UC Food Blog
The International Year of Pulses. But you may not know what pulses are or California's role in the pulse industry.
Pulses are leguminous crops harvested solely for the dry seed. They include dried beans, lentils, and peas – those staple, nutritious and humble foods that our ancestors began cultivating more than 10,000 years ago.
The United Nations strives to raise awareness about pulses through its slogan, “Nutritious Seeds for a Sustainable Future.” The goals: to draw attention to the protein power and health benefits of pulses, to encourage global food-chain connections to better utilize pulses, to boost the global production of pulses, to better utilize crop rotations, and to address the challenges in the trade of pulses.
In California, farmers, the dry bean industry, and UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) researchers are doing their part with research and outreach programs that focus on dry bean production. Our state produces four classes of dry beans, including garbanzos (chickpeas), limas (baby and large), blackeyes (cowpeas), and common beans (such as kidney and cranberry) planted on a total of 50,000 acres and valued at about $70 million.
While not a big economic force like some crops, beans are nonetheless very important to our farming industry. They are needed in crop rotations to help control weeds and they improve soil health by adding biomass back into the soil after harvest and by fixing nitrogen. As such, pulses can contribute to climate change mitigation by reducing dependence on synthetic nitrogen fertilizers. Beans also are an important part of our food security. For example, California lima growers produce virtually all of our nation's dry limas, as well as 60 to 80 percent of the world's market.
Current UC ANR research focuses on improving integrated pest management of dry beans with minimal impacts to the environment. This includes collaborative studies with UC Davis and UC Riverside scientists to breed pest and disease resistant dry bean varieties that have both high yields and quality. Two new releases of garbanzo beans are expected this year. Additional projects focus on drought and heat tolerance in our warming world.
The new UC ANR Agronomy Research and Information Center website features the many agronomic crops grown in California, including beans. Resources available include current research work, cost of production studies, crop production guidelines, and a database of research supported by the California Dry Bean Advisory Board that goes back more than three decades. Stay tuned for additional resources, including online fertilization guidelines for dry beans, to help develop Farm Nutrient Management Plans, as well as the 2016 Integrated Pest Management (UC IPM) Guidelines for Dry Beans. (Click here for the current IPM guidelines)
Meanwhile, let us all join forces with the United Nations, UC ANR, and our state's Dry Bean Industry to raise the awareness of the benefits of pulses for a more sustainable world. This starts with adding more beans to our diet. Beans are packed with nutrients. They are high in protein, low in fat, and rich in fiber. They can lower cholesterol and help in the control of blood sugar and in managing diseases like diabetes, heart conditions and obesity.
Experiment. Prepare bean burritos often, use a variety of beans in your favorite chili recipe, try humus as a delicious vegetable dip, and garnish your salad with beans. The California Dry Bean Advisory Board website provides terrific bean recipes at http://www.calbeans.org. This we know: beans are pulses vital to our diets, just as our pulse rate is vital to monitoring our health.
UC ANR's Nutrition Policy Institute (NPI) has led a push to get the government to make water the drink of choice in the guidelines and add an icon for water on the MyPlate food guide. The guidelines don't go that far, though they do include information that recommends drinking water – in the fine print.
“The guidelines' recommendation to substitute water for sugary drinks is based on solid science. These beverages are the single biggest source of added sugars for our country's kids – and this guidance is explicit and unambiguous and will boost our work in promoting zero-calorie drinking water as the beverage of choice,” said Nutrition Policy Institute Director Lorrene Ritchie. “However, this guidance is presented in a way that gives few Americans an opportunity to see it: on a tip sheet that explains how to use the components of MyPlate ‘to create your own healthy eating solutions — MyWins'. The public health community and the new National Drinking Water Alliance, coordinated through NPI, will build on the potential in this fine-print message by continuing drinking water education, promotion and advocacy.”
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, updated every five years based on the latest advances in nutritional science, serve as a basis for federal nutrition policy and help set the tone for how Americans should eat. The 2015-2020 guidelines, published this month, recommend a “healthy eating pattern” with limited added sugar and saturated fat, less salt, and more fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
For the first time, the guidelines recommend a clear limit on added sugar of no more than 10 percent of daily calories.
“The science regarding the health risks of a high-sugar diet is strong,” Ritchie said. “Not only is sugar associated with chronic disease risk and obesity, but it also displaces foods known to protect and promote health.”
And what's the simplest way to reduce sugar intake?
“Take a bite out of the added sugars in your diet by drinking plain water instead of sugary beverages,” Ritchie said. “This one simple lifestyle change can be an effective response to the latest nutrition science in the new Dietary Guidelines for Americans.”
Read more UC expert commentary on the new dietary guidelines
An initiative to maintain and enhance healthy families and communities is part of the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources Strategic Vision 2025.
Among the topics is Asian citrus psyllid (ACP), which is off particular concern to citrus growers at the moment. The exotic pests can spread huanglongbing (HLB) disease, an incurable condition that has already seriously impacted the citrus industries in Florida and Texas. A few trees in urban Southern California backyards have been found infected with HLB and were pulled out and destroyed.
At the citrus field day, UC Agriculture and Natural Resources Cooperative Extension specialist Matt Daugherty will discuss the potential for nurseries to contribute to Asian citrus psyllid and huanglongbing spread. Regulations are in place in California that restrict movement of containerized citrus and require specific insecticide treatments. Daughterty is evaluating how well such steps reduce the risk of human-mediated Asian citrus psyllid spread. He is using a combination of monitoring in nurseries, field experiments on chemical control efficacy, and characterization of the effects of nursery practices on psyllid management.
Another speaker, UC ANR Cooperative Extension specialist Philippe Rolshausen, will explain how bacteria, fungi and viruses associated with plants, either on its surface or inside, can affect plant health and productivity. He will demonstrate how these organisms can be used for disease control using Pierce's disease of grapevines as an example and also drawing a comparison with huanglongbing in citrus.
The event, with a mix of presentations and field tours, is scheduled from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Advance registration, which is $25, is required. The deadline is Jan. 22. There will be no day-of-event registration available.
To register visit: https://form.jotform.com/53556635957975. For more information call (951) 827-5906.
The following is a tentative agenda:
- 8 a.m. – Introductions by Peggy Mauk, director of agricultural operations at UC Riverside and a subtropical horticulture extension specialist, and Tracy Kahn, curator of UC Riverside's Citrus Variety Collection.
- 8:10 a.m. – Welcomes from Kathryn Uhrich, dean of UC Riverside's College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences and Michael Anderson, a divisional dean for agriculture and natural resources
- 8:30 a.m. – Minimizing the potential for nurseries to contribute to Asian citrus psyllid spread in California – Matt Daugherty, UC ANR Cooperative Extension specialist, entomology.
- 9:15 a.m. – Microbiota-based approach to citrus tree health – Philippe Rolshausen, UC ANR Cooperative Extension specialist, subtropical horticulture.
- 9:45 a.m. – Low seeded citrus – variation in seed content and its causes – Mikeal Roose, professor, botany and plant sciences at UC Riverside. Roose specializes in plant breeding, particularly with citrus.
- 10:30 a.m. – Break
- 11 a.m. – Novel detection methods for Huanglongbing – Wenbo Ma, associate professor, plant pathology at UC Riverside .Her research is focused on developing methods that detect Huanglongbing by monitoring so-called “effectors” secreted from the bacterial pathogens causing the disease.
- 12 p.m. – Lunch (catered by Anchos Southwest Grill).
- 1 p.m. – Pesticide safety training – Vince Samons, UC Riverside agricultural operations.
- 1:45 p.m. – Walk-through of the Citrus Variety Collection, rootstock trial and phytophthora root rot trial.
To make a tax-deductible contribution to the Citrus Variety Collection Endowment fund or the Citrus Research Center & Agricultural Experiment Station support fund go to the following link and select College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences then select the specific fund: https://advancementservices.ucr.edu/GivingForm.aspx
Old coffee cups, laptops streaming code, baggy eyes deprived of sleep: all the usual signs of hackers at work. But a poorly lit hacker hideaway this was not.
The overnight competition, called the Apps for Ag Hackathon, featured farmers, food science students and UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) extension specialists. They teamed up with software developers to craft quick technology solutions that addressed deep challenges in the planet's food systems.
A summit for solutions
The hackathon, in partnership with the World Food Center at the University of California, Davis, was one of a series of events at the Food, Ag and Health Solution Summit, held Dec. 1-3 at UC Davis. Each chapter of the summit brought together uncommon collaborators to partner on a range of possible agtech solutions.
On the first day, the World Food Center's Precision Ag Workshop focused on paving a long-term roadmap with potential industry partners. Ranging from small startups to global corporations and well-established California commodity associations, each organization was investing in front-end irrigation technologies and looking for new opportunities to collaborate with academic researchers.
The pace switched to rapid-fire for a panel at the summit forum on day three: entrepreneurs from eight different agtech startups had seven minutes to pitch their products to the audience. Delving deeper into the world of agtech financing, a later panel discussion asked professional investors what they would look for in startup models.
Hacking through the night
The hackathon ran alongside the forum and other summit events. Participants had only a 32-hour window to fuse together teams, brainstorm a product, develop rough cuts of their software and present their final pitches to the judges.
"People get a little low on sleep, they get a little silly, the creative juices really start flowing," said Apps for Ag organizer Patrick Dosier to Capital Public Radio. "Software developers often have their headphones on and they're in the zone writing code."
With $10,000 in total prize money and a paid trip to Zurich, Switzerland, at stake, the hackers in their final minutes before turning in their presentation slides were actually focusing more on the human network. The conversations evolved away from talk of web hosting software and .png files to meeting for a coffee later and talking about ways to collaborate in the future. While some groups rehearsed their pitches, others exchanged business cards and phone numbers.
From the Central Valley to Silicon Valley
By presentation time at the tail end of the conference, the hackers were visibly exhausted, some carrying pillows and others seen napping in vacant rooms. Thanks to blankets donated by AT&T, many were able to grab quick rests during the hack.
On stage, the Ag for Hire team showed off their app. It connected contract farmworkers to farmers looking to hire. A "LinkedIn for agricultural labor," the app idea took first place at the competition.
"As a worker myself, it's hard to find a job where I can apply my skills," said team member Alejandro Avalos, who has worked on farms since he was 12 years old. "Our app helps a worker find a job based on his skills and actually get a decent wage for it."
Nick Doherty, a UC Davis undergraduate student and recent pick for Apple's 20-Under-20 list, was also on the team.
Along with the $5,000 award, the team will be flown to the Thought for Food Global Summit in Switzerland next year.
Second place and a $3,000 prize went to the team for CropRescue, an app that allows growers to communicate directly with food banks to make excess food donations easier and more efficient. The final $1,500 prize went to the Green Thumb team, which created a task-tracking app to enable better communication among crop advisers, growers and foremen.
UC innovation goes global
Patrick Brown, a UC Davis plant nutrition professor and pomologist at the Agricultural Experiment Station, advised the hackathon teams, as well as taking part in other events. UC ANR small farms advisor Margaret Lloyd also participated in the summit.
Sponsors for the Solution Summit prizes included Intel, UC ANR, the UC Global Food Initiative, UC Innovation Alliances and the Royse Law Firm. The Global Food Initiative also sponsored travel for two doctoral candidates at UC Berkeley and UC Riverside. The Solution Summit was held in partnership with the Innovation Institute for Food and Health, the Mixing Bowl Hub and the SARTA AgStart incubator.
See the Food Hackathon that inspired the competition.
Author: Brad Hooker
Established in 1974, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) is the only federal nutrition program that provides education and counseling to recipients who receive assistance to buy nutritious foods. Depending on the learning style and time restraints of the recipients, however, staying at the WIC center for training and counseling can be a barrier for participation.
The researchers, who are part of UC ANR's Nutrition Policy Institute (NPI), showed that lessons about the importance of eating a healthful breakfast everyday were as effective when presented in person as they were when the participant completed the class on a smart phone, tablet or computer.
“Access to the Internet has rapidly increased in the United States,” said Lauren Au, NPI assistant researcher and lead author of the research article. “To our knowledge, however, the effectiveness of online vs. traditional classes in delivering nutrition education in WIC has never before been studied in a randomized trial.”
The researchers selected breakfast as the lesson topic because it had not been taught before as part of WIC nutrition education even though there is ample evidence to show that regularly eating breakfast is associated with a higher quality diet and decreased risk for obesity.
During the online and classroom training, participants learned why skipping breakfast can lead to poorer health for children and adults and how WIC foods – such as fruit, vegetables, milk, and whole grain cereals– can be used to make healthy breakfasts. Each of the participants was asked to set personal goals for eating healthy breakfasts and making sure their children did as well.
Before the classes began, the participants took a pretest to gauge their knowledge on the topic, and immediately after the class, the test was administered again. Two to four months later, follow up assessments were made to determine whether the participants breakfast behavior had changed and whether they remembered important facts from the training.
“All the participants increased and retained knowledge about how much juice WIC recommends per day – no more than half a cup – and how much sugar per serving of cereal is recommended – no more than 6 grams,” Au said.
Au said the researchers were pleased to confirm that online education is an effective supplement to in-person training.
“Both education types have advantages and disadvantages,” she said. “There's group peer support in the in-person education, and that can be a very powerful motivator. WIC appointments can be faster with online education, which can provide more flexibility and convenience. Both of these education approaches are incredibly beneficial for promoting healthy dietary behavior in WIC participants.”
A six-minute interview with Au about the research project may be viewed online.
An initiative to maintain and enhance healthy families and communities is part of the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources Strategic Vision 2025.