- Author: Mike Hsu
Serving Amador, Calaveras, El Dorado and Tuolumne counties, UC Cooperative Extension advisor Lynn Wunderlich was formally assigned to focus on viticulture and integrated pest management in the region. But her innate curiosity – as well as her dedication to meeting the wide-ranging needs of local communities – led her to develop expertise in a remarkable array of topics.
“That was both the challenge and the opportunity of being a foothill farm advisor – lots of small farms, lots of diverse agriculture, so I got to do some cool things,” said Wunderlich, who is set to retire on July 1. “To serve the needs of the clientele up here was very gratifying and interesting.”
Wunderlich earned her bachelor's degree in bacteriology and plant pathology from University of Wisconsin-Madison and her master's in plant protection and pest management from UC Davis. After several years as a UCCE staff research associate in Ventura and Monterey counties, Wunderlich began as a UCCE farm advisor in 2000 for El Dorado and Amador counties.
Although initially tasked with supporting tree fruit and specialty crop growers in topics such as researching alternative methods for managing codling moths, Wunderlich soon found herself studying organizational dynamics and bylaws to help the Placerville Fruit Growers Association cooperative transition to become a Limited Liability Company.
“It was really different than anything I'd been trained in before,” Wunderlich said.
That early experience set the tone for the rest of her career, as she continued to seek out – and share – knowledge across the expansive breadth of her work. In 2007, Wunderlich took on the viticulture role in Amador and El Dorado counties, where grape growers sought counsel on controlling a newly discovered pest.
“Every farm advisor has some quintessential moments of their career, and Gill's mealybug was one of mine,” Wunderlich recalled. “It's really unique; it's not found in very many places in California and it had never been described as a pest on wine grapes.”
In addition to developing effective management tactics for Gill's mealybug, Wunderlich worked with growers and the late Doug Gubler, UCCE specialist emeritus, to set up seven powdery mildew stations and rain gauges across the foothills. The stations filled a great need in the region by providing accessible, applicable pest and disease forecasting and precipitation data.
Crediting her colleagues' tutelage, Wunderlich also deepened her understanding of the diverse soils in the foothills and the latest research on evapotranspiration on wine grapes – all in the name of delivering the most current and useful information to growers.
When Christmas tree growers in the foothills found their white firs decimated by a phytophthora pathogen, Wunderlich helped them switch to Nordmann and Turkish firs, which were naturally resistant. She became one of only a few experts in the UC system on these conifers, and, in one of her last accomplishments as farm advisor, organized the International Christmas Tree Research and Extension Conference in California earlier this month.
Another late-career highlight for Wunderlich was developing training materials on the proper calibration and use of air blast sprayers. Alongside Franz Niederholzer, UCCE farm advisor for Sutter, Yuba and Colusa counties, and UC IPM colleagues Lisa Blecker, Petr Kosina and Cheryl Reynolds, Wunderlich developed, delivered and evaluated a curriculum that included both in-person classes and online components. Their efforts were recognized with an IPM Achievement Award from the California Department of Pesticide Regulation, and the online course continues to be used today.
“It's nice to be able to leave something like that behind; its principles are still valid, no matter what type of sprayer you're using,” said Wunderlich, citing it as one of her enduring legacies.
In retirement, Wunderlich plans to continue her lifelong learning and also spend more time with friends and family – especially on camping trips on the east side of the Sierra.
And, as for growers such as Chuck Mansfield, they hope Wunderlich will stay connected.
“While we are all very happy for Lynn, her presence will be sorely missed,” Mansfield said. “We hope Lynn remains a regular fixture and friend in our community.”