University of California


'Local' food labels deceive customers

The USDA has been encouraging consumers to 'buy local' for more than 100 years. Above is a 1917 USDA poster. (Wikimedia Commons)
A popular foodie trend is to "buy local," but use of the term is rarely enforced, reported Robert Anglen in the Arizona Republic. The story was published on

"The word 'local' is chic; it sells things," said Cindy Fake, UC Cooperative Extension advisor in Placer and Nevada counties. "So, it's used by everybody and anybody." 

Fake said "local" has no clear definition and consumers are easily misled.

"They are likely to be deceived," she said. "Consumers are thinking one way and the marketers know that. They know consumers want local, so they say it's local."

The reporter also spoke with Gail Feenstra, deputy director of UC ANR's Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program.

"There is a huge diversity across states about what is local," Feenstra said

There is more transparency on fresh produce because it's easier for consumers to identify where it came from and recognize regional products on store shelves.

Feenstra said shoppers need to do their research.

It's easier for consumers to be confident they are buying local food when it's purchased fresh.
Posted on Tuesday, March 20, 2018 at 3:27 PM
Tags: Buy Local (1), Cindy Fake (2), Gail Feenstra (4)
Focus Area Tags: Food

South America palm weevil is killing palm trees in Southern California

South American palm weevils that have made their way north from Mexico are having a destructive impact on palm trees in the San Diego region, reported Abbie Alford on CBS News 8 TV in San Diego.

UC Cooperative Extension specialist Mark Hoddle, the director of the Center for Invasive Species Research at UC Riverside, toured the reporter through the hard-hit Sweetwater Reserve in Bonita, where 10 percent of the palms die every three months.

“We are going to see hundreds, thousands of Canary Island Date Palms die over the next couple of years,” he said.

South American palm weevil

The weevils use their protruding noses to drill holes in the palm, where females lay their eggs. 

San Diego County Agriculture, Weights and Measurements said it plans to remove 50 infested Canary Island Palms from the Sweetwater Regional Park and is educating arborists about the invasive pest.

A spokesperson for the City of San Diego said it is working with UC Cooperative Extension.

A Canary Island Palm in San Ysidro killed by South American palm weevils.
Posted on Tuesday, March 6, 2018 at 10:40 AM

High school students who worked with UC mentors big winners in ag science fair

Nine Woodlake High School students took part in the UC Davis Agriscience fair research project competition, held at the campus March 2-3. Several who worked with UC Lindcove Research and Extension Center scientists took home winning ribbons.

"We are very proud that we played a part in making these students winners," said Beth Grafton-Cardwell, Lindcove director.

Lindcove has been conducting an ag science ‘experience research' day for Woodlake High School ag academy students the past three years. Last September, the students participated in a research project on citricola scale taught by Grafton-Cardwell. Students learned about experimental design, studied the life cycle of the insect using microscopes, collected leaves from a research plot, evaluated the survival of the scales exposed to different treatments, and plotted their data.  

"This was a great opportunity for students to see how science applies to agriculture and to talk about careers in agricultural science," Grafton-Cardwell said.

The Woodlake winners who were part of the program were Kirsten Killian and Nate Reeves. Kirsten was mentored by Lindcove staff research associate Therese Kapaun. Kirsten won first place in plant systems and fifth place overall. Nate Reeves took fifth place in plant systems. In addition, Woodlake High School won the overall novice Division 1 team award.

The students' teachers are Jason Ferreira, agriculture academy instructor, and teaching assistants Joshua Reger, Joel Leonard and Stephanie Doria.   

Woodlake High School student pose with Beth Grafton-Cardwell at the UC Lindcove Research and Extension Center near Exeter.
Posted on Monday, March 5, 2018 at 11:05 AM

Pesticide spray ban could assist spread of huanglongbing disease

A Sacramento County Superior Court judge has ordered California agricultural officials to stop spraying pesticides in parks, schools and residents' backyards to control pests that threaten the ag industry, reported Gregory Mohan in the Los Angeles Times

CDFA issued a statement saying it will consider appealing the case, and will continue to conduct spraying "in compliance with" state environmental laws.

Julia Mitric of Capital Public Radio spoke to UC Cooperative Extension entomology specialist Beth Grafton-Cardwell about the ruling. Grafton-Cardwell said it's a "huge setback."

She said spraying trees to control Asian citrus psyllid, which spreads the devastating huanglongbing disease of citrus, is crucial to buy time for scientists to develop long-term solutions to the threat.

"The state has managed to contain it to three counties in California — for the moment," Cardwell said. "But it's starting to spread very rapidly and so it's the most critical point in time to limit the psyllid spread."

Mottling and yellowing of leaves is a symptom of huanglongbing disease in a citrus tree. HLB is incurable and the tree will eventually die.


Posted on Friday, March 2, 2018 at 1:35 PM
Focus Area Tags: Agriculture

Video game has potential to solve serious ag issue

An aflatoxin molecule.
A video game that doubles as a crowd-source solution finder is pursuing a real-life enemy of aflatoxin, a harmful natural substance that can grow on some agricultural crops, reported Kerry Klein on Valley Public Radio.

It is the same pest that UC plant pathologist Themis Michailides has had in his crosshairs for 30 years.

Aflatoxin is caused by a soil-borne fungus. A 2004 outbreak in Kenya killed 125 people, and long-term exposure is responsible for thousands of cases of liver cancer each year. In the United States and Europe, regulations prevent the toxin from being a major health problem, but the issue is far worse overseas. Michailides is studying the use of a beneficial fungus to combat aflatoxin

“We've gotten great results,” Michailides said. “The reduction in aflatoxin contaminated nuts has been up to 45 percent. We anticipate higher reduction with application of the beneficial fungus for multiple years and on larger acreage.”

Video gamers are attacking aflatoxin from an entirely different angle. The game, called Foldit, lets players fold, twist and rotate protein models into new configurations. Points are awarded for efficiency. In Foldit's Aflatoxin Challenge, players try to fold a protein into a shape that will break down the aflatoxin molecule into something harmless.

Posted on Thursday, March 1, 2018 at 1:53 PM

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