Bilingual outreach keeps agricultural businesses sanitary

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Extension produced this bilingual guide to help workers manage diseases and pests on Christmas trees. (Photo: Lynn Ketchum)

Nurseries, farms and Christmas tree growers benefit

Workers at Oregon’s nurseries are on the front line in making sure their plants are healthy. But some don’t speak English or have formal training in horticulture. If they come across an infected plant, they might not be able to diagnose the cause or understand why it’s important to tell their supervisor so any potential spread of disease can be curtailed. If action isn’t taken, sick plants can mean lost income for nurseries.

Luisa Santamaria, the bilingual plant pathologist at OSU's North Willamette Research and Extension Center in Aurora, has a solution for that. In classes offered primarily in Spanish, she teaches nursery workers how to prevent the introduction and spread of diseases and pests. She tours their greenhouses and fields with them, pointing out potentially problematic areas.

Then she helps them develop a list of best practices. For example, workers learn about the importance of correct irrigation in order to avoid conducive conditions for plant pathogens such as Phytophthora and Pythium that are favored with overwatering. She also teaches workers to sanitize their tools, like clippers, which can transmit microorganisms from an infected plant to a healthy one. Employees also learn about the importance of disinfecting pots before reusing them, and why recycling water could spread disease.

Since 2010, Santamaria has trained more than 2,500 workers from 50 businesses. About 80 of these employees are from the Christmas tree industry and have been trained to scout for and address problems like root rot, aphids and fungi. Santamaria shared with them a bilingual pocket guide that she coauthored called Identifying and Managing Christmas Tree Diseases, Pests, and Other Disorders. She has also developed bilingual material on emerging disease problems. For instance, Boxwood Blight in Commercial Nurseries is available in bilingual poster, fact sheets and mobile-friendly formats.

After an outbreak of E. coli caused by deer droppings on an Oregon strawberry farm, she helped berry growers prevent outbreaks of foodborne illnesses. Since 2012, Santamaria has offered 63 workshops in Spanish and English. She has trained more than 1,000 contractors, farm owners and managers how to teach their own fieldworkers about preventing contamination during the harvest season.

Source: Luisa Santamaria

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