“Yuck! What’s wrong with those peaches?” This was just one of many questions asked by high school students and teachers when they visited the APS booth at the 82nd National FFA Convention in Indianapolis, IN, October 21–23, 2009. Brown rot of stone fruit was the featured disease for the APS booth at the National FFA Career Show, which attracted more than 50,000 attendees from all 50 states. The booth, sponsored by the APS Office of Public Relations and Outreach, piqued the curiosity of attendees by showcasing disease samples from agronomic and horticultural crops. The samples, provided by Gail Ruhl and Janna Beckerman (Purdue University), allowed students and teachers to learn how pathogens affect plants and about the threats diseases pose to our agricultural and natural ecosystems.
APS representatives Eric Honeycutt (Bartlett Tree Research Lab) and Jean Liu (Pioneer Hi-Bred International) spoke with students and teachers about various topics, including the featured disease, plant pathology careers, and educational resources available through APS. Disease compendia and the textbook, Essential Plant Pathology, Second Edition by Gail Schumann and Cleo D’Arcy, were some of the resources on display at the booth. Teachers who visited the booth were given a packet that contained a lab exercise for brown rot, a career brochure, and a list of resources available in the APS Education Center. The APS representatives also shared information about their education and career path with students, as an example of the various options available to them. Honeycutt spoke about how his experience as an active FFA member in high school led him to pursue graduate studies in plant pathology and a career in diagnostics.
FFA is a national youth organization of more than 500,000 student members preparing for careers in the science, business, and technology of agriculture, with more than 7,000 local chapters in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. Leadership and personal development through agricultural education is part of the FFA mission. “Lead Out Loud” was the slogan of the 2009 convention.
A sea of blue jackets swelled around the booth as APS volunteers held aloft peaches that were dead ringers for shrunken heads. Brown rot of stone fruit was the featured disease for the APS booth, sponsored by the Office of Public Relations and Outreach (OPRO), at the National FFA Career Show. Students, teachers, and chaperones alike were interested in learning more about this and other plant diseases. Even a representative from the Army booth came over to learn more about the mummified peaches!
APS members Marty Draper (USDA), Nicole Donofrio (University of Delaware), and Kiersten Wise (Purdue University) worked the booth for this year’s FFA Show in Indianapolis, IN, from October 22 to 24, 2008. They answered a plethora of questions about various subjects, including the featured disease and plant pathology-related careers. Volunteers also chatted with FFA students keen to share their own experiences with plant diseases they had seen in the field. APS members handed out several hundred instructor packets that contained experiments based on brown rot of stone fruit, accessible to any classroom instructor. Instructors ranging from middle school to high school seemed excited not only about the packets but also by the educational resources offered on the APS website. The Plant Pathology: Past to Present storybook was also of interest, as was the Gail Schumann/Cleo D’Arcy book, Essential Plant Pathology.
Over the course of the 3-day show, the peaches in initial stages of brown rot (kindly inoculated and supplied by Gail Ruhl, Purdue University), became increasingly disturbing looking, eliciting the sympathy of the FFA participants and piquing their curiosity about plant pathology.