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Three ways to honor 2020 International Year of Plant Health

Observe, identify and share information about plants with others — and support plant science

Plants give us the air we breathe and our food. And have you looked around to see what your home is built of? If it’s wood, that’s from a plant too. We need plants, yet too often we take them for granted.

adult volunteer with a poster board that says PLANTS and each letter stands for something plants need, such as light and nutrients
Extension Master Gardener and Master Naturalist volunteers bring plant knowledge to people of all ages.

The United Nations has declared 2020 the International Year of Plant Health. Here are a few ways you can bring better plant health to Minnesota.

Prevent and manage invasive species

Pesky plants and insects can hurt beneficial plants, but you can play a role in managing them.

“Extension is helping woodland owners maintain healthy forests in the wake of the emerald ash borer, for example,” says Angela Gupta, Extension forestry educator.

Buckthorn leaf with green aphids
Aphids on buckthorn. Photo: USDA

Gupta is working on connections between invasive plants and insects. She says controlling buckthorn, may help farmers because soybean aphids mate and lay eggs on buckthorn leaves.

Bob Koch, Extension entomologist, indicates, “The soybean aphid is the No. 1 insect pest of soybean crops. They feed on the sap of the soybean plants and they overcome the plants by sucking out the nutrients.” However, Koch adds, “Though soybean aphids rely on buckthorn to survive the winter, further research is needed to determine if control of buckthorn on a farm will reduce soybean aphid infestations in nearby soybean fields.

Be sure to identify invasive leafy and woody plant species so you can take the right steps to manage them. 

Invest in plant health research and outreach

Ashok Chanda in sugar beet field
Ashok Chanda, Extension sugar beet specialist

Ashok Chanda, Extension sugar beet pathologist based in Crookston, is developing a soil DNA-based detection method that he hopes will help sugar beet growers make decisions about what varieties to plant based on a sample of their soil. “The major challenge with root diseases is that by the time we see above-ground disease symptoms, it is too late to do any management,” he says.

One of the soil-borne root diseases that concerns Chanda the most is Rhizoctonia. “Strains of it that infect sugar beet are also capable of infecting soybean, corn, edible beans, and sunflower,” he says.

American Crystal Sugar Company, Minn-Dak Farmers Cooperative, and Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Cooperative provide funding for Chanda’s position. This generous funding from the industry helps develop effective and practical science-based solutions for the sugar beet growing regions of Minnesota and North Dakota. 

Gain and teach plant literacy

young men husking corn
4-H participants in the White Earth tribal community prepare an outdoor meal with corn, among other plant foods and local fish.

Many people today are discovering or rediscovering the power of foods that sustained Native American people for generations. “When they plant corn, beans, squash and berries, or identify plants that have always grown on the prairie, youth are linking back to our traditions and relatives,” says Dana Trickey, Extension 4-H educator in the White Earth tribal community. “It helps them to be healthy in all parts of their being.”

There’s no shortage of 4-H projects, like agronomy, forest resources, and gardening, to teach the next generation about plants. Extension Master Gardener and Master Naturalist volunteers offer many learning opportunities, too. Subscribe to the Yard and Garden News to receive regular, timely articles by email.

Make 2020 the year to connect with others around plant health. Learn about IYPH 2020 initiatives from the American Phytopathological Society. And, as always, find information specific to Minnesota at extension.umn.edu.


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