- Author: Dohee Kim
Don Hodel, University of California Cooperative Extension environmental horticulture advisor for Los Angeles County, will retire July 1 after more than three and a half decades.
“He is a valuable resource in Southern California and has provided me with assistance on many occasions,” said Jan C. Scow, a registered consulting arborist based in Santa Monica. “Most valuable, and where I have turned to him most frequently for his expertise, is his global knowledge of palm trees.”
Hodel, best known for his remarkable and encyclopedic work in palms, is an internationally recognized leader in the environmental horticulture world. His research focuses on the selection, planting and management of woody plants in the landscape. He has published nine books, 100 peer-reviewed articles and 522 technical and popular articles. In addition, he delivered more than 1,000 presentations for industry groups, professional societies, universities, government agencies and homeowners and gave interviews to various news media organizations.
Hodel's body of work contributed significantly to the California landscape industry. He introduced and promoted new woody plant material suitable for California's climate. He developed landscape plant management techniques and practices that reduce green waste stream, support sustainability and help residents save money. He also advocated irrigation practices that help save water and management techniques that reduce damage to plants by landscape pests and diseases.
In 2014, Hodel produced and co-presented a day-long seminar in Spanish for Spanish-speaking tree workers on palm biology and working safely while managing palms. “It was immensely rewarding interacting with these workers, especially seeing them grasp the knowledge and techniques that will help keep them safe,” Hodel said.
“Don has been a teacher, a selfless resource of valuable information, a colleague and a friend,” arborist Scow said, adding, “Don has provided a valuable and welcome boost to many in the arboricultural profession and has ‘done the UC proud!'”
Over the years, Hodel has received numerous prestigious awards including UC ANR's Award for Research (1993), Western Chapter International Society of Arboriculture Award of Arboricultural Research (2009), and Southern California Horticulture Association's Horticulturist of the Year (2014).
“I have been honored and privileged to have worked for the University of California for 36 years doing what I love—researching, writing and sharing information with homeowners and the landscape industry,” Hodel said. “I am very thankful to UC for providing me with a platform to accomplish my work.”
“We will miss him very much,” said Keith Nathaniel, UC Cooperative Extension director for Los Angeles County. “His work has contributed tremendously to UC Cooperative Extension and its mission of addressing local issues with innovative solutions through the power of UC research. It will be difficult to replace his high-caliber knowledge and expertise.”
During retirement, Hodel plans to remain active and continue his support of the university with his emeritus status. Along with completing his current research projects, he plans to finish writing three books. One is about the palms of Cuba, based on his three research trips to the island-nation from 2016 to 2018. The second is a guide to identify and manage ornamental Ficus (figs) in California and Hawaii. The third is a compendium of dryland trees suitable for the Southern California landscape.
“I have a lot of information in my head that I want to share before it is too late!” said Hodel.
- Author: Jeannette E. Warnert
Day has deep roots in Tulare County. He was raised on a Dinuba farm established by his grandfather in 1906, where he farms peaches and nectarines to this day.
With bachelor's and master's degrees from Fresno State, Day launched his UC career in 1985 at the UC Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Parlier as a staff research associate, working with UC Davis plant physiologist Ted DeJong. With DeJong, Day participated in the development of the “Kearney Perpendicular V,” a high-density tree training and pruning system that brings peach and nectarine orchards into full production at an earlier age.
Determined to climb the career ladder under his own terms, Day waited for the ideal position to be offered by UC in his beloved home county of Tulare. In July 1991, Day joined the Tulare County academic staff as pomology advisor with years of hands-on research experience and established relationships with Kearney- and UC campus-based specialists.
Day is highly regarded as an expert in stone fruit cultural practices. He conducted research to manage light exposure within tree canopies, pruning and training systems, irrigation, fertilization and pest management. He wrote the first published research on summer pruning of stone fruit trees in California and introduced a revolutionary tree fruit orchard establishment practice he termed “benign neglect.”
“Benign neglect changed the way farmers looked at pruning trees in new orchards,” Day said. “We don't prune fruit trees at all in the first year or two. This saves the cost of labor, and brings the tree into production years before new orchards that have been trained and pruned conventionally.”
In addition to many stone fruit growers, almond, walnut and pistachio farmers around the world have been able to cut costs and increase profitability by following this production practice.
In all, Day has written more than 500 papers on tree fruit management, including peer-reviewed articles in scientific journals, magazine articles in popular publications and research reports. His specialty is in presenting practical information to farmers in accessible language, which helped him earn notoriety in national and international stone fruit circles. In 2012, he became the first county advisor or agent to be honored with the National Peach Council's Carroll R. Miller Award, which recognizes “noteworthy research relating to improved marketing and utilization of peaches.”
Day said he greatly appreciated the flexibility his career has afforded, being able to work with growers to respond to problems as they arose and adjust his focus when circumstances changed.
“I could work on a new disease that popped up. I could study developing insect issues,” Day said. “When people were planting apples in the (19)80s and 90s, I was able to study pruning, training, light management and fruit quality in apples.”
In 2015, Day was promoted to director of Cooperative Extension in Tulare and Kings counties. In this role, he has helped shape academic staffing decisions for the local area and mentor newly hired advisors.
Day has been honored with emeritus status by the University of California. In addition to tending his own tree crop farm in Dinuba, he plans to continue work on a sweeping project at Kearney that is being managed as the “orchard of the future.”
With dwarfing rootstocks and pruning advances developed over decades, the orchard has been designed to minimize the need to use ladders for pruning, thinning and harvesting. Keeping farm workers on the ground is safer, and reduces labor costs by 40 to 60 percent, Day said.
In retirement, Day said he also is looking forward to spending more time reading, pursuing his musical interests, fly fishing, hunting and playing with his six rescue dachshunds, a diminutive dog breed that captured his heart 30 years ago.
- Author: Jeannette E. Warnert
California-grown alfalfa seed – a crop valued at nearly $1 billion annually – is shipped around the globe, where farmers use it to grow high-quality hay for dairy cows, horses, beef cattle and other livestock.
“Words cannot express the gratitude the industry has for Shannon,” said JD Allen, manager of the Alfalfa Seed Production Research Board. “Her incredible dedication and commitment to the alfalfa seed industry over the years manifested itself in many ways.”
Mueller, who earned a bachelor's degree in plant science at UC Riverside, worked on alfalfa during her studies at Cornell University, where she completed a master's degree and Ph.D. She was educated about alfalfa seed production by expert farmers producing the crop in Fresno County.
Information is widely available to guide production decisions for alfalfa hay, but seed production is more complicated. There is a delicate balance to achieve with irrigation, pest management and pollination. All factors influence each other.
“If you don't align the variables, there are real consequences in terms of yield and seed quality,” Mueller said.
Having learned the complexity of seed production, Mueller conducted research to find solutions to challenges farmers faced. She studied alfalfa seed pollination with leafcutter bees, dodder control, optimizing plant spacing, gene flow and many other topics.
“Shannon Mueller was a strong advocate for California alfalfa seed producers," said Jonathan Reich, global alfalfa breeding lead at Alforex Seeds. "Throughout her career she engaged with alfalfa seed industry stakeholders to identify research priorities aimed to deliver solutions to problems which had the potential to improve productivity, profitability, and sustainability.”
Mueller's work also focused on dry bean, alfalfa hay and honeybee management.
Mueller said she valued the opportunity to choose her own academic path as a UC Cooperative Extension advisor and work on issues that were of importance to the industry.
“I was able to address critical matters, and make changes over time,” Mueller said. “What I started out doing bore little resemblance to my more recent research.”
In 2011, Mueller was named co-director of UC Cooperative Extension in Fresno and Madera counties with viticulture farm advisor Steven Vasquez. Two years later, after his departure, she took the reins herself.
“I've been lucky,” Mueller said. “We have very intelligent, hardworking academics, program professionals, nutrition educators and staff in Fresno and Madera. I've had the opportunity to learn about our nutrition, 4-H and Master Gardener programs. Along with our agriculture and natural resources programs, I see the tremendous value they bring to Cooperative Extension.”
The University of California has honored Mueller with emeritus status. She plans to focus on expanding the Davis-based California Master Beekeeper program to additional sites in San Diego and Fresno. The new program has received a start-up grant from UC Agriculture and Natural Resources and will begin training volunteers to disseminate science-based information about the importance of honey bees, preserving bee health and responsible beekeeping.
Mueller also plans to travel during retirement, beginning with a month-long trip to Ireland this summer. Upon her return, she plans to take up quilting, get back into painting, and spend more time in the Sierra Nevada.
- Author: Pamela Kan-Rice
Livestock operations and fresh produce growers in California are among the most highly regulated in the country, but confusion often exists about what each community does to keep our food safe. The California Good Agriculture Neighbors Workshop: The Produce-Livestock Interface Workshop aims to clarify those roles.
Fruit and vegetable growers, livestock owners and others interested in assuring the safety of fresh produce grown in the vicinity of livestock and wildlife are invited to explore collaborative methods that advance food safety.
At locations in the Central Valley and Imperial Valley, food safety scientists, regulators, growers and ranchers will share what they know about the produce-livestock interface and discuss how we can make food even safer.
“Produce and livestock farmers in Southern California won't want to miss this seminar on food safety June 11 at Desert Research and Extension Center in Holtville,” says Jose Luis Aguiar, UC Cooperative Extension vegetable crops advisor for Riverside County. “Come and hear directly from scientists and regulators about the latest research and regulatory news. The agricultural industry is doing its part to be a good neighbor and work collaboratively to make food safer.”
Participants will gain a better understanding of how co-management of neighboring farms can further enhance food safety, reduce potential for fresh produce outbreaks, and limit liability for both growers and ranchers.
In the morning, speakers will cover laws, regulations and practices that already exist to protect food and environmental safety. In the afternoon, participants will break out into groups to examine how these practices can be leveraged.
There will be time for discussion with Ag Innovations facilitating the meeting. Participants will be encouraged to share their experiences and to ask produce safety questions.
The free workshop, subsidized by a grant from the California Department of Food and Agriculture, is being offered in Holtville and Stockton. Lunch will be provided. For more information and to register, visit www.wifss.ucdavis.edu/good-ag-neighbors.
June 11, 2019
9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Desert Research & Extension Center
1004 East Holton Rd
Holtville, CA 92250
June 13, 2019
9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Robert J Cabral Agricultural Center
2101 E. Earhart Ave
Stockton, CA 95206
The produce safety-livestock interface workshops are sponsored by the California Department of Food and Agriculture, Western Center for Food Safety at UC Davis, Western Institute for Food Safety and Security at UC Davis and UC Agriculture and Natural Resources using cooperative funding from the U.S. Food & Drug Administration. Western Growers and California Beef Council are sponsoring the lunches.
- Author: Pamela Kan-Rice
Researchers who have been investigating the impacts of the Camp Fire and other urban fires in Northern California will gather June 4 in Chico to share what they have learned. Members of the public are invited to attend the Camp Fire Water Resources Monitoring and Research Symposium, which will be held at the California State University, Chico Farm located at 311 Nicholas C Shouten Lane, Chico, CA 95928.
“The recent urban fires across California have raised questions about the fire impacts on watershed health, food safety and groundwater,” said Tracy Schohr, UC Cooperative Extension livestock and natural resources advisor for Butte, Plumas and Sierra counties, who is organizing the symposium.
“The Camp Fire Water Resources Monitoring and Research Symposium on June 4 creates a forum for researchers across a broad spectrum of disciplines to share findings from research conducted in Butte County and across the North State.”
“Chico State is partnering with University of California Cooperative Extension to host this educational symposium to help our community understand the impacts of the Camp Fire,” said Kasey DeAtley, Chico State professor in the College of Agriculture. “In a region rich in natural resources and agriculture production, there has been significant interest in the topic of urban fire implications and researchers have been working hard to find answers that will be shared at the symposium.”
The program will start at 9 a.m. and will feature three sessions. The day will kick off with a session titled “First Year Findings,” looking at initial rapid response for water quality, surface water monitoring, groundwater monitoring and more.
The second session is on “Urban Fires Impacts on Food and Agriculture” and will feature research presentations from UC Cooperative Extension on livestock drinking water quality and forage, eggs laid by backyard poultry, fruits and vegetables grown in gardens, and post-fire forest management.
The symposium will conclude with a session on future investigations, with Chico State professors sharing an overview of a comprehensive study underway to understand the impacts of the Camp Fire on water quality and soil health.
For more information and to register, visit https://ucanr.edu/sites/Rangelands. The event is $50 to attend and includes program materials, morning refreshments and lunch. Parking is free at the Chico State Farm.