(06/03/19) BATON ROUGE, La. — LSU AgCenter horticulture agents were the first group to receive additional instruction in their area during a recent two-day training session.
LSU AgCenter plant doctor Raj Singh presented information on the identification of various plant diseases.
“We wanted to give the agents an opportunity to come in to the lab to hear lessons on different plant health problems,” Singh said.
The agents came from around the state and had a number of questions about how to answer questions about various diseases.
Rogers Leonard, LSU AgCenter associate vice president, said this type training will be used to support animal and natural resources discipline-specific specialization areas.
“We provided these continuing education type trainings for horticulture, animal sciences, agronomy, forestry and wildlife as well as to our Sea Grant agents,” he said.
The additional training and continuing education courses will be offered two to three times per year.
“This includes internal opportunities such as the one for horticulture which was recently completed, but also educational events offered by other land-grant universities and professional associations,” Leonard said. “We recently sent two animal science agents to Texas for a train-the-trainer program in cattle artificial insemination and palpation.”
Leonard said one specific opportunity that the AgCenter hopes to support is preparatory education to test for the National Certified Crop Advisor.
Nathan Lord, LSU AgCenter researcher and director of the Louisiana State Arthropod Museum, said his goal in the training was to provide the tools the agents need to identify insects.
“I wanted to not only teach them how to determine which insect it is but also to tell which insect it is not,” Lord said.
With the number of insect species available, Lord wants to put tools in the hands of the agents so they don’t have to waste time looking for them, which will make their jobs easier, he said.
The agents have a number of sources available to them if they know about them and if funding is available.
“This group had basically two concerns they were interested in,” he said. “One was insect identification and second was which insects are specific to horticulture and agriculture here in the state of Louisiana.”
LSU AgCenter horticulturist Heather Kirk-Ballard said she felt the training was extremely beneficial in many ways.
“It was practical, hands-on training coupled with educational teaching, supported by collaborative discussion. Drs. Singh, Lord and Ring made it clear this was important and that they are here to help us to be successful in our extension roles,” she said.
Participants were supplied with references and tools to use in the field to aid in identifying plant disease and pests that are critical to understanding and mitigating in order to lessen the economic impact to consumers, commercial growers and farmers, Ballard said.
“It means a great deal that the AgCenter invests the money in training, educating and empowering its extension teams,” Ballard said. “This is definitely something I would like to see done on an annual basis.”
Kerry Heafner, AgCenter horticulture agent in Ouachita Parish, said it was good to hear some things he hadn’t heard in a while.
“As agents, we might wear several hats, but we are all biologists,” he said. “To see fungi and insects in microscopes and to see the plant disease diagnostic center was very beneficial.”
LSU AgCenter horticulture agents and specialists examine insect collections as part of their recent two-day training on plant diseases and insects in Baton Rouge. Photo by Johnny Morgan/LSU AgCenter