- (Public Value) UCANR: Safeguarding abundant and healthy food for all Californians
- Author: Jeannette E. Warnert
As a Peace Corps volunteer in Niger in the early 1980s, Dahlberg was intrigued by sorghum, a staple food being cultivated by the country's vast population of subsistence farmers.
“I was impressed with the fact that sorghum was so drought tolerant,” Dahlberg said. “Nigerien farmers relied solely on rain for their sorghum and millet crops.”
Upon returning to the U.S., he earned a master's degree at the University of Arizona and a Ph.D. at Texas A&M, where his research focused on sorghum. He worked with the USDA Agricultural Research Service in Puerto Rico for 7 years and then spent the next 10 years as research director with the National Sorghum Producers in Lubbock, Texas.
When Dahlberg took the helm of the 330-acre UC agricultural research center in 2010, he and colleagues at the UC West Side Research and Extension Center and at UC Davis began conducting sorghum forage variety trials. Sorghum wasn't new to California. In the past, it had mainly been used for animal feed. But Dahlberg believed the crop's adaptability – excellent for forage, biofuels and gluten-free human food – offered the grain a rosy future in the Golden State.
"With our research, we have provided California farmers who are thinking about growing sorghum access to locally generated, research-based information to help them make the decision," Dahlberg said.
In 2015, Dahlberg and UC Berkeley specialist Peggy Lemaux launched a sweeping drought research project at KARE. The five-year study, funded with a $12.3 million grant from the Department of Energy, researched the genetics of drought tolerance in sorghum and how soil microbial communities interacted with sorghum roots to battle drought stress.
A journal article published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2018 presented the first detailed look at the role of drought in restructuring the root microbiome. The plant switches some genes on and some genes off when it detects water scarcity and access to water.
“That has implications for feeding the world, particularly considering the changing climate and weather patterns,” Dahlberg said.
In recent years, Dahlberg helped reestablish tea research at Kearney, initiated nearly 60 years ago in a study funded by Thomas J. Lipton, Inc. At the time, Lipton was seeking to grow tea for the instant tea market. When the Kearney tea research program was scrapped in 1981, a researcher had a handful of the best tea clones planted in the landscape around buildings at Kearney.
Those shrubs became the basis for a new tea research trial planted at Kearney in 2017 with UC Davis professor Jackie Gervay Hague to determine whether drought stress impacts the production of phenolics and tannins in the tea.
“We know we can grow good tea here and we can grow high tonnage,” Dahlberg said. “We want to determine if we can do that on a consistent basis and whether we can improve tea quality through irrigation management.”
In retirement, Dahlberg plans to relocate to Lake Ann, Mich., to be close to family. UC Cooperative Extension irrigation specialist Khaled Bali will serve as interim director of the UC Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center.
The historic Faulkner Farm, a 27-acre farm near Santa Paula, is for sale. The property, which houses the UC Hansen Agricultural Research and Extension Center, is listed at $3.7 million by the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources.
The property on the corner of Telegraph Road and Briggs Road includes a 126-year-old Queen Anne Victorian house, a 134-year-old large red barn and a smaller barn built in 1982 for a Budweiser commercial. An orchard features an extensive collection of avocado varieties as well as a collection of tropical and sub-tropical trees including various citrus, banana, guava, mango, passion fruit, persimmon, papaya and fig.
UC acquired the Faulkner Farm in 1997, under the leadership of Larry Yee, who was director of Cooperative Extension in Ventura County at the time. The purchase was made with an endowment from Saticoy farmer Thelma Hansen, who passed away in 1993, for agricultural research and education activities in Ventura County.
Due to increasing maintenance costs for the historical buildings at Faulkner Farm and limited acreage for agricultural research, the Hansen Advisory Board along with agricultural stakeholders in the county recommended that UC ANR divest all or part of the property to honor the terms of the endowment. For over a decade, previous boards have recommended the sale to redirect the funds from maintenance of the historical landmark to support research and outreach for better fulfillment of the directives of the UC Cooperative Extension mission and enhance service to the Ventura County community.
“Now, more than ever before, we need to really expand our ability to find solutions for the challenges that agriculture faces: pests, diseases, climate change and more,” said Glenda Humiston, University of California vice president for agriculture and natural resources. “Enhancing research is critical to the future of agriculture for this region.”
The university will lease back a portion of the land for 18 months to complete active research projects and allow for continued UC Master Gardener Program activities at the site during the transition to the new location for its UC Hansen Agricultural Research and Extension Center.
“We are committed to having a UC Research and Extension Center in Ventura County, with more acreage to facilitate research on a wider range of crops and cropping systems, and better facilities for research and education,” said Mark Lagrimini, UC ANR vice provost of research and extension.
UC ANR is currently seeking a new location in the county.
“We are looking for 40 to 70 acres on the Oxnard Plain, ideally near potential partners and collaborators and suited for row and permanent crops,” said Annemiek Schilder, director of UC Cooperative Extension in Ventura County and the Hansen Agricultural Research and Extension Center.
“I am greatly saddened to learn that the University of California has decided to sell the Faulkner Farm, site of the Hansen Agricultural Center,” said Yee, the former director of UCCE in Ventura County and UCCE advisor emeritus. “In the beginning, we had every hope that the center would grow and prosper and serve both the needs of the agricultural and larger communities well into the future.”
Research at the facility focuses on improving crop productivity, irrigation, biocontrol of pathogens and pests, novel pruning techniques, and the introduction and evaluation of promising crop commodities. Additional research activities focus on issues in small-scale urban agriculture and organic farming.
UCCE advisors extend research results to local growers during field days and workshops at the site. Master Gardener volunteers maintain a demonstration garden, where they offer workshops for community members. Year-round 4-H agricultural literacy programs for students in grades K-12 include farm field trips, classroom outreach, an after-school Student Farm, and a Sustainable You! Summer Camp. The students learn about Ventura County agriculture, nutrition, cooking and sustainability.
“The Faulkner Farm has been such an important landmark and has made invaluable contributions to the life and well-being of the community,” Yee said. “Countless families, school children, teachers, Master Gardeners, researchers and other scientists have passed through its gates to enjoy learning about the importance of agriculture, how things grow and all the interrelationships between healthy soil, food and humans.”
Sales of property owned by the Regents of the University of California are governed by The Stull Act, which requires a sealed bid process. Bids are scheduled to be opened and reviewed in mid-November by the university.
Ashraf El-kereamy will be the new director of UC Agriculture and Natural Resources' Lindcove Research & Extension Center, starting on July 1, 2020. He will continue to serve as a UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Botany and Plant Sciences at UC Riverside and based at Lindcove Research & Extension Center.
“Elizabeth Grafton-Cardwell retires this year after 13 years as director of Lindcove REC, California's premier citrus research center,” said Mark Lagrimini, UC ANR vice provost for research and extension. “We are excited to have Ashraf in place to carry on the tremendous success attributable to the research performed at Lindcove. Ashraf brings a breadth of research, extension and leadership skills.”
El-kereamy has extensive experience with several commodities with research revolving around plant hormones, fruit ripening, plant nutrition, and the responses of different plant species to abiotic stress conditions.
Since February 2019, El-kereamy has been serving as a UC Cooperative Extension citrus specialist based at Lindcove Research and Extension Center. Prior to the specialist position, El-kereamy was a UCCE viticulture and small fruit advisor for Kern County, where he established a research and extension program serving the San Joaquin Valley table grape industry for four years. Prior to joining UC ANR, he was an assistant/associate professor in the Department of Horticulture at Ain Shams University in Egypt.
“I am honored and very excited to be the director of Lindcove Research and Extension Center, which plays a crucial role in the California citrus industry,” El-kereamy said. “I am confident that, with the support of our industry, community and the University of California, we will build tomorrow's Lindcove REC as a center of excellence in research and extension. I am looking forward to leading Lindcove REC and providing our clientele with up-to-date technologies to cope with the challenges facing the California agriculture industry.”
El-kereamy earned a bachelor's degree in horticulture and master's degree in pomology from Ain Shams University in Cairo, Egypt, and a doctorate in agriculture with an emphasis in grapevine physiology and molecular biology from Toulouse University in France.
- Author: Jeannette E. Warnert
Giulia Marino was named the UC Cooperative Extension Specialist in Orchard Systems in the Department of Plant Sciences at UC Davis on Jan. 22. She is based at the UC Kearney Research and Extension Center in Parlier.
Marino's research focus is tree physiology and its impact on productivity, sustainability and competitiveness of fruit orchards.
Marino is currently studying the correlation of pistachio nut growth and ripening with temperature and crop load in orchards in Woodland and at Kearney.
“This information will help growers to better predict hull maturity and shell splitting patterns and allow the industry to understand when nuts become susceptible to navel orangeworm, the most damaging pest in California pistachio production,” Marino said.
A second study in pistachios will examine how salinity, boron and hypoxia (low oxygen associated with salinity) impact young trees' growth and water use. In cherries, Marino is working to understand the physiological impact of traditional rest-breaking agents on tree seasonal carbohydrates dynamics to improve effectiveness of their applications under warmer conditions caused by climate change.
These research projects are built in collaboration with UCCE advisors and specialists and UC professors, and are funded by the California Pistachio Research Board and the California Cherry Board.
Prior to joining UC Agriculture and Natural Resources, Marino was a researcher in the Department of Land, Air and Water Resources at UC Davis, where she studied pistachio water use and tree performance under saline-sodic conditions. Marino earned a doctorate degree in fruit and forestry tree systems and master's and bachelor's degrees in agricultural science, all from the University of Palermo in Italy.
Marino can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Frank McPherson joined UC ANR on Feb. 3 as a regional director for UC Cooperative Extension serving Alameda, Contra Costa, San Francisco and San Mateo counties, and Elkus Ranch Environmental Education Center in Half Moon Bay.
Shortly after taking on this new role, McPherson was charged with quickly converting many UCCE operations from in-person to online to comply with the state's shelter-in-place guidance to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
“The Contra Costa County UC Master Gardener program's largest fundraiser had to be canceled and we were forced to quickly come up with processes and procedures to donate more than 30,000 tomato plants to give to school children,” McPherson said.
The educational programs for inner city youth at Elkus Ranch also were canceled. McPherson is now working with staff to open the facility for family tours of up to 10 people at a time, an opportunity which is proving popular.
The second major tragedy that rocked the U.S. during his short tenure – the murder of George Floyd and ensuing unrest – was another opportunity to put his knowledge and experience to work for UC Cooperative Extension.
“The topic came up during my ‘social hour' calls with my staff,” McPherson said. “I have now scheduled a Racial and Social Equity Forum for my teams in which they can express their thoughts and feelings. It's a place where they can hear and be heard.”
Prior to joining ANR, McPherson was director of Customer Service at San Jose-based BD Biosciences. From 2000 to 2013, McPherson served as a senior manager at Applied Materials, where he led a team of account service representatives, directed and managed Contact Center start-ups across the globe, negotiated contracts, and interfaced with planning, purchasing, order fulfillment and logistics to meet customer requirements.
“Cooperative Extension for me is a great place to work, as it allows me to give back to our underserved and most vulnerable population. I am able to make an impact with those that need the help the most.”
McPherson holds a bachelor's degree in business management from University of Maryland and a master's degree in business management from Troy State University in Alabama. He is fluent in German.
He is based at the UCCE office in Concord and can be reached at (925) 608-6674 and email@example.com.
Carolyn Whitesell started her job as the UC Cooperative Extension human-wildlife conflict advisor for San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin and Sonoma counties on Feb. 18. She is based at the UC Agriculture and Natural Resource's Elkus Ranch Environmental Education Center in Half Moon Bay.
In her new position, Whitesell will foster knowledge and tolerance for local wildlife, implement research projects and run educational programs aimed at various audiences, from school kids to adults.
During the first few months on the job, under shelter-in-place guidelines, Whitesell has been getting acquainted with potential partners for her research and extension program by virtually meeting with livestock producers, mountain lion researchers, regional agencies and land trusts. She participated on panels for the online 4-H Animal Science Symposium and the Santa Cruz Mountain Stewardship Network Mountain Lion Salon.
“I can't wait to further develop relationships with my clientele and collaborators and dive into new research and outreach projects,” Whitesell said.
Among her projects, she plans to conduct research on the effectiveness of guardian animals for protecting livestock from wildlife and already teamed up with UCCE advisor Dan Macon to develop a fact sheet on Selecting a Livestock Guardian Dog Puppy.
Whitesell earned doctoral and master's degrees in ecology at UC Davis and a bachelor's degree in ecology, behavior and evolution at UC San Diego.
A Bay Area native, Whitesell, lived for years in rural farming communities in southern Africa. For her dissertation research, Whitesell studied human-carnivore conflict in a cattle ranching region in Botswana. In addition, she conducted a wildlife survey in Angola, and served as an ecology research assistant at the Cheetah Conservation Fund in Namibia. When in Namibia, part of her work involved breeding livestock guardian dogs that were placed with local farmers to protect their livestock from carnivores.
Whitesell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Houston Wilson has been named the Presidential Director for the University of California's Organic Agriculture Institute, which was established in January 2020 with a $500,000 endowment by Clif Bar and a matching $500,000 endowment from UC President Janet Napolitano.
Wilson, a UC Riverside agricultural entomologist based at the Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center, joined UC ANR as assistant Cooperative Extension specialist in 2017. He will launch the institute and chart a path for future growth while also focusing on immediate priorities such as a survey of organic production in California, multiple outreach and training opportunities for growers, publication of organic production guidelines, and developing research programs. Wilson's long-term goal is to continue to grow the endowment and position the organization to successfully support the state's growing organic farming economy.
“Organic growers in California face an array of interconnected agronomic, economic and regulatory challenges,” said Wilson. “Tackling these issues simultaneously requires a multidisciplinary approach to develop solutions that work in all scales of production. The economic opportunities are there, and we want to help position California growers to reap these benefits, and in doing so increase the supply of affordable organic food for consumers.”
Since 2007, Wilson has conducted research and extension in orchard and vineyard systems with a focus on integrated pest management strategies, many of which are readily applicable to organic agriculture. Key studies have included evaluating the use of mating disruption to control navel orangeworm in fig production, cover crops to increase biological control of vineyard leafhoppers, pheromone lures to improve monitoring of leaffooted bug in almonds, and more.
“We are excited about Houston's vision for establishing and growing California's first organic institute,” said Glenda Humiston, UC vice president for agriculture and natural resources (UC ANR). “Continued research advancements will be critical to the future of organic farming in our state as well as the health of our environment.”
“Clif Bar is thrilled to see Houston's appointment. We've heard from orchardists in our supply chain who have worked with him in the past and are excited that he'll have more resources to help serve the needs of organic producers,” said Matthew Dillon, senior director of agriculture for Clif Bar. “We look forward to working with Houston, UC ANR, and the organic agriculture community to continue to improve the sustainability and economic resiliency of California farmers.”
Wilson earned his doctoral degree in environmental science, policy and management and also holds a bachelor's degree in international area studies, both from UC Berkeley.
About UC ANR
UC Agriculture and Natural Resources brings the power of UC to all 58 California counties. Through research and Cooperative Extension in agriculture, natural resources, nutrition, economic and youth development, our mission is to improve the lives of all Californians. Learn more at ucanr.edu.
About Clif Bar & Company
Clif Bar & Company is a leading maker of nutritious and organic foods and drinks, including CLIF® Bar energy bar, LUNA®, The Whole Nutrition Bar for Women®; and CLIF Kid®, Nourishing Kids in Motion®. Focused on sports nutrition and snacks for adventure, the family and employee-owned company is committed to sustaining its people, brands, business, community and planet. For more information on Clif Bar & Company, please visit www.clifbar.com, check out our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/clifbar and follow us on Twitter at: www.twitter.com/clifbar.