This is the second year that Rafael Munhoz Pedroso—a graduate student in Dr. Albert Fischer's lab—was awarded first place by the California Weed Science Society (CWSS) for his student oral research presentation. This year his research work was on Uncovering the Mechanism of Resistance to Propanil in Ricefield Bulrush (Schoenoplectus mucronatus (L.) Palla) from Rice Fields of California.
Graduate students MarceloMoretti—Dr. Brad Hanson's lab—and Whitney Brim-DeForest—also from the Fischer lab—received first and second place (respectively) for their student research posters. Marcelo's work was on the Assessment of Glyphosate and Paraquat Resistance in Hairy Fleabane and Horseweed Populations of the Central Valley, while Whitney's poster was on the Resistance of Leptochloa fusca spp. fascicularis (bearded sprangletop) to ACCase Inhibitors in California Rice.
Marcelo Moretti (left) and Rafael Pedroso (right) at the 2015 CWSS meeting
The Book Review's Susan Roberts conducted an interview with Long, exploring her inspiration for the series, writing challenges, research and more.
Long said her young son inspired her to create the characters in the book. During long drives, she would tell him stories.
"After 12 years of storytelling, I had this collection of unique adventures," Long said.
One of the challenges she encountered was turning off her bent for science and letting creativity flow.
"I'm a science writer and facts come easy for me, but describing what feeling sad or happy looks like takes work," Long said. "I love my creativity in figuring out the plotting, but writing in all the descriptive details is still challenging."
During the interview, Long told the SF Book Review about a research project she conducted in her UC Cooperative Extension work to determine what bats eat at night and their value to farmers. She and her staff collected guano, which revealed which insects they were eating.
"One farmer has a 300-acre walnut orchard and he estimates he has bout 15,000 bats," Long said. "The study we worked on showed each bat provided $6 of pest control services. The farmer received about $90,000 worth of services."
From the UC Davis News Service • January 21, 2015
Led by Professor David Slaughter of the UC Davis Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering, the project recently received a $2.7 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Specialty Crop Research Initiative. It addresses a problem that has vexed precision weed management for years: How do you devise a robotic cultivator that can quickly distinguish friend from foe?
“Machines can recognize a weed, and they can recognize a crop plant, but they have trouble distinguishing one pattern from another when they are co-mingled, as is often the case with weeds and young crops in the field, particularly when traveling at a typical tractor speed of three-feet-per-second or more,” Slaughter said.
Slaughter's team is designing a robotic cultivator that can remove weeds in commercial fields as carefully as gardeners pull weeds in their own backyard, without the time-consuming labor and cost. They're developing a “smart” cultivator with small knives that reach out to uproot weeds and retract to keep crops intact.
It will weed the beds of any row crop and will be especially useful in wide beds of densely seeded crops like spinach and baby lettuce, which can turn green almost overnight with weeds and leafy crops.
“Current vision-sensing mechanical cultivators can sometimes recognize weeds along the edges of wide beds, or seed lines, as we call them, but they get lost in the middle,” said Steve Fennimore, Cooperative Extension weed specialist with the UC Davis Department of Plant Sciences, a member of the new robotic cultivator team. “Workers often have to go back through and hand-weed them.”
How will the new cultivator distinguish friend from foe? Thanks to a safe, simple seed coating, the plants will signal the cultivator by emitting a faint, fluorescent glow that will appear when seedlings emerge and are most vulnerable, then vanish as plants grow and can out-compete weeds for sun, water and nutrients.
“It won't involve biotechnology or any genetic engineering,” Slaughter said. “The seeds will be coated with a safe, inert, fluorescent material.”
Seeds are commonly coated with various materials (like fertilizers, fungicides or herbicides) for different reasons. Some seeds are coated to protect them from birds, rodents and stress. Some seeds are coated with colorful, inert material to make them easier to plant and easier to pick up if they spill. Some seeds are coated as a way for companies to protect their brand identity — a process they call “track and trace.”
To develop the seed coating, Slaughter's team will work with researchers from the Seed Biotechnology Center at UC Davis and Aginnovation, a company that specializes in seed technology, located in Walnut Grove in Sacramento County. Aginnovation is a founding member of the Centor Group, a group of independent companies from around the world that work together to deliver leading-edge technology and services to the agricultural seed industry.
This new smart-cultivator technology could be the breakthrough needed to help crop plants communicate with existing machines like automated lettuce thinners, machines that drive through heavily seeded fields and remove all but the most viable plants.
The new cultivator should move more quickly through a field than current vision-sensor models because it won't take as long for the machine to distinguish the good guys from the bad guys. That's good news for vegetable growers like Alain Pincot, managing partner of Bonipak Farms in Santa Maria.
“As the cost of labor rises in California, mechanical cultivators become more important to both organic and conventional ag production,” Pincot said. “We've been fairly happy with our existing automatic weeders, but we would be interested in a new type of cultivator if it moved more quickly and could accommodate beds of various widths. A robotic weeder with a higher speed and good accuracy along the row would be a winning machine.”
That's no doubt why the USDA is investing $2.7 million in the new cultivator design, which will take shape over the next five years.
Several researchers from various disciplines in different states are teaming up on the project. In addition to Slaughter and Fennimore, they include Professors Ken Giles, Shrinivasa Upadhyaya and Stavros Vougioukas, all with the UC Davis Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering; Richard Smith, Cooperative Extension farm advisor in Salinas County, who specializes in vegetable crop production and weed science; Laura Tourte, Cooperative Extension farm advisor in Santa Cruz, Monterey and San Benito counties, specializing in farm management; Mark Siemens, professor and Cooperative Extension specialist with the University of Arizona Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering; Professor Manoj Karkee with the Washington State University Biological Systems Engineering Department; and Professor Qin Zhang, director of the Center for Precision and Automated Agricultural Systems at Washington State University.
- David Slaughter, Biological and Agricultural Engineering, (530) 752-5553, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Steve Fennimore, Plant Sciences, (831) 755-2896, email@example.com
Calling all farmers (Big, Small, Urban, Conventional, Organic, etc...) we want to hear your thoughts about weeds and weed control
The California Weed Science Society publishes a Journal and Research Update twice yearly. The purpose of the journal is to provide weed management professionals with information about the people, projects, and issues that are of particular interest to them.
Traditionally, journal articles are written by University/Extension or industry personnel. For the September 2015 issue, we are looking for CA growers to volunteer to contribute short essays (1-2 pages) describing:
1) The impact of weeds in their production systems,
2) Their successes and failures with weed control efforts,
3) What they think the critical weed science research needs are in the state of California.
We are interested in all kinds of viewpoints, including those of:
- Agronomic row crop farmers
- Tree and vine growers
- Warm- and cool-season veggie producers
- Rice growers
- Ranchers/sheep- or goat-herders
- Ornamental horticulture and turf-grass operations
- Urban farmers
- Big and small farmers
- Conventional and organic farmers
Do you have an opinion? Do you like to write? Do you think you like to write? Please consider this opportunity to share your story.
The article said Janes represented Sandia to the media for nearly 13 years. According to the Sandia website, the company, a wholly owned subsidiary of Lockheed Martin Corporation, is a science and engineering laboratory for national security and technology innovation.
In his new position, Janes will report directly to UC ANR vice president Barbara Allen-Diaz and will be responsible for overseeing a variety of functional communications areas. The article notes that the ANR division is located in Davis, but is not a part of UC Davis.
"It's been an honor and a pleasure working here at Sandia," Janes is quoted. "Though it's a cliché to say it's 'all about the people', it's really true in this case. I'll miss the people and the mission of Sandia but know the lab will continue to do important work in the national interest."