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Posts Tagged: Alison Van Eenennaam

Monthly news round up: January 2018

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.

http://www.dailydemocrat.com/business/20180130/woodland-as-ag-hub-topic-of-forum

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.

https://ww2.kqed.org/news/2018/01/26/small-farmers-in-fresno-hope-for-big-moringa-payoff/

SLO County's Top 20 Under 40: Meet the 2017 award winners

Katherine Soule
(San Luis Obispo Tribune) Staff, Jan. 26

…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.

http://www.sanluisobispo.com/news/business/article196536784.html

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.

https://www.morningagclips.com/flooding-alfalfa-for-groundwater-recharge/

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."

https://californiaagtoday.com/band-canker-affecting-younger-almonds/

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.

http://agnetwest.com/ccof-annual-conference-organic-hotspots/ 

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.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/19/us/california-today-100-million-dead-trees-prompt-fears-of-giant-wildfires.html

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.

http://www.westernfarmpress.com/tree-nuts/winter-s-good-time-gopher-control-nut-crops

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.

http://abc7.com/food/ie-nurserys-citrus-trees-to-be-destroyed-by-ca-agriculture-department/2959173/

OPINION: Ranchers give thanks

(Ventura County Star) Beverly Bigger, president of the Ventura County Cattlemen's Association, Jan. 16, 2018

Matthew Shapero
The majority of attention and sympathy have rightly gone toward those who lost their homes in the Thomas Fire, but I would like to take a moment to highlight the story of others who have suffered as well. They are largely invisible, hidden among the hills and canyons, but their contribution to the county is significant.

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.

http://www.vcstar.com/story/opinion/readers/2018/01/16/ranchers-give-thanks/1038625001/

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."

http://www.agalert.com/story/?id=11460

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."

http://hanfordsentinel.com/news/local/business/another-ag-co-will-relocate-to-make-room-for-hsr/article_bb81b0e9-ef28-55d9-b80f-f352bea38466.html

Western Innovator: Promoting sustainable ranching

Tracy Schohr
(Western Farm Press) Tim Hearden, Jan. 9, 2018

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.

https://californiaagtoday.com/podcasts/brad-hanson-uc-cooperative-extension-weed-specialist-at-uc-davis-on-weed-control/ 

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.

http://www.auburnjournal.com/article/1/06/18/building-blocks-tending-flocks#

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.

http://www.fresnobee.com/living/food-drink/article193301924.html

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.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/dianahembree/2018/01/05/cattle-ranchers-join-conservationists-to-save-endangered-species-rangelands/#56c2400f220d

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.

http://www.sfchronicle.com/wine/article/Months-after-Wine-Country-fires-damaged-12474309.php

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.

http://www.dailydemocrat.com/article/NI/20180104/NEWS/180109957

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.

https://newfoodeconomy.org/2017-natural-disasters-agriculture-damage-5-billion/

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.

https://baynature.org/article/no-no-fire-option-california/

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.”

https://brownfieldagnews.com/news/scientist-discusses-working-food-evolution-movie/

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.

https://www.eastbaytimes.com/2018/01/01/urban-edge-farm-program-offers-immersion-style-learning/

Tribute to Paul Verdegaal – one of Lodi's “men behind the curtain”

(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.

http://www.lodiwine.com/blog/Tribute-to-Paul-Verdegaal---one-of-Lodi-s--men-behind-the-curtain-

Food is already genetically altered

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.

Alison Van Eenennaam is a UCCE specialist in the Department of Animal Science at UC Davis.

"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.

Today's farmed turkeys barely resemble their ancestors. (Photo: USDA)

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.

Posted on Tuesday, November 29, 2016 at 3:08 PM
Tags: Alison Van Eenennaam (16), GMO (5)

'Non-GMO' milk label more about marketing, says UCCE expert

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.

DNA from genetically engineered feed is not passed to milk or meat, according to research by UCCE specialist Alison Van Eenennaam.
Posted on Friday, September 23, 2016 at 9:20 AM

Science and public opinion square off in GMO debate

UC scientists are studying sorghum genetics to understand plant drought tolerance. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
The biggest disconnect between science and public opinion is the differing view on genetically modified foods, according to Alison Van Eenennaam, a UC Agriculture and Natural Resources specialist in animal genetics. Van Eenennaam was quoted in a story reported by Dave Marquis of ABC 10 News in Sacramento.

Van Eenenaam examined 20 years of records on the health and production of livestock populations eating GMO feed and has not found any measurable trends or changes.

"And those field observations agree with the many hundreds of carefully controlled studies that have been done by researchers globally," she said.

The story also raised consumer concerns about genetically modified foods. A Sacrament shopper interviewed for the story said she believes farmers are spraying more pesticides on GMO crops. Van Eenennaam confirmed that crops modified to resist herbicides have encouraged greater use of herbicides and some weeds have become resistant to herbicides as a result. 

"But I would argue that the trade-offs haven't been that significant and, unfortunately, this public concern around it is forestalling the development of what I would argue is much more sustainable plant and animal species," she said.

In her Twitter feed, Van Eenenaam provided links to additional information about the impact of current GMO crops.

One possible benefit of GMOs is helping crops adapt to a warmer world resulting from global climate change, reported Matt Weiser on Vox.

For the article, Weiser spoke to Peggy Lemaux, UC ANR Cooperative Extension biotechnology specialist based at UC Berkeley. Lemaux is the lead researcher on a project aimed at engineering drought resistance into crops — in this case, sorghum. Her goal is to discover how epigenetics, the process by which environmental change triggers new genetic functions, could be used to improve drought tolerance.

If she and her colleagues can figure this out for sorghum, it could be applied to other species such as tomatoes and rice, also part of Lemaux's research, through genetic engineering or by inducing mutations using radiation or chemicals.

Posted on Tuesday, January 26, 2016 at 11:13 AM
Tags: Alison Van Eenennaam (16), GMOs (6), GMOs (6), Peggy Lemaux (1)

Scientists using genetic editing to delete dairy cow horns

Graduate student Lindsay Upperman (left) and UCCE specialist Alison Van Eenennaam with gene-edited hornless dairy calves. (Photo: Karin Higgins)
Two calves whose genes have been edited so they won't grow horns are being raised and will later be bred at UC Davis, reported Edward Ortiz in the Sacramento Bee.

Dairy cows have been bred for optimal dairy production, but the gene mix brought along horns. Angus beef were bred for optimal beef production, and don't have horns. Since the dairy industry doesn't want animals with horns because they can hurt each other or farmworkers, it is common practice to remove them shortly after birth.

Removing the horns involves an uncomfortable procedure called debudding, in which, after being treated with a local anesthetic, the cells on the animal's head that would grow into horns are killed with an electrical appliance.

"Consumers are concerned about how we care for dairy animals. They expect us to do a good job and are concerned about pain and discomfort," said UC Davis veterinarian Terry Lehenbauer in a video about the advancement (See the video below).

Using precision genetic "editing," scientists were able to delete the dairy cow gene that produced horns and replace it with the angus gene that resulted in hornlessness. 

At UC Davis, the two calves' growth and development will be tracked. Eventually they will father cows with horned mothers to see if the hornless trait is passed on to the offspring. The odds of them doing so, Van Eenennaam said, are 100 percent, if "Mendelian genetics hold true." Mendelian genetics are laws of gene inheritance discovered by 19th century monk Johann Mendel.

Van Eenennaam said it's not clear whether other, unexpected effects of the gene editing will occur. However, if successful, gene editing will allow the dairy industry to bypass decades of breeding for hornless cows.

Posted on Monday, December 21, 2015 at 2:20 PM

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