Fiscal Year 2001 - 2003 Research & Education Grants

Eight research and education projects have been granted a total of $156,431 by UC SAREP for the 2001-03 funding cycle. Projects were chosen in two different topic areas:


Descriptions of the projects, principal investigators, contact information and amounts awarded follow.

Optimizing Oraganic and Biologically Integrated Farming Systems
(4 Projects; $96,159)

 

  • (530) 752-4377

    Chris van Kessel, UC Davis, agronomy and range sciences, "Rice Straw Management as a Means to Control Weed and Pest Pressure in California Rice Fields": $37,956. Ideal growing conditions coupled with state-of-the-art equipment and management practices have placed California rice yields among the highest in the world. However, growers are facing increased scrutiny over the impact of fertilizer and pesticide use on non-target organisms and the environment. As a result, the continued viability of rice production systems depends upon developing more environmentally friendly management strategies that can support high yields and promote sustainable resource stewardship. In 1991, the California Rice Straw Burning Reduction Act addressed the negative impact of rice straw burning on air quality by requiring rice farmers to adopt alternative methods of straw disposal for the more than 500,000 acres of rice grown in the Sacramento Valley. Since the use of rice straw for other purposes remains limited, farmers have turned to incorporating the straw back into the soil. Straw incorporation is now common; however, doubts remain over its impact on weeds, diseases and invertebrate pests, nutrient availability and overall yield. This project will fully explore the use of alternative straw management practices as a stimulant for biological pest and weed control in rice fields. By using fields that are part of the BIFS rice project, the robustness of earlier observed weed and pest reduction under alternative straw management practices will be tested. Specifically, this project will: 1) characterize the impact of winter flooding and straw incorporation on invertebrate pest populations and determine the potential for increased reliance on biological controls; and 2) quantify the impact of waterfowl on the size of the weed seed bank and the weed populations at harvest. The results will serve as the basis to evaluate current pest management practices, and provide the necessary scientific foundation for additional-on farm demonstrations of alternative pest management practices emphasizing biological control. begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              (530) 752-4377      end_of_the_skype_highlighting; cvankessel@ucdavis.edu

  • Marsha Campbell Mathews, Stanislaus County farm advisor, "Protecting Groundwater Quality on Dairies by Proper Lagoon Nutrient Management": $21,580. Most dairies in California clean their holding pens using a flush system to wash the manure into a storage pond, commonly called a lagoon. The improper application of lagoon nutrients has the potential to result in contamination of groundwater, especially in areas with a high leaching potential and shallow depth to groundwater. Traditionally, there has been no practical way of measuring the amount of nutrients in the lagoon water, so the value of the wastewater as a nutrient source has commonly been discounted. Over the past few years, a practical system has been developed using a nitrogen quick test, flow meter, and throttling valve that enables dairy producers to apply targeted amounts of lagoon nitrogen with much the same accuracy as commercial water run ammonia. These techniques are being implemented as part of the BIFS dairy project "Integrating Forage Production with Dairy Manure Management in the San Joaquin Valley" to confirm that adoption of these management practices will not result in loss of yields. In a previous SAREP funded project conducted by Mathews over the last three years, application techniques were developed which enabled researchers to account for the organic fraction of nitrogen in the lagoon water, and to apply lagoon nitrogen at rates very close to crop uptake. This project will continue the relatively precise application of lagoon nutrients to determine if it is possible to achieve drinking water quality in shallow groundwater on a situation typical of many areas with a prior history of overapplication of manures. A second research site will be established in a location with minimal history of manure application. This part of the project is designed to confirm that dairy lagoon nutrients can be used as a sustainable nutrient source for crops without compromising groundwater quality or yields in the absence of high background nitrogen in the soil. begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              (209) 525-6800      end_of_the_skype_highlighting; mcmathews@ucdavis.edu

  • Milton E. McGiffin, Jr., UC Riverside, botany and plant sciences, "The Organic Effect in Desert Vegetable Production": $20,000. This project will quantify what is often called "the organic effect," i.e., the positive changes that result from the transition to organic production practices. Although farmers often experience lower yields in the first few years of transition to organic farming practices, there is frequently a subsequent improvement of crop yields following several years of organic farming. These increases in crop productivity are usually attributed to improvements in soil quality resulting from the use of cover crops, organic amendments, and other aspects of organic crop production. Cover crops are often used in organic agriculture to replace synthetic fertilizer and pesticides, and the increasing demand for organic produce has made many growers consider organic vegetables as a production alternative. Farmers recognize cover crops as a potential solution to many issues of sustainability: leaching of nutrients into groundwater, decreasing pesticide usage, complying with organic certification rules, and improving soil quality. By documenting the differences in production systems, this project will address the frequent questions about the effect of organic farming on yield, fertility, and costs. This research is part of a multidisciplinary effort that also investigates soil microbial ecology and weed population dynamics. (909) 560-0839 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              (909) 560-0839      end_of_the_skype_highlighting; milt@ucrac1.ucr.edu

  • David J. Lewis, Sonoma County watershed management advisor, "Management of Corrals and Pastures to Reduce Pollutant Loading to Coastal Watersheds": $16, 623. Water quality and watershed management is crucial for protecting the health of residents and insuring the continued economic viability of agriculture and shellfish culture in the Tomales Bay Watershed. The Tomales Bay Shellfish Technical Advisory Committee confirmed winter fecal coliform bacteria levels within Tomales Bay are above water quality standards for shellfish harvesting areas. Bay agricultural lands were identified as one of the sources of bacteria. Dairy ranching is a significant economic contributor and an integral component of the rural landscape in coastal counties. The cost of environmental regulation compliance can seem prohibitive for dairies; during the last 18 months five Tomales Bay watershed dairy ranches have gone out of business to avoid these costs. The remaining dairies are searching for economically feasible solutions to improve water quality. The goal of this project is to evaluate the effectiveness of animal waste management practices (vegetative buffers, dry lot and corral management, and other pasture management improvements) to reduce pollution. Researchers will sample and analyze storm runoff from corrals and pastures with different management practices including scrapping and seeding for corrals and variation in quantity and timing of field-applied manure to pastures. Samples will be analyzed for fecal coliform, nutrients, total suspended solids, pH, electrical conductivity and turbidity.   (707)565-2621; djllewis@ucdavis.edu

Promoting the Development of Sustainable Community Food Systems
(4 projects; $60,272)

 

  • Patricia Allen, assistant director, UC Santa Cruz Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems, "Perspectives and Strategies of Alternative Food Initiatives in California": $19,360. This project will examine the range of new civic organizations addressing alternative food systems issues in California. Innovative organizations support farmers' markets, urban gardens, eco- and regional labels, community food policy councils, and other programs and initiatives in response to concerns about the existing food system. The organizations complement on-farm efforts to promote sustainable agriculture by connecting these concerns with economic, social and policy aspects of the food system beyond the farm. Working with participants in the organizations, project researchers will evaluate the potential of the initiatives to contribute to the goals of better health and quality of life for all California communities. Through study of participants' intentions and insights, researchers plan to provide analysis that will help groups accomplish their goals and minimize potentially contradictory outcomes. Researchers will seek to discover what participants have learned through their concrete practices about how the food system works, how to change it, and how participants view their efforts within the history of development of these initiatives. Different visions of food system alternatives that these organizations propose will be assessed, as well as the issues and problems confronted and the methodologies used. This project will provide an overall assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of alternative strategies of institutional change. (831) 459-4243; rats@cats.ucsc.edu

    (831) 459-4243
  • Toni Martin, food service director, Winters Joint Unified School District, "Linking Education, Agriculture and Foodservice (LEAF)": $15,872. Community groups, advocacy organizations, and school districts have begun exploring ways to increase the viability of small- and medium-sized family farms while improving the quality of school meals. Many school districts are implementing "farm to school" programs in order to extend the direct marketing options for local farmers, improve students' food choices during lunch, and educate young consumers and their parents about the relationship of the food they eat to the agricultural systems that produce the food. This project will establish a pilot project to test the feasibility of beginning a farm to school salad bar at a local elementary school as a one-day-per-week option to the regularly served hot lunch. During the year, several factors will be evaluated so that at the end of the year, a planning team of parents, teachers, school district and food service personnel can assess the success of the program and determine whether and how it can be expanded for the next year.  (530) 795-6160; tmartin@winters.K12.ca.us

    (530) 795-6160
  • Dana Harvey, director, Environmental Science Institute, Oakland, "West Oakland Food Security Council Model": $15,040. The first goal of this project is to create a food security council model that will serve as a public voice to raise awareness and understanding of food security. The council, organized with an active advisory board, community agency representatives, and community members from seven West Oakland neighborhoods, will bring sustainable agriculture into the community through community- and entrepreneurial-based demonstration projects, and through a comprehensive education and outreach campaign. The council will also develop a comprehensive food system plan and work to implement the identified strategies to improve access to food and revitalize the community. Using a variety of outreach methods including workshops and community meetings, the council will mobilize food security action.  (510) 534-7657; envsciinst@earthlink.net

    (510) 534-7657
  • Aaron Shonk, resource manager, Davis Joint Unified School District, "Davis Joint Unified School District Farm to School Program": $10,000. Viable models of farm to school programs are needed to extend markets for sustainable agriculture in public schools. Given the state's system for school nutrition programs, school districts need additional resources to transition from traditional food purchasing and classroom education to farm-direct purchasing and garden-based education. With the help of area farmers and local organizations, the Davis Joint Unified School District developed a foundation for a farm to school program in three schools. The farm to school program features an instructional garden, a farmers' market salad bar known as the "Crunch Lunch" (a complete, balanced school meal of carbohydrates and proteins with seasonal fresh food grown on local sustainable farms), food waste diversion (vermicomposting of food waste, food rescue and an "offer" vs. "serve" lunch program), and cooking in the classroom. Through participation in the "Crunch Lunch" program and the school site gardens, students learn to understand and appreciate the source of their food. This project will enable DJUSD to examine ways to integrate the salad bar into the regular nutritional services program, educate the public at the Davis Farmers' Market Fall Festival and biweekly markets, and engage in public outreach and development of a school districtwide food policy.  (530) 757-5300  ext. 121; ashonk@djusd.k12.ca.us

    (530) 757-5300