CNAS’ 2024 Science Lecture Series will Close-out with Talk about Sustainable Agricultural Systems

On Tuesday, May 14, Dr. Elia Scudiero, Research Agronomist in the Environmental Sciences Department at UC Riverside, will address the topic From Dirt to Data: Precision Insights for Sustainable Agricultural Systems as the final talk in CNAS’ 2024 Science Lecture Series. Dr. Scudiero will speak at the UCR Palm Desert Center in Palm Desert, CA.

Elia Scudiero

“There’s a need to produce more food for a growing global population, but there is no free lunch,” says Dr. Scudiero. “We need to produce food using resources that are becoming scarce and degrading.

“Right now, in many places worldwide, much of what is practiced agriculturally is like how you’d buy a t-shirt at Walmart – small, medium or large,” he continues. “But in more complex and heterogeneous systems, there is space for having a more customized, tailored solution to the specific agricultural needs you encounter in a place.”

The immediate problem, according to Dr. Scudiero, is that water scarcity and environmental degradation associated with intensive agriculture are threatening the environmental, economic, and social sustainability of food production in water-scarce farmlands both in the U.S. and globally. Although limited, water resources in California and many other American farmlands are often used inefficiently. Therefore, long-term improvements to current irrigation practices must be made to help sustain agricultural systems.

The good news, which Dr. Scudiero will share with lecture attendees, is that short-scale changes in soil properties often result in remarkable crop yield variability. Geophysical measurements and GIS-based models to characterize trends and drivers of soil variability are needed for informed agricultural and natural resource management.

“I’ve learned that farmers have a dire need for data and science-driven solutions to the local problems they face every day,” Dr. Scudiero says. “There is a need for expertise to be used to sift through this data to come out with information that is pertinent to the growers. That’s something that we need to invest in much more than we are doing now – quantitative research to solve these challenges that we are facing.”

Along those lines, Dr. Scudiero’s lecture will feature research on the use of field measurements, near-ground and remote sensing, and spatiotemporal multi-scale (field to the regional scale) data analysis.

“It takes a village,” Dr. Scudiero says, “a community of scientists. We need to strengthen and grow our communities in their engagement and sense of belonging with agricultural research. It’s our responsibility to educate the leaders of tomorrow and hope that they stay here and make a contribution.”

In addition to his research work at UCR, Dr. Scudiero has a joint appointment at the USDA ARS US Salinity Laboratory in Riverside. His Digital Agronomy Lab uses high-resolution near-ground and remote sensing to study agricultural systems across scales. This research supports sustainable site-specific agriculture management practices in California and globally. In 2013, Dr. Scudiero was awarded a Ph.D. in Crop Science from the University of Padua, Italy.

Since its inception, the Science Lecture Series has provided a platform for CNAS scientists to share their knowledge and research with students, alumni, faculty, staff, and community members. Each topic in the Series tackles some of the most pressing issues we face as a local, national, and global community.

Dr. Scudiero’s hour-long lecture begins at 6:00 pm and will be preceded by a 5:00 pm reception in the Palm Desert Center. The lecture and reception is free and open to the public, but registration is required. Light refreshments will be served, while supplies last.

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A free shuttle bus is available for UCR students, faculty and staff to and from the main UCR campus to Dr. Scudiero’s lecture at UCR Palm Desert Center; however, space is limited.

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