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UC ANR scientist looks to gene modification to improve animal agriculture

Scientists in labs across the world have used gene modification to create virus-resistant pigs, heat-tolerant cattle and fatter, more muscular lambs - potential improvements for animal agriculture - but will people ever eat them? asks reporter Carolyn Johnson in the Washington Post.

Johnson opened her story with a scene from UC Davis, where UC Cooperative Extension specialist Alison Van Eenennaam was conducting ultrasounds on cattle to determine whether they were pregnant. The animals had been implanted with embryos genetically edited to grow and look like males, regardless of their gender.

Also on the UC Davis campus, Van Eenennaam cares for five bulls and a heifer that represent the second generation of cattle whose genetic propensity to have horns has been edited out of their DNA. The process spares the animals the common de-horning procedure, which protects animals and animal handlers from gory accidents.

Gene-edited plants will soon be in grocery stores, but similar tinkering with the DNA of animals faces a far more uncertain future, the article said.

A setback to gene editing came in early 2017 when the FDA put out draft guidance indicating that animals with intentionally altered DNA would be regulated as containing veterinary drugs. And the complexity and difficulty of using gene editing was also noted in the story. The ultrasounds of cattle Van Eenennaam and her staff implanted with the genetically altered fetuses yielded no pregnancies.

Alison Van Eenennaam with hornless cattle. (Photo: Aleksandra Domanovic and Spencer Lowell)

Read more: Alison Van Eenennaam examines how gene editing can enhance sustainability plus animal health and welfare

Posted on Tuesday, December 18, 2018 at 9:40 AM
Focus Area Tags: Agriculture Innovation

Useful Lantana

Sometimes I just need a plant that serves a purpose. I need to put in a ground cover that will fill in an area on a downward slope where the front yard meets the sidewalk. This area gets direct sun as the sun swings across the Carquinez Strait throughout the day. There will be nothing to offer protection from a frost so my choice needs to recover and thrive once spring arrives. 
 
I have experience with Lantana in the bush form, now I'll try a ground cover. This one is labeled Lantana x ‘Monet' with a registered name of “Spreading Sunset” ®️
 
This Lantana requires full sun and 6 hours+ of direct sun ✔️
 
Once established, water occasionally ✔️
 
Average size 2-3' tall by 6-8' wide✔️
 
Blooms Spring through Summer, year-round in frost-free regions, we'll see!
 
Hardiness USDA zones 9-11, we are 9b ✔️
 
Landscape use rock garden,border, coastal exposure, erosion control, hillside, urban garden ✔️
 
Will see how this newcomer does this winter, so many promises and gorgeous flowers that will attract bees.  
 
A word of caution, if and when the Lantana is damaged by frost, leave the blackened leaves on the shrub. They will offer a “winter coat” of protection until the soil and air temperatures warm up in spring and new growth starts popping through. Once spring returns you can safely clean up any debris and enjoy this hardy plant. 

lantana
lantana

Posted on Monday, December 17, 2018 at 9:23 AM

Time to Revisit 'The 13 Bugs of Christmas'

It's time to revisit the "13 Bugs of Christmas!" Back in 2010, two innovators with the UC Davis Department of Entomology (now the UC Davis...


"On the fifth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me 5 golden bees." This is one of them. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

"On the fifth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me 5 golden bees." This is one of them. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A varroa mite on a honey bee--not something that beekeepers want to see on their bees! (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A varroa mite on a honey bee--not something that beekeepers want to see on their bees! (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A varroa mite on a honey bee--not something that beekeepers want to see on their bees! (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A queen bee and her retinue.
A queen bee and her retinue. "On the 11th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, 11 queen bees piping." (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A queen bee and her retinue. "On the 11th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, 11 queen bees piping." (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Congress approves Farm Bill reauthorization

An orange orchard at Lindcove Research & Extension Center. The 2018 Farm Bill provides grants for citrus research.

The House and Senate have passed the compromise Farm Bill, sending the legislation to the president for his signature.

Capital Public Radio's Julia Mitric asked Glenda Humiston, UC vice president for agriculture and natural resources, what the Farm Bill holds for UC ANR and California.

"What's fascinating about the Farm Bill is, after all that hyper-partisan debate … it's really a lot of the same of what we already had," said Humiston, adding that it includes an increase of $25 million a year for research on specialty crops.

That's good news for California growers because nearly all of California's 400 crops are considered specialty crops in federal parlance and over 50 percent of the nation's fruits and vegetables are grown in California. Those federal grants will cover many areas, from developing climate-resilient farming practices to combating California's many invasive pests, Humiston said.

The Farm Bill removed hemp from the definition of a controlled substance, which will allow it once again be produced for agricultural purposes. This is exciting for UC Cooperative Extension researchers who are interested in helping farmers manage and grow this new crop.

Reauthorization of the Farm Bill is important to UC because it provides critical support for the nation's land-grant institutions, including agricultural research extension and infrastructure programs and nutrition education programs.

Overall, the final version of the Farm Bill represents a positive outcome for UC. In addition to specialty crop research, the bill contains strong support for organic agriculture research and also includes helpful provisions to address unnecessary regulatory burdens faced by researchers. The bill also preserves the competitive grants for citrus research.

Posted on Friday, December 14, 2018 at 5:51 PM
Tags: Farm Bill (5), Glenda Humiston (17)

Goodbye Old Friend

I said goodbye to an old friend this week.  We had been friends and sometimes not so friendly but I always loved my friend.

My old friend was a Salvia greggi (red), yes a plant.  We had been together here at this house over 25 years.  But as time passed my friend started to age and look old.  She, yes she, was gone on the inside but still had leaves and blossoms on the outside.

So we thought let us prune her down and see if she sprouts new growth and can be saved, but the more we pruned the more we found she could not be saved, so we just did a light tug and out she came.

Now I have a large empty space where my old friend was, soon to a new friend for that spot.

Spot where 'she' lived. (photo by Betty Victor)
Spot where 'she' lived. (photo by Betty Victor)

Posted on Friday, December 14, 2018 at 3:16 PM

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