Margery Daughtrey Advises Women In Horticulture To Create Career Opportunities Through Networking

Margery Daughtrey
Margery Daughtrey

Margery Daughtrey’s view of plants differs from most plant-lovers; you might say it is microscopic. Plants have always interested her, especially wildflowers, but plant diseases captivate her. Daughtrey is a plant pathologist who fights against the diseases that can be so devastating to ornamental crops and that so often economically impact the horticulture industry.

Love Of The Microscope Leads To A Lifelong Study Of Plant Diseases

At a young age, the diseases on plants in her aunt’s backyard captured Daughtrey’s attention. She would later discover a love for the microscope while studying individual flower parts in school. But it wasn’t until college that she began to combine her love of plants and her love of the microscope to study the interactions between fungi and plants.

“I enjoy studying the plants’ interactions with these creatures that cause diseases, and they can be found everywhere,” Daughtrey says. “I have always thought that animal people have a disadvantage because they can’t just walk in the woods and find what they are interested in studying — their animals hide: plants don’t.”

Daughtrey graduated with honors from the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Va., earning a Bachelor’s degree in biology. As part of her undergrad work, she worked on a tissue culture honors project studying the plant pathogen Exobasidium japonicum, which is a fungus that causes gall on azaleas. She had the opportunity to work on this project with Martin C. Mathes and Bradner W. Coursen, two professors whose influence would shape her future career. Daughtrey attended graduate school at the University of Massachusetts, studying plant pathology. From there, she went straight to her job at Cornell University where she now works with ornamental plant diseases as a Senior Extension Associate. It’s a job she says she felt fortunate to find because, then, as now, most of the plant pathology jobs dealt with food crops.

Daughtrey says she has always been interested in writing. She has co-authored several books, such as Diseases of Herbaceous Perennials, The Compendium of Flowering Potted Plant Diseases and The Ball Field Guide to Greenhouse Plant Diseases, and she has written many papers and articles. She served as the editor-in-chief for the American Phytopathological Society (APS) for several years and continues to stay involved with the organization.

“It is important to me to get really great illustrations of problems right there with information about what you can do about it,” Daughtrey says. “I love photography, and I think it is an important way to communicate about plants and their diseases, because if they are too abstract, people can’t comprehend them.”

Another reason Daughtrey says she stays involved with APS is because it facilitates communication between plant pathologists. Anything that keeps that networking going, she says, allows plant pathologists to get answers to people faster, because they don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time a problem arises with a plant disease.

Daughtrey also travels the country sharing her research with others in the field, and giving presentations that help growers better understand the ins and outs of the plant diseases that affect their crops. As for her own research, she says she is determined to fight back against Boxwood Blight and Impatiens Downy Mildew.

New diseases excite Daughtrey because she says it is fascinating to work on a new problem instead of one that hundreds of people have studied, like black spot of rose, where it would be hard to find anything new about it.

“It takes some initiative to go into the frontier of a new problem, and get it to the point where people can make good decisions about how to manage and avoid the disease,” she says. “I like the challenge.”

As a plant pathologist, Daughtrey says she would like to see a real shoring up of the clean stock philosophy and see more efforts made to make sure plants are virus-, fungus- and bacterium-free before their release to the trade. With the speed that plants are brought to market now, she says that all the hurry can sometimes work against having the potential problems worked out before plants are introduced.

Her wish dates back to her training in the ‘70s when the flower industry still had vivid memories of bacterial blight and rust diseases destroying geranium crop profits. She says it became essential for geraniums, carnations and mums to have a clean-stock production system so growers could grow with high confidence.

“I would like to be able to do clean-stock production with all of the plants that we now grow from cuttings, now that we have shifted so much to cutting production to bring things to the market sooner,” she says. “On the grower side, I would like to see more follow-through on sanitation.”

Some plant people think about having a purple-striped pansy in the future, Daughtrey says, while she thinks about having them robust and healthy, with white roots, not black.

Margery Daughtrey
Margery Daughtrey speaks on Boxwood Blight at a local plant nursery.

 

Federal Government Jobs A Strong Employment Area For Plant Pathology

Because keeping plants healthy is a full-time job in the greenhouse industry, Daughtrey says opportunities abound for women and men in plant pathology.

“The only thing you can’t do is think like a plant pathologist and work for a grower,” she says. “It slows you down too much if you are watching a fungus grow across the surface of a leaf when you should be loading a cart.”

With funds getting tighter at universities, Daughtrey says it will be harder for people to become professors, but she remains optimistic that opportunities in research, Extension and teaching will be there in the future. Federal government jobs in research are strong right now, she says, along with diagnostician jobs at both university and private labs. And more international agriculture jobs working with ornamentals are opening up. There is always a need for Extension educators and other possibilities, include breeding companies and chemical and biological control companies.

One new field that Daughtrey says might hold exciting new opportunities for plant pathology students is plant genetics.

“We may see some genetic engineering to develop plants having a natural ability to tolerate disease or resist it,” she says. “That is going to be determined by public opinion and legal discussions and the technology itself, but I would not be surprised if the future has some of that approach — particularly in ornamentals, where people aren’t eating the engineered plant material.”

Networking Early And Often Opens Doors

Daughtrey’s advice to both men and women who want to position themselves well for long and fulfilling careers in horticulture is to start networking early in their career and make a habit of it throughout their careers. Networking, she says, is a tool that creates opportunities and leads to growth and development. Essentially, what it comes down to is jumping in and not being too shy about connecting with as many people as possible.

“I think the main thing is to be out and circulating, because if you are known in some fashion, even if it is as a rookie who is eager to work and learn, it is a really good impression to set,” she says. “Those connections can open doors.”

Networking might include things like attending Cultivate, regional meetings or Extension conferences and simply getting to know other people who are working in the different facets of horticulture and getting a sense for what they are doing. Even if you have to create a small travel budget to attend meetings, Daughtrey says it is a good investment in yourself and your career.

One of the networking opportunities Daughtrey says she enjoys each year is the annual get-together of the Chicks in Horticulture group on Long Island, N.Y., which, despite the name, also welcomes roosters. The gathering is a way for women in horticulture to network and support each other. The group gets together over brunch to socialize and listen to a motivational speaker.

“It is neat because you have the people organizing the conference that are role models to others,” Daughtrey says. “The speaker is also a role model, and you always get some inspiration. Everyone has the chance to introduce themselves and talk briefly about an experience that led them into horticulture.”

Connect People With Plants To Promote A Love For Horticulture

Events like Chicks in Horticulture bring people together who connect with plants, something Daughtrey says she would like to see more of in the world.

“I think we in the horticulture industry miss a lot of opportunities to inspire the public,” she says. “We need to give people more chances to see, touch and feel plants to help them join us in our love of horticulture. Develop the public’s love for plants and our industry will thrive.”

Topics:

Leave a Reply

More From Business Management...

April 26, 2016

“Bee-Friendly” Labels Matter To Plant Consumers, According To Study

Research at Michigan State University shows ornamental plant buyers understand and respond to bee-friendly production practices.

Read More
University of Florida Online Greenhouse Training Courses

April 25, 2016

University of Florida Offering Online Training Courses For Greenhouse Growers

There will be five courses offered, with the first starting on May 30. Courses are available in both English and Spanish and range from beginner level to advanced education.

Read More
HGTV_2015CAST

April 24, 2016

9 Business Predictions Smart Brands Should Pay Attention To

Andreas von der Heydt, Director of Kindle at Amazon, recently predicted what smart businesses will do in 2016 to strengthen their brands and promote their products.

Read More
Latest Stories

April 26, 2016

“Bee-Friendly” Labels Matter To Plant Consumers, Accord…

Research at Michigan State University shows ornamental plant buyers understand and respond to bee-friendly production practices.

Read More
University of Florida Online Greenhouse Training Courses

April 25, 2016

University of Florida Offering Online Training Courses …

There will be five courses offered, with the first starting on May 30. Courses are available in both English and Spanish and range from beginner level to advanced education.

Read More
HGTV_2015CAST

April 24, 2016

9 Business Predictions Smart Brands Should Pay Attentio…

Andreas von der Heydt, Director of Kindle at Amazon, recently predicted what smart businesses will do in 2016 to strengthen their brands and promote their products.

Read More
Lin Schmale 1996

April 23, 2016

SAF’s Lin Schmale Offers Lessons From An Industry…

Schmale represented the floriculture industry on Capitol Hill for more than 20 years. The advocate has recently retired, and shares some valuable insights from her career.

Read More
Scott Schaefer Aris CEO

April 22, 2016

New Aris CEO Scott Schaefer Looks Forward To Dealing Wi…

Schaefer, who has been with Aris for 15 years, grew up working at his family’s greenhouse operation in Illinois.

Read More
Krause Berry Farms Farm To Table Dinner

April 20, 2016

What The Floriculture Industry Can Learn From Farm Mark…

Although we have a lot in common with the produce industry, there is much we can learn from one another.

Read More
Janeen Wright

April 18, 2016

Three Lessons From A Master Greenhouse Vegetable Grower

Three lessons from greenhouse vegetable grower Casey Houweling that you can apply to your business.

Read More
Costa Farms Container Ideas E-Book

April 12, 2016

Costa Farms Targets Consumers With New Container Garden…

The electronic book offers tips on container selection, design, and plant care for millennials looking to grow in small spaces.

Read More
An Edible Evening At Stephen F Austin

April 11, 2016

How The Greenhouse Industry Can Propagate Gardeners The…

Jared Barnes at Stephen F. Austin University says we are the experts at propagating plants. That’s knowledge we can put to good use to envision how to attract new gardeners and future horticulturists to the industry.

Read More
Sanitation programs are essential to preventing and removing food safety concerns.

April 7, 2016

USDA Launches GroupGAP Program For Fruit And Vegetable …

The new certification program is designed to help small and mid-size growers, including greenhouse vegetable producers, comply with new food safety regulations.

Read More
Tropical Fruit Tree Selection (Hopkins Tropical Fruit Nursery)

April 7, 2016

University Of Florida Research Shows Consumers Value Lo…

Compared to conventional plants, consumers reported a higher purchasing likelihood for certified organic or organically produced fruit plants.

Read More
Congressional Action Days 2016

April 5, 2016

Floral Industry Leaders Make Progress And (In Some Case…

Nearly 90 floral industry members gathered in the nation’s capital in March to meet with lawmakers in the annual event coordinated by the Society of American Florists.

Read More
Casey Houweling, owner of Houweling's Tomatoes

April 4, 2016

Houweling’s Tomatoes Grows Produce With Mastery Under G…

Houweling’s Tomatoes, winner of Greenhouse Grower’s Excellence in Vegetable Production award for 2015, exceeds industry standards for locally grown produce while pioneering innovative technologies that improve sustainability.

Read More
Student Video Horticulture Education

April 2, 2016

Use Videos Featuring Your Millennial Employees To Recru…

Your Millennial employees may be the best spokespeople you have for your business. Why not encourage them to make a 30-second video talking about why they got into horticulture?

Read More
Random Acts Of Flowers

March 31, 2016

The Floriculture Industry Needs A Unified Message To Pr…

Seeing the sneak preview of the new varieties that will be presented at California Spring Trials (CAST) spurs a visceral reaction in me. I’m giddy and excited about these gorgeous plants, having taken in some of their beauty and excellent performance already at Costa Farms’ Season Premier. I’m excited to travel to Spring Trials and that spring is coming, and I’m ready to dig in and get gardening. I’m guessing many of you feel the same way. And it’s likely that consumers do, too. Nearly a year ago, upon returning from California Spring Trials, I lamented the absence of ideas translated from CAST to retail. The beautiful displays, the breathtaking combinations, the clever marketing — somehow, all of that effort and enthusiasm focused on business-to-business promotion is not being funneled effectively to the consumer. As an industry, we are not good at working together to market our products in a clear, […]

Read More
Sakata Seed America President David Armstrong

March 30, 2016

Sakata Signs Agreement With Indonesian Government To Co…

This week, Sakata Seed Corp. announced internationally that it has signed an agreement with the Republic of Indonesia to cooperate in the further development and production of its line of SunPatiens interspecific hybrid impatiens, based on the principles of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). Under an agreement based on the CBD, Sakata Seed has worked with the Indonesian government since the early 2000s to identify the origin of the native germplasm collected in Indonesia to develop SunPatiens, and the two parties have agreed on how the indigenous genetic resources will be used for the further development of SunPatiens. There are currently only a few cases in the world of such an agreement, based on the CBD in the category of horticultural plants, made between a resource-rich country and a commercial seed company. Greenhouse Grower contacted Sakata Seed CEO David Armstrong to provide context about this agreement, what it means […]

Read More
One symptom of Botrytis blight is gray, fuzzy sporulation on foliage and flowers, similar to that shown on the flower of this hibiscus

March 25, 2016

American Floral Endowment Will Fund Research Projects A…

AFE’s primary research funding priorities cover everything from pest control to production management. Funding applications are due June 1.

Read More
NGI-SunPatiens-Compact-Hot-Coral-Sakata

March 23, 2016

P. Allen Smith Says SunPatiens Are Hero Plants For Cons…

Plants that ensure consumer success with disease resistance bred into their genetics, and ease of use in a variety of conditions, are heroes for gardeners, especially beginners, and they should be celebrated and supported to promote gardening success and interest. These are the messages the award-winning designer, gardening, and lifestyle expert P. Allen Smith wants the horticulture industry to know, with the recent announcement of his expanded partnership with Sakata Seed. In an exclusive interview with Greenhouse Grower, P. Allen Smith describes his expanded partnership with Sakata Seed to promote SunPatiens and why the now 10-year-old series helps both novice and expert gardeners to be successful. Smith also collaborates with Sakata to promote the HomeGrown Collection of vegetables. SunPatiens Set Consumers Up For Success, Smith Says As a plantsman first, Smith has extensively trialed SunPatiens in his gardens at Moss Mountain Farm in Little Rock, AR, and says he is […]

Read More
[gravityform id="35" title="false" description="false"]