Backyard Orchard News
After leading a 40-year crusade against crop destroying nematodes, Selma native Michael McKenry retires
McKenry was born in Selma and raised on a farm where his family produced fruits and vegetables for sale at Highway 99 fruit stands. He earned his degree in soil science with a biochemistry minor at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, in 1966, where his senior project targeted the microscopic soil-borne true round worms that would shape his career.
“Very few farmers knew much about nematodes at the time,” McKenry said. However, the pest was causing serious damage and yield loss, especially when crops were replanted into previously farmed land.
After serving as a vocational agriculture teacher in Yucaipa, Calif., and conducting field trials with his students, McKenry was offered the opportunity to study nematodes at UC Riverside. He obtained his Ph.D. in 1972 and was soon appointed by UC Riverside to his nematology research position at Kearney.
McKenry said his research focus changed with the times. The first two decades, he studied the movement of fumigants and other pesticides in soil, and the timing and placement for nematode congregation under trees and vines. Equally important were his activities to develop newer methods to assure that California’s nursery stocks would remain nematode-free.
“As drip systems evolved we encouraged farmers to pay more attention to the root flush in order to be more efficient with whatever treatments they used,” McKenry said.
Increasingly stringent regulations and bans on the use of certain fumigants began to turn nematologists’ attention to reduced rates using timing and placement as well as botanically derived alternatives to synthetic products. McKenry noted an unreported biological control process underway at Kearney where certain naturally occurring fungi and bacteria were lethal to nematodes.
“We’ve been working on that for 40 years,” McKenry said. “We’re still missing pieces, but the potential and limitations are better understood.”
During this period, McKenry also developed a portable drenching system that reduced off-gassing of soil fumigants and led the way for pre-plant delivery of degradable nematicides deep into soil.
The next 20 years was the period of rootstock exploration. Grape rootstocks that had been released in the 1960s were losing their resistance to nematodes in the 1980s. McKenry and his staff evaluated as many as 1,000 potential grape rootstocks from around the world. This was followed by evaluation of 100 peach and almond rootstocks and then thousands of potential walnut rootstocks.
Over the last two decades, McKenry’s nematological expertise provided industry awareness of three grape rootstocks, RS-9, RS-3 and 10-17A; three fruit/nut rootstocks including Krymsk 1, specifically useful for dwarf plum trees; HBOK-1 and Hansen 536, for peach and almond orchards, plus a new walnut rootstock named VX211. In addition to durable nematode resistance with these rootstocks, some may be planted without soil fumigation. If some fumigation was necessary, he demonstrated how a portable boiler could provide adequate steam to give first-year nematode relief.
More recently, McKenry identified the first effective nematode treatment that in very low doses could be sprayed onto leaves of trees and vines. This new chemistry was hidden away as an insecticide. Thousands of soil samples evaluated by McKenry and his research team at UC reported that if farmers followed a few guidelines, their yields could be boosted 10 percent to 20 percent.
In all, McKenry has written more than 250 research papers, half of them in pest management manuals, the other half peer-reviewed conference proceedings, book chapters and research journals.
Even though he will retire this summer, McKenry said he plans to continue with a few special projects.
“There is so much yet to be done,” he said.
He said he also looks forward to having more time to spend at his home in Cayucos while continuing his worldwide travels.
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- Rich in Vitamin A (beta-carotene) and C. A boon for eye health, plus a boost for the body’s immune system. Just 2-3 apricots can provide nearly 50% of your daily value of Vitamin A
- Apricots provide Vitamin E, an antioxidant beneficial for skin health; may also help reduce the risk of certain cancers
- A good source of iron, needed to provide oxygen to red blood cells; and potassium needed for multiple body functions.
- Great source of dietary fiber to help reduce risks for developing diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and weight management (2 grams dietary fiber in 3 apricots)
- Low in calories, about 50 calories in 3 apricots. They’re fat-free and low carbohydrate (12 grams in 3 apricots)
- Add to cakes, pies, with ice cream or sorbets, and yogurt
- Use apricots as a jam or jelly; puree as a fruit topping for salads, cereal, pancakes, and other foods
- Dried apricots are a healthy snack on the go
Handling and Storage
- Fresh, ripe apricots keep1-3 days at room temperature
- Refrigerated apricots keep 4-5 days
- Frozen apricots keep up to 3 months
- Dried apricots, sealed, can be stored for 1 month at room temperature; 6 months refrigerated
- To freeze: Slice in half; remove pits. Dip in ascorbic acid solution (citric acid or lemon juice 10 minutes), to prevent color change. Drain, rinse; place in zip-lock freezer bags; freeze. When ready to use, thaw in refrigerator.
- To dry: Slice in half, remove pits. Dip in ascorbic acid solution 10 minutes. Arrange pit side up on trays in single layers. Dry until soft, pliable, and leathery; no moist area in center when cut. Drying time in dehydrators-- between18-24 hours; oven drying--between 24-36 hours.
Try These Amazing Apricot Recipes!
½ cup dried apricots, finely chopped
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon fructose
- Put apricots, water and fructose into small saucepan; bring to boil.
- Boil rapidly for a few minutes, make sure not to let it boil dry.
- Remove from heat; cool; store in refrigerator. Use within 1 month.
Makes 6 servings (2 tbsp)
Adapted from Allrecipes.com
Per serving: 10 calories, 0 grams protein, 2.5 grams carbohydrates, 0 fat
Apricot Nut Bread
Applesauce, instead of oil, gives this bread its moist texture, without extra calories from fat.
1 (15 ounce) can apricot halves
1/3 cup applesauce
1/2 cup white sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/ 4 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
- Drain apricots; save syrup. Puree in food processor, adding syrup if necessary to make 1 cup.
- Whisk together flours, baking powder and soda.
- In large bowl, blend applesauce and sugar. Add eggs one at a time; beat well. Add flour mixture alternately with apricot puree; stir in nuts. Spread batter into 9x5 loaf pan sprayed with non-stick cooking spray and lightly floured.
- Bake at 350 degrees 50 minutes. Remove from pan; cool on rack.
Makes 12 servings
Adapted from Allrecipes.com
Per serving : 171 calories, 4 grams protein, 30 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams fat, 0 saturated fat/span>