Eric Natwick, UCCE Imperial County advisor, hangs up his insect net after 36 years
Since then, he has been a critical resource for pest management needs in field crops, alfalfa and vegetables. Besides alfalfa, his main focus has been on cotton, cole crops, lettuce, melons, onions and bell peppers. His most recent work has been working to spot and send out important information to growers and pest control advisers (PCAs) on the potentially devastating sugarcane aphid. Some of his other important projects include whitefly host plant resistance in cotton, insecticidal control of cotton pests and whitefly control in melons, and the tomato yellow leaf curly virus, a disease that threatens both commercial tomato production fields as well as home gardens.
Back in the 1990s, Natwick's work and research on the pink bollworm, which was invading the region's cotton fields, was instrumental in changing growers' practices by restricting cotton planting and terminating dates. The pink bollworm is no longer as severe a pest as it once was.
He has also put in an enormous amount of work into combatting the sweetpotato whitefly, for which he has been recognized locally, statewide and nationally. He worked on pesticide evaluations for short-term control of the pest and tested alfalfa varieties for whitefly resistance. Natwick also helped develop an alfalfa irrigation management strategy to reduce whitefly numbers.
Former UCCE Imperial County director Khaled Bali said, “Eric has always been a hard worker and is one of the top one percent of advisors in having achieved the highest step (Step 9) in the UC system six years ago.”
Another former colleague, Michael Rethwisch of the University of Nebraska, Lincoln said, “It takes a special person to be a successful low-desert cooperative extension entomology advisor. It takes grit, perseverance, self-motivation, leadership and an expert eye for new insect pests and resulting challenges when diseases are involved. Eric, you not only survived, but thrived!”
UCCE Imperial County director Oli Bachie said, “Because of his great knowledge, Eric has been our ‘go-to' person for our new advisors when they had questions or needed ideas. I can say that Eric has been a great artist of research in the field of entomology whose position will not easily be filled.”
In addition to his research, Natwick served two terms on the Holtville City Council, was mayor in 1988-89 and was director of UCCE Imperial County for five years. He has also done extensive mission work internationally.
Natwick was recently honored at a retirement party. About 70 of his colleagues, friends and employees turned out to say thanks for his years of service. He and his wife, Lisa, recently moved to Cedar City, Utah, where they plan to enjoy their “golden years”.
This article was published in the Imperial Valley Press on July 6, 2017.