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By Tami Reece   UCCE Master Gardener


I have been thinking about making compost in my backyard. But aren't my kitchen scraps always composted at my local landfill?   Karen P.  San Luis Obispo


For an organic material, let's say carrot scraps, to compost at a landfill, it will need oxygen and moisture to break down. The materials at landfills are compacted so tightly by machinery, that oxygen cannot reach the plant material. Your local landfill will compost your kitchen scraps if you place them in your green waste, but making your own would be great too!

Quick compost can be made by mixing equal amounts of carbon rich (dry or woody material) and nitrogen rich (green material, including fruit and vegetable scraps) material. Smaller pieces of plant material break down faster; ½ to 1 ½ inch pieces are good for rapid composting. Keep the developing compost moist, about the feel of a wrung out sponge. Never compost meat, bones, fats, dairy, or any animal manure. Manure introduces the potential for contamination and the development of disease-producing bacteria. It's important to remember that a healthy compost pile will not emit an offensive ammonia odor.

Composting adds nutrients and beneficial microbes to soil and improves the water holding capacity. Compost also improves plant growth by improving clay soils and encouraging a healthy root structure and balancing the soil pH. Add compost to your garden by mixing in three to four inches before planting.

More information about compost quick composting is available from the University of California, Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources - This free document offers simple, straight forward tips to help you generate quality compost in as little as 2 or 3 weeks.



Posted on Saturday, January 31, 2015 at 7:37 PM

What's It Like Inside a Bee?

USDA/ARS research entomologist Jay Evans
What's it like inside a bee?

A honey bee, that is.

Research entomologist Jay Evans of the USDA's Agricultural Research Service (USDA/ARS) will discuss "What's It Like Inside a Bee? Genetic Approaches to Honey Bee Health" at the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology seminar from 12:10 to 1 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 4 in 122 Briggs Hall.

The Marin County Beekeepers will host the bee scientist.

"Honey bees are the preferred agricultural pollinators worldwide, and are important natural pollinators in Europe, Asia, and Africa," Evans says. "The European honey bee, Apis mellifera, is both aided and abused by humans, leading to a worldwide distribution on one side, and alarming regional die-offs on the other.  Primary causes of honey bee colony death range from inadequate nutrition to stress from chemical exposure and maladies caused by a diverse set of parasites and pathogens."

"Often, domesticated honey bees face two or more stress agents simultaneously. Genetic approaches are being used to determine and mitigate the causes of bee declines. Genetics screens are available for each of the major biotic threats to bees, and screens have been used to determine risk levels for these threats in the field.  Thanks to extensive analyses of the honey bee genome, tools are also available to screen bees for heritable traits that enable disease resistance, and to query the expressed genes of bees to infer responses to chemicals and biological stress.  This talk will cover genetic insights into honey bee health, disease resistance and susceptibility to chemical insults."

Evans received his undergraduate degree in biology at Princeton and his doctorate in biology from the University of Utah. He did a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Georgia, where he became interested in honey bees. After a brief project on queen production at the University of Arizona, he joined the USDA/ARS as a research entomologist with the USDA-ARS Bee Research Laboratory, Beltsville, MD.  

He is especially interested in insect immunity and in the abilities of social insects to evade their many parasites and pathogens. He focuses his projects on a range of bee pests including the American foulbrood bacterium, small hive beetles, nosema, viral pests and varroa mites.

Evans was an early proponent of the Honey Bee Genome Project and helped recruit and organize scientists interested in applied genomics for bees.  He has improved and applied genetic screens for possible causes of colony collapse disorder and is now heading a consortium to sequence the genome of the Varroa mite in order to develop novel control methods for this key pest.

Plans call for recording the seminar for later posting on UCTV.

A honey bee necatring on lavender. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A honey bee necatring on lavender. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A honey bee necatring on lavender. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Friday, January 30, 2015 at 9:11 PM

Getting the Red In

Appropriately dressed participants at the 2014 "UC Davis Wears Red" Day. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Forget about getting the red out.

It's time to get the red in.

And if you're a red lady beetle, aka ladybug, you need not worry.  Ditto for the gentlemen lady beetles. You're good to go.

The second annual "UC Davis Wears Red Day," an educational effort to spread awareness about heart disease, takes place Friday, Feb. 6, when everyone--that is, everyone--is invited to Hutchison Field from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., to get the red in.

Last year some 2,500 people — students, staff, faculty and area residents — grouped for a photo. Some held red umbrellas to ward off the drizzle.

Officials said the 2015 event will feature a Battle Heart Disease Fair.  Visitors are invited to learn about heart disease at the information booths. The group Zumba will entertain for 15 minutes, starting at 11:30 a.m..Dining Services will offer snacks--healthy snacks--and beverages at a discount.

Cardiologist Amparo Villablanca, professor and  director of the UC Davis Women's Cardiovascular Medicine Program, will field questions at 11:45 a.m.

To ensure folks have red to wear, all UC Davis Stores will be selling t-shirts in advance. The good news is that $2 from every sale will benefit the cardiovascular medicine program.

And the other good news is: lady beetles need not worry about what to wear.

"Appropiately dressed" lady beetle, aka lady bug. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

"Appropiately dressed" lady beetle, aka lady bug. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Thursday, January 29, 2015 at 9:22 PM

UCCE advisor's new book featured in San Francisco Book Review

Valley of Fire
UC Cooperative Extension farm advisor Rachael Freeman Long wove her scientific knowledge into a book series for children, reported the San Francisco Book Review in conjunction with the release of the second book in the trilogy. Valley of Fire details protagonist Jack's adventures in the Black Rock Desert with his animal friends, Sonny the coyote and Pinta the bat.

The Book Review's Susan Roberts conducted an interview with Long, exploring her inspiration for the series, writing challenges, research and more.

Long said her young son inspired her to create the characters in the book. During long drives, she would tell him stories.

"After 12 years of storytelling, I had this collection of unique adventures," Long said.

One of the challenges she encountered was turning off her bent for science and letting creativity flow.

"I'm a science writer and facts come easy for me, but describing what feeling sad or happy looks like takes work," Long said. "I love my creativity in figuring out the plotting, but writing in all the descriptive details is still challenging."

During the interview, Long told the SF Book Review about a research project she conducted in her UC Cooperative Extension work to determine what bats eat at night and their value to farmers. She and her staff collected guano, which revealed which insects they were eating.

"One farmer has a 300-acre walnut orchard and he estimates he has bout 15,000 bats," Long said. "The study we worked on showed each bat provided $6 of pest control services. The farmer received about $90,000 worth of services."

Long's book is available in paperback and digital download on the Tate Publishing website and in Kindle edition on

Posted on Thursday, January 29, 2015 at 10:21 AM

Did Anyone Say "Insect-Vectored Pathogens?"

Thrips. (Photo by Jack Kelly Clark)
We're still in the throes of January but already UC Davis entomologist Diane Ullman and her colleagues are busily organizing two consecutive mid-May conferences at the Asilomar Conference Center, Pacific Grove. They'll target insect-vectored plant pathogens, their impacts, and innovative strategies for risk assessment and management.

The two conferences will draw international scientists, Extension specialists, and agricultural industry professionals, among others. 

Professor Ullman of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology and a former associate dean for Undergraduate Academic Programs, UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences,  is a key organizer, along with George Kennedy of the North Carolina State University Department of Entomology, Neil McRoberts of the UC Davis Department of Plant Pathology and Robert Kemerait of University of Georgia. 

The first conference, to take place May 14-16, is “Enhancing Risk Index-Driven Decision Tools for Managing Insect-Transmitted Plant Pathogens,” sponsored by the USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture's Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (USDA NIFA/AFRI). Ullman is co-principal investigator of the five-year, $3.75 million grant awarded in 2012 from the USDA AFRI/NIFA to develop and implement a national scientific and educational network to limit thrips-caused crop losses. This conference will convene experts in modelling, risk assessment, and innovative IPM technology in an intimate setting to discuss the latest breakthroughs in modelling insect vectored plant pathogen threats and mobile applications for risk assessment and management strategy assessment. Early bird registration and poster abstract submission ends March 15t and can be accessed at registration and poster abstract submission ends March 15 and can be accessed at and respectively.

The second conference is the Xth International Symposium on Thysanoptera and Tospoviruses, to be held May 16-20.  "This meeting is the tenth in a series of international symposia that, over 30 years, have grown to be the dominant vehicle and venue for information exchange between scientists investigating problems related to thrips and tospoviruses around the world," Ullman said. "These symposia have been instrumental in extending knowledge and producing new solutions and innovations in thrips and tospovirus management worldwide, by providing a forum for sharing research findings and integrating fundamental and applied knowledge."

Thrips are tiny insects that pierce and suck fluids from hundreds of species of plants, including tomatoes, grapes, strawberries and soybeans. The pests cause billions of dollars in damage to U.S. agricultural crops as direct pests and in transmitting plant viruses in the genus Tospovirus, such as Tomato spotted wilt virus. “There are 23 additional approved and emerging tospovirus genotypes transmitted by at least 14 thrips species (Thysanoptera: Thripidae),” said Ullman, who has been researching thrips and tospoviruses since 1987.

The May 14-16 workshop will feature speakers and discussions focused on development and deployment of risk index-driven tools for the management of vector-borne diseases, including modelling, epidemiology, risk assessment and user interfaces. Researchers will discuss decision tools, risk assessment in managing insect vectors and pathogens in crops, and accomplishments, challenges and gaps. Early registration is underway. Scientists are invited to submit abstracts (see

The May 16-20 symposium will feature presentations of common interest to both insect and virus research areas during morning sessions and a poster session. It will also include specialized discussions, and contributed presentations in the afternoon and evening.

“This is a unique opportunity to convene leading international scientists, extension specialists, and individuals in the agricultural industry to share and discuss the latest findings in thrips and tospovirus biology, ecology and management,” said Ullman. Registration is now underway. Scientists who seek to participate are invited to submit poster and contributed talk abstracts, Ullman said. The deadline to submit abstracts is March 15 (

It's going to be a busy seven days--May 14-20--at the Asilomar Conference Center... 

UC Davis entomologist Diane Ullman is a key organizer of the two conferences focusing on insect-vectored pathogens. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
UC Davis entomologist Diane Ullman is a key organizer of the two conferences focusing on insect-vectored pathogens. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

UC Davis entomologist Diane Ullman is a key organizer of the two conferences focusing on insect-vectored pathogens. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Wednesday, January 28, 2015 at 9:26 PM

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