- Author: Rose Marie Hayden-Smith
Youth ages 9-12 will have an opportunity to learn what it means to be sustainable through fun activities in a virtual summer camp. The camp will be held July 20-24th, with campers meeting online daily from 10-11:30 a.m. The camp is free of charge, but pre-registration is required.
The Sustainable You! Summer Camp is hosted by the University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) 4-H Program, in partnership with the UC Hansen Agricultural Research and Extension Center (UC HAREC), and the City of Ventura Environmental Sustainability and Water departments.
UCCE Community Education Specialist Gwyn Vanoni noted that:
“The Sustainable You! Summer Camp is an engaging way for kids to think about their role in creating a sustainable future while having a lot of fun. This has been a summer day camp at UC HAREC for a number of years. While we're going virtual this year, we are working hard to ensure that the fun and focus of the camp remains true for the participants.”
The virtual camp will explore sustainability across five major theme areas: land, water, food, air and energy. A typical day will include:
An introduction to a sustainability topic with an ice breaker and simple journal questions or an art activity;
A discussion or video on the day's topic;
A demonstrated activity; and
An activity that youth can do on their own.
The virtual camp is part of the online educational programs being organized by UCCE Ventura County. Learn more here.
- What: 4-H Sustainable You! Virtual Summer Camp
- Ages: 9-12
- When: July 20th-24th (Monday-Friday)
- Time: 10-11:30 a.m.
- Cost: FREE, but pre-registration is required! Register: harec.ucanr.edu
For more information, email Susana Bruzzone Miller.
- Author: Annemiek Schilder
In this weekly blog, Dr. Annemiek Schilder, Director, UCCE Ventura County and Hansen Agricultural Research and Extension Center, shares her observations about the natural world across the seasons. As she says:
"Gently observing your surroundings with curiosity will teach you some amazing things. There are so many fascinating things happening under our noses, only wanting for an observant eye."
During a recent stroll through the Master Gardener Demonstration garden at the Hansen Agricultural Research and Extension Center, a narrow-leaf milkweed plant with stems and leaves covered in yellow caught my eye. A closer look revealed teeming masses of yellow aphids along the stems, as if festively dressing up the plant. But aphids are never a festive sign to the gardener as their voracious feeding stunts plant growth. In addition, their sugary excretions may attract ants and promote unsightly fungal growth called sooty mold.
Narrow-leaf milkweed (Asclepias fascicularis) is a perennial plant native to California and an important food source for the caterpillars of monarch butterflies along their migration route. Milkweed plants produce chemicals called cardenolides (cardiac glycosides) that monarchs store in their bodies to protect themselves from predators. Can you guess what part of the body these chemicals act on? Indeed cardenolides speed up the heart rate, making for a rather unpleasant experience for a bird looking for a tasty meal. Narrow-leaf milkweed plants actually have very low levels of cardenolides, but the monarch's striking color pattern is enough to signal toxicity to would-be predators.
Aphids make milkweed plants less hospitable for monarch caterpillars. The striking yellow aphids −Aphis nerii, also called milkweed aphids or oleander aphids−feed on plants in the dogbane family, including oleander, milkweed and periwinkle. They have a yellow pear-shaped body with black legs, antennae and cornicles. Cornicles are the stovepipe-like projections on the aphid's back used to secrete a wax-like substance for self-defense. Aphids are typically wingless until they get too crowded and develop winged individuals that fly away in search of new host plants.
Aphids feed by inserting their mouth parts, which are shaped like a straw, into the plant, sucking up plant sap which contains all the necessary nutrients for the aphid to thrive. The extra sugar and water are excreted as honeydew. Milkweed aphids are able to rapidly colonize plants in the spring and early summer through parthenogenesis, a process whereby female aphids produce female offspring without mating. The aphid daughters, which are exact clones of their mothers, quickly start producing their own babies. In addition, they bypass the egg laying phase by giving birth to live young, which is called vivipary. Looking through a magnifying glass, you may see the little baby aphids being born right in front of your eyes!
As I was taking some close-up photos, I noticed the aphids intermittently twitching, almost in unison. This strange phenomenon, exhibited by this particular aphid, is called CTKR (Collective Twirling and Kicking Response). It is a collective defense mechanism against natural enemies! By simultaneously twirling their bodies and forcefully kicking their hind legs they discourage natural enemies like parasitoid wasps from attacking them. If you look closely, especially later in the season, you may see evidence of this type of parasitism: little puffed-up aphid bodies with a hole in the middle. These aphids have been parasitized by a wasp larvae which molted into adults and escaped through the hole.
Aphids are like sitting ducks: they usually remain in place while feeding. They will only move if their food runs out or something is irritating them. That makes them a convenient prey for the lady beetle, a very effective natural enemy. In the picture, you can see an adult lady beetle as well as a lady beetle larva, which looks like a tiny black alligator, feeding on aphids. They can eat hundreds of aphids per day and thousands in a life time! Lady beetles are good friends indeed.
- Author: Rose Marie Hayden-Smith
Online Educational Resources
Since we're all learning and working from home, our education team has created a virtual learning page packed with wonderful resources about agriculture. You can enjoy these lessons and stories from your computer, tablet or phone. Check back often, as we're adding content.
The Buzz About Hedgerows
Hedgerows are an approved practice under California Department of Agriculture's Healthy Soils Grant Program. That means, growers are eligible to receive grant funding for planting hedgerows. But what exactly are the benefits of hedgerows and why are they worth planting? As a perennial planting it can have immediate impacts on the soil, but what else? The answer lies largely in the pollinators and beneficial insects they attract.
Read the latest from our #climatesmart #ag community education specialist Alli Fish.
Resources You Can Use
University of California researchers and program staff are working to answer questions and provide information and resources relating to the food system and COVID-19. Check out this post, which contains resources about food and farm safety, gardening and more.
UC ANR Expands the Role & Reach of its Sustainable Ag Program
University of California vice president for agriculture and natural resources Glenda Humiston has announced changes to UC ANR's Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (SAREP).
"Since 1986, SAREP has supported scientific research and education to advance agricultural and food systems that are economically viable, sustain beneficial ecosystem services, and enhance the quality of life in local communities. Moving forward, California farms and food systems face an ever-larger set of challenges: shifting consumer demands,invasive pests, climate change, additional regulations, lack of access to labor, and more. The need for new technologies, better systems and effective problem-solving is greater than ever.
“UC ANR envisions positioning SAREP to serve as a much broader umbrella of sustainability, addressing all aspects of the triple-bottom-line: people, planet and prosperity,” Humiston said. “To accomplish this, SAREP will provide leadership and support to several promising initiatives and will facilitate our ability to capture synergies among them. Those include agritourism, ecosystem services, regional food systems, community and economic development and more.”
The full announcement is available here.
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