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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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Interior Plant Program To Invade Campus

Interior Plant Program To Invade Campus

Posted By: Dani Ruais

“You’re going to love plants by the end of this…”

Very few people know about the Interior Plant Care Program that Agricultural and Environmental Plant Sciences lecturer Joe Haslett spear-headed on Cal Poly’s campus. He started the program summer 2011, and in just under a year, the Horticulture and Crop Science department is present in every sit-down restaurant on campus, making its way over to the new Rec Center and hopefully into the University Union by the end of summer 2012. The idea behind this project was not just to beautify the campus core (which, as horticulture students, we just have a knack for beautifying spaces), but to teach the Interior Plant Care students the ins and outs of how the interior plant care industry works. Students participate in all aspects of the process from designing and planning, to choosing and growing the plants, to installing the plants in their new spaces, as well as taking care of the regular watering and maintenance of the plants. Most of the plants used in the restaurants on campus are grown by Cal Poly Horticulture students in the Foliage Greenhouse #10 at the Horticulture Unit. The plants were prepped and installed and are currently maintained by students.

You can see them for yourself at The Sandwich Factory, The Avenue, Metro Express, Metro 19, Ciao! and Sage restaurant.  They have been installed and maintained by paid Agricultural and Environmental Plant Sciences students. After our program received much support from the rest of the Cal Poly campus community, we were given the opportunity to also design the interior plants for the new recreation center on campus that just opened earlier this year in the spring of 2012.

The process of designing for a client is both exciting and challenging. It’s exciting because we are getting hands-on experience that you would only get if you were in the industry, and challenging because we are faced with real-world circumstances such as working with a client’s budget, or a client’s idea of how he or she would like the design done (everything from the plant selection to the container selection). I not only got experience with installing and maintaining different interior plants and spaces, but I also got experience with the software that industry professionals use to design interior spaces for their clients.

After our design plans for the new recreation center were approved, which takes a while in the real world, it was time to take a trip to the Santa Ynez Gardens Nursery to pick out our larger more expensive palm trees, as well as some interesting color plants to make “color bowls” that may be changed out seasonally, such as at Christmas time with poinsettias.

Once our plants and containers were delivered, it was time to stage and clean all the plants before they are put in their new home. We cleaned and pruned them at the Horticulture Unit prior to placing them in the Rec Center. For the larger plants, we had to assemble them on site. But for our smaller plants and color bowls, we were able to get them all ready so that they could just be placed in their spots. Even though we purchase clean plants from nurseries, it’s important for us to inspect and clean them ourselves so that we can guarantee the plants’ health. We use a natural citrus spray to smother mites and insects as well as to give the foliage some shine. Then we place the plants in their individual saucers, or pots that have sub-irrigation so that we can easily replace plants in the future.

I urge everyone to check out our work! Visit the dining complexes on campus as well as the Rec Center that we just finished installing. I hope you all enjoy the plants as much as I do.

If you would like more information on the Interior Plant Management class that is offered by Joe Haslett, our projects, or possible jobs, please contact Joe Haslett at: jhaslett@calpoly.edu.

Posted By: Dani Ruais

 

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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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