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Novel way to remove fire-prone plants

Residents in fire-prone areas should take a critical look at the plants around their homes and remove any that can fuel a wildfire, wrote a team that includes UC Master Gardener Jessica Craven Goldstein for VC Reporter

"The juniper hedge serving as an icon of suburban living might now be regarded as a danger to neighbors," they said.

Residents of fire-prone areas should remove flammable landscape plants. (Photo: Pxhere)

The article included a novel idea for getting rid of unwanted plants. "I was able to remove several large plants with two-foot root balls by advertising them on Craigslist as 'free.'" emailed a Ventura resident. "I had a lot of responses and several people begging to be the chosen one."

The authors suggested that rural and suburban homeowners review the plant list created by FireSafe Marin for photos and details about plants that should be targeted for removal, and other websites - Sunset.com and CalFire - that list fire "safer" plants native to the West.

In addition to Craigslist, the story suggested Nextdoor.com for finding new homes for plants that are fire-prone or simply not suitable for their space. It also gave quick tips for successful transplanting, with details on managing irrigation, timing, shock and rootballs.

Posted on Thursday, January 3, 2019 at 9:31 AM
Tags: wildfire (87)
Focus Area Tags: Environment Yard & Garden

UC ANR scientist looks to gene modification to improve animal agriculture

Scientists in labs across the world have used gene modification to create virus-resistant pigs, heat-tolerant cattle and fatter, more muscular lambs - potential improvements for animal agriculture - but will people ever eat them? asks reporter Carolyn Johnson in the Washington Post.

Johnson opened her story with a scene from UC Davis, where UC Cooperative Extension specialist Alison Van Eenennaam was conducting ultrasounds on cattle to determine whether they were pregnant. The animals had been implanted with embryos genetically edited to grow and look like males, regardless of their gender.

Also on the UC Davis campus, Van Eenennaam cares for five bulls and a heifer that represent the second generation of cattle whose genetic propensity to have horns has been edited out of their DNA. The process spares the animals the common de-horning procedure, which protects animals and animal handlers from gory accidents.

Gene-edited plants will soon be in grocery stores, but similar tinkering with the DNA of animals faces a far more uncertain future, the article said.

A setback to gene editing came in early 2017 when the FDA put out draft guidance indicating that animals with intentionally altered DNA would be regulated as containing veterinary drugs. And the complexity and difficulty of using gene editing was also noted in the story. The ultrasounds of cattle Van Eenennaam and her staff implanted with the genetically altered fetuses yielded no pregnancies.

Alison Van Eenennaam with hornless cattle. (Photo: Aleksandra Domanovic and Spencer Lowell)

Read more: Alison Van Eenennaam examines how gene editing can enhance sustainability plus animal health and welfare

Posted on Tuesday, December 18, 2018 at 9:40 AM
Focus Area Tags: Agriculture Innovation

Congress approves Farm Bill reauthorization

An orange orchard at Lindcove Research & Extension Center. The 2018 Farm Bill provides grants for citrus research.

The House and Senate have passed the compromise Farm Bill, sending the legislation to the president for his signature.

Capital Public Radio's Julia Mitric asked Glenda Humiston, UC vice president for agriculture and natural resources, what the Farm Bill holds for UC ANR and California.

"What's fascinating about the Farm Bill is, after all that hyper-partisan debate … it's really a lot of the same of what we already had," said Humiston, adding that it includes an increase of $25 million a year for research on specialty crops.

That's good news for California growers because nearly all of California's 400 crops are considered specialty crops in federal parlance and over 50 percent of the nation's fruits and vegetables are grown in California. Those federal grants will cover many areas, from developing climate-resilient farming practices to combating California's many invasive pests, Humiston said.

The Farm Bill removed hemp from the definition of a controlled substance, which will allow it once again be produced for agricultural purposes. This is exciting for UC Cooperative Extension researchers who are interested in helping farmers manage and grow this new crop.

Reauthorization of the Farm Bill is important to UC because it provides critical support for the nation's land-grant institutions, including agricultural research extension and infrastructure programs and nutrition education programs.

Overall, the final version of the Farm Bill represents a positive outcome for UC. In addition to specialty crop research, the bill contains strong support for organic agriculture research and also includes helpful provisions to address unnecessary regulatory burdens faced by researchers. The bill also preserves the competitive grants for citrus research.

Posted on Friday, December 14, 2018 at 5:51 PM
Tags: Farm Bill (5), Glenda Humiston (16)

Keep food safe with advice from UC CalFresh

Always be mindful of the time when food is outside a refrigerator or freezer. Typically, it should be no longer than two hours, and just one hour in the summertime, according to UC Cooperative Extension UC CalFresh nutrition program coordinator Elizabeth Lopez in an appearance on the Valley Pubic Television program Valley's Gold. (The food safety segment begins at the 18:30 mark.)

Lopez recommends using an insulated grocery bag with a frozen ice pack for the trip home from the store, and refrigerating leftovers in sealed containers soon after finishing a meal to maintain food safety.

The UC Cooperative Extension nutrition educator also provided cooking tips with program host Ryan Jacobson, the director of the Fresno County Farm Bureau. Lopez noted:

  • Before beginning, wash hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds.
  • Make sure the food preparation area is clean.
  • Designate certain cutting boards for fruit and vegetables, and others for meat and poultry.
  • Wash fruit and vegetables under cool running water. No detergent is needed. Read the labels on pre-bagged produce. Some are ready to use, some need to be washed.
  • Use a meat thermometer. Cook beef, pork and lamb to an internal temperature of 145 degrees F. Ground meats should be cooked to 160 degrees F. Poultry, whole or ground, should be cooked to 165 degrees F.

For more information, Lopez suggested consumers consult the USDA's Food Safety.gov website or Food Keeper app, available free in the app store.

UC Cooperative Extension UC CalFresh nutrition program coordinator Elizabeth Lopez spoke about food safety on the Valley PBS program 'Valley's Gold.'
Posted on Monday, December 10, 2018 at 9:28 AM
Focus Area Tags: Food

Can harvesting Christmas trees help the forest?

California forests are overstocked with conifers, and California residents want to decorate their homes during the holiday season with Christmas trees. The smart harvest of Christmas trees can kill two birds with one stone, according to UC Cooperative Extension forestry advisor Susie Kocher. Kocher spoke to Capital Public Radio reporter Ezra David Romero about the prospect of thinning the forest by taking home trees.

Smart harvest of Christmas trees can help thin the forest. (Photo: USDA)

"It's a great win-win solution," Kocher said. "You get the public out in the forest, you do good work reducing the density of trees."

Kocher, who lives in Lake Tahoe, holds a family Christmas tree harvest party every year. With $10 permits from the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit, they trek through snow to select their trees. This year the management unit sold 2,000 permits. Kocher believes the program could be ramped up to further benefit forests.

“By removing some of the smaller trees, we are doing some of the work,” Kocher said. If left in place, the small trees grow larger, and more human resources, equipment and funds are needed to remove them. Moreover, the income from permit sales can be used for other forest-thinning projects.

However, some foresters are skeptical that harvesting Christmas trees is a realistic solution to management of California forests.

“It's great to have the masses come up during the holiday season full of mirth and cheer,” said Joseph Flannery with the Tahoe National Forest. “But I don't think there's the infrastructure in place to really make a dent in the hazardous fuels reduction needed.”

This story was also covered for KTVU Fox Channel 2 in the Bay Area by Lisa Fernandez. 

“You need a 4-wheel drive, and yes, you trudge through snow,” Kocher said. “It's not for everyone. But for those who want that adventure, it's super fun. I do it because I don't think there's a substitute for a real tree in the house. And we always turn it into a family party.”

Besides, she said, “I feel good about removing excess small trees.”

Posted on Thursday, December 6, 2018 at 3:05 PM
Focus Area Tags: Environment

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