Researchers Take a Look into the Future of Strawberries

Survey Coming to Growers to Gauge Interests

By Hannah Young, Associate Editor

A strawberries survey connected to a project that looks at the future of strawberry genetics will soon be sent to strawberry growers.

Daniel Tregeagle, a postdoctoral scholar of agricultural economics at UC Davis, is working on the survey.

“This project is being run over the state of California, through a number of different institutions, different universities, including the state of Florida,” Tregeagle said. “Strawberry growers all over the country are trying to find out what we should be breeding in the next generation of strawberry cultivars.”Strawberries

The project is part of a Specialty Crop Research Initiative, which is considering what growers are looking for in the next generation of strawberries, Tregeagle said.

“Do they want better yields? Do they want more attractive features that the consumers are going to like? Do they need disease resistance?” Tregeagle asked.

However, growers can’t have everything, because when a cultivar is strong in one area, they tend to be less strong in other areas.

“So what we’re doing in the survey is asking growers what are the main diseases that they’re facing, how are they managing those diseases currently and what would they do differently if they had a better, more resistant strawberry cultivar that could resist those particular diseases,” Tregeagle explained.

Researchers are also interested in looking at fumigation and how they might change in the presence of a more resistance cultivar, Tregeagle added.

Agritourism in California

UC Davis Experts Help Farmers, Ranchers Profit  in Growing Trend

News Release Edited By Patrick Cavanaugh

Agritourism is growing in California, along with sales and production of much of the world’s fruits, vegetables, and nuts. More and more people are paying to enjoy the bounty and beauty of California’s farms and ranches by touring peach and cherry farms near Fresno, taking classes in beekeeping, attending festivals devoted to strawberries or attending a host of other activities offered by farmers and ranchers throughout the state.

Many farmers could benefit from agritourism and the added value it brings, but developing successful agritourism operations can be tricky. Experts at the Agricultural Sustainability Institute (ASI) at UC Davis are helping farmers and others in the agricultural community understand the regulations, permits, insurance, marketing and other considerations needed to succeed.agritourism

“Agritourism operations are more successful when they’re part of a supportive community of tourism professionals, county regulators, agriculture regulations and others,” says Gail Feenstra, ASI’s food, and society coordinator.

Feenstra and her team recently received a $73,000 grant from Western Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education, a U.S. Department of Agriculture program, to develop training, resources and peer support for farmers and ranchers considering agritourism. Feenstra is working with Penny Leff, ASI’s statewide agritourism coordinator and team project manager.

Leff led previous projects that offered agritourism education to groups of farmers, ranchers, and others involved in California agritourism. In this new project, Leff is providing comprehensive training to smaller, more targeted groups that will then offer training to others in their community.

“We’re helping farmers and ranchers assess their agritourism potential, whether it be U-pick farming, dinners on the farm, classes or even overnight lodging,” Leff says. “We help navigate everything from zoning ordinances to marketing plans.”

The project’s ultimate goal is to develop at least 24 clusters of vibrant agritourism operations in California that sustain producers, educate visitors and support the economic health of the entire community.

As Leff explained, “Agritourism is an exciting opportunity for farmers, and also for visitors who can learn about and enjoy what farm living has to offer.”

You can learn more about agritourism opportunities at the ASI agritourism website. For more information on upcoming workshops, contact Penny Leff at or call 530-752-5208.

UC Davis Student Maureen Page Speaks for the Bees

Maureen Page to Spread Flowers for Bees

By Jessica Theisman, Associate Editor
Maureen Page pollination
Maureen Page

California Ag Today recently spoke with doctoral student Maureen Page of the Neal William’s lab at UC Davis, Department of Entomology and Nematology. She is the recipient of a prestigious three-year fellowship for promoting food security by optimizing wildflower planting. She supports the wild and bee management. We asked her about the flowers that she plans on planting to help those bees.

“I do believe that in general, flowers are really important for bees. Planting flowers are generally good for them,” she said.

Although planting is good for the bees, there are some precautions that need to be made.

“Some flowers can be somewhat toxic to bees. Some do not actually provide bees with pollen and nectar resources,” Page said.

There are many ornamental plants that are bred to not have much pollen so that people do not sneeze as much.

“On top of that, if you are planting non-native species that are really weedy, it may be great for the bees, but might not be great for other plant species,” Page said.

UC Davis Tea Initiative Will Include Research and Teaching

Tea Initiative is First of Its Kind

By Jessica Theisman, Associate Editor

Katharine Burnett is a professor of Chinese Art History and Asian Art History at UC Davis. She spoke with California Ag Today recently about the Global Tea Initiative; a group focused on the culture and science of Tea through research outreach and teaching.

Katharine Burnett Will Head Up Tea Initiative

“The role of the Institute will be to tell the story of tea and all its dimensions, it will be to encourage research and to encourage interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research along with teaching,” she said.

The Global Tea Initiative wants to develop a curriculum for undergrads and grads. They plan on developing international partnerships as a research institution.

“We want to be the … institution that can help the researcher, scholar, industry member, and community member to be able to access evidence-based knowledge about tea and to help the consumer and industry better understand what it is and what it can do for us,” Burnett said.

The Global Tea Initiative is the first of its kind.

“Other institutions study their national product or their local product either from the perspective of science or from culture, but they don’t bring science and culture together and they do not study from a global perspective,” Burnett explained.

California does not have very much tea production. UC Davis hopes to be a neutral site that can be trusted by the industry, farmers, and scholars.

World Ag Expo is Feb 13-15

UC Davis Engineers, Economists, Advisors gather at World Ag Expo

By Diane Nelson, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences dean’s office

UC Davis specialists in everything from grapes to livestock to irrigation management will join staff and students at the World Ag Expo in Tulare, February 13-15, to chat with farmers, prospective students, alumni and leaders throughout the agricultural industry.

More than 100,000 people are expected to attend the 51st annual event, where 1,500 exhibitors display cutting-edge agricultural technology and equipment over a massive 2.6 million square feet of show grounds.

“We’re thrilled to be taking part in this incredible agricultural exhibition and reconnecting with alumni from the Central Valley and beyond,” said Sue Ebeler, an associate dean for the UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and professor of viticulture and enology. “Faculty will be in town and available to discuss current agricultural research and our Aggie Ambassadors can answer questions about our majors and campus life.”

The UC Davis team will be located in the World Ag Women’s Pavilion. In addition to Professor Ebeler, dean of undergraduate academic programs for the college, seven faculty experts will attend portions of the three-day event. They include:

  • Rachel Goodhue, professor and chair of the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics,
  • Deanne Meyer, Cooperative Extension specialist in livestock waste management,
  • Samuel Sandoval Solis, associate Cooperative Extension specialist in water management,
  • Ali Pourreza, assistant Cooperative Extension specialist in agricultural mechanization and precision agriculture,
  • Matt Fidelibus, Cooperative Extension specialist in grape production
  • Anna Denicol, assistant professor and veterinarian who specializes in reproductive biology, and
  • Jeff Mitchell, Cooperative Extension specialist in conservation agriculture.

UC Davis is ranked number 1 in the nation for agriculture, plant sciences, animal science and agricultural economics. The College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences enrolled more than 2,000 new students in the fall of 2017, many of them from California’s Central Valley. The college offers 29 majors—everything from agriculture to nutrition to global disease biology.

“Prospective students can learn about all our majors and the career paths they provide,” Ebeler said. “At the World Ag Expo, we get to meet with agricultural leaders from around the world, as well as so many passionate young people who will become tomorrow’s leaders.”


Media contacts:

Diane Nelson, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences dean’s office, 530-752-1969,

Sue Ebeler, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences dean’s office, 530-752-7150,

Almond Band Canker has No Cure

Almond Band Canker Creeping up Again

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

Themis Michailides, a UC Davis Plant Pathologist based at the Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center, recently told California Ag Today that almond band canker is becoming a big problem.

“This was a very old disease, and almost forgotten, but now we have major problems, particularly in the young orchards, first leaf, second leaf, third leaf, and it can also be found in six year old trees,” Michailides said.

Band canker is a fungal disease caused by a group of Botryosphaeria fungi that are very common in major crops like grapes, almonds, pistachios, walnuts, avocados, citrus and other crops, so they have a large range.

Band canker establishes itself as a spore inoculum that resides outside and also inside of orchards and waits for the right conditions, which are wetness and also high temperatures.

“It develops first like a ring, a canker that is a horizontal canker on the trunks of the trees and decays the wood and produces sap. It’s a disease that can kill young trees in the orchards,” Michailides said.

“Once you have the cankers developed in the trunks of the trees, there’s no cure, but we can prevent it by managing irrigation, trying to keep the trunks of the trees dry,” he said. “We need to develop protective sprays in order to avoid the development of the disease in young trees.”

“Once we have the water and the temperatures rise above 50 degrees Fahrenheit, the conidia – the spores of this fungi – will germinate and infect vigorous varieties we have now through the growth cracks,” Michailides said.

“It’s getting more serious, especially now, because we see that the disease is uniformly distributed throughout the orchard, which indicates to me perhaps that the inoculum is in the trees and not coming from the outside sources. We don’t see the patterns we saw years ago, where we had the source and then a center of disease close to the source,” Michalides explained.


Vigilant Seed Bank Reduction for Weed Control

Vigilant Seed Bank Reduction: Whatever it takes, don’t let weeds set seed.

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director


For the past 15 years, Robert Norris, professor emeritus and vegetable crops weed specialist, UC Davis Department of Plant Sciences, has continued to attend Weed Day each year at UC Davis and to contribute weed photography for CalPhotos, a UC Berkeley Digital Library Project photo database of world-wide plants, animals, landscapes, and other natural history subjects developed to provide a testbed of digital images for computer science researchers to study digital image retrieval techniques. Norris was involved with initiating the Plant Protection and Pest Management Graduate Program at UC Davis.


“I’ve been a botanist since I was 14 years old,” Norris said, “and I still have a lot of passion regarding weed control.” Norris has a strong and steady philosophy on weed control and it all comes down to seeds. “The last 25 years of my work, I looked at population dynamics of weeds, like seed longevity in the soil and what we call the size of the seed bank also known as the seed production by weeds. That’s really where I spent most of my time.

Field Bindweed
Field Bindweed


“I found that most people have a very poor idea of how many seeds are produced by a weed. This led me to question some of our current management philosophies; namely, the one that comes out of entomology—the use of thresholds (or how many weeds need to be present before treating them),” noted Norris. “I felt that for weed science, thresholds were not the way to go, and my position has been vindicated by the problems we’ve run into using thresholds.”


Norris offered the example, “Barnyard grasses are probably one of our most serious summer grass weeds. A small plant can produce 100,000 seeds; while a big plant, well over a million. I can remember going put in a tomato field years ago and looking at one barnyard grass plant. Because I had been working with it, I can say that plant probably put out 50,000 seeds. If you spread those seeds around an acre, that’s enough to give you serious yield loss the next year,” Norris explained. “Again, that’s one plant, spread out over an acre. Obviously its seeds wouldn’t spread over an acre [on their own], but with our tillage equipment we would move it around quite a bit.”


“My bottom line for about 30 years now is: Don’t let the weeds set seed. Whatever it takes, don’t let them set seed,” Norris said. If you follow that philosophy, Norris said after a while you drive the seed bank down.


“Many people don’t realize this, but some of our really big growers got on to it a long time ago. One farming operation I worked with for years, J. G. Boswell Co., with most of its land in Kings County. “I knew the manager in the late ’50s, into the ’70s. He now is retired now, but he came to this conclusion himself back in the late ’50s,” Norris said. “I haven’t been on Boswell’s property now for 20 years, because I retired. However, if you go down there, you will not see a weed problem, at least not like most growers.”


“The difficulty really is, in order to carry out this philosophy, you need to use hand labor for weed management and it is becoming less and less easy to find,” explained Norris. “Most weed management is done on a one-year one-crop basis; whereas, the type of management we’re talking about where we’re really thinking seed bank dynamics, has to be done over multiple years. Another big problem that I still see is if you miss one year, you can undo 5 to 10 years of what you’ve just been doing, because of this high seed output,” he said.

NEVER LET ‘EM SET SEED, by Robert Norris, Weed Science Society of America.


Field Bindweed Control Requires Multiple Programs

Consistent Management Needed to Eradicate Bindweed

By Laurie Greene, Editor

Kassim Al-Khatib, professor, UC Davis Department of Plant Sciences and UCANR Cooperative Extension specialist in weed science, discussed field bindweed, a problematic weed that has the ability to regrow even with chemical and mechanical control.

“This is weed has been around for a long time,” Al-Khatib said. “It adapted pretty well to hot, dry land areas because it has a long root with a lot of reserve in it. Whatever you try to do, the plant still has reserve in the root and can regrow again.”

The weed scientist explained that bindweed is so problematic, it has to be assessed and managed every season in a variety of ways in order to control it. “If you do a mechanical control, the plant can come back. If you do chemical control, the plant will come back. If you think that you can control it with one shot or in one season, you’re going to be disappointed. This is a serious weed problem that requires a program with multiple approaches over multiple years,” he said.

Field bindweed (Photo by Jack Kelly Clark, UC Statewide IPM Program)
Field bindweed (Photo by Jack Kelly Clark, UC
Statewide IPM Program)

The weed is also difficult to eradicate, according to Al-Khatib, “because there’s a huge seed bank, plus these seeds have a hard coat, which means they can stay in the soil longer. If you try to germinate some of them this year, you’re going to have more seeds coming next year.”

Al-Khatib emphasized a multiple approach is still the best way to reach consistent, effective results. “The key point with field bindweed is to be consistent, have a program and envision what you can do over multiple years to get rid of it. Herbicide may suppress and weaken bindweed, but it is not going to control it or eradicate it. You need multiple approaches—chemical, mechanical, some biological.”

He offered that mites, if they can get established, have been found to feed on field bindweed, another example of using a multi-pronged eradication approach. Mildew can also weaken it. “The point I want to make,” Al-Khatib repeated, “is it takes a multiple approach, multiple tools, and multiple years before you get rid of it.”


Field Bindweed, How to Manage Pests: Pests in Gardens and Landscapes, UC IPM


E.A.T. Foundation – Connects Us to Ag

Kelly Deming Giacomazzi on the E.A.T. Foundation

By Charmayne Hefley, Associate Editor

There is a disconnect between consumers and an understanding of where their food originates. Kelly Deming Giacomazzi is the executive coordinator for the Education and Agriculture Together Foundationbetter known as the E.A.T. Foundation—a Hanford-based nonprofit that bridges this disconnect by providing educators with hands-on learning tools to teaching their students how food and other agricultural products are produced.

“They teach their students that jeans don’t just come from Old Navy or Walmart,” Giacomazzi said, “and their daily food doesn’t come from the grocery store.”

Giacomazzi said the E.A.T. Foundation offers several workshops for educators, including a 3-day “Intro to Ag” program, during which educators from all over the state are hosted by local farm families. “This is where the hands-on learning takes place. For example, educators learn to drive a tractor, siphon-irrigate, spray for bugs with a Pest Control Advisor (PCA), and visit a dairy. In the past and occasionally now, we visit the UC Davis Veterinary Medicine Teaching and Research Center (VMTRC) and AgVentures! at the Heritage Complex, both of which are in Tulare County, to give teachers a brief overview of what agriculture is doing to provide food and clothes for people in the state and in the nation.”

Giacomazzi also said E.A.T. hosts a two-day workshop on water. “We tour a hydroelectric plant, a dam/reservoir area, and distribution centers,” Giacomazzi said. “We talk about water laws, environmental impacts, and farm efficiency as well.”

The Foundation also offers summer and fall harvest workshops, plus a career workshop. Giacomazzi stated, “Many scholarship funds are available for agriculture majors, yet there aren’t enough students majoring in this field.”

Ag Major Scholarships


It Pays to be an Ag Major: Friends of Dixon May Fair Awards $12,500 in Scholarships

Seven Solano County residents majoring in agriculture will receive some financial relief when they head for their college campuses this fall, thanks to a combined total of $12,500 awarded them in college scholarships from the Friends of the Dixon May Fair.

Dixon Winners
Olivia Ramirez of Dixon is the 2015 recipient of the Ester Armstrong Memorial Scholarship from Friends of the Dixon May Fair. With her are Donnie Huffman (far left) of Vacaville, president of the Friends; Tom Armstrong of Rocklin, husband of the late Ester Armstrong, former interim chief administrative officer of the Dixon May Fair; and JoAnn Giannoni of Dixon, scholarship chair. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)It Pays to be an Ag Major: Friends of Dixon May Fair Awards $12,500 in Scholarships

The seven include four from Dixon; two from Vacaville, and one from Rio Vista. Most are current or former members of the 4-H youth development program. Over the last 15 years, the Friends of the Dixon May Fair, headed by Donnie Huffman of Vacaville, has awarded a total of $154,500 in college scholarships to Solano students majoring in an agricultural-related field in a California university or community college.

Olivia Ramirez of Dixon, a 2015 graduate of Dixon High School headed for California State University, Chico, received the Ester Armstrong Memorial Scholarship of $3000. Her career goal is to become a veterinarian. The award memorializes fair industry veteran Ester Armstrong of Rockville, a former director of the California Division of Fairs and Expositions who served as interim chief executive officer of the Dixon May Fair from 2006-2009. She died in May 2009 of cancer.

Jordan Dosker
Jordan Dosker of Vacaville received a $2000 scholarship from the Friend of the Dixon May Fair.

Jordan Dosker of Vacaville, a third-year student at California Polytechnic University (Cal Poly), San Luis Obispo, received $2000. A 2012 graduate of Vacaville High School, she plans to become a veterinarian. This is the third year she has received a Friends of the Dixon May Fair award.

Marla Kogler of Rio Vista, a third-year student at California State University, Chico, received a $2000 scholarship.  A 2013 graduate of Rio Vista High School, she plans to become an agriculture teacher and FFA advisor. This is the third year she has received a Friends’ scholarship.

Jillian Raycraft, of Dixon, a 2015 graduate of Dixon High School, received a $2000 scholarship. She will attend Cal Poly, majoring in ag business.

Lyle Glass of Vacaville, a 2015 graduate of Vacaville High School, received the $1500 Jack Hopkins Scholarship award, memorializing  a longtime Dixon resident and supporter of the Dixon May Fair. Glass will attend Woodland Community College and plans to pursue a degree in agribusiness management.

Kyle Garlick of Dixon, a second-year student at Butte Community College, received a $1000 award. A 2012 graduate of Dixon High School, he is pursuing a career in agribusiness management. This is the second year he has received a scholarship.

Nicole Talken of Dixon, a 2015 graduate of Dixon High School, received $2000. She is currently attending Sacramento City College with plans to transfer to UC Davis as a junior. She plans to become a veterinarian.

The Friends, an all-volunteer organization raises funds by selling beverages at the Dixon May Fair. They use the proceeds for building and grounds improvements on the fairgrounds, exhibitor and special event awards, and college scholarships.

Only Solano County residents planning a career in agriculture and accepted into a California college, are eligible to apply, said JoAnn Giannoni of Dixon, the scholarship chair. Applicants have graduated from a Solano County high school and must be enrolled in or accepted for enrollment in either a four-year or two-year college.  They must major in an agricultural-related field, which can encompass dozens of majors, including agricultural business, forestry, pomology, nematology, plant pathology, viticulture, wildlife and fisheries biology, and child, family and consumer science.

Recipients are selected on their personal, civic and academic experience, academic standing, personal commitment and goals, leadership potential, civic accomplishments, and agricultural interests. Desired but not mandatory is 4-H, FFA or Grange experience.

All applicants must submit a personal statement of no more than two typed pages, explaining “why they are pursuing their desired career and what they hope to accomplish,” Giannoni said.  The rules are at  Applications are generally due March 1.

The scholarship committee is comprised of Giannoni; Tootie Huffman, treasurer of the Friends; Vacaville veterinarian John Howard, who received his degree from UC Davis; and Kathy Keatley Garvey of Vacaville and Carrie Hamel of Dixon, both of UC Davis.

Capsule information on the recipients:

Olivia Ramirez was active in 4-H and FFA and also played basketball, water polo, volleyball, powderpuff football and softball in Dixon. “My plan is to go to Chico State for four years and get my bachelor of science degree in animal science, and then apply to the UC Davis Vet School to become a large animal veterinarian,” she said.  Ramirez said she intends to start a veterinary practice and also start a program that helps troubled youth of her community “learn the importance of farming, caring for animals.”  She remembers saving “every dollar from babysitting, allowance, birthday money, anything I could save” to buy a horse” when she was in middle school. She’s also raised swine and sheep and exhibited them at the Dixon May Fair.

Jordan Dosker says her ultimate goal is to become a veterinarian “and to work with either large or exotic animals.”  She didn’t grow up around animals but interned at the Sacramento Zoo. Dosker said she’d like to help people care for animals both in the United States and in third-world countries. “From Solano County to sub-Saharan Africa, I want to make an impact on people’s understanding of agriculture by taking my education on medicine and animal management and sharing it with numerous communities.”

Maria Kogler was active in the Rio Vista 4-H Club, showing market goats, and later joined the Rio Vista FFA. Both “created many opportunities for me to share my passion for agriculture with so many people,” she said. Her desire to teach is fueled by her passion for agriculture. “I want to create the same opportunities for future studenets that I was offered,” Kogler said.

Lyle Glass grew up on a 10-acre farm and continues to be active in 4-H. He served as a Solano County 4-H Ambassador, the highest 4-H rank in the county and then was named a California State Ambassador, the highest 4-H rank in the state. He seeks a career in agribusiness. “I love agriculture because of my extensive involvement in the industry,” eh said. “Also I enjoy working with people. I like to feel like I am a positive influence on people and can inspire greatness in them. I want to see people fulfill their full potential and I credit that to all the people who wanted to see me do the same.”

Of 4-H, Glass said it has morphed him into “who I am today, however, it was also the things I learned and achieved in the organization that helped make me who I am today. I was in an environment that helped me learn more about myself and what I love to do. I had a unique experience in my life that set me up for success.”

Kyle Garlick, a former 4-H’er, recalls his family moving to the country when he was in the second grade. “This was the beginning of my love for agriculture,” he said.  He credits Rhonda Rayn, a Dixon 4-H leader and former coordinator of the Dixon May Fair Junior Horse Show, with getting him involved in agriculture.  He later joined the Dixon FFA.  Garlick served as a foreign exchange student  in Argentina and attended a dairy school half of the day. “I had the opportunity to work in the dairy plant learning how to make yogurt, milk and cheese,”  he said. After graduating from Butte Community College, he plans to obtain his bachelor’s degree in ag business from Chico State and a “pursue a career with a company or agency specializing in agriculture.”

Nicole Talken, who plans to become a veterinarian, was active in both 4-H and FFA, and is presently involved in breeding and raising grand-champion rabbits. Her projects have included market goats, market lambs, market swine, dairy goats, horses, dogs, rabbits, poultry, photography, art work, taxidermy and ag mechanics. A second-year student at  Sacramento City College, she plans to transfer to UC Davis her junior year. She is majoring in animal science and management and minoring in animal nutrition and American sign language. Talken, a cancer survivor, was diagnosed with a rare cancer at age six. Her motto is “Never give up.” Said Talken: ‘Cancer opened my eyes to the world around me and I grew up wise beyond my years.:

Jillian Raycraft, raised in Dixon on a small farm, says that “agriculture has come to have most of my heart. She has fond memories of “sitting on my father’s lab, driving tractor and standing next to him trying to start an irrigation siphon with all my seven-year-old body’s might.” Raycraft was heavily involved in FFA and “raising animals and farming my own four acres of field corn and oat hay seasonally.” That further sparked her interest in pursing a career in agricultural business, which “permits me to combine the passion that I already encompass for agriculture with my willingness and dedication to further my knowledge and advocacy in this field.”  Already sparking much of her interest “are the ideas of seed distribution and agricultural lobbying.”