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USDA's nutrition advice doesn't align with spending

USDA recommends Americans fill half their plates with fruit and vegetables.
According to the USDA's dietary recommendations - which are represented in the MyPlate infographic - half the food Americans eat should be fruit and vegetables. However, the same agency allocates under one-half of 1 percent of agency funds to specialty crops like fruits and vegetables, reported Helene Bottemiller Evich in Politico.

For the story, Evich spoke to Glenda Humiston, vice president of UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR), the research and outreach arm of the University of California. UC ANR extends science-based agricultural production and nutrition information to California farmers and communities. Humiston said California agricultural industry leaders have made it clear that they don't want traditional subsidies, like price supports.

"They want help with the infrastructure to do their jobs better," she said, including more funding for research labs and data collection that can help industry solve problems.

It isn't clear whether subsidies would reduce the cost of fruits and vegetables, nor does the potential of lower-cost healthy food ensure that people will eat it, the article said.

Many consumers also lack the time or the skills to prepare and cook their perishables. And some don't care for the flavor of healthful produce like kale, kohlrabi and rapini, to name a few.

The top fruits and vegetables consumed by Americans are potatoes (french fries) and tomatoes (primarily driven by ketchup). Only 14 percent of Americans consume 1.5 to 2 fruits and veggies per day, according to State of the Plate, a 2015 study on Americas' consumption of fruit and vegetables. (See below.) The USDA's dietary guidelines recommend 9 to 13 servings of fruit and veggies per day.

Fruits and vegetables are highly perishable, which makes growing, harvesting, storing and shipping complicated and expensive.

 

State of the Plate, a 2015 Study on America's Consumption of Fruit and Vegetables by the Produce for Better Health Foundation.
State of the Plate, a 2015 Study on America's Consumption of Fruit and Vegetables by the Produce for Better Health Foundation.

Posted on Wednesday, March 8, 2017 at 10:55 AM

Researchers raise concern over paraquat health risks

The popular herbicide paraquat works well and is inexpensive, but emerging research shows a correlation of paraquat exposure and Parkinson's disease, reported Kerry Klein on Valley Public Radio.

Klein met with UC Cooperative Extension weed advisor Kurt Hembree at an almond orchard near Selma that was clear of weeds. Growers kill weeds because weeds kill crops, Hembree said.

"Direct competition for water and nutrients. Whatever the tree likes, the weeds like," he said.

Hembree explained how the paraquat works.

"Paraquat's a contact-type herbicide," he said. "In other words, it's a material that, if you sprayed it on a plant, it'll disrupt the plant's cells. And basically in five or six days, whatever it touches, it spots up and it causes necrosis and death on the tissue."

Paraquat is toxic, so it requires careful handling to protect the safety of applicators.  

“Something like paraquat, you're going to wear rubber boots, you're going to wear goggles while you're spraying,” Hembree said. “You don't want to get this stuff on your skin or on your mouth or anywhere.”

The KVPR story said paraquat is among the top 10 most common herbicides in California, and the San Joaquin Valley gets more than three-quarters of the state total. Caroline Tanner, a neurologist at UC San Francisco, was also interviewed for the story.

“People who mixed or applied this chemical had more than double the risk of developing Parkinson's disease compared to people really very similar as far as where they lived, even what they did for a living, age and gender,” she said.

However, people who were careful with personal protective equipment didn't have a greater risk of Parkinson's disease, Tanner said.

Weeds will compete with a new orchard for water, sun and nutrients, and interfere with harvest in mature orchards. Weeds in this orchard were killed with an herbicide.
Posted on Tuesday, March 7, 2017 at 11:16 AM
Tags: Kurt Hembree (1), weeds (6)

Sourcing sustainable food for students is a success

The UC system's goal to purchase 20 percent of its food from sustainable sources by 2020, one of the efforts connected to the UC Global Food Initiative, has already been achieved four years early, reported Scott Thill on Civil Eats.

The residence dining halls purchased 22 percent of their food from sustainable sources and five UC medical centers have reached 20 percent.

"I think our challenge going forward is realizing that 20 percent is considered a minimum-level threshold," said Tim Garlarneau, co-chair of the UC Sustainable Food Service Working Group and co-chair of the UC Global Food Initiative's Food Access and Security Subcommittee.

One way the article suggested to make more progress in sustainable food procurement is to purchase popular foods – like coffee – from growers in California, where the bean isn't typically grown. UC Cooperative Extension advisor Mark Gaskell said that he expects to see more coffee plantings and increased overall coffee acreage in central and southern California.

“This will always be a niche crop on small farms in California destined for high-value niche markets, but fortunately we have clearly demonstrated that very high-quality coffee can be produced in California,” he said.

Garlarneau notes that crops like coffee and bananas are better grown and sourced fairly from abroad while UC focuses on local sources for California-grown foods.

Systemwide coordination for purchasing higher costing food products (such as meats) that can meet campus and medical center specifications and demonstrate increased sustainability will require going out to bid to larger entities to meet the demand. As an example, Garlarneau shared UC's Sea to Table commitment to support small-scale fisherfolk to complement larger company offerings of sustainable tunafish and other seafood.

California grown plums can be sourced sustainably to help meet the goals of the UC Global Food Initiative.
Posted on Monday, March 6, 2017 at 3:55 PM

The 2017 tree nut and fruit season begins with a mixed bag

Wet and wacky winter weather may wreak havoc on the almond crop, but UC Cooperative Extension advisor Franz Niederholzer has promising words for farmers concerned about adequate pollination, reported Heather Hacking in the Chico Enterprise-Record.

“You don't need them to all be pollinated,” he said. A pollination rate of 40 percent would make a great year. Twenty five percent will still produce a decent crop.

The heavy rain, wind and cold temperatures that have characterized January and February 2017 could be overcome with just a bit of warm, sunny weather. In Chico, the weekend of Feb. 11-12 were sunny, as was Saturday the 18th. Those were good days for bees to fly.

Fungus is also a concern, said Danielle Lightle, UCCE advisor in Glenn County. Typically farmers watch the weather and spray fungicides before it rains. However, the persistent rain made orchard floors muddy, unfavorable conditions for moving heavy spray rigs.

Farmers who have been in the business for a while know that the golden rule is to “control what you can and let go of what you can't,” Lightle said.

A bee pollinates an almond blossom under sunny skies.
Posted on Monday, February 27, 2017 at 10:52 AM

Three old trees might save the citrus industry

Three citrus trees that produce inedible fruit at the UC Lindcove Research and Extension Center in Visalia may be a game-changer for the citrus industry, reported Ezra David Romero on Valley Public Radio.

The trees are thought to be resistant to huanglongbing, a severe disease of citrus that has devastated the Florida industry and could become a serious problem in California. The citrus-saving potential of the three 34-year-old trees was outlined in an article by UC Agriculture and Natural Resources writer Hazel White in the most recent issue of California Agriculture journal.

UC Riverside citrus breeder Mikeal Roose collected seed from the trees and will test seedlings as soon as they are large enough. 

"So what (breeders) have to do is cross this with some edible varieties and eventually create something that has the gene for resistance, but also the genes for good fruit," said Beth Grafton-Cardwell, Lindcove director and research entomologist.

Huanglongbing disease has cut citrus production in Florida by more than half. It's been found in residential citrus trees in Southern California, but hasn't reached the state's vast commercial orchards yet. Grafton-Cardwell said she expects the disease will arrive in 4 or 5 years.

Eremocitrus crosses at Lindcove REC are potentially promising in the pursuit of a genetic source of resistance to HLB. The fruit is golfball size and inedible.
Posted on Friday, February 24, 2017 at 1:35 PM

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