A lengthy New York Times article published this week reported on the efforts of retired UC Berkeley forest and genetics professor William Libby, who is helping create a collection of clones from at least 100 of California's tallest and oldest redwood trees. The cloned trees will be donated to whoever wants, and is able, to care for them. They will not be patented, but will remain in the public domain. Clone-seedling redwood forests have already been planted in England, France, New Zealand and elsewhere
Using the clones of the biggest and oldest trees gives reforestation efforts reliability and control you don’t have with seedlings, Libby told the newspaper.
“A whole lot of things go into living longer, and no one can say these are better trees, although they likely are,” Libby is quoted in the article. “But they are icons. I’ve seen foresters cry when they’ve stood at the feet of some of these trees.”
At least one set of clones will be planted in a living archive somewhere in California, near a university.
“We’re archiving them so future scientists can come and study them and not have to go throughout the range and get individual permissions for each tree, which would keep a project from happening,” Libby said.
California redwood forest.
The Associated Press ran an article about research led by the Texas A&M extension service to cultivate artichokes in the Lone Star State. Manager of the California Artichoke Advisory Board in Castroville, Pat Hopper, seemed to express doubt in the article about the Texas effort to produce what has come to be a California crop.
"These guys in Texas don't know what they're in for" with the sensitive plant, Hopper was quoted. "I would wish them luck in finding a market in Texas. Texas is not one of our best buyers of artichokes."
Texas A&M professor Daniel Leskovar said the goal is to provide another product for the Winter Garden area, about 80 miles west of San Antonio, to enhance the local economy. According to the article, the Winter Garden region already produces cabbage, onions, carrots and broccoli.
AP reporter Elizabeth White went to UC Cooperative Extension advisor in Monterey County Richard Smith for information. He explained that in coastal California, artichokes enjoy a year-round cool climate, so they can be grown perennially. In Texas, the plants are grown first for six to eight weeks in a greenhouse, then planted in the ground. In the Winter Garden area, the temperature is about 65 degrees from September to May.
According to Smith, California's perennial artichokes stay in the ground for up to 10 years and generally produce a higher quality artichoke head, though they are more expensive to maintain.
Yet Smith had encouraging words for Texas' potential artichoke farmers: "If they have a market and they're closer to that market, it could really work out."
When the Contra Costa Times set out to write a story about the plight of landowners in Canyon where oak trees are dying from Sudden Oak Death, the reporter sought information from the California Oak Mortality Task Force, a program established at UC Berkeley that focuses on Phytophthora ramorum, the plant pathogen which causes Sudden Oak Death.
Reporter Elizabeth Nardi interviewed task force public information officer Katie Palmieri for information about removing diseased trees from private and public property. Palmieri said the task force does not have a recommendation on when trees should be removed.
According to the article, Palmieri said taking down oaks depends on how that will affect the rest of the habitat, but fire danger is also a concern, which is why tree removal has to be done on a case-by-case basis.
"Once you have the pathogen on your property, it's there and can spread," Palmieri is quoted. "If not structurally sound, the trees (fall) at a higher rate. It is hazardous to have a bunch of dead, standing trees."
The article also includes the task force's easy-to-remember Web site address, http://suddenoakdeath.org, and includes the phone number for the UC Cooperative Extension county office in Contra Costa County.
A publication called Government Technology went to former director of the Western Center for Food Safety at UC Davis Jerry Gillespie for a story about the ease with which community food and water supplies can be contaminated, accidentally or intentionally.
Gillespie noted that contamination at one processing plant can have widespread implications because food from a single source tends to be distributed widely.
"We've learned that, for example, with the spinach outbreak in Salinas County, it affected more than 18 states," he said. "So in a very quick order, we can have widespread contaminated product."
Agriculture in the United States is particularly vulnerable to terrorist activities because of openness at the farm level and in most processing plants, Gillespie said.
"They vary in their security certainly, but it would not be difficult to find access to a processing plant," Gillespie is quoted in the article. "There's a huge turnover in a labor force - it's quite easy for someone who wanted to do this to find a way into a processing plant or any segment of a food system. On the retail end, clearly our open markets, farmers' markets and the retail outlets are wide open."
Yesterday, UC Davis news service distributed a news release about an audit that found some funds intended for the Food Stamp Nutrition Education Program were misspent. While FSNEP is administered at the UC Davis campus, ANR advisors and program representatives in 40 counties deliver the program to the clientele.
The news was widely reported in the media. The Sacramento Bee mentioned in its story the information was released in response to a public records request made by the newspaper. The reporter, Carrie Peyton Dahlberg, spoke to UC Davis news service director Mitchell Benson. He told the paper the current audits focused on 2005-06 and that financial records from another three years will be examined in detail by an outside accounting firm.
The reporter wrote that Benson told her the campus now is investigating what happened to roughly $1 million in funds the university was supposed to add to the program in 2005-06, and another $1.3 million of the federal money it spent that year. It has already identified $600,000 from that year and previous years that it plans to return, he said, according to the newspaper.