New Extension website helps solve pest and disease problems

CORVALLIS, Ore. – A new Oregon State University Extension Service website provides a trove of science-based solutions for garden pests, weeds and disease problems in one easy-to-navigate place.

The project was shepherded by Weston Miller, an OSU Extension community horticulturist who got the ball rolling six years ago when collaborators expressed interest and provided funds for what would become the Solve Pest and Weed Problems website.

“Our stakeholders – Metro, the East and West Multnomah Soil and Water Conservation Districts and the city of Gresham – challenged OSU to create a user-friendly pest management resource for the public. Part of my job was to figure out the resources Extension has and pull them together in one place,” Miller said.

Solve Pest and Weed Problems focuses specifically on the Pacific Northwest and prioritizes low-risk approaches. Based on feedback, Miller incorporated household pests, invasive plants, pesticide safety and pollinators, as well as pests and diseases.

“We did extensive planning, including community involvement, user testing, feedback from agencies, nonprofits and many more,” Miller said. “We were able to hire a professional to design the website and do graphic design. Gradually, we kept improving it and building on it.”

The peer-reviewed content is presented in categories with information presented below photos. Clicking on the photo takes you to another page that offers information about identification, look-alikes and specific information on control. High-quality, color photos illustrate each subject.

After compiling Extension resources from sources like the Pacific Northwest Pest Management Handbooks, entries are written by Miller with help from Signe Danler, OSU Extension Master Gardener online horticulture instructor, and other OSU experts. The content is peer reviewed by the OSU Department of Horticulture in the College of Agricultural Sciences. Miller edits the content and posts it on the website. More entries will be added in the future.

To provide more information, the website features links to other OSU Extension resources, as well as to other university-level, science-based sources.

“We hope that people both public and private property managers find practical pest management and prevention,” Miller said. “We want people to use it to make informed decisions for their gardens and public spaces.”

To do that, users will find sections on using less pesticides, pesticide safety, organic pesticides and preventive measures like planting in the right place for the size, water needs, exposure and soil for each plant. Using good selection criteria keeps plants healthy and a healthy plant can fend off pests and diseases, Miller said. The hope, he added, is that people will use less pesticides – or if they do, in a safe manner.

Weeds – from both sides of the Cascades and from throughout the state – get attention. Examples include cheatgrass in eastern and western Oregon; pampas grass on the coast; and tree of heaven, a species of concern statewide. The website includes guides about how to manage landscapes without pesticides or herbicides and 20 pages of pesticide safety guidance.

“We’re putting together material that’s not available in one place with such complete information,” Miller said. “We are super grateful to our partnerships in the broader community who were looking to have a durable information service to meet a fairly defined need. I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished.”

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