Aggie Agriculture: A Recipe for Success in Horticulture Research and Information

Dr. Douglas WelshHome gardening and the support of locally grown produce is on the rise across the nation.  Aggie Horticulture, part of the Texas AgriLife Extension Service at Texas A & M University, is one of the world’s most popular resources on all things horticulture.  Dr. Douglas Welsh, Associate Department Head, Professor and Extension Horticulturist at the Texas AgriLife Extension Service Department of Horticultural Sciences, speaks about the origins of Aggie Horticulture and its vital role as a resource for both industry professionals and private gardeners.

What is the aim of the Aggie Horticulture program?

The Aggie-Horticulture® website, aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu, is the primary Internet/electronic outreach of the Texas AgriLife Extension Service in regard to horticultural information. The website’s audience includes the gardening public, as well as the commercial nursery and landscape industry, commercial fruit, nut, and vegetable producers and processors, and horticultural educators across the nation. We feel that Aggie-Horticulture® is the best horticultural website in the world; by the numbers it is in the top 5.

What are your responsibilities at Aggie Horticulture?

Martin Anderson serves as the website administrator. Our horticulture faculty, comprised of 44 Extension Horticulturists and County Extension Agents, provides content for the website. My role is simply to provide administrative oversight and get out of the way.

Could you tell us about some of the recent projects that have been undertaken as part of Aggie Horticulture?

With over 100,000 documents on the website, revisions and updating is a continuous process. Recently, the Earth-Kind® website has been redesigned, revised, and updated. It provides insight into the widely popular Earth-Kind® Landscaping program which targets water conservation, reducing pesticide and fertilizer use, reducing yard waste entering land fills, and energy conservation. Earth-Kind® Roses are also featured on the website.

How did the term “Aggie Horticulture” come about?

Texas A&M University has historically been recognized as a top agricultural university. The students are called Aggies, referring to the agricultural roots of the university. The name, Aggie Horticulture, tied the website to two things to which we are committed, the Aggies and horticulture.
Who founded Aggie Horticulture? In October 1994, Aggie Horticulture began serving gardening information. Dan Lineberger, Professor in the Department of Horticultural Sciences, was the founder of Aggie Horticulture.

Could you tell us about the responses you have received from those who have been affected by the program?

Perhaps the best evidence of the website’s impact is the web statistics which reflects use of the website. In 2009, Aggie-Horticulture® served over 7.9 million unique visitors, 12.7 million user sessions, and 52.6 million pages viewed. According to the Alexa Traffic Rankings, Aggie-Horticulture® is the number two website in the horticulture category nationwide (846 total websites). Aggie-Horticulture® is also the number seven website in Alexa Traffic Ranking under the category of agriculture nationwide (3,848 websites).

Does Aggie Horticulture accept volunteers?

The volunteers associated with Aggie Horticulture are Texas Master Gardeners. Their primary role as gardening educators is to use the resource of Aggie Horticulture as they provide information and educational activities to the gardening public.

You have been an expert in the field for over three decades.  What would you like to see as the future of the horticulture field?

The local foods trend has begun and I am glad to see it. The interest and practice of home vegetable and fruit production is growing rapidly. Not since the late 1970s has such interest been seen. Aggie Horticulture is responding to the need for accurate, environmentally- sound, and practical gardening information.  
 

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