Posts Tagged: Jeff Dahlberg
UC Cooperative Extension specialist Jeff Dahlberg, also the director of the UC Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center (KARE) in Parlier, invoked his 35 years of sorghum expertise to increasing interest in growing the crop in California and to better understanding plants' ability to tolerate drought. Dahlberg retires Jan. 8.
As a Peace Corps volunteer in Niger in the early 1980s, Dahlberg was intrigued by sorghum, a staple food being cultivated by the country's vast population of subsistence farmers.
“I was impressed with the fact that sorghum was so drought tolerant,” Dahlberg said. “Nigerien farmers relied solely on rain for their sorghum and millet crops.”
Upon returning to the U.S., he earned a master's degree at the University of Arizona and a Ph.D. at Texas A&M, where his research focused on sorghum. He worked with the USDA Agricultural Research Service in Puerto Rico for 7 years and then spent the next 10 years as research director with the National Sorghum Producers in Lubbock, Texas.
When Dahlberg took the helm of the 330-acre UC agricultural research center in 2010, he and colleagues at the UC West Side Research and Extension Center and at UC Davis began conducting sorghum forage variety trials. Sorghum wasn't new to California. In the past, it had mainly been used for animal feed. But Dahlberg believed the crop's adaptability – excellent for forage, biofuels and gluten-free human food – offered the grain a rosy future in the Golden State.
"With our research, we have provided California farmers who are thinking about growing sorghum access to locally generated, research-based information to help them make the decision," Dahlberg said.
In 2015, Dahlberg and UC Berkeley specialist Peggy Lemaux launched a sweeping drought research project at KARE. The five-year study, funded with a $12.3 million grant from the Department of Energy, researched the genetics of drought tolerance in sorghum and how soil microbial communities interacted with sorghum roots to battle drought stress.
A journal article published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2018 presented the first detailed look at the role of drought in restructuring the root microbiome. The plant switches some genes on and some genes off when it detects water scarcity and access to water.
“That has implications for feeding the world, particularly considering the changing climate and weather patterns,” Dahlberg said.
In recent years, Dahlberg helped reestablish tea research at Kearney, initiated nearly 60 years ago in a study funded by Thomas J. Lipton, Inc. At the time, Lipton was seeking to grow tea for the instant tea market. When the Kearney tea research program was scrapped in 1981, a researcher had a handful of the best tea clones planted in the landscape around buildings at Kearney.
Those shrubs became the basis for a new tea research trial planted at Kearney in 2017 with UC Davis professor Jackie Gervay Hague to determine whether drought stress impacts the production of phenolics and tannins in the tea.
“We know we can grow good tea here and we can grow high tonnage,” Dahlberg said. “We want to determine if we can do that on a consistent basis and whether we can improve tea quality through irrigation management.”
In retirement, Dahlberg plans to relocate to Lake Ann, Mich., to be close to family. UC Cooperative Extension irrigation specialist Khaled Bali will serve as interim director of the UC Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center.
People from across California and around the world got to taste new crops, see research demonstrations and learn about several UC ANR activities at the World Ag Expo Feb. 12-14. Despite the cold rainy weather, the world's largest agricultural exposition attracted 102,878 people representing 48 states, the District of Columbia and 65 countries to Tulare.
At an outdoor tent, Beth Grafton-Cardwell, UC Cooperative Extension specialist, Greg Douhan, UCCE citrus advisor, and other researchers, handed visitors fresh Tango citrus grown at the Lindcove Research and Extension Center and told them about their citrus variety research.
Ruth Dahlquist-Willard, UCCE small farms advisor, and Michael Yang, small farms and specialty crops agricultural assistant, encouraged visitors to taste moringa tea. Surendra Dara, UCCE entomology and biologicals advisor, described how Bagrada bugs and other pests under the microscopes can be controlled by microbes. Roger Baldwin, UCCE wildlife specialist, and Niamh Quinn, UCCE urban wildlife conflict advisor, took turns showing taxidermy vertebrate pests and describing their management research.
Jeff Mitchell, UCCE specialist, and Jeff Dahlberg, Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center director, gave demonstrations to show the superior health of soils managed with conservation techniques.
Demonstrating the use of high-tech in agriculture, Sean Hogan, Informatics and Geographic Information System academic coordinator, Andy Lyons, IGIS program coordinator, and Jacob Flanagan, IGIS programmer, showed how they use drones and cameras in agricultural research.
Inside Pavilion A, Teresa Rios-Spicer, UCCE nutrition program manager, andYeseniaMedrano, UCCE community education specialist, both from Tulare County, challenged visitors to test their nutrition knowledge by playing Jeopardy! Visitors could spin the UC Master Gardeners prize wheel to answer gardening questions and win seeds. 4-H members invited youth to peer into virtual reality goggles to give them an idea about the fun activities that can be part of joining 4-H.
Frank Mitloehner, UC Cooperative Extension specialist, gave a seminar explaining confusion in the media about the amount of greenhouse gas livestock emit in California and globally. He reviewed the innovations in livestock production that are leading the way to a "greener future" for California and U.S. agriculture.
Beth Grafton-Cardwell, UC Cooperative Extension citrus entomology specialist, and Victoria Hornbaker of the California Department of Food and Agriculture, gave an update on regulatory protocols relating to Asian citrus psyllid and HLB quarantines and the proper transportation of bulk citrus to prevent the spread of the pest and disease.
The California and Dutch AgFoodTech innovation partners reunited in Tulare for a networking luncheon to share their action plan with invited guests and scope the projects.
UC ANR vice provost Mark Lagrimini visited the UC Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center, the Lindcove REC and the West Side REC in October as he continues to become familiarized with the diversity of resources in the Division.
After a morning meeting with Kearney director Jeff Dahlberg on Oct. 15, Lagrimini traveled 45 miles southeast to the Lindcove REC. At Lindcove, director Beth Grafton-Cardwell led Lagrimini on a tour of the facility's greenhouse, laboratories, office facilities, the screenhouse, conference facility and research packing line.
The next day, Lagrimini was 70 miles due west to visit the West Side REC, where director Bob Hutmacher showed him research projects at the center in pistachios, cotton and other row crops.
“At this point, we are accepting applications to attend because we're exceeding capacity of the facility,” said Sherry Cooper, director of Program Support Unit. “New registrations will not be confirmed until you receive an email or phone call confirming your registration, so please wait for confirmation before making travel plans.”
Among those registered are 145 UC Cooperative Extension advisors, 71 UCCE specialists, 26 academic coordinators and administrators, 20 Agricultural Experiment Station faculty members and nearly 350 administrative and programmatic staff.
The President's Advisory Commission will meet on Monday afternoon and PAC members have been invited to stay to hear California Department of Food and Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross speak Monday evening, ANR leaders discuss “Charting a Sustainable Future for ANR,” and President Janet Napolitano speak on Tuesday.
The agriculture and natural resources industry leaders who serve on PAC will also join ANR members Tuesday morning to listen to keynote speaker Antwi Akom, UCSF and SFSU professor and founding director of Social Innovation and Urban Opportunity Lab (SOUL) and co-founder and CEO of Streetwyze. His talk is titled “Race, Space, Place and Waste: How Innovation, Education, and Inspiration Can Fearlessly Catalyze California Towards Becoming the World's Leader in Agriculture and Natural Resources Management.”
If you plan to tweet about the ANR Statewide Conference, the hashtag is #UCANRconf2018.
Given limited personnel and a short time since startup, IGIS has made significant contributions throughout ANR. There is a great need for the program within and beyond ANR, and IGIS personnel have shown impressive results in reaching out to the wider ANR community and external partners.
Here is a summary of the direction and next steps I provided to the IGIS Program Director:
- IGIS should focus on expanding capacity and reach with drones and prioritize investing in new technology.
- IGIS will work with the REC Directors to develop a call process to identify science leads who are interested in taking over full ownership of one or more of the flux towers.
- IGIS should discontinue its involvement with cataloguing dark data, but work with ANR Communication Services and Information Technology office (CSIT) to inform ANR academics that digitized documents are available in the ANR repository.
- Associate Vice President Powers and I will meet with Program Director Kelly to further discuss the proposal to re-characterize IGIS from a statewide program to a statewide academic service.
- IGIS will develop a business plan to continue to scale up services that are in demand by UC ANR academics and offer services in a way that decreases reliance on central funds.
- IGIS should update its website to clearly articulate to whom resources and services are available. When IGIS is not able to provide a service, to the degree possible, it should act as a clearing house and refer clients to other providers.
- IGIS should incorporate evaluation methods that focus on the effectiveness of workshops and services and the extent of IGIS' reach.
I look forward to working with IGIS as it pursues these and other opportunities that may arise.