Research and Information Centers Help California and the World

The land-grant mission of UC Davis lies deep in the roots of the Plant Sciences department.

Step 1: Research

The federal Hatch Act of 1887 established an Agricultural Experiment Station (AES) at each state’s land-grant college to conduct research on critical agricultural production challenges. The University of California is the state’s land-grant university, with the bulk of the AES research now conducted at three UC campuses — Davis, Riverside, and Berkeley.20150716-3588-crop-2-resize

Step 2: Extension of information to stakeholders

The Smith-Lever Act of 1914 mandated that each state’s land-grant college disseminate scientific knowledge relating to agriculture and home economics. Cooperative Extension (CE) within the UC system was born from this legislation. Cooperative Extension resources are allocated to the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, which includes many CE specialists embedded in departments on several campuses as well as CE specialists and advisors located at research stations or in UC Cooperative Extension offices in most counties in California.

20150716-3511-crop-resizeFast-forward a century

More than a century later, UC Davis maintains a strong Agricultural Experiment Station mission through faculty AES appointments. At the same time, campus-based Cooperative Extension specialists work with county-based CE advisors to conduct and disseminate applied research to stakeholders.

The Department of Plant Sciences is unique in having gone a step further by establishing nine Research and Information Centers (RICs; “ricks”) within the department to provide information and solutions to an array of partners and audiences — growers, land managers, ranchers, environmental groups, agencies and associations, decision-makers, alumni, communities, and consumers.

The department administers the research and information centers, and the RICs distribute information and provide educational and training programs to stakeholders. In general, RICs have a faculty director, one or more program staff, and serve as a nexus for basic and applied research across the UC system. Professors, CE specialists and advisors, and other researchers throughout California collaborate, in part, through the RICs to provide research and education for external stakeholders within and beyond California.

Coalescing and extending research and solutions are the common goals of the RICs and, in many cases, they also serve as the virtual point of connection for academics from around the state. In Plant Sciences, the RICs address topics such as crop production and postharvest handling, environmental management, pest management, urban landscapes, policy decisions, and home gardening.

The nine RICs in Plant Sciences

  1. Agronomy Research and Information Center
  2. Fruit and Nut Research and Information Center
  3. Postharvest Technology Center
  4. Restoration Research and Information Center
  5. Seed Biotechnology Center
  6. UC Nursery and Floriculture Alliance
  7. UC Rangelands
  8. Vegetable Research and Information Center
  9. Weed Research and Information Center

RIC structure20150716-3563-resize-2

Each RIC has its own mission, goals, and audience, but all focus on delivering the continuum of information from lab to field, to partners, and to those who use and apply the information. The results benefit agriculture (from field to finished product), natural resources (including the environment and urban landscapes), and ultimately consumers and residents.

In addition to compiling research and serving as hubs for outreach and extension, RICs also run a range of programs such as field days and short courses, continuing education for licensing certification, training programs and videos, written material (print publications, information blogs, social media, etc.), and websites with many types of useful information. The user base for RIC information is global — the RICs serve California, the nation, and many parts of the world.

Impact of RICs

What is valued both internally and externally is that information flows both ways — into and out from the RICs. Through training days, industry meetings, and field research, scientists not only deliver information, but they hear from external partners about research needs, industry issues, and emerging problems that need to be addressed. These partnerships have helped the RICs flourish and have been part of their success in reaching external constituents.

Support for the Research and Information Centers comes from several sources, including direct and in-kind support from the Department of Plant Sciences, the UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, and the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources division. However, the majority of funding to support RIC activities is generated by the RICs themselves, through educational programs, publications, competitive grants, endowments, and direct sponsorships.

While RICs aren’t the only programs and centers that disseminate useful information from the Department of Plant Sciences, some of them have a long-established history that precedes the department’s formation in 2004, and they all have a positive footprint in California and beyond.

Take a virtual tour of the RICs

If the RICs are new to you, you can start learning about them through their websites, which also list upcoming events and workshops. The RICs use their websites differently, but some of the websites receive an impressive 10,000 to 100,000 visitors per month.


  1. Agronomy Research and Information Center

The Agronomy Research and Information Center delivers scientific, research-based information, resources, education, and on-line tools for important agronomic crops in California. These crops — alfalfa, grain legumes/beans, bio-fuels, corn, cotton, oil seeds, rice, wheat and other small grains, and sugar beets — have large impacts on water use and nutrient management, farm profitability and human health. Research and education is delivered to growers, researchers, industry professionals, governmental agencies, and the general public.

Established: 1999/2015
Director: Bruce Linquist, Cooperative Extension Specialist in rice systems
Co-director: Dan Putnam, Cooperative Extension Specialist in alfalfa and forage crops


  1. Fruit and Nut Research and Information Center

The Fruit and Nut Research and Information Center coordinates UC research-based information and extension activities in planting, growing, and harvesting fruits and nuts. Information includes best management practices and connections to current research and new technologies, as well as practical advice in fruit and nut production from UC academic personnel to fruit and nut industry groups, agencies, and the general public.

Established: 1995
Director: Carlos Crisosto, Cooperative Extension Specialist and pomologist


  1. Postharvest Technology Center

The Postharvest Technology Center’s mission is to disseminate research-based information on the postharvest quality, safety, efficiencies, sustainability, and marketing of perishable horticultural products. The center is a leading source of information and training for a global clientele, of all scales, including growers, shippers, handlers, distributors, retailers, fresh processors, and consumers.

Established: 1978
Director: Trevor Suslow, Cooperative Extension Specialist


  1. Restoration Research and Information Center

The web-based center for ecological restoration will be an in-depth information repository that will develop through time, providing clientele with easily accessible information that allows them to make more sustainable management decisions. This RIC will help to improve landscape restoration design, implementation, and success for California by 1) providing access to targeted data-driven research that informs best practices, 2) facilitating information transfer between researchers and stakeholders, and 3) facilitating collaboration by linking on-the-ground management with researchers. In addition to products that demonstrate restoration success and feasibility (research papers and case study descriptions), the center will be a resource for real-time updates related to restoration policy and markets, upcoming meetings and symposia, job and volunteer opportunities, and field days.

Established: 2016
Director: Elise Gornish, Cooperative Extension Specialist in restoration ecology
Website: (in development)


  1. Seed Biotechnology Center

The Seed Biotechnology Center mobilizes the research, educational, and outreach resources of UC Davis in partnership with the seed and biotechnology industries to facilitate discovery and commercialization of new seed technologies for agricultural and consumer benefit. The Seed Biotechnology Center works closely with the UC Davis Plant Breeding Center to support breeding, seed production, and seed quality programs for a diversity of crops. It also delivers a broad spectrum of breeding and seed quality courses to professionals in industry, government, and public sectors locally, nationally, and throughout the world.

Established: 1998
Director: Kent Bradford, Distinguished Professor


  1. UC Nursery and Floriculture Alliance

The University of California Nursery and Floriculture Alliance is a statewide partnership of researchers and educators, growers and their trade associations, the allied industry, and local, state, and federal agencies. The center brings together UC campus and county personnel engaged in research and educational activities, and organizes outreach and technical training programs that address the needs of the California floriculture and nursery production industries.

Established: 2010
Director: Loren Oki, Cooperative Extension Specialist, Department of Plant Sciences and Department of Human Ecology
Director: David Fujino, Executive Director, California Center for Urban Horticulture


  1. UC Rangelands

The mission of UC Rangelands is to develop and advance science-based knowledge to diverse management and policy stakeholders to promote agricultural and environmental sustainability on California’s grazing lands.

Established: 2016
Director: Leslie Roche, Cooperative Extension Specialist in range management
Co-director: Ken Tate, Professor and Cooperative Extension Specialist in rangeland watershed sciences


  1. Vegetable Research and Information Center

The Vegetable Research and Information Center’s mission is to foster research, collect and disseminate information relevant to consumers, growers, and processors in the California vegetable industry, and to continue its role as a leader and nationally-recognized source of research and information in support of the vegetable industry.

Established: 1994
Director: Tim Hartz, Cooperative Extension Specialist in vegetable crops


  1. Weed Research and Information Center

The Weed Research and Information Center is an interdisciplinary collaboration that fosters research in weed management and facilitates distribution of associated knowledge for the benefit of agriculture and for the preservation of natural resources. Audiences/partners include scientists, researchers, farm advisors, pest control advisers, consultants, federal and states agencies, growers, students, industry, media, and the general public.

Established: 1997
Director: Kassim Al-Khatib, Melvin D. Androus Endowed Professor for Weed Science and Cooperative Extension Specialist

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