Carbohydrate Observatory


The Carbohydrate Observatory uses a “citizen science approach,” the citizens being almond, pistachio and walnut growers who send us monthly wood and bark samples from their orchards to be analyzed for sugars and starch. The results are made available through a website that each grower has access to. He or she then track the carbohydrate levels of their nut trees throughout the year while pairing it with climate, management or pheneological events such as dormancy, pollination, bud break, flowering, fruiting, harvest and leaf drop. The goal is to have a better biological understanding of the role carbohydrates and use this massive data set as a tool to predict yield and understand environmental stresses such as lack of chilling hours and drought.

Our goal is to:

• Understand how annual patterns of starch and total nonstructural carbohydrates (TNC) differ throughout the Central Valley, which will aid in the improvement of spring/fall management practices and our understanding of chilling requirements. • To develop a tool that uses starch and TNC levels as a predictor of yield for the following year and to understand variable crop yields. • Create an easy interactive map for growers to use that displays all of the data across the Central Valley.

Carbohydrate Observatory NEWS

07/07/2017 -- We reached first milestone - 250 sites

We are in the news -Western Farm Press

02/16/2017 -- Maciej and Anna are preparing CDFA Specialty Crop proposal to support scientific effort of the Carbohydrate Observatory, do not hesitate to let CDFA know you support it too.

Anna Davidson got stack in mud while collecting samples in rain near Fresno 01/17/2017. Ask her for a picture

Liquid handler arrived !!! Be first to get naming rights. It made its first plate on 01/16/2017.

Liquid handler will arrive in mid-January. It should increase precision of the carbohydrates analysis

Anna Davidson presented poster about Carbohydrate Observatory at the Almond Conference in Sacramento (2017). The interest among growers was overwhelming.

We bought small grinder to keep us afloat - $2550

Small setback - our grinder (~$6000) broke - all new measurements are on hold till we get it repaired or get a new one.

Our map interface (beta version) is life-online - now you can track changes in concentration of carbohydrates in twigs of almond, pistachio and walnut in CA

Over 50 participating farms and growers - Ask Anna how to join our Citizen science research project

Anna drove over 2000 miles in October

We are getting new liquid handler to increase precision starch analysis

---- Link to map interface (beta_version) ----

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Understanding the seasonal trend of tree non-structural carbohydrate budget

Map interface (beta_version):


provides real time information on sugars and starch content in twigs of orchards participating in the citizen science project. This information is being used to conduct research on the role of carbohydrates in plant phenology, carbohydrate response to climate change, winter temperature etc.

Map interface (beta_version):


can be used to evaluate dynamic carbohydrate content in specific orchards. It should be used only as an information tool. Currently we do not recommend using this tool to make management decisions. We anticipate that information collected over next few seasons will result in transformative research progress allowing growers to use it as additional guidance in making decisions.

How to use Map interface (beta_version):

The beta version of map interface was coded by Jay Riggio. Sugar content analysis and related research is conducted by Anna Davidson and the Z-Lab

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What happens to the wood and bark samples sent to Carbohydrate Observatory in the Z-Lab?

  • Each sample is ground into powder. Then a small amount (25 mg) is washed in 1 mL of water to dissolve all soluble carbohydrates.

  • Using a colorimetric method, the concentration of sugars is measured and compared to lab standards.

  • The remaining material (the pellet) is washed again several times, centrifuged, and is then prepared for the starch analysis.

  • The pellet is treated with two different enzymes that digest starch to form the soluble sugars. These are again measured in colorimeter.

  • The entire process to determine soluble sugars and starch takes three days with (80 samples can be done simultaneously).

  • We anticipate to process more then 20000 samples in 2017

    Who is who in the Observatory

    Maciej (Dr. Z) Zwieniecki
    Founder of the Carbohydrate Observatory

    Dr. Anna Davidson
    Manager of the Carbohydrate Observatory

    Katelyn Cooper
    Senior in Chemical Engineer

    Sylvia Le
    Freshman in Biotechnology with emphasis on plant biology and microbiology

    Linea Lampinen
    Sophomore in Molecular and Cell Biology

    Eden Lange
    almost an undergraduate student

    Ryan tom

    Seneca Marshall
    Undergraduate student

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    How to participate

    Please contact Anna Davidson at:
    or by phone: (815) 212-4409
    and we will get you started.

    For smapling protocol (pdf file) click here

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    Big thanks to Benefactors of Carbohydrate Observatory

    Polysaccharide Circle (donation above $1000)

    Your name here

    Disaccharide Circle (donation between $100 and $1000)

    David Doll

    was first to support Carbohydrate Observatory
    '...I am very interested in seeing the results from your carbohydrate mapping efforts...' D.Doll

    Monosaccharide Circle (donation up to $100)

    Your name here

    If you would like to contribute to the Carbhydrate Observatory Z-Lab research effort please contact Maciej Zwieniecki at (gifts to UC Davis may be tax deductible). Donations support the Carbohydrate observatory, new equipment, financial support for undergraduate students and the creation of an endowment that would enrich plant physiology research in California. Checks should be written to UC Reagents marked with memo Zwieniecki Lab - Carbohydrate Observatory. Checks can be mailed to Maciej Zwieniecki, PES 2316, One Shields Ave, UC Davis, Davis, CA 95616

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    Paticipating Farms, Growers, Farm Advisors

    Sierra Orchards

    Coleman Farming Co.

    Valadez Farm

    Sleeper Ranch

    Larry Boardman

    Gilbert Farm

    Mueller farm

    Ryan Garcia-Salida Ag Chem

    John Fassler

    Dan Hrdy

    Terry Prichard

    Grower's Choice

    Nickels Soil Lab

    Carl Fanucchi

    Valley Orchard Management

    Bob and Nancy Lea

    Eduardo Rojas

    Brian O’Neil and Gary Robinson

    Dr. Richard Rosecrance
    Chico State University

    Jon Parnigian


    Neil Heaton

    Robert Smith

    Terry Prichard

    Grower's Choice Orchard Services (Robert Longstreth)

    The Crums

    Kris Tollerup

    Pete Davidson

    Root Creek Farms


    Mark Battany
    Farm Advisor

    Franz Niederholzer
    Farm Advisor

    Roger Duncan
    Farm Advisor

    Joe Grant
    retired Farm Advisor

    Katherine Jarvis Sean
    Farm Advisor

    Janine Hasey
    Farm Advisor

    Mae Culumber
    Farm Advisor

    Mohammad Yaghmourr
    Farm Advisor

    Special thanks to:
    Florent Trouillas

    Special thanks to:
    Bruce Lampinen

    Special thanks to:
    Astrid Volder

    Special thanks to:
    Louise Ferguson

    Rachel Elkins
    Farm Advisor

    David Doll
    Farm Advisor

    Steve Burgess
    Farm Advisor

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