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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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Hands on Experience in England

Hands on Experience in England

Posted by: Analisia Basurto, AEPS student

Little did I understand what was in store for me when I agreed to do an internship with the RHS in England this summer. The RHS stands for the Royal Horticultural Society of England, which organizes most of the horticulture world of the UK. Among their gardens is Wisley Gardens, their largest garden expanding out about 240 acres. I had the privilege of working at Wisley for a 6-week internship, moving to a different department each week. Each department showcased different plant types/plant regions as well as different horticulture styles. While in each department, I was able to engage in lectures specific to the issues experienced in that department, whether irrigation management, fertilizer treatment methods, plant ID, or teamwork organization.


I found the immersion into Wisley Gardens incredibly valuable in my academic studies. From the first day, I was applying principles of plant ID, maintenance techniques, and human relation skills to the job site. This forced me to pull out elements from classes at Cal Poly, bringing me practical hands-on application to theories I’ve learned over the last two years. Everything from Landscape Maintenance to Plant Pathology classes came into play through the internship, making me value even the dullest moments in lectures.

Aside from being immersed in horticulture, this internship gave me the opportunity of touring the UK during the Olympics. Having a chance to walk the streets and meet the people of London, Brighton, Eastbourne, Hastings, Norwich, Bath, and Edinburgh over the weekends made every week an adventure. I felt like I got the best of a vacation and job experience all in one package! If you think that going international for your internship might be up your alley, I would highly recommend you go for it! I learned so much about plants, people, and life that made me ever so grateful to have been given this experience.

 

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Back to Cali

Posted by: Mitchell

Hi All!

Sorry for the delay. It has been a rather hectic schedule since I left Iowa to finish my last quarters at Cal Poly!  As of this point, I am taking my last three required classes at Cal Poly, and then it is back to Colusa I go.  I felt that this blog was as good a time as any to reflect on my last five years in the HCS department.

I came to this university in 2007.  I didn’t know anybody, and realistically, I didn’t even really know myself.  Since that time I have taken more than 52 classes and met lifelong friends.  I have also had the chance to do things that I never thought possible such as travel both the world and the United States. I have been given the chance to not only be a student in a University, but be an individual at a school full of professors and staff who know me and what I need to succeed.

The main purpose of a college degree is to help prepare you for a career, but along with that, it’s to help you find out what your passion is.  For example, I am currently growing hydroponic lettuce for my senior project.  With this project we are hoping to start a breeding project that could help improve the way that we grow lettuce in California.  None of this would have been possible without the help of my advisor, my professors, and my classmates.  The project itself is an accumulation of everything I have learned at Cal Poly, and I really think it exemplifies everything that I love about this school.  Before this project, I had never grown anything using hydroponics, yet here I am, one quarter later growing whole lettuce crops.  Learn by Doing at its finest.
I believe that this blog has given people a good look at our everyday lives and what it might mean to be a student at this school.  If you love agriculture, learning, and growing as a student and as a person, come to Cal Poly, and become a member of our AEPS family.

 

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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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