World Ag Expo, the largest annual agricultural exhibition of its kind, kicked off its 50th Anniversary on Feb. 14 in Tulare, California. There were more than 1,500 exhibitors displaying the latest agricultural technology and equipment on 2.6 million square feet of exhibit space.  Last year, “a record-setting 106,349 people came from 47 states and 79 countries to attend,” reports the website.

Food and Agriculture Research

A key highlight of the opening day was the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) Newsmaker Conference for journalists attending the exhibition. The media event was emceed by UC Food Observer editor Rose Hayden-Smith and featured “lightning speeches” from 11 UC ANR scientists and researchers, who briefly explained the valuable research underway to support California’s farmers and ranchers.

These experts are knowledgeable, objective sources for reporters writing about agricultural or food issues:

UC ANR News Sources

Mary Lu Arpaia, Ph.D. – UC ANR CE horticulturist, based at UC Kearney Ag REC, (559) 646-6561,

Dr. Arpaia serves as a UC ANR Cooperative Extension horticulturist in the Department of Botany and Plant Sciences at UC Riverside. She is based at the UC Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Parlier. Dr. Arpaia studies citrus and avocado quality and productivity, as influenced by cultural management and postharvest handling.

Editor’s Note: To learn more about a day in the life of a Cooperative Extension researcher – a farm advisor – read this profile of Dr. Ben Faber .

Khaled Bali, Ph.D. – CE irrigation water management specialist, based at UC Kearney Ag REC, (559) 646-6541,

 Dr. Khaled Bali was recently named the irrigation water management specialist, based at Kearney. A native of Amman, Jordan, he has been with UC ANR since 1992, serving as an irrigation and water management advisor in Imperial County; a UC Cooperative Extension county director in Imperial; and for two years as interim director of UC ANR Desert Research and Extension Center. In his current position, Dr. Bali is responsible for designing, implementing and conducting educational and applied research programs in irrigation, drainage and water quality.

Jeff Dahlberg, Ph.D. – UC ANR CE specialist in agronomy and director of UC Kearney Ag REC, (559) 646-6060,

Sorghum fields
Photo by Agrilifetoday.

Jeff Dahlberg came to UC ANR from the United Sorghum Checkoff Program in 2011. In addition to serving as director of UC Kearney Ag Research and Extension Center, he brought years of research experience on sorghum. Sorghum is usually thought of as animal feed, but it is also a high-quality gluten-free grain for humans. Jeff is now conducting research at Kearney on the mechanism for drought tolerance in sorghum at the genetic level.


Editor’s Note: Dr. Dahlberg’s extensive sorghum knowledge was a valuable resource in this recent UC Food Observer article.

Ruth Dahlquist-Willard, Ph.D. – UC ANR CE advisor, small scale farming, Fresno and Tulare counties, (559) 241-7513,

Dr. Ruth Dahlquist-Willard is the small scale farm advisor for UC Cooperative Extension in Fresno and Tulare counties. Dr. Dahlquist-Willard earned her doctorate degree in a program that allowed her to complete research at a tropical agriculture research institute in Costa Rica. In her current position, she works closely with many immigrant and refugee farmers from diverse ethnic backgrounds.

Lupita Fábregas. Ph.D. – UC ANR 4-H Youth Development advisor, asst. dir., diversity and expansion, (530) 750-1273,

Dr. Lupita Fábregas is a 4-H Youth Development advisor and assistant director of diversity and expansion for 4-H. Originally from Mexico, Dr. Fábregas came to UC from Oklahoma State University, where she was a multicultural and community engagement specialist. She is now providing leadership for increasing participation of Latino and other underrepresented populations in 4-H by strengthening current programming and developing new programming that reflects the needs, interests and resources of the state’s diverse youth, families and communities.

Editor’s Note: Learn more from Dr. Fábregas about the UC ANR initiative to launch 4-H in Mexico.

Maggi Kelly, Ph.D. – Director of UC ANR Informatics and Geographic Info Systems Program, based at UC Berkeley (510) 642-7272,

Dr. Maggi Kelly is director of UC ANR’s Statewide Informatics and Geographic Information Systems program. She is also professor and UC Cooperative Extension specialist at UC Berkeley. The IGIS program supports UC ANR by providing training, mapping tools, spatial data science and the latest technologies for data collection, analysis and visualization.

Peggy Lemaux, Ph.D. – UC ANR plant genetics specialist, based at UC Berkeley, (510) 642-1589,

diverse millets
Photo by The Millet Project.

Dr. Peggy Lemaux is a UC Cooperative Extension specialist in plant genetics. In her lab at UC Berkeley she performs basic and applied research focused primarily on the use of genetic strategies to understand and improve cereal crops such as sorghum, wheat, rice and barley. Dr. Lemaux maintains a comprehensive biotechnology website at with educational resources related to using biotechnology for the improvement of food.

Editor’s Note: Dr. Lemaux’s extensive knowledge of cereal crops was very helpful in this article on millets, an ancient crop that is encountering a resurgence.



Doug Parker, Ph.D. – Director of the UC CA Institute for Water Resources, based in Oakland, (510) 987-0036,

Dr. Doug Parker is director of UC’s California Institute for Water Resources. He coordinates water-related research, extension and education efforts across the 10 UC campuses, the UC ANR system and other academic institutions in California. Dr. Parker serves as a key UC spokesperson on California water issues. He is an expert on federal, state, regional, nonprofit, and campus water advocacy and outreach programs.

Editor’s Note: Don’t miss our 2015 Q&A with Dr. Parker about the California drought.

Alireza Pourreza, Ph.D. – UC ANR CE advisor in agricultural engineering based at UC Kearney Ag REC, (559) 646-6577,

Dr. Alireza Pourreza was named UC Cooperative Extension agricultural application engineering advisor last year. A native of Iran, he completed his Ph.D. at the University of Florida, where he studied huanglongbing disease of citrus. His research was recently awarded the 2016 Giuseppe Pellizzi Prize, an honor presented every other year to the best doctoral dissertation focused on agricultural machinery and mechanization.

Leslie Roche, Ph.D. – UC ANR CE specialist in rangeland management, based at UC Davis, (530) 752-752-5583,

california cattle
Photo by Loren Kerns.

Dr. Leslie Roche was named the UC Cooperative Extension specialist in rangeland management in 2015. Her connection to ANR goes way back. Nearly 20 years ago the Orosi native gained her first experience in conducting and extending applied research as an intern at the UC Kearney REC. Dr. Roche’s current research focuses at the intersection of agricultural, environmental, economic and social aspects of ranching and livestock production on California’s rangelands and pastures.

Editor’s Note: Learn more about the ecological benefits of cattle ranching in California.


Samuel Sandoval Solis, Ph.D. – UC ANR CE specialist in water resources, based at UC Davis, (530) 750-9722,

Dr. Sam Sandoval is UC ANR’s Cooperative Extension specialist on water resources. Sandoval began his work in California just as it was caught in the grip of 2010-2016 drought. He believes the dry period is a “tipping point” to change the way the state uses and manages its water. His research focuses on water planning and management.

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