Growers and technical staff in the greenhouse and controlled environment industry can gain a new qualification in plant health management with collaboration from two award-winning online Extension training programs offered by the University of Florida and Michigan State University.
Over 4,000 growers have already graduated from individual courses through the UF/IFAS Extension Greenhouse Training Online and the MSU College of Knowledge programs. Under the new collaboration, growers who pass five courses in plant health in these programs can obtain a new certificate of completion that recognizes their training, skills, and dedication and will help them grow in their careers.
“We are developing a training curriculum for horticulture professionals already working in the industry,” said Paul Fisher, UF/IFAS environmental horticulture professor, and floriculture Extension specialist. “Online works well for growers who are already living the ‘how-to’ of horticulture but benefit from understanding the ‘why’ of their decision-making from the underlying science.”
Heidi Lindberg, greenhouse and nursery educator with MSU Extension, emphasized the role she’s seen the College of Knowledge program play in building foundational knowledge for newer industry professionals, as well.
“The online floriculture College of Knowledge program has provided a broad audience from 39 countries and 46 U.S. states the introductory knowledge in greenhouse production,” Lindberg said. “It has been very successful in training those new to the industry or those changing careers. It provides a great foundation that professionals can then use to build real-life experience.”
The new collaboration also has the potential to reach even larger audiences, thanks not only to its online format but also to its bilingual presentation offerings.
“This program checks off several boxes for modern Extension,” said Saqib Mukhtar, the UF/IFAS associate dean for Extension, agriculture, and natural resources. “That includes English and Spanish languages; online and available any time of day; collaboration by leading universities for national and international impact; and high-quality training by leading experts.”
Growers must pass five of six courses, which include:
- Nutrient management 1 (UF)
- Disease management (UF)
- Weed management (UF)
- Water quality and treatment (UF)
- Abiotic disorders (MSU/University of Kentucky)
- Biological control (MSU/Kansas State University)
Growers sign up for individual courses through the UF (hort.ifas.ufl.edu/training) and MSU websites (canr.msu.edu/online-college-of-knowledge). Email firstname.lastname@example.org once five courses are successfully completed, and growers can obtain their certificate of completion at an annual graduation ceremony (the first graduates are expected in July 2023).
The first course in the series for 2022 is Nutrient Management Level 1, which begins on July 11.