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UCCE scientist finds South American palm weevil in California

Southern California's iconic palm trees are now threatened by another invasive species, the South American palm weevil, reported Mark Muckenfuss in the Riverside Press Enterprise.

Mark Hoddle, UC Cooperative Extension specialist based at UC Riverside, has been monitoring the pest south of the border and recently visited Tijuana to assess the infestation.

Dead palm tree infected by South American palm weevil. (Photo: Mark Hoddle)

"We found about 130 dead Canary Island palms," Hoddle said. "It's been devastating in Tijuana."

On the way back to Riverside, he stopped in Chula Vista, where he noticed dead palm trees.

“I thought, ‘What the heck?' and yeah, it was there, too,” he said. “It was basically an accidental discovery.”

Hoddle recently reported in California Agriculture journal on the successful eradication of a different invasive beetle attacking palm trees in Laguna Beach, the red palm weevil. The cost of the eradication was more than $1 million.

In the Press Enterprise article it said the South American palm weevil is susceptible to insecticides and pheromone traps. If the beetle's presence in a palm is determined quickly, the tree can be saved.

South American palm weevil has recently spread to San Diego County. (Photo: Mike Lewis)

Hoddle said he is concerned about the scope of the South American palm weevil infestation in Southern California.

"My personal feeling is we might be on the verge of a crisis now," Hoddle said in a press release issued by UC Riverside. "The big problem is we don't know how far the weevil has spread. We really need help from the public in tracking its spread."

Hoddle and other experts will speak at a symposium tomorrow about the weevil at Sweetwater Regional County Park in Bonita, Calif.

Posted on Tuesday, October 25, 2016 at 8:49 AM

Beverage industry using defensive tactics to fight soda tax initiatives

The beverage industry is recruiting low-income and minority groups to help share a message aimed at tanking soda-tax measures in Oakland and San Francisco, reported Winston Cho in the East Bay Express.

The industry has poured in $13 million to fight Oakland's Measure HH and San Francisco's Proposition V, the story said. The groups supporting the measures have received contributions of nearly $4 million, making Measure HH one of Oakland's best-funded initiatives ever.

The American Beverage Association is positioning the tax measures as "grocery taxes," saying that low-income consumers will bear the brunt. 

"I think the money invested, in addition to the framing — which is specifically not mentioning sugary beverages — suggests that there's a lot of defense in their offense," said Wendi Gosliner, policy researcher at the UC Nutrition Policy Institute.

The Nutrition Policy Institute is a UC Agriculture and Natural Resources program that conducts and evaluates research related to the impact of nutrition and physical activity on public health.

Patricia Crawford, senior director of research at the Nutrition Policy Institute, told the reporter that justifying the soda tax to the low-income community in Berkeley was an essential part of getting it passed in that community two years ago. NPI hosted multiple town halls when that tax was on the ballot. They invited professors, doctors, and health-care professionals to address the community's concerns. 

"People think of soda as just another candy or food, and it isn't," Crawford said. "[The negative impact on public health] is just too costly ... for us to ignore."

In an article Crawford wrote for the UC Food Blog, she reflected on recent research that showed the Berkeley soda tax successfully reduced consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages while raising funds to promote health and wellness activities in Berkeley schools.

"The Bay Area has long been an early adopter of many important ideas, initiating movements that have spread across the country. Will Oakland, Albany and San Francisco follow Berkeley's lead to a healthier future for their communities?" Crawford wrote.

Posted on Wednesday, October 12, 2016 at 2:53 PM

UC Cooperative Extension reaching out to NorCal cannabis growers

UC Cooperative Extension in Humboldt County has invited local cannabis farmers to meetings this week to discuss ways to reduce the industry's environmental impacts, reported Will Houston in the Eureka Times-Standard.

UC advisors and specialists will discuss future research aimed at reducing the impacts of pesticide and fertilizer use on cannabis grows.

UC Cooperative Extension advisor Deborah Giraud has called a meeting with Humboldt County cannabis growers to discuss the industry's environmental impacts.
The reporter talked to Deborah Giraud, UCCE advisor in Humboldt County, who said federal laws prevent UCCE from handling cannabis plants in their studies, but they are still able to test areas around cannabis grows for issues like pesticide runoff and soil and water quality.

At this week's meetings, Giraud said, "Mostly we just want to listen to folks who come to the meetings ideas and concerns. They're on the ground. We just want to know what could be planned with us."

The meetings will be from 6 to 8 p.m. Oct. 3 at Adriana's Restaurant, 850 Crescent Way, Arcata; and 12 to 2 p.m. Oct. 4 at Women's Civic Club, 477 Maple Lane, Garberville.

There will be brief presentations followed by group discussions. The UC participants include Van Butsic, UC Cooperative Extension land use science specialist at UC Berkeley; Kent Daane, UCCE biological control specialist at UC Berkeley; Houston Wilson, post-doctoral researcher at UC Berkeley; and Giraud.

Posted on Monday, October 3, 2016 at 8:51 AM

'Non-GMO' milk label more about marketing, says UCCE expert

Clover Stornetta Farms of Petaluma will be adding non-GMO certification to its conventional milk in early 2017. The move upset organic and conventional farmers, as well as a few agriculture scientists, reported Tara Duggan in the San Francisco Chronicle.

The non-GMO designation means the milk comes from dairy cows who have been raised with no genetically engineered corn, soy or other products in their diets. 

The article featured comments from Alison Van Eenennaam, UC Cooperative Extension specialist based at UC Davis. She said non-GMO animal feed crops have a larger ecological impact than genetically engineered versions because of their decreased resistance to disease and pests, and lower yields.

“We are really talking marketing here — developing a product line to differentiate it from a product that already does not contain GMOs,” she said. “As a company they of course can develop whatever products they want and if they see a profitable market — then it is a good business decision.”

Van Eenennaam said she is concerned that suggesting non-GMO milk is a safer or more environmentally sound product could have a chilling effect on agricultural science advances necessary to feed a world population set to hit 9 billion by 2050.

“We can keep taking technologies away from farmers by pandering to fearmongering around safe technologies — at the end of the day it just increases the environmental footprint of a glass of milk with no food safety benefit," she said.

DNA from genetically engineered feed is not passed to milk or meat, according to research by UCCE specialist Alison Van Eenennaam.
Posted on Friday, September 23, 2016 at 9:20 AM

A home garden can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions

A UC Santa Barbara study concluded that planting a home garden can cut carbon emissions to the atmosphere. However, if gardening isn't done right, it could actually contribute to greenhouse gas emissions, reported Nathanael Johnson on

The article looked at five factors that impacted greenhouse gas emissions in home gardens:

  1. Reduction of lawn area due to replacement by the garden
  2. Reduction of vegetables purchased from the grocery store
  3. Reduction in the amount of greywater sent to treatment facilities due to diversion to irrigate the garden
  4. Reduction in amount of household organic waste exported to treatment facilities due to home composting
  5. Organic household waste is composted for use in the garden

The abstract of the research article, written by David Cleveland, sustainable food systems professor in the Department of Geography, said:

"We found that (gardens) could reduce emissions by over 2 kg CO2e kg−1 vegetable, but that results were sensitive to the range of values for the key variables of yield and alternative methods for processing household organic waste."

In his Grist story, Johnson provided key points from the research that can help ensure the home garden is climate smart:

  • The main reduction from gardening comes from diverting food waste from the landfill, where it rots and emits methane and nitrous oxide. Food waste must be properly composted to prevent the emissions.
  • Planting a garden then forgetting about it ends up emitting more greenhouse gases than if you never started.

The article suggests that Californians contact their local UC Master Gardener program for assistance in properly managing a home vegetable garden. Johnson spoke to Kerrie Reid, the UC Cooperative Extension environmental horticulture advisor in San Joaquin County.

"Reid doesn't abandon her plants midway through summer, and she doesn't over-plant and then end up throwing out dozens of thigh-thick zucchinis," Johnson wrote. "Sure, when the cucumbers peak, there are more than she and her husband can eat, she confesses, but they share with their neighbors. The neighbors also come over to harvest herbs from the sidewalk."

The article said readers can find their own version of Reid by looking up a local UC Cooperative Extension Master Gardener program.

UCCE Master Gardeners of Santa Clara County conduct sustainable gardening and hands-on workshops for the public.
Posted on Wednesday, September 21, 2016 at 4:03 PM

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