Environmental Horticulture

Jun 14, 2013 Debra Cheung

Mission

To undertake teaching, research and outreach in those areas of plant biology related to the sustainable production, utilization and conservation of plants that improve the human environment and our quality of life. The department aims to develop.

  • Production methods that conserve our natural resources.
  • A complete understanding of urban ecosystems.
  • Strategies for the revegetation and remediation of disturbed sites.
  • Strategies for the maintenance of wildlands and forests

Faculty

The department consists of 10 Senate faculty and 1 CE specialist faculty for a total of 3.22 I&R, 6.12 AES and 1.66 CE FTE. The loss of 2 faculty members (1 Senate, 1 CE specialist) in the last four years has had a significant negative impact on the teaching, research and extension missions of the department. Five USDA-USFS scientists and one NRCS scientist are housed in the department and hold research (WOS) appointments; five of them hold lecturer (WOS) appointments. By 2006, four faculty (1.25 I&R and 2.75 AES FTE) will have reached age 65. Our associations with the USDA-USFS Western Center for Urban Forest Research and Education, the USFS Institute of Forest Genetics and the NRCS National Plant Data Center provide teaching/research opportunities for our undergraduate and graduate students as well as for our faculty. Strengthening our ties (e.g., collocating in new facilities) with these federal scientists is a high priority for the department.

Major Programmatic Thrusts of the Department (current)

  • Postharvest biology/technology
  • Greenhouse and nursery crop production
  • Ecology, genetic conservation and/or restoration of plant communities

Major Programmatic Thrusts of the Department (5-10 years)

Increasing urbanization and changing human demographics (increasing number of older, but still active citizens) in California will require that we address issues involving plants and people in the urban forest. We also have an opportunity to partner with influential organizations in northern California focused on the production, utilization and maintenance of turfgrass.

Program Impact/Ranking

In 1995, a survey was conducted at The Pennsylvania State University of Ornamental Horticulture / Floriculture departments in the United States. The results of that survey showed that the Department of Environmental Horticulture at UC Davis was the only department judged to be in the top five by all other departments taking part in the survey. Our faculty have received many awards including those from the National Science Foundation, American Society for Horticultural Science and the University of California.

Extramural Grants and Gifts

Direct cost expenditures for 97/98 were $303,826 and for 98/99 were $440,919, a yearly increase of more than 45 percent. Funding sources include NSF, USDA, NASA, DANR and numerous foundations, commodity boards and industry sources.

Teaching Programs of the Department

The department began offering the undergraduate major environmental horticulture and urban forestry (EHUF) in Fall 1995; current enrollment is 55 and continues to grow. The department' faculty are also involved in several graduate groups including Ecology (MS, PhD), Genetics (MS, PhD), Geography (MS), Horticulture and Agronomy (MS) and Plant Biology (MS, PhD). The department houses/administers the Graduate Group in Horticulture and Agronomy and two graduate groups (Ecology, Geography) are chaired by departmental faculty. Students in these graduate groups housed in the department number ~25. Student credit hours associated with department faculty' teaching activities increased from 1,668 in 1994-95 (before EHUF began) to 2,668 in 1998-99 (a 60 percent increase in four years). Over the same time period Student FTE per I&R Faculty + Unit 18 increased from 10.05 to 17.54 (a 75 percent increase).

Outreach/Extension Roles

The department' Extension programs are currently focused on the production and postharvest care of floriculture and nursery crops. In 1997 our landscape specialist resigned to take a faculty position at UC Berkeley; this critical position has not yet been released for recruitment.

Positions Needed to Improve Research, Teaching and Extension Goals

  1. A plant stress molecular physiologist will lend coherence and balance to the department' existing research/teaching/outreach programs and provide needed support for the developing on-campus interests in plant-environment interactions research.
  2. UCCE landscape specialist; the lack of this position in the department has interrupted our ability to extend much-needed, research-based information to the landscape industry in California and to coordinate statewide research/extension efforts of county advisors. The landscape specialist would serve the needs of the department, more than a dozen county advisors around the state with landscape CE responsibilities and their clientele.
  3. A position in plant nutrition/container soils and water to focus on one or more of the following areas: water recycling, rhizosphere biology, water use efficiency, artificial media, hydroponics.
  4. A position in turfgrass improvement; Cooperative Extension programs in southern California are strong in the area of recreational turf management and should be mirrored in northern California. The addition of an AES-CE faculty member in the department who could focus on recreational turfgrass issues and coordinate the activities of the existing personnel would attract the considerable industry funding that is available, but at the moment untapped.
  5. A position in urban forestry; several current faculty members conduct research and outreach/extension in the area of urban forestry, an area focused on how vegetation and humans interact in urban environments.

"Zero-Sum Strategy" (2006)

Currently, the department is in a sub-zero situation due to the loss of two positions in the last four years. Positions 1 & 2 above simply bring the department back to zero. Positions 3 & 4 would then be top priorities and would be achieved via retirement replacements (one in recreation planning and one in forest biotechnology).

"10-Percent Initiative-based Growth Strategy"

(= 1.1 FTE). Positions 1 & 2 need to be returned to bring the department back to a base number of faculty to meet our teaching, research and Extension missions. In this scenario, Position 3 would likely be our target position for "growth" under the "water management" and/or "water quality" components of the Commission on the Environment Initiative. Similarly, Position 5 could be sought under the "ecosystem health" and/or "sustainable communities" components of the Environment Initiative.

Projected Resource Needs and Strategies for Achieving

The key phrase here for the department is "quality of space." Few departments in the CA&ES have poorer quality space than the Department of Environmental Horticulture. We have successfully partnered with the college and the USDA-USFS for some new, higher quality space and we plan on continuing that strategy. Currently, we have an opportunity to strengthen our ties to the USDA-USFS Institute of Forest Genetics and other groups within the Pacific Southwest Station of the USFS. This window of opportunity exists now, but will not remain indefinitely.

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