Posts Tagged: citrus
Low-severity wildland fires and prescribed burns have long been presumed by scientists and resource managers to be harmless to soils, but this may not be the case, new research shows.
According to two new studies by a team from the University of California, Merced (UCM) and the Desert Research Institute (DRI), low-severity burns - in which fire moves quickly and soil temperature does not exceed 250oC (482oF) - cause damage to soil structure and organic matter in ways that are not immediately apparent after a fire.
"When you have a high-severity fire, you burn off the organic matter from the soil and the impact is immediate," said Teamrat Ghezzehei, Ph.D., principal investigator of the two studies and Associate Professor of Environmental Soil Physics at UCM. "In a low-severity fire, the organic matter doesn't burn off, and there is no visible destruction right away. But the burning weakens the soil structure, and unless you come back at a later time and carefully look at the soil, you wouldn't notice the damage."
DRI researcher Markus Berli, Ph.D., Associate Research Professor of Environmental Science, became interested in studying this phenomenon while visiting a burned area near Ely, Nev. in 2009, where he made the unexpected observation that a prescribed, low-severity fire had resulted in soil structure damage in the burned area. He and several colleagues from DRI conducted a follow-up study on another controlled burn in the area, and found that soil structure that appeared to be fine immediately after a fire but deteriorated over the weeks and months that followed. Berli then teamed up with Ghezzehei and a team from UCM that included graduate student Mathew Jian, and Associate Professor Asmeret Asefaw Berhe, Ph.D., to further investigate.
Soil consists of large and small mineral particles (gravel, sand, silt, and clay) which are bound together by organic matter, water and other materials to form aggregates. When soil aggregates are exposed to severe fires, the organic matter burns, altering the physical structure of the soil and increasing the risk of erosion in burned areas. In low-severity burn areas where organic matter doesn't experience significant losses, the team wondered if the soil structure was being degraded by another process, such as by the boiling of water held within soil aggregates?
In a study published in AGU Geophysical Research Letters in May 2018, the UCM-DRI team investigated this question, using soil samples from an unburned forest area in Mariposa County, Calif. and from unburned shrubland in Clark County, Nev. to analyze the impacts of low-severity fires on soil structure. They heated soil aggregates to temperatures that simulated the conditions of a low-severity fire (175oC/347oF) over a 15-minute period, then looked for changes in the soil's internal pore pressure and tensile strength (the force required to pull the aggregate apart).
During the experiment, they observed that pore pressure within the soil aggregates rose to a peak as water boiled and vaporized, then dropped as the bonds in the soil aggregates broke and vapor escaped. Tensile strength measurements showed that the wetter soil aggregates had been weakened more than drier soil samples during this process.
"Our results show that the heat produced by low-severity fires is actually enough to do damage to soil structure, and that the damage is worse if the soils are wet," Berli explained. "This is important information for resource managers because it implies that prescribed burns and other fires that occur during wetter times of year may be more harmful to soils than fires that occur during dry times."Next, the research team wondered what the impact of this structural degradation was on the organic matter that the soil structure normally protects. Soil organic matter consists primarily of microbes and decomposing plant tissue, and contributes to the overall stability and water-holding capacity of soils.
In a second study that was published in Frontiers in Environmental Science in late July, the UCM-DRI research team conducted simulated burn experiments to weaken the structure of the soil aggregates, and tested the soils for changes in quality and quantity of several types of organic matter over a 70-day period.
They found that heating of soils led to the release of organic carbon into the atmosphere as CO2 during the weeks and months after the fire, and again found that the highest levels of degradation occurred in soils that were moist. This loss of organic carbon is important for several reasons, Ghezzehei explained.
"The loss of organic matter from soil to the atmosphere directly contributes to climate change, because that carbon is released as CO2," Ghezzehei said. "Organic matter that is lost due to fires is also the most important reserve of nutrients for soil micro-organisms, and it is the glue that holds soil aggregates together. Once you lose the structure, there are a lot of other things that happen. For example, infiltration becomes slower, you get more runoff, you have erosion."
Although the research team's findings showed several detrimental effects of fire on soils, low-severity wildfires and prescribed burns are known to benefit ecosystems in other ways -- recycling nutrients back into the soil and getting rid of overgrown vegetation, for example. It is not yet clear whether the negative impacts on soil associated with these low-severity fires outweigh the positives, Berli says, but the team hopes that their research results will help to inform land managers as they manage wildfires and plan prescribed burns.
"There is very little fuel in arid and semi-arid areas, and thus fires tend to be short lived and relatively low in peak temperature," Ghezzehei said. "In contrast to the hot fires and that burn for days and weeks that we see in the news, these seem to be benign and we usually treat them as such. Our work shows that low-severity fires are not as harmless as they may appear."
The study, "Soil Structural Degradation During Low?Severity Burns," was published on May 31, 2018 in the journal AGU Geophysical Research Letters and is available here: https:/
The study, "Vulnerability of Physically Protected Soil Organic Carbon to Loss Under Low Severity Fires," was published July 19, 2018 in the journal Frontiers in Environmental Science, and is available here: https:/
From the Topics in Subtropics blog A garden can be a competitive environment. Plants and...
A garden can be a competitive environment. Plants and unseen microorganisms in the soil all need precious space to grow. And to gain that space, a microbe might produce and use chemicals that kill its plant competitors. But the microbe also needs immunity from its own poisons.
By looking for that protective shield in microorganisms, specifically the genes that can make it, a team of UCLA engineers and scientists discovered a new and potentially highly effective type of weed killer. This finding could lead to the first new class of commercial herbicides in more than 30 years, an important outcome as weeds continue to develop resistance to current herbicide regimens.
Using a technique that combines data science and genomics, the team found the new herbicide by searching the genes of thousands of fungi for one that might provide immunity against fungal poisons. This approach is known as "resistance gene-directed genome mining."
The study, which was published in Nature, also points to the potential for this genomics-driven approach to be used in medicine, with applications ranging from new antibiotics to advanced cancer-fighting drugs.
"Microorganisms are very smart at protecting themselves from the potent molecules they make to kill their enemies," said Yi Tang, the study's co-principal investigator and a UCLA professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering, and of chemistry and biochemistry. "The presence of these resistance genes provides a window into the functions of the molecules, and can allow us to discover these molecules and apply them to diverse applications in human health and agriculture."
For example, if a resistance gene that protects a microorganism from an anti-bacterial product is found, there's a possibility that the microorganism also has genes to produce that same anti-bacterial compound. That discovery could potentially lead to new antibacterial medicines.
The new herbicide acts by inhibiting the function of an enzyme that is necessary for plants' survival. The enzyme is a key catalyst in an important metabolic pathway that makes essential amino acids. When this pathway is disrupted, the plants die.
This pathway is not present in mammals, including humans, which is why it has been a common target in herbicide research and development. The new herbicide works on a different part of the pathway than current herbicides. A commercial product that uses it would require more research and regulatory approval.
"An exciting aspect of the work is that we not only discovered a new herbicide, but also its exact target in the plant, opening the possibility of modifying crops to be resistant to a commercial product based on this herbicide," said study co-principal investigator Steven Jacobsen, a professor of molecular, cell and developmental biology in the UCLA College and an investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. "We are looking to work with large agrochemical companies to develop this promising lead further."
To confirm the efficacy of the new herbicide, the UCLA team tested the fungus-produced product on a common plant used in lab studies called Arabidopsis. In experiments, the product killed the plants after they were sprayed with it. The researchers also implanted the resistance gene from the fungus into Arabidopsis genomes. The plants that had the resistance gene implanted in them were immune to the herbicide.
"The emergence of herbicide-resistance weeds is thwarting every herbicide class in use; in fact, there has not been a new type commercialized within the last 30 years," said Yan Yan, a UCLA chemical engineering graduate student who was a lead author of the paper. "We think this new, powerful herbicide -- combined with crops that are immune to it -- will complement urgent efforts in overcoming weed resistance."
Resistance-gene-directed discovery of a natural-product herbicide with a new mode of action
Stink bugs of various species have been an issue on avocado and citrus for many years. Not always an issue, but occasionally they can reach damaging proportions.
For stink bugs to attract a mate or to communicate that they have found food, they use their own chemical language: pheromones.
Virginia Tech researchers have discovered insights into this chemical language, which can be used to develop alternative pest controls.
"We have gained a deeper understanding of how stink bugs synthesize pheromones, and this knowledge may allow us to produce pheromones in expendable food crops - also called 'trap crops' - to lure the bugs away from cash crops," said Dorothea Tholl, a professor of biological sciences in the College of Science and a Fralin Life Science Institute affiliate.
These new environmentally friendly and sustainable alternatives to insecticides could save farmers millions of dollars.
In Virginia, crops such as grapes, sweet corn, and apples, have been under attack by the invasive brown marmorated stink bug since 2004; cabbage has also been affected, but by the harlequin stink bug. A relative, the southern green stinkbug is also a severe pest worldwide and attacks many different crops including beans and soybeans.
Tholl is interested in the chemical communication of organisms and studies how this chemical language has evolved in insects. With support by a grant from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, her lab investigates the enzymes that produce stinkbug pheromones in an interdisciplinary collaboration with colleagues at Virginia Tech and national and international institutions.
Her team's research has recently been published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, or PNAS.
"Our recent paper provides valuable insight into our understanding of how insects synthesize complex sesquiterpene compounds that are typically used as pheromones. The work could pave the way in the future for plants to manufacture insect pheromones, which could be utilized in pest surveillance and pest management strategies, such as attract and kill," said Thomas Kuhar, a professor of entomology in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and a Virginia Cooperative Extension specialist.
Very little was known about the biosynthetic evolution of these insect pheromones, and the research of Tholl's team has shown that stink bugs have their own enzymatic machinery to make pheromones without receiving them from symbiotic microbes or the host plant, as was previously thought.
Jason Lancaster of Knoxville, Tennessee, a recent biological sciences Ph.D. graduate from Tholl's lab, used next-generation sequencing to identify and functionally characterize the first enzyme in the biosynthetic pathway of the harlequin bug pheromone compound.
"Pheromones for thousands of insects are known, but very little is known about the synthesis of the pheromones. This paper focuses on terpene derived pheromones from the harlequin stink bug Murgantia histrionica and encompasses many years of research. Besides the development of dead-end trap crops, this research may allow establishing "RNAi interference" type gene silencing mechanisms to disrupt the pheromone production of the insect," said Lancaster.
Lancaster also found that other stink bugs such as the brown marmorated stink bug use enzymes in pheromone biosynthesis similar to that identified in the harlequin bug. Beyond the team's current study on stink bug pheromones, the research may allow for exciting future discoveries in the biosynthesis of pheromones of other insects and their application in pest management.
Two of Tholl's graduate students, Andrew Muchlinski and Bryan Lehner, are co-authors on the paper and contributed substantially to this research.
There is commercial interest in using the genetic tools developed by Tholl's team to produce the pheromones via synthetic biology for application in the field to promote pest mating disruption.
"Overall, we are excited about the prospect that our research has the potential to develop new pest management techniques," says Tholl.
IMAGE: For stink bugs to attract a mate or to communicate that they have found food, they use their own chemical language: pheromones.
STUDY FORECASTS COST OF REGULATIONS ON
CALIFORNIA CITRUS INDUSTRY
Citrus Research Board Report Explains Cost Impacts on Growers
August 20, 2018 – Visalia, Calif. – New regulations are expected to cost California citrus growers an average of $701 per acre per year, or $203 million annually statewide, according to a new study commissioned by the Citrus Research Board (CRB).
“Compliance with environmental regulations not associated with groundwater sustainability is estimated to increase costs by $17.7 million, or $67 per acre of citrus,” predicts Bruce A. Babcock, Ph.D., a professor in the School of Public Policy at the University of California, Riverside, who authored the study. “New labor requirements will increase costs by $112 million, or $357 per acre, once they are all phased in.”
“Babcock, has presented a well-researched economic report that shows how new regulations will increasingly impact California's citrus industry,” said CRB President Gary Schulz.
The report, Impact of Regulations on Production Costs and Competitiveness of the California Citrus Industry, also predicts that controlling the Asian citrus psyllid (ACP) “will increase costs by $65 million, or $248 per acre per year, if controls are extended to all citrus-growing regions.” Compliance training costs are estimated to increase costs by another $29 per acre, or $7.5 million for the state citrus industry.
“As I read and reread Dr. Babcock's report, two things kept jumping off the page: one, ‘Cost increases borne by California's citrus but not by…other citrus growing regions decrease the future competitiveness of California's citrus industry'; and two, ‘…future compliance with these regulations is estimated to increase costs by $203 million, or $701 per acre per year,'” said California Citrus Mutual President Joel Nelsen. “When the cost of citrus at store level gets too expensive, consumers look for lower priced fruit. This UCR report paints a clear path for policy makers if their goal is to drive the citrus industry out of California and onto off-shore production areas.”
The 20-page report includes a breakdown of increases in labor costs, including California's minimum hourly wage increases, which are scheduled to rise in annual increments to $15 over the next four years. The report also covers the projected cost increases of recent state legislation dealing with paid sick leave, payment rates for rest and recovery periods, overtime and workers compensation.
The section on insecticide treatment addresses grower cost of spraying for ACP, even though the severity of the problem currently differs greatly in various areas of the state. If ACP establishes itself in all citrus regions in the state, which the report says is “almost inevitable,” control efforts would amount to $39.5 million per year, according to Babcock. This would be in addition to the state-mandated tarping of fruit that is transported to packinghouses, at a cost of approximately $9 million per year.
According to the report, The Food Safety Modernization Act, which was passed in 2011 and is still being implemented, will not require major changes for growers who are already GFSI-certified (Global Food Safety Initiative compliant).
The impact of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) is hard to predict, according to Babcock. “It will not be possible to calculate the impact of SGMA until each basin's groundwater sustainability plans have been finalized,” he states. “Without new surface water supplies, it seems inevitable that some farmland that currently relies on groundwater will need to be fallowed to balance withdrawals with recharge rates.”
Babcock, a Fellow of the Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, has won numerous awards for his applied policy research. He received a Ph.D. in Agricultural and Resource Economics from the University of California, Berkeley, and Master's and Bachelor's degrees from the University of California, Davis.
The CRB administers the California Citrus Research Program, the grower-funded and grower-directed program established in 1968 under the California Marketing Act, as the mechanism enabling the state's citrus producers to sponsor and support needed research. The full report on the Impact of Regulations on Production Costs and Competitiveness of the California Citrus Industry, as well as more information about the Citrus Research Board, may be read at www.citrusresearch.org.