Orchard owners and home gardeners looking for the best answers to their questions about apple trees soon will have free, easy access to all the information they need, thanks to a land-grant university project funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Videos, online courses and searchable databases will be among the free resources available on the web via eXtension.org , according to Alan R. Biggs, a West Virginia University Extension Service specialist and a professor of plant pathology in WVU’s Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design.
Biggs is a member of a national team that recently received a $496,000 USDA grant to develop the first comprehensive apple production portal for eXtension.org.
eXtension is an interactive online learning environment that delivers researched-based knowledge developed by the nation’s land-grant university experts.
The newest eXtension portal will be named “The Community of Practice for Rootstock and Apple Varieties for the Eastern States.”
The CoP will provide region-specific apple variety and rootstock descriptions and recommendations to commercial producers, nursery professionals, Extension educators, Extension Master Gardeners, home gardeners and consumers.
“A wealth of information regarding apple varieties and rootstocks has been amassed by researchers across the U.S., Canada and Mexico over the past 30 years, but in large part is inaccessible to the public,” Biggs explained. “Diverse and dynamic educational tools such as interactive maps, searchable databases, videos and online courses will be developed and housed at eXtension.org, creating a commons of information critical to the apple industry.”
The researcher said these resources will help increase the adoption of new and existing apple varieties and rootstocks ideal to particular regions.
As growers increase their understanding of the importance of these choices, crop characteristics will greatly improve and, he said, the incidence and impact of industry-critical pest and disease problems will be reduced.
“Producers will have access to valuable information that will increase production efficiency and profitability over the long term and contribute to the sustainability of their operations and the industry as a whole,” Biggs said. “Increased knowledge among home gardeners and consumers on the significance of regional apple production will bolster industry and regional economic and sustainability efforts.”
Over time, this CoP will expand to include other apple-producing regions, additional production aspects and complementary consumer information.
The project is led by researchers at the University of Minnesota and Penn State University, and it relies on co-leaders from WVU, University of Massachusetts, University of Missouri, Cornell University, North Carolina State University and Ohio State University.
West Virginia’s tree fruit industry usually ranks among the top 10 states in apple production, and among the top15 in peach production. Ninety-five percent of the state’s tree fruits are grown in the four Eastern Panhandle counties.
The Davis College operates the WVU Kearneysville Tree Fruit Research and Education Center, located in Kearneysville (Jefferson County) in the heart of the state’s fruit industry.
Research and Extension efforts at KTFREC have helped the state’s fruit industry remain competitive nationally, Biggs said.
More information on KTFREC can be found at http://www.caf.wvu.edu/kearneysville/.
Information about a variety of diverse educational topics is available via eXtension, USDA’s electronic Extension Initiative. All eXtension portals begin at http://www.extension.org.
CONTACT: Alan Biggs, Kearneysville Tree Fruit Research and Education Center
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