Houston Wilson has been named the Presidential Director for the University of California's Organic Agriculture Institute, which was established in January 2020 with a $500,000 endowment by Clif Bar and a matching $500,000 endowment from UC President Janet Napolitano.
Wilson, a UC Riverside agricultural entomologist based at the Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center, joined UC ANR as assistant Cooperative Extension specialist in 2017. He will launch the institute and chart a path for future growth while also focusing on immediate priorities such as a survey of organic production in California, multiple outreach and training opportunities for growers, publication of organic production guidelines, and developing research programs. Wilson's long-term goal is to continue to grow the endowment and position the organization to successfully support the state's growing organic farming economy.
“Organic growers in California face an array of interconnected agronomic, economic and regulatory challenges,” said Wilson. “Tackling these issues simultaneously requires a multidisciplinary approach to develop solutions that work in all scales of production. The economic opportunities are there, and we want to help position California growers to reap these benefits, and in doing so increase the supply of affordable organic food for consumers.”
Since 2007, Wilson has conducted research and extension in orchard and vineyard systems with a focus on integrated pest management strategies, many of which are readily applicable to organic agriculture. Key studies have included evaluating the use of mating disruption to control navel orangeworm in fig production, cover crops to increase biological control of vineyard leafhoppers, pheromone lures to improve monitoring of leaffooted bug in almonds, and more.
“We are excited about Houston's vision for establishing and growing California's first organic institute,” said Glenda Humiston, UC vice president for agriculture and natural resources (UC ANR). “Continued research advancements will be critical to the future of organic farming in our state as well as the health of our environment.”
“Clif Bar is thrilled to see Houston's appointment. We've heard from orchardists in our supply chain who have worked with him in the past and are excited that he'll have more resources to help serve the needs of organic producers,” said Matthew Dillon, senior director of agriculture for Clif Bar. “We look forward to working with Houston, UC ANR, and the organic agriculture community to continue to improve the sustainability and economic resiliency of California farmers.”
Wilson earned his doctoral degree in environmental science, policy and management and also holds a bachelor's degree in international area studies, both from UC Berkeley.