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Scientists brew up a new way to reach the public

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A group of UC graduate students, led by UC Cooperative Extension biotechnology specialist Peggy Lemaux, is making science more accessible to the public by hosting nighttime lectures at Bay Area beer pubs, reported Nicholas Iovino of Courthouse News Service. The monthly talks have tackled topics ranging from microbial bacteria to the search for extraterrestrial life.

The PubScience lecture series grew out of an initiative at UC Berkeley called the Communication, Literacy and Education for Agricultural Research (CLEAR) project. Lemaux launched the project three years ago with a $103,000 grant from the UC Global Food Initiative. CLEAR reaches out to students, members of the community and policymakers.

“If we're not telling people about what we're doing and why they should care, then it's going to be really easy to cut funding for science,” Lemaux said.

Peggy Lemaux started CLEAR by offering a free pint to pub patrons who asked a question about science.

The CLEAR group has grown exponentially since its inception. Lemaux believes the election of President Donald Trump and the policies that stem from his administration's denial of climate change helped spark a renewed interest in communicating science to the public. 

“The group was much smaller before Trump was elected,” Lemaux said. “Seeing the rise of political extremism driven by misunderstanding of science was a huge factor.”

 

Posted on Monday, October 1, 2018 at 2:22 PM
Tags: Peggy Lemaux (5)
Focus Area Tags: Innovation

Citrus Research Board relies on UC ANR scientists

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The Citrus Research Board is celebrating 50 years of careful scientific study to improve the sustainability of the California citrus industry, worth more than $7 billion per year. They have no closer partner than University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources, reported Tim Hearden in Western Farm Press.

A laboratory, screen houses and a research-sized citrus grader have been built at the UC Lindcove Research and Extension Center, largely made possible with the industry-funded Citrus Research Board. Since the 1990s, the board have given more than $2.3 million to Lindcove for facilities and has funded much of the center's research.

Dr. Beth Grafton-Cardwell in front of the state-of-the-art fruit grader. The equipment purchase was funded by the Citrus Research Board.

“It's fabulous,” said Beth Grafton-Cardwell, UC Cooperative Extension citrus entomologist and director of Lindcove. “There are committees from the CRB that interact with our researchers to maximize and orient the research toward the industry's needs.”

The industry is now facing the serious threat of huanglongbing (HLB) disease of citrus. The disease, which is spread by Asian citrus psyllid, has devastated the citrus industry in Florida. It has been detected in a handfull of backyard trees in Southern California, but so far has not made its way into commercial orchards. 

New research programs at Lindcove include developing citrus varieties with tolerance to HLB, and perhaps a project to grow citrus under a screen in what is known as a Citrus Under Protective Structure, or CUPS. If built, the CUPS facility will be housed on a 10-acre section of the Lindcove center.

“We're making slow, steady progress” against HLB, Grafton-Cardwell said. “We don't see a silver bullet. However, that's where the bulk of the CRB budget is going now.”

Posted on Thursday, September 20, 2018 at 9:36 AM
Focus Area Tags: Agriculture

Californians must adapt their lives to fire

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California is a place forged by fire, and its fierce fire-fighting policies are creating fuel-filled landscapes that will burn hotter and faster than ever, reported Lisa M. Krieger in the San Jose Mercury News.

"Unless we change course, we'll never work our way out of this dilemma," said UC fire scientist Scott Stephens. "Unless we can get ahead of it, it'll never get better."

 

The River Fire, part of the Mendocino Complex Fire, burned more than half of the UC Hopland Research and Extension Center in July 2018.

Strategies to live with fire were modeled at the UC Hopland Research and Extension Center when the Mendocino Complex Fire spread on its rolling oak woodland and chaparral landscape in late July. About 3,000 of the center's 5,300 acres burned.

In pastures where sheep had grazed, the oaks still have green leaves. In other areas not grazed since the 1950s, undergrowth provided a ladder for flames to reach oak canopies.

In areas were vegetation was reduced by grazing, "the fire was less intense. It skipped around more. It wasn't as complete a burn," said Hopland director John Bailey. "Having animals on the land reduced the hazard."

(Read more about the fire at Hopland in a blog post by community educator Hannah Bird.)

Prescribed burning is another strategy to maintain a forest that is resilient to fire.

“Prescribed burns are a really powerful and underused tool,” said UC Davis ecologist Malcolm North. When a wildfire hits pre-burned areas, “it just putzes along.”

Posted on Wednesday, September 19, 2018 at 1:50 PM
Focus Area Tags: Environment

Dogs enlisted to sniff out disease in citrus trees

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The Citrus Research Board is arranging to bring specially trained dogs to the UC Lindcove Research and Extension Center to test their ability to sniff out the devastating citrus disease huanglongbing, reported Bob Rodriguez in the Fresno Bee.

CRB president Gary Schulz is working with the USDA, which is training dogs in Florida to identify trees with huanglongbing soon after the trees are infected. HLB has ravaged Florida's citrus industry. In California, the disease has been found about 800 Southern California backyard trees, but officials have so far managed to keep it out of the state's commercial orchards.

"The USDA has invested million of dollars in detector dogs and they have proven to be a credible diagnostic tool for early detection and screening trees," Schulz said.

The USDA has trained dogs to detect huanglongbing disease in Florida. (Photo: USDA)

HLB is spread by Asian citrus psyllids. Psyllids can pick up the the disease from infected trees and spread it to other trees as they feed. Symptoms may not show up in the tree until a year or two after it is infected. PCR (polymerase chain reaction) is the only way to positively identify huanglongbing infection in citrus. The process requires testing of many leaves or branches from the tree and may return a false negative if the samples selected for testing aren't infected, but other parts of the tree are.

Schulz said the HLB-detection dogs will start their California work in the southern part of the state before traveling north.

Posted on Tuesday, September 18, 2018 at 11:34 AM
Focus Area Tags: Pest Management

UC Master Gardener program arrives in Stanislaus County

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UC Cooperative Extension in Stanislaus County is launching its first UC Master Gardener program to extend research-based gardening assistance and information to county residents, reported John Holland in the Modesto Bee.

“Our goal is to encourage healthy environments (and improve the appearance of our community) with sustainable landscaping and gardening, green waste reduction and water conservation,” said Roger Duncan, UCCE county director.

Since the UC Master Gardener program's inception, more than 5 million hours of volunteer service have been donated.

Gardening enthusiasts may apply for the first round of training until Sept. 28. Weekly training sessions will be from Jan. 30 to June 5, 2019. Tuition is $180. After certification, Master Gardeners volunteer 50 hours of service in the first 12 months, then 25 hours per year after that.

The training will be held in Stockton this year, along with UC Cooperative Extension in San Joaquin County.

"They are joining our regular training to help get their program up and running," said Marcy Sousa, the UC Master Gardener program coordinator in San Joaquin County.

The volunteers do not need to start out with detailed knowledge of gardening, said Kari Arnold, the UCCE farm advisor overseeing the program. That will come from experts tapping into university research on the various topics.

For more information and to apply, visit the Stanislaus County Master Gardeners website.

UC Master Gardener program, launched in California in 1981, now serves more than 50 California counties with 6,116 actives volunteers. 

Posted on Monday, September 17, 2018 at 10:13 AM
Focus Area Tags: Yard & Garden

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