2017-06-14, Natalie Goldberg, NMSU Plant Diagnostic Clinic

After Earl Phillips’ invocation, President Christopher led the Pledge of Allegiance.  On Flag Day, Patty Groth and Fran Boldt led us in singing “You’re a Grand Old Flag.”  After meeting and greeting, President Christopher introduced guests and visiting Rotarians, including Assistant Governor Sunny Kellerman from Silver City. 

Steve Loman was happy not to have purchased the fur coat his spouse modeled during the Taste of Las Cruces, and related a funny story about raising a few extra dollars from its sale.  Mesilla Valley club president-elect Andrea Dresser was happy for her spouse Barry Fisher’s birthday; Barry was happy to have survived surgery.  Elaine Szalay was happy to be here, and made John Hernández’s contribution for that; she was also happy for Gary’s clean bill of health at Mayo.  Blaine told a Sherlock Holmes story, and you had to be there. 

President Christopher reminded us of the following day’s board meeting, and that our June 28 meeting will feature the presentation of our high school student scholarships and the induction of our new officers.  Kristi Granados noted that the Rotary Youth Leadership Award (RYLA) students we are sponsoring will be attending camp in July, boys starting Sunday, June 16, and girls starting Saturday, June 22. 

The Program

Bill Harty introduced our speaker, Natalie Goldberg, head of the NMSU Extension Plant Science department and founding director of the plant diagnostic clinic.  Natalie earned degrees at Cal Poly Pomona and the University of Arizona before joining the NMSU faculty.  She started with a story about her first days at the university as an Extension Plant Pathologist, not expecting to be doing diagnostics, and finding in her new, tiny office a sample of wheat with a note asking why it died, signed “Bob”; took a while to figure out who Bob was. 

Today, with the help of USDA funding, the Plant Diagnostic Clinic has grown from essentially being Natalie to have a clinician and students on staff, to have real lab space, and to have abilities to provide integrated services: identification of plants and of pests, diseases and disorders.  The clinic is part of the National Plant Diagnostic Network, started after 9/11 to detect and report on insects, weeds, pests, and diseases.  The clinic trains people to be the early warning system: first detectors.  Diagnostic services are provided at no charge for samples received through county extension agents, thanks to the Federal grant funding. 

The NMSU clinic is one of only four STAR-D accredited labs in the country, joining labs at Cornell, Florida, and the Nevada Department of Agriculture.  Accreditation happened very quickly; a process normally taking six months was completed in two.  The lab has microscopes, digital imaging, and some molecular diagnostic capabilities. 

Dr. Goldberg noted that the biggest challenge in this work is the quality of the samples received for analysis, and their focus is on accurate identification of the issue, whether week, insect, microbe or animal.  The lab typically identifies five diseases new to New Mexico each year.  She showed several examples of dangerous diseases and the risks they present to NM crops: Pecan Bacterial Leaf Scorch, which can reduce pecan yield as much as 64%, and Stem and Bulb Nematode, dangerous to garlic and onion crops; onions are a $48 million/year crop in the state. 

She answered a few questions.  Earl Phillips asked how Alaska and Hawai'i are served; Hawai'i has its own expert lab serving all the US Pacific Islands, and that Oregon State University’s expert lab serves Alaska.  Barry Fisher asked a question about figs; Dr. Goldberg referred him to Jason French, the lab’s clinician who is an expert on figs.  A question about cutting bees was referred to Carol Sutherland, the county entomologist, who can relate deterrent methods.  Finally, Dr. Goldberg revealed that on July 1 she is becoming the new associate dean for research, overseeing the Agricultural Experiment Stations; congratulations!

After the Program

Suspense for the drawing continued to build.  There were only seven cards remaining; either of the two jokers will net the holder of the winning ticket $500.  Patty Groth noted that the odds of drawing the winning card were better than those of having your ticket selected.  Alas, Earl Phillips got the chance to draw, but selected the three of hearts.  This is a good time to keep playing!

President Christopher reminded all about the following day’s board meeting and led the recitation of the Four-Way Test to conclude the meeting.  

<prior week   following week>

Guests of Rotarians



Trina Davis

Bobby Rankin

Visiting Rotarians


Home Club

AG Sunny Kellerman

Silver City

Andrea Dresser

Mesilla Valley

Student Guests




it's summer!



Date Club

Don Dresp


Mesilla Valley

Submitted by Bill HartyGreg Fant