The Real Culprit of California’s Wildfires

Dave Powell, USDA Forest Service (retired), Bugwood.org

Dave Powell, USDA Forest Service (retired), Bugwood.org

By: Adam Doklovic, Agribusiness and Applied Economics | Mansfield, Ohio

In the past few years most of California has been in a massive drought, which has created apocalyptic looking wildfires. According to Angela Johnston, a journalist from a local radio station in San Francisco, California has had over 5,000 wildfires this year alone, and it’s not even considered wildfire season yet!

This summer has been extremely difficult in not only preventing wildfires but also containing them. Why have these fires been able to spread so easily? The question should be more focused with whom than of why. Now we ask, who has been the culprit to allow the rapid spread of these wildfires, none other than a beetle that is only 5 millimeters long.

The Western Pine Beetle is native to many parts of the world but here in the United States the beetle has been taking advantage of California’s drought. Just as when a human is dehydrated, he/she becomes susceptible to a greater number of health issues, the same goes for trees. The Western Pine Beetle is a species of bark beetle that can infest trees that are stressed.  When they infest a tree already struggling with dehydration, the tree has little chance to survive and usually ends up dying.

In California alone the Western Pine Beetle is estimated to have killed over 66 million trees. This has created a lot of standing firewood to allow a massive fire spread in a rapid amount of time.

Next time you turn on the news and the media is blaming global warming, or a rogue campfire for a massive forest fire that is engulfing California just remember that there could be other factors at play, even a microscopic beetle.

Adam Doklovic is currently an undergraduate student at Ohio State and experienced the California drought first hand while interning with the USDA in the Bay Area during summer 2016.

Sources:

Dead trees are fueling California wildfires, but what’s killing the trees? (KALW San Francisco)

*************
This blog post was an assignment for Societal Issues: Pesticides, Alternatives and the Environment (PLNTPTH 4597). The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the class, Department of Plant Pathology or the instructor.

Save

Images tell a story on NASA’s Climate Time Machine

Changes in the earth’s sea ice, sea level, carbon dioxide and global temperature are depicted in time-lapse images on NASA’s Global Climate Change website. I would say that the images are chilling, but it’s quite the opposite. Taking a closer look at the Global Temperature maps, from 1884 to 2014, the color coded maps graphically illustrate rising world temperatures around the globe. The interactive website allows you to use the slider beneath each set of images and scroll through changes over time.  Examine the changes in your lifetime.  Changes have been most dramatic in the past 20 years. What will the next 20 years look like? > NASA’s Climate Time Machine

NASA Global Climate Change

Screen shot from NASA’s Climate Time Machine

More information from NASA’s Global Climate Change:
Global warming trend > Causes

Questions about bees and pesticides

by Tyler Van Landingham, Sustainable Plant Systems major

In today’s agriculture we use pesticides in order to achieve higher yields or excellent playing conditions on the golf course. Some people may not even think about the consequences or even know what we are applying. I believe that these behaviors have led to a severe decrease to the bee population. The use of neonicotiniods is affecting bee colonies everywhere. These chemicals disrupt the bees’ sense of direction so they ultimately get lost and die. They also may stress the bees, making them more susceptible to varroa mites, which can harm the bees and also serve as a vector for many serious diseases that are fatal to bees.

Bees are responsible for pollinating two-thirds of our food crops and contribute to $117 Billion dollars to the economy. The continuing decline of the bees can only have negative effects. Using pesticides to increase yields may actually lead to the decline of yields if this insect dies off. Without their pollinating efforts what can we turn to next? But if we stop using pesticides, what will happen to our yield then? With an increasing population, an increasing demand for food, and a declining bee population, how are we going to sustain ourselves?

*******
This blog post was an assignment for  Societal Issues: Pesticides, Alternatives and the Environment (PLNTPTH 4597). The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the class, Department of Plant Pathology or the instructor.

Are you aware of your footprint?

by Paige Thrush, Plant Health Management major

English poet, Francis Thompson, once wrote, “All things by immortal power, near or far, hiddenly to each other linked are, that thou canst not stir a flower without troubling of star.” This quote speaks of the intimate relationship of all elements within our universe.

Earth’s natural resources are being depleted at an alarming rate for the benefit of humankind. Many think of water, soil and air as renewable resources that become replenished over time. Truth is, the quality of these resources has gotten so bad that many believe we are doomed.

On the other hand, those who see the cup as half full believe that there are measures we can take to preserve these resources. Sustainability is a hot topic these days and many are jumping on the bandwagon to play their part in conserving our planet for future generations to come.

Sustainable methods are integrated as in an attempt to protect our human species, preserve wildlife, plants, nonrenewable resources and biodiversity and enhance soil, air and water quality. One small step in the direction of conservation helps build a framework for a sustainable future that our children and grandchildren will enjoy being a part of.

Every action we take leaves a footprint that affects other living beings, the environment and the world. Are you aware of your footprint?

Read more about sustainable agricultural practices and what you can do to help: http://www.sarep.ucdavis.edu/about-sarep/def/

*******
This blog post was an assignment for  Societal Issues: Pesticides, Alternatives and the Environment (PLNTPTH 4597). The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the class, Department of Plant Pathology or the instructor.

Green-Revolution Agriculture: Centralizing Wealth and Land for Over Fifty Years

by Brewster Frusher, BS Agriculture – Sustainable Plant Systems 2014

I want to have a small farm of my own: this month, I completed a bachelor’s degree with a specialization in sustainable agriculture; I have no aversion to rising before the sun and falling after it; I have had a job throughout my time in school and have farmed the last two summers. Despite my efforts, my dream of having my own farm seems more and more like a fantasy.

Like most humans, I was not born into a family with wealth or land. When I hear fellow students talk about their family’s 500, 1000, 2000 acres of soy and corn, I become frustrated. Not at them or their families necessarily, but at the system that has contributed to this centralization of wealth and land.

Like all expensive innovations, Green-Revolution technologies such as Genetically Modified (GM) seed, chemical inputs and the fuel needed to operate over large tracts of land, have centralized wealth and land holdings while further marginalizing the less fortunate. Those who have the money to adopt new technologies see greater profits and expand their land holdings to further increase production and wealth. Those not born into wealth are left out as land prices increase.

Green-revolution technologies incentivize large-scale monocultures and mechanization. These inherent characteristics of the Green Revolution leave our food supply vulnerable to both disease and increases in the price of energy, respectively. It is the dependency on a smaller number of farmers, crops and energy sources that necessitate a change in our food system.

Supporting smaller, local, more diversified farms will lead to an increasing number of smaller, local, more diversified farms, building a more equitable, resilient, and sustainable food system.  The article linked below examines some of these issues at the global scale.

http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/radical_un_report_promotes_democratic_control_of_food_20140320

*******
This blog post was an assignment for  Societal Issues: Pesticides, Alternatives and the Environment (PLNTPTH 4597). The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the class, Department of Plant Pathology or the instructor

Earth Day Projects Plant Seeds of Empowerment

by Julia McCullough, Middle Childhood Education (mccullough.193@osu.edu)
PLNTPTH 4597

Johnny has eight apples and if he shares them with Tabitha, Sarah, and Billy, how many apples does each person get? A far more important question, why should students care? Who cares about these imaginary problems with imaginary people that we write into school books and expect students to excitedly answer?

There are plenty of problems in the world that need to be solved, why make fake ones up? April 22 is Earth Day, and  schools are using the day to inspire students to practice real-life problem solving to make the Earth a better place. From recycling programs to school gardens, Earth Day projects not only make a school greener, but also give students real problems that they really get to solve. What is more empowering to a student than saving the world through environmental work? Being able to do it on their own!

Making calculations on amount of recyclables, creating artistic ad campaigns and writing to state governments to make better environmental decisions are all great ways for students to practice the content they must learn, while solving real life problems.

Suggestions for other projects can be found here:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ted-wells/earth-day-ideas-from-my-s_b_5042170.html
As well as here: http://edu.earthday.org/blog/2014/04/09/earth-day-network-and-forestnation-launch-new-school-fundraiser
School garden information can be found here: http://www.edibleschoolyard.org/.

*******
This blog post was an assignment for  Societal Issues: Pesticides, Alternatives and the Environment (PLNTPTH 4597). The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the class, Department of Plant Pathology or the instructor

Sudden Oak Death Kills More Than Oaks

Photo: U.S. Forest Service

Sudden oak death is a disease of oaks and over 100 other trees, shrubs and ornamentals. Photo: U.S. Forest Service

It’s a bit misleading. Sudden oak death is indeed a serious disease of several oak species, but the disease also impacts over 100 trees, shrubs and ornamentals, making it a concern for our forests, landscapes and the ornamental and nursery industries > More info

Sudden oak is an invasive disease spreading in Northern California forests (and a small portion of Oregon), causing widespread death of infected trees.  Because the pathogen, Phytophthora ramorum, infects several ornamental species, nursery stock in California, Oregon and Washington are subject to regulations for dissemination and sale.

It’s not hard to imagine the consequences if sudden oak death were to spread acroo\ss the U.S.  There are very few management or treatment options that are environmentally safe, practical and effective in forest situations.  Ohio State scientists are studying how to determine how many and which trees are likely to survive in a given areas, based on genetic markers.

The work is being conducted by Pierluigi Bonello, professor in the Department of Plant Pathology at Ohio State, Anna Conrad, graduate student, and their colleagues.  Their work was recently published in Forest Ecology and Management (312:154-160).

Read more about their work in a recent CFAES news release > Will It Live or Die?