Science teachers to explore what makes plants sick, healthy

The work of a plant pathologist, or plant doctor, is much like that of a regular doctor—you have sick patients who need treatment, said Monica Elliott, professor of plant pathology at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, who has organized a free plant pathology workshop for middle and high school teachers.

However, there is one crucial difference between curing plants and curing people that should put the more squeamish of the attendees at ease, Elliott said. “There’s no blood!”

Over the next few weeks, educators will spend the day at one of several UF/IFAS Research and Education Centers across the state learning the basics of plant pathology and the role it plays in growing healthy crops. The workshops are designed to give teachers material they can bring back to their classrooms.

This round of workshops is the second time educators have been invited to UF/IFAS Research and Education Centers to discover new approaches to teaching science. Last year, attendees learned about soil science in honor of the United Nation’s naming 2015 the year of soils, said Elliott.

During the workshop, UF/IFAS researchers will introduce participants to the organisms that cause disease, and how plant diseases are spread and controlled. Attendees will also learn to make inexpensive smartphone microscopes and how to intentionally infect a plant with a bacteria. They can then take this plant home and observe how the disease progresses.

Elliott hopes participants will gain a greater appreciation for how humans have created plant varieties that suit human needs, whether it be a tomatoes that are resistant to disease or seedless watermelon.

The workshop will also emphasize how much we rely on plants for food, shelter and clothing. Plant pathologists help make sure that we still have these resources in the future, Elliott said. “We’ve been dealing with plant disease for thousands of years, and we’re still dealing with them. That’s why we need students going into science.”

Workshop locations, dates and times:

  • UF/IFAS North Florida Research and Education Center, Quincy: June 23, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
  • UF/IFAS Fort Lauderdale Research and Education Center, Davie: June 28, 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
  • UF/IFAS Citrus Research and Education Center, Lake Alfred: July 14, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

  • UF/IFAS Mid-Florida Research and Education Center, Apopka: July 18, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

  • UF/IFAS Gulf Coast Research and Education Center, Balm: July 27, 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
  • UF/IFAS West Florida Research and Education Center, Jay: July 28, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Please contact UF/IFAS South West Florida Research and Education Center and UF/IFAS Everglades Research and Education Center directly for dates and times. For workshop materials, please go to

UF/IFAS Photo by Marisol Amador


Posted: June 21, 2016

Category: Agriculture, Pests & Disease, SFYL Hot Topic
Tags: Agriculture Hot Topic, Monica Elliott, Plant Pathology

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