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 stories

Taste testing a crucial part of variety selection

During a tasting event recently at the UC Desert Research and Extension Center, experts conveyed their desire for a variety that is smoother and has better flavor than European cultivars, which were described as too “perfumy” and sweet, said an article in the Imperial Valley Press.

“It’s crucial to have rich, full flavor,” said an extension specialist from Washington state. “I know it when I taste it.”

The scientists and farmers weren't critiquing grape cultivars for fine wines, but carrots - including the "baby" carrots that find their way into young children's lunch boxes.

DREC works with the University of Wisconsin's Madison campus on its carrot program. Carrots grown in DREC’s fields will be shipped to Wisconsin, where they will be planted to produce seeds. Those seeds will be shipped back to El Centro in October, where they will be planted, and in turn harvested again sometime in February for evaluation.

Posted on Friday, March 1, 2013 at 9:46 AM

How do we sustainably feed 8 billion people by 2025?

Will farmers markets become the new Ralphs?
Some of us spent our weekend in the garden or at the farmers market, obsessing over our fresh produce that will get us through the week. Some of us went to bed last night dreaming about a Frostie from Wendy’s and fries from McDonald’s. Still, others of us spent the weekend trying to make ends meet and scraping together barely enough food to feed our families. Bottom line – food is something we all have in common. It’s a universal language. Whether we pride ourselves on eating local and organic, constantly find ourselves in the fast food lines, or stress about how to feed our families each day, food joins us all together.

All 6, almost 7, billion of us.

But what happens when there are 8 billion of us? Will more and more of us spend our weekends trying to scrape together enough food? Will more and more of us start our own gardens and obsess over our fresh produce? Will farmers markets become the new Ralphs? Will we have enough water to feed ourselves? Will we have enough land? How do we sustainably feed 8 billion people by 2025?

“We’re going to have to produce more food in the next 40 years than we have the last 10,000. Some people say we’ll just add more land or more water. But we’re not going to (be able to) do much of either,” says William Lesher, former USDA chief economist.

This is a global issue. But as Californian's and residents of the world’s top agricultural producer, what is our role in meeting these challenges? On April 9, 2013, producers, geo-politicists, ethicists, economists, humanists and many others from around the world will come together to discuss the challenges surrounding our global food systems at the UCANR Statewide Conference: Global Food Systems Forum.

The Global Food Systems Forum will feature Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland and president of the Mary Robinson Foundation - Climate Justice, and Wes Jackson, founder and president of The Land Institute, as the keynote speakers. The program will include a Global Panel, discussing key issues such as resource limitations, ethnical quandaries, climate change, responsibilities, etc. A California Panel will also take place, tackling issues such as California responsibilities, productivity, policies, markets and research.

But this conversation isn’t just about UC Agriculture and Natural Resources. It’s about all of us. We all need to take a stand and advocate for our food. If you watch what you eat, you should join the conversation. If you love what you eat, you should join the conversation. If you worry about how you will eat in the future, you should join the conversation.

The public is invited to participate in this one-day event via a live online webcast. You can also join the ongoing conversation on twitter by following the hashtag #Food2025. Make your voice heard. Stand up for your food, and help shape our future global food systems.

Learn more about the Global Food Systems Forum and register to watch the live webcast at food2025.ucanr.edu

Posted on Thursday, February 28, 2013 at 7:07 AM
  • Author: Marissa Palin

Flood protection, agriculture, fish and wildlife coexist in the Yolo Bypass

Egrets, herons and other birds feast in a wild rice field in the Yolo Bypass. (Photo by Trina Wood)
At times during the winter and early spring it looks like a vast inland sea between Sacramento and Davis. This is the Yolo Bypass, which shunts Sacramento River floodwater around the state capital during high flows. You drive over the bypass on a three-mile-long elevated stretch of Interstate 80 known as “the Causeway” (the Blecher-Freeman Memorial Causeway). The bypass is also the site of a lot of innovative fish and wildlife work.

From late fall through winter you can see thousands of ducks, geese and other waterfowl winging over the bypass’s flooded rice fields and the restored wetlands in the Vic Fazio Yolo Basin Wildlife Area. 

Black-crowned Night-Heron. (Photo by Trina Wood)
The Central Valley of California is one of the nation’s most important migratory waterfowl corridors. The bypass provides essential winter habitat for these birds on their annual migration. The wildlife area is managed by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. Learn more.

A recent article in The Sacramento Bee featured a research project at a rice farming area in the upper reaches of the bypass that is examining how flooded fields could be used to fatten up young salmon during a crucial time in their life cycle. One part of the study is examining how soil type influences the production of insects — an important source of food for growing salmon. Carson Jeffres, a fish ecologist with the UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences, is quoted in the story: "There are hundreds, if not thousands, of insects that are coming out of each 9-by-6-inch block of earth." You can also watch a YouTube video to hear UC Davis doctoral student Jacob Katz describe the project and read more about why fish find this floodplain so attractive in a previous Green Blog post by writer and photographer Trina Wood.

Part of the wildlife area is accessible by automobile — when it’s not flooded! Consider taking a tour of this remarkable and easily accessible area, or take binoculars to view the many birds. UC Davis fisheries professor Peter Moyle prepared a guide that will help you make the most of your visit.

Posted on Wednesday, February 27, 2013 at 7:13 AM
Tags: Katz (1), Moyle (2), salmon (10), waterfowl (2), Yolo Bypass (1)

Watching your weight

Susan Algert
If you want to maintain a healthy weight, UC Cooperative Extension advisor Susan Algert has some sage tips: snack wisely; eat more fruits and vegetables; keep a food record and stay active.

Algert shared the latest dietary advice from the U.S. departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services with UC Office of the President employees at a brown bag event Wednesday in Oakland co-hosted by UC Health and UC Agriculture and Natural Resources. (Listen to an audio recording of the event.)

“How many of you really watch your weight?” Algert asked the audience. “No matter how hard we try, it seems to creep up a little bit as we get older.”

Indeed, studies have shown that adults gain an average of around a pound a year. How that happens might surprise you, according to Algert, a nutrition advisor with UC Cooperative Extension of Santa Clara, San Mateo and San Francisco counties.

Research from a large representative study of women in the U.S. shows that as little as an extra 13 calories per day – the equivalent of consuming one extra ounce of soda and walking one minute less – has led to an average weight gain of 35 pounds in 28 years since the 1970s. Eating an extra chocolate chip cookie every day for life? Expect to gain 6 pounds.
“People always say, ‘I don’t know how I gained it.’ We don’t usually gain weight by eating fruits and vegetables. It’s all those goodies loaded with fat, sugar and salt that we snack on,” said Algert, who previously was a clinical research nutritionist with UC San Diego School of Medicine’s Warren Celiac Center.

Vote with your fork. Don’t buy junk food. Instead, support a healthy food environment by going to the community gardens and by going to the farmers markets.
Snacking is the worst culprit, Algert said. Instead of soda and chips, try fruits and vegetables, nonfat yogurt or nuts, she said. If you drink sugar-free soda, limit yourself to one or two cans a day. Better yet, drink water flavored with cucumber or lemon.

People also need to be careful when eating out. She pointed to examples such as Cheesecake Factory’s Bistro Shrimp Pasta, which has more than 3,000 calories – 1 ½ times the recommended daily caloric intake for an average adult – and Smoothie King’s 40-ounce Peanut Power Plus Grape smoothie, which contains about a cup of sugar and nearly 1,500 calories.

“If you eat out more than a couple of times a week, you’re in trouble because you’re likely consuming more fat and calories than you realize,” Algert said. Other key factors that lead to weight gain are decreased physical activity, increased television viewing, increased alcohol intake and poor sleep.

So what should you do?

Algert said two reliable sources of nutrition information are the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s MyPlate dietary guidelines and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) eating plan, which focuses on healthy fat, fruits, vegetables and reduced-fat dairy and limits sweets to no more than five servings a week. Also, UC offers a variety of nutrition education, including the CalFresh program, which reaches 140,000 Californians a year.

Algert encouraged people to buy fresh, local food.

“Vote with your fork,” she said. “Don’t buy junk food. Support a healthy food environment by going to the community gardens and by going to the farmers markets.”

Another suggestion is to keep a food record – track what you eat, when you eat and what your mood is (do you eat ice cream when you are stressed?).

Most of all, keep trying. Even the experts wrestle with their weight.

“I am trying to increase my fruit and vegetable intake to the 8 to 10 per day recommended in the DASH diet. I have a bit of a sweet tooth. It is a challenge in today’s food environment!” Algert said.

Posted on Tuesday, February 26, 2013 at 9:59 AM
  • Author: Alec Rosenberg
Tags: healthful eating (12), nutrition (193)

UC ANR to train crop advisers in nitrogen management

Richard Smith, UC Cooperative Extension advisor in Monterey County, samples soil to test for nitrogen.
UC Agriculture and Natural Resources will offer nitrogen management training to certified crop advisers throughout the state.

UC ANR scientists are working with the California Department of Food and Agriculture to develop a curriculum and certification program to protect water quality, as recommended by the State Water Resources Control Board. The classes will begin in January 2014.

Last week (Feb. 20) the State Water Resources Control Board released its recommendations to the Legislature for addressing nitrate in groundwater.

The recommendations are based on a UC Davis study commissioned by the water board and released last March titled “Addressing Nitrate in California's Drinking Water,” which focused on the Tulare Lake Basin of the San Joaquin Valley and the Salinas Valley in Monterey County.

“While we know that farmers have already begun employing techniques to reduce the amount of nitrogen fertilizer that can ultimately end up in our groundwater, we also know that there are additional actions that can be taken,” said Doug Parker, director of UC’s California Institute for Water Resources and leader for the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources water strategic initiative.

“In our training for certified crop advisers, we will apply the latest UC research to refine their methods for helping farmers manage nitrogen more effectively.” Parker said. 

Plants need nitrogen to grow, but nutrients that are not used by the crop may move below the root zone. Nitrate, a byproduct of nitrogen, may infiltrate to groundwater used for drinking water.

For other examples of UC ANR research and extension projects under way to ensure that all Californians have access to safe drinking water and that the state’s farmers can grow enough food to help meet the world’s increasing demand, please visit http://ucanr.edu/News/Healthy_crops,_safe_water

Posted on Monday, February 25, 2013 at 3:43 PM
Tags: Doug Parker (20), nitrate (12), nitrogen (13)

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