A Message from Dean Helene Dillard

Dean Helene R. Dillard
Dean Helene R. Dillard

Helping farmers balance agricultural and environmental needs

Since its founding more than a century ago, UC Davis has been a catalyst for social change, agricultural progress, and environmental stewardship. We need look no further than the rice fields of Northern California to see a marvelous example of how an industry has evolved, with the university’s help, to further its productivity and to help wildlife.

Many of you may recall the days when rice fields were burned after harvest each fall, filling parts of the Sacramento Valley with smoke. Rice farmers did this to dispose of rice stubble and to control rice diseases in subsequent years. But the practice created an air quality problem and was severely restricted in 1991. UC Davis scientists—both Agricultural Experiment Station faculty and Cooperative Extension specialists— in partnership with the farmers found other ways of managing rice straw. Today rice straw is typically incorporated into the soil, and fields are flooded to help decompose residue. This practice also provides extensive habitat for migrating waterfowl—the ducks, geese, swans, and cranes that will soon be filling the skies on their annual trek south.

One of our Award of Distinction recipients this year is Don Bransford, a rice farmer and friend of our college. Don is strongly supportive of the partnership that exists between production agriculture, UC Davis research, and the applied expertise of Cooperative Extension to address production challenges and environmental issues. “I am reminded every day of the importance of the university to my success as a farmer,” he said. “I truly believe that farming and the environment must coexist, and as a farmer we must protect the resources to ensure our next generation will have the same opportunities.”

California is a world leader in agriculture because of farmers like Don Bransford and the university’s commitment to finding new ways to more efficiently produce our food and protect and restore the environment. That’s something worth thinking about as the seasons change, the harvest comes in, and the sounds of waterfowl fill the sky.