Western innovator: 'Two-way learning' embraced
'When we work together, it's a pretty powerful team'
By TIM HEARDEN
RED BLUFF, Calif. -- Rick Buchner grew up next to vineyards in Modesto, Calif., but he didn't develop a passion for agriculture until later.
He was an intern in the University of California Cooperative Extension office in Placerville, Calif., in the 1970s, when he found that helping growers solve problems and doing research was especially appealing.
In his 40 years as a UC farm advisor, including 20 years in the Red Bluff office, Buchner has helped orchardists solve many problems -- most notably walnut blight and the codling moth.
"The beauty of extension is that we all learn together," Buchner, 60, said. "The growers know things that I don't, and I hopefully can share things from the university that they don't know. When we work together, it's a pretty powerful team.
"I enjoy the two-way learning street between the industries and extension," he said.
After earning a master's degree at the University of California-Davis in 1982, Buchner spent 20 years in Shasta County's extension office, where he worked primarily in orchard crop and strawberry nursery production.
When former Tehama County farm advisor Joe Osgood retired in 1992, Buchner was asked to take over his orchard crop program, he said.
He cites as his most significant accomplishment the work on controlling walnut blight, which was a serious problem for the industry in the mid-1990s.
"Growers were wondering if they could even stay in business here," he said.
Buchner and other researchers tested and developed use of a mixture of copper and a bisdithiocarbamate product to control blight, which can cause significant crop damage if left unabated.
The product, now called Manzate, is applied during the spring when shoots are just starting to unfold. The product must be licensed each year by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and Buchner and industry officials have been working to get it approved on a more permanent basis.
"I'm hoping that before I retire in three to five years, we'll be able to get a full registration ... to secure that product for our growers," he said.
Buchner has also been working for 15 years on mating disruption of the codling moth, a destructive orchard pest. In a local orchard, he installed cabinets that make a puff of pheromone every 15 minutes, saturating the air with natural chemicals that tamper with a codling moth's ability to mate and lay eggs.
As a result, the orchard showed good codling moth suppression, and other natural predators have been allowed to thrive.
Buchner also enjoys learning about agriculture on his own time. He and his wife, Terri, have planted a small vineyard on their property in Redding and make wine for their own use.
"I've been making wine since about 1978, when I started working with an advisor in Placerville who was involved in the wine industry," Buchner said. "Every year we make our own vintages."
The Buchners are also avid gardeners, growing peaches and vegetables and providing extras to a local senior nutrition program.
"We spend a fair amount of our time keeping the deer out of our garden," he said.
Richard P. Buchner
Residence: Redding, Calif.
Occupation: University of California Cooperative Extension farm advisor
Family: Wife, Terri