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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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Pests and plant diseases beware - NMSU teaches 'first detectors' to spot outbreaks

Plant pests and diseases are responsible for substantial economic losses every year in New Mexico and across the Southwest. Now, thanks to a series of first detector training courses hosted by the New Mexico State University Cooperative Extension Service, there is a small army of people around the region who are trained to spot outbreaks sooner - often before they get out of hand.

Over the last year, nearly 170 people attended training courses in Bernalillo, Sandoval and Dona Ana Counties. Those in attendance represented 10 different counties in New Mexico as well as Texas and Arizona.

During the courses, NMSU extension plant pathologist Natalie Goldberg showed how to identify plant pests and diseases. Additionally, those in attendance learned how to properly submit both suspicious and invasive samples to NMSU's Plant Diagnostic Clinic, which provides analysis of plant material for pathogens and environmental stresses. The clinic also suggests appropriate control measures when available.

Those who complete the course are now part of a national network of first detectors, receiving timely pest alerts and educational materials. Each participant also received a first detector kit with a vial containing ethanol, a pocketknife, a magnifying glass, plastic bags and other tools. Some of those who took part in the course include master gardeners, agronomists, extension agents, landscape professionals, pesticide applicators, urban gardeners, retirees, commercial businesses such as chile growers and wineries, field and farm managers, chemical company representatives, government agencies and college students.

Goldberg's responsibilities at NMSU include statewide education programming in areas related to plant health management and crop biosecurity. She operates the plant diagnostic clinic and identifies new plant diseases in New Mexico, conducts applied research projects and writes education publications. She also provides information to the public and to regional and national pest information databases on disease outbreaks in New Mexico.

The cost of the training in funded by New Mexico State University, the Southwest Border Food Safety and Defense Center at NMSU, the National Plant Diagnostic Network, the Western Plant Diagnostic Network and Agroguard, a program of the New Mexico Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.