Half the funds for the endowed chairs was provided by UC President Janet Napolitano; the other half was donated by the California Pistachio Research Board. One is the UC Cooperative Extension Presidential Chair for Tree Nut Genetics; the other is the UC Cooperative Extension Presidential Chair for Tree Nut Soil Science and Plant Water Relations.
“The establishment of endowed chairs represents an historic occasion for UC ANR and is something we've never before enjoyed during the 100-years UC ANR Cooperative Extension has served California,” Humiston said. “The pistachio industry's contribution demonstrates its high level of confidence in our research and outreach program, and President Napolitano's match shows her recognition of the work we do not only on campuses but throughout UC ANR.”
UCCE is the applied research and outreach arm of the University of California that serves the agricultural industry, coordinates the 4-H program, supports natural resources stewardship, and provides nutrition education programs throughout the state.
The California Pistachio Research Board has a long history of funding ANR research. Since its establishment in 2007, the program's donations have totaled more than $3 million. Relative to other major California commodities, pistachio production is new. The first commercial crop was produced in 1976. In 2014, farmers harvested 519 million pounds of pistachios, valued at $1.8 billion.
Tom Coleman, a Fresno County pistachio farmer and chair of the Pistachio Research Board, said he enjoys informally comparing notes with other growers, but that doesn't substitute for scientific research.
“I find it absolutely invaluable to have good scientific research to apply on our farms,” Coleman said. “With impending changes in our water situation and a changing climate, research is really our only option.”
In fact, the industry has already felt the impact of climate change on yield. The pistachio growers expect the 2015 yield to be nearly 50 percent lower than the previous year, in large part due to a lack of sufficient winter chilling and water supply cuts, said Bob Klein, manager of the California Pistachio Research Board.
“We know that our future is going to look better with more research as we face the challenges of a warming climate and less water,” Klein said.
Napolitano created the Presidential Match for Endowed Chairs last year for UC campuses and UC ANR to use as an incentive to encourage donors to establish endowed chairs to fund research. Endowed chairs help attract and retain top-flight academics. Once established, endowed chairs provide a dedicated source of funds, in perpetuity, for the chair holder's scholarly activities.
“Donors who endow chairs are helping support the agricultural industry today, and contributing to future growth, innovation and success,” Humiston said. “We hope to establish more endowed chairs in UC Cooperative Extension with the help of our partners.”