Plant clinic helps Amish producers

On Friday mornings at the Clark Produce Auction, University of Missouri Extension agronomist Dhruba Dhakal sets up a table, plant posters and an MU Extension sign.

MU Extension’s objective is to serve all Missourians with resources and research needed to improve lives, communities and the economy. When Dhakal noticed Amish producers in Clark could benefit from a plant diagnostic clinic, he knew there was only one thing to do.

Communication by phone or online can be a barrier to reaching some Amish communities, Dhakal noted. Consulting with producers at the local auction or in one-on-one farm visits overcomes these challenges while respecting others’ views and beliefs. He started the clinic in mid-June.

When producers try to diagnose an issue themselves and unnecessarily use pesticides or insecticides, they also risk creating pest and insect resistance, Dhakal explained.

At the produce auction, Dhakal wears a mask and maintains proper social distancing as precautions against COVID-19.

When needed, Dhakal relies on help from MU Extension state and regional horticulturists to diagnose farmers’ produce questions. For the most part, he said, he tries to have a turnaround time of no more than one week for a diagnosis and a list of solutions.

“I will continue this program every week until Oct. 15, as they do the produce auction until that date,” Dhakal said. “I will do this program again next year. And I am looking at expanding to other sites or communities to extend this offering out even further.”