to control
Botrytis bunch rot, an economically important grape fungal disease. By
using the California Department of Pesticide Regulations' Pesticide Use
Report database, the study will document changes in fungicide use on grapes
between 1990 and 1995. This is the first time the impact of a sustainable
alternative has been determined using actual pesticide use data. It will
also estimate the extent to which leaf removal has become a standard
practice, analyze comparative costs of leaf pruningversus fungicide
application, and assess the reasons for success or impediments to further
use of this sustainable practice.

Larry Forero, Shasta-Trinity Counties Livestock and Natural Resources
Advisor, "History of Grazing on the Shasta-Trinity National Forest:
Implications for the Future": $5,919. This project was funded by SAREP in
1995-96 to reconstruct the history of grazing in the Shasta Trinity
National Forest and determine the causes for the reduction of grazing in
the area since the 1930s. Additional funding will complete the project with
data from the National Archives. Allotment maps will be digitized and an
interview instrument will be developed. This project will provide insight
into how changes in access to federal forage areas translate to private
sector land use and management decisions.

Melvin George, Extension Agronomist, Agronomy and Range Science, UC Davis,
"The Contribution of Ranch Roads, Cattle Trails and Bed Load to the
Sediment Budget for a Grazed Watershed in the Central Sierra Foothills":
$5,700 for first year. The sustainability of rangeland ecosystems depends
upon owners' knowledge about their lands and the impacts of their
livestock. Water quality is a high priority rangeland and livestock
production issue; livestock producers must assess nonpoint pollution
sources on their ranches to show that voluntary compliance is a viable
alternative to regulation. Current national and state watershed studies in
a grazed watershed in Madera County have not measured sediment from dirt
roads and cattle trails or bed load sediments in the stream channel. This
project will measure those sediment budget components that are not
currently being measured; existing funding will continue measurements begun
two years ago of hill slope and streambank erosion, suspended sediment,
flow and precipitation. The results of this project will be communicated to
community and clientele groups by the Rangeland Watershed Program, which
focuses on managing the rangeland forage crop and livestock in ways that
support economic returns while reducing impacts on the resource base.

Jeff Mitchell, Extension Vegetable Crops Specialist, Kearney Agricultural
Center, "Use of Cover Crop Mulches in Processing Tomato Production
Systems": $4,440 for first year. In recent years there has been a shift in
land use on the West Side of the Central San Joaquin Valley. Thirty years
ago more than 60 percent of the land was planted to wheat, barley and
safflower. By 1994, however, this percentage had slipped to less than seven
percent. Higher value crops, including many vegetables and cotton, are now
common in West Side rotations. The increase in these high-value crops has
led to fewer additions of organic matter to the soil, more aggressive
tillage operations and a reported decline in soil quality. Preserving soil
health and improving nutrient use efficiencies are compelling reasons for
renewed interest among a number of farmers in more biologically based
soil-building alternatives. This project will evaluate the effectiveness of
surface organic mulches in no-till processing tomatoes for suppressing
weeds without herbicides and providing nutrients, maintaining optimal soil
temperatures, and increasing crop water use efficiencies. Companion cover
crop trials for no-till techniques will also be included.

Community Development and Public Policy Projects

(7 projects; $99,303)

Adina Merenlender, Extension Specialist, Environmental Sciences, Policy and
Management, UC Berkeley, "A Spatially Explicit Vineyard Model: Addressing
Crop Production, Public Policy and Environmental Concerns": $22,000 for
first year. A team of UC research and extension personnel and members of
the Sonoma County Grape Growers Association will develop a model to predict
where new vineyards are likely to expand in the Russian River and Alexander
valleys, and will evaluate their potential impact on oak woodlands and
watersheds. Available digital information will be integrated to predict and
test this model with recently established vineyards. First-year data
collection on grape growing in the area will include grower interviews and
a literature search.

Glenn Nader, Lassen County Livestock and Natural Resources Advisor,
"Natural Beef: Consumer Acceptability, Market Development and Economics":
$14,948. A team of ranchers, California State University, Chico and UC
Cooperative Extension researchers is developing more sustainable marketing
alternatives for Northern California beef producers by evaluating consumer
acceptability of grass-fed natural beef, identifying the demographics of
this potential market, determining its economic feasibility, and developing
marketing plans for producers.

Carol Shennan, Associate Professor, Vegetable Crops, UC Davis,
"Socio-Economic Analysis of Rotational Management of Wetlands and Cropland
in the Tulelake Basin": $14,440. This project is examining the merits and
costs of managing agricultural lands and wetland reserves in the Tulelake
Basin. It has previously received federal grants to study the impacts of
wetland/cropland rotations on water use and quality, seasonal patterns of
nutrient release, crop productivity, pest populations, and quality of
wildlife habitat. SAREP funds will support interviews with farmers, farm
advisors, hunters, environmentalists, agencies and local businesses, and
the organization of information gathered into a better decision-making
framework.

Yolanda Huang, Coordinator, Willard Greening Project, "Urban Food Project":
$18,225. The Willard Greening Project in the Berkeley Unified School
District is joining forces with the Urban Gardening Project to expand inner
city agriculture and make fresh, organic food available to low-income urban
people using vacant and public lands. Homeless people will be trained in
intensive farming methods and efficient market delivery systems will be
developed. The food produced is for school use, the local farmers' market
or for community lunch programs.

Andrew Fisher, Coordinator, Community Food Security Coalition, "Evaluating
Farmers' Markets in Low Income Communities": $9,540. Factors contributing
to successful farmers' markets in low-income areas will be evaluated and
case studies of inner city markets from across the country will be
developed. Researchers will also examine existing information on failed or
successful California markets and will identify public policies that affect
the success of farmers' markets. Those involved with farmers' markets will
be educated about the steps needed to make them successful.

Sibella Kraus, Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture,
"Market Cooking for Kids: In-Season Cooking and Science for School
Children": $10,000. This project extends for a second year the successful
hands-on cooking and science program developed for children at Oakland and
San Francisco elementary schools. The focus is to help urban children
understand the relationships between healthy, fresh food and regional
sustainable agriculture. It involves collaboration among teachers, science
educators, chefs, produce wholesalers and farmers. A primary goal is the
production of A Young People's Reference Guide to Fresh, Local Foods, so
other children may benefit from the work developed in this program.

Laura Lawson, Berkeley Youth Alternatives, "Rethinking Direct Marketing
Approaches Appropriate to Low Income Communities and Urban Market Gardens":
$10,150 for first year. To better integrate urban market gardening into
low-income neighborhood food consumption patterns, surveys will be
conducted with Berkeley farmers' market consumers, West Berkeley residents
and families affiliated with the Berkeley Youth Alternatives organization.
Data will be used to develop a direct marketing pilot project designed to
serve low-income urban communities.