Vegetable Crops and Weed Science

Jun 14, 2013 Debra Cheung

Mission

To expand our knowledge about the basic biology of crop and weed plants and to transfer information, genetic materials, and practices for the production of high-valued herbaceous species and for the management of weeds.

Faculty

The department has 14 Senate faculty, 1.5 AES scientists, and 10 CE specialists for a total of 2.7 I&R, 13.6 OR, and 8.2 CE FTE. Two USDA and one Nature Conservancy scientists are housed in the department and hold lecturer (WOS) appointments. By 2006, three faculty and two CE specialists will exceed the age of 65.

Major Programmatic Thrusts of the Department (current)

  • Genetics and genomics of high-valued herbaceous crops
  • Production systems for high-valued herbaceous crops
  • Rhizosphere biology
  • Postharvest physiology and food safety
  • Weed science

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

No changes in the areas themselves although significant technological advances are significantly expanding the available approaches.

Program Impact/Ranking

Our faculty have consistently been at the forefront of basic and applied research in the above areas. Two of them have been elected to the National Academy of Sciences, and last year, one received the Maserati-Florio World Prize. Faculty in the department have been awarded federal funds to establish the C. M. Rick Tomato Genetic Resource Center, UC Davis Advanced Plant Genetics Facility, UC Sustainable Agricultural Research and Education Program, UC Davis Stable Isotope Facility, UC Davis Core Greenhouse Facility, and Louis K. Mann Laboratory for Postharvest Research. Our faculty serve as the directors of these facilities and other research centers including the UC Biotechnology Training Program in Rhizosphere Signaling, the UC Davis Seed Biotechnology Center, the Small Farm Center, the Vegetable Research and Information Center, and the Weed Research and Information Center. The departmental members are key participants in the internationally recognized Postharvest Technology Short Course, now in its 21st year, and the Weed Science School, now in its fourth year. The department also hosts the USDA Aquatic Weed Research Program and the weed program of The Nature Conservancy. The Department of Vegetable Crops and Weed Science will continue to provide leadership and to garner support for activities in these areas.

Extramural Grants and Gifts

Direct cost expenditures were $2,973,902 and $2,446,593 for 1997-98 and 1998-99, respectively. Sources for this funding include NSF, USDA, DOE, DANR, and numerous foundations, commodity boards, and industry sources. These figures do not include faculty activities administered outside the department (e.g., through CEPRAP). The grant funds are distributed across all the program areas.

Teaching Programs of the Department

Faculty in the department have been instrumental in creating the new plant biology undergraduate major and offering a specialization in applied plant biology. This major is listed by both CA&ES and the College of Letters and Sciences (DBS) and is accessible to students through either college. In addition, we have been instrumental in developing and teaching in the biotechnology, agricultural systems and environment, and crop science and management majors. The student credit hours recorded to our faculty were 3,052 and 2,723 for 1997-98 and 1998-99, respectively. At the M.S. level, our department was a major driving force for the merger of the Master' Programs in vegetable crops, horticulture and agronomy to form the Graduate Group in Horticulture and Agronomy. At the Ph. D. level, members of the Department of Vegetable Crops are active in the Graduate Groups in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Community Development, Ecology, Education, Food Science, Genetics, International Agricultural Development, Plant Biology, Plant Protection and Pest Management, and Soil Science; they teach core courses in these curricula and serve on executive, admission, fellowship, seminar, qualifying exam and thesis committees.

Outreach/Extension Roles

The Centers for Vegetable Research & Information, Weed Research & Information, Seed Biotechnology and Postharvest Physiology provide a focus for outreach activities in their respective disciplines and continue to organize workshops and short-courses that are attended by the university community, state and federal agencies, and private industry. CE specialists engage in research organized on both commodity and discipline lines. We also achieve some geographical division of responsibility through the placement of one specialist at the Kearney Agricultural Center and two (one in place and another in recruitment) at the USDA/UC research facility in Salinas.

Positions Needed to Improve Research, Teaching and Extension Goals

  1. Comparative genomics of dicot crops; to contrast among dicot crops and more intensively characterized species the extent of synteny and the minimum numbers of building blocks and to examine the evolutionary forces driving such rearrangements.
  2. Functional genomics; to study the molecular basis of phenotypic differences among genotypes and species, focusing on the molecular basis and consequences of allelic variation in plant biochemistry, physiology, or development.
  3. Crop/weed biochemist; to examine the biochemical changes caused by herbicides or plant growth regulators, the allelopathic responses of weeds and crops, and the influence of stress upon uptake, transport, or accumulation of herbicides.
  4. Weed physiological geneticist; to study the genetics of weed biotypes and inheritance of traits that impart weediness, the genetics of herbicide resistance in weeds, and the potential for gene-flow of herbicide- or pest-resistance between transgenic crops and weeds.
  5. Weed ecology extension specialist; to address problems such as weed flora shifts in relation to cropping practice, the management of herbicide resistance in weeds, and benefits vs. risks from introducing transgenic crops with resistance to herbicides.
  6. Fruit and seed biochemist; to elucidate the metabolic pathways and manipulate the underlying genes that determine the nutritional and postharvest qualities of fruit and seeds.
  7. Seed biotechnology extension specialist; to serve as a resource for the incorporation of new technologies into the production and enhancement of seeds.
  8. Vegetable geneticist; to compare the genomics of minor vegetable crops and develop new cultivars using modern genetic approaches.
  9. Rhizosphere biochemist; to characterize molecules released in the rhizosphere, especially those that act as key signals between or among roots and other rhizosphere organisms.

Priorities

The first two positions have already been released to the department to refill positions recently lost through retirement or departure. The five positions (#3 - 7) would refill retirements anticipated by 2006. We are seeking industry funds for an endowed chair for the vegetable geneticist (#8). In a minimal growth scenario, the last position (#9) would link with the Center of Rhizosphere Biology and position requests from several other departments.

Projected Resource Needs and Strategies for Achieving

Laboratory space is always an issue. We would obtain industry funds to subsidize some of the laboratory construction and renovation.

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