The Los Angeles Times reported yesterday that trees killed by Sudden Oak Death are making the fire raging near Big Sur burn hotter, spread faster and loom more periously over firefighters. The story says hundreds of thousands of oak trees in the area have succombed to the disease caused by the fungus-like organism Phytophthora ramorum.
For the article, Times reporter Deborah Schoch spoke to UC Davis plant pathologist David Rizzo. He said SOD has "reached its apex" in Big Sur.
"You look in some of these canyons, and you'll see 70 percent, 80 percent of tanoaks are dead," Rizzo was quoted. "The thing with Big Sur that's making it so bad is that's probably the worst place in the state for dead trees."
On the bright side, Rizzo said the fire won't completely douse SOD research efforts in the area.
"Even though our plots are burning up, from a research perspective, that's something we can take advantage of," he is quoted. "Hopefully, we can use this as a learning experience, in a sad way."
The July-September 2008 issue of California Agriculture journal includes a science brief and a research article documenting increasing resistance to the common weed killer glyphosate in California weeds. The most common brand name for the herbicide is RoundUp.
In 2005, UC weed researchers Anil Shrestha and Kurt Hembree notified the media that they had confirmed glyphosate resistance in horseweed. In 2007, a news release by Stephanie Klunk of the UC Integrated Pest Management program reported on glyphosate resistance in hairy fleabane.
The California Agriculture science brief says at least 14 glyphosate-resistant weed species have been reported, threatening the loss of the herbicide.
"Because of its (glyphosate's) ease of use, environmental safety and effective control of weeds, it is important to maintain the viability of glyphosate in California," Shrestha is quoted in the brief. It says experts suggest using a variety of weed control tactics, not glyphosate alone, to reduce resistant weeds.
The research article details research by Shrestha, Hembree and USDA research agronomist Bradley Hanson that confirmed the hairy fleabane resistance.
Hairy fleabane that survived glyphosate applications.
Following a long holiday weekend, there are a few ANR news stories to catch up on:
Last week, the Sacramento Bee ran an article about a price increase for another food commodity: eggs. The story, written by Jim Downing, says wholesale egg prices have shot up 27 percent since mid-May.
The story quoted UC Davis Cooperative Extension specialist emeritus Don Bell. He told the reporter that a sizable shipment of eggs last month to Japan and Iraq apparently tightened domestic supplies, driving prices up.
The Sacramento Bee today ran a story about a side effect of this year's dry spring: numerous dry fox tail weeds. The article, written by Blair Anthony Robertson, says barbed, missle-shaped, waxy tips of wild grass are annoying to humans, and dangerous to animals.
UC Davis Cooperative Extension veterinarian John Maas commented in the article about the fox tails' hazard to cattle.
"Oh, man, they are the bane of our existence," he is quoted. "The cattle have fur around their face and eyes, and they get those darn foxtails around their eyes. Oftentimes, they get into their eyes. It can cause quite a bit of damage. It can cause blindness."
Finally, a column by Ramona Frances for the Madera Tribune lamented society's lack of respect for farmers. She was commenting on an article in Grower Magazine by Vicky Boyd that suggested the baby boomer and previous generations more often than not considered farmers hard workers and essential contributors, but the younger generations do not share those attitudes. (The Tribune column cited the Grower commentary, but I couldn't find it on the Web site.)
Frances included perspective from Madera County UCCE director Neil McDougald. According to the article, he believes everyone in agriculture has a responsibility to educate others about it.
"The 4-H program we have right now is one that reaches out to youth in all generations," he is quoted.
Efforts by UC Cooperative Extension to encourage Californians to garden were, coincidentally, the topics of two blog entries this week.
An unsigned entry in the San Diego Roots Sustainable Foods Project blog noted that a two-hour planning meeting for the ONE Garden at a Time Project in San Diego County was held last Thursday at the "Farm and Home Advisors Conference Room." (I'm not sure that's what the conference room is really called, but it is a quaint name -- a throwback to UCCE's roots.)
In addition to UCCE and the Master Gardener program, the following organizations helped lay the project's groundwork:
San Diego Roots
Food Not Lawns
TLC Community Giving Garden
Your Enchanted Gardener
In the blog Slow Food Nation, UCCE Ventura County advisor Rose Hayden-Smith authored an entry titled "Victory Gardens as Purpose," which appeared yesterday - the same day, as noted in the blog, that the Slow Food Nation Victory Garden broke ground in San Francisco.
Hayden-Smith wrote that some view Victory Gardens within the larger context of war and the unhealthy sort of nationalism that often parades as patriotism. She believes that Victory Gardens showcase patriotism in its truest sense, with each of person taking personal responsibility for doing a part to create a healthy, fair and affordable food system.
For more on Hayden-Smith's Victory Garden efforts and a three-minute video about getting started in the garden, see the spotlight story on the UC ANR Web site.
Rose Hayden-Smith in front of a demonstration Victory Garden.
The Ventura Star today ran a story about the end of IPM entomologist Phil Phillips distinguished career with UC Cooperative Extension. The story says Phillips was fascinated with bugs since he was 7 years old.
"I've been blessed with a spectacular career," Phillips was quoted. "It's playing with insects basically."
The story was most likely prompted by a news release by UC IPM writer Stephanie Klunk, but Ventura Star reporter Terria Smith gathered her own comments from Phillips' colleagues.
Mary Bianchi, horticulture farm advisor in San Luis Obispo County:
"In order to be able to start effective control programs, you really have to understand insects: where they come from, how they live. That's where Phil's work was key: by building the framework where researchers could start their programs and integrate them into farming systems."
Earl McPhail, Ventura County Agricultural Commissioner:
"He's done great in making sure they know what to do as far as what to look for as new pests come in. . . . He's going to be difficult to replace."