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Agriculture briefs

UC Cooperative Extension entomologist Lucia Varela has been named the 2013 Friend of Sonoma County Agriculture by the county’s Harvest Fair.

Varela has spent the last 22 years working as the UC Coop’s integrated pest management advisor for the North Coast.

In the last 10 years she helped growers and pest control advisors manage such exotic pests as the vine mealybug, light brown apple moth, European grapevine moth and, recently, Virginia creeper leafhopper.

Varela received her Ph.D. in entomology from UC Berkeley.

The 2013 Harvest Fair will run Oct. 4-6 at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds.

UC Davis scientists discover genes to fight wheat disease

UC Davis scientists are part of an international team that has discovered two new genes that can help wheat plants resist the deadly stem rust disease.

The discovery of such genes is vitally important for global food security, researchers said. A highly aggressive race of the fungus that causes wheat stem rust appeared about a decade ago in Africa and now threatens global wheat grain production.

The identification and cloning of resistant genes can enable plant breeders to use traditional breeding techniques to develop new wheat varieties that will be resistant to the new strain of the disease.

The findings appear as the cover article of the Aug. 16 issue of the journal Science’s special issue devoted to “Smarter Pest Control.”

Forest Service seeks to pull back timber payments

Citing federal budget cuts, the U.S. Forest Service plans to take back a portion of the timber payments it had promised or paid out to 22 states.

Under the plan, California would lose nearly $2.2 million, leaving about $1 million for its programs for habitat improvement and other forest-related projects.

Collection letters from Forest Service Chief Thomas Tidwell went out to governors around the country Monday.

Earlier this year, Tidwell sent letters to 41 states, asking for the return of $17.9 million in timber payments used to pay for schools, roads, search and rescue operations and conservation projects.

The Western Governors’ Association objected to the request. The governors said the budget act that triggered the automatic federal cuts, known as sequestration, does not include language authorizing retroactive application the cuts.

— Staff and wire reports. Submit items to robert.digitale@pressdemocrat.com

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