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Posts Tagged: UC Davis

Scientists Reveal New Method to Characterize Physiological Responses to Parasitism

A parasitic wasp, Microplitis demolitor, laying an egg (ovipositing) in larva of soybean looper moth. (Photo by Jena Johnson of the Michael Strand lab, University of Georgia)

Have you ever seen a wasp oviposit or lay its eggs inside a caterpillar? Or the egg of a moth? it's not always easy to tell what's going on without destroying both species. But newly published research by UC Davis agricultural entomologist Christian Nansen and insect physiologist Michael Strand...

A parasitic wasp, Microplitis demolitor, laying an egg (ovipositing) in larva of soybean looper moth. (Photo by Jena Johnson of the Michael Strand lab, University of Georgia)
A parasitic wasp, Microplitis demolitor, laying an egg (ovipositing) in larva of soybean looper moth. (Photo by Jena Johnson of the Michael Strand lab, University of Georgia)

A parasitic wasp, Microplitis demolitor, laying an egg (ovipositing) in larva of soybean looper moth. (Photo by Jena Johnson of the Michael Strand lab, University of Georgia)

Posted on Wednesday, December 5, 2018 at 6:17 PM

Insect Apocalypse: Where Have All the Insects Gone?

Art Shapiro, distinguished professor of evolution and ecology at UC Davis, walks along one of his study areas, Gates Canyon Road, Vacaville. This image was taken Jan. 25, 2014. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

"Where have all the flowers gone? Long time passing Where have all the flowers gone? Long time ago Where have all the flowers gone? Girls have picked them every one When will they ever learn? When will they ever learn?"--Pete Seeger The late folksinger and social activist Pete Seeger (1919-2014)...

Art Shapiro, distinguished professor of evolution and ecology at UC Davis, walks along one of his study areas, Gates Canyon Road, Vacaville. This image was taken Jan. 25, 2014. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Art Shapiro, distinguished professor of evolution and ecology at UC Davis, walks along one of his study areas, Gates Canyon Road, Vacaville. This image was taken Jan. 25, 2014. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Art Shapiro, distinguished professor of evolution and ecology at UC Davis, walks along one of his study areas, Gates Canyon Road, Vacaville. This image was taken Jan. 25, 2014. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Wednesday, November 28, 2018 at 4:25 PM

Trying leafy greens from a sweet potato plant

This time of year, it can be hard to resist the pull of sweet potatoes — roasted, mashed with butter, and topped with a combination of delectable treats from maple syrup to pecans to marshmallows. But did you know that the green leaves of the sweet potato plant also have the potential to be a tasty, nutritious food?

In Ethiopia, where sweet potatoes can be a staple crop, UC Davis graduate student Lauren Howe recently helped farmers taste test the leaves and consider this familiar crop in a new culinary light.

Watch a video to learn how to prepare sweet potato leaves:

The leaves of this drought-tolerant plant offer farming households there an alternative — and nutritious — food in the lean season, while they are waiting for its starchy, tuberous roots to be ready to eat. Introducing sweet potato leaves as a food option is intended to help farmers better diversify their families' diets, to include a wider variety of vegetables in addition to staple foods, especially during the dry season.

Lauren shared her experiences in Ethiopia on the Agrilinks website, where she recently won the Agrilinks Young Scholars blog contest with her writing and a short video from the field.

From right, Lauren Howe of UC Davis and Tesfaye Kassa of SACE interview farmers about how they currently manage sweet potato crops on their farms.

Boots on the ground with sweet potato farmers in Ethiopia

Lauren traveled to Ethiopia this summer to work with an organization called Send A Cow Ethiopia (SACE), on a Trellis Fund project. As part of the Horticulture Innovation Lab, each Trellis Fund project connects an organization in a developing country with a grad student from a U.S. university, to work together to benefit local farmers, while building the capacity of both the local organization and the student.

In Ethiopia, SACE helped Lauren better understand local contexts by connecting her with farming households to interview about their current farming practices and the role of sweet potatoes in their diets.

Later they traveled to meet with a group of about 25 farmers in the Ukara community to harvest leaves, cook together and discuss their perceptions of the leaves as a vegetable option.

“We are producing a huge amount of sweet potato per year," explained Feleke Lera, a son of farmers in Ukara. "But before, we had no knowledge about the leaves.”
 
Lauren harvests sweet potato leaves with farmers in Ukara.
 
In Ukara, the group prepared the sweet potato leaves three different ways – sauteed, cooked with corn or maize flour in a dish called fosese, and in a salad.
 

Reflecting on taste tests, new foods, and rural communities

After preparing and tasting the sweet potato leaves, the group in Ukara discussed which dish they preferred, whether they would adopt this new practice of eating sweet potato leaves, how this practice might affect their forage supply to feed their livestock, and what their friends and family members might think of this new food. 
 
"I deeply appreciated how food is truly a universal language and the preparation, cooking and act of eating itself are relatable across cultures," Lauren wrote in her blog post.
 

Lauren's own passion for food and witnessing how food can help build community is an important part of her reflection on this experience:

"This project is about creating tasty dishes to persuade people about the nutritional benefits of a new ingredient. It is gathering families, friends and neighbors to sit down to a communal meal (already a strong Ethiopian practice), breaking bread together, sharing stories, experiences and hopes for the future."

For more, go read the rest of Lauren's blog post and check out her short video too.

Lauren at a taste test in another community called Gurumo Koysha, where farmers overwhelmingly preferred the sautéed sweet potato leaves to the sautéed kale. The activity was intended to be a blind taste test, but Lauren reported that keeping the dishes secret was more difficult to do than originally planned.

Background and related international agricultural research

Lauren's experience with a Trellis Fund project in Ethiopia was supported by the Horticulture Innovation Lab, a research program led by Elizabeth Mitcham of the UC Davis Department of Plant Sciences, with funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development. With a focus on fruit and vegetable innovation, the Horticulture Innovation Lab seeks to empower smallholder farmers in developing countries to earn more income and better nourish their communities — as part of the U.S. government's global Feed the Future initiative.

Past research from the Horticulture Innovation Lab has focused on other leafy greens, specifically African indigenous vegetables, and also on sweet potatoes themselves (orange-fleshed sweet potatoes, that is). Though the program has not done in-depth research on sweet potato leaves for human consumption beyond this small Trellis Fund project, you can find more information about eating sweet potato leaves and tips in this bulletin from the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension, and a wealth of information about sweet potato farming and gardening from the University of California Vegetable Research and Information Center. 

Related Food Blog posts:

 

Sweet potato leaves in Ethiopia - Horticulture Innovation Lab photo by Lauren Howe/UC Davis
Sweet potato leaves in Ethiopia - Horticulture Innovation Lab photo by Lauren Howe/UC Davis

close-up on sweetpotato leaves, stems and plant

Posted on Monday, November 19, 2018 at 9:02 AM
Focus Area Tags: Agriculture Health Innovation

Congrats! UC Linnaean Games Team Wins the National Championship

Gamemaster Deane Jorgensen (far left), research scientist at Sygenta, and ESA president Michael Parrella (far right), dean of the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences,  University of Idaho, flank the national Linnaean Games Team champions. In the center (from left) are Emily Bick, Brendon Boudinot, captain Ralph Washington Jr., Zachary Griebenow and Jill Oberski. Parrella is a former professor and chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.(Joe Rominiecki Photo)

They did it! Again! The incredible University of California Linnaean Games Team, comprised of graduate students from UC Davis and UC Berkeley, won the national championship at the popular and highly competitive Linnaean Games hosted this week at the Entomological Society of America's meeting in...

Gamemaster Deane Jorgensen (far left), research scientist at Sygenta, and ESA president Michael Parrella (far right), dean of the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences,  University of Idaho, flank the national Linnaean Games Team champions. In the center (from left) are Emily Bick, Brendon Boudinot, captain Ralph Washington Jr., Zachary Griebenow and Jill Oberski. Parrella is a former professor and chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.(Joe Rominiecki Photo)
Gamemaster Deane Jorgensen (far left), research scientist at Sygenta, and ESA president Michael Parrella (far right), dean of the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, University of Idaho, flank the national Linnaean Games Team champions. In the center (from left) are Emily Bick, Brendon Boudinot, captain Ralph Washington Jr., Zachary Griebenow and Jill Oberski. Parrella is a former professor and chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.(Joe Rominiecki Photo)

Gamemaster Deane Jorgensen (far left), research scientist at Sygenta, and ESA president Michael Parrella (far right), dean of the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, University of Idaho, flank the national Linnaean Games Team champions. In the center (from left) are Emily Bick, Brendon Boudinot, captain Ralph Washington Jr., Zachary Griebenow and Jill Oberski. Parrella is a former professor and chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. (Joe Rominiecki Photo)

They Lost It All in the Raging Inferno in Paradise

Entomologist Brennen Dyer, shown here at work at the Bohart Museum of Entomology, UC Davis, lost it all in the Paradise inferno known as Camp Fire. His supervisor, Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum and UC Davis professor of entomology, encouraged him to set up a gofundme account.

Paradise isn't. It was, though. And it will be again when it's rebuilt. #ParadiseStrong. The raging inferno known as "Camp Fire" that started Nov. 8 on Camp Creek Road, near Pulga, Butte County, California, ranks as the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in the state's history. As of...

Entomologist Brennen Dyer, shown here at work at the Bohart Museum of Entomology, UC Davis, lost it all in the Paradise inferno known as Camp Fire. His supervisor, Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum and UC Davis professor of entomology, encouraged him to set up a gofundme account.
Entomologist Brennen Dyer, shown here at work at the Bohart Museum of Entomology, UC Davis, lost it all in the Paradise inferno known as Camp Fire. His supervisor, Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum and UC Davis professor of entomology, encouraged him to set up a gofundme account.

Entomologist Brennen Dyer, shown here at work at the Bohart Museum of Entomology, UC Davis, lost it all in the Paradise inferno known as Camp Fire. His supervisor, Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum and UC Davis professor of entomology, encouraged him to set up a gofundme account.

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