January 7, 2015
By Joy Landis, Michigan State University Extension
The Internet has become a powerful vehicle for the delivery of information — more and more, growers are going online for direction in managing disease, identifying pests, and uncovering insight that helps protect crops, increase yield and manage production. Michigan State University Extension is working to keep pace with this reliance on technology and recently launched a new search engine that puts a plethora of information on tree fruit diseases, pests and beneficial insects in the hands of growers.
Digital technology as a vehicle for information delivery has long been a centerpiece of MSU Extension's mission. In 2007, MSU Extension's tree fruit team recognized that growers were becoming interested in and adept at getting information via the Internet. Collaborating with industry and the MSU Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Program, the team launched two websites, www.cherries.msu.edu and www.apples.msu.edu, to help meet the increasing demand for Web-based information. These websites consolidate MSU's expertise into one-stop sites for growers, consultants and field scouts, with links to current-season reports and MSU Extension articles; pest and beneficial insect identification information; weather and climate reference material with links to Enviro-weather; pollination advice, rootstock and varietal information; links to educational presentations made at industry events, and more.
The apple and cherry websites were redesigned and updated this past summer, and refreshed with linkage to resources recently developed by MSU's researchers. Their homepages feature MSU Extension news articles about their crops. Under "Pest Management," growers will find the new search engine. This tool builds on the success and content of these sites while modernizing and streamlining the user experience.
The search engine — which can be accessed in its entirety from the MSU Integrated Pest Management website at www.ipm.msu.edu/search — enables Web users to quickly search for diseases and pest and beneficial insects and mites that are found on apple, cherry, peach, pear and plum trees. The search engine content is based in large part on the "Tree Fruit Field Guide to Insect, Mite and Disease Pests and Natural Enemies of Eastern North America," with some updated and new content on recently arrived invasive species in the region. Typical entries include photos, damage description, similar species, distribution and some management tips.
Searches can be made using a combination of either the name of a particular disease or insect, the location on the plant where evidence of the disease or insect has been found, the plant growth stage or the crop. There are also apple- and cherry-specific versions on the MSU Apples website and the MSU Cherries website.
The search engine can be accessed from any device that can connect to the Internet, including mobile phones and tablets. Plans for enhancing the mobile-friendly version are already under way, as is the addition of other crops and their diseases and pests. Furthermore, the tool will be improved on the basis of user feedback — each time the search engine is used, MSU developers in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources receive data that indicate how the tool is used and how functions and features can be improved.
MSU Extension encourages growers, consultants, field scouts and others to visit any of the following websites to use the tool and help make it better:
Additionally, Web users are encouraged to complete a short survey (found on the search engine's webpage) to provide even more feedback.
This new Internet tool aims to enhance the ability of growers to make pest and production decisions that improve fruit quality and support farm financial and environmental sustainability. Michigan plant agriculture is vitally important to Michigan State University, and its goal is to continue to support this industry with powerful knowledge tools that help it thrive.
This project was funded in part by grants from the USDA North Central Integrated Pest Management Center and by Project GREEEN. Team members are MSU Extension educators Amy Irish-Brown, Nikki Rothwell and Emily Pochubay, and fruit integrator Julianna Wilson. Questions about the tool can be directed to any team member or team leader Joy Landis, MSU IPM communications manager, at [email protected].
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