Kids are eating better in Contra Costa County schools and it improves their long term health, said Congressman Mark DeSaulnier in an interview broadcast by KTVU News in San Francisco. The congressman was at Ygnacio Valley Elementary School to eat a healthy lunch with students yesterday.
The school received a USDA grant to purchase new kitchen equipment. The UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources Nutrition Policy Institute (NPI) has a contract with Pew Charitable Trusts to do case studies of selected schools around California and the nation to show the benefits of the USDA grant program, and to promote its continuation in Congress for future years.
"Many schools are making do with obsolete equipment that cannot readily meet the new, tougher federal meal standards," said Kenneth Hecht, NPI director of policy. "With new equipment, schools can prepare healthier, fresher, more appealing meals that are often the best meal kids get all day."
In the media report, DeSaulnier walked through the new serving line with Ygnacio first-graders and sat down to enjoy a healthy lunch with them. According to KTVU news, the congressman said he has heard a lot of arguments in Washington, DC, against changing food in schools, but he believes it makes a long term difference for children.
The program's host asked how California came to be the No. 1 agricultural state in the United States and a world leader in many specific crops. Dara said the weather plays a role, of course, but he attributed much of the success to California farmers, who are continually improving their production practices. He said the research and extension programs provided by UC ANR Cooperative Extension also contributes significantly to the success of California agriculture.
In India, he said, there is an extension system, but the channels are different. He pointed out that extension is also different in other U.S. states. The University of California is a world renowned 10-campus system that has a separate division dedicated to the extension program - UC ANR.
"We have around 250 scientists responsible for various crops and commodities," Dara said.
The scientists are in regular contact with growers, plus they work to anticipate agricultural problems that might develop in the future.
"We are involved in applied research," Dara said. "We provide science-based practical solutions to farmers that can be used right away."
"That smaller peach this year very likely is sweeter than the moderate-sized peach of last year," said Kevin Day, UC ANR Cooperative Extension advisor and director in Tulare and Kings counties.
Most of the change in fruit size can be attributed to the drought. When irrigation is limited, water content of the fruit diminishes and sugars become a greater proportion of the fruit mass. However, Day says drought isn't the only reason for 2015's smaller fruit size. California also had unusually warm temperatures in January and February 2015, causing fruit to ripen faster.
"A variety that might ripen after 120 days of being on a tree in a year like this ripens in only 110," Day said. "And, so it's consequently shortchanged out of 10 days of growing."
The subject was raised recently by two University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) experts in a position paper they published on their website, the story said. Don Hodel, UC ANR Cooperative Extension advisor in LA County, and Dennis Pittenger, UC ANR Cooperative Extension area environmental horticulturist at UC Riverside, said landscapes and turf offer tremendous benefits to residents, communities and the environment.
"Nobody thought this out," Hodel said.
The LA Weekly article also quoted Loren Oki, the UC ANR Cooperative Extension specialist for landscape horticulture based at UC Davis. Among the obvious problems created by California's turf-removal program, Oki said, is "encouraging people to plant during the heat of the summer, which is the worst time" for new plants to survive in the ground. He predicts many of the low-water plants will not survive the late-summer heat.
Another UC Davis scientist, biochemistry professor William Horwath, raised the potential for turf removal to kill the "decomposition community" that lives in soil.
When cities and homeowners remove vegetation from land, that diminishes the diversity of the soil biology, especially the larger fauna such as worms, which feed off of the droppings of leaves and other materials from plants.
"If you are not growing anything, just gravel or mulch, you'll be losing a lot of worms, and you will at the same time be losing a lot of carbon from under the soil back into the atmosphere," Horwath said.
Oki was one of the authors of a recent post on the UC ANR California Institute for Water Resources blog, The Confluence, that provides practical, well-thought-out advice on drought-tolerant landscaping in California.
"A variety of options exist for gardeners implementing landscaping changes," the article says. "Trading in your turf for concrete, rock, or artificial turf are options. However, none of these selections promote healthy soils and other ecosystem services. In fact, all of these options can be problematic because they create a heat island effect and may have water infiltration or runoff issues."
The story details seven strategies for conserving water while maintaining a living landscape.
Even though California's majestic oak trees are generally considered drought tolerant, the last four years of well-below-average rainfall are taking a toll, reported the Sierra Sun Times.
"In some parts of the state, oaks are being deprived of water for as long as nine months, creating extreme water stress," said Greg Giusti, a forest and wildlands advisor for UC Agriculture and Natural Resources. Giusti is headquartered in the UC ANR Cooperative Extension office in Mendocino County.
Giusti and Kris Randal, the UC Master Gardener coordinator for Mariposa County, suggest that California residents with oaks on their property give the trees a good soaking once a month during the summer.
The water should be applied around the drip line - the area below the outstretched branches - but not near the trunk. A permeable soaker hose is an ideal tool for slow application over the wide area. Allow the water to run until it has soaked down to a depth of 12 to 18 inches, which can be detected with a long probe such as a screwdriver. "If it comes up with signs of moisture at the tip, you're good," the article says.
Randal said it is important to let the soil dry out completely between waterings, because oaks are susceptible to root fungus that can grow in warm, damp soil.
Even if water is unavailable and the leaves begin to turn brown or fall, the experts suggest waiting for spring before considering removing the tree.
"If you tree leafs out, it's still alive," Randall said. "And in this drought, give it extra time to leaf out."