By CDFA Secretary Karen Ross
Located in the southeast of Spain, the Murcia region is a key production area for not only the country but also the European Union, which relies on the region’s fresh fruits and vegetables. As a major exporter, Murcia’s diversity of citrus, tree fruit and table grapes resembles those in the the San Joaquin Valley, and the leafy greens and vegetable crops are very similar to Salinas and Imperial, with one exception — the amount of acreage in covered systems for crop intensification to extend productivity to meet market demand.
Similarities in climate and production are not the only connections that California and Murcia share — the Center for Produce Safety at UC Davis is actively working with CEBAS-CSIC, a research institute at the University of Murcia, on food safety issues associated with water-use and post-harvest handling of leafy greens and fresh produce. Dr. Ana Allende at CEBAS-SIC and her research team are important partners in helping to address key challenges within the fresh produce industry.
Some of the work being conducted here includes cultivar selection for automated harvest, water re-use on leafy greens, and post-harvest handling optimizations for fresh produce. CEBAS-CSIC has an objective to study climate change impacts on natural resources to promote efficient use and further collaboration.
While in Murcia, we had the opportunity to engage with AgritechMurcia, an ecosystem of ag tech companies, that is working to empower farmers for positive change on climate challenges and overall sustainability. We viewed presentations by a number of the organization’s members highlighting fertigation systems and smart metering (water-use efficiency) as well as pheromone IPM, and biologicals (nature-based solutions), and greenhouse systems. Similar to the work of UC ANR’s The Vine, AgritechMurcia is connecting ag tech companies with growers to find on-farm solutions to shared challenges.
Our trip continues to underscore the common climate challenges shared by California and Spain and the need to find solutions through research, collaboration and innovation. Continuing themes in our discussions have included water-use efficiency spurred by lack of supply, biologicals to expand sustainability, and precision agriculture to improve resilience and profitability.
California agriculture faces very similar challenges as the Murcia region. This trip underscores how research, collaboration and grower leadership in both countries can find solutions and provide opportunities to meet nutrition security needs in a changing climate.
This video shows the results of work done by AgritechMurcia.
Secretary Ross is in Spain leading a Climate Smart Agriculture Policy Mission to València, Murcia and Almería. The purpose of the trip is further collaboration between specialty crop farmers, academia, and policy makers on science-based tools and innovations addressing climate change.