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'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 Grist.org.

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
Tags: climate change (35), garden (38), greenhouse gas (4)

California's native fish in steady decline for 50 years

Ted Grantham
California's fresh water fish are in trouble, and not just because of the drought, reported Lori Pottinger in the Viewpoints blog published by the Public Policy Institute of California.

Pottinger asked Ted Grantham, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Environmental Science Policy and Management at UC Berkeley, whether the state's fish are adapted to periodic droughts.

Drought is one stressor, he said, but there are additional factors imperiling fish.

"California's native fish have been in steady decline for at least 50 years — in part due to dams, habitat degradation, and the introduction of non-native species," Grantham said. "Native fishes have developed several strategies to cope, but key to their long-term survival is their ability to recover from drought during wet years."

Grantham said there are at least three strategies that would help better manage the state's native fish.

  1. Better define the amount of water needed to sustain healthy fish populations.
  2. Create an accurate accounting system for tracking water availability and use.
  3. Recognize that not all streams are created equal. Some streams support more biological diversity.

The ecosystems science researcher said he is optimistic about the future.

"Although the drought has severely affected California's freshwater ecosystems, it also has raised awareness about the need to improve water management and better prepare for climate change," he said.

For more on threats to California native fish, read Identifying gaps in protecting California's native fish in the UC California Institute for Water Resources' blog The Confluence.

Sacramento pikeminnow can be found in deep river pools. (Photo: Josh Viers)

 

Posted on Friday, September 2, 2016 at 11:50 AM
Tags: climate change (35), drought (117), native fish (1), Ted Grantham (1)

Ojai 4-H member earns enough for new wheelchair by raising a sheep

In 4-H animal science projects, youth learn about animals and their behavior, health and reproduction.
Eleven-year-old Demisu Evans of Ojai will get a new custom-made wheelchair after raising a sheep and selling it at the Ventura County Fair, reported Anne Kallas in the Ventura County Star.

4-H, offered in all California counties by UC Cooperative Extension, engages youth ages 5 to 19 in reaching their fullest potential. Club and after-school programs are designed to provide knowledge, expertise and skills that will help youth develop into responsible, self-directed, and productive people. 4-H encourages family involvement. 

The Ventura County Star's heart-warming story traces Demisu's journey from his native Ethiopia to a ranch in rural Upper Ojai. One of 10 children, three adopted from the west African nation, Demisu has triplegia, the use of only his right arm. The rocky and uneven terrain at the family's ranch made it difficult for Demisu to get around, so he decided to raise funds for a heavy-duty wheelchair that he can operate with one hand. The cost is $6,000.

Demisu raised a 113-pound lamb, and sold it for $75 a pound to the Wood-Claeyssens Foundation. At market, sheep are typically valued at about $1 to $2 per pound, according to Sheep101.com. Bidding for Demisu's sheep went through the roof when bidders learned he would be using the money for the new, custom wheelchair.

Posted on Monday, August 29, 2016 at 9:46 AM
Tags: 4-H (50), Ventura County (4)

The European grapevine moth has officially been eradicated in California

The European grapevine moth, which was detected in Napa County in 2009 and threatened crops valued at $5.7 billion, has been eradicated from the state, reported Geoffrey Mohan in the Los Angeles Times.

The reporter gleaned information about and a photo of the moth from UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR). The article credited ANR as explaining, "The moth's several larval stages damage flowers and the fruit itself throughout the growing season."

UC ANR played a key role in the eradicating the pest from California. A team of UC ANR academics received an award this year for coordinating a program "that saved the wine and table grape industries from economic disaster caused by an invasive insect," said the ANR Report.

ANR's European Grapevine Moth Team includes:

  • Walter Bentley – UC Integrated Pest Management entomologist emeritus
  • Larry Bettiga, UC Cooperative Extension advisor in Monterey County
  • Monica Cooper, UC Cooperative Extension advisor in Napa County
  • Kent Daane, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management at UC Berkeley
  • Rhonda Smith, UC Cooperative Extension advisor in Sonoma County
  • Joyce Strand, IPM academic coordinator emeritus
  • Robert Van Steenwyk,  UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management at UC Berkeley
  • Lucia Varela, UC Cooperative Extension area IPM advisor in the North Coast
  • Frank Zalom, UC Cooperative Extension specialist and professor in the Department of Entomology at UC Davis
The European grapevine moth has been eradicated in California. (Photo: Jack Kelly Clark)
Posted on Friday, August 19, 2016 at 8:46 AM

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