ANR Employees
University of California
ANR Employees

Posts Tagged: Rachel Elkins

UCCE pear expert Rachel Elkins retires from 33-year career

Rachel Elkins examines a pear rootstock trial in 2007.

Rachel Elkins, UC Cooperative Extension pomology farm advisor for Lake and Mendocino counties, plans to retire from UC July 1 after 36 years, 33 years in her current position.

“Rachel has been invaluable to the pear industry in Mendocino and Lake counties,” said Bob McClain, California Pear Advisory Board's field and research director.

The Richmond native's first UC job was as a typist at UC Berkeley. Elkins was introduced to UC Agriculture and Natural Resources after earning a bachelor's degree in international studies at University of the Pacific and bachelor's degree in agricultural pest management at UC Berkeley, then landing an internship with UCCE integrated pest management advisor Bill Barnett in Fresno County in 1982. After earning two master's degrees, in pomology and plant protection and pest management at UC Davis, Elkins joined UC Cooperative Extension as a farm advisor intern in 1986 and was hired as a farm advisor in Lake and Mendocino counties in 1987.

Rachel Elkins
“I began with zero knowledge about pear production, my main assigned crop,” Elkins said. “From this beginning, I dived in; I am still learning every day. I am fortunate to have developed close working relationships with UC, industry and colleagues in Oregon and Washington, as well as other states and countries where pears are grown.”

She co-edited and co-authored the 2007 UC Pear Production and Handling Manual, 1999 UC Integrated Pest Management for Apple and Pear, and UC IPM Pear Pest Management Guidelines. Her most recent co-authored article on predatory phytoseiid mites, detailing work completed in 2008 was just published in California Agriculture journal.

Elkins is well-known for her research to control codling moth populations by interfering with the insect's sex life instead of using insecticides. In 1996, she worked with UC Riverside researcher Harry Shorey to introduce the pheromone ‘puffer,' fashioned after the devices in public restrooms that intermittently emit a fragrance. Releasing pheromones confuses male moths seeking mates. The method proved successful and ideal in large-scale management because as acreage increases the number of units needed per acre decreases. As a result, organophosphate insecticide use for codling moth control in many pear orchards has almost entirely ceased.

“She was instrumental in developing pheromone puffers for codling moth control,” McClain said, noting that pheromones distributed in orchards on plastic ties were hung by hand 200 per acre. “With the puffer, you needed two per acre, which saved on labor costs.”

A 2003 UC cost study showed that the pheromone puffers saved growers $9 per ton or nearly $200 per acre, based on 20 tons per acre. The cost savings came from reduced insecticide use – due to fewer outbreaks of secondary pests such as mites and pear psylla – and less need to operate spray equipment, which was becoming increasingly expensive.

The California Department of Pesticide Regulation honored the pheromone puffer project with its 2000 IPM Innovator Award. The puffer is now used on nearly all the pear acreage in Lake County. This success in pears led to its use in apple and walnut orchards.

“The most gratifying part of the puffers' success is that I put myself out of the codling moth control business and was able to devote more time to horticulture,” she said. “For example, developing modern orchard systems amenable to mechanization, finding alternatives to antibiotics for fire blight control, and joining multistate efforts toward breeding size-controlling rootstocks.”

In 2002, Elkins was named Agriculture Person of the Year by the Lake County Farm Bureau.

Although pears are her specialty, she has worked with growers on more than 25 fruit and nut crops, mainly walnuts, but also apples, kiwifruit, olives and wine grapes.

“My walnut research program has greatly increased in the past decade as higher prices and organic markets have led to new Lake County plantings,” she said. “I established four long-term rootstock trials in 2011-2012, which are providing local growers with important data to decide whether to replace seedling Paradox with newer clonal selections.” 

In 2015, she received the American Society for Horticultural Science award for Outstanding Extension Education Materials for producing the video “Budding, Grafting and Planting Walnut Trees in the Field,” a labor of love honoring renowned Lake County nurseryman Alex Suchan.

She has also covered environmental horticulture and, in 1993, started the UC Master Gardeners Program in Lake County, which is still going strong today.

In addition to her research, Elkins has served as UCCE director in Lake County, from 2002 to 2006 and again from 2018 to the present, maintaining excellent relationships with local government officials and partnering with county departments.

Elkins has been granted emeritus status by UC ANR and will continue ongoing research trials.  She will return part-time funded by the California Pear Advisory Board and Pear Pest Management Research Fund to continue assisting the statewide pear industry, including as UC ANR commodity liaison.

“I am very glad to work part-time doing pure farm advisor work, which is what I love and why I entered this profession,” Elkins said.

Posted on Monday, June 22, 2020 at 11:09 AM
Tags: June 2020 (20), Rachel Elkins (4)
Focus Area Tags: Agriculture

Names in the News

Macaulay named rangeland specialist

Luke Macaulay
Luke Macaulay joined UCCE on June 30 as a UC Cooperative Extension specialist for Rangeland Planning and Policy in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management at UC Berkeley.

Macaulay was involved in the formation of the Graduate Training in Cooperative Extension Pilot Program in 2013, and went on to become one of its inaugural participants in 2014-15. The three-year pilot program partners UC Berkeley College of Natural Resources students with UCCE specialists and advisors as mentors to carry out extension-based projects. For his project, Macaulay gathered information from private landowners and managers to determine how recreational hunting for big game and upland game may influence decisions regarding land-use and conservation practices.

As a UCCE specialist in rangeland planning and policy, his research focuses on land use change, the interaction of wildlife, livestock and people across the landscape, and policy that impacts conservation and use of rangelands.

Prior to joining UCCE, Macaulay was a postdoctoral researcher evaluating land use and ownership of California cropland. Before his graduate studies, Macaulay worked for the U.S. Department of Justice in the Antitrust Division and later as the spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney's Office in San Francisco.

Macaulay earned his Ph.D. in environmental science, policy and management and M.S. in range management from UC Berkeley. He completed a B.A. in liberal studies (a Great Books program) and Spanish from University of Notre Dame.

Macaulay is based at UC Berkeley and can be reached at and @LukeRangeWalker on Twitter.

DiCaprio named food safety specialist

Erin DiCaprio
Erin DiCaprio joined UCCE on June 30 as a community food safety specialist in the Department of Food Science and Technology at UC Davis. DiCaprio focuses on community food safety. She is involved with the UC Master Food Preserver Program and extends safe food handling, preparation and storage information to the general public.

DiCaprio earned a Ph.D. in comparative veterinary medicine and a M.S. in food science and technology from The Ohio State University and a B.S. in biology from Virginia Tech.

Prior to joining UCCE, DiCaprio was a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Veterinary Biosciences at Ohio State. Her research project was focused on studying the interaction of foodborne viruses with fresh produce and developing methods to eliminate viruses in foods. She has worked in microbiology laboratories in both industry and academia and she has experience working with a wide array of microorganisms including mycorrhizal fungi, bacteria and viruses.

She is based at UC Davis and can be reached at (530) 752-6594 and

Brim-DeForest named rice advisor

Whitney Brim-DeForest
Whitney Brim-DeForest joined ANR on June 20 as an area rice advisor in Sutter-Yuba, Placer and Sacramento counties.

Prior to joining UCCE, Brim-DeForest was a graduate student researcher in the Department of Plant Sciences at UC Davis, working at the California Rice Experiment Station in Biggs. She managed the UC Davis Weed Science field and greenhouse trials, and worked with industry and academic scientists to design field and greenhouse trials for weed management in rice.

Her past research has focused on the germination, emergence, and ecology of key weeds in the rice system and their impact on yields, and managing weeds of rice with subsistence farmers in the Kolda Region of Senegal.

Before starting graduate school, Brim-DeForest served in the U.S. Peace Corps in Kolda and Dakar, Senegal. During her service, she worked with local farmers on best management practices in rice, cowpeas, millet, sorghum and corn, as well as horticultural crops. She is fluent in Pulaar (Fulani) and French.

She completed a Ph.D. in horticulture and agronomy and an M.S. in international agricultural development at UC Davis and a B.A. in biology from Brown University.

Brim-DeForest is based in Yuba City and can be reached at (530) 822-7515 and

Diaz named 4-H STEM coordinator

Jessica Diaz
Jessica Diaz is the new 4-H Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Academic Coordinator.

As STEM academic coordinator, Diaz leads California's STEM Initiative to develop, strengthen and evaluate programmatic opportunities for California's young people in the areas of science, engineering and technology education. She will adapt and design culturally responsive best and innovative practices, programs, activities, and curriculum to reach underrepresented youth, particularly Latino youth.

Born and raised in the San Fernando Valley, Diaz earned her B.S. in biotechnology with a minor in chemistry from Cal State University, Northridge. While pursuing a Ph.D. in plant biology at UC Riverside, she co-created the Botany and Plant Sciences Department's Plant Discovery Day, where fifth- and sixth-graders were invited to learn about various aspects of plant biology. 

Diaz is based in the ANR building in Davis and can be reached at (530)750-1341 and

Fontecha joins CSIT as artist

Katt Fontecha
Kathreen Fontecha has joined Communication Services and Information Technology as a senior artist.

Prior to joining ANR, she was the senior designer at the California Lighting Technology Center, a lighting efficiency research center at UC Davis, for eight years. Her career has focused on visual communications, branding and content development. She enjoys using her design skills to communicate technical information. She has a penchant for data collection, discovering patterns in information and interest in presenting analysis visually and succinctly. 

Fontecha earned bachelor's degrees in design and English from UC Davis and is currently enrolled in Northwestern University's master's degree program for information design and strategy through distance learning.

Fontecha is based in the ANR building in Davis and can be reached at (530) 750-1216 and

Bud inserted into rootstock.
ANR shares in multistate research award

Several ANR academics shared in the national 2015 Experiment Station Section Excellence in Multistate Research Award for a project to improve the sustainability of tree fruits. The NC-140 Research Project, “Improving Sustainability in Fruit Tree Production through Changes in Rootstock,” conducted innovative research on fruit tree rootstock genetics, production, management and economics.

UCCE specialists Scott Johnson and Ted DeJong, and Rachel Elkins, UCCE advisor in Lake and Mendocino counties, represented California at annual meetings held around the country, Canada and Mexico. Kevin Day, Johnson and DeJong led statewide trials in peaches, Johnson led apple trials, and Elkins led pear trials. UCCE advisors Joe Grant and Chuck Ingels also participated as trial cooperators in cherry and pear, respectively. DeJong and Elkins co-hosted and chaired the 2015 NC-140 Regional Rootstock Project Annual Meeting, attended by about 40 national collaborators.

The NC-140 Research Project has been in existence since the 1970s, and the award recognizes the project's large body of work contributed by many researchers.

NC-140 recommendations have resulted in earlier returns, greater yields, and higher fruit quality, with a financial benefit to U.S. fruit tree producers of at least $250 million. Less easily measured benefits, such as averted losses and enhanced environmental quality, likely increase the financial value of NC-140 to well beyond $500 million over the next five years.

For example, adoption of NC-140 recommended dwarfing rootstocks will result in a 50 percent reduction in canopy volume and reduce pesticide usage by half on 200,000 acres, providing net environmental benefits and savings of $150 million in pesticide application costs. With NC-140 recommended rootstocks, it is expected that yields will increase by 20 percent per acre, fruit size will increase by 10 percent and tree losses due to disease will decline by 10 percent.

The Experiment Station Section Excellence in Multistate Research Award, given annually, provides NC-140 an additional $15,000 in additional funding. A permanent plaque will be displayed at the National Institute of Food and Agriculture in Washington, DC.

Elkins, Lucas and Pittenger win ASHS awards

ANR members won two awards from the American Society for Horticultural Science Extension Division for Outstanding Extension Education Materials.

Rachel Elkins, UCCE advisor, and Ray Lucas, ANR videographer, won the 2015 Outstanding Video Award for “Budding, Grafting and Planting Walnut Trees.”

“There have been over 100,000 views, the most of any UC ANR video, ever,” said Elkins.

The video can be viewed at It is also in the ANR catalog

As editor of the California Master Gardener Handbook, Dennis Pittenger accepted the ASHS Outstanding Book Award for the comprehensive reference on basic horticulture

The award is based on the book's completeness and accuracy of information, appropriateness for its intended audience, organization, attractiveness, originality/uniqueness and correctness of grammar. 

“This award is very meaningful and speaks to the technical merit and usability of the book because the judges are Cooperative Extension colleagues of other universities across the U.S.,” said Pittenger, UCCE area environmental horticulture advisor for Los Angeles County based at UC Riverside. “It verifies the quality of content provided by the 24 authors and co-authors and the production quality provided by ANR Communication Services.”

This is the second time the California Master Gardener Handbook has received this award from ASHS, as the 1st edition also received the award in 2002. The handbook is the leading Master Gardener training support publication nationally. 

Authors included Pamela M. Geisel; Ben Faber; James Walworth; Deborah D. Giraud; Deborah Silva; Janet Hartin; Demetrios G. Kontaxis; Richard H. Molinar; Julie P. Newman; Ralph Gay; M. Ali. Harivandi; Donald R. Hodel; Nancy Garrison; Paul M. Vossen; Delbert S. Farnham; Mark Bolda; Donald J. Merhaut; Carol Lovatt; Mikeal Roose; Georgios Vidalakis; Berthold O. Bergh; Akif Eskalen; John F. Karlik and Judith A. Alsop.

The ASHS awards were presented Aug. 4, 2015, at the ASHS annual conference in New Orleans.

[Editor's note: We're a bit tardy in reporting the 2015 ASHS awards.]


Posted on Saturday, July 30, 2016 at 9:02 AM

Names in the News

Thomas Getts
Getts named weed advisor

Thomas Getts joined ANR as a UCCE area weed ecology and cropping systems advisor in Lassen, Plumas-Sierra and Modoc counties on June 1.

Getts earned his B.A. in forestry management and an M.S. in weed science from Colorado State University in Fort Collins.

Prior to joining UCCE, Getts conducted and was involved with numerous studies focusing on weeds, invasive species, herbicides and crops while working on his master's degree at Colorado State University. Some specific studies he worked on included cut stump treatment to control Russian olive, herbicide tolerance of restoration species, invasive species mapping projects, and screening of experimental herbicides for weed control and crop safety. Working as a teacher's assistant, he was responsible for laboratory instruction, experiment design and execution, experiment maintenance and sprayer calibration.

Getts is based in Susanville and can be reached at (530) 251-2650 and

Hugh Graham
Graham joins Resource Planning and Management

Hugh Graham joined ANR as associate director of the Resource Planning and Management (RPM) team on June 15. He oversees the day-to-day operations of the RPM team, including processing of budget transactions, tracking of funding commitments, preparation of federal fund applications and reconciliation of ANR's provision accounts.

Prior to joining the ANR RPM team, Graham worked at the UC Berkeley Budget Office for three years. 

He earned a B.A. in Russian language at Bowdoin College and Master of Nonprofit Administration at the University of San Francisco with a concentration in finance and accounting. 

Graham is based at UC Office of the President and can be reached at (510) 987-0053 and

Anne Schellman
Schellman joins IPM

Anne Schellman joined ANR as an urban IPM educator on May 4.

Prior to joining ANR, Schellman was the program manager for the California Center for Urban Horticulture at UC Davis. She was instrumental in the rollout of 16 drought workshops held last year and assisted in scheduling five drought workshops for 2015. 

“Her dedication to these workshops helped CCUH respond to the urgent request by the Department of Water Resources for assistance in educating the public and landscape professionals on landscape water conservation during this severe drought,” said Dave Fujino, CCUH executive director.

Schellman is based in Davis and can be reached at (530) 750-1240 and

Lauren Snowden
Snowden named MG training coordinator

Lauren Snowden is the new UC Master Gardener Program statewide training coordinator. She will be responsible for developing trainings, resources and materials to assist coordinators and volunteers for county-based programs. Volunteer Management Institute, drought train-the-trainer workshops, volunteer management system help resources and the expert speaker database are a few examples of the many projects Snowden is managing in her new role.

Before joining the statewide staff for the UC Master Gardener Program, Snowden worked for Yuba County Health and Human Services where she was an administrative analyst for 12 years. At Yuba County HHS, she worked alongside management to develop training programs for employees and co-workers.

Snowden has been a UC Master Gardener volunteer in Sutter-Yuba counties since 2011. As a UC Master Gardener volunteer, she has co-managed her program's monthly county newsletter and trained the public and fellow volunteers on her favorite gardening topics, such as vegetable gardening, planting for spring flowers and patio gardening.

Snowden is based in Davis and can be reached at (530) 750-1203 and

Paula Allison
Allison to head 4-H Foundation

Paula Allison joined ANR as executive director of the California 4-H Foundation on June 15. Allison brings a wealth of fund development experience. 

While president of her own consulting company, she provided guidance in strategic planning for a K-12 charter school system and a private university, developing case statements, creating a development program from the ground up, creating annual campaigns, developing a corporate partnership program and planning for a $25 million campaign. She worked for several years at BizWorld, an organization that teaches youth about entrepreneurship, where she developed external partnerships with corporations, nonprofits and leaders in education. Her experience includes board development and volunteer training and management. Recently, she established a branch in her community for the National Charity League, a mother-daughter service organization that focuses on philanthropy and leadership.  Allison has a strong interest in youth development. Growing up, she was exposed to 4-H through her two older sisters.

“In joining Development Services and the California 4-H Foundation, Paula joins a terrific team of skilled and hard-working development professionals,” said Cindy Barber, who retired as Development Services director in June. “I know you will all enjoy working with Paula. She is energetic, enthusiastic and creative.” 

Allison succeeds Amy McGuire, who had been acting director of the California 4-H Foundation since October. 

Andrea Ambrose is interim director of Development Services while the position is under recruitment.

Allison is based in Davis and can be reached at (530) 750-1202 and

Juan Zavala
Zavala joins ANR

Juan Zavala has joined ANR as an administrative officer 2, responsible for coordinating program and financial activities for the California Institute for Water Resources and Program Planning and Evaluation. Zavala splits his time between the two programs.  

Zavala, whose parents are coffee growers, is fluent in English and Spanish and earned a B.S. in agricultural engineering from National Engineering University in Managua, Nicaragua.

Before joining ANR, he was an administrative assistant at UC Davis. At the nonprofit Fair Trade USA, he implemented and improved strategic relationships with stakeholders and supported task management by communicating with customers and partners in Latin America and in the U.S.

Located in Oakland, Zavala can be reached at (510) 987-0805 and

ANR wins 2 book design awards

Master Gardener Handbook 2nd Ed.
Citrus Production Manual
The ANR “Citrus Production Manual” received a gold award in the Reference Book category of the 2015 PubWest Book Design Awards, and the “California Master Gardener Handbook” received a silver award in the same category.  

Celeste Rusconi, Communication Services and Information Technology art director, created the overall design used in both books. Senior designer Robin Walton did the production of the citrus book. Senior designer Will Suckow created all of the illustrations and did all color correction for the photographs in both books. Ann Senuta was the production manager for both books.

PubWest Design Awards have been recognizing “superior design and outstanding production quality of books” for 31 years.

Posted on Wednesday, July 8, 2015 at 3:53 PM

Read more

Webmaster Email: