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Dan Sumner a media regular.

The director of the UC Agricultural Issues Center, Dan Sumner, has become something of a regular in the news. When media call me for an ag expert, I frequently refer them to Sumner, since he is readily available and willing to supply informed comment.

Here are some examples of recent Sumner quotes:

In an AP story just this week, Sumner commented about California growers who are cashing in on China's increasing wealth and growing hunger for table grapes, almonds and other high-quality fruits and nuts that don't grow as well in the Asian nation. "There's a big enough group of people there that don't want just the cheapest; they want high-quality stuff, and they're willing to pay more for it," Sumner is quoted.

In a Reuters story, the reporter refers to a book Sumner and a colleague wrote about the Farm Bill. "There is little economic rationale for the billions of dollars the US government pays out each year in farm subsidies, experts assert in a new book pressing Congress for more ambitious reform to farm policy," the article says.

In a Sacramento Bee story, Sumner commented on specialty crop and organic farmers complaints that a current version of the farm bill shortchanges the fastest-growing sector of U.S. agriculture. "This is a last gasp, or last grasp, to try to maintain the commodity programs," Sumner is quoted.

In a Fresno Bee story, about aging farmers, Sumner said he thinks ado over aging is unmerited. "We have all been getting older," he was quoted, referring to increased life expectancy.

To my loyal reader(s), I will be on vacation for the next two weeks and unable to blog about UC ANR news. I'll play catch up when I return on Aug. 13.

Dan Sumner
Dan Sumner

Posted on Thursday, July 26, 2007 at 9:45 AM
Tags: Sumner (13)

New obesity material available in California Agriculture journal.

It may not have quite the dramatic impact as Vitamin C on scurvy or iodine on rickets, but scientists are making another connection between a dietary deficiency and a dreaded disease. The condition is asthma and according to a research article in the most recent issue of UC's California Agriculture journal, a deficiency in dietary magnesium could be related.

California Agriculture editor Janet Byron distributed a news release today about the report that also touches on the disease's connection with obesity and offers hope to people with asthma.

"Replacing low-magnesium foods with high-magnesium foods may be a practical, low-cost way to reduce asthma symptoms,” the article quotes post doctoral researcher Alexandra Kazaks. “It may also improve overall health.”

Another press release about an article in the publication teases out some of the reasons for America's epidemic of obesity and overweight.

"UC scientists were able to pin down four factors that are most likely to cause overweight and obesity in America: the consumption of dietary fat, sweetened beverages and restaurant foods, and a pattern of breakfast-skipping," the news release says.

The systematic review Byron reported on also found that intake of protein, simple sugars and fruit juice, as well as food variety, portion size, snacking and frequency of eating, were not consistently related to obesity.

The conclusions can help parents and health professional focus their efforts on the prime culprits in their efforts to stop the obesity epidemic currently sweeping the United States.

I will be traveling to UC Riverside July 24-25, but will return to blog about UC ANR news once again on July 26.

California Agriculture Journal
California Agriculture Journal

Posted on Monday, July 23, 2007 at 8:41 PM

Corn smut is edible -- even gourmet.

You might say UC Cooperative Extension has its very own "News of the Weird." UCCE farm advisor Michelle LeStrange wrote about corn smut in a recent column for the Visalia Times-Delta. Unlike most stories about controlling what is viewed a "pest," she writes that the ugly bluish galls that may be found on home-grown corn can actually be considered a delicacy.

The condition is common corn smut.

"In Central and South America there has long been a tradition of eating corn smut (huitlacoche or cuitlacoche); farmers there receive a premium price for their infected corn. Huitlacoche is just now becoming a gourmet item in the United States, with trendy restaurants in California and New York offering it," LeStrange writes in the article.

The UC Integrated Pest Management Web site offers information on corn smut that sounds pretty creepy.

"Galls on ears and stems expand and fill with masses of powdery, dark olive brown to black spores. . . . Ear and stem galls rupture, and wind, rain, or irrigation water spread them through the garden," according to the IPM site

If you don't want to experiment with this gourmet food, IPM suggests removing and destroying the tumorlike corn smut growths as soon as noticed to keep the black powder in galls from getting into the soil.


Common corn smut.
Common corn smut.

Posted on Monday, July 23, 2007 at 8:59 AM

Media covers UC ANR vice president's new role.

North Texas e-News ran a press release this week about the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources vice president for administration's new position at Southern Methodist University. Beginning Sept. 1, Christine Casey will be the vice president for business and finance at SMU.

"SMU is a perfect fit for me with my background and experience,” Casey is quoted in the release. “I am extremely excited to have the opportunity to work with Dr. (Gerald) Turner (SMU president) and the students, faculty and staff at SMU.”   

The story reported that, since 2005, Casey has had oversight and management of  ANR administrative functions. It said she developed the division’s first formal budgeting process and supervised departments similar to the ones she will oversee at SMU. 

The press release also appears on the SMU Web site.

Posted on Friday, July 20, 2007 at 10:00 AM

Farmers and farm advisors team up.

We couldn't have said it better ourselves. An article posted yesterday on the AgAlert Web site, titled "Farmers and UC  researchers make a great team," outlines the working relationships that UC Cooperative Extension farm advisors have forged with the state's farmers.

Writer Ching Lee, the assistant editor at AgAlert, begins the story with the Mellano farm family in San Diego County. Michael Mellano and his wife Valerie are both UC Riverside-educated plant pathologists. Valerie Mellano is an environmental issues advisor for the UCCE in San Diego County.

"The impact that the university has on agricultural production is very significant," said Michael Mellano, whose grandfather founded the family-owned and operated business in 1925, according to the AgAlert article. "The reason our farm has developed the way it has is because of the Cooperative Extension and the things that they've done over the years."

Ching writes that farmers and researchers have long depended on each other. Farmers look to researchers for advice on everything from fighting bugs and diseases in their crops to finding new technologies and practices that could help their farms be more efficient, cost effective and competitive in the world market.

The articles continues: "By the same token, researchers rely on the expertise and acumen of farmers to tell them about the latest pest that's decimating their crops or help them with an experiment that requires the farmer's cooperation."

The article also quotes UC Davis Cooperative Extension specialist Michael Reid, UC Davis plant sciences researcher Susanne Klose, UC Davis specialist Husein Ajwa, UC Riverside plant pathologist Don Cooksey and staff reseacher associate for UCCE in San Diego County James Bethke.

Posted on Thursday, July 19, 2007 at 9:45 AM

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