UC Nursery and Floriculture Alliance
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UC Nursery and Floriculture Alliance

From the UC Blogosphere...

New York Times turns to UCCE again

Just a few weeks after garden writer Anne Raver of the New York Times interviewed a UC Cooperative Extension advisor about blueberries (as reported in this blog entry), she looked westward again for more insight on home gardening. Raver contacted UC Cooperative Extension horticulture and 4-H advisor Rose Hayden-Smith to get a historical perspective on gardening for today's column.

Raver reported on what must have seemed a preposterous suggestion from kitchen gardener and activist Roger Doiron. He wants the President of the United States to cultivate a garden on the White House lawn. Hayden-Smith said it wouldn't be the first time.

The nation's second president, John Adams, planted a vegetable garden at the White House to feed his family, Hayden-Smith explained “because back then, presidents had to fund their own household,” according to the story.

During World War I, President Woodrow Wilson had sheep grazing on the White House lawn. His wife planted vegetables to inspire the Liberty Garden (later changed to Victory Garden) campaign.

Just after Pearl Harbor, Hayden-Smith told the reporter, another Victory Garden campaign was started and Eleanor Roosevelt grew peas and carrots on the White House lawn. By the end of World War II, "Americans were producing 40 percent of the country’s produce” in their gardens, Hayden-Smith was quoted.

Posted on Thursday, April 17, 2008 at 1:12 PM

Sudden Oak Death all over the news

A meeting of the California Oak Mortality Task Force in Marin is generating a spike in news coverage of Sudden Oak Death. Today, the main theme is where the disease took hold in California. UC Berkeley researcher Matteo Garbelotto reported on genetic testing of Phytophthora ramorum, the pathogen that is killing California oaks.

According to a story in the Marin Independent Journal, Garbelotto found the pathogen's forebears at a site on Bolinas Ridge within the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, five kilometers from the Kentfield site where the disease was first observed in California in 1995. Garbelotto said the owner of that Kentfield home had an interesting story to tell.

"He said when he bought the house it had just been landscaped with a lot a rhododendron plants and that within a few months from the time he purchased it all the rhododendron plants died," Garbelotto was quoted. Rhododendrons are hosts of the disease.

The Santa Cruz location identified in the study is on Bean Creek, just outside a nursery that was shut down due to a Phytophthora ramorum infestation.

In the San Francisco Chronicle, Garbeletto was quoted as saying Sudden Oak Death is the "No. 1 most wanted" plant disease.

"It can travel around the world, it can wipe out hundreds of miles of forests," Garbeletto is quoted. "It is having a big impact in California - it is killing our favorite trees and disrupting the ecological network of our forests."

Some of the other media outlets that reported on Garbeletto's finding were:

The blog East Bay Express probably had the most quirky headline for the story: "UC Eggheads Find Where Oak Plague Started."

The Oak Mortality Task Force continues today.

A tree suffering from Sudden Oak Death.
A tree suffering from Sudden Oak Death.

Posted on Thursday, April 17, 2008 at 9:42 AM

Disagreement over Light Brown Apple Moth

The Bay Area TV segment "CBS 5 Investigates" looked into the Light Brown Apple Moth controversy for a story posted to their Web site today and found contrary opinions to publicize.

The story opens . . . "The government claims it's an emergency. They say they have to conduct aerial spraying over the Bay Area immediately to eradicate the light brown apple moth. But a CBS 5 Investigation has found there may not be an emergency at all."

California secretary of agriculture A.G. Kawamura made the case for spraying. He said the emergency is so great, the state can't even afford to wait for an environmental impact report.

"If we were to wait a year, even 6, 7, 8 months, we might lose that window," Kawamura is quoted. "We stand an excellent chance to eradicate it if we act on it quickly."

UC Davis entomologist James Carey offered an opposing view:

"It won't work," Carey is quoted. "Historically, there is no precedent for this at all. None. The data argue absolutely for the impossibility of this eradication."

In an op-ed piece published in the April 16 San Francisco Chronicle, Kawamura outlines his reasoning for continuing the LBAM eradication program in the Bay Area.

Posted on Wednesday, April 16, 2008 at 1:45 PM

Farmers put UC research to use

An article on the front page of the Fresno Bee business section today informs consumers they can return "Ripe 'N Ready" tree fruit to the company if it isn't to their liking. That's how confident the company is that their fruit will be delicious and ready to eat.

The article unfortunately doesn't go into how the company is able to make such a promise to consumers. In fact, much credit goes to UC Davis post harvest physiologist Carlos Crisosto, who is based at the UC Kearney Research and Extension Center near Parlier. As reported in a 2005 UC ANR press release, a decade of research in the state-of-the-art Gordon F. Mitchell Postharvest Laboratory revealed that conventional wisdom about stone fruit -- harvest and immediately refrigerate -- was not the best way to ensure good tasting fruit.

Crisosto discovered that the practice was subjecting fruit to what he calls the “killing temperature zone.” He found that, in general, if the fruit is held at 68 degrees for about two days following harvest, until it reaches a specific level of ripening measured by fruit firmness, and then cooled down, shelf life can be extended seven to 15 days and, most importantly, the fruit would be more consistently pleasing when it reached consumers’ mouths.

“This has rocked our world,” the sales manager for Mountain View Fruit in Reedley is quoted in the release. “For us to pick our fruit and delay the cooling, fiddle around with humidity, pressure and brix, then ship it two, three or four days later, ready to eat – that is totally opposite to what we had been doing.”

Post harvest research at the Kearney REC continues. On Friday, the media are invited to attend the dedication of a brand new sensory lab at the center, which will give scientists at Kearney the tools and environment they need to conduct experiments on the effect of a variety of practices on the fruit eating experience.

The new sensory lab at Kearney.
The new sensory lab at Kearney.

Posted on Wednesday, April 16, 2008 at 10:06 AM

UC farm advisor comments on valley strawberries

Yesterday, the Fresno Bee ran a story about opening of roadside stands selling local strawberries. For the article, reporter Dennis Pollock spoke to UC Cooperative Extension small farm advisor Richard Molinar.

Pollock reported that only 25 strawberry farms remain in the county, down from 45 ten years ago. Most of the growers are Hmong and Mien, refugees from Laos.

Many farmers quit growing the fruit because of urbanization, costs for fumigants and unavailability of contracts with processors, Molinar said, according to the story. Wawona Frozen Foods stopped buying from area growers several years ago, and last year Dole Packaged Frozen Foods Inc. closed its Sanger receiving facility.

"That means growers would have to take their strawberries to the Dole plant in Atwater," Molinar is quoted.

Molinar told the reporter that valley strawberries need fewer or no spray treatments for mold prevention because of the dry climate.The crop this year looks good -- "as long as we don't get any rains," Molinar is quoted.


Molinar works with Southeast Asian farmers.
Molinar works with Southeast Asian farmers.

Posted on Wednesday, April 16, 2008 at 9:47 AM

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