Researchers mark center’s 50th anniversary with time capsule

Students in the Farming, Agriculture, and Resource Management for Sustainability (FARMS) Leadership Program learn about sustainability during a recent workshop at the University of California's Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension center in Parlier, Calif. The center is celebrating its 50th anniversary on May 26.

PARLIER, Calif. — Scientists are celebrating a key University of California agricultural research center’s 50th anniversary by imagining how studies will be done a half-century from now.

Six academics at the UC’s 600-acre Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension center in Parlier, near Fresno, are writing “letters to the future” to tell their successors what they predict in terms of technology and advances over the next 50 years.

Center director Jeff Dahlberg wrote in his letter that he expects scientists in 2065 to be using holographic demonstrations in their educational programs and technology that will allow 3-D imagery showing how plant systems function and how genes work, according to a news release.

The letters will be part of a time capsule that will be buried on the grounds until Kearney conducts its centennial anniversary.

“I’m pretty excited that I’m here for the 50th anniversary,” Dahlberg told the Capital Press. “Over the years the center has had a tremendous influence on some of the agricultural success here in the valley. That’s just built on 50 years of continuing research and being able to provide solutions to issues (growers have) faced over the years.”

UC dignitaries and agricultural leaders will gather with researchers and other employees for an invitation-only celebration on May 26, then the center will be open for students, teachers and the public for tours on May 27.

Opened in 1965, the center includes a state-of-the-art greenhouse, a postharvest laboratory, a mosquito control laboratory, several insectaries and offices as well as 260 acres of orchards, vineyards and fields, according to its website.

Over the years, the center has gained international acclaim for developing new fruit, nut and grape varieties, innovative cultural and irrigation practices, pest and disease management techniques and postharvest biology, the website explains.

For instance, Kearney researchers have been using a four-acre plot to test whether shorter peach and nectarine trees can reduce labor and insurance costs without sacrificing fruit quality and yield. Having laborers pick from the ground would save the considerable time it takes to move and position ladders during harvest.

The center sent out invitations to more than 800 people for the private celebration and expects as many as 300 to attend, Dahlberg said. Guests will be invited to send a “message to the future” on a 20-foot banner, which will be buried in the time capsule.

The following day’s open house enables Kearney to show its gratitude to the public, he said.

“It’s an opportunity for us to thank the communities for their support over the last 50 years,” Dahlberg said. “Obviously we wouldn’t be here without their support.”

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