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A disheartening new pest invades California vegetable gardens

Bagrada bugs feeding on a tomato. (Photo: Jennifer Evangelista, San Luis Obispo)
California gardeners harvesting their summer produce may encounter a new pest – the bagrada bug. The native of Africa made its first California appearance in Los Angeles County six years ago and has been moving eastward and northward ever since.

“Citizen scientists have been instrumental in reporting the occurrence of bagrada in various counties and are helping map its current distribution,” said Surendra Dara, UC Cooperative Extension advisor in San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties. “This is a very serious pest. It is wiping out gardens, and is of great concern for small-scale and organic growers.”

Bagrada bugs are major pests of cruciferous vegetables, such as cabbage, kale, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and broccoli, but they don't appear to be picky eaters. They have been known to feed on a wide variety of garden vegetables in California, including green beans, cantaloupe, corn, peppers, potatoes, tomatoes and sunflower. Even landscape plants are not immune. Bagrada bugs have been found feeding on ornamental plants in the mustard family, like sweet alyssum, stock and candytuft.

Bagrada bugs congregating on sunflowers. (Photo: Larry Adcock, Arroyo Grande)
The adult bagrada bugs are about the size of watermelon seeds and have shield-shaped black backs with white and orange markings. Young bagrada bugs – with their red, black and white markings – are sometimes mistaken for ladybugs. But bagrada bugs have piercing and sucking mouthparts which cause dead spots on plant leaves and stems when they feed, and result in stunted growth, plant deformities and plant death.

Dara said scientists had hoped cold winter temperatures in northern counties of California would limit the bagrada's northward march, but that hasn't been the case so far.

“Bagrada bugs can survive the winter or cold nights by entering the top layer of the soil around crops,” he said. "They start appearing again in early spring and move from weeds to young vegetables."

For more information on bagrada bugs, see the Pest Note produced by the UC Integrated Pest Management Program. In addition, Dara regularly posts bagrada bug updates on his blog, Strawberries and Vegetables.

Distribution of bagrada bug in California, September 2014.
Distribution of bagrada bug in California, September 2014.

Posted on Friday, September 12, 2014 at 9:28 AM
Tags: Bagrada bug (1), Surendra Dara (1)

Weekly food dispatch


September 2014 is California Wine Month
Gov. Brown declared September 2014 as California Wine Month to encourage tourists from around the world to enjoy the state's signature wines. The designation comes shortly after a 6.0 magnitude earthquake in Napa caused losses in “Wine Country” amounting to $80 million. KQED | CA Press Office

New diet book gets it right
A new book from a UC Davis nutrition professor titled “Body Respect” provides the latest science on size, weight and diet in clear language support by data, plus some surprises. The book, written by Linda Bacon, promises readers content that “conventional health books leave out, get wrong or just plain fail to understand about weight.” CAES Currents

The nation

The promise of hydroponics
Arizona scientists are researching hydroponic strawberry production as a sustainable, but expensive way to provide tasty, flawless fruit to consumers the same day they are picked. A new video outlines the advantages of hydroponic strawberries: no soil fumigation, no pesticides, winter production and low water use. Strawberries & Caneberries Blog

Internet to revolutionize the food industry
Millennials who've grown up in the Internet age are set to make dramatic changes to the food industry. The newest trend in healthy, convenient food leaves meal planning, shopping, chopping and measuring to a high-end Internet vendor. The consumer follows step-by-step directions and serves a fresh-made meal at home. Already offering the service are Blue Apron and Saffron Fix. “The food industry is all going online,” said the founder of Saffron Fix. Forbes

New PBS series focuses on food
A 12-episode documentary that examines the U.S. food system, titled Food Forward, premieres on PBS stations around the country this week. They can also be viewed online. Each episode of Food Forward focuses on an ingredient or component of the food system. Twenty percent of each episode outlines a problem, and 80 percent shows solutions. The stories of real farmers and other food leaders are the “heart” of Food Forward. Civil Eats

The world

Cost of food is down in world
World food prices hit a four-year low in August, led by declines in dairy and grain prices, reported the United Nations. Russia's ban on food imports reduced demand and depressed prices. Grain prices dropped because of higher-than-expected output.

Squid ink gives the BK black burger its black sauce
For a limited time, Burger King is offering its Japanese customers a Kuro Pearl burger, a whopper pattie with extra black pepper on a black bun, with black sauce and black cheese. How the fast food chain makes the food black wasn't explained, except for the sauce, which is a “delicious combination of onion, garlic and squid ink.” ABC News

A compilation of news from the World Wide Web relevant to the UC Global Food Initiative, which aims to put the world on a path to sustainably and nutritiously feed itself. By building on existing efforts and creating new collaborations among UC's 10 campuses, affiliated national laboratories and the Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, the initiative will develop and export solutions for food security, health and sustainability throughout California, the United States and the world.

Posted on Friday, September 12, 2014 at 9:20 AM

About that lemoncello

One of the hazards of contributing to a shared blog, is that one forgets to post. So in this case, while I said in my last post that we would re-visit the lemoncello in mid-May, here it is September.  Time flies.

The lemoncello is a huge success, we've been enjoying it on the hot summer afternoons that are plentiful in Davis.  And here's how I got from pith to pleasure . . . .

The first steps in the lemoncello process were documented in this early Spring post.  The recipe calls for 6 weeks of steeping the lemon zest in the alcohol in a cool, dark place; preferably, in a place where it won't be disturbed.  I had placed mine in a place so cool, dark, and undisturbed it took me 45 minutes to find it.

But that resolved, I moved to the next step - filtering.

You can see that the zest from all of those lemons has settled to the bottom of the bottle.  Lemoncello aficionados recommend a 2-step filtering process.  The first step is to get most of the zest out using a fine sieve.

Look at all of this zest!

Quite a bit of solid material is left in the liquid after this process.

To remove these last solids, the liquid is filtered through a paper coffee filter. (Lemoncello purists, like coffee purists, would object to the use of a paper filter, saying it imparts a paper flavor.)

The next step is to add the cooled simple syrup.  The basic simple syrup recipe calls for equal parts of sugar and water, but for lemoncello less sugar is used.  For one 750ml bottle of base alcohol, you need 2-1/2 cups of water and 1-3/4 cups sugar.  Add the sugar to the water in a medium saucepan and heat over medium heat.  Bring to a gentle boil, stirring constantly, until the sugar is dissolved.  Let the mixture cool completely to room temperature before adding to the lemoncello base.

Decant the mixture, and put in a cool, dark place for another 45 days.  The addition of the simple syrup increases the volume, so you can't fit your mixture into the original bottle.

This mixture was moved into two tall glass bottles and set aside until early July.

You can put the finished lemoncello in the freezer or in the refrigerator.  Enjoy it alone or in a cocktail on a hot summer afternoon when you need a little something refreshing!

If you want to make your own lemoncello, an excellent resource is the blog LemoncelloQuest.

Posted on Tuesday, September 9, 2014 at 2:57 PM
Tags: alcohol (4), citrus (10), lemons (2)

Farmers invite visitors with new farm trail maps

The Sacramento River Delta Grown Agritourism Association map brochure invites, “Drive along winding rivers and sloughs in the heart of the California Delta; Visit quaint historic towns, shop at rustic farm stands or pick your own fresh fruit and vegetables; Taste Delta wines, picnic by the river, and enjoy the peaceful pace among generational family farms.”

The Capay Valley Farm Trail Map lists more than 40 farms in the Cache Creek watershed, and explains, “Capay Valley is a remarkable stretch of fertile land and rolling hills, home to a host of small and mid-size farms, natural wonders, and outstanding events…”

The North Yuba Grown Farm Trail Map brochure encourages visitors to “Enjoy the Flavors of North Yuba … Some olive trees in the area are more than 100 years old, and are still producing excellent olive oils. The vines cultivated for wine are forced to dig deep for water and nutrients, resulting in smaller yields but expressing intense flavors.”

As Californians' interest in local food and farming increases, farmers in many parts of the state are finding ways to invite their urban and suburban neighbors out to the farms to taste, tour, play and learn. Three groups of growers, Capay Valley Grown in Yolo County, North Yuba Grown in Yuba and Butte, and Sacramento River Delta Grown in Sacramento County, have just published new farm trail maps that promote agritourism in their unique farming regions. The maps are part of a UC Small Farm Program project, funded by a CDFA Specialty Crop Block grant, called, “Building a Farm Trail: Developing effective agritourism associations to enhance rural tourism and promote specialty crops.”

Each of the map brochures is a product of collaboration among the region's farmers and vintners, coordinated by the Small Farm Program and supported by a team of marketing, tourism and economic development professionals. The goals of the project include creation of maps, but also, more importantly, training and support for each group of growers in building sustainable and effective collaborative marketing associations that connect with the larger rural tourism community in their regions. Each group is now distributing their new maps, and is also working with a website designer to redesign their websites for clarity and customer appeal.

The Sacramento River Delta group put on their Wine and Produce Passport Weekend in early August to debut their maps. North Yuba Grown is sponsoring the North Yuba Harvest Festival, to be held on September 27 and 28, and Capay Valley Grown is planning an Open Farm Day on October 5 this year. The groups of growers will have a chance to share their experiences with each other at a regional workshop in November, and with other California agritourism operators at a statewide agritourism summit to be held in April 2015.

The California Statewide Agritourism Summit, organized by the UC Small Farm Program as part of the same project, will bring together agritourism associations and others involved in California agritourism from throughout the state to learn from each other. The summit will include planning sessions for the continuation of statewide farm trail and agritourism association networking and skill-sharing. For more information, please click here or contact UC Small Farm Program Agritourism Coordinator Penny Leff, (530) 752-7779.


Visitors tour a farm in the Sacramento Delta region during pear harvest season.
Posted on Monday, September 8, 2014 at 2:17 PM

Weekly food dispatch


California walnut producer supports UC Global Food Initiative
Craig and Julie McNamara of Sierra Orchards in Winters, Calif., will donate $7,500 to the UC Global Food Initiative Student Fellowship Program. The donation supports student-generated research, related student projects or internships focused on food issues. Joy Sterling, CEO of Iron Horse Vineyards, and Chez Panisse owner Alice Waters and the Edible Schoolyard Project also have each committed $2,500 to the fellowship program. UCOP

2014 almond crop appears to have smaller, lighter kernels than expected
One month into the California almond harvest, anecdotal reports suggest the crop is lighter than expected, according to the CEO of the California Almond Board. USDA estimated in June a record crop of 2.1 million pounds. Quantity of nuts is plentiful, but size seems to be small. Where salty water or not enough water was applied, kernels seem to be lighter than normal.

Feds predict abundant processing tomatoes in 2014
Farmers are expected to harvest a record 14 million tons of processing tomatoes in 2014, reported the National Agricultural Statistics Service. The harvest started in June and continues through October. Last year the harvest was impacted by curly top virus. This year there was little pest or disease pressure, but the drought forced many farmers to fallow land or rely on groundwater to irrigate the crop. Capital Press

The nation

Low-carb or low fat?
A new study widely reported in the press this week said people who avoided carbohydrates and ate more fat – even saturated fat – lost more weight than low-fat dieters. But food expert Marion Nestle took issue. She said the “low fat” diet, with 30 percent or less calories from fat, “is not exactly what I would call low.” Folks following the low carb diet were simply eating less, Nestle said. Food Politics

Rich-poor diet gap in U.S. continues
The eating habits of American adults improved during the 2000s, but when scores for low-income adults were examined, their habits started out worse and didn't improve. "Declining diet quality over time may actually widen the gap between the poor and the rich," said study co-author Frank Hu of the Harvard School of Public Health. Huffington Post

Many fast-food workers rely on public assistance
Fast-food workers went out on strike yesterday demanding better pay and benefits like health insurance, paid vacation and sick time. In 2013, a UC Berkeley Labor Center study concluded that half of fast-food workers rely on public assistance to make ends meet. Capital Public Radio

The world

India is a significant ag exporter
India's agricultural product export growth was the highest in the world from 2003 to 2013, according to a USDA report. India's ag exports grew by 21.3 percent, ahead of Indonesia, Brazil and China. The U.S. is India's largest market, but it is also providing ag products to developing nations. China, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Indonesia, Malaysia and Pakistan import products from India worth $1 billion or more. Live Mint

Action needed to reduce obesity-related disease in China
Tremendous gains have been made in the health of Chinese citizens over the past 65 years. Life expectancy has improved from 40 years in 1950 to 76 years in 2011. Now China's No. 1 health threat is non-communicable diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer and diabetes. Risk factors for these ailments include obesity. The Lancet

A compilation of news from the World Wide Web relevant to the UC Global Food Initiative, which aims to put the world on a path to sustainably and nutritiously feed itself. By building on existing efforts and creating new collaborations among UC's 10 campuses, affiliated national laboratories and the Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, the initiative will develop and export solutions for food security, health and sustainability throughout California, the United States and the world.

Posted on Friday, September 5, 2014 at 9:09 AM

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