Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

Volume 68, Issue 4, 2014

Endemic and Invasive Pests and Diseases: How UC and its collaborators detect, contain and manage them

Issue cover
Cover Caption: Complete contents, including news and editorial featuresAcross the United States, endemic and invasive pests are a growing problem that costs billions of dollars each year in direct damage and funding for pest management programs. In California, UC ANR researchers collaborate with state and federal agencies to contain and manage pests such as glassy-winged sharpshooter,European grapevine moth and herbicide-resistant weeds. In this photo, Elizabeth Karn, Ph.D. student (left), and Associate Professor Marie Jasieniuk (right) of UC Davis cross glufosinate-resistant Lolium (ryegrass) plants with glufosinate-susceptible plants to determine whether the resistance trait can be transmitted to offspring. The results of their research will help inform resistance management strategies. Photo by Will Suckow

Research and Review Articles

Diagnostics in animal health: How UC helps exclude and minimize impact of livestock pathogens

UC has a wide reach in the agriculture sector of the California economy and is well recognized for research expertise in plant diseases. Less well known is the role UC plays in animal agriculture. In 2012, the California Animal Health and Food Safety lab at UC Davis performed nearly 980,000 tests on samples from sick livestock, including cattle, horses, pigs, chickens and turkeys. The lab is prepared to respond rapidly to any disease outbreak or identification of a foreign disease. Researchers at the School of Veterinary Medicine at UC Davis are testing novel subunit vaccines to prevent pinkeye in cattle; UC ANR specialists and advisors and the staff at the Sierra Foothill Research and Extension Center were key to the development of best management practices that landowners and resource managers are using to protect their herds and public water sources against the parasite Cryptosporidium parvum; and UC veterinary scientists are part of a large team of experts, including state and federal agencies, determined to combat the endemic bluetongue virus, which can affect the state's exports.

Plant health: How diagnostic networks and interagency partnerships protect plant systems from pests and pathogens

Early detection and rapid response are crucial in any effort to reduce the risk of new and emerging biological threats to crops and other plant resources. This underscores the importance of having the necessary diagnostic expertise, infrastructure and resources in place. Three programs — the National Plant Diagnostic Network, the National Clean Plant Network and the Citrus Clonal Protection Program — illustrate how accurate and rapid diagnosis plays a critical role in providing healthy plants for growers and in securing production systems for food and fiber. These three programs depend on statewide, regional and national networking among university, state and federal scientists, regulatory officials and industry members to help mitigate the impacts of plant pests and diseases.

Growers, scientists and regulators collaborate on European grapevine moth program

The first detection of the European grapevine moth in North America triggered the establishment of federal and state regulatory programs that (1) identified the insect's geographic range in California, (2) developed and implemented detection and management programs, (3) regulated the movement of plant material and equipment to minimize the threat of dispersal, (4) incorporated research-based information developed by subject-matter experts into policy decisions and (5) promoted a wide-reaching educational program for grape growers, the public and local officials. The action plan, developed and carried out through a coordinated program that included multiple government agencies, university scientists and the agricultural community, drastically reduced insect populations and limited the distribution in California vineyards such that some previously infested areas were removed from quarantine regulation.

Cooperative efforts contained spread of Pierce's disease and found genetic resistance

An outbreak of Pierce's disease of grapevine in the Temecula Valley in the late 1990s was one in a decades-long series of sporadic appearances of this infection in California. However, the new outbreak was qualitatively different because of the rapidity with which it spread in the vineyard and its appearance almost simultaneously at distant locations. The causative agent of Pierce's disease is the bacterium Xylella fastidiosa, and the distinct characteristics of the Temecula Valley outbreak were traced to the establishment of a new insect vector in California, the glassy-winged sharpshooter. Intensive and collaborative efforts among government agencies, industry and research institutions over 15 years have successfully contained the disease, and given scientists time to discover promising long-term potential solutions through genetic resistance.


Herbicide-resistant weeds challenge some signature cropping systems

Invasive and endemic weeds pose recurring challenges for California land managers. The evolution of herbicide resistance in several species has imposed new challenges in some cropping systems, and these issues are being addressed by UC Cooperative Extension farm advisors, specialists and faculty. There are currently 24 unique herbicide-resistant weed biotypes in the state, dominated by grasses and sedges in flooded rice systems and, more recently, glyphosate-resistant broadleaf and grass weeds in tree and vine systems, roadsides and glyphosate-tolerant field crops. Weed scientists address these complex issues using approaches ranging from basic physiology and genetics research to applied research and extension efforts in grower fields throughout the state. Although solutions to herbicide resistance are not simple and are affected by many biological, economic, regulatory and social factors, California stakeholders need information, training and solutions to address new weed management problems as they arise. Coordinated efforts conducted under the Endemic and Invasive Pests and Disease Strategic Initiative directly address weed management challenges in California's agricultural industries.

Over 35 years, integrated pest management has reduced pest risks and pesticide use

Pests and their interactions with crops, ecological landscapes and animals are in continuous flux — they are never static. Pest severity increases or decreases depending on environmental conditions and changes in production or pest control practices. Pest management is made even more challenging by exotic and newly invasive pests. Over its 35-year history, the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources Statewide IPM Program has supported research and extension that has decreased risks of crop losses, improved treatment programs for invasive and endemic pests, and reduced the use of pesticides and their impact on the environment and human health. Its publications are widely used among growers, pest control advisers, research institutions, state agencies, agricultural organizations and gardeners; and integrated pest management has been adopted statewide in agriculture, as well as in managed landscapes and urban areas.


The cost of the glassy-winged sharpshooter to California grape, citrus and nursery producers

In the late 1990s, widespread outbreaks of Pierce's disease in grapevines were linked to transmission via the glassy-winged sharpshooter (GWSS), threatening California's multibillion-dollar table, raisin and wine grape industries. Government agencies responded to the crisis by implementing two control programs to manage GWSS. We analyzed the long-term economic impact of these two programs on citrus, grape and nursery producers. The net economic effects on all citrus producers and on grape producers in the southern San Joaquin Valley were insignificant, while all grape producers in the Temecula Valley saw an average increase in annual production costs of about $13.04 an acre. Based on our survey of nurseries in Southern California, approximately 11% had an infestation in 2008 and 2009, but only 3.0% in 2010. Average losses to nurseries per GWSS infestation were about $12,238. Nursery producers also undertook a variety of pest control methods to prevent infestations and plant losses, and to meet quarantine regulations. Average annual per-acre costs of these approaches were $2,975 for barrier methods to prevent GWSS from entering a premises, $1,032 in pesticide controls and $1,588 for in-house monitoring.


Solving the puzzle of foothill abortion in beef cattle

Foothill abortion, also known as epizootic bovine abortion (EBA), has been a long-standing problem for California beef cattle producers. It is a major source of economic loss for California cow and calf producers, and in the 1990s it was estimated that 5% to 10% (45,000 to 90,000 calves) of the California beef calf crop may be lost each year (Bushnell et al. 1991). UC Cooperative Extension (UCCE) farm advisors, specialists and UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine (SVM) faculty have worked on this disease for nearly 50 years. This long research process finally moved forward in 2005, when the causative agent was identified.

Coordinated response to PD involves growers, scientists and government

The academic and government research on GWSS and PD received support from the state's viticulture and enology industries and even local government before and during the Temecula Valley outbreak. Industry organizations partnering with CDFA and UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) in these efforts included the American Vineyard Foundation, the California Table Grape Commission, the California Raisin Board and the California Rootstock Commission. UC ANR and CDFA provided coordination to prioritize research, avoid duplication and maximize the collective benefits of the programs. Since 1999, USDA has provided about 75% of the funding for PD control and research, and the state of California, industry and UC have provided the rest. California legislation initiated a statewide assessment on wine grapes to support research and related activities, raising about $46 million to date (Tumber et al. 2014; Wiggins 2001). The timeline here highlights some of the key events in the efforts to contain and find solutions to the PD outbreak in California.

Importance of herbicide resistance in weeds of natural areas

Worldwide, the majority of the plant species that are developing herbicide resistance are those that occur as weeds in agricultural environments, on roadsides and in other rights-of-way. In contrast, herbicide resistance is not nearly so common in weeds of natural areas or rangelands. A search of the International Survey of Herbicide Resistant Weeds ( ) revealed no herbicide-resistant weeds (i.e., invasive nonnative species) listed for terrestrial natural areas anywhere in the world, and only two resistant weeds listed for aquatic areas, both of them in Florida. In pastures, 15 species worldwide have developed resistance, eight of which are considered primarily as agricultural weeds. Only two of those 15 are found in pastures within the United States, and none occurs in any Western state.

Herbicide-resistant weeds unlikely in vegetable crops

Weed management systems in California vegetable crops can be described as robust, complex, multitactic and integrated. Vegetable herbicides generally make up just one component in a multicomponent weed management system. With California's seasonally dry weather and growers’ ability to control soil moisture by means of irrigation scheduling, it becomes possible for the grower to apply effective cultural and physical control practices, such as preparation of stale seedbeds and inter-row cultivation. Redundancy is designed into the weed management system to minimize weed emergence in the crop. The key tools that make up an integrated vegetable weed management system are field selection, sanitation, crop rotation, land preparation, stale seedbeds, herbicides and physical weed control (UC IPM 2009). Growers who carefully apply these practices are able to manage weeds effectively and reduce the presence of weed seeds in the soil seedbank.

Editorial, News, Letters and Science Briefs

RESEARCH NEWS: Unwelcome arrivals

California's numerous ports of entry and borders provide plenty of opportunities for exotic and invasive insects, weeds and plant diseases to enter the state. Some of these species are intentionally introduced, while others arrive accidentally. Once here, they can benefit from the lack of natural controls of their native environments and thrive in new plant or animal systems and management practices. Here are five significant and new arrivals to California under investigation by UC scientists.

ONGOING RESEARCH: A look at EIPD Strategic Initiative projects

UCANR's five strategic initiatives seek new ways of partnering within and outside the university to tackle emerging issues in California. As part of this strategic vision, the Division annually funds research and extension projects in and across all initiatives. Four recent and ongoing studies in the Endemic and Invasive Pests and Diseases Strategic Initiative are profiled here.