Last week the department of Plant Pathology and Entomology held a joint meeting with UCCE and UCANR. The meeting was intended to introduce farm advisors to the 9(!) new faculty between our two departments. The meeting went off without a hitch, with both groups learning a lot about each other. I got to meet several farm advisors and faculty that I had only known by name and reputation, and it was nice to be able to put a face to a name. I was only able to attend the first day because of obligations on the second day, but I learned a lot about pollinator biology and ecology during the special session. I have so frequently heard about colony collapse disorder (CCD) that I felt well informed; however the meeting proved that there are many facets to the disorder that I did not know about, like the rising demand for almonds, the unnatural nature of the close proximity of bee hives in managed fields, and the role of both behavior and innate immunity in fighting off pathogens. I also learned a lot from the vector borne diseases session, with updates from Ozgur Batuman about tomato viroids, Li-Fung Chan about curlytop virus, and Bruce Kirkpatrick about difficulties in Pierces Disease management in grapes.
While the meeting was very informative about the session topics, I also learned alot about how research topics are chosen by PIs and farm advisors. A lot of the people during the discussion section talked about a growing divide between what farm advisors do and what we in the university do. One way to address this is to do exactly what we did – put all of us together in one room and allow for plenty of talking time. The only way that we can move forward against this gap is to meet and exchange information on what is new in the field and what is new in the lab.