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Tag Archives: Agricultural and Environmental Plant Sciences

Intro: Bug Detective

Intro: Bug Detective

Posted by Dani Ruais

Cal Poly is full of opportunities. I did not think that I would have found an interest in plant protection science while I was here, but I found that I have deep fascination with insects and their interaction with plants. After my introductory entomology class with Dr. Headrick, I decided that I would concentrate on plant protection sciences, and filled out the necessary paperwork for my concentration that same day. During the rest of my student career at Cal Poly, I took all the plant protection science classes that were offered: vertebrate pest management, advanced weed management, insect pest management, plant pathology, biological pest control, etc. Going through the plant protection program was easy enough. The program takes an integrated management approach to controlling pests which basically means that you monitor as much as you can (intro: Bug Detective), and then use the least invasive controls first before progressing to chemical controls, in addition to coming up with plans to use several different control measures in conjunction with one another. The program really makes you think about all of our impacts on natural ecosystems as well as on cropping and ornamental nursery systems.

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The plant protection science program is comprehensive and prepares the student to take his or her Pest Control Advisor’s (PCA) license exam once graduated. Once I graduated, I had all the necessary educational requirements fulfilled for me to be able to take the PCA; and I passed the test my first time. The testing was in depth. But fortunately, Cal Poly professors tailor the plant protection science classes to uniquely prepare Cal Poly grads for the PCA test, as well as preparing the student to take his or her Qualified Applicators License (which is the next license I plan on receiving). PCA exam preparation lectures are also held periodically at Cal Poly for some extra help.

After I graduated, the Horticulture Unit was in need of a pesticide technician and I filled the position as I was studying to take my PCA exams. I really loved this experience. Sure it had some downsides that really taught me that maybe I do not want to do this in the future—by “this” I mean wearing a full Tyvek suit and respirator applying pesticides in a hot greenhouse in the middle of summer. I am not cut out for the heavy labor of being a pesticide applicator, but I do love to scout and recommend control measures. It also showed me that my education prepared me for real world experiences. My best friends during my position were my notes from previous classes I’ve taken, as well as the computer sites and databases that our professors have told us about so many times that we have them memorized.

As the pesticide technician at the Horticulture unit, my days consisted of monitoring the greenhouses and outdoor nursery and landscaped areas at the unit, identifying various damaging signs and symptoms, making recommendations for control measures for various weed pests, insect and mite pests, and plant pathogens, and applying those control measures that would best resolve our pest problems. I worked closely with the Horticulture Unit technician, Ellen Brack, PCA as well as with Dr. Rob Shortell, PCA and students who were growing their various enterprise projects in the greenhouses.

For instance, I had to take care of the reoccurring whitefly problems that come with growing poinsettias, and I had to monitor and work closely with the students in charge of the poinsettia growing to implement control measures. But one of the first things you want to make sure you know before diagnosing and treating a problem are the historical facts at play:

  • Poinsettias are susceptible to whitefly
  • Every year we grow poinsettias (usually by cuttings) we have whitefly affecting the crop
  • Even when we start with certified clean stock cuttings, we have whitefly affecting the crop
  • Historical weather data; pertinent environmental changes that could affect the reproductive cycles of whitefly
  • Whitefly is present on other crops in the neighboring greenhouses
  • Chemical controls are recorded and dated with corresponding graphs to measure effectiveness of control so we know what kind of effects our different control measures have over time

Knowing the answers to these types of questions prior to the establishment of the crop in the greenhouse allows us to use preventative measures, and physical and mechanical measures first, when they will be most effective and preventing a population to establish. Being proactive and consistent are the most important qualities in a PCA and in an integrated pest management plan. And making sure that when you apply a control measure, that it is the most reasonable one and that it is implemented 100% correctly so that they can be as effective as possible in order to not waste time and money.

By recording every observation (monitoring), gathering historically relevant facts (researching), as well as following up on every control measure to rate its effectiveness (recording) and decide whether to incorporate a control measure into an integrated pest management plan that looks at the whole picture; not just its isolated units.

Positions at Cal Poly are unique because it is Learn by doing. You have all the support you can get to prevent you from making mistakes, but even if you make a mistake and say burn all the plants with the wrong dose of pesticides, you do not get fired or ruin your career. Instead, you catch some flak, learn from your mistakes, and try to amend the situation. The position was equally challenging to control all pests at the unit, as well as to use and expand my knowledge base. I had the flexibility to try out different sprayers, different chemicals, various application methods, gain experience using beneficial insects, etc. I came away with probably a larger variety of knowledge than a lot of pest control advisors who have worked in one or two crops their whole careers. I got to work with such a variety of pests and crops and environmental situations that I feel almost like a jack of all trades- a little knowledge about everything pest related!

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Growing Rare Conifers

Growing Rare Conifers

Posted by: Mark Krist

My name is Mark Krist. I received a Bachelors of Science degree through the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences as an Urban Forester via the Natural Resources Management Department in 2007. I now serve as an Urban Forester through the College of Science & Math under the direction of Dr. Matt Ritter, Director of the Cal Poly Plant Conservatory. As the Urban Forester of the Cal Poly Plant Conservatory, I have had the pleasure to be involved in many important projects including the maintenance of this collection of rare conifers.

The attached pictures are of a collection of rare conifers currently being grown at the Leaning Pine Arboretum and slated to be planted in the future Math & Science Complex. The rare conifer collection is composed of 45 specimens representing 33 individual species. Recently the whole collection was transplanted to larger containers to promote continued growth. This was the second time the collection was “bumped.” The growing of the specimens on campus prior to the installation saves money and provides time to grow to a larger size.

This project is of particular interest because it represents a collaboration among the Horticulture and Crop Science Department (using the Horticulture Unit for space and resources), the College of Science & Math (the Cal Poly Plant Conservatory in the form of plant selection and maintenance) and the Cal Poly Grounds Department (who are the eventual landscape designers, and will install and maintain the plants). This collection is to be installed mid-2013 and that there are currently Landscape Architecture students formulating plans for class projects.

I would invite you to come visit the rare conifer collection at the Horticulture Unit, located in the Courtright shade house, to meet some new and fascinating specimens. All specimens are labeled and coincide with the following current container size listing.

Abies bracteata 15 gallon
Abies squamata 15 gallon
Agathis australis 15 gallon
Agathis corbassonii 5 gallon
Agathis robusta 20″ box
Araucaria bidwillii 20″ box
Araucaria E = 24 15 gallon
Araucaria unknown 15 gallon
Athrotaxis selaginoides 5 gallon
Austrocedrus chilensis (2) 15 gallon
Calocedrus rupestris 15 gallon
Cunninghamia lanceolata 20″ box
Cupressus gigantea (2) 5 gallon, 3 15 gallon
Dacrydium cupressinum (female) 15 gallon
Dacrycarpus dacrydioides (2) 15 gallon still waiting for boxes
Halocarpus bidwillii 5 gallon
Juniperis communis 15 gallon
Podocarpus gnidioides 15 gallon
Podocarpus lawrencii (2) 15 gallon
Podocarpus latifolius 20″ box
Podocarpus longifoliolatus 5 gallon
Podocarpus totara 15 gallon
Podocarpus urbanii 15 gallon
Pseudotsuga macrocarpa 15 gallon
Prumnopitys andina 5 gallon
Sciadopitys verticillata 15 gallon
Sequoiadendron gigantea (4) 15 gallon
Taxodium mucronatum (2) 15 gallon still waiting for boxes, (1) 15 gallon
Taxus selaginoides 5 gallon
Taxus wallichiana 15 gallon
Torreya californica 15 gallon
Torreya taxifolia 15 gallon
Wollemia nobilis 20″ box
Mark Krist

Urban Forester, Cal Poly Plant Conservatory

PlantConservatory.CalPoly.edu

MKrist@CalPoly.edu

 

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Get OUT! :)

Posted by: Kelly

Now is the time! Get out and do something new!

My time at Cal Poly is coming to an end, and I have realized how many things I have always said I will do and have never done. Recently I have been trying to go out and try new things. Here are a few things I suggest doing in the near future to make you a happier person

One: Read a new book. I have never been an avid reader, of anything, except maybe food blogs or magazines (which I tend to skim through). For my senior seminar class we are required to read a book and write a review on it. At first I saw it as a daunting task: why would I want to read a book for a class? It is my last quarter of school and I’m sure I can find a way to make it look like I have read the book. But after looking at the list I decided to read a book by Michael Pollan called “In Defense of Food.” To my surprise, it was one of the best books I have ever read! It gave me a new perspective on food and how others (mainly those not involved in ag) look at food and how it is grown. It has opened my eyes, and now I can understand why people think they way they think. This book has also encouraged me to start reading more books, which I am extremely excited about!

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Two: Go visit a different city for a weekend. Last weekend I went up to Davis to visit some friends (and because I had volleyball which is a wonderful excuse). I had never been to Davis to just hang out, and it was quite nice! We walked around campus, got to check out a bunch of greenhouses, the domes, the Arboretum and the Davis Co-op. I felt like I was taking my own personal field trip. We went out to yummy dinners and the nightlife there was really entertaining! Even though it may seem like going out of town is a hassle, or you might not have time to get everything done, do it! Just go explore. You won’t be sorry.

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Three: Go to Song Writers at Play. At Kruezburgs on Tuesdays, as well as a few other locations during the week, there is an event called Song Writers at Play. You can go to the coffee shop, grab a beer, some coffee or food and just sit and listen to people play their songs. It is one of the most relaxing things I did this week. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in school, or sports, and our daily lives that we forget to go out and do something fun for ourselves.

Four: Try a new sport in the Rec Center. Have you been to the new Rec Center? It is the Disneyland of all gyms. I nearly died when I walked in for the first time and thought I was going to get lost!! Even if you aren’t a gym rat and you don’t really like exercise, there are a ton of fun things to do in the gym. They have ping-pong, basketball, racquetball, squash and volleyball. The options are endless. Just go and try it out!

Five: (If you are a foodie like me…) Make a list of local restaurants to try. My roommate and I recently have come up with a list of restaurants in town that we would like to eat at someday. Sometimes when we are just sitting at home and have the urge to go get tasty food, we pull out the list and pick somewhere to go. Lots of places around San Luis use local produce and turn it into a divine dining experience.

Six: Throw a dinner party with some close friends. Our time in college is short and we want to see the friendships we make throughout the years last for a long time. Have some friends over for a dinner party. It doesn’t matter if you are a great chef or not, just having people all together, socializing over food makes for a great setting. This week I had my team over and we did a make your own pizza party. Go to a farmers market, pick up some veggies, some pizza dough from Trader Joe’s and call it a day! Easy-peezy party that people will love.

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Meet Sydney :)

Posted by: Sydney

Hi there! My name is Sydney Ross and I am a freshman Horticulture and Crop Science student at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Specifically I am an Agricultural and Environmental Plant Sciences Major with a concentration in Greenhouse and Nursery Plant Production. This past year the HCS department decided to change things, as far as majors go, for future students starting with the graduating class of 2015, my incoming class. Previously I would have been admitted as an Environmental Horticultural Science student, but due to the creation of new concentrations, I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to become an AEPS “Ape!” I am extremely, extremely, happy with my choice in major. Although I have only had the pleasure to experience one quarter at Cal Poly so far, I have learned many lovely and fascinating things about plants through HCS already.

Before I came to Cal Poly, I frequently asked myself, “What am I doing?” or rather “Is this really going to be right for me?” (Suddenly it seemed as though the world was my oyster. Wow, that is cheesy, but hey, it’s true!) As soon as I started taking all of my introduction to horticulture classes however, I knew abruptly I had made the right choice; not only in school, but also to become a HCS student. Well, I honestly can’t think of anything I would rather be doing than working with plants.

But before I dive into my love for nature, a little about myself. I was raised in Huntington Beach, California, which is pretty far south.  It is also known as “Surf City USA.” Huntington Beach is an amazing place–so beautiful–I feel truly fortunate to call it home! My personal favorite pastimes include hiking; backpacking, going for long walks with my pup, Charly, pressing, picking, and collecting plants; sketching; and of course fungus hunting! (I will admit I am a bit of a dweeb when it comes to mycology.) Frequently you can find me wandering around various parks, nature preserves, and the good ol’ outdoors. I think it was my love of exploring nature that turned me onto the idea that I could cultivate plants for a living. Just the thought of one day owning or running a greenhouse puts a large grin on my face. My favorite plants and fungi include poppies, echeveria, irises, manzanita, rosemary, lavender, banksias, shaggy mane, sulfur shelf, yellow coral, witches butter, fairy ring mushrooms, and amethyst laccaria (I’m going to stop myself here, before this goes on forever.) There are so many beautiful and exotic species in the world to see that learning about them is one of my favorite things in life.

Besides being a horticulture student, I am also the Eco-Representative of my dorm. I promote all aspects of sustainability, recycling, etc., as well as am an active member of the Real Foods Collaborative here on campus, working to integrate more fresh and locally grown foods into the campus diet. As you can tell I am a very busy and love it here in San Luis! I look forward to telling you more about my fantastic experiences here as an AEPS student, so until next time upward and onward!

 

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