COLUMBUS, Ohio - Its work is like that of first responders - but instead of combating fires, accidents or medical emergencies, it tackles diseases that threaten Ohio's crops and forests.
The Ohio Plant Diagnostic Network (OPDN) is a statewide collaboration between Ohio State University's College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA).
OPDN was created with the main goal to unify, under one entity, the various plant disease diagnostics activities carried out across the state by plant health professionals, OSU Extension educators and others in the agriculture and natural resources sectors, said Nancy Taylor, OPDN co-director and program director of Ohio State's C. Wayne Ellett Plant and Pest Diagnostic Clinic.
"The OPDN is modeled after the National Plant Diagnostic Network," Taylor said. "A key element is the creation of a virtual network to link laboratories across Ohio and the U.S. via digital technology and videoconferencing. This helps accelerate the diagnosis of plant samples collected throughout the state and enhances surveillance capabilities."
For example, OPDN includes a remote diagnostic facility located at the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center's Muck Crops Agricultural Research Station, equipped with a microscope and communications technology.
This facility allows vegetable crops growers in the Celeryville region, along with OSU Extension educators and OARDC personnel who work with them, to quickly link up with OPDN's two main labs (C. Wayne Ellett and ODA's Plant Pest Control lab, both in Columbus) for real-time diagnosis of disease samples collected in the field.
"Another important aspect of OPDN's work, particularly on the Ohio State side, is educational," Taylor said. "We recruit and train people - farmers, nursery workers, crop consultants, master gardeners and others - who in their daily activities might come into contact with diseases from a watch list that are not yet in Ohio."
Individuals interested in the First Detector Training can become certified by participating in a face-to-face workshop or by completing six basic e-learning modules at http://www.firstdetector.org/.