Author Archives: hortalaska

Thaw-degree days in Fairbanks

For a garden club presentation I gave this past spring, I graphed the weather records from the Fairbanks Experiment Farm to look at changes over time. The biggest one goes back to 1948 and is for thaw degree days. This chart is a broad indicator of the warmth of the season. Average daily air temperature records are subtracted from a baseline temp of 32F. This assumes that plant growth occurs at any temp above 32F but not below. This is not quite accurate because cell sap does not freeze at exactly 32F, and there are Alaska native plants that can grow at temps that are a few degrees below 32F. On the other end of the spectrum, garden plants have all kinds of lower limits to growth- cool season crops are often around 40 – 45F below which growth stops. Warm season crops are more like 50F and above. However, choosing 32F at least allows a comparison of the seasons. The thaw degree- day (TDD) chart is split into three just to fit it onto a page. Check out the differences among years and the mean TDD on each chart. The timeline is waaaay too short to make conclusions on climate change, but it is interesting to see the incredible variation from year to year.      1948 – 2016 Thaw degree days


More anti microbial activity in lingonberries

This study explored the antimicrobial activity of the antioxidant phenolic compounds in lingonberry juice and two other fruits in spoiled fruit juice. They studied Asaia lannensis and  Asaia bogorensis, two well known bacteria that are a significant contributor to the degradation of non-alcoholic fruit juices. These bacteria create biofilms  that cause turbidity and adhesion of the juice on surfaces holding the juice. These biofilms, in turn, can cause illness in susceptible individuals. The bacteria are also becoming resistant to a lot of the chemical preservatives used now in juices. The authors found that lingonberry juice added to the product shows a 67% reduction in adhesions from the bacteria. We all knew lingonberries were great. The evidence keeps mounting!

Wild Fruits as Antiadhesive Agents Against the Beverage-Spoiling Bacteria Asaia spp.

Hubert Antolak,  Agata Czyzowska  , Marijana Saka , Aleksandra Mišan , Olivera  uragi´c and Dorotea Kregiel Institute of Fermentation Technology and Microbiology, Lodz University of Technology, Wolczanska 171/173, 90-924 Lodz, Poland; (A.C.); and Institute of Food Technology Novi Sad, Bulevar cara Lazara 1, 21000 Novi Sad, Serbia;

Abstract: The aim of the study was to evaluate antioxidant activity and total phenolic content of juice from three different types of fruits: elderberry (Sambucus nigra), lingonberry (Vaccinium vitis-idaea) and cornelian cherry (Cornus mas), and their action against adhesion of bacterial strains of Asaia lannensis and Asaia bogorensis isolated from spoiled soft drinks. The antioxidant profiles were determined by total antioxidant capacity (2,2-diphenyl-1-picrylhydrazyl, DPPH), and ferric-reducing antioxidant power (FRAP). Additionally, total polyphenol content (TPC) was investigated. Chemical compositions of juices were tested using the chromatographic techniques: high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) and liquid chromatography–mass spectrometry (LC-MS). Adhesion properties of Asaia spp. cells to various abiotic materials were evaluated by luminometry, plate count and fluorescence microscopy. Antioxidant activity of fruit juices expressed as inhibitory concentration (IC50) ranged from 0.042 0.001 (cornelian cherry) to 0.021 0.001 g/mL (elderberry). TPC ranged from 8.02 0.027 (elderberry) to 2.33 0.013 mg/mL (cornelian cherry). Cyanidin-3-sambubioside-5-glucoside, cyanidin-3-glucoside, and cyanidin-3-sambubioside were detected as the major anthocyanins and caffeic, cinnamic, gallic, protocatechuic, and p-coumaric acids as the major phenolic acids. A significant linear correlation was noted between TPC and antioxidant capacity. In the presence of fruit juices a significant decrease of bacterial adhesion from 74% (elderberry) to 67% (lingonberry) was observed. The high phenolic content indicated that these content indicated that these compounds may contribute to the reduction of Asaia  spp. adhesion.

2017 VVI

Healthy sausages?

I first read the title to this article and wondered if this wasn’t a joke – trying to make sausages healthy by adding sea buckthorn juice. Sounded pretty extraordinary to me. But then I read past the abstract and learned that the researchers are trying to find alternatives to chemical additives to sausages. In other words, they were trying to find a natural alternative to artificial additives to their product. In this case addition of 1.5% sea buckthorn juice increased the shelf life, reduced lipid oxidation and improved the microbial quality of the meat product. Its an interesting look at the complexities of food science.

2017 Hippophae

Anna Marietta Salejda,1 Agnieszka Nawirska-OlszaNska,Urszula Janiewicz,1 and Grahyna Krasnowska Department of Animal Products Technology and Quality Management,Wrocław University of Environmental and Life Sciences,ChełmoÅLnskiego Str., 51-630Wroclaw, Poland and Department of Fruit, Vegetable and Nutraceutical Technology,Wrocław University of Environmental and Life Sciences, ChełmoÅLnskiego Str., 51-630Wroclaw, Poland



The present study was aimed at evaluating the effect of a sea buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides L.) fruit extract on selected quality properties of cooked sausages.The ethanolic extract of sea buckthorn fruit (SBE) incorporated at the highest level (3%) significantly affected the pH, weight losses, and instrumental color parameters of sausages. The SBE deteriorated organoleptic properties of sausages like juiciness, overall appearance, texture, and taste; however the sausagesmanufactured with 1.5% SBE were scored higher for color and almost the same as control for smell acceptance. Textural parameters like hardness, springiness, gumminess, and chewiness of cooked sausages decreased along with SBE addition. After 28 days of storage, the samples with 1.5% SBE addition were as springy, hard, and gummy as the control ones. Incorporation of SBE increased the shelf life of sausages. The highest inhibition of lipid oxidation was observed in the samples manufactured with 1.5% SBE.The SBE significantly improved the microbial qualities of sausages.

Alaska Strawberry History

For anyone interested, here is a short article I wrote a few years ago about the history of strawberry breeding and cultivation in Alaska.      Strawberry history

Strawberry wars

Strawberries have been a passion all over the world for hundreds of years. The story is no different in Alaska where strawberry mania traveled North with the Gold Rush. The attached link is an interesting history of the development of the strawberry with one of the world’s top producers, Driscoll as well as conflicts with public and private breeding interests. It evens mentions Alaska wild strawberries! Driscoll Strawberries conducted some research along with the UAF Georgeson Botanical Garden into strawberry plant production in the 1990s. They were interested in learning if producing the plants at high latitudes would improve yields when the plants were transplanted in southern California and Mexico for fruit production. The results were not positive so they moved on to other ideas. It was interesting working with this private company and learning their research procedures that have since catapulted their patented strawberries into world fame. Anyone who buys strawberries at Safeway or Freddies certainly knows their name. It is also interesting to note that Alaska had the first strawberry breeding program at a U.S. University anywhere! It was begun by Charles Georgeson in the early 1900s. Others certainly have lasted longer, but Alaska was the first! We just can’t seem to get anyone in the State to fund ag research on any level. The Agricultural Experiment Station was THE research and development arm for Alaska farmers, and today it is a shadow of its former self.

The Driscoll Story


Nitrogen fertilizers in boreal forests and their effects on plants and animals

Gardeners often apply extra fertilizer to their wild berry patches to increase yields in wild stands. This paper summarizes research on the effects of applying nitrogen fertilizer on large and small animals as well as plants. It is an interesting survey of forest systems and not just the wild berry we have in mind.

Influence of nitrogen fertilization on abundance and diversity of plants and animals in temperate and boreal forests

Thomas P. Sullivan, Druscilla Sullivan

Published on the web 26 July 2017.

Environmental Reviews,


Aerial and land-based applications of nitrogen-based fertilizers to enhance forest growth makes nutrients potentially available to all trees, plants, and wildlife in a given ecosystem, and therefore may have direct and indirect effects on wildlife and biodiversity. A scientific review of these potential effects was conducted with 106 published studies covering vascular and non-vascular plants, amphibians, birds, mammals, terrestrial invertebrates, and soil animals associated with fertilization in temperate and boreal forests, primarily in North America and Scandinavia. In terms of direct effects, amphibians and domestic mammals appear to be the most sensitive to urea used in fertilization programs. The avoidance behaviour and/or mortality of amphibians in laboratory studies was species-dependent. Ruminant animals, including wild ungulates, rapidly convert urea to ammonia and are susceptible to toxicity following ingestion of large amounts of urea. Feeding on urea pellets by small mammals or gallinaceous birds appears to be minimal as granules are unpalatable. In terms of indirect effects, the majority of responses of understory herbs to nitrogen fertilization showed an increase in abundance. Some shrubs in repeatedly fertilized stands eventually increased in abundance in long-term studies, whereas dwarf shrubs and abundance of bryophytes (mosses and terrestrial lichens) declined. In general, species richness and diversity of understory herbs and shrubs declined, or were unaffected, in fertilized stands. Response in abundance and species richness-diversity of vascular plants to a single application of nitrogen showed either an increase or no change. Repeated applications (2-5 and > 5) usually resulted in declines in these responses. Relative abundance of mule deer (Odocoileus Rafinesque spp.), moose (Alces alces L.), and hares (Lepus L. spp.), and forage quantity and quality were usually increased by fertilization. Small mammal species generally showed increases or no change in abundance; decreases may be related to fertilizer-induced changes in food sources. Forest fertilization may provide winter feeding habitat for coniferous foliage-gleaning insectivorous birds in some cases. Six species of forest grouse showed no response to fertilizer treatments. Responses of soil animals to nitrogen fertilization appeared to be species- and dose-specific and ameliorated by surrounding micro- and macro-habitat characteristics.

Origin of the Svalbard Seed Bank

Here is a link to an interview with Cary Fowler and Terry Gros about how the global seed vault originated. The interview is a very interesting history.“>NPR- Global Seed Vault