Grain Diseases Must Be Closely Monitored

Diseases are Always Evolving

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

Mark Lundy is a UC Cooperative Extension Specialist in grain cropping systems at UC Davis. Lundy runs trials on grain crops because California is such a diverse environment and there are different conditions from year to year so it’s important to be consistent in measuring yield and crop quality, grain diseases, and agronomic traits on small grains.

Lundy’s work is predominantly on California wheat, but there are many trials on barley.

“Improved varieties have been the mainstay of my work,” Lundy said. “I came at it from a water and nitrogen management background, and one of our goals is trying to disentangle the environment that you can’t control from the environment that you can control. But this is the second year where we have some of those gradients in there so we are trying to maintain the attributes we have, while also trying to add some value.”

And diseases have been closely monitored within the trial system, noted Lundy.

“We do try to keep track of disease, and so when there are diseases of concern such as stripe rust, which was historically a big problem for growers, it has been successfully addressed through breeding,” he said.

The breeding is spearheaded by Jorge Dubcovsky, a professor at UC Davis Department of Plant Sciences working on wheat genes.

“Stripe rust is still something we have to keep an eye on, and it’s certainly a disease that is always evolving,” Lundy said. “And because resistance is not permanent, we’re always looking for the big diseases that can be detrimental to the production system, such as stripe rust.”

“We also keeping track of leaf rust,” Lundy said. “I’m not a pathologist by training, so I’ve been learning on the job, and I’m grateful to the former UC Cooperative Extension Specialist Lee Jackson, who was a pathologist. He created a nice knowledge base for us to build on.”

Mathesius is New UC Soil Scientist

Mathesius is New Agronomy Farm Advisor in Sutter-Yuba, Colusa Counties

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director


Konrad Mathesius is the new Agronomy farm advisor at the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources Cooperative Extension, Sutter-Yuba, Colusa Counties. Mathesius first explained his unusual last name. “It means ‘mathematics’ in Latin. I guess we had accountants in our family lineage back there somewhere,” he said.

Mathesius completed his undergrad degree in political science at Utah State, followed by two master’s degrees at UC Davis in Soils and Biogeochemistry; and in International Agricultural Development (IAD)—a graduate group within the Department of Plant Sciences. “The IAD is flexible in its curriculum, which allowed me to take many plant- and soil- specific courses. I took the opportunity at IAD to specialize in soils,” he said.

California Safflower Field
California Safflower Field

“Through the years, we have learned a lot through the pioneers of soil science and it’s an exciting field because there is still a lot to learn,” said Mathesius. “And everything that comes out of soil science, in one way or another, is applicable to life on the planet.”

“Soils also tell a story, and that’s one thing I really enjoy about it. It’s especially evident in California because there is a remarkable combination of parent material that has created an abundance of different soils in the state,” noted Mathesius. “And it’s very relevant to agriculture, ecology, and environmental science. Differences in soils create a stark contrast in how crops grow and how they need to be managed,” he said.

Mathesius is responsible for the agronomic crops grown in his region, including dry beans, oilseeds such as safflower and sunflower, fresh market corn and silage corn, and small grains such as barley, wheat, and rye.

“I’m a soil scientist by trade, but ultimately I am a UC Cooperative Extension Farm Advisor and available to growers to figure out what their crop issues are—which include pests, diseases and soil fertility,” noted Mathesius. “I am a resource, and the UC system has many other resources and personnel who can thoughtfully consider solutions to crop problems.”