Global Food Systems Forum
Global Food Systems Forum
Global Food Systems Forum
University of California
Global Food Systems Forum

Food 2025 blog

Scientific ingenuity produces a fantastic fruit

UC scientists took a page from nature when they developed the Tango mandarin. Tango is the result of a mutation induced by irradiating budwood of W. Murcott mandarin. The process mimics nature’s manner of improving fruit. Radiation from the sun or natural errors during cell division can cause a single branch or fruit to mutate and develop unique characteristics, which scientists call a “sport.” People have been reproducing favorable sports for generations. In fact, all navel oranges are sports – natural mutations of oranges with seeds or other navel oranges.

W. Murcott mandarins, originally from Morocco, are favored for their deep orange color, easy-peel rind and tangy-sweet flavor. However, when planted within five miles of other seed-bearing citrus – such as Clementine mandarins, lemons or grapefruit – they can be cross-pollinated by bees and become seedy. The Tango maintains the best W. Murcott traits, but because it produces very little viable pollen, it is virtually seedless wherever it is grown.

“This is the most promising mandarin the university has ever produced,” said UC Riverside genetics professor Mikeal Roose.

The Tango mandarin was patented, and registered trees were established by the UC Citrus Clonal Protection Program. Distribution of budwood to citrus nurseries began in June 2006 and was limited exclusively to California growers for one year. Tango was introduced into Florida in 2007 and the trees were available internationally under exclusive licenses since 2009. Tango trees are available to home gardeners through retail nurseries.

The Tango was made possible by a UC and citrus industry partnership going back nearly 15 years. Roose and staff research associate Tim Williams began field testing the fruit in 2001. The research and evaluation program was supported by the Citrus Research Board.

“What’s exciting is the parent variety of the Tango is a good piece of fruit,” said Ted Batkin, director of the Citrus Research Board. “It is without a doubt the most widely planted variety that we have released in the past 25 years.”

California is the nation's leader in producing fresh citrus fruit, and many of the fruit is exported overseas, providing nutritious, low-calorie food to consumers worldwide.

W. Murcott, left, and Tango, right.
W. Murcott, left, and Tango, right.

Posted on Thursday, April 4, 2013 at 9:22 AM

UC researchers discovered a gene that may yield hot-weather lettuce

A team of researchers, led by a University of California, Davis, plant scientist, has identified a lettuce gene and related enzyme that put the brakes on germination during hot weather -- a discovery that could lead to lettuces that can sprout year-round, even at high temperatures.

The study also included researchers from Arcadia Biosciences and Acharya N.G. Ranga Agricultural University, India.

The finding is particularly important to the nearly $2 billion lettuce industries of California and Arizona, which together produce more than 90 percent of the nation's lettuce.

"Discovery of the genes will enable plant breeders to develop lettuce varieties that can better germinate and grow to maturity under high temperatures," said the study's lead author Kent Bradford, a professor of plant sciences and director of the UC Davis Seed Biotechnology Center.

"And because this mechanism that inhibits hot-weather germination in lettuce seeds appears to be quite common in many plant species, we suspect that other crops also could be modified to improve their germination," he said. "This could be increasingly important as global temperatures are predicted to rise."

With California temperatures predicted to rise by 2.7F by 2050, this study could prove to be extremely vital to California agriculture.

Read more on the UC ANR news blog.

Posted on Wednesday, April 3, 2013 at 9:57 AM
  • Author: Marissa Palin

What is California's role in sustainably feeding the world by 2025?

California is the nation’s top agricultural state. We are the #1 producer of almonds, dairy, kiwi, grapes and grape products, vegetables, cut flowers, greenhouse and nursery products, dates, walnuts, olives, pistachios…and the list goes on. In fact, we produce 100% of the nation’s almond crop, and 75% of the world’s almond crop.

In 2011, California farm revenue was $43.5 billion. We produced more than 400 crops with 800,000 workers on 81,500 farms.

The University of California plays a big role in supporting California agriculture. UC is the largest public holder of agriculture and biotech patents registered in the United States—UC holds 627 active plant licenses. UC plant varieties account for 90% of California’s wheat, 65% of California strawberries, and 40% of strawberries worldwide.

Our UC researchers are working to meet the challenges of global food production by coming up with new innovations in animal care and breeding, plant varieties, irrigation and nutrient delivery, and pest and disease management practices.

Despite California’s abundant food production, 16.2% of California households are food insecure. And California crops are being threatened by climate change. California temperatures are projected to increase by 2.7° F by 2050—that’s 3 times the rate of the last century. California lettuce and spinach ($1.6 billion in value) is being threatened by increasing temperatures.

Our world is changing. What does that mean for California agriculture? What does that mean for global food systems? What does that mean for us, our families, our neighbors? What do we need to do to keep up?

Let us know what you think in the comments below. 

Posted on Tuesday, April 2, 2013 at 12:57 PM
  • Author: Marissa Palin

A world without California citrus?

What would our world be like without California citrus?
If you've been to your local California farmer's market lately, you've seen the rows and rows of fresh, delicious citrus. The blood oranges are just waiting to be made into juice, and the clementines are practically peeling themselves. You leave, with citrus peels under your finger nails and your hands sticky and smelling of sweet sweet oranges.

Now imagine going to your local farmer's market, and seeing no locally-grown citrus. No oranges, no lemons, no grapefruits, no mandarins.

According to the Citrus Research Board, California's citrus industry generates approximately $1.8 billion in economic activity through commercial growing operations. 

But that could all change if Huanglongbing, or citrus greening disease, gets a hold of our trees. The pest, and the disease it transmits, has the potential to completely decimate California citrus crops.

So far the disease-transmitting pest, asian citrus psyllid, has been found as far north as Tulare County. In 2012, the disease was found in Los Angeles County. In Florida, the disease has tallied more than 6,600 lost jobs, $1.3 billion in lost revenue to growers and $3.6 billion in lost economic activity according to CDFA.

The average American eats 12.5 pounds of citrus each year. California's citrus industry ranks 2nd in the U.S.

How do we prevent HLB from claiming our citrus trees? What would California look like without citrus? What would world agriculture look like without California citrus? Comment and let us know your thoughts.

Ted Batkin, president of the California Citrus Research Board and Global Food Systems Forum panelist, describes the pest and it's potential affects in the video below.

Posted on Monday, April 1, 2013 at 11:49 AM
  • Author: Marissa Palin

Panelist Howard-Yana Shapiro -- Cacao: An Uncommon Collaboration

The view that nature is so robust that it will respond to any attack is not true any longer… are we willing to take a hard look at our practices and say we are really sustainable? Are we willing to develop the logic to get there? Are we willing to secure the commitments to make it happen?


Howard-Yana Shapiro, Global Food Systems Forum panelist, is the Global Director of Plant Science and External Research, Mars Incorporated. Howard has guided Mars toward the goal of 100% sustainably sourced cacao production since joining up with the company in the late 1990s. He is also a Senior Fellow in the Department of Plant Sciences, College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences at UC Davis.”

Posted on Monday, March 25, 2013 at 9:30 AM
  • Author: Jennifer Rindahl

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