SAREP Competitive Grants Program: Projects Funded 1990-1993

 

A primary function of the program is to provide funding for sustainable agriculture- related research and education projects. SAREP has awarded over $2 million in competitive grant monies over the past seven years (FY 1986/87 - FY 1992/93). In FY 1991/92 and FY 1992/93, SAREP provided over $440,000 in new and continuing competitive grants.

Systems Comparison Project:

To facilitate the transition to sustainable agriculture, farmers need accurate information about the benefits, costs, and risks associated with "conventional" and "alternative" systems. To generate this information, research must eventually be conducted at the whole-farm level. By broadening the boundaries of investigation, researchers are able to evaluate critically the success of farming practices and their effects on the environment, as well as the special requirements for adapting these practices to farms in various locations.

A Comparison of Conventional, Low-Input, and Organic Farming Systems: The Transition Phase and Long-Term Viability

Principal Investigator:
Steve Temple, Department of Agronomy & Range Science, UC Davis.

The goal of this long-term research project is to describe and quantify the environmental and economic consequences of the transition from conventional to low- input and organic farming systems typical of the southern Sacramento Valley. The research team is multidisciplinary and participating farmers and UC farm advisors play a key role in guiding the management decisions applied to the various production systems. The project was initiated in 1989 and is located on the UC Davis Agronomy Farm.

Economics and Public Policy Projects

Since 1990, SAREP has added an emphasis in economic, social, and public policy research. Proposals have addressed the links among sustainable agriculture and public policy; labor policies and practices; land use; rural community development; decision-making and the transition to sustainable agriculture; and consumers and the food system.

Year-Round and Extended Employment for Agricultural Workers.
Investigators:
Suzanne Vaupel, director, Vaupel Associates, Sacramento;
Gary Johnston, UC Cooperative Extension county director, San Joaquin County

Seasonal employment is considered a fact of life for California's farm workers, but a SAREP-sponsored study concludes that extended and year-round employment for farm workers can be both feasible and profitable. The two-year study examines the benefits and challenges for farmers who keep workers employed "year-round" by leveling out the peaks and valleys of seasonal employment. The results are available in a workbook, "Year-Round and Extended Employment for Agricultural Workers: Why and How?"

Comparative Economics and Social Value of Alternative Farming Practices Among Resource-Limited Farmers at the Rural Development Center near Salinas, California.
Investigators:
Paul L. Gersper, Department of Soil Science, UC Berkeley;
Miguel Altieri, Department of Entomological Sciences, Division of Biological Control, UC Berkeley.
Cooperators:
Ann Baier, director of Education and Development, Rural Development Center;
Jose Montenegro, Farm Operations Director, Rural Development Center.

This study compares the economic benefits, energy costs, and social values of different vegetable production farming practices at the Rural Development Center (RDC) in Salinas, California. Farmers at the RDC are predominantly Mexican farm laborers enrolled in a three-year production and marketing training program in which low-input production practices are emphasized. The effect of these alternative practices on the short- and long-term well-being of the enrolled families and the surrounding rural community will be determined and analyzed based on information from the field, interviews, and workshops.

Sustaining Agriculture in Santa Cruz County: Developing Community Networks to Promote Community- and Environment-Responsible Agriculture.
Investigators:
Stephen Gliessman, Agroecology Program, UC Santa Cruz;
James Pepper, Department of Environmental Studies, UC Santa Cruz.

This project has formed a diverse coalition of community members to address important agricultural issues in Santa Cruz County. Agriculture is a $196 million dollar industry in the county, second only to tourism. It is threatened by urban growth and development, groundwater depletion, and the movement of agricultural operations to other countries where costs are lower. The community-based coalition will work with UC Santa Cruz to pool resources, expertise, and political strength to assess needs, devise solutions, and implement strategies for change. The project also aims to improve agriculture's environmental responsibility and economic strength, increase its responsiveness to the needs of those who work within the industry as well as to local communities, and strengthen its links to the local community.

Identifying the Logistical, Economic, Social, and Regulatory Barriers and Opportunities to Bring Sustainably Produced Food into Alameda County's Food Marketplace.
Investigator:
Valerie Pelto, Alameda County Food Planning Council.

This project has developed a survey identifying the logistical, economic, social, and regulatory barriers to bringing sustainably produced food into Alameda County's food marketplace (in this project, sustainably produced food refers to food that is locally grown and/or low-input or organically grown). An advisory task force including wholesale and retail merchants, trade association members, consumers, and environmentalists was assembled in the spring of 1992 to determine concerns of the food community about barriers to the movement of sustainably produced food. Surveys were developed to collect baseline data regarding decision-making and buying criteria of retail produce buyers, and to identify logistical, market, educational, or public policy strategies to increase the availability of sustainably produced food in the urban marketplace.

Sustainable Forestry Management Options for Non-Industrial Landowners.
Investigator:
Kimberly Rodrigues, UC Cooperative Extension, county director, Humboldt and Del Norte counties.

This project organized five workshops throughout Humboldt and Del Norte counties to address the topic of sustainable forestry management options for small landowners. The goal of sustainable forestry is shared by forest landowners, legislators, and the public, yet is often difficult to define and achieve. Major changes in policies for the management of California's 14.4 million acres of private forest land are evident in new and proposed legislation. Past laws and regulations that influenced cutting practices, combined with natural events including fire and flood, have resulted in many forest lands in need of restoration and improvement. The costs of restoration, plus the costs imposed by legislative restrictions often discourage small landowners from long-term planning. The workshops looked at current legislation and policy instruments for implementing sustainable forestry. A dialogue between landowners, regulators, and legislators was encouraged.

Arcata Farm and Education Project.
Investigator:
Peter Lehman, Engineering and International Development Technology, Humboldt State University, Arcata.

Co-Investigators:

Deborah Giraud, UC Cooperative Extension farm advisor, Humboldt and Del Norte counties;
Susan Toms, organic farm owner, Bayside;
Dan Dalthorp, International Development Technology graduate agricultural researcher, Eureka;
Jen McNally, Campus Center for Appropriate Technology, Arcata.

Cooperator:
Marylyn Fletcher, Principal, Arcata High School.

The Arcata Farm and Education Project has created a student-operated, community supported two-acre farm in the city of Arcata to be used for sustainable agriculture projects by students, community members, and local farmers. The farm will be used as an educational facility to teach university students sustainable small farm management skills, to offer classes to local farmers and community members, and to give local youth groups a place to experiment with sustainable agriculture and husbandry projects. Community members can also participate by buying shares in the farm for which they will receive a weekly supply of fresh produce.

A Pesticide Use Reduction Plan for California.

Investigators:
Monica Moore, Pesticide Action Network, San Francisco
Angus Wright, Department of Environmental Studies, California State University, Sacramento.

This project is expected to contribute to the development of a pesticide use reduction policy for California. Input from a variety of agricultural experts in California is included in the analysis. The investigators are determining which aspects of successful European policies might be appropriate for California. In consultation with representatives of a variety of California agricultural interests, the investigators will produce an outline of a pesticide use reduction proposal for California, and suggestions for an implementation strategy.

Producing and Marketing an Educational Curriculum on Ethics and Agricultural Practices.
Investigators:
Desmond Jolly, Agricultural Economics Extension, UC Davis
Stan Dundon, Department of Philosophy, California State University, Sacramento.

This project is creating an Agricultural Professional Ethics program to empower farm advisors, educators, researchers, and practicing agriculturalists to explicitly employ ethical considerations in their decisions. With input from an advisory committee of farm advisors, farmers, researchers, packers, retailers, and consumers, a curriculum will be developed with instruction manual, slides, and/or videotapes that can be used in a variety of teaching formats.

From Farm worker to Small Farmer: A Study of Growers Attempting the Transition to Economic Independence and Sustainable Agriculture in the Salinas Valley.
Investigator:
Ann Baier, Rural Development Center, Salinas.

This study is evaluating the impact of the Rural Development Center's (RDC) information and training programs for low-income, minority and entry-level farming families in the Salinas Valley. By interviewing former RDC students and minority farmers, the study will identify and document key factors and farmer characteristics that contribute to a successful transition to ecological farming operations in this region.

Examination of the Interaction of Agricultural Variables and Rural Community Conditions Using Macrosocial Accounting Methods.
Investigator:
Dean MacCannell, Department of Applied Behavioral Sciences, UC Davis.

Cooperator:
Don Villarejo, California Institute for Rural Studies, Davis

This study examines the interaction of agricultural variables and rural community conditions in 75 communities in the Central Valley of California. The following hypotheses will be tested:

  • Larger farms are associated with lower quality of community life.
  • Separation of farm management from ownership is associated with lower quality of community life.
  • Crop diversity is associated with higher quality of community life.
  • The rate of pesticide permit applications is negatively associated with quality of community life.


The California Institute for Rural Studies will provide very recent agricultural data on farm size, cropping patterns, residency of farm managers, and pesticide permit applications which will be organized by zip codes. The availability of this data will allow a much closer focus on agricultural issues than was previously possible. On the social variables, the project will continue to improve measures of community quality especially in the area of ethnic relations (e.g., availability of quality schooling for minority children, income differentials between white and non-white holders of the same occupational positions, etc.). In addition, the project will continue to run the full battery of standard tests of community life quality: family income levels, employment rates, and poverty index. These two data sets will then be merged to find out which agricultural variables significantly affect the social variables in these 80 communities.

Critical Component Research

These projects are characterized as basic or applied research on a problem that is critical to the sustainable functioning of a particular system. Projects must clearly demonstrate how the component in question is critical to the system being studied, and how the results of the work will be integrated into the whole production system. Preference has been given to projects that demonstrate involvement of farmers in the identification of the research problem and potential solutions, and those that have a clear plan for implementation of research results.

Effects of Cover Crops, Time of Cover Crop Plowdown, and Trellis System on Spiders and Other Predators of the Variegated Leafhopper (Erythroneura variabilis).
Investigator:
Donald L. Dahlsten, Division of Biological Control, UC Berkeley.

Other investigators:
Kent M. Daane, Division of Biological Control, Kearney Agricultural Center, Parlier;
Michael Costello, Division of Biological Control, Kearney Agricultural Center, Parlier.

The variegated leafhopper is the most important insect pest in the vineyards of central California. Most growers have relied on synthetic insecticides to control this pest. However, pesticide resistance and outbreaks of secondary pests are creating the need for more sustainable approaches. Most of the work on biological control of leafhoppers has focused on Anagrus epos, a tiny insect that parasitizes leafhopper eggs. Little information has been developed on the complex of generalist leafhopper predators in vineyards. Three types of predators were previously found to be common in vineyards that had low leafhopper densities: spiders, predatory flies, and predaceous mites. This project will better determine the role of these predators.

An increasingly popular method for providing a suitable habitat within the vineyard to maintain high populations of these predators is through the use of cover crops. However, little is known about the effects of cover crops on natural enemies at specific times during the grape growing season. Therefore, this project will also determine if there are specific windows in time in which the presence of a cover crop is critical.

Another aspect of this project will be to determine if the type of trellis system affects the population densities of the three predator groups noted above. Informal observation indicates that single-wire systems may be advantageous to certain spider species, while multiple-wire systems may support others. Finally, the trellis system and/or the presence of cover crops alters the vineyard microclimate, possibly affecting the ability of predators to survive. Temperatures will be monitored in an attempt to establish a relationship between predator populations and temperature.

Determination of the Effect of Cover Crops on Lettuce Drop Disease.

Investigator:
Steven Koike, UC Cooperative Extension farm advisor, Monterey and Santa Cruz counties, Salinas.

Other investigators:
Richard Smith, UC Cooperative Extension farm advisor, San Benito County, Hollister;
Louise Jackson, Department of Vegetable Crops, UC Davis.

Several cover crop species will be evaluated for their susceptibility to the lettuce drop pathogen. After specific cover crops have been incorporated in fields, the subsequent lettuce planting will be evaluated for the disease.

Postharvest Heat Treatments as a Non-Chemical Alternative for Control of Decay and Physiologic Disorders of California Fruit Crops.
Investigator:
Elizabeth J. Mitcham, Department of Pomology, UC Davis.

Post-harvest hot water immersion treatments will be explored for their potential as a non-chemical alternative for control of certain diseases and physiological disorders of apples, pears, kiwifruit, nectarines, pomegranates, and persimmons.

Grazing Management in Ley Farming Systems
Investigator:
David W. Pratt, UC Cooperative Extension farm advisor, Solano County.

Other Investigators:
Lawrence Clement, UC Cooperative Extension county director, Solano and Yolo counties;
Rachel Freeman, UC Cooperative Extension farm advisor, Yolo County;
Tom Kearney, UC Cooperative Extension farm advisor, Yolo County.

Cooperators:
Ian Anderson, Grain farmer/Sheep rancher, Solano County;
Roy Latta, Department of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, Australia;
Tom Lanini, Botany Extension, UC Davis;
Walt Graves, UC Cooperative Extension farm advisor, San Bernardino, Riverside, and San Diego counties.

Ley farming is a cereal grain/pasture rotation system developed in Australia. This project is studying the effect of timing and severity of grazing on several key components of a ley farming system in California.

Evaluating Dryland Legumes and Native Perennial Grasses as Plant Materials for Use in Sustainable Agriculture Systems.
Investigator:
W.A. Williams, Department of Agronomy and Range Science, UC Davis.

Other Investigator:
Craig D. Thomsen, Department of Agronomy and Range Science, UC Davis.

Cooperator:
Walter L. Graves, UC Cooperative Extension farm advisor, San Bernardino, Riverside and San Diego counties.

Dryland legumes are being evaluated for pasture, range, vineyard, and farming systems in northern California. The project will also expand and maintain a native grass nursery and a collection of plants to fill requests.

Monitoring Innovative Production Systems

The projects in this category systematically document practices of innovative producers, to assess the performance of various production systems, and to identify important processes and management practices that make these systems function. "Systematic documentation" includes, but is not limited to, case studies, surveys, and field data analysis using geostatistics/spatial statistics.

Monitoring Nitrogen Release from a Leguminous Cover Crop and Evaluating its Adequacy for a Long-Season Vegetable Crop.
Investigator:
Richard Smith, UC Cooperative Extension farm advisor, San Benito County, Hollister.

Other Investigator:
Louise Jackson, Department of Vegetable Crops, UC Davis.

Cooperator:
Phil Foster, Phil Foster Ranch, Hollister.

Cover crops in the pea family can be plowed under as green manure to supply nitrogen to a wide range of crops. Organic farmers commonly use this technique, but vegetables present some challenges. For example, bell pepper has a long growing season and a high demand for nitrogen, yet is shallow rooted. Thus, the timing of nitrate produced by the breakdown of cover crop residues is important, so that growers can determine the need for possible late-season nitrogen supplements.

This study will use a randomized complete block design to monitor bell pepper production following incorporation of a Lana woollypod vetch cover crop, with five levels of late-season nitrogen addition. The nitrogen source will be an approved organic material, and plots of one of the experimental treatments will receive no supplemental nitrogen. The researchers will use innovative techniques to monitor nitrate in both the soil and the foliage of the pepper plants.

Soil-Building with Cover Crops in California Almond Orchards

Investigator:
Lonnie Hendricks, UC Cooperative Extension farm advisor, Merced County.

Cooperators:
Glenn Anderson, farmer, Merced County;
Ron Anderson, farmer, Merced County;
S.S. Takhar, farmer, Merced County;
Paul Yasaitis/Cynthia Lashbrook, farmers, Merced County;
Ray Eck, farmer, Merced County;
Glenn Arnold, farmer, Merced County.

Building on his previous SAREP-funded research, Hendricks will continue to evaluate the effects of cover cropping on soil fertility and pest management in five innovative almond orchards. The project will also evaluate eight cover crop species in a replicated trial for effects on soil fertility.

Monitoring Soil Flavonoids to Enhance Growth of Desirable Microbes
Investigator:
Donald A. Phillips, Department of Agronomy and Range Science, UC Davis.

Other Investigator:
Penny Hirsch, Department of Soil Science, AFRC-IACR, Rothamsted Experiment Station, Harpenden, UK.

Cooperators:
Montague Demment, Department of Agronomy and Range Science, UC Davis;
Steve Orloff, UC Cooperative Extension farm advisor, Los Angeles County, Antelope Valley Office;
R.W. Smiley, Columbia Basin Agricultural Research Center, Pendleton, Oregon.

Flavonoids are natural compounds that have recently been found to promote the growth of beneficial soil bacteria and fungi. This project will determine whether flavonoids are present in soils under mature organic plots and if they accumulate during a transition from conventional to organic management.

Sustainable Agriculture Graduate Awards

In 1992, SAREP began awarding small grants to graduate students pursuing research in sustainable agriculture. The Sustainable Agriculture Graduate Awards have been a good way for SAREP to use scarce resources because they complement other university funds, and help graduate students address critical issues facing agricultural producers and society. In February 1992, seven graduate students were awarded a total of $13,290.

SAREP Graduate Awards Granted in 1992-93

  • Charles Griffin, Department of Vegetable Crops, UC Davis, $1,990 for "A Cover Crop Growth Model."
  • Niklaus Grunwald, Department of Plant Pathology, UC Davis, $2,000 for "Control of Tomato Root Diseases by Cover Cropping."
  • Nirmala Gunapala, Department of Soil Science, UC Davis, $2,000 for "The Significance of the Soil Microbial Biomass and its Activity in a Cover Crop Managed Cropping System."
  • Tiel Jackson, UC Santa Cruz, $1,900 for "The Effects of Soil Nitrogen Level and Management Techniques on Potato Aphids (Macrosiphum euphorbiae) Feeding on Tomato Seedlings."
  • Franz Niederholzer, Department of Pomology, UC Davis, $1,400 for "Nitrogen Uptake Capacity of Mature Almond Trees as Indicated by Spatial and Temporal Fine Root Growth Dynamics."
  • Hilary Sampson, Department of Pomology, UC Davis, $2,000 for "The Influence of Orchard Management Practices on Tree Nitrogen Uptake Efficiency, Nitrate Leaching, and Earthworm Populations."
  • Fekede Workneh, Department of Plant Pathology, UC Davis, $1,400 for "Unraveling the Reason of Suppressiveness of Organically Managed Soils to Pyrenochaeta lycopersici, the Causal Agent of Corky Root of Tomatoes."
  • Jeffery Dlott, UC Kearney Agricultural Center, Parlier, $1,000 for "Geostatistical and Descriptive Analysis of the Distribution and Abundance of Lepidopteran Pests and the Relationship Between Tree Nutritional Status in Peach Orchards."
  • Jeff Mitchell, UC Davis Department of Vegetable Crops, 1,000 for "Using Cover Crops to Improve Soil Physical Properties and Stand Establishment in Cyclically Salinized Soils."
  • Eric Tedford, UC Davis Department of Nematology, 1,000 for "Development of a Serological Assay for Detection of Spores of the Nematophagous Fungus Hirsutella rhossiliensis in soil."
  • Robert Venette, UC Davis Department of Nematology, $1,000 for "Microbial- feeding Nematodes and Plant Growth."