Central Sierra
University of California
Central Sierra

UCCE News

Popular Japanese tea matcha has health benefits

Matcha, finely ground powder made from baby green-tea leaves, is growing in popularity due to health benefits and the natural woodsy flavor it imparts to drinks, pastries and savory dishes, reported Jenice Tupolo and Carla Meyer in the Sacramento Bee

To find out if the most-prized tea in Japan lives up to its purported health benefits when scrutinized scientifically, the reporters contacted UC Cooperative Extension specialist Sheri Zidenberg-Cherr.

“The health benefits are similar to that of green tea in general,” Zidenberg-Cherr said. Possible benefits of green tea include lower risk of cardiovascular disease and some types of cancers, and bone-density improvement. Though "the studies are pretty inconclusive," she said, some have been promising.

"Some have shown a benefit of maybe three cups a day in terms of reduced risk of cardiovascular disease especially," she said.

Zidenberg-Cherr cautioned against taking matcha or green tea with dairy milk.

"There is a protein in cow's milk that will bind to those important catechins and reduce how much you actually get in your body," she said.
 
A matcha tea latte from Starbucks. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
Posted on Friday, July 22, 2016 at 9:33 AM

UC students in 'protected environment' are vulnerable to food insecurity

Many people are surprised to learn that students enrolled in the state's premiere higher-education system are vulnerable to food insecurity, said Suzanna Martinez, a researcher with UC ANR's Nutrition Policy Institute, on the KPFA radio program Up Front. (Martinez's segment begins at the 20:23 mark.)

Martinez was interviewed for the program by host Pat Brooks, who was sitting in for Dennis Bernstein. Martinez said that anecdotal evidence of food insecurity on UC campuses was already popping up when UC President Janet Napolitano provided funding to each of the campuses to address the issue. The UC president also provided funding to the UC Nutrition Policy Institute to survey students across the system to document and understand food insecurity on UC campuses.

The report, issued last week, was based on the responses to a survey by about 9,000 students. Nineteen percent indicated they had “very low” food security and an additional 23 percent were characterized as having “low” food security. The greatest impact, Martinez said, was on the Latino and black student populations. Most of the students struggling with food insecurity had never experienced such circumstances before going away to college.

In response to the survey, Napolitano approved $3.3 million in new funding over the next two years to help students regularly access nutritious food on campus and off. 

Brooks asked Martinez what is the new report's 'call to action.'

"Our hope is to eliminate food insecurity, and with this report we are hoping that others will be dedicated to this and committed to the work as well,” Martinez said. 

Students eat lunch on the West Quad at UC Berkeley. (Photo: SERC at UCB)
Posted on Thursday, July 21, 2016 at 4:00 PM

Lessons from six California soil care farmers

Firebaugh farm manager Jesse Sanchez speaks at a soil care demonstration.
Despite the growing interest in soil health in many parts of the country, the notion hasn't captured the imagination of most farmers in California. The Golden State's lackluster attention to soil care is likely due to “phenomenal yield increases over the past several decades, the sheer diversity of cropping systems, and widespread perception that California's environment and crop production mix doesn't lend itself to soil health improvements,” said Jeff Mitchell, UC Cooperative Extension agronomy specialist.

A series of farm visits this summer in the Central Valley prove this rationale wrong, Mitchell said. The farm visits were sponsored by the UC Conservation Agriculture Systems Innovation Center (CASI), USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service and the California Association of Resource Conservation Districts. The farm visits showcased the soil health goals and experiences of six farmers who are familiar with soil care principles across a wide range of local cropping contexts.

The series of visits demonstrated the use of no-till and minimum tillage farming, cover cropping, enhancing the diversity of above-ground species and underground soil biology, surface residue preservation, and compost applications.

John Teixeira is a diversified farmer in Firebaugh working to develop integrated crop and livestock systems that are not reliant on external inputs. Pursuing a diverse rotation that includes alfalfa, cover crops, and a variety of heirloom grain crops that are marketed as both raw seed and value-added pasta, Teixeira is working to enhance soil function and fertility so that all external impacts are eliminated.

Michael Crowell and his son Adam grow silage crops near their Turlock dairy and dryland small grain crops using no tillage along Highway 4 in the rolling hills south of Dixon. They use no-till as a means to reduce soil water evaporation and to increase the water holding capacity of their soil, thereby enabling them to produce economically viable crops on the region's typical 14 inches of winter rainfall.

Darrell Cordova and his son Trevor of Denair also use no-tillage for their summer silage corn and winter small grain forage mixes and as a means for stabilizing the soil, adding surface residues, increasing infiltration and reducing runoff under their center pivot-irrigated crops growing on undulating terrain. These practices also cut costs and eliminate considerable labor.

Tom Willey of Madera uses compost applications ahead of each of his organic vegetable crops to build the nutrient-provision and water-holding capacities of his soils. His sustained dedication to these amendment applications and his farming goal of attempting to mimic natural systems in terms of active, high-functioning soil biology enable him to produce a great diversity of very high quality vegetables.

Alan Sano and Jesse Sanchez in Firebaugh have combined the conservation ag/soil care practices of reduced disturbance and cover crops for more than 10 years in their processing tomato fields. They report lower costs, improved soil tilth, and the ability to reduce nitrogen fertilizer inputs by about half.

“These six soil care farmers share an uncommon dedication to the principles that are at the core of soil health and conservation agriculture systems,” Mitchell said. “Each of them reported tangible value that they are receiving from their attention to caring for the soil and working to improve soil function.”

Mitchell and the network of organizations that are part of CASI now seek a new wave of farmers who are interested in evaluating conservation agriculture, climate-smart practices at their farms.

For information on how to become involved with farm performance monitoring and the educational activities, see the CASI website at http://casi.ucanr.edu/

 

The rapidity of water infiltration into the soil is a measure of soil health.

 

Posted on Thursday, July 21, 2016 at 8:10 AM

How to make something sweet even sweeter

There's still time to enter your honey in the Good Foods competition. Beekeepers across the country are invited to do so. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Honey, they say, is the "soul of a field of flowers."

It's more than that if you're a beekeeper. It's your pride and joy.

Whether beekeeping is your livelihood, your leisure activity, or something you do to help the declining bee population, that byproduct of your bees--honey--can also be an opportunity for bragging rights.

Entries are now being accepted for the nationwide honey competition sponsored by Good Food Awards.

If you're one of the nation's beekeepers, there's still time to enter your honey, says contest coordinator Amina Harris, director of the UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center.

The deadline to do so is Sunday, July 31. The four subcategories are Liquid and Naturally Crystallized, Creamed, Comb, and Infused Honey.  

The contest is divided into five regions--East, South, North, Central and West--with seven or more states assigned to one region, Harris says.

  • West: California, New Mexico, Arizona, Hawaii, Nevada, Hawaii and Alaska.
  • North: Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, North and South Dakota and Minnesota
  • Central: Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky
  • East:  Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Maryland and West Virginia
  • South: Virginia, North and South Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Texas

"Finalists from each region are selected on a tasting day in September," Harris explains.  "They are vetted according to criteria on this page. Winners are selected during the fall months and announced at the end of the year. The awards will be presented in mid-January."

Harris says there are more than 300 unique types of honey in the United States. The Good Food Awards will showcase honeys most distinctive in clarity and depth of flavor, produced by beekeepers practicing good animal husbandry and social responsibility. The honey can come from hives located in numerous places, from rooftops to fields to backyards.

Last year's top awards went to:

To enter the competition, access this page: http://www.goodfoodawards.org/honey/

The Honey and Pollination Center is affiliated with the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science and the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. For more information, email Harris at aharris@ucdavis.edu

Posted on Wednesday, July 20, 2016 at 10:15 AM

A moth's night out: Celebrate moths at Bohart Museum

Moths are attracted to porch lights, like a moth to a flame. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
If you're the kind of person who deliberately allows cobwebs or spider webs to grace your porch light, you may be the curious type - or have a little bit of entomologist in you.

Like a moth to a flame?

Yes, and you can learn more about moths at the Bohart Museum of Entomology's "Celebrate Moths!" open house on Saturday night, July 30 from 8 to 11.

The Bohart Museum is located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane at UC Davis.

The event is in keeping with "International Moth Week: Exploring Nighttime Nature,"  July 23-31, a citizen science project celebrating moths and biodiversity.

It promises to be  informative, educational and engaging, according to Bohart Museum director Lynn Kimsey, UC Davis professor of entomology and the recipient of the UC Davis Academic Senate's 2016 Distinguished Public Service Award.

Free, open to the public and family friendly, the three-hour open house will include:

  • outdoor collecting
  • viewing of the Bohart's vast collection of worldwide moth specimens
  • information on how to differentiate a moth from a butterfly
  • family arts-and-crafts activities
  • free hot chocolate

Tabatha Yang, the Bohart Museum's public education and outreach coordinator, said that after the sun sets, a black light demonstration will take place just outside Academic Surge. You can observe and collect moths and other insects from a white sheet, much as you may do around your porch lights.

Moths are considered among the most diverse and successful organisms on earth. They continue to attract the attention of the entomological world and other curious persons. Scientists estimate that there may be more than 500,000 moth species in the world.

“Their colors and patterns are either dazzling or so cryptic that they define camouflage,” according to International Moth Week spokespersons. “Shapes and sizes span the gamut from as small as a pinhead to as large as an adult's hand.”

Most moths are nocturnal, but some fly during the day, as butterflies do.

Among the thousands of moth specimens at the Bohart is the Atlas moth, Attacus atlas. One of the world's largest moths, it's found in the tropical and subtropical forests of Southeast Asia, and commonly found across the Malay archipelago. And it's huge! A record specimen from Java measured 10.3 inches.  Atlas moths may have been named after the Titan of Greek mythology, or their map-like wing patterns. It apparently inspired the movie, Mothra.

Scientists participating in the Bohart Museum's Moth Night will include UC Davis entomology graduate student Jessica Gillung, who speaks fluent Spanish and Portuguese, in addition to English. A fourth-year graduate student, she is a member of the UC Davis Linnaean Games team that won the Entomological Society of America's national championship last year. The Linnaean Games are a college-bowl type game in which competing university teams answer trivia questions about insects and entomologists.

The Bohart Museum is a world-renowned insect museum that houses a global collection of nearly 8 million specimens. It also maintains a live “petting zoo,” featuring walking sticks, Madagascar hissing cockroaches and tarantulas. A gift shop, open year around, includes T-shirts, sweatshirts, books, jewelry, posters, insect-collecting equipment and insect-themed candy.

The Bohart Museum's regular hours are from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 5 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays. The museum is closed to the public on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays and on major holidays. Admission is free. 

More information on the Bohart Museum is available by contacting (530) 752-0493 or bmuseum@ucdavis.edu.

Posted on Tuesday, July 19, 2016 at 1:20 PM

Next 5 stories | Last story

 
E-mail
 
Webmaster Email: cecentralsierra@ucdavis.edu