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Corn smut is edible -- even gourmet.

You might say UC Cooperative Extension has its very own "News of the Weird." UCCE farm advisor Michelle LeStrange wrote about corn smut in a recent column for the Visalia Times-Delta. Unlike most stories about controlling what is viewed a "pest," she writes that the ugly bluish galls that may be found on home-grown corn can actually be considered a delicacy.

The condition is common corn smut.

"In Central and South America there has long been a tradition of eating corn smut (huitlacoche or cuitlacoche); farmers there receive a premium price for their infected corn. Huitlacoche is just now becoming a gourmet item in the United States, with trendy restaurants in California and New York offering it," LeStrange writes in the article.

The UC Integrated Pest Management Web site offers information on corn smut that sounds pretty creepy.

"Galls on ears and stems expand and fill with masses of powdery, dark olive brown to black spores. . . . Ear and stem galls rupture, and wind, rain, or irrigation water spread them through the garden," according to the IPM site

If you don't want to experiment with this gourmet food, IPM suggests removing and destroying the tumorlike corn smut growths as soon as noticed to keep the black powder in galls from getting into the soil.

 

Attached Files
Common corn smut.

Common corn smut.
Common corn smut.

Posted on Monday, July 23, 2007 at 8:59 AM

Media covers UC ANR vice president's new role.

North Texas e-News ran a press release this week about the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources vice president for administration's new position at Southern Methodist University. Beginning Sept. 1, Christine Casey will be the vice president for business and finance at SMU.

"SMU is a perfect fit for me with my background and experience,” Casey is quoted in the release. “I am extremely excited to have the opportunity to work with Dr. (Gerald) Turner (SMU president) and the students, faculty and staff at SMU.”   

The story reported that, since 2005, Casey has had oversight and management of  ANR administrative functions. It said she developed the division’s first formal budgeting process and supervised departments similar to the ones she will oversee at SMU. 

The press release also appears on the SMU Web site.

Posted on Friday, July 20, 2007 at 10:00 AM

Farmers and farm advisors team up.

We couldn't have said it better ourselves. An article posted yesterday on the AgAlert Web site, titled "Farmers and UC  researchers make a great team," outlines the working relationships that UC Cooperative Extension farm advisors have forged with the state's farmers.

Writer Ching Lee, the assistant editor at AgAlert, begins the story with the Mellano farm family in San Diego County. Michael Mellano and his wife Valerie are both UC Riverside-educated plant pathologists. Valerie Mellano is an environmental issues advisor for the UCCE in San Diego County.

"The impact that the university has on agricultural production is very significant," said Michael Mellano, whose grandfather founded the family-owned and operated business in 1925, according to the AgAlert article. "The reason our farm has developed the way it has is because of the Cooperative Extension and the things that they've done over the years."

Ching writes that farmers and researchers have long depended on each other. Farmers look to researchers for advice on everything from fighting bugs and diseases in their crops to finding new technologies and practices that could help their farms be more efficient, cost effective and competitive in the world market.

The articles continues: "By the same token, researchers rely on the expertise and acumen of farmers to tell them about the latest pest that's decimating their crops or help them with an experiment that requires the farmer's cooperation."

The article also quotes UC Davis Cooperative Extension specialist Michael Reid, UC Davis plant sciences researcher Susanne Klose, UC Davis specialist Husein Ajwa, UC Riverside plant pathologist Don Cooksey and staff reseacher associate for UCCE in San Diego County James Bethke.

Posted on Thursday, July 19, 2007 at 9:45 AM

UC IPM provides information on light brown apple moth.

It doesn't seem to have made a big media splash, but officials found a light brown apple moth in the northest area of Los Angeles County, the first such discovery in Southern California, according to a California Department of Food and Agriculture press release. The story was picked up in Capital Press, a weekly agriculture trade newspaper, but not by the Los Angeles Time. In terms of the L.A. discovery, a Google news search comes up empty.

According to the Capital Press story, a single moth was found in a trap June 28 in Sherman Oaks. County officals placed 25 traps per square mile in a nine-mile radius around the Sherman Oaks discovery to determine whether more moths are in the area. The article and the CDFA press release also report that a single moth was found in Solano County, bringing the total number of counties affected to 11.

The UC Integrated Pest Management Program yesterday announced the production of a new publication on light brown apple moth, available in pdf format for free download from its Web site. The 21-page publication gives information on the biology and identification of the pest, lifecycle, monitoring, its impact on a variety of crops, control measures, and more. It includes more than a dozen color photos. The IPM Web site notes that their new document summarizes quarantine regulations, but suggests checking the CDFA light brown apple moth Web site for the latest and most complete information.

Light brown apple moth.
Light brown apple moth.

Posted on Wednesday, July 18, 2007 at 9:29 AM

The connection between asthma and obesity.

If you search the Internet today for stories on obesity, you'll find several stories from the U.K. about recent research that found a link between obesity and asthma, like this one in the Daily Mail. Coincidentally, one of the stories in the July-September 2007 issue of UC ANR's California Agriculture journal also addresses the link.

The U.K. researchers examined immune system cells known to be responsible for the lung inflammation behind many of the symptoms of asthma, according to the Daily Mail. The study showed that these cells also make a protein which can "trick" the brain into transferring hunger messages to the body.

The story in California Agriculture, by Alexandra Kazaks and Judith Stern of UC Davis, compared people with asthma to healthy controls and showed that total body magnesium stores decreased with increasing weight.

"Among the dietary variables associated with an increased risk of asthma is the low consumption of vegetables, milk and minerals, including magnesium," the article says.

Perhaps not coincidentally, dietary sources of magnesium are similar to the foods dieticians commonly recommend for overall good health: whole grains, green leafy vegetables, legumes and nuts.

California Agriculture journal
California Agriculture journal

Posted on Tuesday, July 17, 2007 at 9:33 AM

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