BATON ROUGE, La. – It may be a bit of culture shock for the LSU AgCenter’s new extension plant pathologist, but she is excited about the opportunity to provide horticultural information to citizens across the state.
Originally from Ontario, Canada, Melanie Lewis Ivey said joining the LSU AgCenter will allow her to apply novel and innovative research tools to communicate and exchange ideas to large and small producers.
Her work will involve disease management of horticultural crops, including vegetables, small fruits, fruit and nut trees, ornamentals and turf.
Ivey comes to the LSU AgCenter from The Ohio State University-Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center, where she was a research scientist working with vegetable crops.
“The work that I did there involved looking at both how you can manage disease in vegetable crops as well as produce healthy and safe crops,” she said.
This work allowed her to look more at the safety aspects of food and what growers can do to ensure the food they are producing is safe.
“This is a great opportunity for me to develop my own programs,” Ivey said. “I will go to New Orleans two days this week to work with urban growers who are more interested in managing disease in a more sustainable way using organic or all-natural practices.”
It is a challenge for growers to follow organic practices here in the South because of the humidity and the heat, she said. “The disease pressure is just higher, but it is possible.”
Ivey will help growers use an integrated approach that involves the use of some chemicals.
“Just because it’s organic doesn’t mean that you can’t use some chemicals,” she said. “Organic does not mean no chemicals. That’s a big myth. There are chemicals that are approved that work.”
Ivey said organic growers are known to use chlorine bleach as a seed treatment or dry skim milk on cucumbers to prevent powdery mildew and viruses.
“It puts a coating on the seeds and pathogens can’t penetrate,” she said.
Another way to decrease insect pressure is through the use of “trap crops,” which are plants that insects like more than the crop being produced for the market.
“You can surround your vegetable plot with oats or barley and many other types of grasses that are more attractive to aphids and leafhoppers,” Ivey said.
Ivey said her plans are to work with vegetable crops research and work with ornamentals, floriculture, home gardeners and the Master Gardener extension projects.
Ivey replaces Don Ferrin, who died in December 2012. In addition to working with producers, Ferrin worked with Master Gardeners and at public events, like garden shows.
Ivey received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada. She received her master’s degree in plant sciences from the University of Western Ontario. In 2011, she completed her doctorate in plant health, including fresh-produce safety and risk communication and knowledge translation, from The Ohio State University.
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