Restore Default

on the ground with diversified farming systems

Here are just a few of CNR's projects happening on the ground in California.

Click on any hotspot on the map to view work done in that region of the country.

The intensification of California viticulture has created large-scale monocultures and reduced non-crop habitat. With increasing consumer and grower demand, interest in ecologically based pest management (EBPM) has grown steadily. To fill key research gaps, Albie Miles and Houston Wilson, graduate students in ESPM professor Miguel Altieri's lab, are measuring the effect of flowering cover crops and landscape heterogeneity — the quantity and quality of surrounding natural habitats — on biological control of key arthropod pests. The study includes research sites in Napa, Sonoma, San Joaquin, and Fresno counties and will serve to advance scientific knowledge of EBPM strategies that meet organic production standards.

Hillary Sardiñas, a graduate student in ESPM professor Claire Kremen's lab, is studying the contribution of on-farm habitat enhancement to crop pollination. Many native bee species are efficient pollinators, and could act as insurance against fluctuations in honeybee supply. Using research sites in Yolo County, Sardiñas is examining the ability of hedgerows, or field borders, composed of native shrubs to provide floral and nesting resources sufficient to support sustainable native bee populations. She measures increases in crop production associated with heightened pollination. Her work will provide farmers with a cost-benefit analysis of hedgerow adoption.
Photo by Hillary Sardiñas

The rare California black rail is found primarily in the large coastal marshes of San Francisco Bay, but was recently discovered living in the Sierra foothills north of Sacramento, in small wetlands created by leaking irrigation ditches and natural springs. Studies by ESPM professor Steve Beissinger and his graduate students have found that two-thirds of the foothill wetlands supporting these birds are on private lands. Now, as part of a $1.25 million National Science Foundation grant led by Beissinger, ESPM professor Lynn Huntsinger is studying how ranchers and land managers make decisions that affect these small marshes. The project includes working with the ranching community to develop management recommendations that support both wetlands and ranching.
Photo by Orien Richmond

Rangelands are the dominant land use worldwide and store about one-third of the global soil carbon. There is considerable potential in these ecosystems for increasing the levels of carbon storage in soil, thereby reducing the amount of carbon in the atmosphere while also improving soil fertility. Becca Ryals, an ESPM graduate student in the Silver lab, is researching strategies for soil carbon management in California rangelands. At her research sites in Marin County and at the UC Sierra Foothills Research and Extension Center in Yuba County, she is finding that a one-time application of compost can have a lasting effect on the rangeland carbon cycle by enhancing forage production, root growth, and soil carbon storage.

ESPM professor Whendee Silver studies how to lower atmospheric CO2 through land management. Silver and her students and postdocs are part of the larger Marin Carbon Project, which looks at land management practices that remove carbon from the atmosphere and store, or sequester, it in soils. Their research is providing promising approaches that show that farming and ranching can be part of the solution to climate change.
Photo by Daniel Carollo