Franklin Laemmlen, county director and vegetable/pest management advisor for Santa Barbara County, retired Aug. 1 after a 25-year career with the University of California Cooperative Extension.

In 1980, Laemmlen joined UCCE Imperial County as the plant pathology farm advisor for the desert counties. In 1992, he transferred to become the vegetables/pest management advisor for Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties. He added the county director responsibilities in 1999.

While working in the Imperial Valley, he identified downy mildew growing on melon leaves, which was uncommon in the desert. By getting the field treated immediately and getting the information out to growers, Laemmlen says, "We probably saved the valley growers millions of dollars."

"Pathology was the area in which he was most helpful," says Daren Gee, owner of DB Specialty Farms. The Santa Maria strawberry grower credits Laemmlen with helping growers and fungicide manufacturers by doing comparisons of new and registered products on different strawberry varieties.

Over the last 8 years, Laemmlen and UC Davis plant pathologist Doug Gubler have conducted powdery mildew and botrytis studies in Gee's fields. Gee says. "He helped get a minimum of three new chemicals registered for prevention of botrytis and powdery mildew."

By comparing the effects of experimental and registered fungicides on standard and new varieties of strawberries, Gee says, "He was able to tell growers what products to use when, and which plants are more susceptible.

"I hope someone comparable will continue Frank's research. Diseases change all the time so you have to continue to look at new chemicals to stay ahead."

Laemmlen also helped develop data to get several new plant protection products registered on vegetable crops.

Laemmlen earned his bachelor's in entomology at UC Davis and his master's in entomology at Purdue University. After he and his wife spent three years working in Kenya, Laemmlen got his doctorate in plant pathology from UC Davis.

Began in Hawaii

He began his career with Cooperative Extension at the University of Hawaii in 1970 as a plant pathologist. In 1972, he moved to Michigan State University as an Extension plant pathologist for greenhouse, ornamental and landscape crops.

After a sabbatic leave at UC Berkeley, the Reedley native says he decided to take the farm advisor job in Imperial County because "California agriculture is the envy of the world and I am still thrilled to work in this profession. The desert is a fascinating place to grow things. I marvel at the efficiency of California growers. To be allowed to work with California agriculture was a privilege — getting paid to do my job was a bonus."

For the past 12 years, Laemmlen, who now has emeritus status, has written a gardening column for the Five Cities Times Press Record, the Santa Maria Times and the Lompoc Record and will continue the column. Laemmlen and his wife, Anne, plan to celebrate his retirement with a cruise down the Danube River in Europe. Eventually, he would like to do some volunteer work overseas.