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Recycling Christmas trees helps curb the spread of pests

Recycling Christmas trees helps prevent the spread of pests.
If you have a real Christmas tree, University of California pest management experts ask that you to recycle the tree to prevent the spread of insects and diseases that may harm our forests and landscape trees.

“Invasive insects, diseases and plant seeds can move on cut Christmas trees and other holiday greenery,” said Janice Alexander, UC Cooperative Extension forest health educator in Marin County. “These pests can escape out into backyards and neighboring forests to begin new populations, upsetting the balance of our native ecosystems. Proper purchasing and disposal of holiday greenery helps reduce that risk.”

Alexander recommends taking advantage of local tree recycling programs.

Sudden oak death symptoms are shown here on Grand fir. Photo by Gary Chastagner.
“Many municipalities and service organizations offer this service right at your curb,” she said. “If you aren't able to find or use this option, take the tree to your local solid waste facility, dump or landfill. This will keep any pests that might be in the tree from spreading and the landfill uses the material as cover.”

“You should not try to burn the wood indoors as fresh sap can create fire hazards,” she added, “and don't set the tree out in a backyard brush pile where pests and weed seeds could escape onto your property.”

“The most worrisome pests that might be traveling on Christmas trees or greenery this year include P. ramorum, pine shoot beetle and gypsy moth,” Alexander said.

The movement of some fresh trees is regulated. For example, Douglas fir trees are regulated because they are hosts for Phytophthora ramorum, which causes sudden oak death. The disease has killed millions of tanoak trees and several oak tree species in forests throughout California since the mid-1990s.   

Pine shoot beetles can stunt and even kill pine trees.
Pine shoot beetle and gypsy moth are not currently in California, but they could damage the state's Christmas tree plantations and forests if they were to become established.

Pine shoot beetles, Tomicus piniperda, feed on shoots, stunting the growth of pine trees. Large populations of the insects can kill apparently healthy trees.

Gypsy moth, Lymantria dispar, attacks forests and landscape trees, including manzanita, western hemlock, Douglas fir and live oak. Gypsy moth caterpillars feed on hundreds of plant species and are capable of defoliating trees at an alarming rate. A single gypsy moth caterpillar can eat up to one square foot of leaves per day, according to the California Department of Food and Agriculture. 

A single gypsy moth caterpillar can eat up to one square foot of leaves per day. Photo by Roger Zerillo.
“According to the Don't Move Firewood website, Christmas trees are generally deemed safer than firewood in terms of invasive pests,” Alexander said. “However, safe disposal of trees is still important.”

For more information about sudden oak death and forest health, visit Alexander's website at http://cemarin.ucanr.edu/Programs/Custom_Program816. More information about holiday greenery pests can be found at the USDA APHIS website and the Don't Move Firewood website http://www.dontmovefirewood.org/HolidayGreenery.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted on Friday, December 19, 2014 at 8:35 AM

Hay Thefts Increase in Western & Southern Fresno County

Truck and trailer with suspected stolen hay bales

I copied this article from our local Farm Bureau News. It was written by Sgt. Ryan Hushaw, Fresno Sheriff's Ag Task Force. Although the references are for Fresno County, the tips are relevant everywhere so I thought I'd share. Within the last...

Posted on Friday, December 19, 2014 at 8:27 AM

Oh the weather outside is fungal - It’s like a mushroom jungle

Mushrooms are popping up all over California thanks to the wet rainy weather we have had across the state recently. They seem to magically appear overnight, like umbrellas on a sunny beach day. This fascinating occurrence doesn't actually happen overnight as it may seem, but they appear once moisture becomes available. Mushrooms expand rapidly by absorbing water from the surrounding soil and consequently ‘pop' out of the ground.

Mushrooms are the fruiting body of a fungus and come in myriad shapes, sizes and colors. They are typically the only part of a fungus that can be seen because the mass of the organism is located underground.

There are approximately 14,000 different classified species of mushrooms, here are a few of my favorites:

Agaricus campestris (fairy rings): According to UC IPM, fairy rings get their name from the ancient belief that mushrooms grew in circles where fairies dance. Fairy ring fungi can cause circular rings in grass, ranging from 1 to 12 or more feet in diameter. (Photo: UC IPM / Jack Kelly Clark)

 

 

Boletus edulis (king bolete): A mighty mushroom of the mycology world, king bolete can be an exciting find. With a cap up to 10 inches across and a thick stem, these club like mushrooms have a wide range. In the home landscape, they can most commonly be found under conifer trees planted in turfgrass. (Photo: Strobilomyces)

 

Laetiporus sulphureus (chicken of the woods): A showy and beautiful shelf-like mushroom, chicken of the woods is easy to spot because of its bright yellow color. They most frequently grow out of wounds on trees and each ‘shelf' can be up to 10 inches across. (Photo: Bruce Hagen)

 

Nidula Candida (bird's nest): Like their name implies, these small mushrooms are reminiscent of birdsnests, complete with tiny eggs. These mushrooms are most commonly found on decaying wood, typically on fallen trees or in soil with bark mulch. These tiny mushrooms aren't easy to spot as the largest caps are only ½ inch across. (Photo: Nathan Wilson- Mushroom Observer)

The next time you see mushrooms, consider what might be happening underground in your soil. For more information on mushrooms including identification and management, visit UC IPM online.

Enjoy the wet weather and the next time you find yourself excited over a new fungal find, here is a jingle to celebrate the season:

Let it Rain (sung to the tune of ‘Let it Snow')
by Ann King Filmer

Oh the weather outside is fungal
It's like a mushroom jungle
But since we've got much to gain
Let it rain! Let it rain! Let it rain!

Posted on Wednesday, December 17, 2014 at 10:26 AM

Five ways NOT to poison friends and family during the holidays

The food-safety danger zone is between 40 degrees F and 140 degrees F.
‘Tis the season for gathering with friends and family and eating. Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or Festivus for the rest of us, many of us invite people to our homes during the holidays and leave food out to graze. Leaving food out for more than two hours can be hazardous to your health and that of your guests, caution UC Cooperative Extension nutrition experts.

You may be thinking, “My family has eaten food that has been sitting on the table longer than two hours and survived.” Consider yourself lucky.

“We keep learning more about foodborne illness,” says Patti Wooten Swanson, UC Cooperative Extension nutrition advisor in San Diego County. “We probably did get sick, but we thought it was something else, like the 24-hour flu.”

She added that kids, diabetics, pregnant women, older adults and people with weakened immune systems are more susceptible to foodborne illnesses.

For the holidays and all year long, Wooten Swanson offers these food safety tips:

  • Thaw turkey or meat in the refrigerator.
  • Don't wash raw meat or poultry in the sink before cooking.
  • Use a meat thermometer to determine when meat or poultry is done.
  • Put leftovers in the refrigerator within two hours.
  • On the fourth day, throw leftovers away.

Guacamole and salsa shouldn't be left out for longer than 2 hours.
Thawing foods correctly and storing them at the right temperatures is important, said Wooten Swanson.

“Bacteria grow very rapidly,” she said. “From 40 degrees to 140 degrees is what we call the danger zone. We encourage you to get food out of that temperature range as soon as possible. Don't let food sit on the table after you finish eating and go to watch TV.”

While you're watching football, she also recommends not leaving food out the length of a game.

“Chips are fine to leave out,” Wooten Swanson said, “But put the salsa and guacamole in small containers, then put out new bowls at halftime. Take away the original containers to wash or discard.You don't want to refill a bowl that has been out for 2 hours.”

Washing your hands can prevent bacteria from spreading to food.
Food safety begins with clean hands.

“We put an emphasis on hand washing because it can prevent cross-contamination, which helps prevent foodborne illness and can keep us healthy during the flu season,” said Connie Schneider, director of the UC Youth, Families and Communities Statewide Program.

She recommends rubbing your hands together with soap and water for 20 seconds to thoroughly clean them.

The UC Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) teaches hand washing as a food safety practice in its nutrition classes for adults and children. After taking the class in San Diego County, 72 percent of the 340 participating adults improved their safe food-handling practices and 55 percent of 1,231 children improved, said Wooten Swanson, who oversees the nutrition and food safety education program.

For more food safety resources, visit UC Cooperative Extension's  "Food Safety for the Holidays" website http://ucanr.edu/HolidayFoodSafety and Nebraska and Iowa State Cooperative Extension's food safety website at http://www.4daythrowaway.org.  For USDA recommended temperatures for cooking meat, visit http://blogs.usda.gov/2011/05/25/cooking-meat-check-the-new-recommended-temperatures.

Posted on Wednesday, December 17, 2014 at 8:30 AM

New GMO alfalfa holds exciting possibilities, UC expert says

Growers can produce more nutritious alfalfa using new low-lignin variety, says UCCE's Dan Putnam.
Good news for dairy cows. Science has found a way to produce alfalfa with less lignin, a component of the plant that has no nutritional value. The new alfalfa variety – genetically modified in a way that puts brakes on the lignin-producing gene – was deregulated by USDA in November.

“In general, a reduced lignin trait in alfalfa is very welcome,” said Dan Putnam, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Plant Sciences at UC Davis. “The low-lignin trait has some interesting potential implications for dairy cows and other ruminants, as well as for yield, agronomic efficiency, and even energy and water use efficiency.”

The new variety, called KK179, was developed by Forage Genetics International, Monsanto and the Nobel Foundation. Some of the field testing took place at UC Davis and the UC Intermountain Research and Extension Center in Tulelake, Calif.

KK179 differs from most other GMO agricultural crops in that the modification improves the plant quality. Other common modifications, such as glyphosate resistance and addition of a Bt gene, were designed to help with pest control.

Another difference is the source of the modified gene, Putnam said. In glyphosate-resistant (Roundup Ready) alfalfa, for example, the plant was modified by inserting a bacteria gene. Gene segments reducing lignin were derived from alfalfa itself.

Lignin is a fibrous part of cell walls in plants. It strengthens stems, helping the plant grow upright. However, its concentration in alfalfa is high compared to other forages, a drawback for what is considered the premiere forage of dairy cows.

“Farmers often try to cut early to reduce lignin,” Putnam said. “Unfortunately, yields are decreased by early cutting, often by many tons per acre. If growers were able to harvest later and still obtain good quality, yields would improve.”

That leads to the potential energy- and water-conserving aspects of the KK179 alfalfa.

“If growers reduce harvests by one each year and increase yields with no quality penalty, energy use would decline,” Putnam said. “Also, the amount of milk produced per unit of water used to grow the feed may be increased.”

KK179 won't be for everybody, Putnam cautions. Some export markets reject GMO technology, so growers should check whether their markets will accept alfalfa with the low-lignin trait. Another concern is the possibility of gene flow for farmers who grow alfalfa seed for organic production or export.

“Further research and experience by farmers and researchers are needed to fully understand the importance and implications of reduced-lignin alfalfa on farms,” Putnam said, “but this trait holds some very exciting possibilities.”

An initiative to enhance competitive and sustainable food systems is part of the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources Strategic Vision 2025

Posted on Tuesday, December 16, 2014 at 8:13 AM
Tags: alfalfa (17), Dan Putnam (4), GMO (1)

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