Jan 13, 2010
EXPO Has Got the Goods

If you were at the Great Lakes Fruit, Vegetable & Farm Market EXPO a few weeks ago, you might have seen me: I was the guy wearing the ugly orange vest with a big manpurse over my shoulder.

One of the things I like about the EXPO is that I seem to know, or at least recognize, just about everybody there now. I guess that shouldn’t surprise me, considering it was my fifth show.

The EXPO, held every December at DeVos Place Convention Center and the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel in Grand Rapids, Mich., is easily the best fruit and vegetable show I’ve been to – and I’m not just saying that because it’s held in my back yard. It’s got the biggest trade show, the broadest selection of educational sessions and more special events than I’ve seen at any other conference.

Judging by the size of the trade show a few weeks ago – the biggest I’ve seen yet – I’d say EXPO’s merger with the Michigan Greenhouse Growers Expo went pretty well. The convention center’s trade floor was filled practically to capacity; I could barely make my way down the greenhouse aisles.

The only downer I heard about was the weather, a winter storm that kept some people from attending the annual banquet and the educational sessions on the last day. Still, I hope the greenhouse people were impressed.

As usual, I sat in on some of the educational sessions. At the carrot session, I listened to Zsofia Szendrei, a new Extension specialist with Michigan State University’s Department of Entomology, discuss an aster leafhopper project she’s been working on with specialists from the University of Wisconsin.

The aster leafhopper is an insect pest that transmits a pathogen, aster yellows phytoplasma, that can cause disease in carrots, celery, lettuce and, occasionally, onions and potatoes. The leafhopper picks up the pathogen by feeding on an infected plant. The pathogen spreads and multiplies within the insect. Eventually, the infected insect feeds on another plant, which becomes infected itself. That’s how the pathogen spreads.

The trick for Szendrei and her colleagues studying the pathogen is to come up with a control strategy that can protect crops but reduce insecticide use at the same time. To help with that, they’re using a tool called the aster yellows index.

The index determines the need for insecticide applications. The way it’s calculated … well, we don’t have the space to get into that. To learn more about the index, visit the EXPO’s Web site, glexpo.com, click on “Education Abstracts” on the left and find the carrot session on Wednesday afternoon. The written portion of Szendrei’s presentation should be available for download.

To learn about more of Szendrei’s work in vegetable entomology, click here.

And that’s just a tiny tidbit of what the Great Lakes EXPO has to offer. I’ll be traveling to other shows this winter in Ohio and Pennsylvania, where I’m sure I’ll find more to write about.

Maybe I’ll see you there.

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P.O. Box 128
Sparta, MI 49345
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