USDA NRCS Works To Increase Diversity

NRCS Conducts Outreach for Diversity

 

By Emily McKay Johnson, Associate Editor

 

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) works with local growers across America to conserve the nation’s soil, water, air and other natural resources. Elisabeth “Elise” Miller, is an area engineer for the entire Southern California region. “I also serve my agency as the NRCS-California LGBT Special Emphasis Program Manager, a collateral duty that I perform on several levels to increase diversity,” said Miller.

 

“First, I work to educate employees within my agency, to make them better informed and more in tune to language,” Miller explained. “Then, I work to get a more diversified workforce within the USDA,” she added, to make the organization stronger and better.

 

Unlock the secrets in the soil diversity

“My efforts might include going to a university,” she elaborated, “trying to tie in with their resource center and encouraging more people who identify as LGBT to apply for federal jobs. Our colleges, the University of California (UC) and the California State (Cal State) University system, have a lot of really good, positive and powerful resource centers that I’m hoping will continue to help us with our outreach and pull more people in who want to work for us.”

 

“Certainly we do have human resources,” commented Miller. “And we do a lot of outreach. With California being so large and so diverse,” Miller said, “it is hard to reach out to everybody. We have to start with the big UC schools first. We also try to reach out to universities such as Fresno State, Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo or Pomona or UC Davis, or Humboldt State. Those would be schools that certainly we want to outreach to and try to bring more of those graduating students in under our fold.”

 

“My agency is a very technical agency,” said Miller. “We work on conservation-type issues—resource issues that farmers, ranchers or private landowners might deal with—requiring an agronomist, biologist or soil scientist. I often go out with a multi-disciplinary team and meet with a farmer, rancher, or just a landowner.”

 

“Every farmer I meet has some kind of issue,” Miller commented, “whether it’s pest management, whether it’s dealing with manure management or an erosion issue that’s going on. If they have a hillside orchard, they have to deal with that.”

 

“And obviously they focus a lot on drought management and water conservation,” Miller explained, “A lot of these farmers of course are forced to use groundwater, which is depleting the groundwater sources and may be causing irreparable damage.

 

We work cooperatively to try to help them resolve their land issues. That’s what I like about my agency—that we’re invited there. We’re not there to push a regulation. We’re there to help them to better manage. They always maintain control of their decision making. We try to give them options available and we have cost share programs to assist them, if something is identified. We work towards developing conservation plans on the property.”

 

The agency is also responsible for the soil survey work. “We map the soils five feet deep,” said Miller, “to gather information, resource information, which has worked fantastically well for a farmer to know what kind of soil he’s dealing with. It may make a difference on how a farmer irrigates. It may be why he’s having a problem with a crop or many other areas that could be helpful to them.”

 

“We are in the community. We’re very much aware; we know who the farmers are, we know what the issues are and we work with farmers to try to address their land problems. We don’t just pop in and then pop out,” Miller said.


The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRSC) works with local growers across America to conserve the nation’s soil, water, air and other natural resources with voluntary programs and science-based solutions that benefit both the landowner and the environment. 

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Breaking News: Cal Poly Opens New Greenhouse and Insect Rearing Facility

New Greenhouse Facility Opens to Save Citrus from Psyllids that Vector HLB

Facility to Rear Tamarixia Radiata, Natural ACP Predator

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

 

Scores of citrus industry leaders, citrus growers, scientists and CDFA officials attended the ribbon cutting event TODAY at the opening of a new greenhouse on the Cal Poly Pomona campus to rear Tamarixia radiata, a tiny parasitic wasp imported from Pakistan because it is an Asian Citrus Psyllid (ACP) nymph predator. ACP, in turn, is a serious nonnative citrus pest that can vector Huanglongbing (HLB)—a deadly citrus disease also known as Citrus Greening—that has devastated the powerhouse citrus Screenshot 2016-07-25 12.24.41.png

industry in Florida, threatens to ruin additional citrus economies, and is the biggest threat the California citrus industry has ever faced.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA-APHIS), infected citrus trees “produce fruits that are green, misshapen and bitter, unsuitable for sale as fresh fruit or for juice. Most infected trees die within a few years.” ACPs have been detected in Alabama, American Samoa, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Guam, Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Texas and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Of those locations, the HLB disease has been detected in California, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Texas and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

ENTER:  Tamarixia radiata

Use of the ACP predator, Tamarixia radiata as a biological control for ACP was discovered by Mark Hoddle, biological control specialist and principal investigator, UC Riverside ( UCR), Department of Entomology. The first release of Tamarixia was in December 2011 after USDA-APHIS cleared the natural enemy for release from the Quarantine Facility at UCR.

Mark Hoddle UC Riverside Department of Entomology
Mark Hoddle UC Riverside Department of Entomology

“Tamarixia can kill ACP nymphs in two different ways,” explained Nick Hill, a Tulare County citrus producer and Citrus Pest & Disease Prevention Program (CPDPC) chair.  “The first is parasitism. In this instance, a female parasitoid lays an egg underneath a fourth or fifth instar—the larger and final developmental stage of the ACP nymph before becoming an adult—nymphs that are most preferred by Tamarixia for parasitism. When the egg hatches, the Tamarixia larva begins to feed on the under-surface of the ACP nymph. Eventually the larva completely excavates the body cavity of the ACP nymph and pupates inside the empty shell of its host.”

Hill explained the first releases of the tiny and harmless wasp will occur this fall in urban areas, “to help control ACP so that we do not have to do mitigations such as spraying in those areas. We hope to get to a point where we no longer need to go into people’s yards and ask if we can treat the trees.”

“The issue,” commented Valerie Melano, professor and chair, Cal Poly Pomona Plant Sciences and interim chair, Cal Poly Agribusiness & Food Industry Management/Agricultural Science, “is that we need to come up with the best possible ways to raise enough wasps for big releases to prey on ACP. We will have CDFA employees working in this green house, as well as student workers who have participated in our research program all along,” noted Melano.

Nick Hill, CPDPC chair
Nick Hill, a Tulare County citrus producer and Citrus Pest & Disease Prevention Program (CPDPC) chair.

Hill added, “The idea is to get enough Tamarixia out there so they start reproducing themselves and they become self sufficient. This is tough to accomplish, but researchers think if they can get big numbers of the wasp into the urban areas, they can put a big dent in lowering the populations of ACP.”

Cal Poly Pomona Greenhouse

The new Cal Poly 5,040-square-foot research greenhouse, built in collaboration with Citrus Research Board and constructed through a $400,000 grant from the Citrus Pest & Disease Prevention Program, will house the second Tamarixia production program in California. CDFA’s Mount Roubideaux facility in Riverside houses current production. Both facilities will support the CPDPC biological control program that oversees releases in urban areas with high ACP populations.

The new greenhouse should produce a 1-ACP Research Greenhouse1.5 million wasps. “It’s a very nice facility,” said Hill. “We are trying to boost the biological control program to produce four million Tamarixia a year.”

California Quarantine

The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) operates an extensive monitoring program to track the distribution of the insect and disease in both residential areas and commercial citrus groves. Results have determined quarantine zones, guided releases of biological control agents, and prioritized areas for a residential chemical control program. Nearly all of southern California is under quarantine for ACP, due to the fact that more than 15 residential trees have been discovered to be in infected with HLB.

The ACP quarantine in California includes parts of the following counties:  Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, Monterey, San Benito, San Joaquin, San Luis Obispo, San Mateo, Santa Clara, and Stanislaus; and the following entire counties: Imperial, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, Santa Barbara, Tulare County, and Ventura.

Asian Citrus Psyllid Cooperative Program California, Arizona, Baja California, and Sonora (USDA-APHIS)
Asian Citrus Psyllid Cooperative Program
California, Arizona, Baja California, and Sonora (USDA-APHIS). Visit our Citrus Diseases page to identify a plant infected by citrus greening, citrus canker, citrus black spot and sweet orange scab. If you detect an infected plant, report it  immediately.

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Fresno State to host commencement for state ag leaders

The Jordan College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology at Fresno State will host the California Agricultural Leadership Program commencement ceremony for the first time at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 7 in North Gym, Room 118.

The commencement will cap a three-day seminar for the 44th graduating class of emerging or mid-career agricultural leaders. Graduates of the program acquire skills to enhance the long-term success of their businesses, farms, ranches and organizations.

Over the past 17 months, the group has focused on leadership theory, effective communication, motivation, critical and strategic thinking, change management, emotional intelligence, and complex social and cultural issues.

Four Fresno State graduates – Dustin Fuller, Trevor Meyers, Heather Mulholland and Carissa Koopman Rivers – are among the 24 members who will graduate and were inaugurated in October 2013 at Fresno State.

Each fellow has participated in 55 seminar days, including a 10-day national travel seminar to Gettysburg, Penn., Philadelphia and Washington D.C., and a 15-day international travel seminar to South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

“We congratulate the 24 fellows on their important achievement of completing the Ag Leadership Program,” said Bob Gray, president and CEO of the California Agricultural Leadership Foundation, which operates the program. “These leaders will continue to learn and grow, take on new challenges, assume leadership roles and make a difference.”

The 45th class, inaugurated in October 2014 at Fresno State, will also convene on campus during the three-day event. The class includes four additional Fresno State graduates –- Chris Jensen, Stanley Kjar, Lauren Reid and Justin Spellman.

Fresno State animal sciences Professor Dr. Michael Thomas serves as the Jordan College’s core faculty member for the program’s education team and as the foundation’s director of education.

“We are grateful to the Jordan College for its ongoing support of Ag Leadership and are very pleased to hold our inauguration and commencement ceremonies on campus,” Gray said. “Commencement has been held in Pomona for many decades, but we felt it was important to move it to the more centrally-located Fresno State. We also thank Wells Fargo for their generous sponsorship of commencement.”

Fresno State is one of four California universities that partner with the program. The others are Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, Cal Poly Pomona and University of California, Davis.

More than 1,200 men and women have participated in the program since the first class was introduced in 1970, making it the longest continuously-operating agriculture leadership training experience in the nation.

For more information, contact Meredith Rehrman Ritchie at 916-984-4473 or mritchie@agleaders.org.

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