Joyce spoke to a a dismayed winemaker, a worried vineyard manager and he gathered background for his four-minute story by interviewing Lynn Wunderlich, UC Cooperative Extension farm advisor for El Dorado, Amador, Calaveras and Tuolumne counties.
"There's a lot of concern out there amongst growers that I work with in the four counties in the Central Sierra," Wunderlich said. "Generally in the foothills we have a shorter depth in the soil from the surface to the bedrock, so that all impacts the available water that a grower has."
Because of the drought, Wunderlich said some growers are extending their wells or digging new wells to increase groundwater supply.
"I even had an email from a small grape grower who said he's collected rainwater this season," Wunderlich said. "So people are getting quite creative in their attempts to conserve water, knowing that we're going to have potentially a tough season."
A local Santa Barbara backyard grower has been experimenting with many different apple varieties and has found some unusual success at growing a wide variety of them that according to their published chilling hours requirements should not do well in Southern California.
Apple varieties grown in Santa Barbara by Dave Beamer as of Nov. 2014
Varieties that have grown good fruit so far (asterisks mark my personal favorites)
*Arkansas Black (3 crops) hard, juicy, aromatic; skin is very dark when ripe in Oct. – Nov. (AK, ~1840)
*Ashmead's Kernel (3 crops) wonderful mostly tart flavor, pleasing texture, russeted (England, ~1700)
Aunt Rachel (2 crops, 2 apples) good texture, juicy, mildly tart; big apples ripen in July (good in Riverside, CA)
Benoni (one apple) the first apple was small, juicy, tart and ripened in August (MA, 1832)
Bramley's Seedling (8 apples) large fruit, very tart cooking apples in England, milder here (England, 1813)
Burgundy (one apple) deep red apple, very juicy, great texture, mostly tart, aromatic (early August)
Canada Red (two apples) red-striped apple, juicy, good texture, not much flavor in the first crop
Dixie Red Delight (3 crops) hard, juicy, mildly sweet apples with tough skins (ripen in late Oct. – Nov.)
Dorsett Golden (5 crops) self-fertile, commonly grown here and in the tropics (ripen in June – July)
Fuji (25+ crops in the back yard) self-fertile, sweeten if left on the tree (best in Nov. – Jan.)
*Golden Noble (3 crops) good texture, sweet and juicy in October, apples grow very large if thinned
Hauer Pippin (2 crops) good texture, juicy, thick skin, tart in October, sweeten Nov. – Dec.
Hawaii (one apple) good texture, flavor is a mix of sweet and tart, good in Riverside (CA, 1945)
Honey Sweet (two apples) described as “very sweet”, first small crop was mildly sweet (Virginia)
*Hudson's Golden Gem (3 crops) russeted sweet apples that can taste like pear juice (good in Riverside)
Kandil Sinap (2 crops) long narrow apples, good texture and juice but very mild flavor (from Turkey)
*Laxton's Fortune (4 crops) sweet, hard, crunchy, juicy, red apples; ripen late Aug. – early Sept. (1931)
Maigold (two apples) flavor is a mix of sweet and tart, from Switzerland
Red Boskoop (one apple) quite tart, one large apple with good texture (sterile pollen)
Red October (2 crops) hard, crunchy, juicy; a mix of sweet and tart flavors (but only one was red…)
Reverend Morgan (two apples) very good texture, mix of sweet and tart in late August (Houston, TX 1965)
Sierra Beauty (2 small crops) self-fertile, a mix of sweet and tart flavors, ripen late Sept. to Oct. (~ 1890)
Snow Apple (5 crops) mostly smaller apples, aromatic, tender flesh, tart and juicy (1739)
*Spitzenburg (4 crops) very good texture, juicy, wonderful tart-sweet flavor (NY, late 1700s)
Summer Rambo (one apple) precocious, mildly tart, the first apple was good (“Rambour Franc” ~1500)
*Wealthy (five apples) self-fertile, precocious; tart to tart-sweet, grown in tropics (Minnesota, 1868)
William's Pride (4 crops) very precocious; tart, juicy red apples ripen June – Aug depending on weather
Wyken Pippin (2 small crops) medium-sized apples, mildly sweet, good texture
I assume that three or more years of good fruit means a variety is reliable in coastal Santa Barbara County.
I have tasted locally grown Standard Delicious apples (the original “Delicious” variety, also called Old-Fashioned Delicious or Hawkeye). These apples are green with red stripes and are larger, juicier and have better flavor and texture than today's Red Delicious. Their flavor is sub-acid (very mildly tart).
I have been told that in this area Golden Delicious goes from unripe and sour to mushy – without ever passing through ripe. I have not tried growing it.
Varieties that grew bad fruit in my yard (I have removed these):
Cox's Orange Pippin (3 crops) tart, some were good for two small crops; in 3rd crop all apples split and rotted
Early Joe (two apples) soft, borderline mushy, and dry (reported bad in Riverside also)
Reinette du Canada bland flavor, apples fell off in August instead of October or later
Ribston Pippin ripened too early, poor taste and texture
Saint Cecilia all apples cracked and rotted in the first crop
Suntan (3 crops) sterile pollen, very tart; in 2013 all apples split and rotted
Victoria Limbertwig (2 crops) apples cracked and fell off in June-July (should ripen in fall)
Zabergau Reinette ripened too early, poor taste and texture
Not sure yet:
Bevan's Favorite (one apple) aromatic, not much flavor, poor texture in early July; I will try it again
Husk Sweet (3 apples) described as having “honeyed sweetness”; the first crop had no flavor at all
Roxbury Russet (six apples) 3 cracked, 3 good; tart, oldest American apple still being grown (MA ~1635)
Very young varieties that have not yet fruited:
Akero from Sweden (no description of the fruit was given)
Anna from Israel, partially self-fertile, sweet, grown in Santa Barbara and tropics
Arkansas Sweet described as crisp, crunchy and sweet (Arkansas, 1905)
Bentley's Sweet described as “intensely sweet” (Virginia, early 1800s?)
Black Oxford deep purple skin when ripe; eating, cooking and cider apples (Maine, ~1860)
Black Twig used for eating and juice; tart due to tannic acid (Tennessee, ~1830)
Blue Pearmain dark red apples, very juicy, subacid flavor, some russeting (early 1800s)
Erwin Baur from Germany [Duchess of Oldenburg x (Cox's Orange Pippin?)]
Golden Nugget small sweet apples, from Nova Scotia (Golden Russet x Cox's Orange Pippin)
Golden Sweet described as having “honeyed sweetness” (no balancing acidity)
Grimes Golden a parent of Golden Delicious, but described as having more complex flavor
Holstein sterile pollen, a seedling of Cox's Orange Pippin (Germany, 1918)
Hubbartson's Nonesuch precocious and heavy-bearing, sweet, ripen in summer (MA, 1830)
Jefferis sweet, juicy, pear-flavored small summer apples; heavy-bearing (PA, 1830)
King David an offspring of Arkansas Black, grows good fruit in Riverside (Arkansas, 1893)
Liberty self-fertile, disease resistant, flavor is a mix of sweet and tart (NY, 1962)
Late Strawberry described in North Carolina as “one of the best dessert apples available”
“Longview” a sweet seedling apple from Longview, WA (grafted with owner's permission)
Margil from England, considered one of the best-flavored sweet apples (small crops)
McIntosh precocious, tart, juicy, with aromatic white flesh (Ontario, Canada 1798)
Ozark Gold described as having “honeyed sweetness” (no balancing acidity)
Pettingill self-fertile, tart/sweet flavor, a seedling from Long Beach, CA (1949)
Ramsdell Sweet a very sweet, juicy apple
Red Astrachan self-fertile, tart, early flowering and ripening, from Russia
Redgold described as having “honeyed sweetness” (no balancing acidity)
Strawberry Pippin red skin, white flesh, sweet or sweet-tart flavor
Smokehouse precocious tree, very juicy apples (Pennsylvania, 1837)
Summer Queen ripens in August (New Jersey, 1800s)
Terry Winter sweet/tart, heavy-bearing, good in Riverside (Georgia, before 1860)
Winesap crisp, juicy flesh with sweet-tart flavor (New Jersey ~1800)
Winter Sweet crisp, juicy, very sweet flesh, origin unknown
Rootstocks used: M111: probably the best here, M7: good, but grows many suckers, G30: on one tree from NY.
Contact me if you want free summer or winter scion wood from my trees. (Please note: some of my trees are still too small to donate wood.)
Sources of my trees and apple information:
Trees of Antiquity (California)
Kuffel Creek (California)
Bay Laurel Nursery (retailing trees from Dave Wilson Nursery, California)
Big Horse Creek Farm (North Carolina) (also sells scion wood now)
Cummins Nursery (New York)
Scion wood for grafting: Maple Valley Orchards (Minnesota)
For an especially useful website go to www.kuffelcreek.com and click on “Apples”. Kevin Hauser tries to keep 100 apple varieties growing in his yard in very hot Riverside, California. He removes trees that grow bad fruit and replaces them with other varieties that are new to him. He has also experimented with different rootstocks. His website has a link to his blog, where he posts information on growing apples in the tropics as well as in Riverside.
The weakness in his information is his optimism. He may declare that a variety is good in Southern California if only the last apples of a variety to ripen are good and all the earlier apples were bad. Next year you may read that every apple ripened too early and he's getting rid of that tree. That's why I bought Ribston Pippin and Zabergau Reinette from him, one year before he declared both of them bad for Southern California (they were bad here also). But he has done a huge amount of pioneering work for warm-winter areas and the tropics.
So far I have found two apple varieties that grow good fruit in Santa Barbara but not in Riverside (Ashmead's Kernel and Snow Apple). I assume these trees can't tolerate Riverside's very hot summers, so they may not grow good fruit in the hotter inland areas of Santa Barbara County either.
The website for Trees of Antiquity (www.treesofantiquity.com) has good information about planting fruit trees and summer pruning for size control.
Dave Wilson Nursery (www.davewilson.com) has a lot of information for home fruit growers on its website, although they only sell wholesale. Bay Laurel Nursery retails some of their apple trees but only on M7 rootstock, which grows lots of suckers.
Apple information—flavor, ripening time and quality of fruit—usually comes from other parts of the world and may not apply here. Be a pioneer: grow a variety that's new in Southern California and share what you learn.
Feel free to share this information with others. (Spread the wealth!)
Barbara Allen-Diaz, vice president of UC Agriculture and Natural Resources, noted in the story that 2013 was the first time in recent years that UC hired more Cooperative Extension faculty than had retired. In December, she approved hiring of another 29 advisors and 16 specialists for the 2015-16 cycle.
"So we turned the corner for the first time in this long downward spiral," she said. "My goal is to continue to rebuild the footprint of Cooperative Extension."
Lee also interviewed UCCE vice provost Chris Greer, who said he expects ANR to end 2015 with a net gain of academics.
"It's not huge leaps and bounds; it's a small gain, but we're hoping as we continue this process of filling these positions, that we'll start gaining some ground," he said.
Rather than automatically refilling vacant positions, Greer said much thought is put into revamping job descriptions or creating new positions to better fit the evolving needs of agricultural business. To help prioritize which positions should be hired first, UC sought public input, receiving more than 900 individual comments last year, including from agricultural organizations.
Jim Sullins, the UCCE director for Tulare County who is planning to retire in mid-2015, said more advisors are covering multiple counties and must travel longer distances to make farm visits, so they are turning to new communications strategies in their work, such as email, social media, and other web technology. But traditional farm calls are still a mainstay service.
Katherine Pope, the new UC Cooperative Extension orchard systems advisor in Yolo County, was also featured in the AgAlert story. She talked about the importance of having enough staff to enable advisors to call on farmers personally. Pope said going out to the farm gives her a fuller picture of what she's dealing with that she can't get over the phone or with photos via email. Sometimes she may notice other issues unrelated to the original problem, or the visit may prompt other questions from the farmer.
"My job is to spread information and knowledge, and doing that in person is absolutely the best way to do that," she said.
Over the past several years, land managers and ranchers in Marin and Sonoma counties have been concerned with the spread of woolly distaff thistle (Carthamus lanatus). However, there is very little research conducted on the control of this species. Because of the lack of direct information on its management, land managers have relied on information previously published on yellow starthistle (Centaurea solstitialis). Yellow starthistle is a related species with some phenological similarities to woolly distaff thistle, but it does not provide a perfect analogy.
As a result, we tested a number of herbicides for the control of distaff thistle at two timings (mid-winter and spring) and two rates in Marin County. Our herbicide treatments included aminopyralid (Milestone), clopyralid (Transline), triclopyr + aminopyralid (Capstone), aminocyclopyrachlor (Method; not yet registered in California), and aminocyclopyrachlor + chlorsulfuron (Perspective). All these compounds have been shown to be effective on other thistle species, have excellent toxicology profiles, and have very low toxicity to honey bees. Each of these herbicides or herbicide combinations was tested at two rates with an untreated control. Our results showed that only the spring treatments gave consistently good control for all herbicides and combinations and at all rates, including the lowest rates. Thus, there are many herbicide options for the control of woolly distaff thistle available to ranchers and land managers. An economic analysis of these treatments indicated that the chemical cost per acre for control of woolly distaff thistle was best achieved with the low rate of clopyralid or aminocyclopyrachlor + chlorsulfuron ($13/acre). In the coming year, we will evaluate organic control options, including mechanical techniques at various timings and one organic herbicide (Suppress). These methods will be compared against the conventional herbicide treatments reported here.
The story said scientists compared exquisitely detailed tree data collected in the 1920s and 1930s with tree surveys made between 2001 and 2010. They identified significant and rapid changes in basic forest structure. As large tree density fell across the state, and the density of small trees increased.
"The thing that I think is particularly worrisome is how widespread this is," said Maggi Kelley, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management at UC Berkeley. "These changes will have an impact on how animals use the forest, how fire moves through the forest and the way we view the forest."
"Our grandkids will definitely see a difference," she said.
LA Times reporter Taylor Goldenstein spoke to study co-author Mark Schwartz, a professor of environmental science and policy at UC Davis and director of the John Muir Institute of the Environment. Schwartz said a denser forest allows fire to travel faster, causing more devastation. After a fire, new, smaller trees grow that are more likely to catch fire, and the cycle continues.
“These are historically fire-maintained ecosystems,” Schwartz said. “The firemen are faced with this notion of when a fire is reported and started, do they go out and bring out helicopters, trucks and people and put the fire out or do they let it burn?”
Just how much the change in forest structure is due to fire suppression and how much results from climate change is hard to tell because the two are interrelated, Schwartz said.
National Geographic magazine invoked Peter, Paul and Mary's mournful ballad in its headline, "Where have all the big trees gone? They've gone to logging and housing - but especially to climate change."
Reporter Warren Cornwall wrote that no area was immune to the forests' decline, from the foggy northern coast to the Sierra Nevada mountains to the San Gabriels above Los Angeles.
The loss of big trees was greatest in areas where trees had suffered the greatest water deficit. Large trees in general appear to be more vulnerable to a water shortfall. Though the 2011-14 drought might have an impact on forest change, it was not reflected in this study because the data was collected before the drought began.