UC Cooperative Extension is asking California farmers and landowners to help track the the state's wild pig population, reported Julia Mitric on Capitol Public Radio News. Signs of the pig's presence are hard to miss, UCCE advisor John Harper told the reporter.
"It looks like you came in with a rototiller and just uprooted everything," he says. "It's like ground squirrel mounds or gopher mounds on steroids because the pigs can go over such a large area."
California's wild pigs have a variety of origins. Harper says many are descended from domestic pigs who were released into the wild by humans or escaped on their own and bred with game hogs such as the Russian boar hog. Wild pigs root around in the soil for truffles and small plant roots with their sharp tusks tear, destroying plants and grasses that sheep and cattle like to graze on. They also open up the land for erosion and invasive species.
"So you might get something like 'medusahead,' an invasive grass that tends to crowd out other more desirable forage species," Harper said.
A team of UC Cooperative Extension scientists have created a GIS-based mobile app that works on Android and Apple devices to make it easy for landowners to participate in the study.
“Rangeland managers and farmers can enter data into the app from the field so that we can estimate the land area and economic impacts of feral pig damage over a longer time period,” said Roger Baldwin, UC Cooperative Extension wildlife specialist in the Department of Wildlife, Fish, and Conservation Biology at UC Davis.
Learn more and sign up to participate in the study on the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources news website.
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.
"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.
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.
Central Coast residents, officials, ranchers and representatives of conservation organizations came out in force to a November UC Cooperative Extension meeting sounding an alarm about the recent detection of Sudden Oak Death (SOD) in San Luis Obispo County trees, reported Kathe Tanner in the San Luis Obispo Tribune.
This was the first such gathering in this county since tests confirmed that the disease made its way south of Monterey County, according to event coordinator Mary Bianchi, director of UC Cooperative Extension in SLO County. But there will be more meetings to come, she said.
Previously confirmed infestations of the disease stayed north of the Monterey County border with San Luis Obispo County. Because SOD spreads by wind and rain, experts believe the prolonged California drought inhibited the spread further south. However, recent tests confirmed the SOD pathogen, phytophthora ramorum, on oaks along the parking lot at Salmon Creek, and in bay laurel trees along Santa Rosa Creek Road, west of Atascadero near Highway 41 and along Stenner Creek and Prefumo Canyon in San Luis Obispo.
Another intensive survey to be conducted by foresters and volunteer citizen scientists in the spring will include Cambria neighborhoods, ranches and other areas. In the meantime, residents were asked to keep an eye out for SOD symptoms in local bay laurel and oak trees. SOD lesions show up as pixilated brown, black or gray areas on leaf tips. Oozing cankers on an oak tree, with sap coming out of the trunk but with no wound evident on the bark, is another sign that the trees could be infected with the pathogen that causes SOD.
Although President-elect Donald Trump repeatedly said he was against the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) during the presidential campaign, a UC Agriculture and Natural Resources expert says he may moderate his position once he is in office, reported Julia Mitric on Capital Public Radio.
"The Trans-Pacific Partnership is an attack on America's business. It does not stop Japan's currency manipulation. This is a bad deal," Trump was quoted in a 2015 article on CNN.com. TPP was negotiated by the Obama Administration, but is stalled in Congress.
Director of the UC ANR Agricultural Issues Center, Daniel Sumner, said Trump may want to put his own stamp on the deal, and not stop it altogether.
"I can imagine President Trump asking for a delay on that until he renegotiates parts of it," Sumner said. "And if he can renegotiate what he considers a better deal, great, and he may well be very instrumental in getting such a thing through Congress."
Paul Wenger, president of the California Farm Bureau Federation, was also quoted in the story. He predicted Trump will consider the merits of TPP.
"If he's such a good businessman, he will see this is a good deal," Wenger said.
Sumner added, "When there's trade, both sides benefit. Otherwise you don't trade."
Sonoma County residents are voting today whether to join neighboring counties in a ban of genetically modified agricultural crops, reported Filipa Ioannou in the San Francisco Chronicle.
County voters rejected a similar ordinance 11 years ago. However, judging from the money donated to the campaigns in favor and against Measure M, some minds have been changed. In 2005, more than a $1 million went into the fight, with opponents outspending supporters by about $55,000. This time, the supporters have raised more than detractors, with the campaign in favor receiving $278,233, and the campaign against $67,500, the article said.
This comes despite an impact report by the director of UC Cooperative Extension in Sonoma County, Stephanie Larson. The report says few genetically engineered crops are now grown in Sonoma County and the potential impact of the ordinance on the growth of the local agricultural industry is not known. Larson's report says GMO crops have bee consumed by humans in billions of servings of food over 20 years without a single documented health problem.
“Is this maybe a solution in search of a problem? I wonder about that,” said Kim Vail, executive director of the Sonoma County Farm Bureau. “We live in a free-market economy. Consumers have choices, producers should have choices. Let the market decide.”
Passage of Measure M would align the county with its neighbors. Marin County, which passed Measure B in 2004, was the first to ban GMOs in the United States. Four other Northern California counties - Humboldt, Mendocino, Santa Cruz and Trinity - have banned genetically modified agricultural crops.
Update: Measure M passed with nearly 60 percent of the vote.