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Mike Murray

The British and Scotish public extension programs are currently “privatized,” after a decade-long process aimed at this objective. While the British system is owned by a private corporation, the Scotish one is still operated by a public entity. In both situations, information is not freely dispensed, but sold through a subscription process. For a fee, a basic level of service, including newsletters, production/marketing/farm management bulletins, and a limited amount of telephone time with disciplinary/commodity experts, is provided. For an additional fee, farm visits or problem diagnostic services can be secured. The government is one of the largest customers in both systems, funding major “public good” natural resource projects, rural reviatization projects, and agricultural sector job re-training programs. This has significantly impacted the way that information is obtained and delivered to primary producers. These issues, and their implications, will be discussed in this presentation.

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Mike Murray

A 1995/96 sabbatical leave in Australia was conducted to elucidate trends in public extension programs related to technology transfer or information delivery. Interviews with imore than 500 extension providors and users in seven states or territories were conducted. Based on these discussions, 12 commonalities or recurring themes were identified. These were the delivery of public extension programs through State Departments of Agriculture that also have regulatory responsibilities; decreased public funding for extension programs; clear separations between applied research and extension functions; adoption of purchaser/provider funding models; poor communication or collaboration between extension and universities; an emphasis on group facilitation programming; difficulties related to extension staff recruitment or retention; diminished clientele support for public extension programs; an emphasis on the sociological aspects of agricultural enterprises; the development of audio-visual educational materials; a movement to assist inefficient producers exit agriculture and; trends toward the privatization of, or cost recovery for, public extension programs.

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Mike Murray

The California processing tomato industry continues to utilize transplants as a primary method of obtaining final plant stands. About 75% of the anticipated 2006 acreage will be transpanted, up from 0% a scant 20 years ago. This trend is being driven by increasing hybrid seed costs, the desire to utilize the land for multiple crops per year, potential water savings, and enhanced weed management options. The history of this transition will be traced, identifying positive and negative impacts of reliance on transplants. An economic evaluation suggests that stand establishment using transplants costs at least $250 per acre more than direct-seeding. A cost-benefit analysis is considered. The movement to transplants has reduced seed sales and many hybrid seed variety prices are tripling in 2006, as seed companies attempt to recoup R&D costs with declining markets. This “differential seed pricing,” and its implications, are discussed in detail.

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Mike Murray and Carrie Young

Field tests were conducted in commercial mung bean (Vigna radiata) fields in 1986, 1987, and 1989. The objective of these tests were to: determine optimum nitrogen fertilizer rates; evaluate preplant, postemergence or split applications of nitrogen; and develop data to utilize petiole sampling as an analytic technique to quantify plant nitrogen status.

Seed yields were significantly increased two of the three years by the addition of nitrogen fertilizers. Over three years, the addition of 40-120 pounds of nitrogen per acre resulted in an average seed yield increase of 14-37 percent, compared to an untreated control. Maximum yields were obtained with eighty pounds of nitrogen per acre. Within specific rates, there was a trend for preplant or split applications to result in the greatest yield increases.

Petiole nitrate levels did not appear to be a reliable indicator of plant nitrogen status, with wide differences between rates in different years. An average for the three-year test, six weeks after crop emergence, was 1270 ppm for the control and 2340 ppm for treatments receiving 80 pounds of nitrogen per acre.

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Mike Murray and Steve Temple

Significant industry interest exists for evaluating the lower Sacramento Valley as a production region for specialty dry beans. This interest is being driven by erratic or inconsistent production in the existing commercial production regions, mostly in the Pacific Northwest and the Mid-West regions. The environmental conditions in the Sacramento Valley are favorable for producing consistent yields of high-quality dry beans. Specialty beans are generally typified by limited markets and relatively high producer returns, and offers an attractive rotation crop for local growers.

Variety evaluations including many of the most popular or likely candidates for a local specialty bean industry were conducted in 1991 and 1993. Parameters evaluated included plant architecture, flowering dates, pod set and retention, maturity dates and seed yield. Additional qualitative evaluations to determine varietal quality were also conducted. Many varieties were identified that had both acceptable yield and seed quality potential.

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Mike Murray, Bill Ashcroft, B. M. Top and G. R. Ashburner

University of California Extension field staff are well educated and highly trained to conduct sound applied research. Part of this training includes statistical classes. Data that fail to attain a 95% confidence level are considered “risky.” This is inconsistent with “risk” assumed in almost every other aspect of our lives. There are ample examples of people willingly taking “high” risks. Examples include legalized gambling, marriage, insurance actuarial tables, etc. Most of us are willing to take calculated risks, depending on the importance and cost of making an incorrect assumption. This is directly applicable to agricultural production enterprises. While the comfortable level of risk will vary among producers, there is interest in technologies that have confidence levels below 95%. Australian processing tomato researchers have developed a Residual Maximum Likelihood (REML) analysis tool to address this issue. REML was designed to simplify interpretation of a relatively complex data set, including statistics, so a farmer can make choices at a risk level they find appropriate. The model incorporates pairwise t tests, an interactive computer program, and a gambling analogy in its analyses. Multiple variables can be entered and the model provides odds that the desired result will be attained. The user can determine the relative importance of each variable as part of the determination. This model, and implications for adoption by producer clientele, will form the basis for the presentation.

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Mike Murray, Bob Beede, Bill Weir and Jack Williams

Physiological effects on plant growth caused by the plant hormone ethylene have been noted for many years. More than 100 years ago, workers noted that illuminating gas or broken gas mains had deleterious effects on surrounding trees or plants. It was not until the 1960s that scientists documented that plant growth may be manipulated by applying ethylene. Some of the biological effects since noted include premature defoliation, fruit maturation ripening, induction of flowering, stimulation of sprouting or germination, and shortening of plant height. These effects are noted on a wide variety of agricultural crops, including vegetables, field crops, tree crops, and ornamentals. Ethylene is a gas and dissipates rapidly, and, thus, does not lend itself to field application. In the 1960s, the product ethephon [(2-chloroethyl)phosphonic acid] was developed. When taken up by the plant, ethephon is converted to ethylene in the cells and becomes available for physiological interactions. Because ethephon precipitates a wide variety of biological reactions, application technology becomes extremely important. Factors such as plant growth stage, plant stress status, plant foliage spray coverage, ethephon rates, and environmental conditions determine the responses obtained. An example is provided by processing tomatoes, where the desired response is to maximize fruit maturity enhancement and minimize premature defoliation—both ethylene responses. We have selected five agricultural applications of ethephon as examples of how plant growth may be altered. These are: increased boll opening in cotton; enhanced pistillate flower induction in hybrid squash seed; accelerated fruit maturity in processing tomatoes; enhanced hull splitting in walnuts; and reduced lodging in wheat. Each of these applications, and others, are common in California agriculture. Brevity necessitates providing only a summary of relevant applied research activities, which are not intended to be complete or thorough. Details on specific ethephon applications may be obtained from that particular researcher.

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Mike Murray, Mike Cahn, Janet Caprile, Don May, Gene Miyao, Bob Mullen, Jesus Valencia and Bill Weir

University of California Cooperative Extension farm advisors have conducted applied research to quantify processing tomato [Lycopersicum esculentum (L.) Mill] varietal performance, as a coordinated activity, since 1973. Early and midseason maturity varieties are annually evaluated at four to six locations throughout the state. The test varieties are selected in collaboration with seed companies, processors and growers. The growers and seed companies provide financial support for the tests. Most tests are conducted in production tomato fields and are harvested using commercial harvesters. The results are widely disseminated through an annual report to the funding sources, farm advisor research reports, newsletters, production meetings, the California Tomato Grower magazine, and popular media. The information obtained for fruit yield potential, fruit quality and plant horticultural characteristics is used by processors, growers, and seed companies to make variety selection decisions. This regional extension program has proven to be an effective way to generate well-designed replicated information for making intelligent processing tomato cultivar decisions and has been well accepted by the California industry.