Young woman with arms stretched proudly toward a scientific poster that reads, “Evaluating bacterial diversity and pest control efficacy of steam disinfestation treatments in the Salinas Valley spinach and lettuce fields.”
Master's student Erika Escalona shows off her first-place poster presentation during the California Plant and Soil Conference, hosted by UC ANR in Fresno, Calif., recently.

Steam treatment, soil nitrogen presentations win prizes

Escalona and Roel shine at ANR conference

Young woman with a scientific poster that reads, “Offsetting inorganic N fertilizer requirements with organic amendments”
Ph.D. student Valentina Roel presents her research to people attending the California Plant and Soil Conference, hosted by UC ANR in Fresno, Calif., recently.

Graduate students took home first- and second-place honors for their poster presentations at the annual California Plant and Soil Conference, hosted by University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources in Fresno, Calif., recently.

Erika Escalona and Valentina Roel won first and second place in their respective categories at the conference. They and other attending students are in the horticulture and agronomy graduate group in the Department of Plant Sciences.

Escalona is a master’s degree student in the lab of Steve Fennimore, a professor of UC Cooperative Extension. She also worked with Brad Hanson, another Extension professor in the department, on her project in the Salinas Valley. The team evaluated the effects of using steam to disinfect soil, looking specifically at its impact on bacterial diversity and pest control. Escalona won first place in the soil and water category for master’s students.

Young woman on a grassy place
Master’s student Sydney Cho doing field research.

“Receiving recognition for my research is deeply meaningful to me,” Escalona said. “It reflects the collective effort of both myself and my lab colleagues. I feel particularly fortunate to have had valuable assistance from Denise Soto, Alicia Scholler and Adriana Roque.”

Roel is a doctoral student in the lab of Cameron Pittelkow, an associate professor in the department. Roel has been researching the potential for using organic soil amendments to replace nitrogen fertilizer. Her presentation took second place in the Ph.D. category.

 “The conference was a great opportunity to share our research findings, engage with peers from other universities and receive valuable feedback,” Roel said. “I’m thankful for this opportunity as it contributes to my academic and professional growth.”

Opportunities for professional contact, feedback

Young man with a scientific poster that reads, “Introduction of Aerobic Soil Conditions to Continuous Rice Enhances Soil Nitrogen Availability.”
Doctoral student Zhenglin Zhang at the conference.

Three more horticulture and agronomy students from the department also attended the conference:

Sydney Cho is a master’s student in the lab of Patrick H. Brown, a distinguished professor. Her project investigated how almond hulls and shells can be used as potassium-rich soil amendments.

“The conference was a great opportunity to engage with students, researchers and farmers,” Cho said. “I enjoyed the audience Q&A, as I was able to speak about my current research and have lively conversations following my talk.”

Zhenglin Zhang is a doctoral student in the lab of Extension Professor Bruce Linquist. Zhang studies how oxygen in the soil affects the amount of nitrogen in rice fields.

Mia Godbey is another doctoral student in the Linquist lab. Her research compares the differences between no-till and conventional tillage rice fields in the Sacramento area.

The California Plant and Soil Conference is an opportunity for up-and-coming scientists to present their findings to industry experts and receive professional feedback.

Young woman with a scientific poster that reads, ‘Evaluating Management in No-Till and Conventional Tillage Systems of Sacramento Valley’s Rice Fields”
Doctoral student Mia Godbey at the conference.

– Edited by Trina Kleist

Media Resources

  • Trina Kleist, UC Davis Department of Plant Sciences,, (530) 754-6148 or (530) 601-6846

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