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

Apples & PearsFall Sprays For BMSB Can Cause San Jose Scale Flare Up
November 18, 2014
Penn State University research entomologist says prevention is best control option for devastating pest. Read More
Apples & PearsPromising Technology To Expand Hard Cider Industry
November 14, 2014
Demand growing as researchers explore the possibilities of mechanical harvesting. Read More
Apples & PearsSeeing The Positives In Brown Marmorated Stink Bug Invasion
November 11, 2014
When it comes to tree fruit and many other specialty crops, BMSB probably falls into the catastrophic category. Read More
Apples & PearsPlant These Hard Cider Apple Varieties
November 10, 2014
Choosing the right variety can have a huge impact on the flavors of hard cider. Read More
Apples & PearsWhat To Do Before Jumping On The Hard Cider Bandwagon
November 10, 2014
Researchers offer suggestions of what to watch out for before planting heirloom or European hard cider varieties. Read More
Apples & PearsUSDA Announces Loss Adjustment For Late Apple Harvest In The Pacific Northwest
November 6, 2014
Multi-Peril Crop Insurance policyholders may be approved for extension of coverage due to warm autumn. Read More
Apples & PearsNew York Apple Industry Awarded $75K To Connect Farms With Consumers
November 5, 2014
Organization to partner with online guide to agritourism events targeted at residents in New York City. Read More

The Latest

Apples & PearsEPA Approves Three New Moth Mating Disruption Products
November 25, 2014
Codling moth and oriental fruit moth are targeted by apple and pear growers. Read More
Apples & PearsOn The Road With The International Fruit Tree Associati…
November 21, 2014
Attention to detail is evident in the production of high quality feathered apple trees at GRIBA’s nursery. Read More
Apples & PearsOn The Road With The International Fruit Tree Associati…
November 19, 2014
Win Cowgill of Rutgers University details a trip through the one of the most concentrated fruit growing areas in the world, the South Tyrol region of Italy. Read More
Apples & PearsFall Sprays For BMSB Can Cause San Jose Scale Flare Up
November 18, 2014
Penn State University research entomologist says prevention is best control option for devastating pest. Read More
Apples & PearsPromising Technology To Expand Hard Cider Industry
November 14, 2014
Demand growing as researchers explore the possibilities of mechanical harvesting. Read More
Apples & PearsSeeing The Positives In Brown Marmorated Stink Bug Inva…
November 11, 2014
When it comes to tree fruit and many other specialty crops, BMSB probably falls into the catastrophic category. Read More
Apples & PearsPlant These Hard Cider Apple Varieties
November 10, 2014
Choosing the right variety can have a huge impact on the flavors of hard cider. Read More
Apples & PearsWhat To Do Before Jumping On The Hard Cider Bandwagon
November 10, 2014
Researchers offer suggestions of what to watch out for before planting heirloom or European hard cider varieties. Read More
Apples & PearsUSDA Announces Loss Adjustment For Late Apple Harvest I…
November 6, 2014
Multi-Peril Crop Insurance policyholders may be approved for extension of coverage due to warm autumn. Read More
Apples & PearsNew York Apple Industry Awarded $75K To Connect Farms W…
November 5, 2014
Organization to partner with online guide to agritourism events targeted at residents in New York City. Read More
Apples & PearsIs Your Orchard Fit For A 5K?
November 5, 2014
Hosting a race can be a great way to tie your farm market to the running and fitness craze. Read More
Apples & PearsMatson Fruit Automates Storage With Robotics
November 4, 2014
High-tech cranes “read” barcodes and retrieve pallets, increasing capacity on less square footage. Read More
Apples & PearsResearch Eyes Geneitcs To Determine Apple Acidity
November 4, 2014
Kenong Xu, an assistant professor of tree fruit genomics at Cornell’s New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, is studying the exact genetic factors that determine an apple cultivar’s acidity level. Read More
Apples & PearsWhy Dry Matter Matters In Apples
November 4, 2014
Appearance is important but internal components are increasingly becoming the focus of apple growers, researchers, and breeders. Read More
Apples & PearsMonster Apple Crop Looms
November 3, 2014
Washington is predicted to have a 162-million box crop by USApple, smashing the record. Read More
Apples & PearsAnother Large Pear Crop In 2014
November 3, 2014
Northwest crop smaller than last year’s record high, but well above average. Read More
Apples & PearsHigh-Tech Building Boom In The Pacific Northwest
November 3, 2014
Grower/packer/shippers are plowing the last few years’ profits into state-of-the-art equipment. Read More
Apples & PearsWashington Apples To Restart Shipments To China
October 29, 2014
Agreement reached between U.S. and Chinese governments to reinstate market access after two-year absence. Read More