A Message From the Dean - January 2019

New greenhouses are on their way this year to join this one on Extension Center Drive.
New greenhouses are on their way this year to join this one on Extension Center Drive.

How we are investing in the future

2019 is off to a good start and has already provided us with much needed rain and snow in the mountains. I am looking forward to a productive year filled with notable accomplishments for our faculty, staff and students. We are resolute in our commitment to make sure everyone in our college has the tools, resources and facilities to help them succeed. There are many behind-the-scenes activities that keep us moving in the right direction, and I thought it would be good to reflect on these as we begin the year. 

Last October we completed desperately needed irrigation and piping upgrades to 300 acres of research fields west of Highway 113. These improvements include five miles of new underground PVC piping, a pumping and filtering station and state-of-the-art irrigation control technology. Many CA&ES departments currently use this area, including plant sciences; biological and agricultural engineering; and land, air and water resources. The upgrades will greatly improve crop production, plant breeding and irrigation research and assist in optimizing our campus Berryessa water allocation. We are working with colleagues in campus facilities to expand this effort to include other research fields and departments. Our goal is to ensure that the nation’s number one agricultural college has the thoroughly modern irrigation systems necessary for our scientists and students to make advances in their studies of crops, cultivars and production practices.

Another project that got off the ground last fall is the new goat creamery just south of campus near the Dairy Goat Teaching and Research Facility. The 2,420 square-foot Noel-Nordfelt Animal Science Goat Dairy and Creamery will provide a much-needed facility for students, staff, faculty and industry stakeholders to produce, market and sell Grade A goat cheese while giving hands-on learning opportunities for animal science, food science and animal science and management majors. We anticipate it will be completed this coming summer.

The new year also will bring next-level greenhouses to conduct innovative research and teaching on many important crops and pests. The new greenhouses will facilitate studies in genomics, plant physiology, pest control and water utilization. The college currently has 151 greenhouses of various ages and levels, but they’re all at maximum capacity. Bringing six new level-four greenhouses on line will be a real benefit for researchers and students alike. The greenhouse expansion project is located near the existing greenhouse complex on Extension Center Drive. Six of these updated greenhouses will be completed later in 2019, and we have plans to build several more in the coming years. 

Work is underway on a significant expansion of the Controlled Environment Facility, located near the police and fire station. Our faculty have a growing need for high-quality, controlled-environment space in which to conduct crucial research that addresses current and future challenges for sustainable production. The expanded facility will significantly increase space for new growth chambers. This project is being undertaken in conjunction with the College of Biological Sciences and the Office of the Provost. The project is anticipated to be completed by August.

We have other projects in the works, as well. Briggs Hall, which dates back to the early 1970s, needs some electrical work and a new roof. It’s going be a big job replacing 50,000 square feet of roof. Completion is expected by November 2020.

We’re also in the early planning stages for a 3,200 square-foot screen house, which is a greenhouse covered with screen material, at Foundation Plant Services on Hopkins Road. This new facility will allow researchers to grow plants without exposure to pests such as thrips and other insects.

Investments such as these are an investment in the future. We are grateful for the engagement of our donors and industry partners, whose support allows us to augment our college and campus efforts and increase our impact. These upgrades and projects are vital for cutting-edge faculty research, and they also give our students the experiential learning opportunities that prepare them to enter the workforce as leaders in industry, government and academia. Our long-term goal is to ensure that the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences continues to thrive, with the resources we need to tackle the many challenges facing society, both in California and throughout the world.