Cooperative Extension, Sutter-Yuba Counties
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Cooperative Extension, Sutter-Yuba Counties

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What This Scientist Discovered in an Insect and Why It Matters

A fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, feeding on a banana. (Photo by Sanjay Acharya, courtesy of Wikipedia)

What this scientist discovered in an insect and why it matters... Naoki Yamanaka, an assistant professor at UC Riverside (UCR), is known for his innovative and creative research. In fact, the National Institute of Health (NIH) just awarded him a $2.4 million grant in its High-Risk, High-Reward Research Program to study the role of steroid hormone transporters in insect development and reproduction.  A UCR news release pointed out that he will "translate that knowledge into new ways to...

A fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, feeding on a banana. (Photo by Sanjay Acharya, courtesy of Wikipedia)
A fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, feeding on a banana. (Photo by Sanjay Acharya, courtesy of Wikipedia)

A fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, feeding on a banana. (Photo by Sanjay Acharya, courtesy of Wikipedia)

Posted on Friday, October 19, 2018 at 4:36 PM

Echinacea, Tagetes, Grindelia, and Helianthus…Oh my!: Garden flowers in the Asteraceae family

Honeybee on Echinacea (purpurea), Wiki Creative Commons

By Jeff Oster, UC Master Gardener of Butte County, October 19, 2018 Two weeks ago in this column, we introduced a few of the most common ornamental plants in the Asteraceae family. Plants in this family are also called composites (Compositae) because they have composite flower heads made up of a central disk of tiny flowers without petals, surrounded by ray flowers that do have petals (so each “flower” head is actually composed of multiple flowers). The following are some less...

Posted on Friday, October 19, 2018 at 5:00 AM

Pollinators on the Beach? Fancy Meeting You Here

A syrphid or hover fly, Eristalis tenax, nectaring on a sea rocket plant, Cakile maritima, on Oct. 18 at Doran Regional Park Beach, Sonoma. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

So you're walking along Doran Regional Park Beach in Sonoma County on Tuesday, Oct. 16 and thinking about the pollinators in your back yard. (Don't we all?) And then: what a delight to see. Apis mellifera (honey bees) and Eristalis tenax, syrphid flies (better known as a "drone flies") nectaring on the tiny blossoms of a sea rocket plant (genus Cakile).  This particular plant species? The European sea rocket, Cakile maritima, a succulent annual that's a member of the mustard...

A syrphid or hover fly, Eristalis tenax, nectaring on a sea rocket plant, Cakile maritima, on Oct. 18 at Doran Regional Park Beach, Sonoma. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A syrphid or hover fly, Eristalis tenax, nectaring on a sea rocket plant, Cakile maritima, on Oct. 18 at Doran Regional Park Beach, Sonoma. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A syrphid or hover fly, Eristalis tenax, nectaring on a sea rocket plant, Cakile maritima, on Oct. 18 at Doran Regional Park Beach, Sonoma. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Along with sand castles and beach balls and beach umbrellas, look for pollinators nectaring on  sea rocket plants at the beach. Note the honey bee. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Along with sand castles and beach balls and beach umbrellas, look for pollinators nectaring on sea rocket plants at the beach. Note the honey bee. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Along with sand castles and beach balls and beach umbrellas, look for pollinators nectaring on sea rocket plants at the beach. Note the honey bee. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Footprints in the sand? Yes, and bees and other pollinators  nectaring on sea rocket. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Footprints in the sand? Yes, and bees and other pollinators nectaring on sea rocket. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Footprints in the sand? Yes, and bees and other pollinators nectaring on sea rocket. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

European sea rocket grows in clumps or mounds on sandy beaches along the coastlines of North Africa, western Asia, and North America. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
European sea rocket grows in clumps or mounds on sandy beaches along the coastlines of North Africa, western Asia, and North America. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

European sea rocket grows in clumps or mounds on sandy beaches along the coastlines of North Africa, western Asia, and North America. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Thursday, October 18, 2018 at 4:31 PM

Bring the wild back into our farmlands to protect biodiversity, researchers say

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Berkeley — With a body the size of a fist and wings that span more than a foot, the big brown bat must gorge on 6,000 to 8,000 bugs a night to maintain its stature. This mighty appetite can be a boon to farmers battling crop-eating pests.

But few types of bats live on American farms. That's because the current practice of monoculture – dedicating large swathes of land to a single crop – doesn't give the bats many places to land or to nest. 

Diversifying working lands – including farmland, rangeland and forests – may be key to preserving biodiversity in the face of climate change, says a new review paper published this week in Science by conservation biologists at the University of California, Berkeley.

The Benzinger Family Winery is a diversified vineyard in Sonoma County. (Photo: Corey Luthringer)

Diversification could be as simple as adding trees or hedgerows along the edges of fields, giving animals like birds, bats and insects places to live, or as complex as incorporating a patchwork of fields, orchards, pasture and flowers into a single working farm.

These changes could extend the habitat of critters like bats, but also much larger creatures like bears, elk and other wildlife, outside the boundaries of parks and other protected areas, while creating more sustainable, and potentially more productive, working lands.

“Protected areas are extremely important, but we can't rely on those on their own to prevent the pending sixth mass extinction,” said study co-author Adina Merenlender, a UC Cooperative Extension Specialist in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management at UC Berkeley. “This is even more true in the face of climate change, because species will need to move around to adapt to shifts in temperature and climate.”

Diversified farms could include crops, pastures, orchards and woodland. (Photo: Xerces)

A win-win for wildlife and for farms

Maintaining even small pieces of the original landscape – even a single tree– can help conserve the original diversity of species, Merenlender said. Clearing oak woodlands and shrublands to establish large vineyards hits many native species hard. Animals that are well adapted to urban and agricultural areas, such as mockingbirds, house finches and free-tail bats, continue to flourish, while animals that are more sensitive to disturbance, like acorn woodpeckers, orange-crowned warblers and big brown bats, begin to drop away. “If you can leave shrubs, trees and flowering plants, the habitat suitability -- not just for sensitive birds but also for other vertebrates – goes way up,” Merenlender said. This is true not only in California's vineyards, but on working lands around the world.

Incorporating natural vegetation makes the farm more hospitable to more creatures, while reducing the use of environmentally degrading chemicals like herbicides, pesticides and man-made fertilizer.

A vineyard in California's central coast is an example of industrialized agriculture. (Photo: Steve Zmak, https://stevezmak.com/)

The ideal farming landscape includes woodland pastures and vegetable plots bumping up against orchards and small fields, said Claire Kremen, a professor in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management. Integrating livestock produces manure which can fertilize the crops, while those same crops produce feed for livestock. Birds and bats provide pest control, and bees boost crop production by pollinating plants.

“It is possible for these working landscapes to support biodiversity but also be productive and profitable,” Kremen said. “And ultimately, this is where we have to go. We just can't keep mining our soils for their fertility and polluting our streams – in the end, this will diminish our capacity to continue producing the food that we need. Instead, we must pay attention to the species, from microbes to mammals, that supply us with critical services, like pollination, pest control and nutrient cycling”

“We have some amazing diversified farms, sustainably managed forests and species-rich rangelands here in California that exemplify working lands for conservation around the world,” Merenlender said. “We are calling for a scaling up of this approach around the world, and to do that we champion community-based action and more supportive polices” Kremen concludes.

RELATED INFORMATION

CONTACTS

Claire Kremen, ckremen@berkeley.edu, 510-367-2100 (cell)
Adina Merenlender, adinam@berkeley.edu, (707) 489-4362

Posted on Thursday, October 18, 2018 at 12:58 PM
  • Author: Kara Manke, kjmanke@berkeley.edu, (510) 643-7741

Hungry, Hungry Caterpillars!

A Gulf Fritillary laying eggs on her host plant, passionflower vine. Note the eggs (yellow dots) on the left. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

It starts out slow. Beginning in the spring (and sometimes year-around in some locales) Gulf Fritillaries (Agraulis vanillae) lay their eggs on their host plant, the passionflower vine (Passiflora). They deposit their eggs on the tendrils, on the leaves, and sometimes on the fence, wall or door where the passionflower vine climbs. When fall approaches and the Gulf Frits are still laying eggs, you won't recognize your vine. It is skeletonized. The caterpillars, incredible shredding machines,...

A Gulf Fritillary laying eggs on her host plant, passionflower vine. Note the eggs (yellow dots) on the left. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A Gulf Fritillary laying eggs on her host plant, passionflower vine. Note the eggs (yellow dots) on the left. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A Gulf Fritillary laying eggs on her host plant, passionflower vine. Note the eggs (yellow dots) on the left. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

By fall, the only thing left on the passionflower vine is the fruit. The leaves are gone. The hungry caterpillars are like insect shredding machines. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
By fall, the only thing left on the passionflower vine is the fruit. The leaves are gone. The hungry caterpillars are like insect shredding machines. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

By fall, the only thing left on the passionflower vine is the fruit. The leaves are gone. The hungry caterpillars are like insect shredding machines. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

No leaves--just fruit--remain on this skeletonized passionflower vine. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
No leaves--just fruit--remain on this skeletonized passionflower vine. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

No leaves--just fruit--remain on this skeletonized passionflower vine. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

The end result: a Gulf Fritillary adult. This one is nectaring on a Mexican sunflower, Tithonia. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
The end result: a Gulf Fritillary adult. This one is nectaring on a Mexican sunflower, Tithonia. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

The end result: a Gulf Fritillary adult. This one is nectaring on a Mexican sunflower, Tithonia. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Wednesday, October 17, 2018 at 5:00 PM

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