Backyard Orchard News
The Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven is not only a haven for honey bees; it's a haven for bumble bees...
Yellow-faced bumble bee (Bombus vosnesenskii) foraging in Bee Bliss salvia. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Yellow-faced bumble bee (Bombus vosnesenskii) peers at a visitor in the Haagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
UC researchers are experimenting with a variety of methods that will help farmers reduce the cost of fruit thinning. Peach, nectarine, plum and apple trees typically set a tremendous amount of fruit. The fruit must be thinned considerably to ensure adequate fruit size.
Since employing farmworkers for hand thinning is a major expense for farmers, researchers have been looking for a mechanical alternative.
One such machine being tested this spring is a “drum shaker,” which was recently shipped to the Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center from the USDA Agricultural Research Service’s Appalachian Fruit Research Station in West Virginia.
“We took the drum shaker out to several orchards,” said UC staff research associate Becky Phene, who works in collaboration with UC pomology specialist Scott Johnson. “In four locations, we tagged and labeled shoots, then ran the drum shaker through those rows.”
The researchers counted the fruit on the shoots before and after the drum shaker treatment.
“Our findings show a modest removal of fruit at 350 to 400 rpm,” Phene said.
The experiments have shown that a number of factors come into play when using the mechanical thinning device, such as tree structure, age and fruit size.
“The larger, sturdier scaffolds are harder to shake and suffer more shoot damage or shoot removal,” she said. “The younger, more flexible scaffolds appear more capable of reverberating the energy out to more shoots and shake off more fruit. Also, larger fruit tend to have a better removal rate.”
"You can never be too rich, too young, too blonde or too thin," a quote often attributed to Wallis...
Ladybugs and soldier beetles--along with aphids--on a plum tree. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Fast-moving soldier beetle crawls toward a pair of ladybugs on a plum tree. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Ladybug eggs mean more ladybugs. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
So you like bugs... C'mon, just a little bit? If so, you're in luck. The UC Davis Department of...
Beetle display at the Bohart Museum of Entomology. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Children especially love Maggot Art. They dip the maggots into water-based paint and let the larvae crawl on the paper. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Termite Trails is another fun and educational activity at Briggs Hall during the UC Davis Picnic Day. Termites are attracted to the pheromone-like scent. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
“We think the flavor of mandarins declines much more rapidly than oranges,” said Sue Collin, a UC Riverside staff research associate who is based at the UC Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Parlier.
The way oranges are set out at the grocery store or on home counter tops could be trouble for the more delicate mandarin. And when mandarins make a six-week sea voyage to the Pacific Rim, will Asian consumers find the fruit acceptable?
In order to provide farmers, shippers and retailers accurate information about the impact of different storage temperatures on the quality of the fruit, Collin is working with UC Riverside sub-tropical horticulturalist Mary Lu Arpaia and USDA plant physiologist Dave Obenland to understand the changes in mandarins stored at a variety of temperatures, at different humidity levels, for various periods of time.
“A grocery store may be holding fruit at room temperature, 68 degrees or even warmer,” Collin said. “We’re comparing fruit that has been stored in very controlled atmospheres – at temperatures in the 40s, 50s and 60s.”
When it comes to understanding the acceptability of fresh fruit, nothing can match the human palette.
Collin recruits staff based at Kearney to take a break from their jobs to come to a laboratory built at the agricultural research station specifically for sensory testing. The 1,100-square-foot laboratory features neutral white paint and broad-spectrum lighting. The ventilation system was designed to minimize distracting odors. Inside, six tasting booths each have small windows that open to the kitchen area, where samples are prepared.
“We do quite a bit of testing to see if our volunteers can tell the difference in fruit stored at different temperatures,” Collin said.
In conjunction with the human testing, Obenland studies the fruit’s chemical composition to find out if objective numerical values correlate with the more subjective findings of the human tasters.
Although the optimal storage temperature for mandarins is still under investigation, Collin suggested consumers should keep their mandarins in the refrigerator at home for best results.
“I think the flavor holds better and the fruit lasts longer in the refrigerator,” Collin said.
This research is being funded in part by the Citrus Research Board.