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Extension Plant Pathology: Strengthening Resources to Continue Serving the Public Interest

July 2012 , Volume 102 , Number  7
Pages  652 - 655

K. L. Everts , L. Osborne , A. J. Gevens , S. J. Vasquez , B. K. Gugino , K. Ivors , and C. Harmon

First author: University of Maryland, Lower Eastern Shore Research and Education Center, Salisbury 21801, and University of Delaware, Georgetown 19947; second author: Pioneer Hi-Bred Int'l–Northern Business Unit, Brookings, SD 57006; third author: Department of Plant Pathology, University of Wisconsin, Madison 53706; fourth author: University of California Cooperative Extension–Fresno County 1720 South Maple Avenue, Fresno 93702; fifth author: Department of Plant Pathology, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park 16802; sixth author: Mountain Hort. Crops Research and Extension Center, North Carolina State University, Mills River 28759; and seventh author: Department of Plant Pathology, University of Florida, Gainesville 32611.

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Accepted for publication 15 March 2012.

Extension plant pathologists deliver science-based information that protects the economic value of agricultural and horticultural crops in the United States by educating growers and the general public about plant diseases. Extension plant pathologists diagnose plant diseases and disorders, provide advice, and conduct applied research on local and regional plant disease problems. During the last century, extension plant pathology programs have adjusted to demographic shifts in the U.S. population and to changes in program funding. Extension programs are now more collaborative and more specialized in response to a highly educated clientele. Changes in federal and state budgets and policies have also reduced funding and shifted the source of funding of extension plant pathologists from formula funds towards specialized competitive grants. These competitive grants often favor national over local and regional plant disease issues and typically require a long lead time to secure funding. These changes coupled with a reduction in personnel pose a threat to extension plant pathology programs. Increasing demand for high-quality, unbiased information and the continued reduction in local, state, and federal funds is unsustainable and, if not abated, will lead to a delay in response to emerging diseases, reduce crop yields, increase economic losses, and place U.S. agriculture at a global competitive disadvantage. In this letter, we outline four recommendations to strengthen the role and resources of extension plant pathologists as they guide our nation's food, feed, fuel, fiber, and ornamental producers into an era of increasing technological complexity and global competitiveness.

© 2012 The American Phytopathological Society