LSU AgCenter receives $518,000 to develop blueberry Web site

Linda Benedict  |  10/13/2009 8:39:24 PM

News Release Distributed 10/13/09

The LSU AgCenter, along with a Mississippi agriculture agency and three other southern universities, has been awarded a $518,000 grant to develop an interactive, educational Web site about blueberries.

The site’s initial purpose will be to teach people in the southeastern United States how to grow this commodity, which is increasingly popular, and to encourage consumers to eat more blueberries, which are a valuable source of many nutrients and fiber.

The “All About Blueberries” site will be part of eXtension.org, which is a national Web site aggregating information from 74 universities across the country.

The grant is from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) through its Specialty Crop Research Initiative. The LSU AgCenter’s four partners in the project are the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service in Poplarville, Miss.; Mississippi State University in Starkville; Auburn University in Auburn, Ala.; and North Carolina State University in Raleigh.

“Most major blueberry production traditionally occurs in other parts of the country,” said Natalie Hummel, LSU AgCenter extension entomologist and the director of the project. “We see this as an economic development opportunity for Louisiana and the rest of the South.”

The grant will cover development of educational content over three years using a variety of approaches, Hummel said. These include video clips, audio podcasts, photo galleries, interactive teaching modules and social networking tools such as Facebook and Twitter.

“We’ll try to include everything anybody would want to know about blueberries,” Hummel said.

She said the blueberry production information will be developed for the growing conditions in the southeastern United States.

“Mississippi State and NCSU have well-developed, robust research and extension programs that support the blueberry industries in those states,” she said. “Our initial focus will be on southern blueberry production. But we will expand to address nationwide blueberry production opportunities.”

The consumer information, however, will be for anybody anywhere.

“We’ll include nutritional information and even recipes,” Hummel said.

The Web site also will include a section devoted just to 4-H, with lesson plans on production and consumption of blueberries for use at 4-H Club meetings and for 4-H projects.

Many people from many disciplines at these universities will be involved in the project, Hummel said. Her chief collaborators at the LSU AgCenter include Don Ferrin, plant pathologist; Heli Roy, nutritionist; and Krisanna Machtmes, associate professor in Organization Development & Evaluation.

Linda Foster Benedict

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