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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...

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)

Livestock owners asked to weigh in on fire impact

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UC researchers aim to quantify the impact of wildfires in different livestock production systems.
Preparing a farm for wildfire is more complicated when it involves protecting live animals. To assess the impact of wildfire on livestock production, University of California researchers are asking livestock producers to participate in a survey. 
 
People raising cattle, sheep, goats, poultry, swine, horses, llamas, alpacas, aquaculture species or other production-oriented animals in California who have experienced at least one wildfire on their property within the last 10 years are asked to participate in the FIRE survey.

“We will aim to quantify the impact of wildfires in different livestock production systems,” said Beatriz Martínez López, director of the Center for Animal Disease Modeling and Surveillance in the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. “The idea is also to create a risk map showing areas more likely to experience wildfires with high economic impact in California. 

“This economic and risk assessment, to the best of our knowledge, has not been done and we hope to identify potential actions that ranchers can take to reduce or mitigate their losses if their property is hit by wildfire.”

Wildfire burns rangeland in Tehama County. “We hope the survey results will be used by producers across the state to prepare for wildfire,” said Matthew Shapero. Photo by Josh Davy.

Martínez López, who is also an associate professor in the Department of Medicine & Epidemiology at UC Davis, is teaming up with UC Cooperative Extension livestock and natural resources advisors and wildfire specialists around the state to conduct the study. 

“Right now, we have no good estimate of the real cost of wildfire to livestock producers in California,” said Rebecca Ozeran, UC Cooperative Extension livestock and natural resources advisor for Fresno and Madera counties. “Existing UCCE forage loss worksheets cannot account for the many other ways that wildfire affects livestock farms and ranches. As such, we need producers' input to help us calculate the range of immediate and long-term costs of wildfire.” 

Stephanie Larson, UC Cooperative Extension livestock and range management advisor for Sonoma and Marin counties, agreed, saying, “The more producers who participate, the more accurate and useful our results will be.”

“We hope the survey results will be used by producers across the state to prepare for wildfire,” said Matthew Shapero, UC Cooperative Extension livestock and natural resources advisor for Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, “And by federal and private agencies to better allocate funds for postfire programs available to livestock producers.”

Sheep were moved to safety before the River Fire burned two-thirds of pasture land at the UC Hopland Research and Extension Center.

The survey is online at http://bit.ly/FIREsurvey. It takes 15 to 30 minutes, depending on the number of properties the participant has that have been affected by wildfire.

“Survey answers are completely confidential and the results will be released only as summaries in which no individual's answers can be identified,” said Martínez López. “This survey will provide critical information to create the foundation for future fire economic assessments and management decisions.” 

Posted on Wednesday, October 17, 2018 at 1:25 PM
Focus Area Tags: Agriculture

It’s electric?! Breaking down electric pressure cookers

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You may have heard the buzz about electric pressure cookers. Even if you don't follow kitchen trends, this piece of equipment may take some of the "pressure off" of preparing meals. From personal experience, I can say that they're also quite fun!

Dry beans cook up quickly into a healthful, inexpensive meals in electric pressure cookers. (Photo: Pixabay)

Pressure cooking vs. pressure canning

Pressure cooking uses trapped steam to create a pressurized environment for cooking food. This combined with heat can greatly decrease cooking times for many items. Foods like dried beans, meat roasts and rice can have a significantly shorter cooking time when they are pressure cooked. Some people may recognize the term pressure canning which uses pressure to preserve foods. While they are similar in the process, only equipment specifically labeled for pressure canning can be used safely for food preservation.

Why so popular?

Pressure cookers existed first as a stove top version that required manual monitoring of pressure. Electric pressure cookers arose to help streamline and simplify the process. They have digital settings and controls so are generally easy to use. The quick cooking time and ability to electronically set time and temperature also increase their consumer appeal. In addition, the cooker is a closed system which helps retain moisture, nutrients and flavor. Unfortunately, there is not a lot of scientific research on nutrient retention in pressure cooking. One study did find that pressure cooking retained more vitamin C in broccoli than compared to boiling or steaming.

Additionally, electric pressure cookers are more energy efficient than stove top or oven cooking. They are insulated which prevents energy from being lost in the cooking process.

Becky Hutchings, a family and consumer sciences educator for University of Idaho Extension, currently offers a very popular introduction to electric pressure cookers class in her community. She feels electric pressure cookers can help people save money and time with cooking. Hutchings has said, “I think with pressure cookers, people are scared that it's going to blow up. Once they use their electric pressure cooker they will realize how easy and fast it is. They wonder how they ever lived without it.”

Safety concerns

As with any piece of equipment, there are safety concerns. Some models are considered “multi cookers” and may have a setting for slow cooking. This may be misleading as the slow cooker setting will not pressure cook. You cannot leave food in the cooker to be pressure cooked later because it will be in unsafe temperatures and will increase the risk for foodborne illness. For example, if you are planning to cook a pork roast in the electric pressure cooker, you cannot prepare it in the morning and leave it out on the counter until the evening. You will have to keep the food refrigerated until it is ready to be cooked.

Additionally, standard food safety practices should still be followed. Even if a roast looks done, check that temperature! Electric pressure cookers can be easily reset to cook for additional time if needed.

A third and significant concern is canning with electric pressure cookers. UC Cooperative Extension takes education on food preservation very seriously. We only support research-based and tested recipes for preservation. Many brands of electric pressure cookers provide recipes for canning. However, NONE of the brands have been able to supply their research or information supporting these recipes

The National Center for Home Food Preservation has a great article explaining why this is a concern. In short, electric pressure cookers have not been studied to ensure the necessary requirements for safe canning. Therefore, UC Cooperative Extension does NOT support or encourage canning in electric pressure cookers.

Hutchings explains it quite simply as “You are putting your life at risk."

(Pressure canning is a whole other wonderful field of cooking and preservation. We have many resources and articles available to learn more about it.)

A typical electric pressure cooker. (Photo: Max Pixel)

Where to go from here:

While some models may be more “instantlyrecognizable than others, there are many brands available for purchase.  Just because a brand has popularity may not mean it is right for you. There are many online resources providing reviews and recipes for all the main brands of electric pressure cookers available. Prices of models range from $50 to $100. They are a more expensive piece of equipment, but savings could be seen in reduced cooking time and energy efficiency. In addition, there is a lot of money saved when cooking at home when compared to ordering delivery or eating at restaurants. An electric pressure cooker may be tool you need to making cooking at home easy and accessible.

If you are a new electric pressure cooker owner looking for support, Hutchings has a Facebook support group: Cooking Under Pressure - An Electric Pressure Cooking Community. She shares recipes, resources and occasionally hosts Facebook Live lessons.

Resources:

Posted on Wednesday, October 17, 2018 at 11:16 AM
Focus Area Tags: Food Health

They Don't Announce Their Arrival or Departure

A female variegated meadowhawk dragonfly, Sympetrum corruptum, perches on a bamboo stake in Vacaville, Calif. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

They don't announce their arrival or departure. If you're an insect photographer, or a wanna-be-insect photographer, expect the unexpected and don't go anywhere without your camera. That applies to such simple things as walking out your back door and stepping into your pollinator garden. It was...

A female variegated meadowhawk dragonfly, Sympetrum corruptum, perches on a bamboo stake in Vacaville, Calif. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A female variegated meadowhawk dragonfly, Sympetrum corruptum, perches on a bamboo stake in Vacaville, Calif. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A female variegated meadowhawk dragonfly, Sympetrum corruptum, perches on a bamboo stake in Vacaville, Calif. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

In this view, you can see the “bi-colored” Pterostigma on the wing tip and the two black spots on the top of the tip of the abdomen,
In this view, you can see the “bi-colored” Pterostigma on the wing tip and the two black spots on the top of the tip of the abdomen," noted Greg Kareofelas, Bohart Museum of Entomology associate. "This is unique to this species (Sympetrum corruptum)." (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

In this view, you can see the “bi-colored” Pterostigma on the wing tip and the two black spots on the top of the tip of the abdomen," noted Greg Kareofelas, Bohart Museum of Entomology associate. "This is unique to this species (Sympetrum corruptum)." (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A blurred Mexican sunflower (Tithonia) forms a backdrop for the variegated meadowhawk dragonfly, Sympetrum corruptum. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A blurred Mexican sunflower (Tithonia) forms a backdrop for the variegated meadowhawk dragonfly, Sympetrum corruptum. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A blurred Mexican sunflower (Tithonia) forms a backdrop for the variegated meadowhawk dragonfly, Sympetrum corruptum. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A flickering light and backdrop of a Mexican sunflower add to this image of the dragonfly, Sympetrum corruptum. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A flickering light and backdrop of a Mexican sunflower add to this image of the dragonfly, Sympetrum corruptum. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A flickering light and backdrop of a Mexican sunflower add to this image of the dragonfly, Sympetrum corruptum. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Tuesday, October 16, 2018 at 5:00 PM

Spotting the Cabbage White Butterfly

A cabbage white butterlfy, Pieris rapae, heads for lantana in a Vacaville garden. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

They're everywhere. But they're not welcome. Agriculturists who commercially grow cabbage and other cucurbits aren't fond of the cabbage white butterlfy, Pieris rapae, because its larvae are pests that ravish their crops. No welcome mat for them. This butterfly, however, is welcome--sort...

A cabbage white butterlfy, Pieris rapae, heads for lantana in a Vacaville garden. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A cabbage white butterlfy, Pieris rapae, heads for lantana in a Vacaville garden. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A cabbage white butterlfy, Pieris rapae, heads for lantana in a Vacaville garden. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

The cabbage white butterfly flips. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
The cabbage white butterfly flips. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

The cabbage white butterfly flips. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Cabbage white butterfly returns to sip some nectar from the lantana. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Cabbage white butterfly returns to sip some nectar from the lantana. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Cabbage white butterfly returns to sip some nectar from the lantana. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Monday, October 15, 2018 at 5:02 PM

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