One of the greatest challenges of helping people understand “what’s different about Michigan State University Extension” is to get beyond the mission statements and legislative talking points and journalistic strategies and PowerPoint presentations to give people an actual example that shows “this is how MSU Extension works in our new structure.” Whenever I find one of these stories, I like to relay it to others to help give a context for understanding what often comes across as abstract concepts.
This week we had the good fortune of receiving a visit from the Honorable Tom Vilsack, secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and Sen. Debbie Stabenow, chairperson of the Agriculture Committee in the U.S. Senate. During our conversation, Secretary Vilsack alerted us to the fact that he anticipates even greater emphasis on competitive funding for the work we do in the future and a greater emphasis on working across missions (research and Extension together) and across state lines. I shared with him that the plant genomics projects funded by the USDA Specialty Crops competitive funds and led by MSU scientists (Dr. David Douches on the potato/tomato genome project and Dr. Amy Iezzoni on the apple/peach/strawberry genome project) are great examples of cross-state collaboration and integration of research with Extension.
The next day I had another example show up in my inbox, and thought I’d share this one through my blog: Dr. George Sundin, professor of plant pathology with appointments in MSU AgBioResearch AND MSU Extension, is a collaborator in a project addressing the challenges of a disease that affects the quality of apples and diminishes product value – apple scab. Apple scab results in brown marks on apples that make the fruit unacceptable to consumers. New varieties of apple scab are emerging that are resistant to the cocktail of fungicides that scientists like Dr. Sundin have recommended to growers in the past. What was particularly pleasing about the email I received from Dr. Sundin is that he and his colleagues from other states are addressing this collaboratively in a way that integrates research and Extension. And the story was conveyed in an article released by the Associated Press and picked up in the New York Times, the Washington Post and other significant media outlets. You can read the story here:
I’m sure others are involved in efforts like this that give a great example of how MSU AgBioResearch and MSU Extension work in the 21st century. Thanks to Dr. Sundin and his colleagues for giving an example that can help Secretary Vilsack, Sen. Stabenow and others understand how we are addressing needs in our transformed organization.