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June 2017

Humiston speaks to House Ag Committee on value of agricultural research

From left, Robert Duncan, Texas Tech University chancellor; Jacqueline Burns, University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences dean for research and director; Humiston; Walter H. Hill, Tuskegee University dean of the College of Agriculture, Environment and Nutrition Sciences and vice provost for Land-Grant Affairs; Steven H. Tallant, Texas A&M University president; and Carrie L. Billy, president and CEO of American Indian Higher Education Consortium.

“The general public and, in particular, large funders tend to not view agriculture as a particularly sexy topic. We've done such a great job for over 150 years of providing a safe, secure, wonderful, bountiful food supply that people take it for granted,” VP Glenda Humiston told members of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture, explaining the challenges of fundraising for public agricultural research.

A vital component of federal support for agricultural research has been capacity funding, Humiston told U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture.
Humiston was among the six higher education leaders invited to Washington, D.C., to speak on the importance of university agricultural research and innovation on June 22.

“Agricultural research has been essential to U.S. gains in productivity over the past century,” said Agriculture Committee Chairman K. Michael Conaway (TX-11) when he announced the hearing on The Next Farm Bill: University Research. “With the global population expected to reach 9.7 billion by 2050, U.S. production agriculture will continue to be asked to produce more with fewer resources, and the best way to do that will be through strategic investments in agricultural research. I look forward to hearing from university leaders about the opportunities and challenges they face in ensuring American agriculture remains a world leader in cutting-edge technology and research.”

Conaway asked why the universities' agriculture programs lack infrastructure like labs and greenhouses and have $8.4 billion in deferred maintenance.

“As we've dealt with cuts and increased costs, it's been easy to say, ‘We can put off fixing that roof or put off buying that new piece of equipment a few more years if we can keep those researchers doing their work,'” Humiston explained. “Unfortunately, I think that's been going on for decades rather than a few years and that's why it's gotten so critical."

Humiston and the other guests described how their institutions partner with private industry and other government agencies to leverage federal funding.

Highlights of Humiston's remarks

  • A vital component of federal support for agricultural research has been capacity funding specifically dedicated to supporting research and Cooperative Extension programs at America's land-grant universities.
  • The current mix of federal and state capacity funds is generally leveraged many-fold by federal competitive grants, grants from private industry, and other types of unrestricted gifts and awards to faculty conducting research at the nation's land-grant universities.
  • A recent study found the return on investment for federal funding of the public land-grant system averages 21:1, corresponding to annual rates of return between 9 percent and 10 percent.
  • With University of California (UC) Agriculture and Natural Resources (ANR) serving as a vital partner, California's $47 billion agricultural sector continues to make California the nation's top agricultural state.
  • In the past fiscal year, UC ANR has served more than 1.4 million adults and youth directly, published 1,800 peer-reviewed journal articles and filed more than 20 patents.
  • Although progress is being made to incrementally increase appropriations to the USDA Agriculture and Food Research Initiative, it remains funded at considerably less than the $700 million authorized in the previous two Farm Bills.

To watch a recording of the hearing, visit YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ckbfCTTuZs0. Humiston appears at the 24:45 mark.

For a transcript of Humiston's full prepared remarks, visit http://ucanr.edu/files/264186.pdf.

The committee has scheduled listening sessions, “The Next Farm Bill, Conversations in the Field,” to gather input from farmers, ranchers and stakeholders across the country. They will be in California on Aug. 5 in Modesto.

Posted on Thursday, July 6, 2017 at 5:00 PM

Eric Natwick, UCCE Imperial County advisor, hangs up his insect net after 36 years

Imperial County Agricultural Commissioner Carlos Ortiz presents Eric Natwick a plaque on behalf of the Board of Supervisors.
After a long and distinguished career with the UC Cooperative Extension office in Imperial County, entomologist Eric Natwick has decided to hang up his insect net. Natwick graduated from the University of Wyoming in 1980 and began work with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) in their insect lab in Tucson, Ariz. On July 1, 1981 he moved to the Imperial Valley where he joined the UCCE Imperial County office as the entomology advisor.

Since then, he has been a critical resource for pest management needs in field crops, alfalfa and vegetables. Besides alfalfa, his main focus has been on cotton, cole crops, lettuce, melons, onions and bell peppers. His most recent work has been working to spot and send out important information to growers and pest control advisers (PCAs) on the potentially devastating sugarcane aphid. Some of his other important projects include whitefly host plant resistance in cotton, insecticidal control of cotton pests and whitefly control in melons, and the tomato yellow leaf curly virus, a disease that threatens both commercial tomato production fields as well as home gardens.

Back in the 1990s, Natwick's work and research on the pink bollworm, which was invading the region's cotton fields, was instrumental in changing growers' practices by restricting cotton planting and terminating dates. The pink bollworm is no longer as severe a pest as it once was.

He has also put in an enormous amount of work into combatting the sweetpotato whitefly, for which he has been recognized locally, statewide and nationally. He worked on pesticide evaluations for short-term control of the pest and tested alfalfa varieties for whitefly resistance. Natwick also helped develop an alfalfa irrigation management strategy to reduce whitefly numbers.

UCCE Imperial County director Oli Bachie presents to Natwick a plaque recognizing 35 years of contributions to UC.
During his time at UCCE Imperial County, Natwick's expertise in entomology was sought out all over the world. He has given presentations and provided consulting to more than 25 countries, including Australia, Saudi Arabia, Mexico and most recently Spain. In 1994, he received a distinguished service award as outstanding research advisor.

Former UCCE Imperial County director Khaled Bali said, “Eric has always been a hard worker and is one of the top one percent of advisors in having achieved the highest step (Step 9) in the UC system six years ago.”

Another former colleague, Michael Rethwisch of the University of Nebraska, Lincoln said, “It takes a special person to be a successful low-desert cooperative extension entomology advisor. It takes grit, perseverance, self-motivation, leadership and an expert eye for new insect pests and resulting challenges when diseases are involved. Eric, you not only survived, but thrived!”

UCCE Imperial County director Oli Bachie said, “Because of his great knowledge, Eric has been our ‘go-to' person for our new advisors when they had questions or needed ideas. I can say that Eric has been a great artist of research in the field of entomology whose position will not easily be filled.”

In addition to his research, Natwick served two terms on the Holtville City Council, was mayor in 1988-89 and was director of UCCE Imperial County for five years. He has also done extensive mission work internationally.

Natwick was recently honored at a retirement party. About 70 of his colleagues, friends and employees turned out to say thanks for his years of service. He and his wife, Lisa, recently moved to Cedar City, Utah, where they plan to enjoy their “golden years”.

This article was published in the Imperial Valley Press on July 6, 2017.

Posted on Thursday, July 6, 2017 at 10:29 AM
  • Author: Trish Burich-McNeece

Names in the News

Mariano Galla
Galla named UCCE farm advisor in Glenn, Butte and Tehama counties

Mariano Galla joined UCCE on June 5 as an area agronomic cropping systems and weed science advisor in Glenn, Butte and Tehama counties.

Prior to joining UCCE, Galla was a research scientist from 2010 to 2014 at Agrisearch Services (now part of Eurofin Agroscience Australia), an Australian contract-research company with offices spread throughout the country. During his four years with the company, Galla worked in different locations across Australia, where he gained experience in different cropping systems and environments. He was responsible for establishing and conducting field trials in horticulture and broad acreage agronomy and with plant varieties.

Galla earned an M.S. in international agricultural development and a B.S. in agricultural sciences from University of Florence in Italy. He is currently studying herbicide drift as a Ph.D. candidate in weed science at UC Davis, and he anticipates completing his doctorate in spring 2018. He speaks Italian fluently.

Based in Orland, Galla can be reached at (530) 865-1105 and mfgalla@ucanr.edu

Trish Bloemker Sowers
Sowers named executive director of 4-H Foundation

Trish Bloemker Sowers joined the Development Services team June 1 as the major gift officer/executive director of the 4-H Foundation. She is a seasoned development professional with more than a decade of major and principal gifts experience in the university setting. She has worked with collegiate alumni, parents and friends as well as corporate and foundation partners at a variety of institutions, including Carnegie Mellon University, Missouri University of Science & Technology and UC Davis. In addition, Sowers has served as an executive director to a variety of trade and professional association leaders, a role in which she excelled at chapter management, board development and volunteer recruitment. 

While she takes great pride in her previous development work, Sowers is especially excited to help strengthen and enhance the CA 4-H Foundation. 4-H is the organization that has had the greatest impact on her life and there has never been a cause in which she believes more passionately than 4-H. 

Sowers, a 10-year 4-H alumna, represented the Nebraska 4-H program as a state and national leadership winner at the National 4-H Congress, where she was selected to receive the Silver Presidential Tray for outstanding leadership. In addition, she was a delegate to the National 4-H Conference, served as a member of the Nebraska Teen Awareness Team and held key leadership roles in four consecutive state conferences. 

Sowers is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma and earned her master's degree at the University of Nebraska, while working full time in the Nebraska State 4-H office. She is a Certified Fund Raising Executive and an active volunteer for several educational and philanthropic organizations. 

Based at the ANR building in Davis, Sowers can be reached at (530) 750-1202 and tbsowers@ucanr.edu.

Bryan Schneider
Schneider named CNAS communications director

Bryan Schneider joined UC Riverside's College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences as its director of communications on June 19. In this role, he will oversee digital, web and print communications, along with marketing and events management, for the college, working closely with UCR's Strategic Communications office on media relations and various communications initiatives.

Working in higher education for over 17 years, Schneider came to UCR from the Claremont Colleges, where he co-managed the communications office for Claremont McKenna College. He also led award-winning marketing and web development teams for the Health Sciences enterprise at the University of Southern California, which included the Keck Medical Center of USC and the Keck School of Medicine. Prior to that, he led communications efforts at the USC Annenberg Center on Communication and Claremont Graduate University.

Prior to his career in public communications, Schneider was a grant writer and prospect researcher in development. He studied anthropology at UCLA and the University of Michigan.

Schneider is based in the CNAS Dean's Office in the Geology Building at UCR and can be reached at (951) 827-5304 and bryan.schneider@ucr.edu.

Messenger-Sikes and Fontecha join IPM

Belinda Messenger-Sikes
Belinda Messenger-Sikes joined UC IPM as an urban writer/editor on May 1. Messenger-Sikes will update Pest Notes publications and contribute to the Urban IPM Program's newsletters, blogs, online training course development and other materials. She will also assist academics and staff in developing curricula for various training materials aimed at UC Master Gardeners, retailers, pest management professionals and other urban audiences.

Messenger-Sikes holds a Ph.D. in plant pathology from UC Riverside. Her dissertation studied the use of calcium soil amendments for control of Phytophthora root rot of avocado. After graduating, she worked as a mycologist in the discovery section of AgraQuest, a biopesticide company in Davis. In 2000, she joined the pest management program at the California Department of Pesticide Regulation, where she worked in both urban and agricultural IPM. She initiated the school and child care IPM program and worked as the child care IPM specialist for eight years. Messenger-Sikes specialized in outreach and education of school staff and child care providers, introducing new users to the concepts and practices of IPM.

Messenger-Sikes is located at the ANR building in Davis. She can be reached at bmsikes@ucanr.edu and at (530) 750-1395.

Kathreen Fontecha
Kathreen Fontecha joined UC IPM as the web production coordinator and UI/UX designer on April 3. Fontecha will ensure a consistent and tested online design and user experience for the UC IPM website and digital products. She will produce wireframes and mockups, as well as create final HTML and CSS prototypes. Fontecha will coordinate and ensure that IPM content is clearly laid out and quickly and efficiently published to the UC IPM website. Working with the IT/Production staff, her first goal is to transition the website to a more mobile friendly look and feel.

Fontecha is joining UC IPM from ANR Communication Services and Information Technology (CSIT), where she was the senior artist working on producing print and digital materials for UC ANR publications, California Agriculture magazine article layouts, newsletters, infographics, signage and presentations. In addition to print production, she provided web strategy and user experience design. In this role, Fontecha developed wireframes and prototypes that provided efficient user interaction and considerations for responsive web design. 

Before CSIT, Fontecha worked for the California Lighting Technology Center (CLTC) at UC Davis as their senior graphic designer. She managed and produced CLTC's visual communications, including publications, photography and the design and content management of their website.

Fontecha is located at the ANR building in Davis. She can be reached at (530) 750-1386 and kmfontecha@ucanr.edu.

LeChé McGill
McGill named to Council of UC Staff Assemblies 

LeChé McGill, academic human resources business consultant, has been named the junior delegate for UC ANR to the Council of UC Staff Assemblies. In this role, she also now has a position on the UC ANR Staff Assembly Council. The current chair of UC ANR Staff Assembly, Matt Baur, and co-chair Christina Adamson, have one more year on their two-year terms at the helm.

All ANR staff employees are members of the ANR Staff Assembly. The elected leaders of the group seek staff input on policies, processes and programs and serve in an advisory capacity to ANR leadership, giving staff a collective voice on issues of concern. 

Surls' book wins Gold Medal

From Cows to Concrete” by Rachel Surls, UC Cooperative Extension sustainable food systems advisor in Los Angeles County, and Judith Gerber has earned the Gold Medal in the category of Regional (Adult Nonfiction) in the 19th annual Foreword Reviews Book of the Year Awards.

The announcement was made during the American Library Association's Annual Conference in Chicago on June 24. The awards recognize the best books published in 2016 from small, independent and university presses.

From the earliest pueblo cornfields to the struggles of farm workers to the rise of the environmental movement, "From Cows to Concrete" chronicles the epic tale of how agriculture forged Los Angeles into an urban metropolis, and how, ultimately, this farm empire spurred the very growth that paved it over, as sprawling suburbs swallowed up thousands of acres of prime farmland.

Surls and Gerber tell the continuing story of how, on the same land once squandered by corporate greed and “progress,” urban farmers are making inroads to a greener future. More than 150 vintage images expand the fascinating, detailed history.

Gerber, a second-generation Angeleno, is a farm and garden authority who has written about sustainable and urban farming, local foods and organic gardening for more than 20 years.

Over 2,000 entries were submitted in 66 categories, with Foreword's editors choosing the finalists, and a panel of over 150 librarians and booksellers acting as judges to pick the winners.

The book, published by Angel City Press, is available at http://anrcatalog.ucanr.edu/Details.aspx?itemNo=3549. 

Steve Elliott

Elliott and Garvey win ACE awards

Two communicators affiliated with UC ANR won a total of five awards for their writing and photography in a competition sponsored by the international Association for Communication Excellence in Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Life and Human Sciences (ACE). The awards were presented at the ACE meeting, held June 13-16 in New Orleans.

Steve Elliott, communication coordinator for the Western Integrated Pest Management Center, received a gold award in promotional writing for his story, "Safflower Makes an Areawide IPM Program Work," published in the Western Front newsletter. Judges scored his work 100 out of a possible 100, saying, "You had me at Rodney Dangerfield. Very creative, the lead drew me right in wanting to read more. Excellent flow, packed with information in a narrative style. Congratulations on the terrific analytics for the newsletter."

He also received a bronze for his photo essay, "Loving the Land of Enchantment." Judges wrote: "Good variety of shot sizes which keeps it interesting. Diversity of stories along with photo content is engaging, and sticking to the IPM theme helps. There is so much text info that it was difficult to wade through. The words compliment the photos instead of the usual where the story supersedes the photos."

 

Garvey won a bronze ACE award for this photo of a monarch butterfly.

Kathy Keatley Garvey, communications specialist for the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, received a silver award (second place) for a photo series entitled the "Predator and the Pest: What's for Dinner?" on her Bug Squad post on the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources website on Oct. 3, 2016. Her series showed a praying mantis eating a cabbage white butterfly. Judges commented, "Definitely tells a story, interesting angles and good macro technique. Caught in the moment, but has a still life feel to it, like it's a diorama in a museum and we get to look at the scene from all sides. A unique look and good capture.
"

Garvey also won a bronze award for her feature photo "Save the Monarchs," posted Aug. 8, 2016, on her Bug Squad blog. It showed a monarch clinging to a finger. Judges said, "The detail in this photo is incredible. The lighting on the hand against the black background is definitely striking. And it makes the white spots on the monarch pop! Beautiful!"

This WSU-tagged monarch was featured in a Bug Squad blog post that won an ACE award. Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey

"WSU-Tagged Monarch: What a Traveler!" earned her a bronze award (third place) for blog writing on her Bug Squad blog. Judges wrote: "Short and sweet and to the point. Perfect for web reading. The photo is so helpful to the reader. The call to action at the end is a plus and not something I've seen on other entries. Fabulous use of social media to extend the reach of the article, too." – Kathy Keatley Garvey

William Walton
Walton wins Western Region NIFA teaching award

William Walton, a professor of entomology at UC Riverside, has been selected as the recipient of the 2017 Western Region Award for Excellence in College and University Teaching in the Food and Agricultural Sciences. He will be recognized at the Western Region Joint Summer Meeting in Portland, Ore., on July 12. 

The award, given by National Institute of Food and Agriculture at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, recognizes exceptional and innovative teaching in college and university agricultural and food science programs. Recipients exhibit “sustained, meritorious and exceptional teaching” that is “fundamental to recruiting and retaining the scientific and professional expertise essential to the future growth and progress of our nation's food and agricultural system.”

Each nominee is judged on teaching quality, philosophy of teaching and teaching methodology, service to the teaching profession and professional growth in teaching, professional growth and scholarly activity, and service to students.

“I have formulated my teaching goals and outcomes with the following thought in mind: if I ran into a former student on the street five years from now, what concepts in insect ecology would I hope that this person has retained?” Walton said. “I want my courses to provide benefits that transcend the subject matter, but I also want to balance new developments in pedagogy and technology with a fundamental understanding of the subject matter. Students need to be informed and inquisitive citizens who appreciate that learning is fun and a life-long process.”

Walton's laboratory works on integrating studies of mosquito biology and ecology with the design of control methodologies for pestiferous and pathogen-transmitting mosquitoes in wetlands. He was a National Academies Education Fellow in the Life Sciences, has served as president of the Society for Vector Ecology, and is president-elect of the American Mosquito Control Association. – Iqbal Pitalwalla

 

Posted on Wednesday, July 5, 2017 at 2:52 PM

UC connects FOOD IT to research and education

To fund agricultural research, all of the agricultural college leaders said they partner with private industry to compensate for shrinking government support.

More than 300 people crowded into the Computer History Museum in Mountain View for The Mixing Bowl's FOOD IT: Fork to Farm event on June 27. 

Food producers, entrepreneurs, thought leaders, venture capitalists, industry executives, researchers and nonprofit representatives gathered to explore the different ways in which information technology is being applied to a broad range of food and agriculture challenges. 

A panel of university deans, including Helene Dillard from UC Davis, Andrew Thulin from Cal Poly and Wendy Wintersteen from Iowa State, discussed a range of food and agriculture topics with VP Glenda Humiston moderating. The deans discussed science literacy and noted that about seven out of ten of their agriculture students come from urban areas.

FOOD IT drew a diverse group of people representing several aspects of the food system.

At the event, which was co-sponsored by UC ANR, Humiston announced that UC ANR is launching The VINE, or The Verde Innovation Network for Entrepreneurship, to cultivate regional innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystems in rural communities. Led by Gabriel Youtsey, chief innovation officer, The VINE aims to bring together resources such as small business development centers, community colleges, county Cooperative Extension offices, makers labs, incubators and accelerators to help people commercialize their ideas.

Dillard noted that UC Davis's InnovationAccess also helps people bring their products to market.

Humiston and Dillard were interviewed by The Cube about how the university is changing to address ag tech issues. Broadband access to the internet in rural areas is a limiting factor for agricultural technology, Humiston told The Cube's Jeff Frick. The agricultural industry is using satellite imagery, drones and soil sensors, she said. “If you've got thousands of sensors zapping information back and forth, you can fill up that pipeline pretty fast.”

The interview with Humiston and Dillard and others from FOOD IT are posted at http://www.siliconangle.tv/food-it-june-27-2017-mountain-view-ca.  

Read more about the FOOD IT at http://ucanr.edu/?blogpost=24534&blogasset=52096.

Donna Navarro Valadez greeted visitors to ANR's booth in the FOOD IT exhibits.
Posted on Wednesday, July 5, 2017 at 2:27 PM

CDFA seeks public comment on $6.75 million Healthy Soils Program by July 12

The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) is now accepting public comments on Requests for Grant Applications (RGA) for the $6.75 million Healthy Soils Program, authorized by the Budget Act of 2016, and funded through California's cap-and-trade program.

The Healthy Soils Program offers grants to farmers who take action to capture greenhouse gas emissions, such as carbon dioxide, in the soil to help combat climate change.

The program is part of California's cap-and-trade California Climate Investments, a statewide program that puts billions of cap-and-trade dollars to work reducing greenhouse gas emissions, strengthening the economy and improving public health and the environment—particularly in disadvantaged communities. The cap-and-trade program also creates a financial incentive for industries to invest in clean technologies and develop innovative ways to reduce pollution.

The Healthy Soils Program will be implemented under two separate components: 1) the $3.75 million Incentives Program and 2) the $3 million Demonstration Projects. For the Incentives Program, an estimated $3.75 million in competitive grant funding will be awarded to provide financial assistance for implementation of agricultural management practices that sequester soil carbon and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

For the Demonstration Projects, an estimated $3 million in competitive grant funding will be awarded to projects that monitor and demonstrate to farmers and ranchers in California, specific management practices in agriculture that sequester carbon, improve soil health and reduce atmospheric GHGs.

The RGA for both the Healthy Soils Program Incentives Program and Demonstration Projects can be found on the CDFA Office of Environmental Farming and Innovation webpage: https://www.cdfa.ca.gov/oefi/healthysoils.

Comments regarding the draft RGA can be submitted to cdfa.oefi@cdfa.ca.gov no later than 5 p.m. on Wednesday, July 12, 2017.

Posted on Monday, July 3, 2017 at 2:33 PM

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