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A Novel Extension/Education Experience in IPM Systems for Undergraduate and Graduate Students in Plant Pathology

Investigators
Dillard, Helene
Institutions
New York Agricultural Experiment Station
Start date
2010
End date
2013
Objective
Because of the clear need for highly trained applied agricultural experts the long-term goal of this educational program is to recruit and mentor graduates that will contribute to a workforce with expertise in applied plant pathology.

Our primary objective is to develop an undergraduate and graduate training program in which students will become an integral part of a group of extension and industry professionals that will focus on providing these students with the skills necessary to mediate diseases of vegetables.

The training will include development of both laboratory and field skills, as these students work with the PIs to address serious vegetable disease problems in New York State. The students will learn to utilize research-based knowledge to develop and extend innovative solutions to disease management problems facing US agriculture and food production.

The program will target both undergraduate and graduate students, providing opportunity for hands-on experiential learning with campus-based extension faculty and regional extension educators. Additionally, students involved in the program will have the opportunity to interact with agricultural industry professionals (from crop consulting firms, seed companies and agrichemical companies), as well as vegetable growers.

All students and PIs will participate in the summer field course, Plant Pathology and Plant-Microbe Biology 419. This project will support six undergraduate summer scholars (two per year for three years), and four one year graduate assistantships. Graduate students will be funded through this project for one year, and will then be funded by the PI with whom they have decided to work. Undergraduates will participate in the Cornell Plant Pathology Summer Research Scholars Program. These students will spend 8 weeks working in an established project, and will be working both in the lab and in the field with extension educators, agricultural professionals and growers. Students will receive hands-on opportunities as they participate in science-based outreach, focusing on a specific disease management problem.

Graduate students will develop an applied research and extension project that will have impact on the vegetable industry. This educational opportunity will be unique from other graduate programs in that the extension and outreach will be central to the project. Graduate students will be expected to produce extension materials and give oral presentations to diverse audiences.

More information
Non-Technical Summary: New York State is the fifth largest vegetable producing state in the US, and provides fresh produce to large markets including New York City, Boston and Philadelphia. With approximately 125,000 acres farmed in vegetables annually the farm gate value of these crops is over 450 million US dollars. Although the climate in NY is very favorable for the production of a multitude of vegetable crops, it is also favorable for development of plant diseases. As farmers address the business aspects of the farming enterprise, an employable workforce is needed to address the pest management factors that reduce the profitability of the farm. This workforce is needed in both the private (crop consultants, research and development scientists, crop processing companies) and public (extension educators, extension faculty, applied science researchers, USDA inspectors) sectors for positions requiring varying levels of higher education and experience. The long-term goal of this educational program is to contribute to a workforce with expertise in applied plant pathology and the capability to utilize research-based knowledge to develop and extend innovative solutions to address the serious problems facing US agriculture and food production. The program will target both undergraduate and graduate students, providing opportunity for hands-on experiential learning with campus-based extension faculty and regional extension educators. Additionally, students involved in the program will have the opportunity to interact with agricultural industry professionals (from crop consulting firms, seed companies and agrichemical companies), as well as vegetable growers. Students in this program will be taught the tools they need to successfully enter the workforce in the agricultural sector and make longstanding contributions. Participants will be exposed to and learn how to develop and implement innovative, ecologically based sustainable integrated pest management (IPM) systems. They will learn how to apply research based knowledge and experience to practical pest problems in vegetable production systems. While the experiences offered are in the fresh market and processing vegetable industries, the concepts the students will learn are applicable across the broader agricultural sectors. Students will receive hands-on opportunities to participate in science-based outreach, focusing on a specific vegetable disease management problem. These experiences will be crucial to capture the interest of talented young people. Collectively, these opportunities will provide the students with appropriate preparation for future career opportunities in academia, extension, industry and government.

Approach: Recruiting. Recruiting tools will be prepared and widely distributed through (i) personal contacts; (ii) contact sessions at meetings of appropriate scientific and professional societies; (iii) mailings to respective U.S. university departments (i.e., plant pathology, agronomy, and horticulture departments); (iv) graduate and undergraduate alumni; and (v) national advertising in appropriate publications (i.e., Phytopathology News). These materials will also be shared with other programs at Cornell that are designed to recruit traditionally underrepresented minorities into graduate programs in STEM disciplines. To insure that our applicant pool includes traditionally underrepresented minority students and first generation college students, we have contacted and initiated a partnership with Dr. Robert Dadson, Dept of Agriculture, Food and Resource Sciences Chair at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, an 1890 land grant institution. Selection. Graduate student selection will be conducted through the graduate field of Plant Pathology and Plant-Microbe Biology. Students will be selected based on (i) their written application and (ii) a personal on-campus interview. Criteria for selection will include evidence of verbal and analytical skills, enthusiasm for the chosen field, evidence of a strong work ethic, and previous experience, etc. Qualified applicants will be ranked and the most promising candidates will be invited to visit the Cornell campus for interviews. Offers will be made to the top two candidates in each of two years, however there will be flexibility in the system. Undergraduate scholars will be selected based on a written application, transcripts and supportive letters of reference. Criteria for selection will also include enthusiasm for the chosen field, evidence of a strong work ethic, communication skills, and organizational skills. Mentorship. Communicating regularly about research, coursework and teaching, examining the multiple disciplines that cover applied research and outreach, and jointly exploring extension/outreach avenues and future job opportunities are hallmarks of good mentoring. The participating students, graduates and undergraduates, will be mentored by the PIs. Throughout the course of study, students will be encouraged to discuss their work with faculty members in related fields. Additional bonding is expected among cohorts and with other scientists in the department and at the Geneva campus, where four academic disciplines (plant pathology, entomology, horticulture, food science) are present. Potential Projects. The Co-PIs have identified potential projects from which students may choose. These projects involve the following diseases: Phytophthora blight on cucurbits, Alternaria leaf spot on crucifers, white and gray molds on snap beans, cucumber mosaic virus on snap beans, and iris yellow spot on onions.

Funding Source
Nat'l. Inst. of Food and Agriculture
Project source
View this project
Project number
NYG-625538
Accession number
222818
Categories
Education and Training
Commodities
Produce