From The Packer:
South Florida university researchers are using dogs and drones to sniff out a disease that's killing the region's avocado trees.
The Florida International University researchers are sending dutch sheppards and belgian malinois into avocado groves to locate trees infected by the lethal laurel wilt disease, which is spread by the redbay ambrosia beetle.
Detection is a major problem and trees can start to wilt within two weeks.
By the time infected trees are detected, the fungus has likely spread to nearby trees via root grafting, said DeEtta Mills, a biological sciences professor.
She and Kenneth Furton, a university provost and forensic chemist, are leading research that trains and deploys five dogs into Miami-area groves.
Drones flying above the groves can detect symptomatic trees, which signal researchers to direct the dogs to infected areas.
The dogs run through the groves and with their powerful noses, have been 90% accurate in locating infected trees, Mills said.
Because of permitting paperwork delays by the Federal Aviation Administration, the researchers haven't been able to use the drones.
The researchers hope to receive approval for drones by August and are relying on growers to point them to infected trees.
The drones provide higher accuracy and can better cover larger areas because running the dogs too long can overheat them and wear them out, Mills said.
Their heavy panting can dull their sniffing senses so after about 20 minutes, the researchers return them to kennels in air conditioned vans, Mills said.
The dogs are trained with diseased wood and infected tree samples detected by the dogs are sent to researchers who examine DNA to verify contamination, she said.
“These dogs, they love to do this and it's amazing to watch them,” Mills said. “These ‘girls' come out of the kennels of the van and ask us where we would like to send them and what we would like them to do. They're extremely highly-driven dogs. If we can get permission to use the drones, it will help us identify areas we need to go in with the dogs and help us verify infection much faster so the dogs won't have to cover as much ground.”
Canine detection is another way of helping save the state's multi-million dollar avocado industry and ultimately, the North American industry.
Florida growers have lost about 4,000 of nearly 800,000 trees and the disease has spread throughout the Mid-Atlantic and into Mississippi.
If it travels farther west, the dogs and drones detection system could also help growers in California and Mexico protect their much larger production, she said.
The Miami university is also working with University of Florida researchers and growers.
N.B. These techniques could also be used to trace Polyphagous Shot Hole Borer infested trees, as well.
dogs and avocado
“It's grim. It's going to be a rough year for the coho,” said Mariska Obedzinski, a fish biologist who coordinates the coho monitoring program. “They can't get where they need to go.”
Obedzinski is part of the UC Sea Grant program, based at Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego.
Two coho spawning streams — Porter and Pena creeks — are already cut off from the river. If no more rain falls, other tributaries, including Green Valley, Dutch Bill and Mill creeks, will likely go dry in spots, Obedzinski said.
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife is already planning rescue operations to save the smolts and younger fish in disconnected streams.
Last year some streams disconnections took place in late May, toward the end of the salmon run. The drying being seen in mid April may be unprecedented. Obedzinski said it was possibly the worst year for the fish since stream monitoring began in 2005.
A multiagency effort to save the Russian River coho began in 2001, when the fish were on the verge of extinction. The effort includes California Fish and Wildlife, National Marine Fisheries, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and UC Sea Grant.
One adult (female) Asian Citrus Psyllid was identified from a trap in Hollister CA. Delimitation trapping will commence, along with visual survey, treatment and quarantine activities, following the newly approved Northern California protocol.
ACP adult and nymph
Sumner leads the UC Agricultural Issues Center, where scientists study such topics as international markets, invasive pests and diseases, the value of agriculture research and development and the rural environment.
The reason for drought's lack of impact on produce prices can be traced to the state's geography, water infrastructure and the economics of its agricultural industry, the op-ed says.
"The Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys are home to significant production of alfalfa, silage, rice, cotton and other so-called field crops, but are also a major source of fresh produce, including peppers, melons, grapes, oranges, tree nuts and tomatoes. Farmers in these valleys have typically relied on a mix of pumped groundwater and surface water deliveries via both the Central Valley Project—a huge network of dams, reservoirs and canals—and the larger California State Water Project. Most farmers, however, will receive no water from the CVP for the second year in a row, and the SWP is delivering only a fraction of normal allocations.
"This, coupled with much higher groundwater pumping costs as more and deeper wells are required, has forced many farmers to shift out of thirsty field crops. But this decreased production has minimal effects on food prices because California accounts for a small share of the supply, or because these crops affect food prices only indirectly. For example, fewer acres of corn silage makes it more expensive to feed milk cows, but the subsequent effect on the price of cheese is small. Fresh produce, which generates high revenue per unit of water consumed, continues to be planted."
The authors said the water bond voters passed in November 2014 and new regulations on groundwater use enacted by the state legislature is help, eventually. Some farmers are adjusting planting schedules and shifting crops between growing regions to adapt. Others are rerouting water from annual field crops, which can be left unplanted for a year or two, to permanent crops such as fruit and nut trees.
Even if water remains short for the next 10 years, an adequate supply of fresh fruits and vegetables should not be a concern, the authors wrote. "In a global market, produce suppliers from the U.S., Mexico, Chile and beyond compete to keep prices low," they said.
When we think about space missions, we tend to look toward the stars to planets like Mars where robotic rovers roam, gathering data and sending it back to Earth. Rarely do we think about missions closer to home. But a view of Earth from 426 miles above is helping us monitor droughts, predict floods, improve weather forecasts and assist with crop productivity. This year, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) launched a new satellite called SMAP (Soil Moisture Active-Passive) with the help of a team that included U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) hydrologist Susan Moran at the Agricultural Research Service's (ARS) Southwest Watershed Research Laboratory in Tucson, Arizona, and physical scientist Wade Crow and hydrologist Thomas Jackson at ARS's Hydrology and Remote Sensing Laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland. ARS scientists played a key role in designing and implementing SMAP—an orbiting observatory that measures the amount of water in the top layer of the soil everywhere on Earth. SMAP gathers soil moisture data that can help track diseases and famine, predict weather and climate patterns, assist emergency workers' response to natural disasters and let farmers know what crops to plant. “We've seen impressive advances in our ability to produce crops on a given area of soil, but have also retained susceptibility to climate events, particularly droughts that occur when there is inadequate soil water for crops,” Crow says. “The idea is to better predict and monitor droughts so they don't turn into food crises, and soil moisture is the most direct and earliest indication of drought.” SMAP provides the best global view of soil moisture to date, Crow says. Therefore, it has the potential to help monitor global food production. It's the best soil moisture sensor ever deployed due to its resolution, accuracy, global coverage and repeat time. Before the satellite was launched, volunteer users around the world could put SMAP's simulated data to use, Moran says. “We wanted to make sure our products would be as good as possible and easy to access. In return, these users provided feedback on how SMAP could help them.” Early users included those in agriculture, weather, human health, emergency response and military readiness. Data were used to monitor droughts, predict floods and even to predict the water supply in New York City, Moran says. “Some used the data to predict large regional dust storms that affect the health of millions of people in Saharan Africa and throughout the Middle East,” she adds. “In Germany, the data were used to map sea ice in hopes of improving maritime navigation, and at Texas A&M University, researchers looked at the impact of hurricanes on power outages.” SMAP will release the first data products to the public in August. To learn more, go to http://smap.jpl.nasa.gov/. - See more at: http://blogs.usda.gov/2015/04/07/usda-nasas-global-view-of-earths-soil-holds-many-benefits/#sthash.okw1NTAN.dpuf