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Posts Tagged: Walt Bentley

Walt Bentley, UC Cooperative Extension advisor, retires after 35 years

Walt Bentley speaks to growers at a field day.
A highly regarded member of UC Cooperative Extension’s regional integrated pest management team at the UC Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Parlier will retire June 30.

Walter Bentley, UC Cooperative Extension advisor, transferred to Kearney in 1994 after 17 years as a UC Cooperative Extension advisor in Kern County, specializing in entomology. The integrated pest management team – with advisors representing the core pest management disciplines of entomology, nematology, weed science and plant pathology – was formed in response to concern about the effect of pesticides on food safety, the environment and farmworker safety.  

Bentley collaborated with IPM and commodity-specific UC Cooperative Extension advisors and specialists and farmers to develop IPM approaches and alternative control strategies that have reduced the use of the highest risk insecticides (carbamates and organophosphates) in California by 80 percent to 90 percent in almonds, grapes and tree fruit since 1995.

Bentley’s career success is demonstrated by the numerous awards he has received in the past year. A group of world IPM leaders presented Bentley with its Lifetime Achievement Award March 27 at the 7th International IPM Symposium in Memphis, Tenn. He also received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the California Association of Applied IPM Ecologists in February. In October 2011, Bentley received the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources Distinguished Service Award for Outstanding Extension.

Bentley grew up in San Joaquin County on his family’s cherry, walnut and peach farm in Linden. He began laboring in the orchards as a young boy, but the hard work didn’t deter him from pursuing a career in agriculture.

“Growing up on a farm is probably the best life a youngster can have,” Bentley said. “But I can’t say that it was easy for my parents. It was a struggle for them to raise a family and depend solely on income from the farm.”

Bentley earned a bachelor’s degree in horticulture and biology in 1969 at Fresno State University, and then spent two years in the U.S. Army working on tracing mosquito movement in the 4th Army area of Texas and Oklahoma and later in Utah. He earned a master’s degree in entomology in 1974 at Colorado State University. Bentley worked in biological pest control for the Colorado Department of Agriculture before returning to his native California for the UC Cooperative Extension position in Bakersfield.

“I had heard many rumors about how tough Bakersfield was in terms of weather and environment. Within two weeks of starting the job, there was a huge dust and wind storm in the area and the first summer we had 30 days in a row with the temperature 100 degrees or higher,” Bentley said. “But I came to enjoy Bakersfield.”

As the UC Cooperative Extension farm advisor for Kern County, Bentley worked with his colleagues to develop an IPM program for almonds, addressing primarily problems with spider mites, navel orange worms and ants. Also working with colleagues, he developed an IPM program for potatoes, emphasizing careful monitoring for potato tuber moth and postponing pesticide treatment until the pest reached a level at which economic damage occurs.

Perhaps his greatest accomplishment, however, was the relationship he cultivated with growers and pest control advisers in Kern County. In particular, Bentley worked closely with pioneer Bakersfield apple grower Lewis Sherrill to combat the problem of codling moth in apples. Sherrill started his own farm at age 76 and continued farming until he was nearly 100 years old.

“Apple farmers in Kern County were relying on information from Washington state, where a large part of the U.S. apple industry is located,” Bentley said. “But in Washington, codling moth only produces two generations in the summer. In Kern County, we had four. Lou and I analyzed codling moth flight dynamics, integration of materials and we began experimenting with mating disruption.”

At Kearney, Bentley continued his work on apples and almonds, plus he began to work extensively in grapes. Mealybug management in grapes, he said, became the most important and impactful part of his job. Bentley also played a role in developing a management plan to control katydid damage in peaches and helped farmers use mating disruption against oriental fruit moth in peaches.

“In my generation as an entomologist, a major breakthrough was the development and use of pheromones for ag pest monitoring and management,” Bentley said. “We found ways to use pests’ own biology against them.”

During his 36-year career, Bentley authored 65 chapters or sections in pest management manuals and 75 peer-reviewed articles. In addition, he wrote more than 250 articles for trade journals and newspapers.

"Mr. Bentley's career represents the best UCCE's faculty has to offer, “ said his IPM colleague, Pete Goodell, UC Cooperative Extension advisor based at Kearney. “Unselfish service, loyalty to his peers and clientele, intellectual honesty, dedication to the mission of UCCE and a genuine love for his work.”

Bentley credits the success of his program to the UC Cooperative Extension research and education continuum, which is designed to foster communication and collaboration from campus laboratories to farm fields and back again.

“I think this is one of the best educational programs in the world,” Bentley said. “We take information from UC campuses to the farms. And those of us who work with farmers bring first-hand experiences back to the campus and work with scientists to develop solutions.”

Bentley’s personal interest in insects, which got him into his line of work, will carry through into his retirement. One of his goals, he said, is building a teaching collection of insects, spiders, mites and other arthropods at Kearney. He has already acquired some of the equipment needed to house the collection, and plans to maintain some samples on pinned displays and others in live colonies. The collection will be a learning tool for farmers, pest control advisers, students and interns.

“Knowing what’s out there is an important part of understanding entomological science,” Bentley said.

Insects are also a part of his favorite pastime, fly fishing.  Bentley said retirement will give him more time to spend on local rivers catching (and releasing) trout with his hand-tied flies. Bentley speaks passionately about the joy of fly fishing.

“There’s a pulse that runs through you,” Bentley said. “It feels like you’re a child on Christmas every time the fish hits the fly. It’s such a thrill.”

Posted on Wednesday, May 30, 2012 at 7:23 AM
Tags: retirement (1), Walt Bentley (5)

Shift toward hiring through farm labor contractors continuing

The trend toward contracting out labor is, in part, a product of the current economic climate.
A Bakersfield farming cooperative will lay off 2,100 permanent seasonal workers and instead hire a labor force through farm labor contractors, reported Jill Cowan in the Bakersfield Californian. The shift toward hiring seasonal workers through farm labor contractors is not new, said University of California Cooperative Extension specialist emeritus Howard Rosenberg, who has studied agricultural labor management for decades.

"(Use of farm labor contractors) has grown from the low 20 percents, to now over 40 percent," Rosenberg said, "and some people would say that it's now over 80 percent."

He said farm labor contractors can help growers avoid "transaction costs for hiring and firing." Employing middlemen who are theoretically experts at "dealing with the complex regulatory environment" is a way of outsourcing some of an organization's management burden.

Agricultural leader Ron Tyler dies
Register Pajaronian

Ron Tyler, the director of UC Cooperative Extension in Santa Cruz County who retired in 1991, has passed away.

“I knew him for about 34 years and he was very dedicated to the ag industry, first being in his profession as the agricultural extension adviser for many years,” Santa Cruz County Farm Bureau executive director Jess Brown said. “In that role, not only did he interact with people in agriculture, but farmed and gave them advice.”

Stink bugs pose noxious challenge
The Business Journal

Native stink bugs don’t pose a great threat to local farmers because they have natural predators. But an invasive species that has wreaked havoc on some mid-Atlantic fruit orchards appears to be flitting toward the Golden State’s breadbasket.

“It’s spreading pretty rapidly,” said Walt Bentley, an entomologist with the University of California’s Integrated Pest Management Program. “Last year it seemed to have one of those population explosions.”

The threat to grapes is of critical concern in the leading grape-growing region in the nation. Stephen Vasquez, viticulture farm advisor for UC Cooperative Extension in Fresno, said stink bugs could wind up crushed by presses at wineries and “contribute to off flavors in the wine.”

Stink bugs also are a nuisance to homeowners, clustering in attics and hiding between any slender space, the way cockroaches do.

“As it gets cold they will start to overwinter in people’s houses. They just haven’t become established yet. I suspect it’s just a matter of time,” Vasquez said.

Posted on Tuesday, January 31, 2012 at 9:14 AM

California dreamin'

The almond industry's dream of hitting the two billion-pound mark has come true, according to an article by Cary Blake in Western Farm Press.

“We once believed achieving a 2-billion-pound California almond crop was a distant dream but now it’s a reality,” said Bob Curtis of the Almond Board of California at the 2011 Almond Industry Conference.

The conference included presentations by John Edstrom, UC Cooperative Extension emeritus farm advisor, Colusa County; Mario Viveros, UCCE emeritus farm advisor, Kern County; and Walt Bentley, UC IPM entomologist. Combined, these UCCE specialists have nearly 100 years of experience in the California almond industry

Edstrom tied the monumental yield increases in recent decades to precision irrigation, high-density tree planting, minimum and machine pruning techniques, and soil modification and amendments.

Posted on Friday, January 20, 2012 at 9:24 AM

UCCE leads the charge against grapevine pest

UC Cooperative Extension farm advisors Monica Cooper and Lucia Varela are taking the lead in helping Napa County growers manage their vineyards infested with European grapevine moth, according to an article in Grower magazine.

The advisors are monitoring the pest's lifecycle, and when it's the optimum time for pesticide treatment, they send e-mail alerts to growers.

Growers then have a 10-day window to treat the vineyard, said the article, written by editor Vicky Boyd. The pesticides Intrepid and Altacor are registered for conventional production; Entrust and Bacillus thuringiensis are available for organic farmers.

A second European grapevine moth control effort in Napa County involves distribution of twist-ties on vines to dispense pheromones that disrupt the pests' mating.

In the San Joaquin Valley, where only a few moths have been trapped, agricultural officials are relying on insecticides alone. UC Integrated Pest Management entomologist Walt Bentley told the reporter that clouds of pheromone would shut down detection traps.

“I’m confident we can eliminate it here in the Central Valley,” Bentley was quoted.

For more information, Boyd directs readers to the UC Integrated Pest Management web page on European grapevine moth.

Posted on Friday, August 13, 2010 at 8:37 AM

UC scientists see ravages of new pest firsthand

A group of UC scientists traveled to Chile recently to see firsthand vineyard damage caused by the European grapevine moth, according to an article in the Fresno Bee. The moth has been detected in California's Napa County, and is being actively tracked in the valley to determine whether the infestation has spread.

European grapevine moth was discovered three years ago in Chile. Because the pest develops from larvae to moth at a crucial time in the grape's growth cycle, its effects can be devastating.

"They have lost whole vineyards in Chile; not one grape was picked," UC entomologist Walt Bentley was quoted in the Bee. "It actually lays its eggs on the berry, and as the berries bloom little flower clusters, the larvae begins feeding on that. It is a voracious eater."

Napa County is world-renowned for its fine wines, but it may be the San Joaquin Valley that has the larger stake in the effort to keep the European grapevine moth at bay. Valley farmers produce nearly all of California's table and raisin grapes and, with 1.3 million tons of grapes for crush in 2009, lead the state's production of grapes for wine and concentrate.

A major European grapevine moth infestation could cost the industry millions of dollars in control efforts and lost sales to countries that block imports from areas with the pest, wrote Bee reporter Robert Rodriguez.

More information on the European grapevine moth is available on the UC Integrated Pest Management Web site.

Posted on Monday, March 1, 2010 at 7:47 AM

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