Posts Tagged: Alison Van Eenennaam
This geneticist is creating gene-edited animals for our plates
(Ozy.com) Marissa Fessenden, April 29
Animal geneticist Alison Van Eenennaam has six calves that are rather unusual. Most people might not pick up on what's odd, but close inspection, and knowledge of bovine genetics, reveals that none of the calves have horns despite being a mix of breeds that typically have them. Even more surprising? The calves' hornless state wasn't bred into them — Van Eenennaam and her colleagues edited their genes using the new CRISPR technology.
Board approves mural honoring Orloff, Siskiyou's heritage
(Siskiyou Daily) Danielle Jester, April 19
A mural that will honor the late Steve Orloff, former Siskiyou County farm advisor, and recognize agriculture in the county was approved Tuesday by the Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors.
Rob Wilson, who is the director and farm advisor at the Intermountain Research Center Extension in Tulelake and is serving as the the interim acting county director for Siskiyou County Cooperative Extension, noted that the mural presents a "great opportunity to honor agriculture in Siskiyou County and to try to honor former Farm Advisor Steve Orloff."
Letter: Livestock impact on environment overstated in 'Meatless Monday' column
(Lafayette IN Journal & Courier) Frank Mitloehner
I am responding to the recent contribution titled, “Meatless Mondays: Consequences for our dining habits."
What a nutritionist wants you to know about pesticides and produce
(NBC News) Samantha Cassetty, April 15
This week, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) released an update to their annual Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 lists. These lists reveal produce with both the highest and lowest levels of pesticide residue, according to their methodology. The report looks more or less the same as last year's guide, with strawberries claiming the unfortunate number one spot, edging out spinach and nectarines.
… But let's get one thing clear: Organic produce is not pesticide-free. There are pesticides used in organic farming, but they're derived from natural substances rather than synthetic ones, And as Carl Winter, Ph.D., Extension Food Toxicologist and Vice Chair, Food Science and Technology at University of California, Davis puts it, in either case, “the dose makes the poison.”
OPINION: Should California Winemakers Be Worried About China's Tariffs?
(NPR) Julian M. Alston, director, Mondavi Institute for Wine Economics, UC Davis; Daniel Sumner, Olena Sambucci, Agricultural and Resource Economics, UC Davis
California's vintners and grape growers are among the latest potential victims in the escalating trade spat between the U.S. and China.
Responding to U.S. plans to impose import duties on goods from China, the Chinese Ministry of Commerce reciprocated by introducing new tariffs on 128 U.S. products, including an additional 15 percent import tariff on wine.
"We are open for business" is message from wine committee joint meeting
(Sonoma West) Heather Bailey, April 9
At the April 6 Joint Information Hearing of the California State Senate Select Committee on California's Wine Industry and the California Assembly Select Committee on Wine the overarching theme of the meeting was: “We are open for business.” While there are impacts from the October fires, the message went, stories of our demise are greatly exaggerated. So come on down for your corporate event, wine tasting weekend, wedding or bachelorette party.
…The final panel on Water Supply featured Glenn McGourty, Viticulture and Plant Science Advisor in Mendocino County for the UC Cooperative Extension, Dr. Michael Anderson, California State Climatologist at the California Department of Water Resources, Eric Larson, Environmental Program Manager at the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and Katie Jackson, Vice President for External Affairs and Sustainability at Jackson Family Wines.
McGourty discussed some of the scientific advances being brought to bear for assisting the wine industry with its water usage, including surface renewal technology, which will tell a grower exactly how much and when to irrigate and could save 50 to 100,000 gallons of water per acre, using crop cover on the soils, which allows soil in one acre to hold an additional 38,000 more gallons of water, and various ways to control frost in vineyards so that irrigation isn't needed to prevent frost.
County program to cull dead trees continues
(The Union Democrat) Alex Maclean, April 5
Scientists doing field-based research saw a decline in the death rate of ponderosa pines from western bark beetle infestation last year, but Tuolumne County isn't slowing down its effort to help landowners affected by the drought-induced epidemic.
… Jodi Axelson, a Cooperative Extension specialist in forest health at University of California, Berkeley, said the slowing of mortality seen over the past year should give counties like Tuolumne an opportunity to catch up on removing dead trees from private property.
Axelson is part of a team of scientists collecting data on tree mortality that also includes John Battles, a forest ecology professor at UC Berkeley, and Susie Kocher, a natural resources advisor for UC Cooperative Extension, Central Sierra.
Land suitable for certain California crops expected to shrink
(Agri-Pulse) Steve Davies, April 5
California growers should start to look seriously at how to adapt to a changing climate, which could shrink the land available for many of the state's most popular crops, a new study has found.
“Reduced numbers of chill hours, increased pest pressure, increased water demand and water-induced stress, as well as variable and unreliable water supply, are examples of factors that are projected to adversely impact the yield and quality of various crops grown in California,” says the paper, published in the journal Agronomy. Chill hours are traditionally defined as those periods where the temperature is below 45 degrees Fahrenheit.
"Understanding climate change and how it is impacting agriculture can help us develop relevant adaptation strategies and enhance agricultural resilience to climate risks," said lead author Tapan Pathak, a cooperative extension specialist at the University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources.
Search for wine ‘smoke taint' solutions intensifies after Northern California wildfires
(North Bay Business Journal) Jeff Quackenbush, April 4
The international pursuit of ways to predict how much smoke from a wildfire will end up in finished wine and what to do about it got a boost when the dark clouds of particles pumped out by the massive North Bay fires in October descended on the University of California, Davis, experimental vineyard in Napa Valley.
“The moment the smoke started, my phone started ringing off the hook,” said Anita Olberholster, Ph.D., a specialist in the science of winemaking for University of California Cooperative Extension. When the fires erupted Oct. 8, most of the North Coast winegrape crop had been picked, but some late-ripening fruit, particularly cabernet sauvignon was still on the vine, in the home stretch of the 2017 harvest. “It quickly realized how thin the data is I need to base recommendations on.”
For these Central Coast students, spring break is a chance to hone their culinary skills
KSBY, April 4
Some local fifth and sixth graders are spending their spring break in the kitchen.
The students are part of the 4-H Student Nutrition Advisory Council clubs at five schools in Santa Maria and Oceano.
During the third annual "Culinary Academy," they're learning food safety habits, how to safely handle knives, baking techniques, and stovetop skills. Specifically, they're cooking up healthy blueberry muffins, sushi, and an egg omelet.
"It's really an opportunity for the kids to learn some basic food skills along with nutrition and some fun thrown in there, too," said Janelle Hansen, 4-H program supervisor for Santa Barbara County.
Culinary Academy teaches Santa Maria spring breakers how to cook
Santa Maria Times, April 4
Fifth and sixth grade youth leaders from five school-based 4-H Student Nutrition Advisory Council clubs (SNAC) worked to develop their culinary skills over Spring Break.
Over 20 SNAC Youth leaders participated in the 3rd annual Culinary Academy, at Liberty Elementary School in Santa Maria. This year youth worked on recipes to enhance their knife and stove top skills, food safety habits, and baking techniques.
UC Climate Video Questioned by UC Researchers
(UCD Aggie) David Madey, April 4
According to a video called “The diet that helps fight climate change” released by the Office of the UC President, everyone — including the 238,000 students across the UC system — can help combat climate change on their own. But not everyone is celebrating.
… “[The video] recommended for the global population a diet that only the top one percent can afford,” said Dr. Frank Mitloehner, a professor and air quality specialist at UC Davis. “We could not even satisfy a Mediterranean diet for the entire United States population today.”
… Dr. Glenda Humiston, the vice president for the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, wrote in a public letter to UC colleagues, “[The video] states that if the world was to reduce its meat consumption, that decision alone could offset the emissions from a billion cars on the road by 2050. For the U.S., however, this contention is misleading, as the impact would be considerably smaller.”
Dr. Alison Van Eenennaam, an expert featured in “Food Evolution” from UC Davis, also claims that the Climate Lab video is misleading. With a combined 2.1 million views on YouTube and Facebook to date, Van Eenennaam expressed concern that the public is led to believe that diet is twice as important as transportation effects –– which is not true at all, she said.
“It's not simple, and that video made it simple,” Van Eenennaam said.
Future Of Farming Blossoming At UC Davis
Researchers are looking for ways to make farming a little smarter with robots and drones that could one day revolutionize the way our food is grown.
Engineers at UC Davis are trying to be on the forefront of future farming technology.
“Smart technologies are going to allow us to be more efficient,” said professor David Slaughter.
They're inventing things like a high-tech hoe that uses ultraviolet lights and cameras along with specially treated plants to trim away weeds. Computer-controlled red cutting blades open up just in time to let plant stems pass by unharmed.
Drought put UC's water-saving strategies into practice
(Western Farm Press) Tim Hearden
The historic drought from 2012 to 2016 forced almond growers to put into practice water-conservation strategies they'd been taught by University of California Cooperative Extension crop advisors — so say a farmer and an advisor in a newly released video on water management.
Raj Meena of the Gustine, Calif.-based Meena Farms, says tools such as the pressure chamber, which measures water stress in trees, and soil moisture monitoring helped the operation survive drastic cutbacks in water. “I would say our water management improved considerably because it had to,” he says in the video, part of series on drought tips from the UC California Institute for Water Resources. “If we hadn't done that, we wouldn't still be farming. When you're so regulated in the water that you have, you have to allocate it very carefully.”
UC program aids in citrus disease fight
(AgAlert) Christine Souza
At war with the Asian citrus psyllid since it was found in San Diego County in 2008, California citrus growers and packers have had unprecedented success in slowing the spread of the tree-killing bacteria the psyllid can carry. People in the citrus business say part of that success relates to the testing and distribution of clean citrus plant material through the University of California, Riverside.
The Citrus Clonal Protection Program at UC Riverside tests clonal material to ensure that citrus varieties introduced into California remain free of pathogens.
Joel Nelsen, president of California Citrus Mutual, said he believes work such as that done by the program has helped defend California citrus from the tree-killing bacterial disease huanglongbing or HLB, also called citrus greening.
California fights costly battle against invasive species
(Agri-Pulse) Tyler Ash
Every year, California acquires on average nine new invasive species, including exotic insects, spiders, mollusks and even South American mammals. Three of those invaders usually try and settle down, start a large family and stake a claim on some of the Golden State's endless buffet of agricultural crops, becoming the bane of farmers and researchers.
“There are lots of species that get here and don't become established, it's just a few that do,” said Jim Farrar, director of the Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program of the University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources.
According to the UC-Riverside's Center for Invasive Species Research, invasive pests cost the state an estimated $3 billion a year. Intrusive plants alone cost California at least $82 million annually for control, monitoring and outreach, not including crop loss, as reported by the California Invasive Plant Council.
UC Davis researchers on a hunt for backyard chicken eggs around the Thomas Fire burn scar
(Ventura County Star) Cheri Carlson, April 3
Veterinarians at UC Davis have put out a call for eggs from California's backyard chicken owners, particularly those living near the Thomas Fire and other recent blazes.
They want to test the eggs for free in an effort to understand how they might be affected by wildfires, lead and other environmental factors.
It's called the Backyard Chicken Egg Study. And, they need help from backyard chicken enthusiasts, said Maurice Pitesky, a faculty member at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine-UC Cooperative Extension.
“We're trying to understand the connection between the environment and our backyard chickens,” said Pitesky, who teamed up with colleague Birgit Puschner to test the eggs.
Backyard Chicken Owners Can Have Eggs Tested For Free By UC Researchers
(SF Gate) Bay City News Service, April 3, 2018
Bay Area Chicken Owners: UC Testing Eggs For Free
(Bay City News Service)
Van Eenennaam operates at the forefront of biotechnology in animal agriculture, wrote reporter Marissa Fessenden. The researcher is raising cows in Davis whose genes were edited to omit horns, which spares the animals the painful process of horn removal.
The article says Van Eenennaam grew up as a 'horse-mad' city girl in Melbourne, Australia. She studied animal science at the University of Melbourne, and later earned master's and doctorate degrees at UC Davis. Van Eenennaam is an outspoken advocate for new technologies and works to separate misinformation from fact.
"We have to speak up," she said. "We're the people who know how (genetic editing) could be useful and how incredibly valuable the tool is. I'm not going to let the fearmongers dominate the conversation."
Woodland as ag hub topic of forum
(Woodland Daily Democrat) Jenice Tupolo, Jan. 30
Developing Woodland as an agricultural center is becoming more of a reality, even as local organizations worked together in creating a forum focused on agricultural innovation in Yolo County.
...The city of Woodland, AgStart, UC Agricultural and Natural Resources, and the city's Food Front initiative hosted keynote speaker and vice president of the UC ANR, Glenda Humiston, at the conference.
Small Farmers in Fresno Hope for Big Moringa Payoff
(KQED) Katrina Schwartz, Jan. 26
The Mouas, along with other Hmong farmers growing moringa, have been working with farm advisers at Fresno County's UC Cooperative Extension to learn how to dry, powder and store their moringa so they can expand into new markets. Most farmers sell it fresh, but most of the health food craze exists around moringa powder, often imported from India.
… “Value-added products are a great way for a small family farm to increase their income,” said Ruth Dahlquist-Willard, a small-farm adviser with the program. Many farmers are accustomed to only selling fresh produce. They plant a diverse set of crops in a small area and sell a little bit of everything. Producing a product that requires the extra step of drying, grinding and storing is a whole new world for many of them.
“I think there's a lot of opportunity there,” Dahlquist-Willard said. She's particularly excited about how a product might bring the younger generation back to their family farms. Kids who have gone off to college for business, marketing or graphic design might see a new kind of future for themselves on the family farm with a product like moringa.
SLO County's Top 20 Under 40: Meet the 2017 award winners
…Katherine E. Soule, 35, is director of the UC Cooperative Extension for SLO and Santa Barbara counties, where she's earned state and national recognition for improving community health and increasing diversity in youth participation.
As the extension's youth, families and communities advisor for the last several years, Soule developed new 4-H programs engaging underserved youths and promoting healthy living, leadership and social development. Her efforts nearly doubled enrollment and boosted Latino participation 26.8 percent. She's delivered nutrition education to more than 10,000 people through various partnerships.
Flooding alfalfa for groundwater recharge
(Morning Ag Clips) Jan. 24
A rigorous field study in two California climate zones has found that alfalfa can tolerate very heavy winter flooding for groundwater recharge. The research was published online Jan. 16 in California Agriculture journal.
The alfalfa research is the latest in a series of projects studying the effects of using land planted with permanent crops – including almond orchards and vineyards – to capture and bank winter storm water. Such projects have great promise but also require collaboration across multiple jurisdictions and agencies. UC Agriculture and Natural Resources vice president Glenda Humiston has made groundwater recharge on working lands and open spaces a division priority and is working with water and land use leaders around the state to facilitate it through policy recommendations and cross-agency collaboration.
Band Canker Affecting Younger Almonds
(California Ag Today) Patrick Cavanaugh, Jan. 24
Brent Holtz is a UC cooperative extension Pomology Farm Advisor for San Joaquin County. He recently told California Ag Today about how the fungus band canker on almonds is becoming more prevalent in the San Joaquin Valley.
“I've seen a lot more band canker, which is caused by a pathogenic fungus, Botryosphaeria dothidea, and we're seeing it on young orchards, especially in in San Joaquin county," said Holtz. "We've seen that a lot out in the delta and we've seen it in eastern San Joaquin county where the soils tend to be a little heavier, maybe old dairy ground and richer and we don't really know why."
CCOF Annual Conference to Focus on Organic Hotspots
AgNet West) Jan. 22
Registration is available for the California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF) annual conference, Organic Hotspots: Revitalizing Rural America. The event is scheduled for February 22 and 23 at the Sheraton Grand Sacramento Hotel in Sacramento.…
The event will focus on organic hotspots and how rural economies can potentially be stimulated by organic production. Topics will include partnerships between elected officials and the organic community, the role of education and research, along with the process of growing organic produce in local communities. The event will conclude with a keynote speech from Glenda Humiston, Vice President of the University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources.
California Today: 100 Million Dead Trees Prompt Fears of Giant Wildfires
(New York Times) Thomas Fuller, Jan. 19
The more than 100 million trees that died in California after being weakened by drought and insect infestations have transformed large swaths of the Sierra Nevada into browned-out tree cemeteries. In some areas more than 90 percent of trees are dead.
This week a group of scientists warned in the journal BioScience that the dead trees could produce wildfires on a scale and of an intensity that California has never seen.
…“It's something that is going to be much more severe,” said Scott Stephens, a professor of fire science at Berkeley and the lead author of the study. “You could have higher amounts of embers coming into home areas, starting more fires.”
Winter's good time for gopher control in nut crops
(Western Farm Press) Cecelia Parsons, Jan. 17, 2018
Tree nut growers who are plagued by gopher invasions in their orchards need to stick with effective control measures if they want to minimize tree losses.
Pocket gophers are common in most nut production areas, says Joe Connell, University of California Cooperative Extension Farm Advisor Emeritus in Butte County. In the absence of cover crops or weeds, they will gnaw on tree roots and trunks, and the hungry vertebrate pests can even girdle — and kill — older trees. Trees with root damage and girdling will lose production, and will be susceptible to crown gall, which weakens their structural strength.
Bloomington nursery's citrus trees to be destroyed by California agriculture department
(ABC7 KABC) Rob McMillan, Jan. 17, 2018
Roxana Vallejo was 12 years old when her parents opened up Santa Ana Nursery in Bloomington. Wednesday, the California Department of Food and Agriculture will be at her business to destroy almost all of their citrus trees. Vallejo said the combined value of the trees is almost $1 million.
"They're all fine, and look at all the new growth, it's pretty good," Vallejo said.
The reason they're being cut down is huanglongbing, or HLB, one of the world's worst citrus diseases. The insect that spreads HLB has taken a strong foothold in Southern California.
"It's estimated that the citrus industry may go commercially extinct unless they can get a handle on this problem," said Mark Hoddle, UC Cooperative Extension specialist at UC Riverside, more than one year ago.
OPINION: Ranchers give thanks
(Ventura County Star) Beverly Bigger, president of the Ventura County Cattlemen's Association, Jan. 16, 2018
Ventura County is home to a robust and historic cattle industry, one that makes up a $2 million portion of Ventura County's agricultural sector. Ranchers play an important role in land management as well, their grazing operations clearing overgrown brush, reducing the fuel available to wildfires and protecting nearby communities.
In the space of 12 hours, the Thomas Fire ripped through vital grazing land that cattle rely on for their daily feed. Sadly, some animals were also lost to the fire.
With feed and fencing gone, many ranchers had hard decisions to make regarding the future of their operations, and some were not prepared for this kind of disaster. Thankfully, we have dedicated public servants who stepped up to help the cattle industry.
Ventura County Agricultural Commissioner Henry Gonzales, Matthew Shapero from the UC Cooperative Extension, and Donna Gillesby and Bryan Bray of Ventura County Animal Services all reached out to ask what they could do to help.
An emergency program was put in place to supply five days of hay until ranchers could get on their feet. The UC Extension also provided a one-stop location where ranchers could meet with representatives from multiple agencies to apply for assistance programs.
The assistance of these agencies was very much appreciated. We want to thank and recognize them for helping us in our time of need. We look forward to returning to our passion: managing and improving the land and continuing Ventura County's ranching heritage.
Farm advisor tests strategies for controlling horseweed
(Ag Alert) Bob Johnson, Jan. 10, 2018
One morning last summer, University of California Cooperative Extension vineyard weed control advisor John Roncoroni displayed a horseweed plant that had grown to more than 10 feet tall in a Yolo County vineyard.
Horseweed, which is widely seen on the sides of the state's highways, is among the glyphosate-resistant weed pests that can develop healthy populations in even well managed vineyards.
"We're really having problems with weeds coming in the fall that are resistant to Roundup," Roncoroni said. "Willow herb is tolerant; it's never been completely controlled by glyphosate."
Pomegranate returns not so wonderful but largest grower says otherwise
(Hanford Sentinel) By John Lindt, Jan. 11, 2018
A few years ago Central Valley pomegranate growers appeared to be riding a rising tide of popularity for pomegranates spurring optimism about the crop's future. Growers, including those in Kings County, enjoyed prices of over $1,700 a ton as recently as 2011.
After a significant planting of new trees, by 2015 pomegranate tonnage was fetching just $450 a ton in Fresno County and falling to $362 a ton in Tulare County according to its 2016 crop report.
…UC Farm Adviser Kevin Day says it's simple economics. “We are seeing both overproduction and lack of demand for pomegranates despite expectations to the contrary."
Western Innovator: Promoting sustainable ranching
Tracy Schohr has devoted much of her career to promoting sustainability in ranching.
While at the California Cattlemen's Association, she put on an annual “rangeland summit” that brought ranchers together with environmental experts and climate change policymakers.
She also worked on a program to limit ranchers' risk of facing Endangered Species Act violations if they created habitat on their land.
After going back to school to earn her master's degree at the University of California-Davis, Schohr has become a UC Cooperative Extension livestock and natural resources adviser based in Plumas, Sierra and Butte counties. http://www.capitalpress.com/California/20180108/western-innovator-promoting-sustainable-ranching
Weed Control with Brad Hanson UC Cooperative Extension Weed Specialist at UC Davis
(California Ag Today) Patrick Cavanaugh, Jan. 8, 2018
“Weeds are probably one of the year-in, year-out problems that growers face,” said Brad Hanson, UC Cooperative Extension, who discussed herbicide resistance with California Ag Today.
Building blocks for tending flocks
(Auburn Journal) Julie Miller, Jan. 7, 2018
Counting sheep is no longer for the tired and sleepy.
Shepherding has become a booming industry in Placer County. At last count, there are 9,000 head of sheep registered with the county, said Dan Macon, livestock and natural resources advisor for University of California, for Placer and Nevada counties. And there may be more sheep that have not been registered, perhaps because they are in a smaller flock of 10 to 15, he said.
Sheep have proven to be versatile. Not only raised for the meat and milk, but also wool fibers, plus, they can help reduce fire danger by eating away tall grasses and shrubs.
After a recent outbreak of E.coli, is it safe to eat romaine lettuce? Experts differ
(Fresno Bee) Robert Rodriguez, Jan. 5, 2018
If you are staying away from romaine lettuce because of an outbreak of E.coli, it's understandable. But at least one food safety expert says it may not be necessary.
…But University of California food safety expert Trevor Suslow said it's unlikely the lettuce you buy at the grocery store these days is going to do you any harm. That's because the illnesses happened from Nov. 15 through Dec. 8. Lettuce sold during that period wouldn't be around anymore.
“It's not going to last that long, it's gone,” Suslow said.
Cattle Ranchers Join Conservationists To Save Endangered Species And Rangelands
(Forbes) Diana Hembree, Jan. 5, 2018
…California has a strong incentive to preserve its 18 million acres of ranchland: Cattle and calves are the state's fourth-leading agricultural commodities (milk and cream are No. 1), according to state agricultural data. But in a Duke University survey of the state's ranchers, more than half said they were “more uncertain than ever” that they would be able to continue ranching. California is losing an estimated 20,000 acres of rangeland each year, according to the Nature Conservancy, and on any given day ads for the sale of cattle ranches dot the Internet. The median age of California ranchers is 58 to 62, and more are aging out of the business with no children interested in taking over the ranch.
But this trend can be reversed, according to Lynn Huntsinger a professor of environmental science and rangeland ecology at UC Berkeley. To preserve these landscapes for future generations, ranchers need payment and recognition for their ecosystem services “in order to preserve these working landscapes for future generations,” Huntsinger writes.
Months after Wine Country fires, damaged vineyards face uncertainty
(SF Chronicle) Esther Mobley, Jan. 4
…“No one knows what's the real threshold for heat damage,” says Rhonda Smith, the Sonoma County-based viticulture farm adviser for the University of California, who has come to Gilfillan to consult on its rehabilitation.
Much of the conventional wisdom about how fires interact with vines — that vines can't burn, because of their high water content, for instance — didn't turn out to be true for every vineyard, she says.
“In 99 percent of cases, vines were fire breaks,” says Smith. But if there was dry vegetation, if there was wood mulch on the ground, if the soil was especially dry — if, if, if — then they weren't.
Progress reported on robotic weeders for vegetables
(Ag Alert) Bob Johnson, Jan. 4
The next generation of computer-controlled, automated cultivators will be able to use cameras to remove weeds in the seed line as close as 1 inch from young tomato or lettuce plants, without damaging the crop.
“It must be more than half the lettuce acreage that is already using the automated thinners,” said Steve Fennimore, UC Cooperative Extension vegetable weed specialist.
Fennimore is supervising the Salinas lettuce trials of “marking” the crop in order to make this technology practical for weeding as well.
“The weeders already out there tend to be prototypes that people are still experimenting with,” he said.
2017's natural disasters cost American agriculture over $5 billion
(New Food Economy) Sam Bloch, Jan. 4, 2018
Over a period of 10 months in 2017, America experienced 16 separate, billion-dollar weather and climate-related disasters. Those weather events carved paths of destruction straight through some of the most fertile and productive regions of the country, wreaking havoc on beef cattle ranches in Texas, soaking cotton and rice farms in Louisiana, orange groves in Florida, and burning up vineyards in California. And that was all before Southern California's still-active Thomas fire, which began on December 4, and then closed in on the country's primary avocado farms. It's now the state's largest-ever, in terms of total acreage.
- Acres of cherimoya trees in Santa Barbara County destroyed by the Thomas fire: 100
- Total dollar value of Santa Barbara cherimoya fruit damaged by fire: $5,000,000
- Acres of avocado fields in Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties threatened by wildfire: 5,260
- Estimated pounds of Hass avocados in Ventura County lost to wildfire: 8,060,000
- Total dollar value of that lost harvest: $10,175,750
- Approximate percentage of American avocado crop threatened by wildfire: 8
- Expected effect of wildfire on avocado prices in America, due to reliance on imports: 0
- Winegrape acreage in Napa and Sonoma Counties: 104,847
- As a percentage of total California winegrape acreage: 22
- Estimated dollar value of unharvested Cabernet grapes in those counties, before the wildfires: $175,000,000
- Estimated dollar value of those grapes, now tainted by smoke: $29,000,000
- Bottles of 2016 Napa Cabernet you can buy for the price of two 2017 vintages, due to winegrape scarcity: 3
California wildfire data from Daniel A. Sumner, Ph.D. of UC Agricultural Issues Center, USDA NASS, Ben Faber, Ph.D. of UC Cooperative Extension Ventura.
There Is No “No-Fire” Option in California
(Bay Nature) Zach St. George, Jan. 2, 2018
As the use of prescribed fire by Cal Fire declined in recent decades, its use also declined with private landholders, says Lenya Quinn-Davidson, director of the Northern California Prescribed Fire Council, who leads prescribed burning workshops across the state. Scott Stephens, the UC Berkeley professor, concurs. Decades of suppression left the western U.S. with relatively few people trained to carry out the work: “We just don't have that experience to pass on.” But it's important not to let the current enthusiasm pass, he says—as climate change continues to push conditions toward extremes, as wildfires consume more and more of fire agency budgets, and as the wildland-urban interface expands, it will only become more difficult to bring fire back.
Scientist discusses working on Food Evolution movie
(Brownfield Ag News) Larry Lee, Jan. 1
A scientist involved in a movie about genetically modified food says many don't understand what GM is, let alone the benefits. Alison VanEenennaam says, “Really, it's a breeding method, and I think the public sector applications for things like disease resistance have very compelling societal benefits that I think most people can relate to. I don't think we want plants and animals getting sick, and if we can solve that problem genetically rather than using chemicals, I think people get that.”
VanEenennaam is a geneticist at the University of California. She tells Brownfield there is a lot of unnecessary fear about eating genetically modified food. “The safety around GM (Genetically Modified) has been established and is, you know, agreed on by every major scientific society in the world and yet we've got the vast majority of consumers that don't believe that.”
Urban Edge farm program offers immersion-style learning
(East Bay Times) Lou Fancher, Jan. 1, 2018
After operating a pilot version of the ambitious program, a $200,000 grant from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture's Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program is a launch pad for the immersive learning experience.
For the first cohort of students, many of them women and/or people of color, immigrants, refugees, veterans or farmers-to-be with limited resources, the land is a classroom. Instruction comes from First Generation and experts from the National Center for Appropriate Technology and UC Cooperative Extension. Participation in the program represents opportunity and fulfills dreams the first-time farmers hold of agricultural avocation, economic stability, families, homesteads and permanence.
(Lodi Wine blog) Randy Caparoso, Jan. 1, 2018
This coming February 6, 2018, Lodi winegrowers will get together for their 66th Annual LODI GRAPE DAY. They will also mark the occasion with a celebration of the retirement of Paul Verdegaal, who has been working full-time as San Joaquin County's viticulture, bush berry and almond Farm Advisor under the auspices of UCCE (University of California Cooperative Extension) since 1986.
True to its name, a listicle published on BuzzFeed News about genetic modification of foods caused a buzz during Thanksgiving week. Writer Stephanie Lee reported that many techniques have been used over the centuries to tinker with the DNA of fruits, vegetables and animals to make them prettier, tastier and easier to grow.
Largely based on an interview with UC Cooperative Extension specialist Alison Van Eenennaam, the article said some changes were accidental acts of nature, some from traditional cross breeding, and others are crop improvements by genetic engineering. None of these changes make food fundamentally unsafe or unhealthy.
"It's up to us as parents or humans to seek out correct information," Van Eenennaam said. "And that's why my kids are vaccinated, we drink pasteurized milk, and we happily eat GMOs."
Cross breeding and selection have transformed scrawny poultry into today's plump, meaty domestic turkey. Corn is descended from a barely edible grass. Spontaneous mutations from solar radiation produced Washington navel oranges. Seeds exposed to radiation by scientists "randomly scrambles the genes inside them and yields desirable traits," the article said.
More than 90 percent of U.S. corn is genetically modified. Most goes to ethanol plants, animal feed or processed food, but, "In 2011, Monsanto began growing sweet corn engineered with a protein that helps fight off pests. It's meant to be eaten directly and sold in grocery stores."
The article generated a few online conversations, with comments from those praising the article and others suggesting it was not balanced.
"I cannot believe this is your header Thanksgiving article," wrote one reader. "Seriously, who paid you?
Another said, "The anti-GMO movement isn't really about food safety ... it's primarily an anti-corporate movement."
The article said the FDA requires that food derived from GMO plants to meet the same food safety requirements as food from traditionally bred plants.
"What I would be more worried about is undercooking my turkey, because then I could actually be exposed to salmonella — that actually could kill people," Van Eenennaam said.
Clover Stornetta Farms of Petaluma will be adding non-GMO certification to its conventional milk in early 2017. The move upset organic and conventional farmers, as well as a few agriculture scientists, reported Tara Duggan in the San Francisco Chronicle.
The non-GMO designation means the milk comes from dairy cows who have been raised with no genetically engineered corn, soy or other products in their diets.
The article featured comments from Alison Van Eenennaam, UC Cooperative Extension specialist based at UC Davis. She said non-GMO animal feed crops have a larger ecological impact than genetically engineered versions because of their decreased resistance to disease and pests, and lower yields.
“We are really talking marketing here — developing a product line to differentiate it from a product that already does not contain GMOs,” she said. “As a company they of course can develop whatever products they want and if they see a profitable market — then it is a good business decision.”
Van Eenennaam said she is concerned that suggesting non-GMO milk is a safer or more environmentally sound product could have a chilling effect on agricultural science advances necessary to feed a world population set to hit 9 billion by 2050.
“We can keep taking technologies away from farmers by pandering to fearmongering around safe technologies — at the end of the day it just increases the environmental footprint of a glass of milk with no food safety benefit," she said.