In this Issue
Springing into Action
Over the last month we have been busy as bees helping you protect, nurture and benefit from biodiversity on farms as the production season rushes in.
- All Things Avian Virtual Field Days. There is still time to register for our last virtual field day at Davis Ranches on March 31st, and if you missed the first two at other farms, we have links to those presentation recordings.
- Pollinator Hedgerow Covered on the Rural Radio. Serrano Farm is featured in this story describing what sparked them to plant a hedgerow.
- Farmer Success Stories. We are pleased to announce a new video in our Beneficial Bird series that features Ron Rosenbrand of Spring Mountain Vineyard who hosts more than 800 Western Bluebird nest boxes, and Dr. Julie Jedlicka who studied the pest control services of these birds that occupy the boxes.
- Organic Biodiversity Webinar. You can listen to the recording of this webinar and download our associated resources that help organic certifiers be better prepared to inspect for and verify biodiversity.
With this newsletter, we also highlight a piece by our partners, CalCAN (California Climate and Agriculture Network) on how hedgerows are part of a suite of climate agricultural practices that can store carbon, along with the many other important roles they play on the farm.
We wrap up with an article on systemic food safety issues by Patrick Baur, an Associate Professor at the University of Rhode Island. He describes how the leafy green industry “just runs in place on a sanitary treadmill” that diverts attention away from the larger realities of a broken food system, when we need to be learning from our mistakes and crafting a safer food system.
We hope you enjoy this enewsletter. See you at our upcoming field day with Davis Ranches!
WFA All Things Avian Virtual Field Days
While you haven’t been able to enjoy our events actually in the field this spring, our virtual field days have been very successful.
We have one more coming up on Wednesday, March 31st with Davis Ranches in Colusa, CA.
The event is FREE but you must register in advance.
Davis Ranches has designed and installed several miles of hedgerows as corridors to allow safe passage and refuge for birds and other wildlife. These corridors support pest control by birds when placed close to the crops.
Sign-in and get a virtual tour of the farm and hear from avian ecologists and researchers about how to better support beneficial birds.
If you missed the first two virtual field days, you can watch the recorded presentations.
Listen to our rural radio piece on installing a pollinator hedgerow.
Over the last few years, WFA has served as a Technical Assistance Provider (TAP) for California’s Healthy Soils Program which funds climate smart agricultural practices.
Recently, we assisted Serrano Farms with planting a pollinator hedgerow and partnered with Endangered Species Coalition to feature this story.
Just last week, we released our latest video in our series about supporting beneficial birds on the farm.
This video features Ron Rosenbrand of Spring Mountain Vineyard and Dr. Julie Jedlicka, Associate Professor of Biology at Missouri Western State University.
Ron has installed more than 800 Western Bluebird nest boxes on Spring Mountain Vineyard’s 225 acres of vines. They are attracting Western Bluebirds to help control the Blue-green Sharpshooter population, a common vector for the devastating Pierce’s disease.Ron Rosenbrand, Director of Vineyard Operation, is a big fan of Western Bluebirds. He says, “I love that we are helping protect them [with nest boxes] and encouraging their ability to help us.”.
Over the years of managing these boxes Ron has seen a dramatic drop, and even elimination in some areas, of the Sharpshooter population.
Dr. Julie Jedlicka's research at Spring Mountain Vineyard and surrounding areas looked at how nest boxes increased Western Bluebird populations and if those birds were providing a significant pest control service.
Her findings confirmed that Western Bluebirds were eating a significant amount of pests, and a leafhopper closely related to the Blue-green Sharpshooter, indicating that the birds would very likely be important predators for this pest insect.
This is the ninth video in the series. To see all of the videos, visit bit.ly/BeneficialBirds.
Improving Biodiversity Inspections on Organic Farms
In late February, we held a webinar and live Q&A session that focused on the importance of biodiversity for organic growers, biodiversity disparities, tools that certifiers are using to ensure that farmers are in compliance, and farmer strategies for maintaining and improving biodiversity.
To also help with this issue, we recently updated our Positive Indicators and Red Flags for Organic Inspectors and Certifiers Handbook that outlines what to look for when inspecting organic farms for biodiversity measures.
Hedgerows for Biodiversity and Sustainability
Posted on Friday, March 5th, 2021 by Becca Lucas on CalCAN’s Blog
Hedgerows are plantings of diverse shrubs, trees or other native plants along field and fence rows or other non-cropped areas on farms or on grazing land.
Established hedgerows increase on-farm biodiversity while enriching long-term sustainability and economic viability of agricultural operations. Hedgerows are also a key climate change mitigation strategy, as they draw down carbon into the woody plant materials and soil.
Written by Patrick Baur, Assistant Professor in the Department of Fisheries, Animal, and Veterinary Sciences, University of Rhode Island
Americans have access to more fresh vegetables than ever before, with farms producing around 200 pounds per person per year. Demand for leafy greens such as romaine lettuce and spinach has grown dramatically, and lettuce alone is now a nearly $2 billion industry. However, 90% of leafy greens are grown in just a few regions of California and Arizona. The tremendous concentration of this dietarily important and economically lucrative industry has serious consequences for both human and environmental health.
In a new study in the open-access journal Elementa, I take a hard look at one troubling problem with leafy greens: foodborne illness. Some strains of E. coli, abbreviated as STEC, produce a particularly dangerous toxin that causes severe gastrointestinal illness, kidney damage, and even death. These kinds of E. coli can contaminate vegetables and make the people who eat those vegetables very sick.