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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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NMSU plant pathologist awarded for training courses

New Mexico State University's extension plant pathologist, Natalie Goldberg, has received the Outstanding First Detector Educator Training Award for an individual. The award was given during the 2nd National Plant Diagnostic Network meeting in Miami.

Goldberg's first detector training courses, hosted by the New Mexico State University Cooperative Extension Service, train people to spot outbreaks of plant pests and diseases sooner - ideally before they get out of hand. She says plant pests and diseases are responsible for substantial economic losses every year in New Mexico and across the Southwest.

"I was really honored," Goldberg said. "I was also impressed to see how well New Mexico did in reaching so many people, especially compared to much larger states."

Goldberg's program has reached more than 4,000 people through extended public awareness. More than 400 others from across New Mexico have become certified first detectors through her training courses. Goldberg has created four levels of training, including an advanced course consisting of 10 teaching modules.

"We work to create awareness of plant-related problems," she said. "To date, 100 percent of exotic pest outbreaks are believed to be unintentional. The sooner we can catch them, the easier it is to respond."

During the courses, Goldberg showed how to identify plant pests and diseases. Additionally, those in attendance learn how to properly submit both suspicious and invasive samples to NMSU's Plant Diagnostic Clinic, which provides analysis of plant material for pathogens and environmental stresses. The clinic also suggests appropriate control measures when available.

Those who take the course also receive first detector training kits Goldberg created. The kits are field-ready fanny packs filled with supplies used for collecting samples. Goldberg obtained outside funding to expand her programs, which also include a continuing education program to maintain first detector interest.

The cost of the training is funded by New Mexico State University, the Southwest Border Food Safety and Defense Center at NMSU, the National Plant Diagnostic Network, the Western Plant Diagnostic Network and Agroguard, a program of the New Mexico Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.