California Sweet Potatoes are One of A Kind

California Sweet Potatoes Grow in Well-Drained Soil

By Jessica Theisman, Associate Editor

California sweet potatoes are in full harvest, and our potatoes are one of a kind, said Scott Stoddard a UCANR Cooperative Extension farm advisor for vegetable crops in Merced County. The difference is the sheen.

Scott Stoddard

“Sometimes they come up clean out of the ground because we’ve grown them in a very loose sand, so the sand just falls off of them, and it almost leaves some shine,” he said.

You can get what is called the California Sheen.

In a lot of other areas of the country, there is a little bit of mud and a little bit of silt. The crop they’re digging up is growing in the ground and kind of looks like it needs to be washed.

“A lot of times with California sweet potatoes, they don’t even look like they need to be washed when they come up out of the ground. It looks like they can just go straight from the field to fork,” Stoddard said.

Well-drained soil is important. Well-drained soil is what they grow best in.

“Not like a cactus where they can survive on no water, but we can get by in about two and a half acre feet. That’ll give you a good 100 percent potential yield,” Stoddard explained.

UC President Janet Napolitano Presents Food Initiative Plan to CDFA

University of California President Janet Napolitano today (July 1) presented the university’s plans for a comprehensive food initiative to the California State Board of Food and Agriculture.

The UC Global Food Initiative is intended to marshal the university’s resources — including curriculum and world-class research, student efforts and operational efforts in place across the university’s 10 campuses — to address global challenges related to food.

“This initiative grows out of a commitment made by all 10 UC campus chancellors and myself,” Napolitano said. “It is a commitment to work collectively to put a greater emphasis on what UC can do as a public research university, in one of the most robust agricultural regions in the world, to take on one of the world’s most pressing issues.”

The food initiative will build on UC’s tradition of innovative agricultural research to support farmers and ranchers. Future efforts will build on work already begun by UC’s 10 campuses and its Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources (ANR) to address internal and external issues with a variety of approaches.

UC research, for example, taught Californians how to remove salts from the alkali soils in the Central Valley, transforming that barren landscape into one of the world’s most productive farming regions, Napolitano noted in her presentation to the California State Board of Food and Agriculture.

Today, the World Food Center at UC Davis stands with 26 other centers dedicated to food and agriculture on that campus; students and faculty at UC Santa Cruz are transforming the field of agroecology; and the Berkeley Food Institute is studying the relationship between pest control, conservation and food safety on Central Coast farms. The cutting-edge Healthy Campus Initiative at UCLA taps all members of the campus community.

The initiative is not limited to seeking any single solution or set of solutions to the myriad food issues confronting the world, Napolitano said.

“The idea,” she said, “is to provide the intellectual and technical firepower, as well as the operational examples needed for communities in California and around the world to find pathways to a sustainable food future.”

In describing the building blocks for the initiative, Napolitano noted that the university’s agricultural outreach and public service programs — in every California county and more than 100 nations — bring UC resources to individuals and communities to help them access safe, affordable and nutritious food while sustaining scarce natural resources.

The university’s work also will help inform and drive policy discussions from the local to the international levels, and expand partnerships with government agencies such as the California Department of Food and Agriculture.

“This initiative shows great vision and leadership from President Napolitano and the University of California,” said CDFA Secretary Karen Ross, “Climate change and population growth will greatly strain our ability to provide healthy food to people here and around the world.

“President Napolitano’s proposal to leverage the strategic assets of the entire UC organization makes it a valuable partner in addressing the significant challenges and opportunities for our production agriculture and food system.”

Emphasizing that student engagement is key, Napolitano announced, as one of her first actions, the funding of three $2,500 President’s Global Food Initiative Student Fellowships to be awarded on each campus to undergraduate or graduate students. The fellowships will fund student research projects or internships.

Among other early efforts to be undertaken as part of the initiative are the following:

  • Internally, campuses will heighten their collective purchasing power and dining practices to encourage sustainable farming practices, and model healthy eating and zero food waste; food pantries and farmers markets that exist on some campuses will be spread to all 10. Partnerships with K-12 school districts to enhance leveraging procurement for these purposes also will be explored.
  • Food issues will be integrated into more undergraduate and graduate courses, catalogues of food-related courses will be developed, and demonstration gardens will be made available on each campus to increase opportunities for students to participate in experiential learning.
  • Data mining of existing information will be deployed to help develop insights and action plans for California agriculture and responses to climate change.

New policies will be enacted to allow small growers to serve as suppliers for UC campuses.

Cooperative Extension Turns 100 May 8

Barbara Allen-Diaz, University of California Vice President, Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, talked with California Ag Today about the 100th anniversary of the Cooperative Extension.

On May 8, 1914, President Woodrow Wilson signed into law the Smith-Lever Act, which created Cooperative Extension to help farmers, homemakers and youth apply the latest university research to improve their lives.

Barbara Allen-Diaz“For us, it’s very exciting,” said Allen-Diaz, “because we re going to celebrate our 100th birthday party of Cooperative Extension over this entire year; but in particular, on May 8, 2014, we will try to engage as many people as possible across the state of California in our day called, “A Celebration of Science and Service.” 

Allen-Diaz continued, “We’re asking folks through our local community groups, public K-12 schools, students on our campuses, all of our 4-H clubs throughout the state, even folks on our Google campus, to participate with us in celebrating 100th years of cooperative extension by being a scientist for the day.”

Cooperative Extension wants everybody to go to their “Be a Scientist for a Day” website for this day of citizen science and service, to answer all three or any one of the three following questions:

“The first question is on pollinators,” said Allen-Diaz. “We want people to count how many pollinators they see outside in their yard, in their school garden, at their place of work, wherever they are when they log on, and count how many pollinators, such as bees, butterflies, dragonflies, etc., they see over a three-minute period.”

“We have information on our website to learn about pollinators, since we’re an education institute, and how important they are not only to the future of agriculture,” she explained, “but really to the future of life on this planet. Because that’s how plants are able to produce seeds—having their flowers pollinated.”

UCCE Centennial Carrots

“Pollinators are an incredibly important part of our ecosystems throughout the world so, not only for food production,” commented Allen-Diaz, “but also for the health of all our ecosystems.

“The second question deals with water,” continued Allen-Diaz. “Obviously, water is incredibly important to all of us. In this particular year of record drought we’d really like to know how you conserve water in your daily life. There will be a series of drop down menus where you can input your data.”

Allen-Diaz stated, “The third question is on food, again with drop-down menus. Where does your food come from? Where do you get your food?”

“We ask for your location, though you can choose not to answer,” remarked Allen-Diaz, “whether people log on through their phone, computer, iPad or other instruments. With these geopoints, we can analyze the data and produce a map of the state and show everyone where pollinators are, water use by region, and where our food comes from. The more people who log on and participate, to the more we can populate our map of California.”

“For 100 years, we have engaged our local communities to work with us in problem-solving issues of importance in agricultural natural resources, nutrition, urban horticulture, home economics, and use development,” said Allen-Diaz.