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Horticulture conference held in Pala


Last updated 11/17/2006 at Noon

What is expected to be the first annual Horticulture Research and Education Conference was held October 18 at the Pala Casino Spa Resort.

Approximately 65 growers, educators, researchers, and regulatory agency staff attended the conference which included presentations and posters as well as break periods so that the attendees from various sectors could speak with each other on a personal basis.

“The mixture of researchers and regulators and growers worked out perfectly in terms of interaction,” said conference organizer John Kabashima, who is the director of the University of California Cooperative Extension in Orange County. “Each segment that was there gained a great deal from other presentations on the program.”

The presenters included two professors from the Department of Plant Sciences at the University of California, Davis and two speakers from the California Department of Pest Regulation. In addition to the Davis and Sacramento representation, the conference also included visitors from Ventura, Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Orange, and Riverside Counties as well as San Diego County registrants.

“In terms of acreage the attendees represented a majority of acreage in Southern California,” Kabashima said.

The ten presentations included two panels which created a total of 18 speakers. The poster session included about 20 posters. “Next year I’m going to expand the poster session. That was so popular,” Kabashima said.

The number of presentations is limited by the single-day session, but the posters serve other advantages in addition to reducing the quantity of oral presentations. “The growers really appreciated seeing the photographs and the descriptions and some of the results,” Kabashima said. “That was a wonderful way to get the information out.”

A 1 3/4-hour lunch break which included poster viewing allowed sufficient time for attendees to obtain information from the poster presentations.

The oral presentations were divided into four sessions: Research Testing Program to Register Products for Ornamentals; Enforcement Policy, Monitoring, and BMPs (best management practices); Conditional Waiver of Waste Discharge for Irrigated Lands; and Exotic Pests — Exclusion, Detection, Eradication Control, Research Perspective. The speakers during the four sessions included professors from the University of California, Davis, Department of Plant Sciences and the University of California, Riverside Department of Entomology, supervisors from the California Department of Pest Regulation, a biologist from the California Department of Food and Agriculture, entomologists and plant pathologists from the agriculture commissioner’s offices of San Diego, Orange, and Los Angeles Counties, staff members from the University of California Cooperative Extension programs in Orange and San Diego Counties, a co-chair from the California Oak Mortality Task Force who works for Hines Horticulture, and scientists and engineers from the Los Angeles, Santa Ana, and San Diego regional water quality control boards.

“The program ended up educating everyone who attended,” Kabashima said, noting that the mix of speakers allowed for broadened backgrounds of what is required to operate a nursery. “We cleared up a lot of misconceptions of what each of the different areas was doing.”

Kabashima noted that growers often don’t understand the requirements of regulators. He added that regulators can often be of assistance. “They’re also a tremendous resource in identifying pest problems in the nursery,” he said. “What we’re trying to do is help the nurseries control their pests in the most effective manner possible using the least amount of pesticides.”

Kabashima noted that regulators can be thought of as resources rather than just agencies which can threaten fines or quarantines. “Growers are reluctant to ask, and if they don’t ask then they could get in trouble,” he said. “A lot of people, I think, have a fear of regulatory agencies.”

The break and poster sessions allowed growers and regulators, as well as researchers, to converse with each other. “In the poster session everybody was able to mix and discuss things,” Kabashima said.

“It’s become really tough to be a successful nursery person,” Kabashima said. “That’s why I put on conferences like this.”

The growers became familiar with the pressures on regulators, including funding constraints, and the researchers became familiarized with the needs of growers in order to focus their research on practical problems.

“It was really a wonderful meeting. There was a good energy in that room at the end of the day,” Kabashima said.

Kabashima sought to address the main issues impacting growers so that the attendees could be exposed to the information in a single day. “The grower could leave that day with a lot of information,” he said.

The information included various resources for growers. “They can go to the university or they can go to the Farm Bureau or they can go to some nursery association,” Kabashima said.

Eric Larson, the executive director of the San Diego County Farm Bureau, was in attendance, but the San Diego affiliate was the only Farm Bureau represented. “What we’re going to try to do is include more organizations,” Kabashima said.

Kabashima explained that small growers often can’t spare an entire day for such meetings while grower groups can relay the information to individual nursery growers. “There are different groups out there that can help you if you become a member,” Kabashima said. “If you try to do this all by yourself, you’re going to be quickly overwhelmed.”

The meeting was sponsored by the California Association of Nurseries and Garden Centers along with the University of California, Davis College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences, the University of California, Riverside College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences, the University of California Cooperative Extension, and the Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program.

“The growers are facing increasing complexity just to keep their doors open,” Kabashima said. “It’s become more difficult to run a nursery because of the increased urbanization and the increased emphasis on negative impacts of various things.”

Urban encroachment often creates pesticide issues, and water issues include runoff as well as supply. “The water runoff issue has become more important,” Kabashima said. “The business of raising plants and selling them has become very complex.”

Integrated pest management (IPM) involves beneficial insects and other tactics to reduce chemical pesticides. “One of the basic tenets of IPM is identify the pests,” Kabashima said.

Kabashima plans subsequent annual conferences. “The consensus is that we’d like this meeting annually,” he said. “I’m going to have this every year.”

Most of the attendance was from San Diego, Riverside, and Orange Counties, and Kabashima plans to hold future conferences in the Riverside/Ontario area to allow for a more central location and better freeway access.


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