Posts Tagged: Walt Bentley
A highly regarded member of UC’s regional integrated pest management team at the UC Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center, entomologist Walter Bentley retires June 30.
Bentley transferred to Kearney in 1994 after 17 years as a UC Cooperative Extension advisor in Kern County, specializing in entomology. The integrated pest management team – with advisors representing the core pest management disciplines, entomology, nematology, weed science and plant pathology – was formed in response to concern about the effect of pesticides on food safety, the environment and farmworker safety.
Bentley’s career success is demonstrated by the numerous awards he received in the past year. A group of world IPM leaders presented Bentley with its Lifetime Achievement Award March 27 at the 7th International IPM Symposium in Memphis, Tenn. He also received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the California Association of Applied IPM Ecologists in February. In October 2011, Bentley received the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources Distinguished Service Award for Outstanding Extension.
Bentley grew up on his family’s cherry, walnut and peach farm in Linden, Calif. He began laboring in the orchards as a young boy, but the hard work didn’t deter him from pursuing a career in agriculture.
“Growing up on a farm is probably the best life a youngster can have,” Bentley said. “But I can’t say that it was easy for my parents. It was a struggle for them to raise a family and depend solely on income from the farm.”
Bentley earned a bachelor’s degree in horticulture and biology in 1969 at Fresno State, and then spent two years in the U.S. Army working on tracing mosquito movement in the 4th Army area of Texas and Oklahoma and later in Utah. He earned a master’s degree in entomology in 1974 at Colorado State University. Bentley worked in biological pest control for the Colorado Department of Agriculture before returning to his native California for the UC Cooperative Extension position in Bakersfield.
“I had heard many rumors about how tough Bakersfield was in terms of weather and environment. Within two weeks of starting the job, there was a huge dust and wind storm in the area and the first summer we had 30 days in a row with the temperature 100 degrees or higher,” Bentley said. “But I came to enjoy Bakersfield.”
As the Kern County farm advisor, Bentley worked with his colleagues to develop an IPM program for almonds, addressing primarily problems with spider mites, navel orange worms and ants. Also working with colleagues, he developed an IPM program for potatoes, emphasizing careful monitoring for potato tuber moth and postponing pesticide treatment until the pest reached a level at which economic damage occurs.
Perhaps his greatest accomplishment, however, was the relationship he cultivated with growers and pest control advisers in Kern County. In particular, Bentley worked closely with pioneer Bakersfield apple grower Lewis Sherrill to combat the problem of coddling moth in apples. Sherrill started his own farm at age 76 and continued farming until he was nearly 100 years old.
“Apple farmers in Kern County were relying on information from Washington state, where a large part of the U.S. apple industry is located,” Bentley said. “But in Washington, coddling moth only produces two generations in the summer. In Kern County, we had four. Lou and I analyzed coddling moth flight dynamics, integration of materials and we began experimenting with mating disruption.”
At Kearney, Bentley continued his work on apples and almonds, plus he began to work extensively in grapes. Mealybug management in grapes, he said, became the most important and impactful part of his job. Bentley also played a role in developing a management plan to control katydid damage in peaches and helped farmers use mating disruption against Oriental fruit moth in peaches.
“In my generation as an entomologist, a major breakthrough was the development and use of pheromones for ag pest monitoring and management,” Bentley said. “We found ways to use pests’ own biology against them.”
During his 36-year career, Bentley authored 65 chapters or sections in pest management manuals and 75 peer-reviewed articles. In addition, he wrote more than 250 articles for trade journals and newspapers.
"Mr. Bentley's career represents the best UCCE's faculty has to offer, “ said his IPM colleague, Pete Goodell, UC Cooperative Extension advisor based at Kearney. “Unselfish service, loyalty to his peers and clientele, intellectual honesty, dedication to the mission of UCCE and a genuine love for his work.”
Bentley credits the success of his program to the UC Cooperative Extension research and education continuum, which is designed to foster communication and collaboration from campus laboratories to farm fields and back again.
“I think this is one of the best educational programs in the world,” Bentley said. “We take information from UC campuses to the farms. And those of us who work with farmers bring first-hand experiences back to the campus and work with scientists to develop solutions.”
Bentley’s personal interest in insects, which got him into his line of work, will carry through into his retirement. One of his goals, he said, is building a teaching collection of insects, spiders, mites and other arthropods at Kearney. He has already acquired some of the equipment needed to house the collection and plans to maintain some samples on pinned displays and others in live colonies. The collection will be a learning tool for farmers, pest control advisers, students and interns.
“Knowing what’s out there is an important part of understanding entomological science,” Bentley said.
Insects are also a part of his favorite pastime, fly fishing. Bentley said retirement will give him more time to spend on local rivers catching (and releasing) trout with his hand-tied flies. Bentley speaks passionately about the joy of fly fishing.
“There’s a pulse that runs through you. It feels like you’re a child on Christmas every time the fish hits the fly,” Bentley said. “It’s such a thrill.”
A group of world IPM leaders presented UC Cooperative Extension integrated pest management advisor Walt Bentley with its Lifetime Achievement Award at the 7th International IPM Symposium March 27 in Memphis, Tenn. Bentley also received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Association of Applied IPM Ecologists in February.
Professionals and academics in the field of integrated pest management convene the international symposium annually to bring together the scientists and people who practice IPM every day in agriculture, natural areas and community settings to collaborate and develop collective strategies. Some of the modern IPM challenges the group addresses are herbicide resistance, bed bugs and invasive species. For more than 20 years, these experts in pest management have selected champions in their field to receive awards of excellence.
Bentley began his UC career in 1977 as a UC IPM entomologist focusing on pest problems in almonds, grapes and stone fruit. Since that time, he has been committed to three major goals as part of the UC Statewide IPM Program:
- Coordinate with others
- Do research that meets the needs of farmers
- Develop relevant outreach
Bentley and a team of UC Cooperative Extension advisors and specialists and collaborating farmers developed IPM approaches and alternative control strategies that successfully reduce the use of the highest risk insecticides (carbamates and organophosphates) in California by 80 to 90 percent in almonds, table grapes and tree fruit. This reduction helps the environment and the producers.
In recognition of a productive career advancing integrated pest management programs in California and for tireless support of IPM practitioners, UC IPM entomologist Walt Bentley received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Association of Applied IPM Ecologists.
The award was presented at the association's annual meeting, Feb. 6 in Oxnard, Calif., by his IPM colleague Pete Goodell, a nemotologist who is, like Bentley, based at the UC Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Parlier, Calif. Goodell is the current president of the Association of Applied IPM Ecologists.
Goodell said a hallmark of Bentley's work has been his ability to connect and empathize with his clientele, an outgrowth of his childhood on a small family farm near Linden, Calif. He began his career with UC Cooperative Extension in 1977 as an entomology farm advisor in Kern County and transferred to his position at Kearney in 1994.
"His projects over the years have addressed real problems of real people," Goodell said. "He spent many hours on farm calls and at the front counter, answering questions, seeking information on the problem and, if required, formulating a plan to seek a solution."
Bentley was part of many research and extension teams formed with campus and county academics to solve local problems, from potato tubermoth to mealy bugs to worm pests in tree fruits and nuts. Bentley focused on the biology of the pest and the weak link in its life cycle where management could employed: chemical, cultural or biological.
Goodell said that Bentley valued outputs and outcomes. He published more than 400 articles in diverse outlets, including the local press, trade magazines, newsletters, ANR publications, UC IPM Pest Management Guidelines, book chapters and peer-reviewed journal articles.
Bentley was named the UC Cooperative Extension entomology advisor for Kern County in 1977. In 1994, he was promoted to his position with the IPM program and relocated to the Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Parlier. Bentley was nominated for the award, a statewide honor, by his colleague, UC IPM nematologist Peter Goodell.
Goodell said Bentley has had only two driving forces in his career: create practical yet high quality entomological knowledge based on science and direct that knowledge to make a difference in the lives of the people he serves.
"Mr. Bentley's career represents the best UCCE's faculty has to offer: unselfish service, loyalty to his peers and clientele, intellectual honesty, dedication to the mission of UCCE and a genuine love for his work," Goodell wrote.