Vegetable growers mystified by something going wrong with their crops can take the first step toward solving the problem by consulting a website managed by scientists at the Northwest’s three land-grant universities.
Take, for example, carrots. If they have new leaves that are small and yellow and have purple or reddish older leaves and their roots are deformed and developing dense tufts of hair-like rootlets, a grower can track down the cause online.
Growers can go to the online photo gallery of the Pacific Northwest Vegetable Extension Group, click on “carrot” and scan the images to find a photo that matches the symptoms.
That image depicts an infection of phytoplasma and spiroplasma such as “Aster yellows” phytoplasma, transmitted by the beet leafhopper. The search also points to a link for more extensive information, including recommended control methods.
The website collects observations and research by pathologists, entomologists and horticulturists from Washington State University, Oregon State University and the University of Idaho.
Lindsey du Toit, a vegetable seed pathologist with WSU Extension and co-leader of the team, said the effort started in 2000, purely focused on diseases, but organizers found they needed to have a more coordinated network of people with expertise in insects, nematodes, fungi, parasites, weeds and abiotic damage.
“We’re filling a gap,” she said. “There are so many vegetable crops grown in the Northwest, and there are no other resources for specialists to network.
“We get requests from all over the world, but we focus on this region. If we get beyond the Pacific Northwest, it would dilute what we’re doing. Climate is critical.”
Debra Inglis, a vegetable pathologist at WSU’s extension and research center in Mount Vernon, had the original vision and got the funding. Now Inglis, du Toit and horticulturist Carol Miles lead the effort, which has grown from eight members to 25.
In monthly conference calls, the group discusses what more research can be included and to discuss what the educational needs are.
Conferences continue primarily through the growing season “to keep us abreast of what’s in the ground,” du Toit said.
“It’s out there for the public to be used,” du Toit said. “It’s created not to be a burden to ourselves, not to keep us more busy, but to be more effective.
She called the gallery a work in progress, and some vegetables and their problems still need to be represented.
“There are new diseases, new cultivars — we’re always learning,” she said. “The website is far from perfect, but it’s becoming more and more complete. It’s getting to where it needs to be.”