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Posts Tagged: genetics

Were those the days?

Some pine for the simplicity of early American agriculture, but "Those were long days, my friend."
To the tune of Mary Hopkin's iconic 60s hit, Those Were the Days, a team of UC animal scientists ask whether those bygone times people remember nostalgically would be up to the challenge of feeding the world today.

"People have a romantic image of farming in the past," said Alison Van Eenennaam, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the UC Davis Department of Animal Science. "It may be remembered as bucolic, but there wasn't enough food being produced to cope with world population growth."

Van Eenennaam, an expert in animal genomics and biotechnology, rewrote the song and posed the question, Were those the days?, with historical photos of Americans hand-milking cows one by one, preparing a field with a horse-drawn plow and tossing out handfuls of chicken feed from a bucket.

Van Eenennaam's remake declares,

Those were long days, my friend
We thought they'd never end
We'd plow and toil forever and a day

It's not the life we'd choose
We'd work and never snooze
Those were hard days, oh yes, those were hard days.

Interspersed in the video are statistics that reveal how far modern agriculture has come. For example, the U.S. dairy cattle population peaked at 25.6 million animals in 1944. By 1997, improved dairy management and genetics increased milk production per cow by 370 percent, reducing by more than half the number of dairy cows needed to provide milk for U.S. consumers.

The video notes that, in 1923, it took about 112 days to produce a broiler chicken. In 2000, a much larger chicken is produced in 48 days.

"If you're going to expend resources feeding and housing a happy cow," Van Eenennaam said, "it stands to reason that feeding an efficient, high-producing cow decreases the amount of feed required and waste generated per glass of milk or pound of beef."

Van Eenennaam’s video production is competing in a contest sponsored by the American Society of Animal Science. The video that gets the most “likes” on YouTube before June 1 receives a cash prize and will be shown at the American Society of Animal Science meeting in Phoenix. See the video below, but go to YouTube and sign into your Gmail or YouTube account for your “like” to count.

Posted on Monday, April 30, 2012 at 11:49 AM

Why Increasing Genetic Diversity in Honey Bees Is Crucial

Italian honey bee on lavender. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey fervently believes that increasing the overall genetic diversity of honey bees will lead to healthier, hardier bees that can better fight off parasites, pathogens and pests.

Cobey is the lead author of a chapter in the newly published Honey Bee Colony Health: Challenges and Sustainable Solutions, a 21-chapter book edited by research entomologist Diana Sammataro of the Carl Hayden Bee Research Center, Tucson, Ariz., and professor Jay Yoder of Wittenberg University, Springfield, Ohio.

Just as stock improvement has served the poultry, dairy and swine industries well, the beekeeping industry needs access “to stocks of origin or standardized evaluation and stock improvement programs,” said Cobey, who has a dual appointment at the University of California, Davis and Washington State University (WSU). 

“The many problems that currently face the U.S. honey bee population have underscored the need for sufficient genetic diversity at the colony, breeding, and population levels,” wrote Cobey and colleagues Walter “Steve” Sheppard, professor and chair, WSU Department of Entomology, and David Tarpy, associate professor and Extension apiculturist North Carolina State University.

“Genetic diversity has been reduced by three distinct bottleneck events, namely the limited historical importation of a small subset sampling of a few honey bee subspecies, the selection pressure of parasites and pathogens (particularly parasitic mites) and the consolidated commercial queen-production practices that use a small number of queen mothers in the breeding population,” Cobey pointed out.

The honey bee, Apis mellifera, originated in the Old World where it diverged into more than two dozen recognized subspecies, they related. However, only nine of the more than two dozen Old World subspecies ever made it to the United States and only two of these are recognizable today.

What with colony collapse disorder (CCD) and the declining bee population, there's definitely a crying need for genetic diversity in honey bees. Read more about what Susan Cobey has to say, and what this important book is all about, on the UC Davis Department of Entomology website.

Susan Cobey teaching a queen bee rearing class at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, UC Davis. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Susan Cobey teaching a queen bee rearing class at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, UC Davis. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Susan Cobey teaching a queen bee rearing class at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, UC Davis. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey holding frame at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, UC Davis. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey holding frame at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, UC Davis. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey holding frame at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, UC Davis. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Friday, March 9, 2012 at 9:22 PM

It's a fruit...It's a mandarin...It's ‘KinnowLS’!

On the Jeopardy show, the clues could easily be: “It’s new and attractive.  It’s juicy and sweet.  And it’s low-seeded and peels easily.”

To which the answer would be, “What is ‘KinnowLS’?”

‘KinnowLS’ – the LS is short for low seeded – is the latest citrus variety released by researchers at the University of California, Riverside.

Large-sized for a mandarin, the fruit has an orange rind color. The rind is thin and extremely smooth. The 10-11 segments in each fruit are fleshy and deep orange in color.

‘KinnowLS’ matures during February through April, and does well in hot climates. It was developed by mutation breeding of the mandarin cultivar ‘Kinnow,’ a mid-to-late season maturing variety developed by UC Riverside nearly 100 years ago. While ‘Kinnow’ has 15-30 seeds per fruit, ‘KinnowLS’ has only 2-3 seeds per fruit.

“People who like very sweet fruit are going to find ‘KinnowLS’ to be very appealing,” says Mikeal Roose, a professor of genetics, who developed ‘KinnowLS’ along with staff scientist Timothy Williams. “When other citrus varieties mature to reach the level of sweetness of ‘KinnowLS,’ their other qualities – such as rind texture – are in decline. Neither ‘Kinnow’ nor ‘KinnowLS’ suffer in this way.”

Yet another attractive quality of ‘KinnowLS’ is that it can be grown in California’s desert regions because the fruit, which matures during February through April, does well in hot climates.

Indeed, ‘Kinnow’ is the most important mandarin in the Punjab regions of India and Pakistan, where ‘Kinnow’ fruit trees constitute about 80 percent of all citrus trees.

“But the fruit, which is popular there, is seedy,” Roose says. “Therefore, ‘KinnowLS’ has very good potential in this area of the world.”

Growers in India and Pakistan will have to wait a few years, however, before ‘KinnowLS’ trees can strike roots there. Currently, plans are to distribute ‘KinnowLS’ budwood, starting this month, to only licensed nurseries in California.  (For three years, only California nurseries will be permitted to propagate ‘KinnowLS.’ Licenses for ‘KinnowLS’ propagation outside the United States will be issued thereafter.)

So when will we find ‘KinnowLS’ in U.S. produce aisles?

Alas, not for at least five years.  It generally takes about that long to propagate citrus trees.

2602 1hi
2602 1hi

Posted on Tuesday, June 14, 2011 at 9:14 AM
Tags: citrus (1), genetics (4), Mandarins (1), orange (1), Punjab (1)

Where's the beef?

By assigning a simple, 15-digit identification number to cows, UC researchers can track each one from conception to carcass, garnering valuable data for studies on cattle fertility, genetics, and health, and helping to select breeding animals with desirable beef characteristics such as flavor and tenderness.

In today’s beef market, an individual cow may change ownership many times during its lifetime as it travels from the ranch of its birth, to stocker and feedlot, to slaughterhouse, and finally supermarket or steakhouse. In the process, valuable data is lost along with the ability to “trace back” particular steaks to the original cow.

For several years, UC Davis researchers have been attaching a round, electronic ear tag to each newborn calf in the research herd at the UC Sierra Foothill Research and Extension Center, in the California foothills northeast of Sacramento.

The ear tags contain each cow’s unique radio-frequency-identification number, which is scanned with an electronic wand; the system is similar to that used to keep track of packages being shipped overnight or library books. Cowhands use a handheld device to enter information when the cattle are processed, which is transmitted via remote-access antennae to centrally located computer databases.

The integrated data-collection system is being used to undertake sophisticated studies on cattle genetics, with the ultimate goal of improving cattle breeding. “The genotype of some beef and dairy cattle may be better suited to grass-based productions systems,” UC Davis Cooperative Extension Specialist Alison Van Eenennaam and colleagues write in the April-June 2010 issue of California Agriculture journal. “It may also be possible to select animals that are able to grow to given size using less feed, or that are more resistant to certain diseases.

“These technologies also have great potential to enable the production of safer, more nutritious animal products. They may also allow for the selection of animals with a decreased environmental footprint and improved animal welfare due to lower levels of disease.”

Herd manager Dan Myers enters cattle <br>information into hand-held device.
Herd manager Dan Myers enters cattle
information into hand-held device.

Posted on Wednesday, May 26, 2010 at 7:56 AM
  • Author: Janet Byron
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