Although you may call them candied yams, if they were grown in the U.S., the soft, orange roots you've smothered in butter and brown sugar are sweetpotatoes. If you don't add butter and sugar, sweetpotatoes are a healthful sweet treat, loaded with vitamins A, B-6, C and E and potassium and manganese.
In California, sweetpotato classes come in four colors:
- Tan Jewell with orange flesh
- Light yellow Jersey with white flesh
- Purple Oriental with white flesh
- Red Garnet with deep orange flesh
“It's the same eye appeal as when people choose peaches,” Stoddard explained. “People tend to choose peaches with more red blush to the skin. Just as we tend to choose more colorful peaches, red-skinned sweetpotatoes are very popular, even more than the traditional tan skin sweetpotatoes that dominate in the rest of the United States.”
“The red variety is in high demand in LA, the Bay Area and Seattle markets,” said Jason Tucker, a grower and vice president of the CA Sweetpotato Council. “With our climate and sandy soil, we can grow any variety in California. It gives us so much flexibility and we're looking for new varieties. We can grow distinctive varieties, such as the Oriental variety, to meet demands even in other countries like Korea and Japan.”
Louisiana State University and North Carolina State University have the only two sweetpotato breeding programs in the U.S. For more than 50 years, UC has collaborated with the two universities in the National Sweetpotato Collaborators Trial, in which varieties are grown and evaluated in several states. Because the breeders are mainly interested in sweetpotatoes with light-colored skin, they used to discard the others. In 1998, Stoddard began screening their castoffs for high yields and sweet flavor in other colors.
In addition to high yields and consistent flavor in a variety, Tucker said, “We are looking for varieties that maintain a high level of sugar, or sucrose levels, smooth skin and a consistent shape with a distinct color – purple, red or white.”
Before Stoddard introduces a new variety to a California field, he has the plant material virus-tested by Foundation Plant Services at UC Davis.
A purple sweetpotato with white flesh called Murasaki is a variety that emerged from Stoddard's test plots in 2008 and is now being grown commercially. Burgundy, released in 2014, is the first variety with red skin and orange flesh released in 30 years. While Burgundy has better nematode resistance and improved storage characteristics, yields have failed to reach the numbers necessary to be commercially successful.
“It takes a few years to see if they will be successful,” Stoddard said. “Things always show up once you move from a small plot to millions of plants, that's when their true personality comes out. We'll see how they do in different soil and in different areas. All varieties have their own personality.”
About 300 acres of Bellevue were grown in California in 2014. Although it may only be grown in California, Bellevue is patented by LSU. The varieties are patented by LSU and NC State to provide funding for their breeding programs.
“Scott is a highly valuable asset to Merced County growers, he provides all of our sweetpotato research,” said Tucker. “He brings new varieties from North Carolina and Louisiana to California to find a new variety that works well in our soil and climate. He analyzes them so we can make better decisions about which varieties we will grow.”
About 90 percent of the estimated 20,000 acres of sweetpotatoes grown in the state are in Merced County, around Atwater and Turlock, where the soils are sandy.
“Mature fruit trees and landscape trees are worth saving!” said Janet Hartin, UC Cooperative Extension advisor. “Recognizing early signs of drought stress is important because irreversible damage can occur that no amount of watering will correct.”
Two seasons without enough water can result in severe drought stress and even kill a tree, warned Hartin, who serves San Bernardino, Riverside and Los Angeles counties. Also, drought-stressed trees are more prone to damage from diseases and insects than non-stressed trees.
Common symptoms of drought stress include
- Wilting or drooping leaves that do not return to normal by evening
- Curled or chlorotic (yellow) leaves that may fold or drop
- Foliage that becomes grayish and loses its green luster
- New leaves that are smaller than normal
“One or two deep irrigations with a garden hose several weeks apart in spring and summer will often keep these valued plants alive, especially if their roots are relatively deep,” she said.
“An important thing to consider when you're trying to conserve water in the garden and landscape is that plant water requirements vary,” said Hartin, an expert in environmental horticulture. “Water needs are directly related to the evapotranspiration rate of each particular plant. To meet the water needs of plants, you have to replace the water used by the plant and the moisture that evaporates from the soil surface.”
Besides differences among water requirements among plant species, microclimates within a climate zone affect how much water a plant will need and how often a plant should be watered, as well.
“Landscape plants in urban heat islands surrounded by asphalt parking lots may require 50 percent more water than the same species in a park setting,” Hartin said.
Also, soil type plays a large role in how often landscape and garden plants should be irrigated. Sandy soils drain faster and take water in faster than those containing clay and require more frequent irrigation. Water can soak down 12 inches in 15 minutes in sandy soil, whereas the water may take 2 hours to reach the same depth in clay soil and will spread out more horizontally.
“Dig into the roots,” she said. “Take a handful of soil and squeeze it. That'll give you a good idea of whether the soil is really dry and crumbly, which means it's not holding any water, or if it's medium, where it's just starting to crumble, but still holding together fairly well. We recommend waiting to irrigate until the soil just starts to crumble.”
To see a video of Hartin's presentation “How to Save Water and Beautify Your Landscape the Sustainable Way,” visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MN4b5DML-bs. For water-saving gardening tips in Spanish, visit http://bit.ly/1uZ6Ztq and http://bit.ly/1xHNwQo. You can also consult the UC Master Gardeners in your community for advice. Check http://camastergardeners.ucanr.edu to find the nearest UC Cooperative Extension office to speak with a Master Gardener.
Factors involved in irrigation scheduling
- Plant water use
- Soil water holding capacity
- Water infiltration rate
- Plant rooting depth
- Irrigation system output
November 19, 2014
Pam Kan-Rice, (510) 206-3476, email@example.com
UC students receive fellowships to study food issues
UC Berkeley senior Jacqueline Chang, UC Davis graduate student Samantha Smith and UC Berkeley doctoral candidate Kevi Mace-Hill each have been awarded a $2,500 fellowship.
The fellowships are supported by the UC Global Food Initiative, which UC President Janet Napolitano, together with UC's 10 chancellors, launched in July in an effort to help put UC's campuses, the state and the world on a pathway to sustainably and nutritiously feed itself. The UC Office of the President is providing $7,500 to each UC campus, ANR and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory for the fellowships, which will be awarded to both undergraduate and graduate students, with funds allotted at each campus's discretion in three $2,500 portions.
Jacqueline Chang, UC Berkeley
Chang will work with Lorrene Ritchie, director of UC ANR's Nutrition Policy Institute, on a food security research project. The UC Berkeley senior, who is majoring in nutritional science with an interest in food insecurity, will assist in developing and conducting a survey to assess the prevalence of hunger and inadequate access to food among UC students across all 10 campuses. She will write a report and present the survey findings to Napolitano in the spring. Chang, a native of the Southern California community of San Marino, has worked with the Berkeley-based organization Feeding Forward to raise awareness of hunger, food insecurity and food waste.
Samantha Smith, UC Davis
Smith, a public health graduate student at UC Davis, with direction from Connie Schneider, director of UC ANR's statewide Youth, Families and Communities Program, will interview UC scientists about their research and extension efforts in agriculture, food and nutrition statewide and capture their stories to share with the public via blogs and social media. Smith, a native of Pleasanton, earned a bachelor's degree in psychology from Sonoma State University and is a California Wellness Foundation Fellow.
Mace-Hill will lead a group of graduate students that organizes seminars and workshops for students interested in careers in Cooperative Extension. Their goal is to improve graduate student preparedness for extension, outreach and applied research. Her fellowship will support the UC Berkeley graduate student-led Cooperative Extension Showcase.
The annual event brings UC Cooperative Extension advisors and specialists who conduct research and extension in nutrition, youth development, agriculture and natural resources to the Berkeley campus to discuss their work and network with graduate students. At the showcase in the spring, students will have an opportunity to meet potential mentors. Mace-Hill, a native of LaVeta, Colo., earned her bachelor's and master's degrees in biology at Wesleyan University in Connecticut and is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in biological pest control at UC Berkeley.
Through its Global Food Initiative, UC is building on existing efforts and creating new collaborations among its 10 campuses, affiliated national laboratories and ANR to improve food security, health and sustainability.
- Author: Jeannette E. Warnert
To become a certified California Naturalist, trainees take part in 40 hours of classroom and field courses and complete a capstone project. More than 700 California Naturalists have been certified by UC Cooperative Extension since the program's inception in 2010. The 2015 training sessions will be offered with the Sierra Foothill Conservancy, the UC Merced Vernal Pools and Grasslands Preserve and the UC Merced Sierra Nevada Institute.
Partial scholarships will be awarded in two categories: Student Scholars Award and Service Award. The Student Scholars Awards are open to graduating high school seniors and currently enrolled college students. The Service Awards are open to people engaged in work (volunteer or paid) that directly impacts under-served communities.
The scholarships are intended to engage participants who will apply their experience by taking action in their own communities. To be eligible for a scholarship, aspiring naturalists are invited to fill out the online application at http://ucanr.edu/CalNatScholarship. Application review will begin in December 2014 and continue until all the scholarships have been awarded.
The California Naturalist program champions the state's unique ecology and engages volunteers in stewardship and study of California's natural world. A love of nature and a desire to share their passion prompt people to commit time to becoming and serving as California Naturalists. California Naturalist program uses a science curriculum, hands-on learning and volunteer service to inspire stewardship of the state's parks, wetlands, coastal areas, mountains, foothills and forests.
Four units of college credit are available for course participants through UC Davis Extension.
Sierra Foothill Conservancy. Classroom sessions: 6 to 8 p.m., Fridays March 13, 20, 27, April 10, 17, 24; Field sessions, Saturdays March 14, 21, 28, April 11, 17, 24.
Location: Fresno County
Contact: Rosanna Ruiz, (559) 855-3473, Rosanna@sierrafoothill.org
UC Merced Sierra Nevada Research Institute. Fall 2015, class schedule TBD (one week intensive)
Location: Yosemite National Park
Contact: Becca Fenwick, firstname.lastname@example.org , (209) 228-415
The scholarships were made possible by a grant from the Renewable Resources Extension Act, a program administered by the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources.
- Author: Ann Brody Guy