Just passed 1,000,000 visits to this blog last week.
I started this blog in 2008 as a way to enhance my extension work and better reach out to the strawberry and caneberry production community on the Central Coast. The regular Strawberry Commission Green Sheets were being sharply reduced, and extension newsletters would only come out every one or two months. Even major industry problems would go unaddressed by any press for weeks and once something was written about them, not everybody could access the information since they were limited to mailing lists. Beyond that, low possibility of doing the color photos so important for diagnostics and little facilitation for author and reader interaction really didn't help the usefulness of these media.
The industries I work for deserved far better, and by 2008 it was time to jump in and try something new. Seems like it worked.
After one million visits and 240 posts, let me share a few thoughts on running a UCCE blog dedicated to berries:
Writing a blog is a good way to figure out how you think about a subject: When one writes for a demanding audience like all of you, getting an idea into an intelligible form means profoundly understanding your subject and so you do what it takes to get there. Some of these posts you read take hours, even days, of time immersed in books, scientific literature and on the phone with knowledgeable people. It's worth it though, because this process has allowed us (yes, us) to answer some pretty difficult questions.
Writing constantly is a good way to become a better writer: Absolutely you become a better writer by spending so much time writing for an audience of your peers. Thing is too for a blog you have to keep the writing tight and lean. No one is going to spend an hour reading thoughts that could have been condensed down to something understood in far fewer words and far less time.
By the way, translating some of the more relevant pieces has not only made these available to Spanish speakers on the "Fresas y Moras" site, but I've gained a lot of language skills in the process. To give an example, I am probably at a PhD level in Spanish plant pathology for all the joint articles I've translated with colleague Steve Koike!
Online publishing is a meritocracy: True that. Bloggers gain readers by sheer quality of their work – not through family connections, big salaries or fancy titles at important sounding organizations. Online readers don't give a hoot about any of those things - if you suck no is one is going to read your stuff and you are going to know it. The days of packing off a report into the mail and not knowing (or caring) whether anybody reads it or not are over.
Curation and content: The job of a blogger isn't just to write articles, but it's also to collect and curate articles relevant to the subject. You serve as a moderator, looking for quality articles and not letting the site get polluted with politically driven science or questionably researched material.
In my case, I love to draw from the deep bench of quality scientists we have at the UC and UCCE; case in point is the recent article written by Margaret Lloyd and Tom Gordon from UC Davis on Verticillium and compost – deeply researched and vetted science presented by top scientists in a timely way to address what was perceived to be a major deal here.
It's been a great experience for me to be writing this blog and the Spanish language one, and it seems from the amount of traffic these sites have been getting, you my readers are thinking along the same lines. Thanks for all the reading and participation!
Got a rather lengthy text from a colleague this afternoon concerning J rooting of strawberry plants - question was: does it really make a difference whether or not a strawberry transplant is J rooted?
Let's go to the Green Sheets, which have been a real treasure trove of information.
The one included in the link below was a summary of field work done by the late Warren Bendixen, who served as the Farm Advisor in Santa Maria for many, many years:
This work was done by Warren in response to a shift going at that time in Santa Maria from 40" inch beds with 5- 6" deep planting slots with very little J rooting to the 64" beds so familiar today, but with planting slots which would result in a lot of J- rooted plants.
Key takeaway from the paper, it's in bold because it's so important.
Plants with J roots reduced fresh fruit yields by 18.5%.
If this doesn't get your attention as to why we shouldn't be J rooting, I don't know what will.
Interesting short piece on the potential to use "fruit flies" (these would actually be vinegar flies belonging to the family Drosophilidae, true fruit flies belong to the family Tephritidae - IBD needs a better science blurbist) to detect bombs and illicit drugs given that they can detect odor from these materials almost as well as wine odors.
I can believe it, I've seen work using electrodes on vinegar fly antennae showing highly selective sensitivity to certain volatiles given off from fruit in the air.
- Author: Margaret Lloyd
- Author: Mark Bolda
In reference to the previous article concerning contamination of compost, you can get more details about the facility from where you got it at the link below.
One can find or check for a permitted site by searching on this directory:
Under "regulatory status", select "permitted".
- Author: Margaret Lloyd
- Author: Tom Gordon
Verticillium dahliae is the cause of Verticillium wilt, a disease that affects strawberries and many other plant species, including annual vegetables, fruit trees, nut trees and fiber crops, as well as weeds and native plants in California. Once a susceptible plant is infected, V. dahliae can produce large numbers of survival structures (called microsclerotia) (Vallad and Subbarao, 2008), which can survive in the soil for more than 14 years (Wilhelm, 1955). In addition, V. dahliae can colonize the roots of many crops that are not susceptible to disease and may show no symptoms (Lloyd and Gordon, 2011). This provides another means by which the fungus can produce survival structures. Verticillium dahliae is easily spread between fields with soil on farming equipment. It can also be introduced with seed (Wu and Subbarao, 2014) or infected transplants. Owing to the ease of dispersal, a wide host range and production of long-lived survival structures, V. dahliae is resident in agricultural soils throughout the state. Whether or not Verticillium wilt occurs in a particular situation is determined by the susceptibility of the crop variety being grown and the abundance of inoculum in soil. Consequently, the absence of disease does not mean the pathogen is not present. In fact, it is likely that V. dahliae occurs at some level in most fields in coastal California. Good management practices aim to keep the inoculum level below a damaging threshold (Gordon and Subbarao, 2007).
Many growers use compost amendments to improve the physical and chemical properties of soil. Compost can also enhance the activity of microorganisms that are inhibitory to plant pathogenic fungi (Mazzola, 2004). However, compost made from crop residue may include plants that were infected with V. dahliae, and because microsclerotia can survive in animal guts (Markakis, 2014), manure may be contaminated as well. Proper composting is required to ensure that no viable microsclerotia remain in the final product. The California Composting Council and CalRecycle have established regulations that require materials reach 55 °C (131°F) or higher for 15 days or longer with a minimum of five turnings of the windrow during this time (Cal Recycle, Title 14, Chapter 3.1), which should be sufficient to kill V. dahliae microsclerotia in manure or crop residue (Baker, 1957). All state permitted composting facilities are visited monthly by the local enforcement authority (LEA) to ensure compliance with these regulations. Consequently, if your supplier is operating under a state permit, the compost you purchase is unlikely to be a source of inoculum of V. dahliae, and it would not be advisable to forego the benefits of compost amendments out of concern that this will increase the risk of damage from Verticillium wilt.
Cal Recycle. Title 14, Chapter 3.1. Composting Operations Regulatory Requirements, Article 5. Composting Operation and Facility Siting and Design Standards, Section 17868. 3. Pathogen Reduction. http://www.calrecycle.ca.gov/Laws/Regulations/title14/ch31a5.htm
Baker, KF and Roistacher, CN. 1957. Heat treatment of soil. In K.F. Baker [ed]. The U.C. system for producing healthy container-grown plants. Calif. Agr. Exp. Sta. Manual 23:123-137.
Gordon, TR and Subbarao, KV. 2007. Production Guidelines: Verticillium wilt of Strawberry. California Strawberry Commission, Issue 1: 1-4.
Lloyd, M and Gordon, TR. 2011. Evaluation of ten leguminous cover crops as cryptic hosts for Verticillium dahliae. Phytopathology 101: S109-S109.
Markakis, EA. et al. 2014. Survival, persistence and infection efficiency of Verticillium dahliae passed through the digestive system of sheep.Plant Disease, (ja).
Mazzola, M. 2004. Assessment and management of soil microbial community structure for disease suppression. Annual Review of Phytopathology 42: 35-59.
Vallad, GE and Subbarao, KV. 2008. Colonization of resistant and susceptible lettuce cultivars by a green fluorescent protein-tagged isolate of Verticillium dahliae. Phytopathology 98:871-885.
Wilhelm, S. 1955. Longevity of the Verticillium wilt fungus in the laboratory and field. Phytopathology 45:180-181.
Wu, B and Subbarao, KV. 2014. A model for multi-seasonal spread of Verticillium wilt of lettuce. Phytopathology 104:908-917.