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UCR biologist receives $1.75 million to study Xylella

The UC Riverside issued a press release yesterday announcing that biology professor Leonard Nunney received a $1.75 million grant from the USDA to study the Xyella plant pathogen, which is causing serious diseases in a wide range of agricultural and horticultural crops. According to the release, there are three main Xylella subspecies found in North America: fastidiosa, which causes Pierces disease in grapes and almonds, sandyi on oleanders, day lilies, magnolias and jacarandas, and multiplex on almonds, brittlebushes, sages, olives, oaks, plums and peaches.

"There are several puzzles about this bacterium," Nunny was quoted in the news release. "If you find Xylella on a certain plant, you can't predict what else it might be found on. . . . We need to understand what it is about these plants that makes each type of Xylella favor them."

This grant and Nunnery's work is sure to generate interest in the the ag media as well as general news outlets.

Leonard Nunney
Leonard Nunney

Posted on Tuesday, June 5, 2007 at 10:03 AM

Environmentalists and farmers work together to protect bird.

The Fresno Bee today featured a 40-inch story in the front page section about the tricolored blackbird. (I realize this blog disproportionately refers to Fresno Bee stories. The paper is, after all, reporting from the No. 1 ag county in the world.) The article doesn't quote ANR scientists, but because it is so closely tied to the agricultural industry, an important ANR clientele, I believe it belongs in the ANR news blog.

Bee reporter Mark Grossi interviewed UC Davis staff research associate Robert Meese of the Department of Environmental Science and Policy.

He reported that the tricolored blackbird is not an "endangered species," and farmers want to keep it that way. Already, they have to deal with flocks of thousands of birds. Grossi opened his article with the story of a Kern County hybrid wheat and rice farm. "To the chagrin of the farmer, the 75-acre field became an avian mega-nursery." The farmer sold the crop to the government to avert a wildlife disaster.

"You can understand why the birds might be considered a pest by dairy owners," Meese was quoted in the article.

Though a nuisance, farmers do not want to see the bird's population dip low enough to trigger Endangered Species Act protections.

"Farmers and environmentalists -- often adversaries over wildlife issues -- have joined in an unusual alliance with government wildlife agencies and scientists to work on the blackbird problem," Grossi wrote in the article.

Fresno Bee front page June 4, 2007
Fresno Bee front page June 4, 2007

Posted on Monday, June 4, 2007 at 9:51 AM

Video marks step toward future of ANR news.

I've blogged about the past and present of ANR news. Today, I have the privilege of blogging about the future. In the age of YouTube, this will not seem to be a big step, especially to under-40-year-olds. But to those of us whose childhood was recorded on 8mm film and viewed only twice when a clacking projector was dragged out of the closet, it is significant.

Today, the first ANR news video was posted on our Web site. The story was conducive to visuals. Live sheep graze in a research vineyard surrounded by beautiful scenery. At one point, two Canada geese soar across the background as UC Cooperative Extension farm advisor Morgan Doran answers questions about his research.

Right now, the three-minute video launches as soon as you go to the site. UC ANR's video professionals in Communications Services are working on refining the video output. Soon there will be on-screen controls and other refinements.

We plan to continue providing the media with a closer look at UC research and extension programs though the use of this technology and others developed in the future.

Sheep in a research vineyard at Hopland REC.
Sheep in a research vineyard at Hopland REC.

Posted on Friday, June 1, 2007 at 9:41 AM

Light brown apple moth on UC's radar

The light brown apple moth is getting publicity in the California media and attention from UC scientists. Just yesterday the Monterey Herald ran a story on local concerns about the new pest. The pest's discovery last February has been widely reported in the ag trades, such as California Farmer, and other general media outlets, like the Santa Cruz Sentinel and Associated Press. To date, light brown apple moth has been spotted in Alameda, Contra Costa, San Francisco, Marin, Santa Clara, Monterey, Santa Cruz, San Mateo and Napa counties.

The California Department of Food and Agriculture assembled a 10-member technical workgroup to make recommendations about dealing with the new pest. Two UC scientists are part of the committee: UC Riverside entomologists Ring Cardé and Marshall Johnson. In a phone conversation with Johnson this morning, he said the workgroup decided at its recent meeting to recommend that CDFA aim to eradicate the pest from the state.

"If we don't control it now, it could get to the San Joaquin Valley, the Sacramento Valley, Oregon, Washington State and other parts of the U.S.," Johnson said.

Johnson said the workgroup suggested CDFA focus its efforts in places where the highest numbers of moths have been found, such as Soquel (the northeast part of Monterey Bay), and places where just a couple of moths have been found.

"If eradication attempts are successful in these areas, then we can spread out to the rest," Johnson said the workgroup recommended.

CDFA photo of light brown apple moth.
CDFA photo of light brown apple moth.

Posted on Thursday, May 31, 2007 at 10:03 AM

Tristeza-infected trees removed at Lindcove

The top story in the Fresno Bee business section this morning reports on the relatively high number of citrus trees that had to be removed at the UC Lindcove Research and Extension Center this year due to citrus tristeza virus infection.

Reporter Robert Rodriguez interviewed Lindcove director Beth Grafton-Cardwell. According to the article, she told him that the number of cotton aphids, the pest that is spreading the disease from tree to tree, was high this year.

"We had the best-case scenario for transmitting the virus," Grafton-Cardwell was quoted in the story. "And that's why we saw the numbers jump up."

Citrus trees at the Lindcove REC are the parents of most of California's commercial citrus trees. Nurseries rely on the center's true-to-type bud wood to propagate trees for the industry. But a delay in bud wood release isn't the only side effect of the spread of tristeza virus.

Grafton-Cardwell told the Bee: "The disease problem we have right now has not only affected our abilty to release clean bud wood, but it affects our research as well."

Perhaps the Fresno Bee's headline writer said it best when he topped Rodriguez' story with the title: "Virus bedevils citrus growers."

The Lindcove REC is east of Visalia.
The Lindcove REC is east of Visalia.

Posted on Wednesday, May 30, 2007 at 12:08 PM

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