The UC system's goal to purchase 20 percent of its food from sustainable sources by 2020, one of the efforts connected to the UC Global Food Initiative, has already been achieved four years early, reported Scott Thill on Civil Eats.
The residence dining halls purchased 22 percent of their food from sustainable sources and five UC medical centers have reached 20 percent.
"I think our challenge going forward is realizing that 20 percent is considered a minimum-level threshold," said Tim Garlarneau, co-chair of the UC Sustainable Food Service Working Group and co-chair of the UC Global Food Initiative's Food Access and Security Subcommittee.
One way the article suggested to make more progress in sustainable food procurement is to purchase popular foods – like coffee – from growers in California, where the bean isn't typically grown. UC Cooperative Extension advisor Mark Gaskell said that he expects to see more coffee plantings and increased overall coffee acreage in central and southern California.
“This will always be a niche crop on small farms in California destined for high-value niche markets, but fortunately we have clearly demonstrated that very high-quality coffee can be produced in California,” he said.
Garlarneau notes that crops like coffee and bananas are better grown and sourced fairly from abroad while UC focuses on local sources for California-grown foods.
Systemwide coordination for purchasing higher costing food products (such as meats) that can meet campus and medical center specifications and demonstrate increased sustainability will require going out to bid to larger entities to meet the demand. As an example, Garlarneau shared UC's Sea to Table commitment to support small-scale fisherfolk to complement larger company offerings of sustainable tunafish and other seafood.
Wet and wacky winter weather may wreak havoc on the almond crop, but UC Cooperative Extension advisor Franz Niederholzer has promising words for farmers concerned about adequate pollination, reported Heather Hacking in the Chico Enterprise-Record.
“You don't need them to all be pollinated,” he said. A pollination rate of 40 percent would make a great year. Twenty five percent will still produce a decent crop.
The heavy rain, wind and cold temperatures that have characterized January and February 2017 could be overcome with just a bit of warm, sunny weather. In Chico, the weekend of Feb. 11-12 were sunny, as was Saturday the 18th. Those were good days for bees to fly.
Fungus is also a concern, said Danielle Lightle, UCCE advisor in Glenn County. Typically farmers watch the weather and spray fungicides before it rains. However, the persistent rain made orchard floors muddy, unfavorable conditions for moving heavy spray rigs.
Farmers who have been in the business for a while know that the golden rule is to “control what you can and let go of what you can't,” Lightle said.
Three citrus trees that produce inedible fruit at the UC Lindcove Research and Extension Center in Visalia may be a game-changer for the citrus industry, reported Ezra David Romero on Valley Public Radio.
The trees are thought to be resistant to huanglongbing, a severe disease of citrus that has devastated the Florida industry and could become a serious problem in California. The citrus-saving potential of the three 34-year-old trees was outlined in an article by UC Agriculture and Natural Resources writer Hazel White in the most recent issue of California Agriculture journal.
UC Riverside citrus breeder Mikeal Roose collected seed from the trees and will test seedlings as soon as they are large enough.
"So what (breeders) have to do is cross this with some edible varieties and eventually create something that has the gene for resistance, but also the genes for good fruit," said Beth Grafton-Cardwell, Lindcove director and research entomologist.
Huanglongbing disease has cut citrus production in Florida by more than half. It's been found in residential citrus trees in Southern California, but hasn't reached the state's vast commercial orchards yet. Grafton-Cardwell said she expects the disease will arrive in 4 or 5 years.
Last week the World Ag Expo in Tulare County marked it's 50th year, reported Luis Hernandez in the Visalia Times-Delta. UC Cooperative Extension played a role in creating the event in 1967 and in 2017 was one of 27 organizations that have been involved every year since.
The article featured a picture of Jim Sullilns, who served as director of UC Cooperative Extension in Tulare County from 1993 to 2015. He now volunteers at the World Ag Expo, coordinating educational seminars.
“We always tried to provide an educational component on what's going on in agriculture and what's being done at universities,” he said. “We wanted to make sure it was available. We always had a booth here.”
As a volunteer, Sullins said he is getting a different perspective on the selfless acts of others.
“I see how much volunteers put in out of their own dime,” he said. “I realize how much it is hands on.”
Communities in Southern California are watching their valued landscape palm trees suffer mortal damage from an invasive pest that is making its way northward from Mexico, reported Marty Graham in San Diego Reader. The South American palm weevil lays eggs in the palm tree's crown, where its grubs destroy tissue that holds the fronds.
"The first sign of infestation is seeing the crown droop and turn brown," said Mark Hoddle, UC Cooperative Extension biological control specialist at UC Riverside. In time, the crown can fall off.
"The crowns weigh a couple of hundred pounds and, if they fall on something like a car or house, they can do considerable damage," Hoddle said.
For now, the pest appears to be focusing on Canary Island palms, but have been known to lay eggs in other ornamental palms and date palms.
"I hate to think of what could happen if they reach the palm oases in the Anza-Borrego Desert," Hoddle said of the treasured California native palms that grow in Southern California desert canyons.
South American palm weevil is a relatively large pest capable of flying substantial distances.
"We've tested their flying capacity and our data suggests it can fly quite far," Hoddle said. "It's potential territory in California and the Southwest is enormous."
The only control measure at the moment is repeated treatment with pesticides.
"There are palm trees in the Mediterranean with PVC pipes up the side and a shower head at the top where a pump blasts pesticides every few months," he said. "There are also systemic pesticides you can put in the tree roots."
For more information or to report a possible South American palm weevil infestation, see the Center for Invasive Species Research website.