7:30am to 5:30pm
200 S. Madison Avenue, Yuma

The Desert Agriculture Research Symposium, funded by the NIFA Specialty Crop Research Initiative program, is an opportunity to learn about the research needs of the desert agriculture industry, current research, and to develop partnerships. Scientists will learn how to best engage with industry from experienced researchers and have opportunities to engage with potential industry partners.


Desert Agriculture Research Symposium

November 16, 2022

Pivot Point Conference Center, 200 S. Madison Ave, Yuma, AZ 85364


NOVEMBER 15: Pre-Symposium Field Tour, 12:30-5pm
Arrive a day early to take a tour of the Yuma agriculture industry and learn about all aspects of agricultural production from industry members.

The tour meets at the Yuma Ag Center, 6425 W. 8th Street, Yuma AZ 85364

  • Tour of Yuma Ag Center, 12:30-1:00
    • Bert Hernandez, Director, Yuma Agricultural Center
  • Date production in Arizona, 1:15-2:00
    • Tom Fitschen, Bard Date Company
  • Agricultural water in Yuma, 2:15-2:45
    • Tom Davis, Manager, Yuma Water Users’ Association
  • Agricultural Production & Food Safety in the Desert, 3:00-5:00
    • Mark Smith, Smith Farms


7:30-8:30 Research Symposium Registration and Continental Breakfast

8:30-8:40 Welcome from Paul Brierley, Executive Director, Yuma Center of Excellence for Desert Agriculture

8:40-9:10 The Value and Need for Industry-Academia Collaboration: a Conversation with Dr. Shane Burgess, Vic Smith, and Robby Barkley

Dr. Shane Burgess leads a conversation with two Ag industry leaders, Vic Smith, and Robby Barkley. The three will discuss their vision for how academia and the agriculture industry can effectively collaborate.

9:10-10:05 Addressing Industry Challenges

Learn about collaborating with private industry from two researchers who have built strong research programs with the agriculture industry and a researcher who started working with the Yuma agriculture industry later in his career.

  • Channah Rock, Water Quality Specialist; Endowed Professor in Extension Fresh Produce Safety, CALS Cooperative Extension, University of Arizona
  • Charles Sanchez, Professor; Research Scientist, CALS Cooperative Extension, University of Arizona
  • Andrew French, Physical Scientist; USDA-ARS, US Arid-Land Agricultural Research Center
  • Q & A

10:05-10:20 Break and Poster Session

10:20-11:45 University of Arizona Support for Desert Ag Research

What resources does the University of Arizona have to help build partnerships?

  • Parker Antin, Associate Dean for Research; Associate Vice President, Agriculture, Life and Veterinary Sciences, and Cooperative Extension
  • Mark Van Dyke, Associate Dean for Research, College of Engineering
  • Q&A


10:45-11:15 Developing Successful Projects to Address Industry Needs form the Funders' Perspective

This session discusses the perspective of funding agencies on what makes a successful proposal for projects addressing agriculture needs.

  • Bonnie Fernandez-Fenaroli, Executive Director, Center for Produce Safety
  • Lisa James, Grants Program Manager, Arizona Department of Agriculture
  • Q & A

11:15-11:55 Resources for Desert Ag Research

Moderator: Russ Engel, Yuma County Extension Director

  • Ed Martin, Interim Director, Arizona Cooperative Extension, University of Arizona
  • Jairo Diaz, Director, Desert Research and Extension Center, University of California
  • Humberto Hernandez, Director, Yuma Agricultural Center, University of Arizona
  • Robert Masson, Agricultural Agent, Yuma Co. Cooperative Extension, University of Arizona
  • Tanya Hodges, Regional Coordinator, UA Yuma
  • Q & A

11:55-12:15 Lightning Session I, off-main-campus researchers

These 5-minute talks will give you a snapshot of research in desert agriculture.

Diaa Elshikha, Glenn Wright, Samuel Discua, Matt Halldorson

12:15-1 Lunch

1-2 Industry Panel

Moderator: Paul Brierley

Industry leaders discuss their challenges and their experiences trying to address those challenges.

2-2:30 Lightning Session II

These 5-minute talks will give you a snapshot of research that could impact desert agriculture.

Betsy Arnold, Changbin Chen, Channah Rock, David Galbraith

2:30-2:45 Break and Poster Session

2:45-4:25 Industry-Focused Research Efforts

“Water Irrigation Efficiency Grant Program - Investing in our Future to preserve Arizona Agriculture”

Ethan Orr, Associate Director, Agriculture, Natural Resources and Economic Development, Cooperative Extension, University of Arizona

“Industry-NRCS-Academic Partnerships to Improve Compost Production, Soil Health Assessment, and Soil Health Management.”

 Joey Blankinship, Assistant Professor, Department of Environmental Science, University of Arizona

“An Intro to the Healthy Desert Soils Initiative’”

Debankur Sanyal, Assistant Specialist, Cooperative Extension; Associate Professor, Department of Environmental Science, University of Arizona

"Genetic Improvement of Lettuce Through Phenomics."

Duke Pauli, Assistant Professor, School of Plant Sciences, University of Arizona

“Investigating the evolution and survival of foodborne pathogens in different desert agricultural environments”

Kerry Cooper, Assistant Professor, Animal and Comparative Biomedical Sciences, University of Arizona

“Pathology research in the California desert”

Alex Putman, Assistant Professor of Cooperative Extension, Plant Pathology, University of California

“Industry-university-foundation partnerships to sustain plant-based, retina-resident nutrients of physiological significance: from farm to fork to fundus.”

John Paul SanGiovanni, Associate Professor, School of Nutritional Sciences and Wellness, University of Arizona  

“In-field soil variability in the Yuma area: Tools to characterize it and implementation of variable management technologies”

Pedro Andrade Sanchez, Associate Specialist Precision Agriculture; Associate Professor, University of Arizona

4:25-4:30 Wrap-up

4:30-5:30 Collaboration Development and Hors d’oeuvres

a Conversation with Dr. Shane Burgess, Vic Smith, and Robby Barkley
a Conversation with Dr. Shane Burgess, Vic Smith, and Robby Barkley