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Toscano and Blua Receive USDA Awards

UC Riverside Entomologists Honored for Maintaining and Enhancing the Nation’s Natural Resources and Environment

(June 26, 2003)

RIVERSIDE, Calif. — ( -- Extension Entomologist Nick Toscano and Assistant Research Entomologist Matthew Blua in the department of entomology at UC Riverside have been recognized for exemplary service and achievements by Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman at the 57th Annual U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Honor Awards Ceremony held this month in Washington, D.C. Toscano and Blua received the Secretary’s Annual Awards in the category ‘Maintaining and enhancing the nation’s natural resources and environment.’

The Secretary's Annual Honor Awards are the most prestigious awards given by USDA. The University of California’s honorees were among this year's 85 award winners. The awards are the most significant recognition the USDA can bestow to acknowledge outstanding contributions to agriculture and to the consumers of agricultural products. The purpose of Honor Awards is to provide high-level recognition to deserving USDA employees at all levels and private citizens who have made outstanding contributions supporting the USDA's mission. The Honor Awards Program was created in 1947.

Toscano and Blua are members of the Cooperative Glassy-winged Sharpshooter (GWSS) Areawide Management Team that developed and implemented pest management strategies against the Glassy-winged sharpshooter in California.

“Our programs suppressed GWSS populations to non-detectable levels in Temecula and Kern County citrus,” said Toscano. “The suppression of the GWSS populations was done to reduce the possibility of infecting vineyards bordering citrus with Pierce's Disease. All indications are that the programs in these areas have been very successful.”

This is the second USDA group award Toscano has received, the previous being for his participation in the National Whitefly Research and Implementation plan. Toscano’s major research focuses on insect resistance management, alternatives to insecticides, sampling and monitoring techniques, insect pest interactions with their hosts, development of treatment thresholds and insecticide effects upon plant development. He designs insect pest management programs that encourage the use of all available pest control techniques.

Blua’s research specialty involves fundamental and applied aspects of insects that spread plant diseases. “In 1996, I began studying glassy-winged sharpshooter transmission of the plant-pathogenic bacterium Xylella fastidiosa to Oleander, resulting in Oleander Leaf Scorch, a previously unknown disease,” he said. “In 1998, I began studying glassy-winged sharpshooter dispersion, and examining means of curtailing transmission of X. fastidiosa to grapevines, which induces Pierce's disease, in the Southern California winegrape growing area of Temecula. These studies resulted in management tactics currently in use by grape-growers.”

The University of California's entomological research in Southern California dates back to 1906. Over the years, the UC Riverside Department of Entomology has excelled in virtually all phases of entomological research and developed a scope of expertise unmatched by any other entomology department in the country. Today, the UC Riverside campus is on the cutting edge of advanced entomological research and features a unique new Insectary and Quarantine facility that permits the safe study of exotic organisms from around the world.
Nick Toscano, entomologist at UC Riverside.

Nick Toscano, entomologist at UC Riverside.

Matthew Blua, entomologist at UC Riverside.  (Photo credit: M. Blua.)

Matthew Blua, entomologist at UC Riverside. (Photo credit: M. Blua.)

The University of California, Riverside ( is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.

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