Drawing a road map of corn’s ‘jumping genes’

An international team of researchers has mapped the “jumping genes,” formally named transposable elements, or transposons, in corn, says UC-Davis. “The discovery could ultimately benefit the breeding and production of maize, one of the world’s most important crops.”

UC-Davis wins court fight with strawberry stars

A jury ruled that two former stars of the strawberry breeding program at UC-Davis violated an agreement with the university over control of the plants they developed while at the school.

Relentless drought to cost California ag economy $1.8 billion

The fourth year of unrelenting drought in California will cost the state agricultural economy $1.8 billion - 20 percent more than in 2014 - although farmers and their irrigation districts "are showing more resilience to the drought than many had anticipated," says a report by the UC-Davis Center for Watershed Sciences.

Drought deepens in Pacific Northwest, heat blamed in fish kill

Topsoil and subsoil moisture levels continue to decline in the Pacific Northwest, where streamflows have shriveled to record or near-record lows, says the weekly Drought Monitor.

The tomato harvester, ketchup and the food movement

The mechanical tomato harvester, developed at UC-Davis, ranks as "a genuine breakthrough in the way that scientists thought about agricultural development," writes Ildi Carlisle-Cummins at Civil Eats.

Add a barley gene and rice emits less methane

Rice is a staple of half the world's population and also a potent emitter of greenhouse gases. But the Los Angeles Times reports that scientists say genetic engineering may help solve the grain's methane problem.

Plant breeders aim for more flavorful strawberry

"On the agronomical trip to market, strawberries have lost some of their flavor," says Wired, noting the adjustments made over the decades to produce a bright-colored, slick-skinned, large-sized berry that is easy to pick and stays in condition.

Drought’s pricetag rises for California agriculture

California's farmers will have less irrigation water and will idle more cropland this year than they did last year, says a study by UC-Davis. It estimates direct agricultural losses of $1.8 billion, comprised of $1.2 billion in lower crop, livestock and dairy revenue and $600 million in higher costs to pump water from wells. "When we account for the spillover effect of agriculture on the state’s other economic sectors, the total cost of this year’s drought on California’s economy is $2.7 billion and the loss of about 18,600 full- and part-time jobs," say the authors.

California agriculture outlook: Dire but not hopeless

With California headed for a fourth year of drought, the outlook for the growing season is grim. "But our situation is not hopeless," says Helene Dillard, dean of agriculture at UC-Davis.

How about a robotic cultivator that does hand weeding?

A project at UC-Davis aims to develop a robotic cultivator that can do the equivalent of hand weeding, excising weeds as they sprout among rows of newly emerged crops.

Vermont GMO labeling contest comes to national stage

Assistant House Majority Leader Kate Webb, a sponsor of Vermont's GMO food labeling law, is scheduled to testify at a House subcommittee hearing on federal regulation of the foods on Wednesday.

The alpaca boom goes bust

Alpacas are the latest animals in the livestock version of a speculative bubble, says Modern Farmer. It says the industry, which boomed in the early 2000s, emphasized breeding over developing a market for the alpaca's chief product, their fine, soft fleece.

Roberts, Orman “haven’t closed the sale” in Kansas

"The race for the U.S. Senate seat from Kansas is about to get nastier," says the Kansas City Star in a story headlined, "With a week to go, U.S. Senate candidates in Kansas still haven't closed the sale."

US farm law turns toward protectionism, analyst says

Parts of the 2014 farm law "send a message to trading partners that U.S. agriculture is becoming more protectionist," writes UC-Davis economics professor Colin Carter in Choices, the journal of agricultural economics.

California eyes slow shift to control of groundwater usage

Since the days of the Gold Rush, "groundwater has been considered a property right; landowners are entitled to what's beneath them," says the Los Angeles Times; California is the only state in the West that does not regulate groundwater.

Do not bet on California getting wet, not yet

Two co-founders of the Center for Watershed Sciences at UC-Davis "calculate that the chances of another winter with below-average precipitation to be nearly three in four" for California, says the science blog at KQED in San Francisco.

Research finds a microbe that inhibits damaging rice fungus

A soil microbe that inhibits the rice blast fungus, which destroys an estimated 30 percent of the world's rice crop, was identified by researchers from the University of Delaware and University of California-Davis, according to an announcement.

Food quality dips as greenhouse gases increase

Science Daily says a field test conducted by the University of California-Davis "has demonstrated that elevated levels of carbon dioxide inhibit plants' assimilation of nitrate into proteins, indicating that the nutritional quality of food crops is at risk as climate change intensifies."

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