Karla Huerta: Doctoral fellow at UC Davis researching genetic resistance to Pierce’s disease
Huerta giving a demonstration to women farmers in Uganda on citrus and mango growing.

Karla Huerta was awarded a UC MEXUS-CONACYT Doctoral Fellowship in 2014 for graduate study at UC Davis in the Horticulture and Agronomy Graduate Group. The focus of her research is on Pierce’s disease—a major viticultural problem prevalent in California, the southern U.S. and Mexico—caused by a bacterium that can kill grapevines in just five years.

Huerta is part of the Pierce’s Disease Resistance breeding program at UC Davis and the laboratory of Professor M. Andrew Walker, which is actively involved in breeding wine grapes for resistance to Pierce’s Disease. Her work involves the pre-breeding and testing of wild grapevines, research that can potentially increase the life and productivity of vineyards by developing grapevines with greater tolerance to salt, nematodes and diseases. Through these efforts, Huerta also hopes to find a new gene or set of genes that might confer genetic resistance against Pierce’s Disease.

Additionally, Huerta has been collecting wild grapevines in Northern and Central Mexico to learn about their genetic diversity and ways they can be used to incorporate new traits in breeding programs, as well as for conservational purposes. Recently, she was invited to Parras de la Fuente in Mexico, a major viticultural area in Mexico affected by Pierce’s Disease where she shared her research with the Mexican grape growing industry.

It is not simply her dedication to research that characterizes Huerta’s doctoral experience at UC Davis. She has discovered a real love of teaching and is also very involved training workshops and science communication. Last April she was selected to go Uganda, Africa to give a citrus and mango pest prevention training to women rural farmers. She describes it as a “once in a lifetime” experience that helped her broaden her leadership and teaching skills.

For more information about Huerta’s research, please contact her at kahuerta@ucdavis.edu.

Huerta holding review sessions at the UC Davis vineyard on how to identify wine varieties and rootstocks morphologically.
Huerta giving a talk at the 20th International Conference of the Mexican Society of Phytopathology in Saltillo, Mexico.