Washington State University To Create Tree Fruit “One-Stop-Shop”

Desmond LayneCommercial tree fruit growers around the world desire reliable information for their education and to aid in decision-making. Oftentimes, however, they are overwhelmed by the vast amount of disparate information from varied sources that exist on the Internet. These same individuals are typically time-limited, some may lack technical savvy, and they may get frustrated when searching for meaningful information. The diversity of content, types and sources often make it difficult to decide what to trust and believe. In some cases, the information may be scientifically and factually correct but it may be inappropriate for the geographic location being considered (e.g., cultivar recommendations). In other cases, it may be biased, misleading, or factually incorrect.

However, the Cooperative Extension Service has been a reliable source of local, unbiased, research-based information for farmers for a century now. In 1914, the federal Smith-Lever Act established the Cooperative Extension Service at the land-grant universities in the United States. Information may be available through hands-on, in-the-field, or classroom training programs; educational field days or workshops; on-farm trials, printed Extension fact sheets, or production guides, etc. All of the participating state land-grant universities now have websites. Many offer significant online resources covering the major agricultural commodities important to their state. Less common are so-called “one-stop-shops” that serve as a portal to provide comprehensive information on a particular commodity.

The Need and Vision
In my role as Endowed Chair and Tree Fruit Extension Program Leader at Washington State University, one new project I am directing is the creation of a searchable, grower-friendly, comprehensive “one-stop-shop” tree fruit website focusing on apple, pear, sweet cherry, and other stone fruits. The site will primarily serve commercial tree fruit growers but it will have information for backyard growers and hobbyists too. The big picture, long-term goal is to create the single best tree fruit website in the world.

This is an enormous task. Already, there is a lot of good information that has been created for growers but it exists in many different places that are not well connected with each other. There is no blame casting here. Rather, like at many land-grant universities, websites have been created over time on limited budgets by several independent programs and individuals in different departments, units and locations around the state. There are some sophisticated and very active websites that are widely used by growers (e.g., Decision Aid System at das.wsu.edu). Other websites that were created with a specific programmatic emphasis have become dated because the previous investigators retired and their positions were not refilled. Some websites were created as stand-alone products as a result of regionally or nationally funded projects. When the grant funding ran out, resources to maintain these websites evaporated. Certainly, some of the older information is still useful and valid, but some may be outdated and obsolete. As one of my colleagues recently described it, the latter is a “digital graveyard” of sorts.

The Process
Critical to moving the process forward on such a large project is developing a team of personnel who have both a vested interest in the project and a willingness to devote time to its success. The team needs to have information technology (IT) resources and support that are sufficient for the task. It needs to meet regularly to discuss various aspects of the project, assign tasks, and generate ideas. A thorough inventory of web content needs to be conducted across all relevant websites to determine what resources will be utilized for the new site, those that need updating or repackaging, and others that will not be included.

Since the website will be new, a user/grower survey needs to be conducted to help inform how it will be constructed, what features it will have, how one will navigate it, how it will integrate with and complement existing sites, etc. A landing page needs to be created that is simple, intuitive, and that will quickly and easily direct the visitor to content. This should include easy cues to audience, crop, and topical navigation. It needs a “search” box that delivers relevant information as effectively as possible, enabling visitors to cull through massive amounts of data. It should offer the ability for users to subscribe to and define particular information that they can have pushed to them or featured for them. Along the way in the development process, a beta group of industry users needs to be engaged to test, validate, and improve what is being created so that it is user-friendly.

Our Progress
We began this project in earnest this year with a goal of launching something to the public in December 2014. We had nearly 300 respondents to our industry survey and gleaned some really valuable data. We have developed a website concept and are nearing the completion of our audit inventory. We identified many thousands of pieces of content that we need to sift through and catalogue.

A top priority for our team is the creation of high-quality, peer-reviewed resources that are timely, relevant, and utilize state-of-the-art features and tools. To help busy researchers reach the grower audience with timely information, we will encourage partnering them with Extension and technology specialists to create user-friendly online resources. We hope to enlist graduate students to help in preparing reviews of the scientific literature that will describe and summarize the state of knowledge in particular research areas. Two long-term goals include creating and offering online courses for training and certification and providing as much content as possible in Spanish.

The Long-Term Sustaining Effort
The creation, maintenance and long-term enhancement of such a Web resource will not be possible without the long-term sustaining power of the financial support from industry. Fortunately, as I noted in my March 2014 column “The Power of Partnering”, one of the priorities of the WSU Tree Fruit Endowment, funded by grower assessments, is supporting world-class information and technology transfer. Look forward to my column in a future issue of American/Western Fruit Grower where we introduce you to the new website and describe its many features.

Topics: , ,

Leave a Reply

Apples & Pears Stories
a trio of apples stacked on top of each other
Apples & Pears
April 26, 2016
Comment Period Extended For EU Imports Of Apples And Pears
USDA APHIS is extending the comment period on the proposed rule that would amend the regulations to allow the importation Read More
KIKU space featured image
Apples & Pears
April 13, 2016
‘Kiku’ Apples Are Out Of This World — Literally
Apples from Washington State among the supplies sent to astronauts in the space station. Read More
Fly Creek Cider Mill
Apples & Pears
April 11, 2016
Orchard Picked As Stop For Presidential Primary Coverage Broadcast Site
Recently renovated Fly Creek Cider Mill & Orchard to host live NBC broadcasts on Thursday and Friday. Read More
Photo credit: USDA
Apples & Pears
April 9, 2016
Sliced Apples Recalled
Red apple slices sold separately and in lots with sliced vegetables could contain Listeria Monocytogenes. Read More
GP Sazo Temp Chart
Apples & Pears
April 7, 2016
Apple Growers Need To Be Cautious About Frost Treatment
Always follow the instructions on the product’s label. Read More
Photo credit: Wikimedia commons
Apples & Pears
April 6, 2016
Risk Of Apple Scab Is High Despite Cold Temperatures
Researchers say snow does not kill spores, but it does complicate spraying copper and other products. Read More
Ambrosia Apple for featured image
Apples & Pears
April 6, 2016
‘Ambrosia’ Apple Takes Tournament
Variety claimed the top spot in U.S. Apple Association’s first-ever “Apple Madness” tournament. Read More
The Latest
Apples & Pears
May 1, 2016
USApple Debuts New Website
Industry group says new site is responsive to different formats, designed to be more consumer and industry friendly. Read More
Apples & Pears
April 28, 2016
Cracks In Your Orchard’s Infrastructure …
Modern blocks can increase your production, but if your training system is shoddy, you could see major losses. Read More
Apples & Pears
April 28, 2016
The Truth About Most Farmworkers [Opinio…
Just ask any grower who has placed a help wanted ad. Read More
Apples & Pears
April 26, 2016
Comment Period Extended For EU Imports O…
USDA APHIS is extending the comment period on the proposed rule that would amend the regulations to allow the importation Read More
Apples & Pears
April 13, 2016
‘Kiku’ Apples Are Out Of This World — Li…
Apples from Washington State among the supplies sent to astronauts in the space station. Read More
Apples & Pears
April 11, 2016
Orchard Picked As Stop For Presidential …
Recently renovated Fly Creek Cider Mill & Orchard to host live NBC broadcasts on Thursday and Friday. Read More
Apples & Pears
April 9, 2016
Sliced Apples Recalled
Red apple slices sold separately and in lots with sliced vegetables could contain Listeria Monocytogenes. Read More
Apples & Pears
April 7, 2016
Apple Growers Need To Be Cautious About …
Always follow the instructions on the product’s label. Read More
Apples & Pears
April 6, 2016
Risk Of Apple Scab Is High Despite Cold …
Researchers say snow does not kill spores, but it does complicate spraying copper and other products. Read More
Apples & Pears
April 6, 2016
‘Ambrosia’ Apple Takes Tournament
Variety claimed the top spot in U.S. Apple Association’s first-ever “Apple Madness” tournament. Read More
Apples & Pears
March 30, 2016
Chance Seedling Nets New Bittersharp App…
Vermont apple grower finds tree in orchard, discovers it has unique profile which makes it a good addition to sweet and hard cider blends. Read More
Apples & Pears
March 26, 2016
Millennials Drive Premium Apple Demand
Consumer trends are among the topics at the annual AgroFresh “Crunch Academy.” Read More
Apples & Pears
March 16, 2016
New York Apple Leaders Contribute To Foo…
New York Apple Association, Inc. contributes $55,000 to Center For Produce Safety. Read More
Apples & Pears
March 9, 2016
International Fruit Tree Association Ann…
Industry members recognized at annual conference banquet. Read More
Apples & Pears
March 9, 2016
Pears Certified Heart-Healthy
American Heart Association classifies pome fruit as a good choice for heart health. Read More
Apples & Pears
March 9, 2016
Apple Varieties Tip Off For First-Ever N…
U.S. Apple Association’s March “Apple Madness” bracket tournament encourages people to select their favorite apple variety, discover fresh health research. Read More
Apples & Pears
February 29, 2016
An International Release Is Good News Fo…
A new partnership between Midwest Apple Improvement Association and International Pome Fruit Alliance will get the ‘EverCrisp’ apple international exposure. Read More
Apples & Pears
February 24, 2016
Learn About The Hard Cider-Making Proces…
Workshop offered by Penn State University highlights production of hard cider beverage. Read More
[gravityform id="62" title="false" description="false"]