- Author: Saoimanu Sope
A new avocado, one that complements the widely known ‘Hass,' will hit the world market soon. The ‘Luna UCR' variety (trademarked and patent pending) has several characteristics that should be of interest to both growers and consumers, said Mary Lu Arpaia, University of California Cooperative Extension subtropical horticulture specialist based at UC Riverside.
From the grower perspective, the tree is about half the size of the leading variety while producing approximately the same yield per tree as ‘Hass,' meaning that growers could plant more trees per acre, therefore increasing yield. It also makes harvesting easier and safer.
Another advantage is the flowering behavior of the tree. Avocado trees are categorized into either Type A or Type B flower types. It is generally accepted that you need both flower types in a planting to maximize productivity. The ‘Hass' is an “A” flower type and ‘Luna UCR' is a Type “B.”
This is a potential boost for growers since the current varieties that are “B” flower types ripen green and generally receive lower prices for the grower. Similar to ‘Hass,' however, the ‘Luna UCR' colors as it ripens.
“Hopefully, it will receive similar returns to the ‘Hass' once it is an established variety,” Arpaia added.
Fruit breeding is a long-term process that she has navigated by building upon the work of her predecessors. Of course, Arpaia has had strong support from colleagues as well, including Eric Focht, a UC Riverside staff researcher and co-inventor of ‘Luna UCR.'
“We had been looking at ‘Luna UCR' for some time and it was always a very good eating fruit,” Focht said. “After the 2003 release of ‘GEM' (registered and patented as ‘3-29-5', 2003) and ‘Harvest' (patented as ‘N4(-)5', 2003) varieties, ‘Luna UCR' was always the top contender for a next release due to the small, narrow growth habit, “B” flower type and the fruit quality.”
“It's a very nice-looking fruit as well and seemed to be a pretty consistent bearer from year to year.”
A glimpse at how it all started
In spring 1996, Arpaia took over the UC Avocado Breeding Program following Guy Witney who led the program from 1992 to 1995, and Bob Bergh whose initial efforts in the 1950s were foundational in the inception of ‘Luna UCR.'
Arpaia recalls the first trials in the early 2000s of ‘Luna UCR,' which were tested alongside other promising selections from the Bergh program. “There were a lot of varieties that didn't perform well, some of which had poor storage life, an important trait that we need if we are going to get the fruit to consumers across the country,” said Arpaia.
The original seed and selection were planted at the Bob Lamb Ranch in Camarillo, and originally advanced trials of the ‘Luna UCR' variety were planted in four locations: UC Lindcove Research and Extension Center in Tulare County, UC South Coast Research and Extension Center in Orange County, a privately owned farm in San Diego County and another one in Ventura County.
The RECs are among the nine hubs operated by UC Agriculture and Natural Resources to support research and educate the public on regional agricultural and natural resource challenges.
ANR Research and Extension Centers become vital
Unfortunately, the 2017 Thomas Fire burned the avocado trees in Ventura, said Arpaia. After a change in management, the trial located in San Diego County was also terminated, leaving the two trials at Lindcove and South Coast REC.
“South Coast REC has a long history of supporting research and extension activities of high value crops important to California, including avocados,” said Darren Haver, director of the South Coast REC, which was often used to show growers the new varieties that were being developed.
“Many of the REC staff have worked with the avocado-breeding program researchers for more than two decades and continue to work closely with them to ensure the success of new avocado varieties, including ‘Luna UCR',” he added.
In addition to the support provided by South Coast and Lindcove RECs, Arpaia said that UC Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Fresno County – another UC ANR facility – made it possible for her team to conduct critical postharvest and sensory research, and consumer testing of the fruit, which included up to six-week trials of fruit ratings for storage life and taste.
“UC ANR has played an important role in our ability to not only identify ‘Luna UCR', but in preparing it for the world market, too,” she said.
Preparing to share with the world
Since 2015, Focht had been collecting data for the patent application. Now that he and Arpaia have successfully patented and trademarked ‘Luna UCR,' they are preparing to expand production by engaging interested growers with the commercial partner, Green Motion who is based in Spain.
“Green Motion contracted for 1,000 trees to be generated by Brokaw Nursery and those trees are currently being distributed, with earliest field plantings likely taking place in fall,” explained Focht.
Focht also said that Mission Produce, based in Oxnard, CA has contracted to graft over a small number of “B” flower type pollinizer trees to the new ‘Luna UCR' variety, possibly making way for a small number of avocados to be available the following year.
Once planted, the avocado trees will come into “full” production in about five years.
- Author: Deanne Meyer
Congratulations to Placer/Nevada Master Gardeners who rocked the house on giving day! This awesome group of volunteers certainly cultivated donors well to be responsible for many donations. You set an example for others to reach. Well done!
Last week was filled with evaluations, analyses and planning to move construction projects forward on three of our Research and Extension Centers (REC). On Monday,Darren Haver, Annemiek Schilder, Adam Novicki and I spent hours working through important conversations about the move from Falkner Farms to the new location. There is much planning to do and great opportunities for our future. Although every move has its disruptions, I can't wait to see the exciting new projects that will happen to address ANR program areas in Ventura County. Tuesday, at South Coast REC Darren and I worked with Chris Martinez (Center Superintendent), Adolfo Limon, Brian Krall, Brian Oatman, Jennifer Bunge, and Maru Fernandez with the ICAMP project lists (integrated capital asset management program). Items on the list are assets whose previous condition assessment fared poorly; repairs needed or falling apart. It's important to physically take the list to the locations and go through them line by line. We do not want to invest in a project that was either already completed or no longer existed. Then we braved traffic and headed southeast to Desert REC. Wednesday started early in an attempt and avoid the heat of the day. Jairo Diaz (Director) and Gilberto Magallon (Center Superintendent) hosted us as we looked at irrigation pumps/reservoirs, buildings, the feed mill, metabolism room and numerous other buildings.
Elizabeth Moon, Director of Workplace Inclusion and Belonging joined us on our journey. She was able to meet with County and ANR members at both locations and gain an appreciation for the depth and breadth of work we do. It's one thing to look at our websites. It's very different when you walk around and see, touch, smell, feel the work we do. Master Food Preservers were working on a project at SCREC. Turns out there wasn't enough liquid in what they were making so the recipe needed a modification. Everyone huddled around to figure it out. We didn't stay long enough to see their final products. I'm sure it was successful!
Academics know this is the time of year when the peer review process winds down. A HUGE SHOUT OUT of gratitude to colleagues who put in countless hours on the Peer Review Committee. The comments I've seen thus far are thorough, thoughtful, and professional. A big THANK YOU to Stephen Worker, Daniel Obrist and Anna Lee who worked made the process go as smoothly as possible. Since it's not quite done yet, there is more heavy lifting with final decision letters, updating UC Path and providing results to all applicants. I remain busy re-reading dossiers and all supporting letters while writing and refining final letters. My recommendation to all-- READ and FOLLOW the eBook guidelines. Although it may be easier for the academic to include all kinds of information in tables and lists that is outside of the review period, it leaves a poor impression on the individual reading the materials.
- Author: Mike Hsu
UC Hansen Research and Extension Center to expand capacity at Camarillo location
The University of California Hansen Agricultural Research and Extension Center – the site of popular school field trips, 4-H programs, a UC Master Gardener demonstration garden, and numerous research trials on crops and landscape plants – is moving to a new location on the west side of Camarillo. The center was established through an endowment bequeathed to the UC by Saticoy farmer Thelma Hansen, who sought to support university research and extension activities benefiting Ventura County.
For the past 25 years, Hansen REC has been located on the historic Faulkner Farm in Santa Paula. At 27 acres, Hansen REC was the smallest of the nine RECs across the state operated by UC Agriculture and Natural Resources; in 2019, UC ANR leadership decided a larger property was needed to expand the center's capacity. The Faulkner Farm was sold in March 2021, but a portion was leased back to the UC to sustain its programs until a new location was identified.
In December 2022, the UC acquired a 114-acre farm property in Camarillo to serve as Hansen REC's new home. Moving structures and equipment from Faulkner Farm will take place over the next six months. Public programs at the new location are on hold until seismic retrofitting and other building upgrades are completed. A new research and educational facility also will be built, with an estimated opening date in 2027 or 2028.
“Our planning committee looked for a site on the Oxnard Plain that is representative of the coastal agriculture environment and conducive to research on Ventura County's high-value crops, such as strawberries,” said Annemiek Schilder, Hansen REC director. “We also sought a location with diverse soil types, access to sufficient irrigation water, and a low risk of flooding – and we're pleased that this Camarillo property meets most of our search criteria.”
Of the approximately 104 cultivable acres, 28 are certified organic, which will allow researchers to study organic as well as conventional crop production methods, Schilder noted. She said another bonus of the new location is its proximity to California State University, Channel Islands and the Rodale Institute California Organic Center, which are both potential partners for future research and a student organic farm on site.
Initial plans for the new Hansen REC facility include offices, conference rooms, laboratories, greenhouses, a demonstration kitchen, and indoor and outdoor education areas. The center will aim to be water-efficient and energy-neutral, relying on solar panels for much of its energy usage. The UC Cooperative Extension Office in Ventura is also slated to move to the new facility.
“We fully expect Hansen REC to become a vibrant research and education hub that provides science-based solutions and is responsive to the needs of agricultural, rural and urban communities and the environment in Ventura County,” said Glenda Humiston, UC vice president for agriculture and natural resources. “We're excited to expand current programming while bringing in new educational opportunities, such as the UC Master Food Preserver and Master Beekeeper programs.”/h3>
- Author: Saoimanu Sope
Before Brent Flory, 22, started bagging fruits and vegetables at his local Stater Bros. Market, he picked them at the University of California South Coast Research and Extension Center in Irvine.
In partnership with Saddleback Unified School District's Esperanza Education Center, an adult transition program that provides independent living and life skills training for students with disabilities, South Coast REC hosts students on its 200 acres of land and introduces them to careers in agriculture.
Flory recalls picking avocados as one of his favorite moments from the program at South Coast, one of nine RECs across California operated by UC Agriculture and Natural Resources. “I picked a huge avocado and got to bring it home. It was the size of a medium pumpkin,” he shared.
Field work doesn't warrant business attire, but Flory said that working at South Coast REC taught him the importance of dressing appropriately for work. In this case, it meant pants, closed-toe shoes, a shirt with sleeves, and sunscreen or a hat if working in the sun.
While program managers hope that participating students would pursue a career in agriculture, South Coast REC is more concerned about providing opportunities for students to gain real work experience in a unique setting.
“This is the first time I have had the opportunity for my students to work at a job site in the agricultural field. We never really thought of the agricultural industry as an option for our students,” said Esperanza's education specialist, Michael Seyler.
Esperanza's partnership with South Coast REC began in October 2019. Since then, nine participants have been assigned to work at the research center where they help create seedlings, plant and harvest crops, and learn plant management.
Ray Bueche, Adult Transition Program coordinator and Career Start administrator at Esperanza, is proud of the creative energy it took to develop the program and unite partners, crediting Jason Suppes, South Coast REC's community education specialist. “Working with Jason and UC ANR has inspired me to continue to reach for unique partnerships in this field and elsewhere,” Bueche said.
Dylan Shelden, 19, another past participant, said that the program revealed how important it is for him to choose a career that makes him feel happy and independent. “You are responsible for yourself,” he said. “So, don't quit on the first try.”
Shelden currently works at Party City as a store organizer. Even though he prefers working indoors, Shelden described working with plants and being outdoors as refreshing. “Working in agriculture makes me feel good,” he said.
When asked what advice he would give incoming students, Shelden said: “Be kind, mindful, and thoughtful to others.”
“Things are constantly changing at the farm and follow seasonal patterns. Students get to work with different types of produce depending on the season. So many of my students only thought about jobs in retail or food services industries,” said Seyler. “This has opened their eyes to other possibilities.”
The soft skills learned while working at South Coast REC has helped other students secure paid competitive employment during or following the program. It has also inspired program staff like Bueche and Seyler to consider other unique opportunities for their students to connect the skills they have learned on the farm to other types of jobs.
To learn more about the Adult Transition Program at Esperanza Education Center, visit: https://www.svusd.org/schools/alternative-schools/esperanza/about/why-esperanza
- Author: Wendy Powers
This is a bit of a sad time of year, when I learn of all the pending departures due to retirement. Don't get me wrong, I fully recognize the excitement associated with retirement. Bill, Lorna, and others keep me well aware of the advantages. I can't help but feel a bit sad about the exodus of talent and the possibility of not interacting with those who are moving on. Fortunately, we have this ‘recall' mechanism to prevent many from really ever getting too far away.
I heard from one of our emeriti, Rose, today. She alerted us that Mike Hsu and Pam Kan-Rice offered a webinar today for Extension Foundation about using Twitter and social media for media relations. Rose said it was “absolutely wonderful and nearly two dozen Extension professionals from around the nation participated. The UCANR team is so skilled at social media use, and really models positive things for other Extension organizations.” Thanks Pam and Mike for providing that training!
This is also the time of year when I am deep into reading merit and promotion packages. I have 8 remaining to read for my first review! Following, I start going through the supervisor comments, evaluator letters, ad hoc committee reviews, and Peer Review Committee recommendations. This first read through is my favorite part – hearing about the wonderful accomplishments, the aspirations, and the impact of those who have worked so hard to make a difference. Every year, I believe I share with you how nice it would be to share the narrative highlights with you. At least our Federal partners have the opportunity when they receive our annual impact highlights that is compiled by the Program Planning and Evaluation Team.
In other good news, the Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research (FFAR) announced the recipients of the 2021 New Innovator in Food & Agriculture Research Award, an award granted to early career scientists supporting research in one of FFAR's Challenge Areas. Congratulations to Ellen Bruno, one of the recipients: Meeting future food needs requires effectively managing scarce groundwater. California is addressing this problem through the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, which ensures better groundwater use and management. Bruno's research is using the act as a case study to identify policies that enhance water sustainability and minimize regulation costs. No doubt important impacts will result!
Congratulations to Linda Forbes and team! They just received word that the team won three Association for Communication Excellence awards:
- Bronze award in organic social media campaign (CA wildfire campaign)
- Gold award in electronic media and audio for targeted audiences (vaccine campaign to Latino and indigenous communities)
- Outstanding Professional Skill award in electronic media and audio for targeted audiences (vaccine campaign to Latino and indigenous communities)
Next week I spend a couple of days at South Coast REC and at Desert REC. It truly is wonderful to get out of the garage.