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UC Sheep Shearing School Prepares Students for Gainful Employment

USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) administers the . The Smith–Lever Act established the cooperative extension services program administered through land-grant universities. Today, a guest blog from Jeanette Warnert, University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, tells us how this program supports a unique rural economic opportunity:

Sheep shearing is like a dance. It requires strength, flexibility, a tender touch, and the right moves. Once mastered, the skill can open the door to gratifying and high-paying seasonal work.

Sheep shearers will never be unemployed and never be poor. They can earn $50 to $100 per hour and can start a business with a $3,000 investment in equipment, says John Harper, University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) natural resources advisor in Mendocino County.

Partnering with Farmers and Ranchers to Address Climate Change and Food Security Challenges

As world leaders gather in Paris this week to negotiate a new global climate agreement, it is important to recognize the contributions of farmers, ranchers and foresters in the United States towards achieving a more food secure world while adapting to climate change, increasing carbon sequestration, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.  

Over the course of my tenure as Secretary of the United States Department of Agriculture, U.S. producers have faced a record drought, which the University of California estimates has cost farmers in California alone an estimated $3 billion in 2015. We’ve seen increasing incursions of invasive pests and diseases and extreme weather, everything from bark beetle to severe droughts, which have cost billions in lost productivity. We’ve faced a series of record wildfire seasons in the western United States—the worst decade in U.S. history for wildfire. The growing El Nino weather pattern in the Pacific has created the perfect storm for disasters to strike the already damaged and weakened western landscape.

NIFA-Funded Obesity Prevention Project Sparks Community-wide Health Changes

This post is part of the feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

 

What started as a project to test the effectiveness of childhood obesity prevention methods has turned into a community-wide effort and a new culture of health for families in Firebaugh, California.

In Conversation with #WomeninAg: Carissa Koopmann Rivers

As part of our ongoing #womeninag series, we are highlighting a different leading woman in agriculture each month.  This month, we profile Carissa Koopmann Rivers, a fifth generation cow/calf rancher from Sunol, Calif., where her family established the Koopmann Ranch in 1918.

The Koopmann family has continued to be at the forefront of conservation and partnership development including playing a key role in the establishment of the California Rangeland Conservation Coalition.  Carissa discusses how there is not a “one size fits all” approach when it comes to living on the family farm or ranch. She believes that it’s not about fitting the mold, but what sets us apart that defines how we will build a future for the agriculture industry.

From Over 100,000 to 1: Partners Band Together to Beat the European Grapevine Moth

Last fall, the results of trapping for the European Grapevine Moth (Lobesia botrana or EGVM) in California were recounted during a conference call for the partners working to eradicate this invasive insect: zero, zero, zero, one moth.

We’ve gone from more than 100,000 EGVM trapped in 2010 to just one in 2014. This success makes the EGVM detection and eradication partnership one of the most effective programs for the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA), county departments of agriculture, University of California Cooperative Extension (UC Coop), and growers in the last decade.

USDA Marketing Orders and Agreements Foster Industry Innovation

Success is often achieved when you have access to a number of tools and know how and when to use them. The USDA’s (AMS) is equipping produce businesses with the proper tools for success through our (MOAD). , this division administers fruit and vegetable marketing orders and agreements designed to support the industry’s financial and commercial success with the help of tools such as funding production and market research.

As self-help programs requested for and completely funded by the industry, marketing orders and agreements can address issues ranging from combating invasive species to identifying key product attributes based on consumer preferences. Our MOAD employees oversee industry boards and committees as they partner with local universities and organizations to overcome these types of challenges.

Automated Weeder Separates Friend from Foe

This is not your granddad’s weed whacker.

It is, in fact, a weed control system that farmers have only dreamed of – a high-speed machine that can not only distinguish weeds from the value crop, but can eliminate those weeds as carefully as a backyard gardener working by hand.

David Slaughter, of the University of California – Davis’ Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering, and his team are developing new technologies that can accurately detect, locate, and kill weeds without damaging the cash crop.  Their robotic cultivator is being developed as part of a $2.7 million Specialty Crop Research Initiative grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).

Discovery Brings Wheat Flowering Mechanism to Light

This post is part of the feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from the USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

That handy chart on the back of seed packets tells backyard gardeners when it’s time to plant based on where they live.  Things get a bit more complicated, however, when your goal is to feed the world.

Researchers at the have unlocked a long-held secret into how wheat determines when it’s time to flower.  This information is critical to wheat growers because flowering marks the transition between the plant’s growing period and the reproductive stage when the actual grain is created.  Equipped with this knowledge, breeders can develop better adapted varieties to help growers maximize yield.

New International Wood Packaging Standard Stops Bugs Dead in their Tracks

This post is part of the feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from the USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

Wood makes great packaging material—it’s inexpensive, abundant and versatile—but there’s one drawback: destructive forest pests stowaway in the pallets, crates and dunnage (wood used to brace cargo) used in international shipping. Over many years, international trade has resulted in the inadvertent introduction of many non-native wood-feeding pests and plant pathogens in the U.S. and throughout the world. Some of these non-native insects, including the and the , have become highly invasive and caused serious environmental and economic impacts.

But an international standard for wood packaging material is slowing the inadvertent export of invasive bark- and wood-boring insects, according to a study conducted by , a research entomologist with the in Lansing, Mich., and a team of scientists. Researchers found as much as a 52 percent drop in infestation rates in the U.S., where the standard was implemented in three phases between 2005 and 2006. The study was published May 14 in the journal PLOS ONE.

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