Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources
Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources
Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources
University of California
Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources

NEWS FEED

Californians win national 4-H Youth in Action Awards

California 4-H members Bryanne Sanchez, left, and Samuel Sugarman are winners of the 2017 national 4-H Youth in Action Awards. Each will receive a $5,000 scholarship and serve as a 4-H spokesperson.

California 4-H members Bryanne Sanchez and Samuel Sugarman are winners of the 2017 national 4-H Youth in Action Awards, National 4-H Council announced today (Feb. 21).  

Sanchez, of Imperial, was selected as winner of the 4-H Youth in Action Award for Healthy Living for the true leadership she has demonstrated as an advocate for healthy lifestyles in her community and across the state. In an effort to address the 62 percent obesity rate in her county, Sanchez annually hosts the Imperial County 4-H Color Me Green run. The race, which also includes a local business health fair, gave away more than 90 boxes of fresh produce to runners and their families in 2017.

Sugarman, of Encinitas, was selected as winner of the 4-H Youth in Action Award for Agriculture for his true leadership through agriculture education and his free Farm Tour Program. Sugarman created the Farm Tour Program to connect youth in his community with animals and nature. Over the past five years, Sugarman led hundreds of farm tours, educating youth about sustainable agriculture, where food comes from, and respect for animals and the earth.

"As a teen leader, I hosted lots of project meetings at my farm and saw how beneficial it was for urban children to interact with the animals," Sugarman said. "When children grow up disconnected from their food, from animals and from the earth, they miss opportunities to develop qualities of stewardship, compassion, patience and gratitude."

As a California 4-H State Ambassador, Sanchez organized a "Text Talk Act" campaign to bring awareness to mental health issues. She also organized the educational component of the California State Leadership Conference's All 4-Health Fair, working with organizations to present about various healthy living topics.

“I believe I am a 4-H true leader because I am empowering youth throughout California to make healthy lifestyle decisions," Sanchez said. "It started with recognizing the need in my own county – a drastic 62 percent obesity rate - and developing ways to combat the problem. I recognized that I have the power to enact change by educating others, and I plan to do so for the rest of my life. I want everyone to realize there is no better time than now to start living healthy.”

Sanchez and Sugarman will each receive a $5,000 scholarship for higher education. Sanchez will serve as spokesperson for 4-H Healthy Living programming and Sugarman will serve as a spokesperson for 4-H Agriculture programming. The 2017 4-H Youth in Action Pillar for Healthy Living is sponsored by Molina Healthcare and the Pillar for Agriculture is sponsored by Bayer. They will be officially recognized at the National 4-H Council Legacy Awards in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, March 21, 2017.

Other 2017 4-H Youth in Action Pillar winners include Georgia 4-H'er Amelia Day for Citizenship and Ohio 4-H'er Ava Lonneman for STEM.

The 4-H Youth in Action Awards began in 2010 to recognize 4-H'ers who have overcome challenges and used the knowledge they gained in 4-H to create a lasting impact in their community. This award highlights youth in each of 4-H's core areas of Agriculture, Citizenship, Healthy Living and STEM. These four pillars represent the fields in which 4-H youth excel on a national level and align with the mission mandates of National 4-H Council. To learn more about Youth in Action, please visit http://4-h.org/parents/4-h-youth-in-action.

Posted on Tuesday, February 21, 2017 at 2:17 PM

Building trust in food systems – here and in Cambodia

What is the role of trust in our food system? Here in the United States, our trust in food is often implicit. We can generally trust that the fruits and vegetables we buy at a grocery store or farmers market are safe to eat — and we are often free to shop without even thinking about that trust.

Between farmers and agricultural scientists too, trust often plays an important role. If you're a farmer, you need to be able to trust that investing your time or money in a new technique or in attending a workshop will indeed improve your business.

But it can be easy to forget that trust is a critical first step in many of these agricultural relationships.

Thort Chuong (now a Fulbright scholar and UC Davis grad student) welcomes us into a nethouse in Cambodia, owned by a farmer who tried it after joining a savings group and hearing about this new way he could grow vegetables without spraying pesticides. Karen LeGrand of UC Davis stands inside, among the leafy green seedlings in the nethouse.

Establishing trust between actors in a food system has been critical for a Horticulture Innovation Lab project in Cambodia, focused on increasing the amount of safe vegetables available to Cambodian consumers.  Project leaders from UC Davis and UC ANR — Glenn YoungJim Hill, Cary Trexler, David Miller and Karen LeGrand — are actually traveling right now in Cambodia to launch a new phase of this project. They are partnering with scientists from Cambodia's Royal University of Agriculture and the University of Battambang. The researchers plan to expand upon their past successes, working together with farmers, marketers, and input suppliers to build trust while building safe vegetable value chains.

One key to their past success was that before introducing farmers to new agricultural technologies, the researchers first connected with farmers socially, by starting community savings groups. In these savings groups, farmers could build relationships and trust, while increasing their own savings and accessing small loans.

This social aspect of the project was the focus of a video made by UC Davis graduate students Thort Chuong, Elyssa Lewis, and Katie Hoeberling. This 3-minute video was a finalist in the World Food Day Video Challenge:

Building trust and resilience in a safe vegetable value chain in Cambodia Interviews for the video were conducted as part of a student thesis and supported by the U.S. Borlaug Graduate Research Fellowship program. 


Though he is now studying at UC Davis as a Fulbright Fellow, Chuong was originally hired to work with farmers on the first phase of this project in Kandal province as an agronomist and field facilitator.

“At first I just wanted to focus on the agronomy part,” he said. “But then I saw the advantages of being a [savings group] member and thought, wow, this is a great thing to do.”

In fact the advantages were so great that on the weekends he returned to his hometown, gathering his neighbors and relatives together to start their own savings groups. Members have a safe way to save money, an easier way to secure small loans, and earn a little interest too.

Farmers in these savings groups were able to save considerable amounts of money and provide loans to each other for things like seeds, field preparation, labor costs, school fees, wedding costs, even in one case a new house — with each member contributing $5-25 per week for a year.

With trust and community established, some of the farmers in the savings groups also decided to try out a new agricultural technology in partnership with the scientists, using nethouses for pest management to avoid spraying pesticides. (In many countries where pesticide information is inaccessible to the average farmer, it is not uncommon for farmers to keep a separate garden to feed their family — in order to avoid eating even their own crops that they are selling to the market.)

The new, safe vegetable value chain they were part of grew and strengthened, as the international team connected these farmers to a marketer who needed to source vegetables grown without pesticides. That marketer then sells those vegetables to consumers in the capital city of Phnom Penh, who were able to trust the vegetables they bought from her are indeed safe to eat.

The Horticulture Innovation Lab is led by a team at UC Davis, with funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development, as part of the U.S. government's global hunger and food security initiative called Feed the Future. Learn more about Horticulture Innovation Lab researchers and their projects in Asia, Africa and Central America.

Savings group members count out Cambodian riel, during an annual ceremony where members are repaid their share of funds (their own savings plus interest), after repaying all of their community loans. After the Horticulture Innovation Lab research was complete in their community, these farmers have continued to expand both their savings groups and their use of new agricultural technologies.

 

Posted on Tuesday, February 21, 2017 at 8:50 AM

New mobile app to track close encounters with coyotes

A coyote pup is captured on a game camera in Irvine. Hikers can use the Coyote Cacher app to report coyote sightings.

As urban coyote numbers rise, the animals are increasingly crossing paths with residents. There have been police reports of coyotes attacking pets and even people, but there has been no place to report casual coyote encounters. Now there is a new mobile app to help keep track of where those wily coyotes are coming into contact with people. Hikers and people walking their dogs can use Coyote Cacher, created by the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources, to report coyote sightings.

“I'm so excited about this app because it will help us to collect better information on coyote conflict in California,” said Niamh Quinn, UC Cooperative Extension advisor, who studies human-wildlife interactions. “Coyote conflict appears to be particularly high in Southern California and it seems to be emerging in other areas. The information people provide through Coyote Cacher will help inform government agencies, wildlife researchers, park managers and residents to make better coyote management decisions.”

By reporting encounters with coyotes in their neighborhoods, residents can share information to help neighbors keep their pets and children safe.  

“There is a coyote encounter map that will allow the public to keep track of what is happening in their areas,” said Quinn, who is based in Orange County.

Individuals can use the app to check a map to see locations of coyote sightings. Pet owners may decide not to let their pets out at night unsupervised in areas where coyotes have been reported. 

Coyote Cacher's map shows locations of coyote encounters. Green dots are the lowest level alert, yellow indicates a pet interaction and red, the most serious, warns of an attack on a pet on a leash or person.

“The app allows users to sign up for email alerts,” Quinn said. “These alerts – green, yellow and red – notify users when there is a coyote encounter reported in their zip code.”  

Green is the lowest alert level and will give alerts for all coyote encounters in the user's zip code, from sightings to a person being bitten. Yellow will not alert users about sightings, but will let them know about all levels of pet interactions, including pets being chased or attacked off-leash by coyotes, and red alerts. Red is the highest alert level and allows for users to be informed only about the more serious incidents, for example, a coyote attacking a pet on a leash or biting a person. 

“This app will also allow me to gather baseline information on coyote activity and the success of community hazing,” Quinn said.

Community hazing involves people shouting and waving their arms at coyotes and generally being obnoxious to make the nuisance animals afraid of humans.

“It would be great if everyone would do this when they see a coyote, but at the moment this is not really happening,” Quinn said. “Also, coyotes in Southern California appear to take a lot of risks and come in close contact with humans so community hazing may not deter them.”

More intense hazing, like shooting them with paintball guns, might be more effective techniques for government agencies to manage urban coyotes, she said.

To find out if any of these techniques work, the UC wildlife scientist would like to put collars on urban coyotes to study whether the animals move away from locations after hazing.   

Quinn would like to put collars on urban coyotes to study whether the animals move away from locations after hazing.

“We are seeking funding to collar coyotes to find out more about their activity and social structure and how they react to different types of management,” Quinn said. “We would need to figure out if the effects of the hazing are long-lasting, or if the coyotes just revert to ‘bad behavior' when the hazing is stopped.”

Although Quinn's research is focused on California, Coyote Cacher can be used anywhere in the United States. The website also offers information about urban coyotes.

Coyote Cacher can be used on a computer or on a mobile device at http://ucanr.edu/CoyoteCacher.

The Coyote Cacher app was designed by UC ANR's Informatics and Geographic Information Systems and funded by UC Cooperative Extension in Orange County.

 

Posted on Monday, February 13, 2017 at 12:07 PM

Changes in breast milk sugars impact babies’ health and growth

When it comes to nursing moms and their babies, an elegant web of cause and effect connects climate, breast milk, gut microbes and infant health.

That web was clearly illustrated by a recently published study involving 33 women and their babies in the West African nation of The Gambia. The research team, including scientists from UC Davis and UC Agriculture and Natural Resources, found that complex breast milk sugars called oligosaccharides helped protect nursing babies from illness and also influenced the mixture of microbes in the infants' guts.

The researchers also showed that changes in food availability from season to season could affect the composition of the women's breast milk and the protective quality of the babies' gut microbiota. And those changes, in turn, impacted the health and growth of the breastfed infants.

UC research in The Gambia has revealed microbial changes in breast milk characteristics during the country's two distinct seasons - when food supplies differ significantly. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Composition of breast-milk sugars and infant health

Oligosaccharides occur abundantly as more than 200 different chemical structures in human breast milk. It's been known for some time that these complex sugars contribute to infant health by supporting the growth of beneficial bacteria in the baby's gut. And these gut bacteria have been shown to play a key role in fending off infectious illnesses.

But little has been known about how changes in the composition of the breast milk sugars might affect the health and growth of infants, especially those living in areas where infection rates are high.

To explore that relationship, the researchers monitored the composition of the oligosaccharides in the mothers' milk and examined the infants' gut microbiota at 4 weeks, 16 weeks and 20 weeks after the babies were born. Then they analyzed the data, looking for possible relationships to the health and growth of the babies and the status of their gut microbes.

They found that two of the oligosaccharides, lacto-N-fucopentaose and 3′-sialyllactose, had a direct relationship to the babies' health and growth. High levels of the former were associated with a decrease in infant illness and with improved growth, measured as height for age, while the latter proved to be a good indicator of infant growth, measured by weight per age.

“Our findings provide evidence that specific human milk oligosaccharides can alter the composition of breast milk, making it more protective against infection and allowing the infant to invest energy in growth rather than fending off disease,” said the study's corresponding author Angela Zivkovic, an assistant professor of nutrition at UC Davis.

Influence of wet and dry seasons

The researchers also were curious how seasonal shifts in food availability, which significantly impact the mothers' diets, might be reflected in breast milk composition and infant health.

The Gambia has two distinct seasons, the wet season from July to October and the dry season from November to June.

The wet season is also known as the “hungry” season because it is the time of year when food supplies tend to be depleted, infection rates rise and the farming workload is highest. In contrast, the dry, or “harvest,” season is characterized by plentiful food supplies as well as significantly higher energy stores and less illness among the local people.

The researchers found that mothers who were nursing during the wet or “hungry” season produced significantly less oligosaccharide in their milk than did those nursing during the dry season.

In examining the makeup of the babies' gut microbiota, the researchers noted that most of the bacteria belonged to the Bifidobacteria genus. They also discovered that higher levels of Dialister and Prevotella bacteria were accompanied by lower levels of infection.

In addition, higher levels of Bacteroides bacteria were present in the infants' guts that had abnormal “calprotectin” – a biomarker associated with intestinal infections.

“We are very interested in which specific dietary factors influence the oligosaccharide composition of mother's milk,” Zivkovic said. “If we can find the mechanisms that change the composition of breast milk sugars, we may have a new approach for modifying the infant microbiota and ultimately influencing the health and vigor of the nursing baby.”

The study by Zivkovic and colleagues appears online in the journal Scientific Reports. The research is part of a long-running, cross-disciplinary project at UC Davis examining milk and its role in nutrition.

Funding for the study was provided by the National Institutes of Health, UK Medical Research Council, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, and Peter J. Shields Endowed Chair in Dairy Food Science at UC Davis.

Posted on Wednesday, February 8, 2017 at 8:33 AM

Are your birds safe from avian influenza?

Migrating wild birds may expose backyard ducks to disease.
Outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza in January 2017 killed birds at commercial poultry farms and backyard flocks in the UK, China and South Korea. Thousands more ducks, chickens and other birds were culled to contain the disease. The outbreaks are spurring University of California scientists to develop more safeguards to protect U.S. poultry from avian influenza.

To prevent outbreaks of this highly contagious virus in the United States, commercial and backyard poultry owners are being asked to fill out an online biosecurity survey. UC Agriculture and Natural Resources and UC Davis researchers are studying poultry-raising practices to help strengthen the industry's defenses against avian influenza.

“With changing migration patterns of wild birds and global movements of poultry, there is an urgent need to develop plans to protect U.S. poultry against highly pathogenic avian influenza,” said Beatriz Martínez López, director of the Center for Animal Disease Modeling and Surveillance in the School of Veterinary Medicine at UC Davis.

People who raise chickens, quail, ducks, turkeys, geese or other birds anywhere in the United States are invited to fill out the survey.

“We want to hear from all poultry producers: from the large commercial farms producing chicken eggs to the poultry enthusiasts who raise a few ornamental show birds in their backyards,” said Martínez López, who is part of the University of California's Agricultural Experiment Station.

The survey asks which bird species are being raised and a few flock management questions. Is the flock is housed or kept outdoors? How often do you get new birds? What is the source of new birds? It also asks questions about location, such as the distance of the birds from ponds and other bodies of water that may attract migrating waterfowl.

U.S. commercial and backyard poultry owners are being asked to fill out an online biosecurity survey.

Immediately after completing the online survey, participants receive a biosecurity score and recommendations to help them make more informed decisions.

“Each producer will receive their own biosecurity score and customized recommendations,” Martínez López said. “Recommendations highly depend on the production system and we tried to adapt them to make the changes easier to implement for individual flocks.”

The survey data will be confidential and only summaries will be made publicly available in research reports and peer-reviewed publications.

By analyzing biosecurity and management practices on poultry operations and backyard flocks, Martínez López and visiting professor Sharmin Chowdhury will be able to identify high-risk locations and time periods for avian flu outbreaks. The information will be used to develop biosecurity education programs for poultry farmers, backyard producers and poultry veterinarians.

The survey takes about 15-20 minutes to complete. To participate, visit http://bit.ly/2kkMycf by March 1.

This study is funded by Agriculture and Food Research Initiative Competitive Grant no. 2015–09118 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

 

MEDIA CONTACT:

Beatriz Martinez López, DVM, beamartinezlopez@ucdavis.edu, (530)752-7675.

 

Posted on Tuesday, February 7, 2017 at 11:00 AM

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