- Author: Jeannette E. Warnert
Mahacek was an industrious youngster. In addition to participation in 4-H projects in electricity, woodworking, cooking and raising cattle, he worked on the family farm and managed a 120-home newspaper route for 6 years. His earnings from the paper route and selling the animals he raised in 4-H went towards his college education.
Mahacek earned a bachelor’s degree in industrial arts at San Jose State University in 1974. He considered a career as a high school shop teacher, but ultimately chose a path that allowed him to extend the benefits he derived from 4-H with youth of subsequent generations. He was named the 4-H Youth Development advisor for Merced County in 1976. In 2005, Mahacek added administrative duties to his job, when he was named director of UC Cooperative Extension in Merced County.
During his career, Mahacek placed an emphasis on mechanical sciences and engineering projects. His work included development of curricula and activities in science processes, robotics, computers, GIS/GPS, bio-security and environmental issues, such as watersheds and wildlife habitats.
In 1988, Mahacek was a member of the team that developed the 4-H SERIES (Science Experiences and Resources for Informal Educational Settings) curriculum, which was funded by the National Science Foundation and Kellogg. SERIES was the first comprehensive pragmatic science education curriculum to join 4-H’s traditional projects. In 2004, Mahacek served on the national leadership team for 4-H SET (Science, Engineering and Technology), a program that succeeded SERIES. SET aims to enhance young people’s interest in developing the knowledge and skills needed for the 21st century’s technically oriented careers.
The crowning achievement of his career was the development of the 4-H Junk Drawer Robotics curriculum in 2011. The curriculum shows how to engage children in building robotic devices with rubber bands, Popsicle sticks, medicine dispensers and bamboo skewers – the kinds of things people already have around the house. The robotics program develops skills that go beyond science and engineering. The children learn communications, teamwork and critical thinking.
“Junk drawer robotics is hands-on as well as heads-on,” Mahacek said. “We’re getting kids to be innovative, to come up with ideas themselves. When they come up with their own designs, and then build them, they have internalized the concepts much more than if they are just following directions.”
Junk drawer robotics is one part of a three-track robotics curriculum. The other tracks are virtual robotics, in which participants build virtual robots on computers, and robotics platforms, which employs commercial robot building kits for materials. The package of robotics programs was the No. 1 selling 4-H curriculum in the nation in 2011.
Mahacek received many honors for his contributions to 4-H and UC Cooperative Extension. In 1988 he received distinguished service awards from the state and national 4-H associations. The Merced County Farm City Ag Business Committee presented him its Agri-Education Award in 1992. When his daughter, Anne, was part of UC Merced’s first graduating class in 2008, Mahacek, his wife Susan and Anne received the UC Merced Student Affairs Parent-Family Recognition Award. Last year, Mahacek received the “Hands-On Heroes Award” at the Merced County Children’s Summit.
Mahacek said the 4-H program has evolved during his tenure, but it has not changed its core objectives.
“We went from being a predominantly ag program to including many other topics. Our members used to live in just rural settings, but now they come from the suburbs and urban neighborhoods,” Mahacek said. “But we’re still promoting the concept of working together and gaining confidence by learning practical skills.”
He said 4-H is fundamentally different from programs that focus specifically on developing self-esteem.
“In 4-H, we teach kids positive things to do and make and it builds their self-esteem when they have these abilities and capabilities,” Mahacek said.
All three of Mahacek’s children were active 4-H members, achieved 4-H All Star status – the highest county honor – and pursued higher education and careers in science and engineering.
In retirement, Machacek plans to visit Europe and, in particular, Southern France, where his middle son is working on an ocean acidification research project. Closer to home, Mahacek also plans to spend more time in his backyard workshop, where he is restoring a 1967 Pontiac Firebird and farm equipment that dates back to the early 1900s.
- Posted By: Jeannette E. Warnert
- Written by: Janet Byron, (510) 665-2194, email@example.com
Total membership in the CSAs surveyed (n = 46) increased exponentially from an estimated 672 members in 1990 to 32,938 members in 2010. Most CSAs in California’s Central Valley and surrounding foothills were relatively small (20 acres on average), produced a broad range of crops (44 on average) and adhered to organic or sustainable growing practices.
Likewise, 54 percent of the CSA farms surveyed were profitable; of the rest, 32 percent broke even and 15 percent operated at a loss. Gross average sales for the CSAs surveyed were $9,084 per acre in 2009; this compares with average gross sales of $1,336 per acre for California agriculture in general.
Despite their increasing popularity, little is known about CSA farmers and their operations. UC researchers conducted a comprehensive study of CSA farmers in the Central Valley and surrounding foothills about their growing practices, farm economics, demographics and other characteristics. The article in full and the entire January–March 2012 issue of California Agriculture can be found at: http://californiaagriculture.ucanr.org.
CSAs eliminate distributors, forging direct connections between farmers and consumers; California has about 275 CSAs, and there are more than 3,500 nationally. The researchers found that CSAs are adapting and changing to meet consumer interest in and demand for locally produced food.
“Together with farmers markets, farm stands, U-picks and agritourism, CSAs constitute a ‘civic agriculture’ that is re-embedding agricultural production in more sustainable social and ecological relationships, maintaining economic viability for small- and medium-scale farmers and fulfilling the non–farm-based population's increasing desire to reconnect with their food,” Ryan Galt, UC Davis assistant professor in the Department of Human and Community Development, and co-authors wrote in California Agriculture journal.
The CSA model has undergone considerable change and innovation, the researchers found, with growers offering new products such as meat and dairy and making payment options more attractive to consumers. When the first CSAs were started on the East Coast in the mid-1980s, members paid in advance and received a share of the farm’s crop in return, and they also shared in production risks. Today’s CSAs allow consumers more flexibility and less risk. “Twenty percent of CSAs in the study had no minimum payment period, allowing week-by-week payments, which extends membership to a broader population, including those hesitant or unable to commit to extended payments,” the authors wrote.
The study team also interviewed CSA farmers about what motivated them. “Even though a CSA is hard work, farmers tend to find it rewarding,” Galt and co-authors noted. “The vast majority were happy with their work and continued to view the CSA as a viable option for small- and medium-scale farmers.”
Also in the January–March 2012 issue of California Agriculture:
Farm-to-WIC study: The federal Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) now distributes monthly cash vouchers to low-income women with children to buy fruits and vegetables. UC Cooperative Extension (UCCE) researchers surveyed WIC participants in Tulare, Alameda and Riverside counties in 2010 to guide the development of a farm-to-WIC program that would connect local growers to the WIC market. Based on WIC participants’ produce preferences and buying habits, they developed a list of 19 produce items for possible inclusion in the program, including broccoli, cabbage, collards, nopales, sweet potato and tomatillo.
Preventing Fusarium wilt of lettuce: Caused by the soilborne fungus Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. lactucae, Fusarium wilt affects all major lettuce production areas in California and Arizona. In trials at UC Davis, lettuce cultivars differed significantly in susceptibility to the disease, with some leaf and romaine types highly resistant under all test conditions. Management of Fusarium wilt requires an integrated approach that includes crop rotation to reduce soil inoculum levels and the use of resistant cultivars during the warmest planting windows.
Also in the online-only E-Edition of California Agriculture:
Biological control for citrus pests: In a spring 2010 survey and statistical analysis, growers with greater citrus acreage and more education were more likely to use biological controls for four important citrus pests (California red scale, citrus red mite, citrus thrips and cottony cushion scale). Marketing outlets, ethnicity and primary information sources also influenced the extent of reliance on beneficial insects.
California Agriculture is the University of California’s peer-reviewed journal of research in agricultural, human and natural resources. For a free subscription, go to: http://californiaagriculture.ucanr.org, or write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
WRITERS/EDITORS: To request a hard copy of the journal, e-mail email@example.com./div>
- Posted By: Pamela Kan-Rice
- Written by: Iqbal Pittalwala, (951) 827-6050, firstname.lastname@example.org
Yates joined the faculty of UC Riverside in 1987, and has served in several leadership roles during her tenure at the university. These include chair of the Department of Environmental Sciences; associate executive vice chancellor; chair of the CNAS Executive Committee; co-chair of the Committee on Academic Personnel; program leader for University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources; associate co-director of the One Health Center, University of California Global Health Institute (UCGHI); and UCGHI’s co-director of education.
“CNAS has outstanding faculty, dedicated staff, and excellent students,” Yates said. “Over the coming months, we all will be working together to redesign our college. Our goal is to better enable faculty to conduct cutting edge research, to foster interdisciplinary collaborations necessary to tackle the most difficult problems facing society, and to create an environment that will allow us to continue to attract the brightest students and the best new faculty.”
Yates’s research focuses on the transmission of human pathogenic microorganisms in environmental media, particularly water and wastewater. She serves on several advisory committees, panels and boards for water quality, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Science Advisory Board Drinking Water Committee and the National Research Council’s Water Science & Technology Board. Currently, she serves as editor for Applied & Environmental Microbiology.
A fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (2007) and a fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology (2011), she is a recipient of UCR’s Distinguished Teaching Award (2001-02) and was named Distinguished Teaching Professor (2006).
Yates received her doctoral degree in microbiology from the University of Arizona, Tucson, in 1984. She has a master’s degree in chemistry from New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology and a bachelor’s degree in nursing from the University of Wisconsin, Madison.
During his tenure as dean of CNAS, Baldwin, a biochemist, helped expand the college’s profile externally and promoted the cause of science education. He launched a highly successful Science and Society lecture series, created the Science Circle, penned opinion pieces, and established the Science Ambassador program. Baldwin reached out to community leaders, educators, and industry for purposes of fundraising, science education, and developing partnerships. He will continue to perform some of these outreach activities as the college’s executive associate dean for external relations.
- Posted By: Pamela Kan-Rice
- Written by: Kathy Keatley Garvey, (530) 754-6894, email@example.com
The discovery, announced this month in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, may generate better conservation efforts for the imperiled woodpecker and may lead to far-reaching benefits in controlling cockroaches in urban environments, said Coby Schal, the Blanton J. Whitmire Professor of Entomology at North Carolina State University.
The scientific team characterized and synthesized the “mating scent” that the flightless female broad wood cockroach, Parcoblatta lata, releases to attract suitors. Only the males fly; the females live beneath decaying logs in the pine forests of southeastern United States.
The red-cockaded woodpecker, Picoides borealis, lives in old-growth pine forests, excavating nesting sites in large-diameter trees. Native to the southeastern United States, its population has now dwindled to 1 percent of its original population and it is extinct in at least three states, New Jersey, Maryland and Missouri. It is especially sensitive to habitat disturbances and loss of its main food supply. The broad wood cockroach constitutes more than 50 percent of its diet.
Because the cockroach pheromone attracts large numbers of male suitors – all males excellent flyers – the research should help determine whether there is enough woodpecker food in a given area.
"Besides serving as the main diet of the endangered woodpeckers, the adult male cockroaches occasionally infest houses after being attracted to porch lights and the flightless females and nymphs are brought into homes with firewood," Schal said. The synthetic compound could be used to deter cockroach populations.
Hailing the research as helping an endangered species, Leal pointed out that the newly identified sex pheromone may be used “to monitor the quality and suitability of foraging habitat of the red-cockaded woodpecker.”
“Most pheromones and compounds involved in insect chemical communication can be used as environmentally friendly tools for monitoring and controlling populations of agricultural pests and insects of medical importance,” Leal said. “I was particularly thrilled collaborating with my friend Coby Schal to identify this cockroach sex pheromone not only because the chemical structure was unusual and challenging, but also given the potential applications of this green chemical in conservation biology.”
Schal said that the synthetic version of the pheromone attracted a few other Parcoblatta species. It did not attract the Parcoblatta pennsylvanica. Because the compound attracted some Parcoblatta species and not others, this “tells us something about their evolutionary history,” Schal said. While Parcoblatta cockroaches are endemic to North America, the more commonly known pest cockroaches were introduced here from other countries.
The newly discovered pheromone is nicknamed “parcoblattalactone.” It is a previously unknown pheromonal structure, but one which “highlights the great chemical diversity that characterizes olfactory communication in cockroaches,” the scientists wrote in their abstract.
In addition to Schal and Leal, the co-authors of the PNAS paper were Dorit Eliyahu, Satoshi Nojima and Cesar Gemeno, all former members of Schal’s lab; Richard Santangelo, a NC State research specialist; and Shannon Carpenter, Frances Webster and David Kiemle of the State University of New York.
The research was funded by the Blanton J. Whitmire Endowment at NC State.
- Author: Jeannette E. Warnert
Tamarixia radiata – tiny, stingless parasitic wasps that lay eggs in Asian citrus psyllid nymphs – were released in a citrus grove behind the residence of UC Riverside Chancellor Tim White. Over the next several years, UC Riverside and California Department of Food and Agriculture scientists will raise thousands of Tamarixia for release throughout California. The Tamarixia larvae will eat the ACP nymphs, killing them, and emerge as adults about 12 days later. Adult female Tamarixia also eat other ACP nymphs, killing many this way as well.
On Dec. 7, 2011, state and federal authorities cleared Tamarixia from quarantine with the issuance of a permit to release this natural enemy for establishment in California. The parasitic wasps can’t bite or sting people or animals. Safety testing in quarantine has demonstrated that the parasites are disease free and pose no environmental risk.
The Indian subcontinent is likely part of the native range for Asian citrus psyllid, Hoddle said. The first study of the pest was published in 1927 by scientists in the region. Asian citrus psyllid is now found in parts of the Middle East, South and Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean. In the United States, this psyllid was first detected in Florida in 1998 and is now also found in Louisiana, Georgia, South Carolina, Texas and Arizona. In 2008, the pest was detected for the first time in California in San Diego and Imperial county backyard trees. Large populations of Asian citrus psyllid are now well established in urban areas of Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Riverside counties.
Huanglongbing has made its way to Mexico and Florida, but so far it has not been detected in California. Currently, the citrus industry is dependent on insecticide sprays to control ACP and prevent the introduction of Huanglongbing. UC Cooperative Extension citrus entomology specialist Beth Grafton-Cardwell, director of the UC Lindcove Research and Extension Center, welcomes the promise of biological control with introduced natural enemies.
“This is very good news for the integrated management of Asian citrus psyllid and a highly significant contribution of the University of California,” Grafton-Cardwell said. “Parasitoid releases will add a new and exciting component to the management program for ACP, especially for the many homeowners who have citrus trees in their yards.”
Hoddle said Tamarixia won’t eradicate Asian citrus psyllid, but scientists predict it will reduce the densities of the pest, giving other control practices a better chance of working. Commercial citrus producers in California will still need to apply insecticides to control Asian citrus psyllid and prevent the spread of Huanglongbing, should it be found in the state. However, the frequency of these applications may be reduced because Tamarixia is killing ACP nymphs in areas that are not sprayed.
Hoddle collected the parasites in collaboration with scientists in the Department of Agri-Entomology at the University of Agriculture in Faisalabad (UAF), Pakistan. UAF was an ideal base for the project, Hoddle said, because it had citrus research plots infested with Asian citrus psyllid that have not been treated with insecticides. The university is also situated near local commercial citrus production, the area has a climate similar to citrus-growing regions of California, and the university’s vice chancellor, Iqrar Khan, is a UC Riverside graduate who also has an active research program on Huanglongbing in Pakistan.
In March and April 2011, Hoddle spent four weeks at UAF to set up research plots in kinnow and sweet orange trees. Coincidentally, kinnow is a mandarin that was bred at UC Riverside in 1935 and accounts for 85 percent of citrus produced in the Punjab. Hoddle and his Pakistani colleagues collected 24 male and 56 female Tamarixia radiata, which were brought back to UC Riverside to establish colonies.
Hoddle returned from a June 2011 trip to Pakistan with 151 male and 255 female Tamarixia radiata. An October and November 2011 visit netted another 800 parasitic wasps.
“Gathering insects from citrus plants in the Punjab generated an immense amount of curiosity,” Hoddle said. “Kids in particular were super-curious about what we were doing, where we had come from and why we had come to Pakistan. The people in the Punjab were incredibly courteous, polite and generous.”
Hoddle has trained a Pakistani graduate student Shouket Zaman Khan at UAF to monitor the interaction of Asian citrus psyllid with its natural enemies in their native environment. The researchers will determine whether other natural enemies of the pest could provide additional biological control of California ACP in the future.
Funding for the Asian citrus psyllid biocontrol effort has been provided by the California Department of Agriculture Food and Agriculture Specialty Crops Program, the USDA Citrus Health Response Program, the Citrus Research Board, and the UC Hansen Trust.
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MEDIA CONTACT: Mark Hoddle, UC Cooperative Extension biological control specialist based at UC Riverside, (951) 827-4714, firstname.lastname@example.org/table>/div>