Partnering to protect grapevines
UC Berkeley plant pathologist Rodrigo Almeida works with UC Cooperative Extension Advisor Monica Cooper and Matt Daugherty, UC Riverside Cooperative Extension Specialist, on research and extension concerning Pierce’s disease of grapevine, grapevine leafroll disease, pest and disease management and other issues facing the grape industry.
“We all recognize each other’s strengths,” said Almeida. “We’re very much aware of our different areas of expertise and where we need each other. There’s also a lot of trust in our interactions,” he added. “Whatever Monica tells me about what’s going on in the field, I may not like it, but I will go with that.” Along with complementary strengths, he highly values the synergy of the partnership.
Cooper noted their work with leafroll in Napa County as an example of the effectiveness of their collaboration. “When I started in 2009, leafroll was a huge concern for growers. Now the Napa industry feels confident to make decisions regarding leafroll disease management. They know why they’re implementing certain practices and they know that they work. The reason they know what to do is because of the collaborative work done by UC scientists.”
For Daugherty, their work in Pierce’s disease has been another major benefit of working together. “Our work is broadly recognized in and outside of California, even internationally. Our academic community appreciates what we are trying to do.”
They have worked together for so long that they are able to tackle issues outside their areas of expertise. “We have a model, we know an approach to take, and we can apply it to other problems that a year ago we really knew nothing about,” Cooper said.
Almeida values the educational experiences they provide. “Graduate students and post-doctoral researchers have more interest in doing work that is applicable in the real world today,” he commented.
“We have a lot of discussion about how to make projects academically exciting for students and researchers, and a lot of back and forth in experimental design to make the work relevant to farmers.”
Cooper appreciates that she is valued as a true partner in the work with Almeida and Daugherty, as opposed to the experience of academics wanting her to provide access to growers without being interested in collaborating. “It’s an issue of trust--not only within the academic team, but that I built with participating farmers. They are confident that when I ask for their collaboration, it’s because their contribution is important to the success of the project. Because we were able to perform field infections of pathogens, we changed how farmers viewed leafroll disease progression, which was a key knowledge gap” she said. “And our large-scale field studies have answered other similarly challenging questions.”
These collaborators met at UC Berkeley, but they understand the importance of networking within the system at large. “There’s an element of getting your name out there and reaching out to people to establish these relationships. It may take a few tries before you hit pay dirt in terms of a good, functional collaborative relationship,” said Daugherty.
Almeida emphasized that outreach is essential to success. “A lot of the most impactful work that has my name on it has come from synergistic interactions with Matt and Monica. Being able to go beyond just an academic publication and translate the research to management practices that help solve problems is very rewarding.”
Pierce's Disease study
Watch a short video about the collaboration