Through Innovative Partnership, 'Hot Shot' Team Tackles Yuma Produce Perils

Broccoli crowns harvested from a sweet potato whitefly trial. The chlorotic "blanched" crown on the right was harvested from a plant heavily infested with whiteflies. The green "normal" crown on left was whitefly-free. (Photo by John Palumbo)
Broccoli crowns harvested from a sweet potato whitefly trial. The chlorotic "blanched" crown on the right was harvested from a plant heavily infested with whiteflies. The green "normal" crown on left was whitefly-free. (Photo by John Palumbo)

Agriculture is big business in Arizona, and industry leaders in Yuma County are teaming up with the University of Arizona to arm growers with science and information they need to swiftly tackle threats to their profitability.

The recently launched Yuma Center of Excellence for Desert Agriculture - YCEDA – will provide the latest research and information in pest management, food safety, plant diseases, water conservation and more.

Yuma, the winter vegetable capital of the world, is home to more than 175 different crops, with an annual gross economic return of $3.2 billion. About 90 percent of leafy greens consumed in the United States and Canada in the winter come through Yuma.

Yuma and the state depend on this economic engine that can fall prey to diseases, pests, drought, frost, labor, wildlife and even public relations challenges. The public-private partnership was created to provide rapid response to issues important for desert crop production systems and the sustainable, responsible practices of local farmers.

More than two dozen industry partners from Yuma and Salinas, Calif., have invested in the center, together committing more than $1.1 million over the next three years. The YCEDA's initiatives will be guided by on-the-ground industry needs. These needs are shared in arid lands around the world—approximately 40 percent of all agricultural land worldwide is arid and so this is no small thing. 

"One outcome we are planning for is that the YCEDA, together with Yuma County Cooperative Extension and the Yuma Experiment Station, will make UA's Yuma operations the pre-eminent place in the world for basic, translational and applied research in arid-land agriculture," said Shane Burgess, vice provost and dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

A search has identified finalists for the YCEDA executive directorship.

"One of the goals of the center is to provide immediate solutions and impact," said Kurt Nolte, who directs UA's Yuma Experiment Station and Yuma County Cooperative Extension. Nolte chairs the Yuma Center of Excellence for Desert Agriculture's executive director search committee.

Read the rest of this August 11, 2014 UANews article at the link below.

Date released: 
Aug 20 2014
Contact: 
Susan McGinley