November 13, 2014



A Message from Dean Helene Dillard: Gratitude for our international efforts to make the world more food secure

deanIn two weeks many of us will be sharing time with family and friends for Thanksgiving, a good occasion to reflect on the abundance in our lives. In California, we have much to be grateful for, including the natural resources, climate, and talent that continue to keep this state one of the most productive agricultural regions in the world. We are indeed fortunate to have such a broad array of fresh, nutritious, and safe food readily available at reasonable prices.

In many parts of the world, that’s not the case. The fact is there is still a pressing need to address hunger and poverty for millions of people around the globe. I was reminded of this and the significant role that our college has had in addressing these issues at a recent forum to honor the 50th anniversary of the International Agricultural Development (IAD) master’s program. Launched with a $100,000 grant from the Kellogg Foundation, the program set out to produce leaders who could combine technical knowledge with policy understanding to deliver innovations benefitting agricultural development and rural life. More than 800 IAD alumni working in prominent positions in the public and private sectors have helped bring positive change throughout the world. Embracing the challenges of improving food security in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and elsewhere are part of the reason for the strength of our international reputation.

Current IAD students attending the forum have been involved in revitalizing agriculture in Haiti, developing sustainable coffee distribution systems in Colombia, establishing tropical crop production, developing sustainable crop production in China, working on supply chains and economic development, helping extension programs, and making a difference in the Peace Corps. Jim Hill, our associate dean for international programs, told the gathering, “It’s hard to travel anywhere in the world without finding one or more of our UC Davis grads in most countries, sometimes in extremely remote areas.”

Another program that is making a big impact internationally is the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Collaborative Research on Horticulture—or, simply, the Horticulture Innovation Lab. Established in 2009 as the Horticulture Collaborative Research Support Program (Hort CRSP), it was recently renamed and received an $18.75 million grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development to boost international fruit and vegetable research. “Feed the Future” is the U.S. government’s global hunger and food security initiative.

In its first four years, the Horticulture Innovation Lab trained nearly 32,000 individuals in more than 30 countries, including more than 9,800 farmers who have improved their farming practices. The program also established regional centers in Thailand, Honduras, and Kenya as hubs to circulate the program’s research findings. The program is bringing appropriate technologies to parts of the world that need them. Examples include an inexpensive temperature-control system to cool produce after harvest, zeolite-based drying beads to store high-quality seeds for better germination in tropical climates, and an inexpensive solar dryer to more efficiently dry and preserve fresh fruits and vegetables.

Innovations like these are tested and adapted through grant-funded research with our partners at other land-grant universities, as well as with foreign scientists, extension agents, and government representatives. The Horticulture Innovation Lab is one of 24 such labs advancing agricultural science and reducing poverty in developing countries. UC Davis leads five of the Feed the Future Innovation Labs—more than any other university.

These programs exemplify the many collective and individual efforts at UC Davis working hard to bring food security to people in need. I am proud—and grateful—to be part of this community of concerned, globally focused citizens who are so committed to making California and the world a better place. May you all enjoy a Happy Thanksgiving.

Helene R. Dillard
College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences 



Jim Hill and Afghanistan Agricultural Extension Project receive USDA’s highest honor

afghanThe Afghanistan Agricultural Extension Project, led by CA&ES international programs associate dean Jim Hill, recently received the U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary’s Honor Award in the global food security category. It is the highest award given by USDA and recognizes exceptional leadership contributions or public service.

Hill accepted the award Nov. 6 in Washington D.C. with Michael Girr, international programs leader with USDA’s National Institute for Food and Agriculture. Hill led the cooperative effort between UC Davis; Afghanistan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock; and Purdue University, Washington State University, and the University of Maryland. The project’s goal is to help rebuild Afghanistan’s agricultural sector by empowering its government and strengthening development. Agriculture provides opportunity for more than 80 percent of the country’s labor force and is responsible for 40 percent of the country’s economic output.

Although UC Davis efforts to help rebuild Afghanistan’s agricultural capacity go back many years, this project began in 2011 with a $14 million USDA grant. From provincial extension offices in Afghanistan, more than 1,000 extension demonstrations and village training programs have been conducted. Hill is working to continue the program with its university partners for three more years under an $18 million grant from USAID. Read more.

Jim Hill
CA&ES International Programs Office


Larry Schwankl to receive Irrigation Association’s Person of the Year Award

larryLarry Schwankl, Cooperative Extension irrigation specialist emeritus in the Department of Land, Air and Water Resources, has been selected as the 2014 Person of the Year by the Irrigation Association. He will receive the Person of the Year Award at the 2014 Irrigation Show and Education Conference in Phoenix on November 20, 2014.

Schwankl's distinguished 28-year career with Cooperative Extension specialized in irrigation engineering, design, operation and management of irrigation systems, soil moisture monitoring, and low-volume irrigation. “Through his well-recognized applied research program, technology transfer efforts and service activities, Dr. Schwankl has dedicated his career to developing, evaluating and promoting water-efficient technologies and irrigation best management practices,” wrote Dana Osborne Porter, associate professor and extension agricultural engineer in the Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering at Texas A&M University.

The Irrigation Association is the leading membership organization for irrigation companies and professionals. It promotes efficient irrigation and the long-term sustainability of water resources. The Person of the Year Award is given to an individual outside of the irrigation industry for outstanding contributions toward the acceptance of sound irrigation practices.

Larry Schwankl
Department of Land, Air and Water Resources


Olive oil sensor wins international competition for student inventors

studentsA team of UC Davis undergraduate students was named the grand prize winner in the global iGEM (International Genetically Engineered Machines) competition for the development of a biosensor that evaluates olive oil.

The palm-sized device provides a prototype for quickly and accurately detecting rancid or adulterated olive oil. The invention has promising practical applications. As much as two-thirds of the extra-virgin olive oil sold in the United States is actually much lower-grade oil, lacking the antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, and flavor found in true extra-virgin olive oil.

The competition, which included 245 teams from Asia, Europe, Latin America, and North America, annually challenges student teams to design and build biological systems or machines and present their inventions in the international competition. The UC Davis team is composed of undergraduates Lucas Murray, Brian Tamsut, James Lucas, Sarah Ritz, Aaron Cohen, Simon Staley, and Yeonju Song. The team also won the Best Policy and Practices Advanced Presentation Award. Read more.

Diane Nelson
College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences


Project led by Jorge Dubcovsky receives partnership award from USDA

jorgeA multistate project led by plant sciences professor Jorge Dubcovsky has won a partnership award from USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture for exemplary work and outstanding contributions advancing agricultural science. The Triticeae Coordinated Agriculture Project (TCAP) has brought together the barley and wheat scientific communities to work synergistically to mitigate the impact of climate change on barley and wheat production. In addition to Dubcovsky, team members included researchers from universities and USDA sites in 20 states.

The project has produced 174 peer-reviewed articles and more than 100 new varieties and germplasm during its first four years. It also has established close and productive collaborations with several international programs. TCAP was acknowledged for its NIFA Partnership Award for Program Improvement through Global Engagement during ceremonies in Washington, D.C. in October.

Jorge Dubcovsky
Department of Plant Sciences




Academic Federation to honor Mary Louise Flint at James H. Meyer award dinner

maryThe UC Davis Academic Federation will honor Mary Louise Flint at the James H. Meyer Distinguished Achievement Award Dinner, set for 6 p.m., December 1, at the UC Davis Conference Center.

Flint, a longtime leader of the University of California Statewide Integrated Pest Management (UC IPM) Program and a Cooperative Extension entomologist with the Department of Entomology and Nematology, retired in June. During her career, she oversaw development of UC IPM’s highly regarded series of manuals on 15 different agricultural crops; online pest management guidelines; and pest notes for home, garden, landscape, and urban audiences. She is the author of several important books on integrated pest management, including “Pests of the Garden and Small Farm,” “IPM in Practice: Principles and Methods of IPM,” and “The Natural Enemies Handbook.”  Flint also developed hands-on train-the-trainer programs for UC master gardeners, retail nursery personnel, and landscape professionals.

“This is a special award for me because of my father-in-law (former UC Davis Chancellor James Meyer for whom the award is named) and his strong support for the Academic Federation and the Cooperative Extension specialists, Agricultural Experiment Station researchers and other non-Senate academics it represents,” Flint said.

The cost for attending the award dinner is $35 per person. Contact 530-754-2262 for more information and reservations.

Mary Louise Flint
Statewide IPM Program

Kathy Keatley Garvey
Department of Entomology and Nematology


Agricultural Sustainability Leadership Award: Call for Nominations

Nominations for the Eric Bradford and Charlie Rominger Agricultural Sustainability Leadership Award are due January 5, 2015. The award was established in memory of Eric Bradford, professor of animal science, and in memory of Charlie Rominger, a fifth-generation farmer and well-known advocate of farmland preservation and wildlife habitat restoration. The award recognizes and honors individuals who exhibit the leadership, work ethic, and integrity epitomized by Bradford and Rominger.

Members of the UC Davis community are invited to nominate UC farm advisors and Cooperative Extension specialists, as well as UC Davis graduate students, faculty members, and in special cases, alumni, for their work toward agricultural sustainability. Nominees for the award should demonstrate leadership with a broad understanding of agricultural systems and the environment.

The recipient will receive a cash award, and may be invited to give a lecture sponsored by the Agricultural Sustainability Institute at UC Davis, which manages the award selection process. For nomination forms and more information about the award, visit the ASI website. The award recipient will be announced in spring 2015.

Aubrey White
Agricultural Sustainability Institute


Arboretum events

For more information, visit the arboretum website:

  • Go Green Drop-in Day
    Sunday, November 16, 1 to 3 p.m., Trellis at the California Native Plant GATEway Garden 
    Learn about conserving resources through hands-on activities. All ages are welcome. (The nearby Davis Commons parking lot is for shopping customers only.)
  • Folk Music Jam Session
    Fridays, November 21 and December 5,19, noon–1 p.m., Wyatt Deck
    Folk musicians are invited to bring their acoustic instruments and play together informally over the lunch hour. All skill levels are welcome, and listeners are invited.
  • Walk with Warren
    Wednesday, December 10, noon-1 p.m., Arboretum Gazebo
    Join Superintendent Emeritus Warren Roberts for an always engaging noontime exploration of the UC Davis Arboretum’s west-end gardens. For more information call 530-752-4880.



Seed Central networking event at UC Davis: November 13, 2014

Seed Central hosts networking events and speakers to bring together seed and food professionals, UC Davis faculty, scientists, and students. The November 13 event at UC Davis begins with a special afternoon program from 1:30 to 4 p.m. in Environmental Horticulture room 146. Allen Van Deynze, research director with the UC Davis Seed Biotechnology Center, will emcee a panel on cutting-edge technologies. Guest speakers include:

  • Edwin Reidel, business manager, North America, LemnaTec, on automated, high-throughput phenotyping from assay plates to field plots 
  • Darshna Vyas, LGC Genomics, on accelerating marker assisted selection from dirt to data with KASP
  • Susan Turner, principal scientist, BioConsortia, on selection of microbes for crop trait improvement – a plant breeding approach 

Networking, with food and beverages, runs between 4:30 and 6 p.m. at the UC Davis Conference Center, followed by a presentation from CA&ES Dean Helene Dillard from 6 to 7 p.m. Her topic: Impact and Opportunities for the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

The event is free, but an RSVP is requested. More information is available at

Kathleen Bess-Esparza
Department of Plant Sciences


Specialty crop block grant program webinar: November 14, 2014

The California Department of Food and Agriculture has been holding a series of workshops and webinars on the 2015 Specialty Crop Block Grant Program competitive solicitation process. These events feature an overview of the program, a walkthrough of how to use the online application system, a description of requirements for grant recipients, as well as grant writing tips.

The workshops have been completed. However, the final webinar will be held November 14. Email for details. CDFA conducts an annual competitive solicitation process to award funds from this program to projects that solely enhance the competitiveness of California specialty crops (fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture, and nursery crops—including floriculture). For more information, please visit

Volunteers with knowledge and expertise in the California specialty crop industry are also being sought for the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program technical review committee. Committee members will meet three times between January and May 2015. Interested individuals should submit an application to before December 8, 2014. Applications must include a letter of interest, short biography, and statement of qualifications. For additional information, contact CDFA’s Federal Funds Management Office.

CDFA Federal Funds Management Office


Pistachio production course: November 18–20, 2014

nutThe Fruit and Nut Research and Information Center is offering a course—Advances in Pistachio Production—to be held November 18–20 at the Visalia Convention Center.

“This course sets the standard for UC pomology extension courses with a wide array of farm advisor, specialist, and faculty instructors representing decades of experience in California pistachio production,” said Louise Ferguson, Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Plant Sciences. “Topics span the full range of pistachio production, including tree biology, orchard establishment, pruning, irrigation, nutrition, pest management, harvest and postharvest.”

Registration for the three-day course is $900 ($1,000 at the door). The fee includes breakfasts, lunches and coffee breaks. Participants will receive a binder with printed presentations, USB drive with presentations in PDF format, post-course online access to videos of presentations, and the recently published Nutrient Deficiency in Pistachio booklet. Link here to register. For additional information about the course visit the Fruit and Nut Research and Information Center website.

Louise Ferguson
Department of Plant Sciences


Policy briefing on issues in food and agriculture with CDFA Secretary Karen Ross: November 19, 2014

karenCalifornia Department of Food and Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross will deliver a policy briefing November 19 from 4 to 5 p.m. at the University of California Center Sacramento. Her topic: Critical Issues in Food and Agriculture: 2014.

Ross was appointed the CDFA secretary in 2011 and has deep leadership experience in agricultural issues in California, nationally, and internationally. She also served as chief of staff at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, as president of the California Association of Winegrape Growers, and as executive director of Winegrape Growers of America and the California Wine Grape Growers Foundation.

Interested participants can attend the event at the center at 1130 K Street, Room LL3, in Sacramento or attend a video conference in 693 Kerr Hall on the UC Davis campus. To register for the UCCS location, link to register for the Kerr Hall videoconference, email Shadia Powell at RSPVs are requested by November 13. Refreshments will be served.

Shadia Powell
UC Center Sacramento


Bohart Museum open house—Insect Myths: November 23, 2014

bohartThe Department of Entomology and Nematology will hold a public open house Sunday, November 23, 2014, in the Bohart Museum of Entomology. The event—Insect Myths—runs from 1 to 4 p.m.

The Bohart Museum, located in room 1124 of the Academic Surge building off LaRue Road, houses a global collection of nearly eight million specimens. For additional information about open houses in the Bohart Museum, visit the department’s website.

Tabatha Yang
Department of Entomology and Nematology


Western Center for Agricultural Health and Safety Seminar: December 1, 2014

Deborah Bennett, associate professor with the UC Davis Health System Department of Health Sciences, will present a seminar on December 1 from 4 to 5 p.m. for the Western Center for Agricultural Health and Safety. Her topic: “Indoor Pesticide Use, Make Sure Not to Forget It!”

Bennett is with the Division of Environmental and Occupational Health. Her research focuses on the measurement and modeling of organic compounds in the indoor environment. Compounds of interest include particulate matter, volatile and semi-volatile organic compounds. Ultimately, the goal of her work is to develop tools to help policy makers reduce exposure, and subsequent health effects, to pollutants in the environment. Her current work focuses on childhood asthma, autism, and rapid evaluation of exposure in indoor environment.

Location of the seminar is the Center for Health and the Environment on Old Davis Road about one mile south of campus. This lecture is free and open to the public. No parking permit is required.

Cindy Valencia
Western Center for Agricultural Health and Safety


California Alfalfa and Grains Symposium: December 10–12, 2014

UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) hosts the California Alfalfa and Grains Symposium, to be held December 10–12 in Long Beach, California. Issues to be covered include water, pest management, and the economics of alfalfa, forages, and grain crops. California grows more than three million acres of alfalfa and other forages and grain crops, including wheat, corn, and sorghum silage. In addition to talks addressing global issues and production techniques, a pre-symposium tour of Port of Long Beach export facilities for hay and grain is being offered. Participants will see hay compression and grain handling technology.

Those interested in attending include farmers, pest control advisers, certified crop advisers, industry members, and agency representatives. To register click on this link.

Dan Putnam
Department of Plant Sciences 


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