Posts Tagged: Mae Culumber
Two UC Cooperative Extension scientists have been selected as Presidential Chairs for Tree Nuts at University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources.
The endowed chairs will give the two scientists a dedicated source of funding for five years for their ongoing agricultural research. UC Agriculture and Natural Resources established the two $1 million endowments in 2015. Half of the funds for the endowed chairs was donated by the California Pistachio Research Board and the other half was provided by UC Office of the President.
“The California Pistachio Research Board appreciated the opportunity to create these Presidential Chairs with the dedicated flexible funding it provides the scientists,” said Bob Klein, manager of the California Pistachio Research Board. “Mae and Giulia have stellar research records, have a history of research on California pistachios, and deserved both consideration and the award of these Chairs. The Board was pleased with the previous incumbents and is now looking forward to working with both Giulia and Mae in their programs on Genetics and Soil Science/Water Relations.”
Marino, who joined UC ANR in 2020, is based at UC Kearney Agricultural Research & Extension Center in Parlier. Her research integrates germplasm preservation and evaluation with tree physiology to improve orchard system profitability and abiotic-stress resilience. She explores the interactions between cultivar-rootstock traits, soil conditions and management practices.
“The program has the objectives of increasing the genetic diversity of the scion and rootstock cultivars used by the pistachio industry to improve grower returns and reduce its susceptibility to climate change,” Marino continued. “Rootstock projects include novel rootstocks more tolerant of boron in irrigation water, dwarfing rootstocks for higher early yields and more efficient use of pruning and harvest inputs. Scion objectives include novel scions for higher yield and trees less sensitive to inadequate winter chilling.”
One of her current research lines focuses on the characterization of low vigor cultivars and/or rootstocks to increase orchard planting density and reduce management costs in olive, pistachio and almond. She develops protocols for irrigation management based on genotype-specific physiological responses to water stress. Marino also studies the impact of saline sodic soil conditions on pistachio physiology and of low winter chill on cherry and pistachio tree and fruit physiology.
Marino earned a doctoral degree in fruit and forestry tree systems and master's and bachelor's degrees in agricultural science, all from the University of Palermo in Italy.
“As Presidential Chair, I will utilize these generous funds from the Pistachio Research Board to augment my collaborative outreach extension and applied research efforts to understand
and develop solutions to soil and water quality problems faced by pistachio growers and other nut crop producers across the San Joaquin Valley,” Culumber said.
She is collaborating on a CDFA Fertilizer Research and Education Program project that provides irrigation and nitrogen management training for certified crop advisors and growers to adopt practices that conserve water and protect water quality. She is also studying how to improve estimates of crop evapotranspiration and forecasting for major California crops for more precise irrigation. Culumber is leading research on the effects of whole orchard recycling on air quality and climate resilience, soil health, tree growth and productivity in second-generation orchards.
Culumber earned a Ph.D. in soil science and agroecology and a master's in plant science and molecular ecology, both from Utah State University, and a bachelor's in biology from University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.
Bruce D. Lampinen, UC Cooperative Extension integrated orchard management, walnut and almond specialist in the UC Davis Department of Plant Sciences, received the first Presidential Chair for Tree Nut Soil Science and Plant Water Relations. Craig Kallsen, UC Cooperative Extension farm advisor in Kern County who specializes in fruit and nut crops, received the Presidential Chair for Tree Nut Genetics.
One of the forces driving agricultural experiments in California's fertile San Joaquin Valley is climate change, reported Mark Schapiro on Grist.org. Although some sources still don't feel completely comfortable with the concept.
"Whether it's carbon built up in the atmosphere or just friggin' bad luck, the conditions are straining us," said John Duarte, president of Duarte Nursery.
The state's fruit and nut orchards are taking the most heat as conditions change. A fruit or nut tree planted today may be ill-suited to climatic conditions by the time it begins bearing fruit in 5 or 10 years. Between 1950 and 2009, “chill” hours trees needed annually to reboot trees' metabolic system for the spring bloom had already declined by as much as 30 percent, according to a California Department of Food and Agriculture study.
“If trees haven't had that low-chill period when they wake up in the spring, it's like being up all night and then trying to go to work.” said Mae Culumber, a nut crop advisor with UC Cooperative Extension in Fresno County.
Researchers have already observed that cherry, apricot, pear, apple, pecan and almond trees are often less productive than they used to be.
The article said farmers may turn to pistachio trees to weather a warmer and dryer California. Pistachio trees require one-third to one-half as much water as almond trees. During droughts, pistachio tree metabolism slows and when water returns, they start producing nuts again. And they can produce nuts for 80 years or longer, almost four times the life span of an average almond tree.
For field crops, scientists are looking at improving the soil and transforming growing systems to help farmers adapt to the warming climate.
“When I drive to the Central Valley, I get goosebumps; I feel the urgency,” UC Davis agronomist Amélie Gaudin said. “I see an agriculture that is basically hydroponics. It's like a person being fed/kept alive by an IV.”
“What happens when you no longer have the sugar-water?” she adds.
Gaudin is focusing on using agroecological principles to develop efficient and resilient cropping systems. Planting cover crops and reducing tillage show promise for mitigating the impact of climate change in the valley.
“Ganoderma's been around for a long time,” said Bob Johnson, a UC Davis graduate student who is leading the study for his doctoral thesis under the direction of UC Davis plant pathologist Dave Rizzo. “The tree failure we're seeing may be that we've now reached such a density of almonds here, that the problem just seems more widespread. Or it may be a new Ganoderma species in our state.”
The UC Cooperative Extension nut crops advisor in Fresno County, Mae Culumber, speculated that air quality regulations prohibiting the burning of orchard prunings may have allowed fungi to grow in slash piles in agricultural areas. However, the cause of the problem is currently unknown.
Ganoderma is a genus of fungi with about 80 known species. It is typically considered a forest pest in the U.S. and, in terms of agriculture, poses problems for the palm tree industry in the tropics. The Ganoderma now being found in California agriculture grows in the living heartwood of almond, peach and other stone fruit trees. The presence of the fungus doesn't appear to impact tree production. The only outward sign is development of rather large shelf-like mushrooms on the trunks called conks.
“Once you see conks on the tree, it is essentially dying from the inside out,” Johnson said. “The conks release trillions of spores which wind and water move through the orchard and to neighboring orchards. It's next to impossible to stop the spread.”
A farmer in Hanford recently pulled out and destroyed every tree in his 120-acre orchard because of Ganoderma infection.
“This was a 9- or 10-year-old orchard, just when the grower starts making money after investing in its establishment,” Johnson said. “Instead, his trees were just falling down right and left and he pulled out the orchard.”
Culumber called Johnson out to a Fresno County orchard where the farmer is starting to lose trees.
“In his orchard, every fifth tree has a massively sporulating conk,” Johnson said. “Growers see the conks, but they don't realize they are the infectious part of Ganoderma fungi.”
Culumber said other orchards in the area also have active conks.
“I know of at least two locations within a square mile,” she said. “One is very progressed, and I talked with another grower with early symptoms.”
Johnson is calling on farmers to contact him if their trees have fallen over due to decay in the trunk or if they have seen conks on tree trunks.
“We need to understand the distribution and incidence of Ganoderma infection in order to develop management strategies that will limit the impact of this disease,” Johnson said.
To report trees potentially infected with Ganoderma, contact Johnson at (530) 302-6301 or firstname.lastname@example.org.