University of California


Stockton Record reports on cherry season

I love living in the San Joaquin Valley. Almost year-round you can find roadside stands with "farm-fresh" fruit in season. A recent edition of the Agricultural Communications Documentation Center's newsletter quoted a writer, Thomas Semon, who believes the phrase "farm fresh" is helping debase the English language.

"The phrase 'farm fresh' is part of a long-established practice of advertisers to use language that doesn't really mean what it says but sounds good, and is not specific enough to be clearly deceptive," he says.

In my usage of the term in the first sentence, however, 'farm fresh' does really mean what it says. In the valley, the first roadside stands to open in the spring sell the best strawberries you have ever tasted. Close on strawberries' heels come cherries. According to a story in the Stockton Record yesterday, a strong supply of the delicious tree fruit will be soon be sold on valley roadsides.

Reporter Reed Fujii went to UC Cooperative Extension farm advisor Joe Grant for his opinion on the 2007 cherry crop. "My sense of what's going on around here is it depends on what orchard you're in," he was quoted in the article. There's orchards with light to very-light crops, and then there's orchards with very heavy crops." Grant continued: "I'd be concerned in some of the heavier orchards being able to size well. Some of these overset orchards, if they are small, it could be tough sledding as far as sales goes."

Speaking of healthful fruit, the annual Blueberry Field Day and Tasting is held at the UC Kearney Research and Extension Center today.


Posted on Wednesday, May 16, 2007 at 3:21 PM

San Diego boaters help preserve bay water quality

This Saturday morning, San Diego boaters are invited to attend a UC Cooperative Extension Boat Hull Invasive Species & Water Quality Seminar. Experts will share information about research on boat hull coatings that don't pollute the bay.

According to a "UC Delivers" article by Leigh Taylor Johnson of the Sea Grant Extension Program, boat owners have been using copper paints to control "hull fouling," the buildup of aquatic plants and animals on the hull. Hull fouling slows sailboats and increases powerboat fuel consumption. Copper leached from the paints into the bay, however, harms marine life. Johnson and program representative Jaime Gonzalez conducted field trials of nontoxic epoxy and ceramic expoxy hull coatings. The alternative coatings are a little more expensive, but the cost is offset by the nontoxic coatings' longer service life.

More details will be presented at the seminar, to take place from 9 to 10 a.m. at the Sunroad Resort Marina, 955 Harbor Island Drive in San Diego. For more information, contact Gonzalez at


Posted on Tuesday, May 15, 2007 at 9:35 AM

Organic farmer Tom Willey comments on UC’s new organic research land

Madera County organic farmer Tom Willey weighed in yesterday with what I would describe as cautious appreciation for the decision to dedicate 10 acres at the UC Kearney Research and Extension Center to research on organic farming. Willey’s comments were published in the weekly newsletter “What’s Growin’ On,” which accompanies the boxes of fruit and vegetables that go to his farm’s “subscribers.”

Willey runs a Community Supported Agriculture program, in which consumers pay a monthly subscription to receive a weekly box of fruit and vegetables. Here's a link to his farm's Web site. Since I am a subscriber, I receive the delicious fresh produce and the newsletter, which includes an update on the farm, recipes featuring fruit and vegetables in the box, and Willey’s column, “Farther Afield.” In the column, he notes that, when asked to comment about the land newly designated for organic research, he has “weighed my words judiciously.” “California’s organic farmers . . . over the last quarter century have conducted their own ‘bootstrap’ research and shared it through a uniquely open network. A conundrum with organic research is that wholistic growing systems mimic the multilayered complexity of natural ecologies and resist simple analysis for single input response so common to conventional agriculture’s inquiry.” He closes: “Let’s hope that tenacious local farm advisor Richard Molinar’s little plot at Kearney is a harbinger of an equally rapid growth of the too long dormant partnership between California’s great university and the burgeoning organic community.”

Click here for more on Kearney's organic research plot.


Posted on Monday, May 14, 2007 at 1:19 PM

UC Riverside tar pit story gets media attention

The news media can't resist a great story. That tenant was confirmed this weekend when fascinating results of a UC Riverside research project were shared with the media and then published widely.

UC Riverside environmental microbiologist David Crowley and postdoctoral researcher Jong-Shik Kim discovered bacteria in the La Brea tar pits that are uniquely adapted to the harsh environment and contain three previously undiscovered classes of enzymes that can naturally break down petroleum products, according to a news release by Iqbal Pittalwala of UC Riverside news service.

"We found some really great bacteria," the Los Angeles Times quoted Crowley. "The types we found are all very specialized for life in extreme environments."

Crowley also told Times reporter Jia-Rui Chong that the the petroleum-eating bacteria are interesting for their potential environmental applications -- for cleaning up oil spills or cleaning holds of oil tankers and degrading ticholoroethylene, a dry-cleaning and metal degreasing solvent that is a groundwater contaminant.

"These are definitely keepers," he said.

The story was picked up by a number of news media, including Fox News and Innovations Report in Germany.


Posted on Monday, May 14, 2007 at 10:31 AM

Bees are becoming scarce

Call it a sign of the times. As I drive around Fresno and Clovis, in the heart of the world’s No. 1 ag county, I see homemade signs posted on power polls and street signs with stark, bright red lettering imploring: “BEE SWARMS WANTED CALL ASAP."

The recent dwindling of honey bees has been well documented in the news over the past few months. Media reports ponder the possibilities that bee die-off may be due to a fungus that killed bee colonies in Asian and Europe or that a parasite is to blame. In compiling their stories, reporters frequently go to UC Davis Cooperative Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen for comment.

“If we eventually lose enough of our honey bees, then we will not be going to be able to pollinate the crops,” Mussen is quoted on the Web site of Seattle TV station KIRO.

“No one knows why this is happening, but we don't have a bee shortage yet," he told the Santa Cruz Sentinel.

Bee keepers worried by the perplexing bee deaths got a boost yesterday when UC Davis announced the addition of an accomplished bee breeder and geneticist to the university’s bee biology laboratory. A news release by Pat Bailey of UC Davis news service said the program was once a powerhouse in bee biology research, but declined during the 1990s due to budget shortages and faculty retirements. The new researcher, Susan Cobey, will collaborate with Mussen as she focuses on strengthening ties between university research and the honey-bee industry.


Posted on Monday, May 14, 2007 at 10:01 AM

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