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Reporter ponders UC Cooperative Extension pepper research

Capsaicin, the yellow line of fluid, gives jalapeƱo peppers their heat.
A column in the Salinas Californian playfully reflected on UC Cooperative Extension research that aims to turn up the heat in the mighty jalapeño pepper.

Writer Dennis Taylor reported that Aziz Baameur, UCCE farm advisor in Santa Clara and San Benito counties, is trying to increase the Scoville units in hot peppers by adjusting on-farm practices.

"The trend lately is toward hotter items," said Jeff Sanders of George Chiala Farms in Morgan Hill, the site of the research project.

Taylor waxes on about super hot peppers that are being grown around the world - including the current record holder, according to Guinness, the Carolina Reaper, which is 900 times hotter than the jalapeño.

He wrote that he asked a newsroom colleague, UCCE Master Gardener Laramie Trevino, whether she would prefer more heat in jalapeños, and he mentioned a plan to call Baameur and Sanders to learn more about the motives behind their research work.

For more information about the hot pepper research, see: Some like it hotter: UC Cooperative Extension tries to grow a spicier jalapeño.

Posted on Tuesday, October 21, 2014 at 4:39 PM
Tags: Aziz Baameur (1), pepper (1)

Kiwifruit industry is making a comeback in California

California kiwifruit was valued at $23 million in 2012. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons.)
Kiwifruit, the 67th most-valuable crop in California, had its heyday in the 70s and 80s, before production slowed somewhat, reported Reed Fujii in the Stockton Record. However, UC Cooperative Extension advisor Janine Hasey, says it appears to be growing in popularity once again.

All of U.S. kiwifruit is grown in California. Hasey told the reporter that most kiwifruit come from Sutter, Yuba and Butte counties, as well as the southern San Joaquin Valley. Strong market demand and prices have prompted at least one major grower to expand.

"They actually plan to plant 800 acres in Yuba County, which is a huge increase," Hasey said.

Kiwis are native to China, but are commonly associated with New Zealand. Called the Chinese gooseberry, they were renamed "kiwifruit" - after flightless birds native to New Zealand - for the export market in the 1950s. Kiwifruit vines are frost sensitive and require plenty of heat in the summer. Of the 27 most commonly eaten fruits, kiwis are the fourth most nutrient dense, following papayas, mangos and oranges, according to the Network for a Healthy California's Harvest of the Month.

Hasey said consumers are drawn to the fruit's sweet-tart taste and nutritional value.

“They're really packed with potassium and vitamins and antioxidants, and a lot of people like them,” she said.

Posted on Monday, October 20, 2014 at 4:20 PM
Tags: Janine Hasey (3), kiwifruit (1)

UCCE partners with UC Merced on critical issues

University of California Cooperative Extension has headquartered two new specialists on the UC Merced campus, reported Scott Hernandez-Jason of UC Merced University News. Karina Diaz-Rios, specialist for nutrition, family and consumer sciences, joined UCCE on Sept. 2. Tapan Pathak, specialist for climate adaptation in agriculture, will start Feb. 2, 2015.

"These positions come with a focus on interacting with the community, conducting applied research, and translating UC research to help the ag economy and local residents,” said Tom Peterson, UC Merced Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor. “We are pleased that UC Merced can partner with UC ANR (UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources) on these important issues.”

Karina Diaz-Rios
According to the news release, Diaz-Rios will be housed in UC Merced's Health Sciences Research Institute and focus on nutrition research and education and food security. She will connect with a larger team of nutrition researchers and educators throughout the UC system addressing issues related to healthy food and human health.

Tapan Pathak
Pathak, who will be housed in the Sierra Nevada Research Institute at UC Merced, will help farmers and ranchers adapt to new conditions created by variable and changing climate. He will collaborate with UC colleagues and state and federal agencies in statewide efforts to address climate variability and climate change adaptation and mitigation. He is currently an extension educator in climate variability at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

UC ANR continuously provides research-based solutions to the California agriculture industry, said Barbara Allen-Diaz, ANR vice president.

“California agriculture is a world-recognized marvel, and we'd like to think the university, through ANR's research and outreach, is a big reason why,” she said. “Adding UC Merced to our existing, thriving partnerships with UC Davis, UC Berkeley and UC Riverside will only strengthen UC efforts in helping California and the world to sustainably feed itself.”

Posted on Wednesday, October 15, 2014 at 10:03 AM

Drought is driving interest in high-tech irrigation systems

Overhead irrigation systems can be part of an agricultural system that improves irrigation management, increases carbon storage and builds soil quality.
Interest in new irrigation technology is getting a boost from the ongoing California drought, reported Kate Campbell in AgAlert.

Allan Fulton, UC Cooperative Extension advisor for Glenn, Shasta and Tehama counties, said technology is improving the ability to organize crop data and get it to farm managers on the fly.

"With the right system," Fulton said, "farmers can get almost to-the-minute information on every aspect of their crop."

As new, integrated database systems are being created, new data-gathering equipment also is advancing for field use to further aid on-farm decisions, the article said. For example, the California Department of Food and Agriculture announced last week a $286,000 grant to UC Davis for work on a continuous leaf moisture monitoring system. Using thermal infrared sensors along with environmental sensors that measure ambient temperature and relative humidity, wind speed and incident radiation, the system's goal is to detect crop water status to support irrigation management.

Jeff Mitchell, a UCCE specialist in the Department of Plant Sciences at UC Davis, is evaluating overhead, or center pivot, irrigation technology, especially in a system that includes conservation tillage. The research is being conducted at the UC West Side Research and Extension Center in Five Points with equipment donated by industry.

The work group focuses on emerging crop- and soil-management techniques — conservation tillage, high-surface residue preservation, cover crops — to improve irrigation management, increase carbon storage and build soil quality.

"We're developing completely new cropping systems for the valley," Mitchell said, "and these get at the so-called three E's of farming—integration of equipment, economics and ecology."

Kings County farmer Dino Giacomazzi, said growers are thinking in terms of systems these days. Giacomazzi is a founding member of UC's Conservation Agriculture Systems Innovation, a workgroup that Mitchell chairs.

"It's very difficult to put things together piecemeal. Even to get advice about these more advanced systems is difficult," Giacomazzi said.

Posted on Wednesday, October 8, 2014 at 7:41 PM
Tags: Alan Fulton (3), CASI (6), Jeff Mitchell (11)

The California economy could survive a 72-year drought

If a drought in California stretched on for 72 years, it wouldn't be a complete disaster, reported Bettina Boxall in the Los Angeles Times. According to computer modeling research by a group of UC and CSU scientists, the California economy would not collapse and agriculture would shrink, but not disappear.

"The results were surprising," said Jay Lund, director of the Center for Watershed Sciences at UC Davis. "California has a remarkable ability to weather extreme and prolonged droughts from an economic perspective."

Dan Sumner, director of the UC Agricultural Issues Center, said the state's 8 million acres of irrigated cropland could be cut in half. Farmers would grow less "low-value crops" like cotton and alfalfa and use reduced water supplies for growing fruits, nuts and vegetables.

Land that had been farmed would revert to scrub or be dry-farmed with wheat or other crops that were common before the federal government built a system to channel water to the valley.

"In a sense, we move back to the future," Sumner said.

Some farm communities would turn into ghost towns, the article said. "For a while, poor people would get a lot poorer throughout the Central Valley," Sumner said. "Then they'd move."

Since agriculture and ag industries make up 4 percent of the California economy, a decades-long drought wouldn't destroy the state's economy.
Posted on Tuesday, October 7, 2014 at 8:27 AM
Tags: Dan Sumner (21), Jay Lund (3)

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