Posted: Monday, March 11, 2013 9:17 AM
By MATTHEW WEAVER
Washington State University professor emeritus R. James Cook has created a website to address root and plant health management.
Cook envisions the site, Plant Health International, as a resource for farmers, students and researchers and wants to reach a wider audience than scientific publications.
Cook, 76, is a former dean of WSU's College of Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Sciences and USDA Agricutural Research Service scientist. He worked with USDA for 33 of his 40 years at WSU. WSU's Cook Agronomy Farm is named for him. In 2011, he received the prestigious international Wolf Prize for Agriculture.
Research done in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s should not be forgotten, Cook said.
"I'm putting it right out there in front so people can read it as if it was done yesterday," he said.
Cook's two daughters, an artist and a writer, pushed Cook to develop the site as part of his efforts to write his fourth book, about "untold" stories that resurrect the research Cook began in 1965.
"I guess I'm just a little bit proud of the work that I did, that I don't want it to be buried, lost or forgotten," he said. "I even have a vision that this website might continue after I am no longer vertical on this earth."
The stories help to give a better understanding of how crops grow and why they aren't growing as they should. Cook said the cause is often root disease due to a planting monoculture, although many people still believe it's only loss of soil fertility.
Cook conducted much of his research in the field, testing theories before taking them to greenhouses or the laboratory for refinement. Today, virtually all research is at the molecular level in labs, with little in the field, Cook said.
He believes this is a negative.
"The stories I'm going to be telling with this website are research done in the field that revealed fundamentally new information," he said.
He expects to update the website once a month and invite other international researchers to write for the site.
Cook hopes to see a wider audience of agronomists and pathologists use the site for communication and sharing information.
"It's very exciting for me to feel like I've still got a role to play in knowledge transfer," he said. "I'm going to do it from a foundation of my own research and gradually morph into what others are doing that will follow the same ideas."