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Sex, Food Chains and Cockroaches

Catherine Chalmers

American humorist-entertainer Will Rogers said  "I never met a man I didn't like." I wonder if he would have said the same thing...

Catherine Chalmers
Catherine Chalmers

THE ARTIST--Noted artist Catherine Chalmers will speak on "Sex, Food Chains and Cockroaches" from 6:30 to 8 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 7 at the Wyatt Pavilion, UC Davis.

The Cockroach
The Cockroach

THE COCKROACH--The cockroach, whether rain-drenched or not, is not one of the public's favorite insects. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Wednesday, December 17, 2008 at 5:33 PM
Tags: Catherine Chalmers (2), Cockroaches (6), Food Chains (1), Sex (4), UC Davis (210)

Baby, it's cold outside

The San Joaquin Valley is bracing for a hard freeze predicted to strike tonight and tomorrow morning, putting the Valley's $1.3 billion citrus industry on high alert. Whether farmers will have to spring into action depends on a lot of things, such as cloud cover, according to Joel Nelson of California Citrus Mutual, who was quoted in today's San Francisco Chronicle.

"But we will have the wind machines primed and many of them on from 8 p.m. to 7 a.m.," Nelson is quoted.

The Bakersfield Californian turned to UC Cooperative Extension farm advisor John Karlik for advice for homeowners worried about potential freeze damage to landscape plants. He said residents within the city limits can rest fairly easy this week, but those who live in the slightly colder, outlying areas may need to take added precautions.

According to the article, he suggested homeowners bring tropical and sub-tropical plants inside, if possible, and cover outdoor plants overnight using plastic, cloth or newspapers. Watering the plants during the day will help preserve heat at night.

For more details on protecting your garden from frost, see this article by Pam Geisel, the academic coordinator for the UC Master Gardener program.

A note about the headline: The Valley, of course, is rarely as cold as New York, where Frank Loesser wrote the song "Baby, It's Cold Outside" in 1944, but the music still rings in the ears of Californians when an artic air mass descends on the state. A cute version  of the song by Doris Day and Bing Crosby is one of many posted on YouTube.

A citrus tree that was coated with water for frost protection.
A citrus tree that was coated with water for frost protection.

Posted on Wednesday, December 17, 2008 at 10:03 AM
Tags: citrus (23), freeze (7)

What Has Five Eyes, Six Legs and Two Pairs of Wings?

The Queen and Her Court

What has five eyes, six legs, two pairs of wings and can fly about 20 miles per hour?   Got to be an insect,...

The Queen and Her Court
The Queen and Her Court

THE QUEEN--The queen bee (center) lays about 2000 eggs a day during the peak season. Here she's surrounded by worker bees (infertile females). (Photo courtesy of Susan Cobey, Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, UC Davis)

Posted on Tuesday, December 16, 2008 at 3:36 PM

4-H connects members with engineering careers

Yesterday I wrote a post to this blog about a 4-H article in Mechanical Engineering, the publication of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. Alas, I learned later that our Web Action Team was performing an upgrade to the blog system which required some database upgrades. My post was lost.

I did want to link the story again because it illustrates the breadth of 4-H programs. According to the article, the perception that 4-H programs are limited to agriculture, nutrition and citizenship is wrong. In fact, in the 1940s, 4-H programs in electrical engineering brought awareness of circuitry and control systems to youth in rural communities.

Director and 4-H advisor for Merced County UC Cooperative Extension Richard Mahacek has fond memories of his own participation in scientific 4-H projects in the 1960s.

“What I really got out of 4-H was a better understanding about electricity by participating in electrical projects," Mahacek was quoted in the story. "We made toy buzzers and electromagnets. It was an opportunity to internalize and understand electricity, not from a textbook, but from hands-on activities that brought those concepts to life.”

The 4-H activities that Mahacek now oversees are some of the five million 4-H science, engineering, and technology projects being offered in communities across America. Because of its reach and existing science, engineering and technology curricula, 4-H considers itself well positioned to help promote science education in urban, suburban and rural settings, the story says.

Merced 4-H member learns by doing.
Merced 4-H member learns by doing.

Posted on Tuesday, December 16, 2008 at 2:05 PM
Tags: 4-H (65), engineering (2)

Another alternative crop explored by UC scientists

Alternative crops always make interesting copy. In the past, I have had the opportunity to write about the potential for growing tea tree in the San Joaquin Valley, dryland switch grass for biofuel, dragon fruit, jujube, capers, tropical papaya and, when it was still an "alternative crop" in California, blueberries. Western Farm Press published a story in the current issue about a UC Davis study, being conducted at the UC Desert Research and Extension Center in Holtville, of jatropha, a potential oil crop.

Jatropha is a tropical, drought tolerant, perennial plant grown as a tree or shrub up to 13 feet in height, the article said. The fruit has three kidney-bean sized seeds which contain about 50 percent oil. For the trial, funded by Chevron, UC Davis scientists acquired jatropha seeds from India, started them in a greenhouse, then transplanted them into a one-acre parcel in California's southeastern-most county.

“I think jatropha would be ideal for this area,” the article quotes Sham Goyal, UC Davis agronomist. “A realistic estimate is an acre of jatropha could produce from 500 to 600 gallons of biodiesel per acre per year. If you’re paying $5 per gallon for diesel, that’s about $2,500 per acre of gross return.”

Goyal, a native of India, said the crop value would not allow for labor-intensive hand harvesting.

“If we cannot harvest the crop mechanically, then jatropha has no future,” Goyal is quoted.

The primary objective for growing jatropha is producing biodiesel with the plant's oil-rich fruit, however, by products can create paper, soap, cosmetics, toothpaste, rich organic fertilizer seed cake and biomass for power plants. Parts of the plant also have purported medicinal uses - providing treatment for skin diseases, cancer, piles, snakebite, paralysis, dropsy and many more, according to the Web site BioMass Development.

Posted on Tuesday, December 16, 2008 at 9:55 AM
Tags: jatropha (2)

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