New OSU online course helps gardeners, nurseries diagnose plant problems

Identifying diseases, pests and other threats to plant health can be a challenge for even the most experienced gardener or landscaper. A new online course from Oregon State University aims to make diagnosing sick plants and choosing the right treatment easier.

Plant Disease Certificate, a 10-week online course, teaches students to use a process of elimination to choose the best care for a variety of ill crops, garden and landscape plants and introduces them to some handy online diagnostic tools.

The course is intended for a broad audience, including landscapers, gardeners, farmers, nursery workers, and professionals in natural resource industries, says Neil Bell, a community horticulturist with the Oregon State University Extension Service and leader of the course.

Offered by OSU's Professional and Continuing Education unit, the class is in session from Oct. 6 through Dec. 15 and costs $150. Graduates earn a plant disease diagnosis certificate. Interested students can register here and get more information about the class.

Much like when a doctor runs tests and follows a checklist for diagnosis, identifying plant problem is best undertaken by a systematic approach to gathering information about the problem, said Bell.

“Students will learn a straight-forward framework for solving the huge array of plant problems that can arrive on their doorsteps,” he said. “It’s a simple process that anyone can understand – and far better than just looking online to try to match your problem to photos you might find.”

“Many common causes of plant problems are often overlooked,” Bell added. “We may suspect a pest or disease problem when what ails the plant is lack of sun, water, nutrients or it was cold-injured or grown in compacted soil.”

Discussion groups online invite class members to interact and contribute ideas, thoughts or questions. Each student will also create a presentation about a plant problem observed in a landscape, agricultural or forested area. Students will demonstrate the processes for diagnosis to describe plant issues and probable causes.

“As an online course, enrollees can learn any time they want, but we also wanted to create a sense of community among classmates by encouraging discussion,” said Bell, who has overseen the OSU Master Gardener program in Marion and Polk counties since 2000.

“It’s at the perfect time of year, offered during the fall when planting and summer gardens start to slow down,” said Bell “This class is a good option to add new knowledge that will improve gardens, crops and forests.”

Author: Daniel Robison
Source: Neil Bell

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