Jun 14, 2013 Debra Cheung


Responsible for instruction, research and continuing education related to the biology and production of fruit and nut crops, maintenance of their postharvest quality and utilization of their many products. The great diversity of fruit and nut crops, the value of their products, and the wide range of soil, and climatic conditions in California emphasize the unique role of the department.


The department consists of 11 Academic Senate faculty and nine Academic Federation members (CE and AES) for a total of 2.22 I&R, 11.40 OR and 6.38 CE FTE. One new CE specialist is under recruitment and the permission to replace an endowed chair position is pending. One current faculty member will reach age 65 in 2006.

Major Programmatic Thrusts of the Department (current)

  • Genetics and plant improvement - major germplasm development and genetics programs in almond, peach, pistachio, prune, strawberry, walnut and Prunus rootstocks with associated programs in molecular biology, genome analysis, taxonomy and transformation.
  • Perennial crop biology, physiology and ecology - biological, physiological and environmental factors that affect production and quality of tree crops in semi-arid environments.
  • Fruit postharvest biology and technology - fruit physiology and biochemistry associated with fruit maturation, ripening and senescence and the development of technology to enhance post-harvest storage life and quality of fruits and nuts.

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

No major changes are envisioned in primary thrust areas however more emphasis will be placed on use of emerging technologies to develop cultivars with enhanced nutritional, flavor and pest resistance characteristics and orchard management/fruit handling practices that are more resource efficient and environmentally sound.

Program Impact/Ranking

Pomology is the only academic department in the United States devoted solely to fruit science. It provides world leadership in the science and technology of production and handling of temperate fruit and nut crops. In the past eight years, three members of our faculty have served as president of the American Society for Horticultural Science. Many others have received national or international recognition for their research, teaching or extension activities and several serve in leadership roles in academic or industry organizations.

Extramural Grants and Gifts

Direct cost expenditures over the past three years have averaged $2,840,000. Fund sources include USDA, NRI, state agencies, and numerous commodity boards, foundations and industry sources. The department has an endowed chair (Will Lester Chair in Pomology) an endowed professorship (L.D. Davis Professorship), a major endowed research program (Ramos Walnut Research Fund) and three endowed fellowships (Bringhurst, Stuke and Pomology Faculty Fellowships).

Teaching Programs of the Department

The department contributes to several cross-departmental, interdisciplinary undergraduate majors (plant biology, agricultural science and environment, crop science and management and biotechnology) Enrollment in all of these majors has increased over the past few years. Several faculty also teach introductory biological science, science and society and Davis honors challenge courses. Faculty are actively involved in several graduate groups (primarily Plant Biology, Ecology, Genetics and Horticulture) serving in leadership roles, teaching graduate courses and mentoring students.

Outreach/Extension Roles

The Pomology Cooperative Extension programs are organized around workgroups and the Pomology Extension Continuing Conference (PECC). PECC and all the associated workgroups function to link county advisors and interdisciplinary, campus specialists and AES faculty for problem solving research and delivery of extension education programs. The department has three CE/AES specialists committed to the Kearney Agricultural Center and another at the South Coast REC in Irvine.

Potential for Collaborative Links to Other Units to Develop Clusters of Excellence

Departmental programs are interdisciplinary and strong links exist with numerous other college programs. Postharvest biology is a well-known cluster of excellence and a larger role in the campus genomics cluster is envisioned.

Positions Needed to Improve Research, Teaching and Extension Goals

  1. Functional genomics/molecular genetic approaches for improved flavor and nutritional quality of pomological crops: This position would build expertise in tree crop genomics.
  2. Fruit biochemistry, proteomics/multidimensional protein analysis, cellular signal transduction: This position will rebuild the biochemical research capacity of the internationally recognized postharvest biology group.
  3. Computational biology/informatics/crop computer simulation: Use of computational analysis/ graphics, bioinfomatics and organismal/crop biology to develop functional plant computer simulation models for teaching, applied research and orchard management.
  4. Precision horticulture and sustainable horticultural systems: Use of advanced informational system technology to develop precision orchard management systems.
  5. Rhizosphere biology of perennial fruit crops: Would link organismal biology to campus strengths in environmental biology and advance sustainable production technologies.

Priorities (No Growth Scenario)

Position 1 is the top priority and has been requested as a replacement position for the retirement of the individual holding the Will Lester Endowed Chair. We have one additional retirement projected by 2006 (age 65 criterion). That position provides expertise in postharvest physiology, bridging between the fundamental and the applied research activities and has responsibility for teaching several fruit physiology courses. It will be essential to replace it to sustain effectiveness of the postharvest program.


Priorities (Minimal Growth Scenario)

Position 2 would have the highest priority and provide opportunities to take advantage of campus initiatives in genomics as well as existing strengths in organismal biology. The position would also support increasing teaching demands in biotechnology and biochemistry.

Projected Resource Needs and Strategies for Achieving

The greatest needs are for increased quality of facilities (laboratory, greenhouse, field) and mechanisms to stabilize funding for graduate students. Piecemeal facility upgrades have been achieved through creative means but comprehensive improvements are necessary. The department has attracted endowments for three graduate fellowships and continues to explore opportunities for more development funds.

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