UCCE Farm Advisor Profile: Mohamed Nouri

Mohamed Nouri, a UCCE area orchard systems advisor in San Joaquin County, brings many years of plant pathology and research experience to UCCE (photo courtesy M. Nouri.)

Mohamed Nouri joined UCCE in July 2019 as an area orchard systems advisor for San Joaquin County. Nouri, who received his Master’s degree in microbiology and plant pathology from Tunis University in Tunisia and completed his doctoral research at the Kearney Ag Research Center in Parlier, has been directly involved in agriculture since childhood.

“I became interested in agriculture at a very young age. I’m not only a farm advisor now; I’m also a farmer,” Nouri said. “I grew up growing olives, almonds and pistachios with my father and grandfather. So, it’s not only an experience; it was something I was born into.”

Nouri noted that tree crop farmers in his home country often suffer tree loss due to fungal or bacterial diseases, and this made him interested in plant pathology.

“I have always tried to learn how to identify biotic or abiotic disorders [in tree crops],” Nouri said. “I’ve always wanted to be involved in the diagnosis of diseases, and my experiences have made me more excited to learn about diseases.”


Past and Current Research

Nouri gained an extensive amount of research experience in plant pathology before joining UCCE.

“My Master’s degree project was about studying Verticillium wilt in olives and almond,” Nouri said. “Verticillium is classified as one of the most important diseases in olive trees worldwide.

“My research for my Ph.D. in California focused on understanding emerging diseases of fruit and nut crops and delivering innovative and efficient control strategies for those diseases,” he continued. “My main project while at Kearney focused on pistachio canker diseases and soilborne diseases as well as emerging diseases of olives. These projects included basic and applied study of disease biology and epidemiology as well.”

While Nouri said that his previous work has been published in highly reputed journals for Plant Pathology, he is working on new research at UCCE addressing production and pest management issues in commodities such as walnut, cherry, olive and apple. He also responds to calls from growers with small acreage crops, though these are not part of his current research.

Nouri spoke in detail at the 2021 Virtual California Walnut Conference about his current research investigating Botryosphaeria/Phomopsis blight and canker diseases of walnut.

“Botryosphaeria and Phomopsis diseases have been observed increasingly in almost all walnut growing regions in California,” Nouri said. “Weather stresses, including heat that causes sunburn, can create damaged areas that serve as entry points for the fungal pathogen to cause more infections.”

An overall survey of the diseases focused on spore activity and dispersal in San Joaquin County walnut orchards. Nouri and a team of researchers found Diaporthaceae fungi (Phomopsis) to be the most prevalent fungal pathogen.

“We found a strong relationship between spore release and precipitation,” Nouri said. “We also detected high aerial dissemination of spores when grinding of infected branches deposited between tree rows.”

Nouri’s research is key to further investigate whether an early spray timing would be effective to reduce the disease incidence, and the results are relevant not only to San Joaquin County but across California, he said.

Additionally, Nouri is participating in a project that is investigating dormancy status in cherry trees.

“Our objective of this project is to improve identification of winter dormancy status of the trees and thus efficacy of dormancy-breaking agent applications [to the tree],” Nouri said.

“I am also very interested in learning more about irrigation and horticultural research, including varieties and rootstock trials, in collaboration with other farm advisors, UC specialists, USDA scientists and private sector cooperators,” he added.

“There is so much to learn and know when you’re a farm advisor,” Nouri added.


Future Goals

Nouri said that his short-term research goal is to divide his extension activities into two main categories: meet as many growers and stakeholders of the fruit and nut industry as possible to understand the challenges that face them; and extend his research experience and science-based information to his clientele through consulting and diagnostic activities.

“I understand very well what it takes to be a farmer,” Nouri said. “I know about the challenges that farmers can face and the critical importance of agriculture, not only from an economical viewpoint but also from a sociological viewpoint. I am very excited to have chosen this path in agriculture, and it’s a pleasure for me to be out in the field working with growers.”

As a newer farm advisor, Nouri said he will strive to conduct effective research and extension programs that can be adapted to his clientele needs. Overall, Nouri offers many years of plant pathology and research experience to UCCE, San Joaquin County and California growers.

Mohamed Nouri is based at the UCCE San Joaquin County Office in Stockton and can be reached at (209) 953-6115 and mnouri@ucanr.edu.