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UCCE academics enliven Western Region International Plant Propagators’ Society meeting

Bruno Pitton takes a photo of the Spanish lavender growing at Altman Plants Nursery in Fallbrook. All photos by Saoimanu Sope.

In late January, the University of California Nursery and Floriculture Alliance co-hosted the 62nd Western Region International Plant Propagators' Society (WR-IPPS) Annual Meeting in Temecula.

UCNFA, associated with the Nursery and Floriculture Workgroup of UC Agriculture and Natural Resources, is a statewide partnership of researchers and educators, growers, floriculture associations and allied industries. It serves the educational needs of California's agricultural industries that produce greenhouse crops and nursery products including vegetable seedlings, ornamentals, fruiting trees, vines and shrubs.

“Up until 2007 and before almonds and grapes became a big deal, nursery and floricultural products were the top crop commodity in the state,” said Loren Oki, specialist emeritus of Cooperative Extension at UC Davis and co-director of UCNFA. “Nurseries and floriculture are a $3.6 billion industry in California, but not many people know about it.”

Since its inception in 1951, IPPS has sought and shared plant production knowledge globally with an emphasis on nursery production. Oki has been a member of IPPS since the 1980s. His father, George, who owned and operated Oki Nursery, helped establish the Western Region in the 1960s, paving a path for Oki who served as president of WR-IPPS in the 1990s.

Although this year was the first that UCNFA co-hosted, Oki is confident that it won't be the last. “We're already planning a conference for the fall in conjunction with WR-IPPS. Since the target audience of UCNFA are growers, it just makes sense to partner with growers for these events,” Oki said.

Attendees toured First Step Greenhouses in Temecula and learned about their operation.

This year's meeting involved 145 attendees, 29 exhibitors and 23 speakers and occurred over four days – two of which were dedicated to grower tours and the other two offering educational presentations in both English and Spanish, another first for WR-IPPS.

Gerry Spinelli, UC Cooperative Extension production horticulture advisor for San Diego County and member of UCNFA's administrative committee, was instrumental in coordinating the event. When he wasn't moderating sessions or facilitating Q&A, Spinelli was sharing his expertise on measuring pressure, distribution uniformity and improving irrigation management in English and Spanish.

“It's rewarding to see so much statewide interest in nurseries and floriculture,” said Spinelli.  “WR-IPPS is a great opportunity to showcase the extraordinary San Diego nursery and greenhouse industry on an international stage, and a perfect occasion for clientele to meet our new UC Cooperative Extension advisors.”

Bruno Pitton, who became the UCCE environmental horticulture advisor for Placer and Nevada counties in November, appreciated the increase in science-based talks compared to previous years.

L to R: Gerry Spinelli, Don Merhaut, Johanna Del Castillo Munera, Bruno Pitton, Grant Johnson and Emma Volk.

“Before, there were more talks on production practices from grower to grower. This year, I noticed that there's more science extension talks – which is a good thing,” said Pitton, who also gave a presentation on nitrogen management in nursery production and irrigation training.

Recent UC ANR hires like Emma Volk, production horticulture advisor for Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, had the opportunity to learn not only from industry leaders nationwide, but fellow ANR colleagues. For example, she heard Don Merhaut, UCCE specialist for nursery and floriculture crops based at UC Riverside, present on controlled release fertilizer dynamics in containers during a one-year growing cycle for Southern California.

UCCE advisors and specialists had a significant presence at this year's meeting, leaving a positive impression on attendees, including Tony Shireman, WR-IPPS president, who said that partnering with UC ANR experts helps IPPS achieve its mission to seek and share plant knowledge globally.

“We're fortunate to have connections to people like those joining us from Cooperative Extension. It allows us to expand our knowledge and extend our reach,” Shireman said. 

Loren Oki and Karen Ross after the keynote address.

Johanna Del Castillo Munera and Kosana Suvocarev, two professors of Cooperative Extension at UC Davis, also attended and joined Spinelli for both English and Spanish sessions. Del Castillo Munera presented on disease challenges and management for nurseries, and Suvocarev talked about crop water requirements for irrigation scheduling in nurseries and greenhouses.

“There's a good sense of community here and there's a lot of passion from the speakers,” said Grant Johnson, UCCE urban agriculture technology advisor for UCCE Los Angeles and Orange counties, adding that he valued the opportunity to learn from growers and scientists simultaneously.

After attendees spent an entire day touring local nursery and floriculture operations and learning from growers in North San Diego County and Riverside County, they concluded the day with a dinner and keynote address from Karen Ross, California Department of Food and Agriculture secretary.

On the last day, Chris Shogren, UCCE environmental horticulture advisor for Los Angeles County and member of UCNFA's administrative committee, and Eric Middleton, UCCE integrated pest management advisor for San Diego, Los Angeles and Orange counties, talked about pest and pathogen management. The advisors offered fascinating visuals including photos comparing the size of agave mites to a penny, and led a stimulating Q&A session.

To learn more about the UC Nursery and Floriculture Alliance, visit

L to R: (top) Chris Shogren, Don Merhaut, Loren Oki, Bruno Pitton, Emma Volk, (bottom) Eric Middleton, Grant Johnson and Gerry Spinelli.



Posted on Tuesday, February 27, 2024 at 9:48 AM
Focus Area Tags: Agriculture, Environment, Natural Resources, Pest Management

In memoriam: Deborah Golino

Deborah Golino
Golino remembered for guiding evolution of Foundation Plant Services and advocating for the use of clean plants

Deborah Golino, former director of Foundation Plant Services in the UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, passed away on Dec. 23, 2023.

Golino worked as director of FPS and as a UC Cooperative Extension specialist from 1994 until her retirement in 2021. She was a kind and supportive administrator, who will be deeply missed by all those who knew her. She was a prominent advocate for clean plant use and the advancement of technologies used for clean plant production.

In 1987, Golino received her PhD at UC Riverside and moved to Davis to work as a USDA-ARS research plant pathologist specializing in grapevine virology. She was appointed to the Foundation Plant Materials Service (later renamed Foundation Plant Services) Grapevine Technical Advisory Committee. When FPMS was reorganized in 1994, Golino was selected as the founding director of FPS. The director role included administration of FPS, as well as a partial Cooperative Extension specialist assignment in the UC Davis Department of Plant Pathology.

One of her first actions at FPS was to revive the grape importation program, opening the FPS National Grape Importation and Clean Stock Facility to provide import and quarantine services. Through operation of the facility, FPS became an important source for international grape material. More than 2,300 new grape selections were introduced at FPS from 1995 through 2021, each an endorsement of the use of clean plants. Golino strove for the FPS grape program to produce the highest quality virus-tested and true-to-variety plant materials using state of the art technology.

Following the high-quality template of grapes, FPS's other programs grew considerably during Golino's tenure: a sweetpotato clean stock program was added and rose, strawberry and fruit tree collections expanded. The programs were further strengthened by the establishment of the National Clean Plant Network in 2008. Golino was instrumental in NCPN's formation and served as chair of the NCPN Grapes Committee from its inception until her retirement in 2021.

At the state level, she worked closely with regulators of the California Department of Food and Agriculture's Regulation & Certification programs for grapevines, fruit trees and strawberries. Golino was also a member of the steering committee of the International Council for the Study of Virus and Virus-like Diseases of the Grapevine, sharing a vision of clean grape material with global collaborators.

From 1994 to 2010, FPS's programs more than tripled under Golino's management. She was a great fundraiser and made sure that FPS had the financial resources to ensure its long-term stability. Committed to her team and the goals of the program, she also sought to expand the facilities so FPS could continue to deliver the highest quality clean-plant materials. By working closely with industry members, clear supporters of the FPS mission, Golino was able to secure $3.5 million in funding for a new office building. The resulting building was completed in 2015.

When Golino assumed the role of FPS director in 1994, she was tasked with reviving and reestablishing its programs. She did just that, and in her 27-year term grew FPS to a shining example of a clean plant center.

It is an honor to have worked with Deborah, and her impact cannot be overstated. Deborah was one of the top grape research and extension administrators in the country. She will be remembered as a firm believer in the importance of clean and certified planting stock, and for working closely with industry to ensure that their concerns were heard and needs were met. Her kindness and compassion positively impacted those who worked with her, and I am sure they will remember her with fondness. We are deeply saddened by her loss, and our condolences are with her family, friends and colleagues.  

Foundation Plant Services and the UC Davis Department of Plant Pathology are working together to plan a celebration of Golino's life, to be held in spring 2024

Posted on Monday, January 22, 2024 at 1:45 PM
  • Author: Maher Al Rwahnih, Foundation Plant Services director

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