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 & PearsVirginia Tech Research Center Receives Grant To Study Organic Production
October 14, 2014
Rootstocks are the focus a of project led by assistant professor Greg Peck. Read More
Apples & PearsUnusual Weather Slows Michigan Apple Maturity
September 29, 2014
Fruit may have lower Brix levels, soluble solids lower than normal. Read More
Apples & PearsVermont Hosts ‘Apples To iPods’ Contest
September 24, 2014
One wooden apple hidden at one of 21 pick-your-own orchards throughout state. Read More
Apples & PearsOrchard Owner Talks About Using Migrant Workers
September 24, 2014
Labor is needed to help harvest apple crop in the fall. Read More
Apples & PearsKasumin Now Registered For Fire Blight Control
September 22, 2014
EPA approves use of bactericide on pome fruit as disease management tool. Read More
Apples & PearsCanneries Hope To Encourage Growers To Grow Pears For Processing
September 15, 2014
Higher wholesale prices offered as means to boost canning pear acres. Read More
Apples & PearsAmerican and Western Fruit Grower’s 2014 Top Apple And Pear Fruit Growers
September 13, 2014
The nations’s largest growers reflect how technology, innovations, and promotion help make their businesses run more efficiently. Read More

The Latest

Apples & PearsRare Apple Found In Michigan
October 14, 2014
One-in-a-million chimera apple was discovered in a block of Rome apples. Read More
Apples & PearsVirginia Tech Research Center Receives Grant To Study O…
October 14, 2014
Rootstocks are the focus a of project led by assistant professor Greg Peck. Read More
Apples & PearsWashington State University Names Growers Of New Apple …
October 8, 2014
A total of 24 growers in the state will be the first to grow the Cosmic Crisp, previously known as WA 38. Read More
Apples & PearsStemilt Unveils One Of World’s Largest Apple Sizers
October 7, 2014
High-tech unit, which has 79 drop points, is nearly the length of a football field. Read More
Apples & PearsUnusual Weather Slows Michigan Apple Maturity
September 29, 2014
Fruit may have lower Brix levels, soluble solids lower than normal. Read More
Apples & PearsVermont Hosts ‘Apples To iPods’ Contest
September 24, 2014
One wooden apple hidden at one of 21 pick-your-own orchards throughout state. Read More
Apples & PearsOrchard Owner Talks About Using Migrant Workers
September 24, 2014
Labor is needed to help harvest apple crop in the fall. Read More
Apples & PearsKasumin Now Registered For Fire Blight Control
September 22, 2014
EPA approves use of bactericide on pome fruit as disease management tool. Read More
Apples & PearsCanneries Hope To Encourage Growers To Grow Pears For P…
September 15, 2014
Higher wholesale prices offered as means to boost canning pear acres. Read More
Apples & PearsAmerican and Western Fruit Grower’s 2014 Top Appl…
September 13, 2014
The nations’s largest growers reflect how technology, innovations, and promotion help make their businesses run more efficiently. Read More
Apples & PearsAgriculture Research Service Partnership With Cornell U…
September 12, 2014
ARS study focuses on disease resistance and cold tolerance to produce better apple rootstock varieties. Read More
Apples & PearsWashington’s Grant County Could Overtake Yakima For M…
September 10, 2014
Apple growers moving farther south over the past 35 years. Read More
Apples & PearsReaders Sound Off On Possible Chinese Apples Imports
September 10, 2014
USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is considering allowing the importation of fresh apples from China into the continental United States. Read More
Apples & PearsUSApple Announces New Officers, Board Members
September 9, 2014
Mark Nicholson of Red Jacket Orchards in Geneva, NY, incoming chairman. Read More
Apples & PearsWashington Grower Awarded License To New Apple
September 8, 2014
Stemilt Growers receives rights to MN55, a Honeycrisp cross, from the University of Minnesota. Read More
Apples & PearsBig Apple Crop Expected
September 2, 2014
Generally high quality predicted at U.S. Apple Association Crop Outlook and Marketing Conference. Read More
Apples & PearsBeware Of Fruit Rots During Apple Harvest
September 2, 2014
Conditions lately have been ripe for fungi fiasco. Read More
Apples & PearsThey’re Back! 2014 Brown Marmorated Stink Bug Populat…
September 2, 2014
Pressure building as traps filling up with pest by the hundreds. Read More