The Agricultural Research Service has launched a database for phytonutrients known as “proanthocyanidins,” a subclass of flavonoids, in 206 selected foods. Phytonutrients are beneficial compounds found in plant-based foods and are widely studied by the scientific community because of purported health benefits.

The new database will be valuable in the continuing investigation of the health benefits of consuming diets rich in plant foods. To access the new database on the Internet, go to: http://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/foodcomp/Data/PA/PA.html

A new study by Agricultural Research Service scientists in Beltsville, Md., may have some surprising news for consumers: Many single-serving sized food products provide more food than is advertised. However, this is not necessarily good news for many Americans.

Agriculture is California's No. 1 industry, contributing nearly $59 billion to the state's economy each year, and supports 1.1 million jobs. As the nation's leader in agricultural production for more than 50 years, these workers currently produce more than 250 commodities.

People who eat at least three or more servings of whole-grain foods each day may lessen their chances of developing “metabolic syndrome,” according to a study funded by the Agricultural Research Service. Metabolic syndrome is a condition marked by a combination of abdominal obesity, high blood pressure, poor blood sugar control, low HDL “good” cholesterol and high blood fats. The constellation of health conditions increases the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

A new tool to help with reforestation efforts has been developed by Agricultural Research Service scientists. In studies at the ARS National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research, in Peoria, Ill., plant physiologist Brent Tisserat and colleagues devised an automated system that, combined with elevated carbon dioxide (CO2) levels, bolsters the yield and survival of tissue-cultured shoots. Read more about the research online at:

http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/AR/archive/dec04/micro1204.htm

An organic crop rotation is at least as sustainable as no-till farming or chisel tillage in terms of nitrogen loss and corn yields, according to an Agricultural Research Service study.

How many kernels of wheat in a pound? Anywhere from 14,000 to 17,000.

It is reported that more than 87 percent of America's farmers own cell phones.

On average, agriculture uses about 43 percent of the state's available water.

Forty-five percent of American adults eat Asian foods at least once a month. Thai food is the fastest-growing segment of international cuisine. For a wine to compliment the textures and complex interplay of salt, sweet and sour flavors, a “quiet” reisling, sauvignon blanc or cabernet works well.

Alfalfa got its name from the Persian word for horsepower.

Farmers make about a nickel or less from each loaf of bread.

Want to keep unwanted grains from slipping into your box of organic cornflakes or canister of Basmati rice? The USDA says with more specialty grains flowing into the marketplace, there is a growing need for grain-handling programs that can effectively segregate grains so that there's no unwanted mixing.

Zeroing in on the commingling that can occur during grain unloading and storage, a scientist with the Agricultural Research Service recently identified the parts of a grain elevator that may contribute to mixing and assessed how flushing with a quick burst of “cleansing” grain can lessen the problem.

The 1.5 million Americans who are allergic to peanuts may someday have an allergen-free peanut they can enjoy.

A form of vitamin D, discovered in laboratory studies by an ARS researcher, may help fight cancer.

Nowadays, it will take more than a “huff and a puff” for the Big Bad Wolf to blow down a house made of California rice straw. To help air quality, rice farmers are no longer burning the straw left after harvest. Instead, they've found unique uses for it Ö new homes. The lightweight steel frame supports the structure and separates the straw bales from the interior and exterior cladding materials. The straw bales provide more than twice the insulation of a traditional 2 × 6 wood-frame wall.

About 4,500 acres of kiwifruit is grown in California, a big increase from 1974 when only 56 bearing acres were reported. It takes about 8 years for kiwifruit vines to reach full production. About 6 percent of California kiwifruit is organically produced. Tulare County is the state's largest producer.

One apple tree can produce enough apples to fill 20 boxes every year.

Tart or sweet, big or small, red, green, yellow or pink, apples are everyone's favorite fall snack food. Apples are members of the pome family … a fruit whose seeds are embedded in the core of the fruit. Each apple is loaded with minerals, vitamins and fiber but contains only 80 calories.

Rice grown on more than 500,000 California acres provides more than nourishment. Rice straw is used to create fine specialty papers, building materials such as medium density fiberboard, animal bedding, high-quality soil amendments, beds for growing mushrooms, and erosion control products.

California is the largest producer of avocados in the U.S., with the largest production area around Fallbrook in Southern California. One mature avocado tree can produce more than 400 pieces of fruit in a year.

Imagine having 144 guests for dinner. And breakfast. And lunch. For one whole year! And you have to dress them, too. A tall order for anyone. Anyone, that is, except one of California's farmers. They're so productive that each one produces enough food and fiber to feed and clothe 144 people around the world for a year. Farmers have become increasingly more productive since 1940, when each American farmer produced enough food to feed and clothe 19 people.

What's in your refrigerator? A lot of really good food, if you're an average Californian. Per capita, we consume about 126 pounds of fresh fruit, 197 pounds of fresh vegetables, 251 eggs, 22 gallons of milk, 29.8 pounds of cheese and 184 pounds of meat and poultry. Farmers grow that good food right here in California.

Raisins retain all the nutrition of the original grape, but weigh less than a fourth as much. This makes raisins the perfect food to pack in school lunches. In fact, raisins are so nutritious and so easy to carry, that Hannibal fed them to his troops while they were crossing the Alps.

Although people enjoyed raisins for centuries in other parts of the world, California raisins weren't produced until 1893 … and then it was by accident! In September of that year, a devastating heat wave hit the San Joaquin Valley just before the grape harvest. The grapes dried on the vine and the crop would have been a total loss if one enterprising grower hadn't taken his “accidental” raisins to San Francisco. The raisins became very popular and soon there was a large market for the wrinkly treats. The rest, as they say, is history.

Next time you're inclined to complain about your grocery bill, remember this: The same bag of groceries that costs $18.79 in the U.S., costs $74.23 in Japan. That bag includes 1 gallon of milk, a dozen eggs, 5 pounds of cheese, a 2-pound sirloin steak and 2 pounds of apples. All of these commodities are produced right here in California.

More ice cream is eaten during July and August than at any other time of the year. California leads the nation in ice cream production.

Imperial County is the largest alfalfa-growing region in the world. Some of the crop grown on its 173,000 alfalfa-producing acres is exported, but most of it is baled and shipped to California dairies. These fields also serve as pasture for more than 245,000 feeder lambs, the largest concentration of feeder lambs in the nation during the five-month winter feeding period. Feeder lambs are purchased after weaning, when they weigh from 35 to 60 pounds. They're marketed when they reach a weight of approximately 110 pounds. The lambs are valued at $7.5 million.

Of every dollar spent on food, at home and away, farmers and ranchers earn only 19 cents, 12 cents less than in 1980.

More than 140 varieties of fresh plums are shipped throughout the country from California orchards, but there are really just two general categories: Japanese and European. Japanese plums are large, juicy and bright red or yellow. European plums are blue or purple, somewhat oblong, a bit smaller and mildly sweet.

California produces more than 17 million gallons of wine each year.

Eight of the nation's top 10 farm counties … Fresno, Kern, Tulare, Monterey, Merced, Stanislaus, San Joaquin and Riverside … are in California and are members of the “billion dollar club,” generating on-farm revenues of at least $1 billion a year.

In the last 35 years, agriculture's use of water has declined. During the same period, farmers boosted crop production in tonnage by 67 percent.

California produces 100 percent of the U.S. crop of raisins.

What's a wattle? It's two things. One is that red thing that hangs down on a turkey's neck. The other is a long, cylindrical tube of netting filled with rice straw that is staked down along roadways and construction sites to prevent soil erosion.

A one-time tillage will not cause great soil carbon loss, even though major damage is caused to soil structure.

That's the finding of Lloyd Owens, a soil scientist with the Agricultural Research Service in Coshocton, Ohio, after a study comparing soil carbon in the top foot of soil under a meadow with the carbon level in soil under cornfields with various levels of tillage. He found that it takes a few years of continual annual plowing before carbon losses become noticeable in fields previously unplowed for years.