Kearney News Updates
Kearney's Dr. Khaled Bali, UCCE irrigation water management specialist, was recognized in late June for exceptional collaboration skills and problem-solving with the UCCE 2019/2020 Outstanding Team Distinguished Service Award. In conjunction with 16 other academics and advisors from UCCE as well as five State Water Resources Control Board engineers, Khaled and his team have addressed a problem that was a burden and financial strain on growers and cattle ranchers in California. A state senate bill mandating water right holders to measure and report water diversions greater than 10 acre-feet per year was a compliance challenge due to the cost to have certified personnel, or engineers, measure diversions. As a solution, Khaled and his team developed a 3.5-hr water measurement and reporting course to certify diverters, such as the landowners, in order to facilitate compliance with water diversion reporting. With support from the University of California, Assembly Bill 589 was passed and became law in 2018 enabling anyone who passes the course to be considered a “qualified individual” and subject to considerable savings. The team has conducted over 20 workshops in Northern, Central and Southern California and certified over 1,200 diverters since passage of the bill. They are in the process of offering online courses.
Khaled is a perfect example of the collaborative spirit of the UC Cooperative Extension. He routinely assists other researchers and staff on their projects when questions about water management arise. He was last seen harvesting almonds for a variable irrigation experiment while discussing plans for future collaboration with another member of Cooperative Extension. Here is another example of Khaled and UCANR's bend towards collaboration and problem solving, a five-year project that starts this fall to address sustainable food systems amidst climate change utilizing artificial intelligence (AI) technologies in agriculture: https://ucanr.edu/News/?routeName=newsstory&postnum=42848.
Dr. Bali first came to Kearney in July of 2016 after nearly 25 years with UCCE as the irrigation/water management advisor at the Desert REC in Holtville, just outside El Centro, CA. Additionally, Khaled served as the County Director for UCCE-Imperial County for 7 years and was the Interim Director of the Desert REC for two years. Kearney is fortunate to have Khaled on board, collaborating and conducting research with his staff in the alfalfa fields by Manning Ave. as well as orchards on the 340 acre station and within driving distance of Parlier.
Belated congratulations are now extended to Dr. Carlos Crisosto for receiving the UCCE 2019/2020 Outstanding Research Distinguished Service Award. This honor was announced in late June and recognizes outstanding accomplishments by UCCE academics over a significant period of time for: academic excellence; innovative methods of obtaining new knowledge; the impact of research on clientele and the level of adoption; and the incorporation of research into extension programs.
The following remarks were made by The Academic Assembly Council Distinguished Service Award Committee:
The committee recommends Carlos Crisosto for the Outstanding Research Award. Dr. Crisosto, Postharvest Physiology Extension Specialist, has demonstrated an exceptional research program with impacts on both the California food industry and consumers through his work on postharvest handling of tree fruits and nuts. His work has had a high impact on food loss reduction, improvement of fruit quality and safety, and expansion of markets for California agriculture. Highlights of Dr. Crisosto's work include his incorporation of consumer perceptions into the measurement of fruit quality, collaborative development and implementation of protocols for fruit ripening, transportation, and retail handling, and research into consumer perceptions of different cultivars. His outstanding research has been coupled with an outreach and education program that included extension through site visits, in person workshops, short courses, manuals, popular articles, websites and collaboration. In addition to his academic successes, Dr. Crisosto was awarded the Industry Distinguished Service & Achievement Award by the California fig industry in recognition of supporting cultivar development, improving marketing and utilization of dried and fresh figs over his career. The success of Dr. Crisosto's program is a testament to the outstanding work in applied research that can be accomplished through UC ANR.
Carlos is joining other members of the UC KAC/KARE community who have received Distinguished Service Awards from UCCE: 2011 Outstanding Extension – Walt Bentley, area IPM advisor and 2016 Outstanding Leader - Peter Goodell, UC Cooperative Extension IPM advisor.
For over 30 years, Carlos has been a UC Davis, California State-Wide Pomology Postharvest Specialist in charge of fresh fruit and nuts. Previously he worked as an Assistant Pomology Professor at the Universidad Católica de Chile, working with deciduous fruit. We still see Carlos at the Kearney postharvest building working with grad students and the local industry to develop methods for optimum preservation of stone fruit after harvest. Over the years, Carlos has made full use of the amenities at Kearney for his applied research. Research amenities include 21 walk-cold rooms, gas exchange board for manipulating storage atmosphere, ample office space and lab benches, personnel devoted to facilitating research and a cohesive network of colleagues to engage and collaborate with.
Congratulations, Carlos, and thank you for all your hard work and mentoring.
Scorching temperatures and parched earth are no match for the sorghum plant — this cereal crop, native to Africa, will remain green and productive, even under conditions that would render other plants brown, brittle and barren.
A new study published this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences provides the first detailed look at how the plant exercises exquisite control over its genome — switching some genes on and some genes off at the first sign of water scarcity, and again when water returns — to survive when its surroundings turn harsh and arid.
"With this research, we are laying the groundwork for understanding drought tolerance in cereal crops," said Jeff Dahlberg, UC Cooperative Extension sorghum specialist. Dahlberg, co-author of the study, is also director the UC Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Parlier, one of nine research and extension centers in California that are part of UC Agriculture and Natural Resources.
Dahlberg said researchers can use the knowledge gained from this project to search for drought genes in other cereal crops.
"That has implications for feeding the world, particularly considering changing climate and weather patterns," he said.
The massive dataset, collected from 400 samples of sorghum plants grown during 17 weeks at Kearney, reveals that the plant modulates the expression of a total of 10,727 genes, or more than 40% of its genome, in response to drought stress. Many of these changes occur within a week of the plant missing a weekly watering or after it is first watered after weeks of no precipitation or irrigation.
Kearney is a 330-acre agriculture research facility in the heart of California's Central Valley, where field-scale, real-world research can be conducted on drought impact on plants and soil microbial communities. The climate is naturally dry throughout the summer, making it ideal to mimic drought conditions by withholding irrigation water.
"People have really shied away from doing these types of experiments in the field and instead conduct them under controlled conditions in the laboratory or greenhouse. But I believe that the investment of time and resources that we put into it is going to pay off, in terms of the quality of the answers that we get, in terms of understanding real-world drought situations," said Peggy Lemaux, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in UC Berkeley's Department of Plant and Microbial Biology and co-author of the paper.
The data was collected as part of the Epigenetic Control of Drought Response in Sorghum, or EPICON, project, a five-year, $12.3 million study into how the sorghum plant is able to survive the stress of drought. The EPICON study is run as a partnership between UC Berkeley researchers and scientists at UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR), the Energy Department's Joint Genome Institute (JGI) and that agency's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL).
To conduct the research, the team cultivated sorghum plants under three different irrigation conditions — pre-flowering drought, post-flowering drought and controlled applications of water — over three consecutive years at Kearney.
Each week during the growing season, members of the research team carefully harvested samples from the leaves and roots of selected plants and set up a mobile lab in the field where they could rapidly freeze the samples until they were processed for analysis. Then, researchers at JGI sequenced the RNA in each sample to create the transcriptome data, which reveals which of the plant's tens of thousands of genes are being transcribed and used to make proteins at particular times.
Finally, statisticians led by UC Berkeley statistics professor Elizabeth Purdom parsed the massive transcriptome data set to pinpoint how gene expression changed as the plants grew and were subjected to drought or relief from drought conditions.
"We very carefully controlled the watering conditions, and we sampled over the entire developmental timeframe of sorghum, so [researchers] could actually use this data not only to study drought stress, but also to study plant development," Lemaux said.
The researchers noticed a few interesting patterns in the transcriptome data. First, they found that a set of genes known to help the plant foster symbiotic relationships with a type of fungus that lives around its roots was switched off in drought conditions. This set of genes exhibited the most dramatic changes in gene activity that they observed.
"That was interesting, because it hinted that the plants were turning off these associations [with fungi] when they were dry," said John Vogel, a staff scientist at JGI and co-author of the paper. "That meshed well with findings that showed that the abundance of these fungi around the roots was decreasing at the same time."
Second, they noticed that certain genes known to be involved with photosynthesis were also turned off in response to drought and turned up during drought recovery. While the team doesn't yet know why these changes might help the plant, they provide interesting clues for follow-up.
The data in the current paper show the plant's transcriptome under both normal conditions and drought conditions over the course of a single growing season. In the future, the team also plans to publish data from the other two years of the experiment, as well as proteomic and metabolomic data.
Nelle Varoquaux and Cheng Gao of UC Berkeley and Benjamin Cole of JGI are co-first-authors of the study. Other co-authors include Grady Pierroz, Christopher R. Baker, Dhruv Patel, Mary Madera, Tim Jeffers, Judith A. Owiti, Stephanie DeGraaf, Ling Xu, Krishna K. Niyogi, Devin Coleman-Derr and John W. Taylor of UC Berkeley; Joy Hollingsworth, Julie Sievert and Jeffery Dahlberg of UC ANR KARE; Yuko Yoshinaga, Vasanth R. Singan, Matthew J. Blow, Axel Visel and Ronan O'Malley of JGI; Maria J. Harrison of the Boyce Thompson Institute; Christer Jansson of PNNL and Robert Hutmacher of UC ANR.
This research was funded in part by the Department of Energy (DOE) grant DE-SC001408; the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation grant GBMF3834; the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation grant
2013-10-27; L'Ecole NormaleSupérieure-Capital Fund Management data science chair and the DOE's Office of Biological and Environmental Research grant DE-SC0012460. Work conducted by the DOE Joint Genome Institute is supported by the Office of Science of the DOE contract DE-AC02-05CH11231.
UC Agriculture and Natural Resources brings the power of UC research in agriculture, natural resources, nutrition and youth development to local communities to improve the lives of all Californians. Learn more at ucanr.edu.
- Dealing with Drought: Uncovering Sorghum's Secrets
- Berkeley to lead $12.3M study of crop drought tolerance
- Drought treatment restructures plants' microbiomes
- Microbes associated with plant roots could be a key to helping plants survive drought
Jeff Dahlberg, UC Cooperative Extension specialist at the UC Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center, firstname.lastname@example.org
Peggy Lemaux, cooperative extension specialist at UC Berkeley's Department of Plant and Microbial Biology, email@example.com
John Vogel, staff scientist, DOE Joint Genome Institute, firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr. Themis Michailides receives Lifetime Achievement Award from American Phytopathological Society, Pacific Division.
The Pacific Division of the American Phytopathological Society recently awarded Dr. Themis Michailides their Lifetime Achievement Award.
Here are some excerpts from the presentation of the award:
Michailides is a leading authority in fungal fruit tree pathology and is nationally and internationally recognized for his innovative ecological, epidemiological, and disease management studies of devastating diseases of fruit and nut crops.
After intensive and multifaceted research on the panicle and shoot blight of pistachio caused by Botryosphaeria dothidea, a major disease that became an epidemic in 1995 to 1998 and frightened the pistachio industry, he developed tools for successfully controlling the disease. For this outstanding research, the California pistachio industry awarded him an engraved plaque entitled “Honoring 20 years of research excellence.”
Michailides has been doing pioneering research in understanding and managing aflatoxin contamination of pistachio and almond.
Michailides has published more than 235 refereed articles.
He has been very active in The American Phytopathological Society (APS), serving as a member and/or chair of various APS committees. He has also served as associate editor (1991—1993) and senior editor (1995—1997) of Plant Disease and senior editor (2006—2008) of Phytopathology. He has established cooperation with international scientists in more than 10 countries.
2011 APS Fellow
APS Pacific Division President 2012—2013
Themis has worked from Kearney for 31years now. He and his co-workers expanded the research from what they learned from the Bot of pistachio over the years to Bot (or band) canker of almond and the Botryosphaeria/Phomopsis canker dieback and blight of walnut. Themis and co-workers care about the success of the growers he serves and he is always eager in finding solutions to their disease problems.
Kearney shares summer mornings with high school students from Reedley College Upward Bound Math and Science program.
The last two weeks of June were filled with the activity of high school students brought from Reedley College for experiential learning about math and science in agriculture. Kearney has played a part in Upward Bound for several years, hosting a portion of the student workshops for two weeks each June. The program is described on the Reedley College Upward Bound website:
The Reedley College Upward Bound Programs are highly successful, precollege programs for predominately low-income and first generation college bound high school students. …The general purpose of Upward Bound is to generate excitement and increase the rates of college enrollment among high school students.
Partnering with Upward Bound is an important part of the strong Outreach Program at Kearney. Please enjoy the following pictures of some of the 2019 summer learning and fun.