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The University of Missouri plant diagnostic clinic helps Amish producers answer plant health questions.

September 2, 2020

3 Min Read
Fresh produce including, green bell peppers, tomatoes, red onion, and squash piled together
HEALTHY OPTIONS: Many sellers at the Clark Produce Auction are of Amish descent. However, with limited technology, it makes it difficult to diagnose disease in their produce. Courtesy of Clark Produce Auction

When Dhruba Dhakal noticed Amish producers in Clark could benefit from a plant diagnostic clinic, he knew there was only one thing to do. On Friday mornings at the Clark Produce Auction, the University of Missouri Extension agronomist set up a table, posters of plants and a MU Extension sign.

“While attending one of the sales,” Dhakal says, “I spoke with some of the leaders in the Amish community and learned they were struggling with different horticultural issues.”

During the conversation, he learned some vegetables were infected by different types of diseases. Some crops struggled with insects and pests. And some produce suffered from nutrient deficiency.

Offering plant help

More than 90% of the produce sold at Clark Produce Auction is grown within a 15-mile radius of the sales facility. Many reside in this rural Amish area of the state. However, communication by phone or online can be a barrier to reaching some in the community, Dhakal notes. Consulting with producers at the local auction or in one-on-one farm visits overcomes these challenges while respecting others’ views and beliefs.

A man sitting at a desk with a binder and images of various plants hanging above him

READY FOR DIAGNOSIS: MU Extension agronomist Dhruba Dhakal started a plant diagnostic clinic at the Clark Produce Auction in mid-June.

When producers try to diagnose a problem themselves and unnecessarily use pesticides or insecticides, they also risk creating pest and insect resistance, Dhakal explained.

“From speaking with the producers in person, I realized that if I can visit their farm or do some type of diagnostic program regularly in their community,” he says, “I could help them manage their crops. In turn, this will minimize environmental pollution, increase their crop yield and enhance the quality of the produce.”

Sampling plant tissue

Most of the producers from that area bring their plant tissue sample to the clinic when they come to auction, if they have any issues with their crops, Dhakal explains. From there, he takes pictures and the plant tissue to the plant diagnostic lab for diagnosis.

When needed, Dhakal relies on help from MU Extension state and regional horticulturists to answer farmers’ produce questions. For the most part, Dhakal tries to have a turnaround time of no more than one week for a diagnosis and a list of solutions.

A white building with a roped fence with wooden posts in front

WEEKLY SALES: The Clark Produce Auction in Clark, Mo., holds weekly sales of flowers, vegetables and fruits starting in April and running through Oct. 23. About 90% of the produce sold is grown within a 15-mile radius of the auction house.

Dhakal plans to continue the program every week until Oct. 15, as the Clark Produce Auction is open until then. With growing interest this year, he plans to offer the program again next year. He also is looking to expanding the mobile plant diagnostic clinic to other sites or communities.

Missouri is home to more than 9,000 Amish people across 38 settlements. While the plant diagnostic clinic is the first of its kind in the Clark area, specialists across the state work to serve Missouri’s Amish communities in a variety of ways.

Source: University of Missouri Extension, which is solely responsible for the information provided and is wholly owned by the source. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset.

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