Christine Bruhn, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Food Science and Technology at UC Davis, says the need for increased meat irradiation was revealed in a recent study. She and her staff analyzed video footage of 120 people preparing a self-selected chicken dish and salad in their home kitchens. Bruhn reported that 65 percent did not wash their hands before starting the meal and 38 percent didn't do so after touching the raw chicken. Other food preparation practices that increase the likelihood of causing food-borne illness were also observed.
"People don't realize what they are doing with their hands, especially after touching raw poultry," Bruhn said. "To take an example, if you had honey poured on the chicken, you touch the honey and touch the cupboard and the door handle, it is spread all over everything and cross contaminates the kitchen."
Prompted by the findings, a number of organizations are launching an educational campaign to increase consumer knowledge about safe food preparation practices in the home. In addition, Bruhn recommends wider use of irradiation of meat.
She said meat vendors are concerned consumers will reject irradiated food, a sentiment she considers a "cop out."
"Supermarkets are the gatekeepers. It is not the consumer blocking it," Bruhn said.
"The drought is impacting everybody," said Kevin Zollinger, a Livermore vintner. "Everybody's cutting back. Are our vines more stressed this year? Yeah, probably, because you don't have the charge in the soil that you normally have."
The winegrape grower said he and other farmers are holding back water as much as possible without stressing the vines.
Janet Capriele, UC Cooperative Extension advisor in Contra Costa County, said winemakers typically withhold water to limit vine growth and intensify berry flavor and color. However, excessive underwatering could be harmful.
"We're already cutting back, so the plants are already a bit stressed," Caprile said. "With these additional cutbacks, we may be stressing the grapes beyond the quality you'd want. We'd expect to have smaller crops and smaller berries."
"We're not going to let this tree die," said Georgios Vidalakis, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Plant Pathology at UC Riverside. Vidalakis is the director of the UC Citrus Clonal Protection Program.
Scientists protect the tree using special tools, insecticides and disease monitoring.
According to legend, the seedless and sweet Washington navel was an accidental mutant that appeared on the grounds of a Brazil monastery in the early 1800s. Tree clones were sent to USDA in Washington, D.C., and from there acquired by Eliza Tibbets, who tended the trees at her home in Riverside.
"Producing budding stock to make other saplings, Tibbets' trees birthed a citrus industry dubbed California's second gold rush," the Press-Enterprise story said.
John Bash, a UC Riverside staff researcher who worked with the Washington navel for 32 years, called the mother tree "one of the world's agricultural icons."
"There are literally millions and millions of trees that can trace their ancestry back to that single tree," Bash said.
California suffered severe droughts in the 1970s, 80s and early 90s, but the current drought is the worst in history, according to Daniel Summer, director of the UC Agricultural Issues Center. He outlined the reasons in a story published on Food, Nutrition and Science.
For one thing, the state's population is larger than ever before, requiring more water resources. Increased planting of trees and vines in the state has given farmers less flexibility. In addition, recent increases in crop and livestock prices increase losses from lower production, Sumner said. He suggests the drought can be a lesson for the future.
"This current drought has highlighted some weaknesses in drought preparation that could be improved for future drought scenarios," the story said.
In dry years, California relies heavily on groundwater. Sumner said the aggregate measures of groundwater depth over time and space are good, but their estimates of regional groundwater use are poor and need improvement. Improved management of groundwater basins will be key to securing California's agriculture in the future, Sumner said.
The story also quoted Leslie Roche, postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Plant Sciences at UC Davis. Roche said the drought will have lasting impacts on how ranchers plan and prepare for future droughts.
"There is a deep undercurrent of concern within the ranching community that this drought will persist, and that practical options to maintain productivity in that event are very limited. This is true throughout all quarters of California's agricultural community,” Roche said.
The story focused on Tom Chandler, a fourth-generation Sanger farmer who uses a pressure chamber to measure the amount of water is in the leaves of his almond trees.
"Using the pressure chambers is like having a fuel gauge for your plants," Chandler said.
For the story, Shoen talked to Allan Fulton, the UC Cooperative Extension irrigation and water resources advisor in Glenn, Colusa and Shasta counties. Fulton has experience with pressure chambers stretching back more than a decade.
"Understanding what the chamber is trying to tell you helps farmers concentrate water in areas that need it the most," Fulton said. "This means more production while using the same amount of water."
The pressure chamber results show farmers whether the crops need water, or if they can get by without water at the moment.
Ken Shackel, professor in the Department of Plant Sciences at UC Davis, learned by conducting research that dry soil doesn't mean the plant is suffering.
"You can save tons of water thanks to the chambers," Shackel said.