March 17 Event Invites Public to Sample UCR Scientists’ Work

Genomics to Harvest event features plant, food production research

RIVERSIDE, Calif. ( — The University of California, Riverside will host a symposium on March 17 that will highlight the contributions UC Riverside is making to the basic science, cultivation, and production of plants and food.

The event, “Living the Promise Symposium: From Genomics to Harvest,” is free and open to the public. The symposium is from 6 to 8 p.m. in The Barn on the UC Riverside campus. Reservations are required and can be made online. Free parking will be available in Lot 6.

The symposium will be followed by a reception featuring a menu inspired by UC Riverside’s food research. Among the items: UCR avocado and arugula gazpacho shooter, prosciutto-wrapped UCR asparagus, fried calamari with UCR citrus aioli, and UCR black-eyed pea salad.

The symposium is part of a series of events that reflect key themes of the university’s comprehensive fundraising campaign announced in October 2016. The $300 million campaign will conclude in 2020 and seeks funding for student support, faculty research, and infrastructure. Campaign themes align with goals outlined in UCR 2020, the university’s strategic plan.

Kathryn Uhrich, dean of UC Riverside’s College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences and a professor of chemistry; will moderate the March 17 discussion. The following UC Riverside researchers will be panelists:

  • Philip Roberts, a professor and chair of the Department of Nematology who does research on cowpeas, which include black-eyed peas. His research focuses on the integrated management of plant parasitic nematodes. A major emphasis is placed on the identification, characterization, and development of host plant resistance to root-knot nematodes for genetic improvement of crops. His current work includes studies of resistance gene inheritance, development of gene markers, genome mapping, and gene transfer.
  • Mary Lu Arpaia, a University of California Cooperative Extension subtropical horticulture specialist who studies avocados and citrus. She specializes in the evaluation of pre-harvest and post-harvest factors on subtropical crop productivity and fruit quality, including rootstocks, cultivar, irrigation, pesticide, and nutrition management strategies. Led by Arpaia, UC Riverside’s avocado breeding program has released four varieties, including GEM, which boasts the same excellent characteristics as the coveted Hass, while reducing harvesting and maintenance costs for growers thanks to its consistent production and more compact trees.
  • Julia Bailey-Serres, a professor of genetics who has discovered and characterized a gene that allows rice to survive under water. She is the director of UC Riverside’s Center for Plant Cell Biology and a member of the National Academy of Sciences. Her research group studies the sensing, signaling, and acclimation responses to low-oxygen stress in plants. Her multidisciplinary approach combines genetic, molecular, biochemical, and bioinformatic technologies and has significant implications for agricultural and global food challenges.
  • Wenbo Ma, a professor of plant pathology who is doing research on Huanglongbing (HLB), also known as citrus greening disease, a disease decimating the citrus industry. Her research will eventually lead to genetic manipulation of bacterial strains to control diseases and promote higher crop yields in agriculture, in a sustainable manner. She is the lead researcher on a project awarded a $4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to save the United States citrus industry from Huanglongbing.
  • Peggy Mauk, UC Cooperative Extension specialist for subtropical crops and director of UC Riverside Agricultural Operations. She specializes in the evaluation of avocado rootstocks for salinity tolerance. Her research focuses on abiotic or biotic stresses of subtropical fruit crops, such as avocados, citrus, dates, and mangos. As the director of Agricultural Operations at UC Riverside, she oversees field research across 440 acres on campus, and another 500 acres in the Coachella Valley.

Future Living the Promise symposia themes and dates are: Renewable Nature, April 19 at the UCR Botanic Gardens; and New Voices and Visions, May 4 at the Barbara and Art Culver Center of the Arts at UCR ARTSblock in downtown Riverside.

More information about the comprehensive fundraising campaign is available at or by calling 951-827-3144.

Media Contact

Tel: (951) 827-4756

Additional Contacts

Sean Nealon
Tel: (951) 827-1287

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