1998-1999 Research & Education Grants

SAREP Awards New Production and Public Policy Grants

by Lyra Halprin and Bev Ransom, SAREP

Production Projects
Community Development and Public Policy Projects
Continuing Grants

Twelve production and community development/public policy projects have been granted a total of $231,137 by UC SAREP. These awards are being granted over two fiscal years: FY 1998-99 and FY 1999-00. Brief descriptions of the new grants, principal investigators, contact information and amounts awarded follow. Titles of continuing projects are listed at the end. Almost $80,000 of these grant funds was made available as a result of Assembly Bill 1998 (Helen Thomson, D-Yolo County) which provided funding for production research projects that are related to biologically integrated farming systems.

Production Projects

Thomas Harter, Assistant Cooperative Extension Specialist for Groundwater Hydrology, UC Kearney Agricultural Center, Parlier, "Impact of Dairy Waste and Crop Nutrient Management on Shallow Groundwater Quality": $14,500 for this year, $15,000 for next year. (Previously funded by SAREP for $14,500 in 1997-98.) This project is related to the Mathews project summarized below. California is the largest dairy production state in the U.S. Environmentally sustainable management of these dairies is critical to the economic health of California’s agricultural community. Data recently collected on dairies in the San Joaquin Valley near fields where lagoon water is applied show elevated levels of nitrates even on well-managed operations. The objectives of this project are to provide an improved understanding of the underground nitrate pathways from various locations in dairy operations (corrals, ponds, spills, manure application to fields) and to discover how these contribute to the degradation of groundwater quality. This will be achieved by using and expanding an existing groundwater monitoring network on five dairies in Stanislaus and Merced counties. The project will also provide baseline data on groundwater quality which can be used to determine future improvements due to improved nutrient management and dairy operations practices on selected dairies. Additionally, at selected field sites the project will demonstrate and evaluate changes in groundwater quality at shallow depths related to improved nutrient management within the dairy operation. It will also educate dairy personnel and communities in Stanislaus and Merced counties and regulatory and water management agencies about the impact of nutrient management alternatives on groundwater quality, and cooperatively develop sustainable solutions to protect groundwater under dairies from excessive salt and nutrient load. (559) 646-6569; thharter@ucdavis.edu

Chuck Ingels
, Sacramento County Viticulture/Pomology Farm Advisor, "Effects of Cover Crops on a Vineyard Ecosystem in the Northern San Joaquin Valley": $6,030 each year for two years. (Previously funded by SAREP for $6,212 in 1997-98.) Although used in farming for many years, new species and management systems have been developed recently for cover crops, which are currently very popular in vineyards. Several growers in the Northern San Joaquin Valley now prefer, for example, to sow California native perennial grasses because they provide excellent wheel traction and are dormant in the summer. These grasses are also used to remove excess water in the spring to provide moderate moisture stress in early spring, thus possibly improving wine quality. These species, however, have not been formally tested in vineyards, nor have the most commonly used mixes been compared in their effects on vines and production. In this trial, four sown cover crop mixes and resident vegetation are being compared in a young Sacramento County Merlot winegrape vineyard to determine the effects on production and fruit quality, vine moisture stress and nutrient status, weeds, and the economics of cover cropping. The project includes grower meetings, a journal article and the use of the site as a tour stop for the UC Cover Crops Workgroup meeting in 1999. (916) 875-6913; caingels@ucdavis.edu

Rachael Long, Yolo/Solano County Farm Advisor, "Quantifying Pest and Beneficial Insects Associated with Insectary Hedgerow Plantings": $7,000 for one year. (Funds for this grant were made available by a special donor-directed fund established through a grant from the International Tree Crops Institute USA, Inc.) California farmers are planting hedgerows of insectary plants around their farms to attract beneficial insects for better biocontrol of pests in adjacent crops. Little information, however, is available on the types of insects attracted to hedgerow plants, including both pests and beneficial insects. This project will quantify the diversity, abundance, and distribution of pest and beneficial insects in hedgerow plantings by conducting bi-weekly monitoring of four stands of hedgerows in Yolo County. (530) 666-8734; rflong@ucdavis.edu

Marsha Campbell Mathews, Stanislaus County Field Crops Farm Advisor, "Use of Dairy Lagoon Water in Production of Forage Crops": $19,760 for this year, $10,950 for next year. (Previously funded by SAREP for $15,500 in 1997-98.) Despite the rich nutrient content of dairy lagoon water, many Northern San Joaquin Valley corn silage growers have been reluctant to rely on it as the primary source of nitrogen for their crops due to perceived reductions in yields when they have done so. This project, which began in the spring of 1998, was aimed at developing methods of measuring and metering dairy lagoon water nitrogen in order to use it as a nutrient source for corn without over-application. Last season, practical methods were developed for measuring flow and concentration of dairy lagoon water and used to grow an outstanding corn silage crop. In response to this success, the dairy cooperator is installing $200,000 in improvements to the waste handling system on the dairy to facilitate use of lagoon water nutrients over the entire acreage. This project will evaluate the system design, conduct further development and validation of nutrient application methodologies, and confirm the sustainability of yields when dairy lagoon water is used as the primary nutrient source for the crops. Improvements in groundwater quality will be assessed under the joint project "Impact of Dairy Waste and Crop Nutrient Management on Shallow Groundwater Quality" (summarized previously). (209) 525-6654; mcmathews@ucdavis.edu

Jeff Mitchell, Extension Vegetable Crops Specialist, Kearney Agricultural Center, "Conservation Tillage Systems for the San Joaquin Valley’s West Side (An evaluation of the potential of conservation tillage production systems to reduce production costs, enhance soil and water conservation and maintain profitability in common rotations for the San Joaquin Valley’s West Side)": $12,774 each year for three years. Currently preplant tillage operations account for 18 to 24 percent of production costs for annual crops grown in the West Side region of the San Joaquin Valley. Averages of ten tillage-related passes through fields are routinely done during the fall-spring period just to prepare the soil for summer cropping. These passes represent not only considerable energy, equipment and labor costs, but recent research indicates that tillage reduces soil organic matter (SOM) as well. Because SOM is an important attribute of good soil quality and long-term productivity, interest has grown in developing alternative production systems that reduce costs while improving the soil through greater accumulation of organic carbon. Conservation tillage systems may maintain and increase soil organic levels while reducing production costs. This project will compare conservation tillage and conventional tillage practices in crop rotations common to the West Side for productivity, key soil properties, pest and crop management requirements, and production costs, and will widely disseminate study results. (559) 646-6565; mitchell@uckac.edu

Community Development and Public Policy Projects

Adrienne Alvord, Public Affairs Coordinator, Community Alliance with Family Farmers, "Farm Community Responses to Water Marketing: Two Case Studies": $10,000 for one year. This project will contribute to the understanding of water markets. The principal investigator will conduct an in-depth examination of two water marketing transactions that took place in different parts of California, one of which was viewed as beneficial for all parties, and one of which was more controversial. The purpose will be to assess characteristics that make water marketing transactions successful or unsuccessful for a community, as well as to assess impacts on economic and environmental sustainability. In addition, this study will briefly survey communities where water marketing proposals are being considered to assess how the presentation of a water marketing proposal can affect its outcome. It will also include a survey of relevant academic and policy publications to provide a context for the case studies. (530) 756-8518 ext. 24; policy@caff.org

Andrew Fisher, Executive Director, Community Food Security Coalition, "Healthy Farms, Healthy Kids": $16,918 for this year. As part of a Community Food Security Coalition national campaign to improve the quality of school meals and increase connections between schools, agriculture and agricultural learning, this project will prepare a major policy and practices study. The goal of this report and on-going educational efforts is to expand the number of school districts which purchase directly from farmers and use fresh foods in their meal planning. This report will focus on school meals programs purchasing directly from farmers. An advisory team of school food service officials, farmers, and advocates has been assembled to help guide the research. (310) 822-5410; asfisher@aol.com

Andrew Fisher, Executive Director, Community Food Security Coalition, "Community Food System Assessment Guidebook": $15,301 for this year. Considerable interest has been generated by the concept of community food security. Few communities, however, have conducted any rigorous assessments of their food systems, primarily because of a lack of expertise or guidelines on how to conduct such an assessment. The objective of this project is to develop a guidebook which will provide practical information on how to conduct comprehensive community food system assessments, as well as follow-up activities, including coalition building, gaining media coverage, and food policy action. It will be tailored for community-based organizations, Cooperative Extension agents, and academics engaged in community action and analysis. The guidebook will provide users with information about methods and approaches for all levels of food system assessments and will be followed by a series of training workshops, and mentoring with community groups in California. (310) 822-5410; asfisher@aol.com

Yolanda Huang, Coordinator, Willard Greening Project, "The Willard Greening Project": $28,600 for this year. (Previously funded by SAREP for $18,225 in 1996-97 and $19,482 in 1997-98.) This project continues the Willard Greening Project in the Berkeley Unified School District, which encourages school children to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables through hands-on learning in school gardens. Goals of this phase of the project include increasing the number of Berkeley public schools serving fresh organic fruits and vegetables from school gardens, increasing the number of local schools growing organic greens for lunch salad, and increasing the number of school gardens. Additionally, the project is working to provide financial support for the gardens by encouraging the local school district’s food service to purchase vegetables and fruit from school gardens. The project will work to develop an overall food security policy for the city of Berkeley, and will develop links between the Berkeley Unified School District's Food Services and local agriculture while it continues to develop creative curriculum linking core science and math with school gardens. (510) 644-6330 (Willard Middle School); yogreening@aol.com

Jeff Kositsky, Community Services Coordinator, Rural California Housing Corp., Sacramento, "Park Village Farm Project": $20,000 for this year. (Previously funded by SAREP for $10,000 in 1997-98.) This project is designed to create economic opportunities for residents of Park Village Apartments while improving the food security of low-income Cambodian families in Stockton, Calif. The 1997-98 grant from SAREP funded a feasibility study for the project. As a result, USDA awarded the project a grant to cover the start-up costs for Park Village Farms, which will be operated on 27 acres leased nearby. Residents will grow produce for the local Southeast Asian community and develop a community supported agriculture (CSA) project, or subscription farming system, that links producers directly with consumers (a minimum of 200 low-income families). New SAREP funding will be used to enhance the food security component of the farm project by developing the CSA, educating participants and the local community about community supported agriculture, and developing other techniques for linking low-income consumers with producers. The Rural California Housing Corporation, a nonprofit community development organization, co-owns Park Village with the residents. Findings will be published in a report describing the techniques used to increase food security while promoting economic self-sufficiency and community supported agriculture. (916) 442-4731 ext. 3320; jkositsky@aol.com

Adina Merenlender, Extension Specialist, Environmental Sciences, Policy and Management, UC Berkeley, "Mapping and Forecasting Expanding Vineyards: Integrating Agricultural, Economic, and Environmental Data at a Landscape Scale to Improve Land-Use Decision-Making": $18,200 for 1999-2000. (SAREP previously funded a related project for $62,000 in 1996-99.) Due to the popularity of California wine, forested upland areas are being targeted for vineyard development. Vineyard owners are under scrutiny from the environmental community, government agencies and local press interested in protecting natural resources. Overplanting also puts farmers at risk of an economic downturn. To improve vineyard expansion and environmental protection decision-making, this project will integrate economic forecasting with remote sensing and landscape models. The project will expand earlier research by exploring the consequences of county hillside protection ordinances, extending the landscape analysis to farmers, policy makers and interest groups in Sonoma county, expanding the geographic extent of the project analysis to the north coast by using satellite imagery, and improving the forecasting of vineyard expansion by including economics. (707) 744-1270; adina@nature.berkeley.edu

Katy Pye, Executive Director, Mary Kimball, Project Coordinator, Yolo County Resource Conservation District, "FARMS (Farming, Agriculture and Resource Management for Sustainability)": $17,500 for this year. Now in its fifth year, the FARMS program has educated rural, urban and suburban high school students about the relation between sustainable agriculture, science and natural resource conservation. Since 1993, students from Yolo, Sacramento and Marin counties have been part of the pilot program; in 1998 two new sites were added (Sonoma and Orange counties), while Butte County will be starting a program in the fall of 1999. The FARMS program has been very successful in fostering collaboration among many players in California agriculture and education circles, and has connected more than 200 students and teachers to the issues surrounding sustainable agriculture in the 1990s. The addition of two new sites in 1998 and the resulting increase in interest in the program has shown that the FARMS model is transferable to other areas in California and the U.S. This grant will enable the program to develop a FARMS Program Manual and accompanying recruiting and training video to help spread the program to other regions. (530) 662-2037 ext. 3; topquail@yolorcd.ca.gov; mckimball@ucdavis.edu

Continuing Grants (1998-99)

Brief descriptions of these projects appeared in the Winter 1997 (Vol. 9, No. 1) and Winter/Spring 1998 (Vol. 10, No. 1) issues of Sustainable Agriculture, which can be found in our Newletters/Publications section.

Patrick Brown, "Development of a N-Fertilizer Recommendation Model to Improve N-Use Efficiency and to Alleviate Nitrate Pollution to Ground Water from Almond Orchards"; Melvin George, "The Contribution of Ranch Roads, Cattle Trails and Bed Load to the Sediment Budget for a Grazed Watershed in the Central Sierra Foothills"; William R. Horwath, "Defining Changes in Soil Organic Matter Quality During the Transition from Conventional to Low-Input Organic Systems to Identify Sustainable Farming Practices"; Adina Merenlender, "A Spacially Explicit Vineyard Model: Addressing Crop Production, Public Policy, and Environmental Concerns"; Steven Temple, "The Transition from Conventional to Low-Input or Organic Farming Systems: Soil Biology, Soil Chemistry, Soil Physics, Energy Utilization, Economics and Risk."