Ross with LBNL Scientists Group Photo

From left to right: Margaret Torn, Bill Riley, Susan Hubbard, Gary Andersen, Secretary Ross, Yuxin Wu, Bob Wynn (senior advisor to the secretary), Romy Chakraborty, Peter Nico, Louise Glass, Javier Ceja Navarro, Blake Simmons, Eoin Brodie, and Will Stringfellow. (Photo credit: N. Kooyman)

The many potential benefits of pioneering science to agriculture was on display on Monday when Karen Ross, the Secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture, visited Berkeley Lab and met with members of the Earth and Environmental Sciences Area and the Biosciences Area. She also toured the Advanced Light Source.

During her visit, she learned how Berkeley Lab’s diverse efforts in both basic and applied science could help California address its agricultural and food challenges of the 21st Century, such as how to produce more food with fewer natural resources.

Deputy Lab Director Horst Simon welcomed Secretary Ross, and then Susan Hubbard, Associate Lab Director, provided a brief introduction of the National Lab system, Berkeley Lab, and the Earth and Environmental Sciences Area.

Next, several scientists provided overviews of research that could be tapped to help tackle California’s challenges in agriculture, soil health, water availability, climate change, and energy.

Photo of Ross wearing a headset to view the inside of a grapevine captured at the Advanced Light Source.

Secretary Ross wears a headset to view the inside of a grapevine captured at the Advanced Light Source. (Photo Credit: E. Essner)

Among the projects presented were new research on the impacts of climate change on California agriculture, advances in groundwater management practices and water reuse for agriculture. Harnessing the power of the planet’s microbial engines was a topic that led to good discussion, with particular emphasis on how soil microbes can help improve food production, how microbes that inhabit insect guts can be targeted to fight agricultural pests, and the role that microbes play in enhancing the terrestrial carbon sink and maintaining healthy soils. Innovations in urban agriculture, advanced composting, and remote sensing methods that enable scientists to image soil and agricultural systems were also discussed.

Secretary Ross then visited the Advanced Light Source, where she learned how a 3-D microscopy technique at beamline 8.3.2 enables scientists to see water as it’s transported throughout a plant. This work has enabled scientists from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to study how grapevines respond to drought stress.

Go here to read a blog post by Secretary Ross on her visit.