February 2020: Yacking It Up About Plant Diseases

Yacking It Up IconLast month in my summary of my activities for 2019, I mentioned that I had given 111 talks/presentations/workshops during the course of the year.  This month I’d like to elaborate a bit on the types of outreach presentations that I provide.


Quite frankly, I’m willing to talk about plant diseases on any crop/plant other than turf (there are other Extension specialists who handle this crop).  I truly think that plant diseases are INCREDIBLY COOL.  I give talks to both commercial (i.e., agricultural/horticultural grower and consultant) and consumer (i.e., general public) audiences.

Most typically though, I provide education for the general public, often concentrating on teaching about diseases of herbaceous ornamentals, woody ornamentals and vegetables.  I often partner with county Extension staff, Master Gardener Volunteer groups, technical college instructors, professional organizations, public libraries and garden clubs to reach as wide a range of home gardeners (and horticulture professionals) as possible.

Types of Talks

To learn more about the specifics on the types of talks that I do, check out a couple of sections of the Plant Diseases Diagnostics Clinic (PDDC) website:

2020 Events Calendar

On my events calendar, I try to list every talk/presentation/workshop that I give during the year.  The calendar changes constantly as I book new presentations.

The calendar entries includes the titles of my talks, as well as the dates, times and towns where I will be.  If you ever see a presentation in a town near you and are interested in additional details on the program, feel free to contact me and I can provide those details.

Watch the entries as the date approaches.  I typically create handouts for my talks and link to the handouts on my calendar.  You are welcome to view these handouts online or download them to see what I’m talking about and hopefully learn a thing or two, even if you can’t attend the presentation.

Master Gardener Resources

The presentations/programs described on this page are a series of talks and hands-on opportunities that I have put together specifically to address the continuing education needs of Master Gardener Volunteers.  That said, virtually all of these presentations could be of interest to a general public audience.

Many of the talks fall into the “Diseases of” category, where I discuss diseases of broad plant groups such as vegetables, herbaceous ornamentals, evergreens and deciduous trees and shrubs.  Other of these talks cover more specific plants such as hostas and orchids.

Also included on this page are talks that are more conceptual in nature including my The Science (and Art) of Plant Disease Diagnosis and Growing Healthy Plants:  Basics in Plant Disease Management talks.

Some of the talks are just fun topics that I like to get geeky about, such as my Plant Diseases in History presentation.  The newest addition in this latter category is Confessions of a Black Thumb:  Plants That I Have Killed (or at Least Seriously Maimed), a cautionary tale of my personal gardening disasters (and there have been many).

If you are interested in getting down and dirty about plant diseases, I offer my Signs and Symptoms Workshop.  In this hands-on activity, participants have the opportunity to see and work with actual diseased plant specimens.

Finally, I offer tours of the PDDC (located on the UW-Madison campus), and typically combine this tour with tours of the Insect Diagnostic Lab, the Wisconsin Insect Research Collection and/or the Allen Centennial Garden.


If you have a group that might be interested in learning more about plant diseases, don’t be bashful about contacting me to explore the possibility.  You can contact me at pddc@wisc.edu.  Book early as my calendar often fills up quickly.  And for addition information on the PDDC, its activities and resources, check out other sections of the PDDC website, or follow the clinic on Twitter or Facebook (@UWPDDC).

Keep warm!  And don’t worry because spring gardening season (with all those uber-cool plant diseases) is coming soon!!