Mary Ann Hansen
When Extension agents come across a sickly plant and they can’t easily determine what is wrong with it, one of the first places they turn to is the Plant Disease Clinic, part of the Department of Plant Pathology, Physiology, and Weed Science at Virginia Tech.
Mary Ann Hansen, instructor, and Elizabeth Bush, research associate, manage the clinic. In 2008, the clinic evaluated more than 1,500 samples from 99 Virginia Extension offices, helping growers and homeowners identify and control diseases attacking their plants. “We are a service laboratory for the Extension agents,” Hansen says. “We provide our diagnosis and recommendations to the agents, who then let their clients know what actions to take.”
Aside from the obvious benefit of saving a valuable crop or plant, accurate identification of plant diseases also plays a role in protecting the environment. Hansen notes that about 40 percent of the samples they receive don’t have a disease problem. What people think is a disease may actually be the result of insects, environmental problems like drought, or even damage from chemical treatments. The correct diagnosis can help eliminate unnecessary or improper use of pesticides that end up impacting the environment and can result in unnecessary expense. Read the full story in Solutions.
A native of East Asia, the brown marmorated stink bug has no natural predators in North America.
Virginia’s fruit industry has a new weapon in the fight against the brown marmorated stink bug, or Halyomorpha halys. On June 29, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) granted an emergency exemption to use the insecticide dinotefuran to control the stink bug on stone and pome fruits in Virginia and six other states.
Chris Bergh, tree fruit and grape specialist for Virginia Cooperative Extension and associate professor of entomology at Virginia Tech, prepared the application for the pesticide’s use as part of Extension’s larger effort to ward off the stink bug in Virginia.
“The exemption will allow stone and pome fruit growers in a seven-state region to use this pesticide,” Bergh said.
The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) submitted the application to allow for unregistered use of the pesticide until Oct. 15, the end of harvest season. According to a VDACS announcement, Section 18 of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act authorizes the EPA to grant exemptions for pesticide use for a limited time in the event of an emergency. Continue reading
Chris Brown (left), president of Lancaster Farms Wholesale Nursery, speaks with Hong (right) at a nursery in Suffolk, Va.
Every year, nurseries and greenhouses around the country pump water from reservoirs and retention ponds to irrigate their plants. This helps the green industry deal with water shortages and the costs associated with using other sources of water, but it also has a major drawback: waterborne pathogens.
“We want growers to recycle water, but we don’t want them to recycle pathogens,” said Chuanxue Hong, plant pathology specialist for Extension and professor of plant pathology, physiology, and weed science at Virginia Tech.
For more than a decade, Hong has been leading an irrigation pathogen and water quality project at the Hampton Roads Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Virginia Beach, Va., that has helped the horticulture and floriculture industry become more sustainable and better compete in the global market.
The team has already helped growers in Virginia improve irrigation practices and save money. Team members are also creating an online knowledge center to share research results and recommendations for best management practices with the green industry across the country. Read the full university spotlight on impact.