POSTERS: Outreach and education
Engaging Florida’s small fruit and vegetable industry with hands-on plant disease identification workshops
Michelle Oliveira - Gulf Coast Research and Education Center, University of Florida. Natalia Peres- University of Florida - Gulf Coast Research and Education Center, Gary Vallad- Gulf Coast Research and Education Center, University of Florida
The Florida vegetable and small fruit industry consists of over 40 crops that commercially generate over $1 billion in annual sales. With such diversity, accurate and timely disease identification is key to economic success. Our objective was to create and apply a 90-min hands-on training during the Florida Ag Expo hosted at the University of Florida, Gulf Coast Research and Education Center, to train industry participants in the identification of vegetable and small fruit diseases. The annual training focused mostly on tomato and strawberry diseases, with 30 to 45 participants per year over the last 3 years. Topics covered during the training included the plant disease clinic, disease symptoms and signs, traditional and molecular diagnostics, plant disease management, and available web resources. Symptomatic plant materials were prepared prior to the event, including slides for microscopic viewing of specimens. Results of a survey given at the end of the last workshop indicated that all participants were interested in attending future workshops, highlighting the importance of offering additional training. For the next workshop, we plan to include additional crops, as well as incorporate recent research findings.