By: Emma Morris, Editor-in-Chief of the Brock Center
senior agricultural communication major
This summer, I worked in my home county (Siskiyou, which borders Oregon) as a student assistant for the University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE). The cooperative extension is a research-based program and collaboration between the University of California, the county of Siskiyou, and the USDA. Most states throughout the country have some form of local or county cooperative extension offices through land grand universities that conduct research on behalf of agriculturists in their area. These offices house farm and livestock advisors as well as 4-H programs. As per the cooperative extension’s website, their roles in the community include:
- Bringing up-to-date research-based information on the agricultural commodities grown here in Siskiyou County to producers through the expertise of local UC professionals.
- Working with youth to provide them with the knowledge and skills to become responsible, self-directed and productive people.
- Providing information and outreach to the people of Siskiyou County in general interest areas that include gardening, pest control, and backyard animals.
- Developing research-based solutions to local problems.
My office is home to the county livestock and natural resources advisor, the county 4-H specialist, and my direct boss, the county director and farm advisor. Each have specific roles, but there is also a large amount of collaboration on research and other projects. My boss, Mr. Steve Orloff, is an alfalfa specialist and is well known as one of the leading alfalfa researchers in the world. As this is one of the most widely grown crops in our area, he is able to effectively advise growers on how to maximize their yield efficiency and profitability. His expertise, combined with his grower relationships in the area, enable him to conduct research on many local farms and ranches (including my family’s ranch).
Throughout this summer, I worked mainly on four projects. The first was writing a literature review on alfalfa tissue sampling. I complied information from various plant journals and universities throughout the country and made a spreadsheet with the different requirements. This lit review added to an alfalfa tissue sampling research project that is being conducted by the UC.
The next project was on is the efficacy of various thrips pesticides in onion production. Thrips are a small rasping insect that physically damage and lower yield on a number of crops. At the beginning of the summer, we set up a test plot with seven different treatments and a control. We did three spray treatments, but every week we counted the actual thrips on 10 onions per test plot. This meant counting miniscule bugs on over 300 onions per week.
Another project included working with Round-up Ready alfalfa. We did several trials to test for a bacterium which could potentially damage alfalfa in Round-up Ready stands. This project required us to set up plots and spray two different doses of Round-up to see which had a higher number of bacteria.
The final project I worked on is a deficit irrigation project on irrigated pastures throughout the county. We set up six enclosures (8×8 square fences to keep livestock out) at five different sites throughout the county and asked growers to shut irrigation off at different times to test soil moisture, as well as forage availability and quality for different amounts of irrigation. We also put in Watermark soil moisture sensors and computerized moisture sensors to gather data at our sites.
This summer was research-heavy, which is something I never thought I’d enjoy. But despite my qualms, it has been unbelievably fun and educational. I realized the importance of quality research and data in the agriculture industry, and subsequently the importance of cooperative extension programs. These programs are shriveling on a national level due to lack of funding, but they provide a huge service to farmers and ranchers. Though this was initially just an opportunity to make some money over summer, it’s turned into something I’ll be passionate about for the rest of my life.