A Message from the Dean - March 2018

The college hopes to break ground this year a greenhouse expansion project.
The college hopes to break ground this year a greenhouse expansion project.

Keeping our house in order

The College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CA&ES) is known the world over for the excellence of our research, teaching and extension programs, and there are many reasons for this. CA&ES faculty are cutting-edge researchers and inspirational instructors. We recruit the best students from an ever-growing pool of bright young minds. And we have in place talented staff to support our programs.

Yet, there is another important part of our success that doesn’t often get the attention it deserves: infrastructure. Over the years, we have done our best to maintain, improve and add to our facilities to meet the needs of a growing campus and to provide our faculty, students and staff with the tools they need. Maintaining excellence in the college requires state-of-the-art facilities to fulfill our land-grant mission.

One of the most impressive milestones in this area is the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science, whose LEED Platinum Facilities house the Teaching and Research Winery, the Jess S. Jackson Sustainable Winery Building, the August A. Busch III Brewing and Food Science Laboratory, the California Processing Tomato Industry Pilot Plant, and the Milk Processing Lab, as well as teaching and research facilities for  the Department of Viticulture and Enology and the Department of Food Science and Technology. This is the cluster of highly visible orange-colored buildings just north of Interstate 80.

I am happy to report we have some new projects getting off the ground. Design work is nearing completion on a goat dairy adjacent to the goat barn south of campus. We anticipate construction to begin later this year. The goat dairy is being funded by CA&ES, the Department of Animal Science and, importantly, from the Noel-Nordfelt Endowment.

We also hope to break ground this year on phase one of a greenhouse expansion project, adjacent to the existing greenhouse complex on Extension Center Drive. This project will include two 10,000 square-foot greenhouses funded by Mars, Inc. and will be used for research on cacao, mint, rice and peanuts. Also as part of this project, the college plans to build an additional five to nine 1,000 square-foot greenhouses in the same area. Research in these greenhouses will include, but is not limited to, peppers, rice, tomatoes, grapes, spinach, sunflowers, alfalfa, citrus, apples, beans and redwood trees, as well as studies in genomics, plant breeding, plant physiology, pest control and water utilization.

In conjunction with our colleagues in College of Biological Sciences and the UC Davis provost, the Dean’s Office is also proud to support the expansion of the Controlled Environment Facility, which is  due to be completed in April 2019. As we are seeing in our expansion of high-tech greenhouses, our faculty researchers have an increased need for high-quality, controlled-environment space.

And research is also expanding outdoors with our investment in a 300-acre subsurface irrigation project supporting researchers from at least three departments. But what would our fields be without state-of-the art equipment? We have to particularly thank our donors who help make that happen—Morning Star, for example, for their loan of a fleet of tractors and the Bixby Endowment for the smart new tractor used by our Student Farm.

Some of the other capital improvements in the works include an insectary for Briggs Hall, an updated lab in Veihmeyer Hall for the Department of Land, Air and Water Resources and an aquaponics lab at the Center for Aquatic Biology and Aquaculture. In collaboration with the College of Engineering, we also are renovating two rooms in Bainer Hall for a food engineering laboratory.

Just like any homeowner, we need to maintain our facilities. We recently completed a major cleaning project for CA&ES departments located in 22 campus buildings. This involved dusting all flat surfaces, stripping and waxing hard floors, shampooing carpets and cleaning windows inside and out. A lot of people called to let us know how happy they were with their clean surroundings.

The roof of Briggs Hall has about 200 leaks in it: a huge reroofing job is out to bid now. The building was completed in 1975, so it and a number of other aging buildings that we use are in need of deferred maintenance repairs. The campus building maintenance fund will pay for the roof.

From mundane housekeeping chores to deferred maintenance to the construction of major new facilities, maintaining and growing the infrastructure of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences is a huge undertaking. Some costs are covered by the campus, while others come out of our budget. And, of course, we wouldn’t be able to build major new facilities without the support of our community of donors.

Investing in facilities may not seem as exciting as some of the things we discuss, but it is incredibly important to ensure that we have the best environment possible for faculty research, student learning and public engagement. It’s a fundamental part of our ability to address key challenges facing society, both in California and throughout the world.