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KARE scientist visits Australia to share insights into disease control and food safety strategies for tree nut crops.
Themis Michailides, plant pathologist and lecturer in the Department of Plant Pathology at UC Davis, and Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center, recently visited Australia, primarily to visit pistachio and almond orchards and discuss disease control and food safety strategies for these crops.
In 2011, Australia had excessive rains at harvest time, which resulted in pistachio crop losses of 40 to 50 percent due to anthracnose fungi. The lost crop was worth about $15 million. To help prevent the problem in the future, the growers went to California to get input on current disease management strategies. Themis Michailides’ research and extension program was very helpful. As a result, the pistachio and almond crop growers of Australia created protocols to prevent and control the disease. The Australian Pistachio Industry invited Dr. Michailides to tour the Riverland and Sunraysia regions this year to inspect orchards that were previously affected by the anthracnose as well as meet with Australian researchers.
Dr. Michailides was surprised to find lower limb dieback in Australia. This is a problem that his program studied in California for many years with funds from the Californian Almond Board.
The trip was mutually beneficial. The Australian industry and researchers received expert advice and Dr. Michailides learned about practices in Australia that can benefit his research and extension program in California.
Highlights of the trip are summarized below.
- Brisbane: met with Australian plant pathologists from the local area and discussed many plant diseases of interest to the local region.
- Adelaide: stayed and enjoyed visiting with his UC Davis classmate Prue McMichael’s family; visited local laboratories and research organizations to discuss pistachio, pomegranate and almond disease control and food safety strategies.
- Mallee and Riverland regions: met with growers and researchers to discuss disease control and food safety strategies for pistachios and almonds. Displayed samples of Anthracnose and Botryosphaeria infected nuts and leaves that were collected during Dr. Michailides’ Australian orchard visits.
- Mildura: met with the Australian Pistachio Research and Development Committee and discussed some of the pistachio disease control efficacy research being done in Australia. Recommended that the committee access “Fungicides, Bactericides, and Biologicals for deciduous Tree Fruit, Nut, Strawberry, and Vine Corps 2012” to review current pest management strategies for tree fruit, tree nut, strawberry and vine crops. Shared how to closely inspect trees, bark, wood, leaves and nuts to identify and diagnose symptoms of various diseases, as well as predict disease risks based on inoculum levels and weather conditions.
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This imperative was among the thoughts shared at a town hall meeting April 22 at the UC Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center convened by CDFA secretary Karen Ross and farmer John Harris. Ross and Harris, members of the recruitment advisory committee, are traveling the state to collect diverse input on the challenges and opportunities the next dean will face, as well as the characteristics most important for the University to consider in recruiting and screening candidates.
Ross noted that the candidate must have appropriate academic credentials, including a doctorate degree and at least five years academic experience, plus at least five years of administrative experience. And, she continued, "for me, personally, an understanding of the land grant mission is a must."
The audience of prominent San Joaquin Valley farmers, commodity leaders and academic administrators offered their suggestions for important candidate characteristics, including:
- Farmer friendly
- Able to convene groups traditionally at odds with one another
- Collaborative. "We need someone who values other partners," said Charles Boyer, dean of the Jordan College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology at Fresno State.
- An advocate for agriculture. "UC Davis carries tremendous weight in Washington D.C., and at the state level," said a participant.
- In tune with younger Californians. "Students going to college today are different; they're seeking education that is non traditional, less formal," said Cameron Boswell, J.G. Boswell Co.
The group also suggested how the new dean can lead CAES to best address the needs of the California agricultural community, such as:
- Maintain a strong extension program. "Information should go to make California agriculture competitive first," said Barry Bedwell, President of the California Grape and Tree Fruit League.
- Recruit more students to agricultural careers. "Extension needs to be the main motivator," said farmer Carol Chandler.
- Conduct applied science.
- Search for high technology solutions. "All the easy problems have been solved," said a participant.
Ending the meeting on a high note, Ross asked participants to share the top one or two current opportunities they see for agriculture in California:
- Innovative new food products
- National security
- New technology
- Innovations to transcend the world marketplace
- Food security in light of climate change
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