Disease Management Tools

In October 2010, Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan announced 28 grants to solve specialty crop agriculture issues through research and Extension activities through USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).


NIFA awarded more than $46 million through the Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI), which was established by the 2008 Farm Bill to support the specialty crop industry by developing and disseminating science-based tools to address the needs of specific crops.

One of the grants included $2,467,589 to the Department of Bioagricultural Sciences and Pest Management in Colorado State University’s College of Agricultural Sciences at Fort Collins, CO, for its project: “ipmPIPE And Innovative Disease Diagnostic Tools For Onion Growers.” Researchers aim to develop, fully deploy, and evaluate a sustainable online information management platform called the Onion ipmPIPE (Integrated Pest Management Pest Information Platform for Extension and Education) to optimize sound pest management decision-making in onions. Project leader Howard Schwartz was able to shed some more light on this project.

Q. What’s the problem?

Schwartz: The need for more accurate and timely assessment of diseases and pests are critical for the onion industry. Pests such as onion thrips and a thrips-transmitted virus, Iris yellow spot virus (IYSV), have emerged in recent years as high priority, invasive or potential threats to sustainable onion production throughout the U.S.

Q. How do you plan to solve it?

Schwartz: The overall goal of this project is to incorporate existing onion pest management programs and pest risk assessment models developed with limited commodity group support at local and regional levels into the Onion ipmPIPE for national implementation and validation. A new pathogen macroarray will expand the innovative diagnostic tools and coverage for priority diseases of onion caused by fungal and bacterial pathogens and their complexes.

Q. When do you hope to achieve it?

Schwartz: Through 2013, the plan is to create an ipmPIPE network, focusing on onion thrips and IYSV; develop, improve, and enhance the macroarray diagnostic tools for priority fungal and bacterial pathogens of onions as well as food pathogens Salmonella and Escherichi; establish diagnostic support labs for these pathogen groups and thrips; and relate Disease Risk Assessment models and IPM strategies to economic monitoring and sustainability for specialty crop stakeholders via the Onion ipmPIPE.

Q. Are there any ancillary goals?

Schwartz: The ipmPIPE platform facilitates management of pest risk (including pesticide input costs, environmental exposure, and crop losses) by promoting and facilitating understanding of risks, informed assessments and decisions, specialty crop marketing inputs, and documentation of pest management practices. Major objectives also include enhancement of innovative pest diagnostic tools (DNA macroarray) and validation of detection methods for priority viruses, bacteria, and fungi of onion.