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Californians must adapt their lives to fire

California is a place forged by fire, and its fierce fire-fighting policies are creating fuel-filled landscapes that will burn hotter and faster than ever, reported Lisa M. Krieger in the San Jose Mercury News.

"Unless we change course, we'll never work our way out of this dilemma," said UC fire scientist Scott Stephens. "Unless we can get ahead of it, it'll never get better."


The River Fire, part of the Mendocino Complex Fire, burned more than half of the UC Hopland Research and Extension Center in July 2018.

Strategies to live with fire were modeled at the UC Hopland Research and Extension Center when the Mendocino Complex Fire spread on its rolling oak woodland and chaparral landscape in late July. About 3,000 of the center's 5,300 acres burned.

In pastures where sheep had grazed, the oaks still have green leaves. In other areas not grazed since the 1950s, undergrowth provided a ladder for flames to reach oak canopies.

In areas were vegetation was reduced by grazing, "the fire was less intense. It skipped around more. It wasn't as complete a burn," said Hopland director John Bailey. "Having animals on the land reduced the hazard."

(Read more about the fire at Hopland in a blog post by community educator Hannah Bird.)

Prescribed burning is another strategy to maintain a forest that is resilient to fire.

“Prescribed burns are a really powerful and underused tool,” said UC Davis ecologist Malcolm North. When a wildfire hits pre-burned areas, “it just putzes along.”

Posted on Wednesday, September 19, 2018 at 1:50 PM
Tags: John Bailey (1), Malcolm North (2), Scott Stephens (13), wildfire (110)
Focus Area Tags: Environment

'Bee There' Saturday at the UC Davis Bee Garden

This catch-and-release activity is especially popular among children in the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven. They catch, examine and release bees, including honey bees, bumble bees and carpenter bees. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Want to learn more about bees, and what to plant to attract them to your garden? The Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, a half-acre bee garden...

Posted on Tuesday, September 18, 2018 at 5:00 PM
Focus Area Tags: Environment Family Yard & Garden

Dogs enlisted to sniff out disease in citrus trees

The Citrus Research Board is arranging to bring specially trained dogs to the UC Lindcove Research and Extension Center to test their ability to sniff out the devastating citrus disease huanglongbing, reported Bob Rodriguez in the Fresno Bee.

CRB president Gary Schulz is working with the USDA, which is training dogs in Florida to identify trees with huanglongbing soon after the trees are infected. HLB has ravaged Florida's citrus industry. In California, the disease has been found about 800 Southern California backyard trees, but officials have so far managed to keep it out of the state's commercial orchards.

"The USDA has invested million of dollars in detector dogs and they have proven to be a credible diagnostic tool for early detection and screening trees," Schulz said.

The USDA has trained dogs to detect huanglongbing disease in Florida. (Photo: USDA)

HLB is spread by Asian citrus psyllids. Psyllids can pick up the the disease from infected trees and spread it to other trees as they feed. Symptoms may not show up in the tree until a year or two after it is infected. PCR (polymerase chain reaction) is the only way to positively identify huanglongbing infection in citrus. The process requires testing of many leaves or branches from the tree and may return a false negative if the samples selected for testing aren't infected, but other parts of the tree are.

Schulz said the HLB-detection dogs will start their California work in the southern part of the state before traveling north.

Posted on Tuesday, September 18, 2018 at 11:34 AM
Focus Area Tags: Pest Management

Salt and Pepper Cucumber

Cucumbers (Cucumis sativus) just might be one of civilization's oldest crops. Thought to be native to India, this fruit of a creeping vine with wide leaves and thin tendrils was crunched on by people throughout history in both the Old and New World from across the Middle East, Western Asia to the lands encompassing the Roman and Greek empires. Columbus planted cucumbers in Haiti in 1494. Ferdinand De Soto reported they were growing in Florida when he arrived.
Providing 4% of our daily Potassium and Magnesium requirements at only 16 calories a cup, I think sliced “cukes” are a great substitute for chips, especially when dipped in ranch dressing. Hence, the reason this plant has a prized spot in my raised vegetable bed this summer.
Usually, I choose the Boston Pickling cucumber for such a compact growing space. But this year I discovered the Salt and Pepper cucumber at a Vacaville nursery. I couldn't be happier with this cultivar named for its white skin peppered with tiny black spines. Here are a couple of reasons why:
1. Resistance to mildew. Salt and Pepper was developed at Cornell University and bred specifically for disease resistance. If this is true, I'll know soon enough after the arrival of cooler fall weather in which powdery mildew thrives.
2. Small cylindrical size, thin skin.
3. Crunchy, sweet taste, small seeds.

Recalling that ancient folklore saying — “cool as a cucumber” — I now wonder if there's some truth to it. Supposedly, science confirmed in 1970 that air temperature is 20 degrees cooler inside a cucumber field. All I know for sure is that one scalding hot July afternoon I picked and brought inside a couple handfuls of my harvest, rather surprised they weren't boiled to a mush but actually were quite cool to the touch of my very warm hand.
For a PDF file published by HortScience Vol. 47(3) March 2012 on the development of Salt and Pepper, visit
Posted on Tuesday, September 18, 2018 at 11:21 AM

Meet Some Crafty Insects at Bohart Museum of Entomology

A praying mantis dining on a cabbage white butterfly. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Talk about "crafty"--as in cunning or sneaky--insects. Ever seen a praying mantis ambushing a cabbage white butterfly? Or an assassin bug targeting...

Posted on Monday, September 17, 2018 at 4:41 PM

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