In this Issue
COVID-19 Response and Resources
As the turbulent times continue due to COVID-19, we are adapting to meet our goals. Since we have postponed our spring All Things Avian field days we will soon release a series of videos interviewing farmers, avian ecologists and other experts about increasing biodiversity on the farm. If you purchased a ticket for one of these events, we sent an email earlier this month about a refund.
We all know that biodiversity is integral to our health and the health of our planet, especially in our current world. Farming in concert with nature builds resilience and keeps our farms viable.
Even though we are not able to host our field days this spring, we did manage to get part of the demonstration hedgerow installed at Medlock Ames Winery and Vineyard that will be featured during the field day on this operation (which will likely be rescheduled for next spring). It was a beautiful day for practicing social distancing and planting.
We continue to assist farmers with signing up for the Healthy Soils Program (see more below). As we adjust our programs during this evolving situation, our goal remains the same - to advance a wild and resilient food and agriculture movement.
And even though markets are unstable and there is still a lot of uncertainty, it remains clear that those farms that have given nature a place to thrive are receiving numerous benefits in terms of pest control services, erosion control, healthy soil and more. They are remaining strong, even in times of crisis.
This is why it is important to continue our work to bring nature back to our farms and protect biodiversity. Thank you for joining us in this unprecedented time - our work together will help to ensure farms and nature remain intact.
Farmers' Guide to COVID-19 Relief, April 2020, Farmers' Legal Action Group, INC
COVID-19 and the crisis in food systems: Symptoms, causes, and potential solutions, iPES Food, April 2020
Support for Local and Regional Food Systems in COVID-19 Response: Food Law and Policy Clinic at Harvard Law School March 2020
Natural Habitat Around Farms a Win for Strawberry Growers, Birds and Consumers
A barn swallow perches on a hand by boxes for strawberries. Barn swallows tend to swoop over the centers of strawberry farms to eat pests and other insects. (Elissa Olimpi/UC Davis).
The article below was written by Kat Kerlin on March 11, 2020 in Environment. The research was conducted and published by Elissa Olimpi and Danny Karp, UC Davis, who are WFA partners in some of our outreach.
Conserving natural habitat around strawberry fields can help protect growers’ yields, their bottom line and the environment with no detectable threat to food safety, indicates a study led by the University of California, Davis.
In the study, published in the journal Ecological Applications, researchers conducted grower surveys and experiments at 20 strawberry farms stretching between Santa Cruz, Watsonville, and Salinas on California’s Central Coast — a region that produces 43 percent of the nation’s strawberries.
“Our results indicate that strawberry farmers are better off with natural habitat around their farms than without it,” said lead author Elissa Olimpi, a postdoctoral researcher in the lab of Daniel Karp, assistant professor with the UC Davis Department of Wildlife, Fish and Conservation Biology.
California Farmers: Get A Xerces Monarch and Pollinator Kit
Many insect pollinators are declining in California, including bees and butterflies. The Western monarch population has declined more than 99% since the 1980s, likely due to multiple factors including habitat loss and degradation, pesticides, and climate change. One important step we can take to protect these important animals is to increase the amount of habitat available to these species. To this end, The Xerces Society is offering habitat plant kits that contain climate-smart native plants that support monarchs and other local pollinators in California.
This year, we are offering several different kit types, including kits for hedgerows, herbaceous plantings and riparian areas. There are a number of different kits for different geographic regions of California. These regions include the Central Coast and coastal foothill regions, the Central Valley, and the Sierra Nevada foothill regions. Please note that we do not have kits available for other regions of California.
Kits are intended to be used by agencies to create or enhance monarch and pollinator habitat on working lands or natural lands, with landowner or land manager collaboration. The cost of the kit will be covered by Xerces. Recipients are responsible for pick-up of the kits.
To apply for kits, please complete this form by May 8, 2020. Applicants will be notified by May 29, 2020. Kits will be available in October of 2020.
Beneficial Birds Can Control Codling Moth in Walnuts
Originally Printed in Western FarmPress, Tim Hearden, March 18, 2020. The research was conducted by Rachael Long and Sacha Heath, who also assist WFA in our bird projects.
Attracting beneficial birds to an orchard could result in a significant reduction of codling moth, a key pest in walnuts, according to researchers.
University of California Cooperative Extension farm advisor Rachael Long and UC Davis researcher Sacha Heath found that adding birds into the pest control system reduced codling moth larval numbers by 46%, they reported in 2019.
Nuttall’s woodpeckers and white-breasted nuthatches did much of the work, as they travel up and down the trunks of trees searching for insects, the two scientists observed.
"There’s a lot of data out there that show birds are incredible predators of these pests," Long told about 100 growers and others at a March 4 workshop in Woodland, Calif.
As Long explains, codling moth is a major worm-like pest that infects walnuts, apples and pears. The larvae go dormant during winter, living in cocoons in crevices of trees, then adult moths emerge in the spring, lay eggs and infest crops.
Coronavirus: 'Nature is Sending Us a Message,' Says UN Environment Chief
Nature is sending us a message with the coronavirus pandemic and the ongoing climate crisis, according to the UN’s environment chief, Inger Andersen.
Andersen said humanity was placing too many pressures on the natural world with damaging consequences, and warned that failing to take care of the planet meant not taking care of ourselves.
Leading scientists also said the Covid-19 outbreak was a “clear warning shot”, given that far more deadly diseases existed in wildlife, and that today’s civilisation was “playing with fire”. They said it was almost always human behaviour that caused diseases to spill over into humans.
To prevent further outbreaks, the experts said, both global heating and the destruction of the natural world for farming, mining and housing have to end, as both drive wildlife into contact with people.
New Conservation Reserve Program - Soil Health and Income Protection Program
On March 30, 2020, Farm Service Agency began accepting applications for a new pilot program that enables farmers in the Prairie Pothole region to receive payments for planting perennial cover crops on their land for three to five years. The new Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) Soil Health and Income Protection Program (SHIPP) pilot is available to producers in Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota. The signup for this pilot started March 30, 2020 and ends August 21, 2020.
The 2018 Farm Bill established this program to target the soil health needs of producers in the Prairie Pothole region. Participation in the SHIPP program is limited to 50,000 acres across the 5 pilot states. The purpose of SHIPP is to provide improved soil health and water quality for less productive farm land by enabling producers to plant perennial cover on less productive land. Once established, perennial cover crops remain in place for the duration of each producer's contract with FSA. In return, the program provides annual payments to participating producers. Producers have the option of a short term contract of 3, 4 or 5 years. Producers will have the option to harvest, hay and graze during certain times of the year.
Healthy Soils Program - Apply Now
The third round of funding for California Department of Food and Agriculture's Healthy Soils Program (HSP) is open. These are cost-share grants of up to $100,000 for a three-year project.
Good News! Wild Farm Alliance can help farmers apply for funding and if they are awarded, will provide assistance with implementation and grant administration for the three year project period.
The Healthy Soils Program stems from the California Healthy Soils Initiative, a collaboration of state agencies and departments to promote the development of healthy soils and farm habitat on California's farmlands and ranchlands.
HSP provides financial assistance for conservation management that improves soil health, sequesters carbon and reduces greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Planting hedgerows, restoring riparian habitat, and building soil health with compost and cover crops are some of the most popular practices.
Want to learn more? Email [email protected].
California Court Approves Ban on Federal Wildlife Poisoning, Trapping
In response to a lawsuit filed by wildlife advocacy groups, a federal animal-killing program must restrict its use of bird-killing poisons in Northern California and stop setting strangulation snares and other traps in places like the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge Complex.
The agreement, approved today by a San Francisco federal court, also directs the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services to analyze the environmental impacts of its killing of coyotes, bobcats, mountain lions and other wildlife in California’s “Sacramento District.” This 10-county region covers Colusa, El Dorado, Lake, Marin, Napa, Placer, Sacramento, Solano, Sonoma and Yolo counties.
“This victory will save hundreds of animals that would have needlessly suffered and died in traps set by Wildlife Services over the next several years,” said Collette Adkins, a Center for Biological Diversity attorney representing the conservation groups involved in the lawsuit. “It’s another important win in our fight to shut down this agency’s destructive and indiscriminate war on bobcats, coyotes and other wildlife.”
Soil Health Practices Show Economic and Ecological Benefits
Originally Printed in UCANR's Green Blog, April 8, 2020. One of the featured farmers, John Teixeira, received Healthy Soils Program funds with WFA’s help last year.
A group of California organic farmers is sharing information about their efforts to combine reduced tillage with the use of cover crops, which they have been planting on their vegetable farms for decades to protect soil while adding carbon and diversity to their production systems.
“Every one of the pioneering farmers has seen tremendous benefits from the practices,” said Jeff Mitchell, UC Cooperative Extension vegetable crops specialist. “These are the very growing practices that we have demonstrated over two decades of research to benefit soil health, environmental conservation and the bottom line on plots near Five Points in Fresno County.”