News and Notes

Second Annual Strawberry Center Field Day

More than 240 attendees representing all aspects of the strawberry industry, including growers, researchers and industry representatives, participated in the Cal Poly Strawberry Center’s second annual Field Day to observe and learn more about the latest research activities taking place at the center. Strawberry Center students and staff presented their research at nine different stations, covering diverse topics such as bug vacuum optimization, host plant resistance to Macrophomina crown rot and Verticillium wilt, Botrytis gray mold management, transplant cold storage treatments, fungicide resistance development, harvest aids and more. The Field Day is quickly becoming one of the largest forums in California, providing a platform for various affiliates of the strawberry industry to engage in current research and practices.


In October, the Horticulture and Crop Science Department held its second succulent sale, featuring more than 2,500 plants of 125 varieties. Four students were involved in the student-run project, one of several such hands-on experiences offered by the college. Students learned proper watering and propagation techniques and how to grow plants on deadline and market them. “Being involved in this project gives me a taste of what it’s like to work in a commercial nursery and provides me with valuable techniques in producing quality, marketable plants,” said Karianne Rydberg, an agricultural and environmental plant sciences senior and student succulent manager. “It’s the ultimate Learn by Doing experience.” Three additional agricultural and environmental plant sciences students also assisted with the succulent production: sophomore Boden Cunningham, senior Ted Fitzgerald, and senior Kelsea Jones. The sale raised more than $25,000 in two days.


Meet Our New Faculty

Karen CannonKaren Cannon

Department: Agricultural Education and Communication

Area of Specialty: Agricultural Communication

Education: Ph.D. in agricultural education and communication from the University of Florida

Hometown: Burlingame, California

What book are you currently reading? “L.A. Noir: the Struggle for the Soul of America’s Most Seductive City” by John Buntin and “Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong about the World – and Why Things are Better Than You Think” by Hans Rosling

Shunping DingShunping Ding

Department: Wine and Viticulture and Horticulture and Crop Science

Area of Specialty: Plant Pathology

Education: Ph.D. in plant pathology, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Hometown: Kaifeng, China

What book are you currently reading? “The Safe and Effective Use of Pesticides” by Patrick Marer

Matt HaberlandMatt Haberland

Department: BioResource and Agricultural Engineering

Area of Specialty: Automated/precision agriculture, swarm robotics, optimization

Education: Ph.D. in mechanical engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Hometown: Herndon, Virginia

What book are you currently reading? “American Institute of Steel Construction Steel Design Manual”

Brian LarsonBrian Larson

Department: Animal Science

Area of Specialty: Manager of the Animal Nutrition Center

Education: Master’s degree in agricultural economics, North Carolina State University

Hometown: Raleigh, North Carolina

What book are you currently reading? “American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer” by Kai Bird and Martin Sherwin


Al AmaralThe Cal Poly community lost a dear friend, a dedicated leader and an inspired family member in August. Al Amaral, 78, graduated from Cal Poly in 1965 and returned three years later to teach agriculture management before taking over the helm of the Cal Poly Foundation, a role that he held for 28 years, until his retirement in 2000. Former colleagues recall a man who lived and breathed Cal Poly, and whose pride in the organization that he led was only outweighed by the pride he had in the staff. In 1989 he was the CAFES Honored Alumnus, and received the Outstanding Staff/Employee award in 1986. Amaral, alongside his wife, Rose, firmly believed in the importance of education and established the Al and Rose Amaral Ag Enterprise Endowment to benefit future generations of Cal Poly students.


Greg BrownCal Poly Professor Greg Brown, whose research is focused on community engagement and participation, is working with a team of researchers from three universities and four local governments in New South Wales, Australia, to protect koalas, which are a nationally threatened species. Brown, who heads Cal Poly’s Natural Resources Management and Environmental Sciences Department, said the overarching goal of the research was to identify locations that provide high koala conservation value and also have community support for conservation. The Australia Koala Foundation estimates there are fewer than 80,000 koalas today, down from millions in the last century. Human development and encroachment are the key drivers for the current decline in koalas, Brown said. “While humans are the source of the problem, they are also the solution,” he said. “Effective conservation outcomes require community and local government support to protect koalas in the future.” Brown recently submitted the first of several planned research articles addressing the many challenges of koala conservation to the journal Biological Conservation. The article evaluates the use of crowdsourced citizen observations of koalas to identify the location and distribution of koalas in a study area in New South Wales. “Community participation identifies where there is broad-based public support for koala conservation and provides an important counterweight to increased calls for new development,” said Brown. “The collaboration of local government is vital to the success of the research project.”


Honoring a Legacy

The Phillip S. Tong Scholarship Fund was established by donors to provide scholarships to students majoring in dairy science, food science and nutrition, with an expressed interest in dairy foods sciences.

The $25,000 endowment honors retired Professor Tong, who over the course of his 30-year career built a dedicated team of faculty, staff and students who worked with the dairy industry and Cal Poly to realize a common vision  and to establish and build the Dairy Products Technology  Center (DPTC) into one of the nation’s premier programs.

Upon Tong’s retirement in 2016, industry partners,  
alumni and friends endeavored to establish and fund a scholarship to honor his legacy by providing support for undergraduate and master’s students with an expressed and demonstrated record of interest in dairy food sciences.

The California Association of Dairy and Milk Sanitarians served as the principal donor to the fund. “The California Association of Dairy and Milk Sanitarians was pleased to create a scholarship at Cal Poly in honor of Professor  Emeritus Phillip S. Tong for his many contributions to campus and to the dairy foods industry in California and nationally,” said John Bruhn, executive secretary. Additional  gifts came from Hilmar Cheese Co. and the Mark and Carolyn Guidry Foundation, which gave a $3,500 donation to support dairy science students in perpetuity. 

“The Mark and Carolyn Guidry Foundation was delighted to support the Phillip S. Tong Scholarship Fund,” said Gayle Dilley, president of the foundation. “Dr. Tong was a leader in dairy sciences and helped to establish and build the Dairy Products Technology Center at Cal Poly into one of the nation’s premier programs to provide innovative solutions and training for the dairy and food industries.  We are honored to contribute to this legacy.”

In addition, a recent $2,500 donation from Hilmar Cheese concluded fundraising efforts to permanently endow the scholarship. “Hilmar Cheese was honored to contribute to the Phillip S. Tong Scholarship Fund in support of Cal Poly students interested in pursuing careers in the dairy sciences,” said Kyle Jensen, vice president and general manager at  Hilmar. “We believe that our industry will benefit by  educating and training the next generation of dairy science leaders, and we are excited to partner with Cal Poly to invest in these aspiring young professionals.”

Alumni Helps Raise the Bar

The Clif Bar Family Foundation donated $100,000 to advance two cross-disciplinary programs at Cal Poly: The Center for  Sustainability and the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship to further work in  organic agriculture and healthy food systems.

The Center for Sustainability, within the College of  Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences, will use $60,000 to build an online educational series on soil  health and to promote organic agriculture initiatives. The remaining $40,000 will be used by the Center for  Innovation and Entrepreneurship, within the Orfalea College of Business, to support student summer accelerator companies working on solutions that align with the Clif Bar Family Foundation’s identified values such as healthy food systems and building stronger communities. 

Gary Erickson, founder of Clif Bar & Co., is a Cal Poly  alumnus who graduated with a business administration degree in 1980.

The Center for Sustainability’s Soil Health Dimensions online educational series will provide a comprehensive  but concise overview of how healthy agricultural soils  function and are maintained, with a special focus on the role of biological organisms and processes and how those can be assessed. The curriculum will be comprised  of 10 segments and will be made available free to the public through the Center for Sustainability’s website  in early 2019. 


Visit the Cultivate Fall 2018 Page to read more stories.

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