Dr. Tom Zitter from the Department of Plant Pathology at Cornell University has received many awards and accolades for his work on vegetable diseases but the recent reference to his Vegetable MD Online website on the Martha Stewart radio show was a complete surprise. The December 6th's episode of the Homegrown segment on Martha Stewart Living Radio (Sirius 112) included Vegetable MD Online as one of the seven favorite gardening websites mentioned. Zitter said “The whole thing was a shock to me. I didn’t know Martha Stewart was going to highlight our website until I got an email from a colleague who happened to come across it”.
Vegetable MD Online was launched in 2000. Dr. Zitter, along with Cornell plant pathologist Meg McGrath, developed the site to provide access to the many vegetable disease fact sheets that they have produced over the years. The site was designed to provide information on the occurrence and importance of biotic diseases (bacterial, fungal, viral and other pathogens) as well as abiotic diseases (nutritional, etc.) for multiple vegetable crops. Vegetable MD Online is richly illustrated with color images that often provide the basis for disease identification. Tomato is one of the most widely searched crops.
Users of the site can search for information by entering the name of the plant they are interested in and by scanning photos of diseased plants, news articles, and disease alerts. A glossary of plant pathology terms is also provided. Zitter’s efforts have received attention by extension specialists, growers, and homeowners in New York and literally throughout the world. The addition of several articles written in Spanish has dramatically increased usage. Zitter has received numerous requests for use of his text and photographs, and the most recent survey of the site, (January -December 2006), indicates that it had 1,543,584 “hits” during this period. The site is listed on many other websites as a major resource but inclusion among Martha Stewart’s favorites is certainly to be one that is treasured.