A highly regarded member of UC Cooperative Extension’s regional integrated pest management team at the UC Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Parlier will retire June 30.

Walter Bentley, UC Cooperative Extension advisor, transferred to Kearney in 1994 after 17 years as a UC Cooperative Extension advisor in Kern County, specializing in entomology. The integrated pest management team – with advisors representing the core pest management disciplines of entomology, nematology, weed science and plant pathology – was formed in response to concern about the effect of pesticides on food safety, the environment and farmworker safety. 

Bentley collaborated with IPM and commodity-specific UC Cooperative Extension advisors and specialists and farmers to develop IPM approaches and alternative control strategies that have reduced the use of the highest risk insecticides (carbamates and organophosphates) in California by 80 percent to 90 percent in almonds, grapes and tree fruit since 1995.

Bentley’s career success is demonstrated by the numerous awards he has received in the past year. A group of world IPM leaders presented Bentley with its Lifetime Achievement Award March 27 at the 7th International IPM Symposium in Memphis, Tenn. He also received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the California Association of Applied IPM Ecologists in February. In October 2011, Bentley received the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources Distinguished Service Award for Outstanding Extension.

Bentley grew up in San Joaquin County on his family’s cherry, walnut and peach farm in Linden. He began laboring in the orchards as a young boy, but the hard work didn’t deter him from pursuing a career in agriculture.

“Growing up on a farm is probably the best life a youngster can have,” Bentley said. “But I can’t say that it was easy for my parents. It was a struggle for them to raise a family and depend solely on income from the farm.”

Bentley earned a bachelor’s degree in horticulture and biology in 1969 at Fresno State University, and then spent two years in the U.S. Army working on tracing mosquito movement in the 4th Army area of Texas and Oklahoma and later in Utah. He earned a master’s degree in entomology in 1974 at Colorado State University. Bentley worked in biological pest control for the Colorado Department of Agriculture before returning to his native California for the UC Cooperative Extension position in Bakersfield.

“I had heard many rumors about how tough Bakersfield was in terms of weather and environment. Within two weeks of starting the job, there was a huge dust and wind storm in the area and the first summer we had 30 days in a row with the temperature 100 degrees or higher,” Bentley said. “But I came to enjoy Bakersfield.”

As the UC Cooperative Extension farm advisor for Kern County, Bentley worked with his colleagues to develop an IPM program for almonds, addressing primarily problems with spider mites, navel orange worms and ants. Also working with colleagues, he developed an IPM program for potatoes, emphasizing careful monitoring for potato tuber moth and postponing pesticide treatment until the pest reached a level at which economic damage occurs.