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Trustees approve agreements with AFSCME, CWA

The University of Toledo Board of Trustees approved Monday collective bargaining agreements with members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Ohio Council 8 and AFSCME Local 241, and Communication Workers of America (CWA) Local 4319.

The agreements with AFSCME, which represents about 2,100 employees on the University’s Health Science Campus, were approved by members May 26. A three-year agreement will run through June 30, 2020, followed by a one-year agreement to run from July 1, 2020, through June 30, 2021.

The new contract includes a one-time payment of 1.5 percent of the employee’s salary in the first year, which does not affect their base salary, a 1 percent wage increase to their base salary the second year, and 2 percent base salary increases in years three and four.

The three-year agreement with CWA, which represents about 500 employees who provide clerical, maintenance and custodial services primarily on UT’s Main Campus, was approved by membership June 13.

The contract, which is effective Jan. 1, 2017, through Dec. 30, 2019, includes a one-time payment of $500 upon ratification and one-time payment of $300 in October, which do not impact base salaries. In the second year of the contract, employees will receive a 1 percent wage increase to their base salaries and then a 2 percent base salary increase in year three.

The new agreements with both unions also update contract language to align benefits with University policy and extend the probation period for new employees.

“I want to thank the AFSCME and CWA leadership and their members for their commitment to this University, and we look forward to continued collaboration as we work together to move UT forward,” said Larry Kelley, executive vice president for finance and administration, and chief financial officer.

Satellites holding huge bedding sale

Sleep doesn’t have to be a luxury: Stop by the bed, bath and kitchen sale hosted by the Satellites Auxiliary.

The around-the-clock event continues Monday, June 19, and runs until 3 p.m. Tuesday, June 20, in UT Medical Center’s Four Seasons Bistro Atrium.

Check out the smart pillows, aloe bamboo sheet sets, as well as mattress pads and toppers, and summer quilts and blankets.

Area rugs, kitchen and bath items, and merchandise to help ease neck, back and feet pain also will be at the sale.

Cash, check, credit cards and payroll deduction will be accepted.

A portion of the proceeds will benefit campus scholarships.

The Satellites Auxiliary is a group designed to promote education, research and service programs; provide support of patient programs in accordance with the needs and approval of administration; conduct fundraising events; and provide volunteer services.

For more information on the sale, contact Lynn Brand, president of the Satellites, at lynn.brand@utoledo.edu.

Law grad makes history with U.S. Air Force JAG

Even before she received her UT juris doctor May 6, Maysaa Ouza had made legal history. Just before graduation, she was selected as a new U.S. Air Force Judge Advocate General’s (JAG) Corps attorney — the first Muslim hijabi selected for this role.

Ouza’s family was influential in her decision to pursue a career with the U.S. Air Force JAG Corps. Her parents immigrated to the United States, affording Ouza and her siblings opportunities and privileges they might not have received elsewhere. They strongly encouraged her to consider the military as a career.

Maysaa Ouza, who posed for a photo with her juris doctor in front of the Memorial Field House, is the first Muslim hijabi selected as a U.S. Air Force Judge Advocate General’s Corps attorney.

She also credits her UT College of Law professors and the Office of Professional Development with helping her learn about careers with the various JAG Corps and navigating the competitive application process. She believes that she was the first hijabi applicant to apply for the U.S. Air Force JAG Corps.

“Many people that look like me fear rejection, and thus will not apply for jobs like this,” Ouza said. “I want to break those barriers.”

The U.S. Air Force JAG Corps appealed to Ouza for several reasons. Public service and service to her community have long been important to her, and she will have the opportunity to serve her country as a military lawyer. Additionally, the JAG Corps provides its lawyers with opportunities to gain experience in numerous areas of law, including legal assistance, criminal law and military operations law — to name just a few. This exposure to multiple practice areas also was of interest to Ouza, as was the fact the Air Force is the youngest branch of the U.S. armed forces.
According to Ouza, there are similarities between life in the military and wearing the hijab — both require lives of structure and discipline.

“My hijab is an asset to the Air Force, not a liability,” she said. “The defining aspect of my character is my unwavering dedication to leading a life of structure and immense discipline. Capitalizing on these characteristics, it made intrinsic sense to serve our country.”

While attending the UT College of Law, Ouza was a leader in several student organizations.

“Maysaa was a quiet force during her time at the College of Law,” said Kate O’Connell, assistant dean for student affairs. “She served as president of the International Law Society, vice president of the Criminal Law Society and vice president of Delta Theta Phi. This past year alone, Maysaa was largely responsible for planning a number of meaningful, timely and topical events at the College of Law.”

Furthermore, Ouza was a Student Ambassador for the Admissions Office. She also made clear her desire to give back to her community, earning a UT College of Law Public Service Commendation and serving as a Law and Leadership Institute instructor.

Professor Benjamin Davis taught Ouza Contracts during her first year at the College of Law and interacted with her on a regular basis thereafter. “While she had such a strong sense of purpose, she was always personable with a warmth about her that made her stand out,” he said. “I am overjoyed she is becoming a JAG, and she is not just going to break down barriers, but thrive.”

Northwest Ohio students to experience medical school at CampMed

Teenagers today and potential physicians tomorrow will learn the tools of the trade and practice their clinical skills at the 20th annual CampMed program at The University of Toledo.

The two-day CampMed program will be held Thursday and Friday, June 15 and 16, on Health Science Campus.

The 2017 class has 39 incoming freshman high school students from across northwest Ohio who will get a sampling of medical school by participating in hands-on lessons such as learning to dress for the operating room and suturing wounds.

“It’s imperative to reach out to young people early to nurture their interests in science and discovery. Their dreams for the future, which for some might include becoming a doctor, are attainable, and we want to show them there are people who want to help,” said Courtney K. Combs, director of the UT and Ohio Area Health Education Center programs.

“CampMed gives students the opportunity to learn firsthand what it’s like to be in the medical field before they even start high school. The participants really enjoy learning from current students in the UT College of Medicine and Life Sciences.”

CampMed is a scholarship program at no cost to the students, most of whom are first-generation college students and other underrepresented groups. The camp is sponsored by the UT Area Health Education Center program, which along with other programs throughout the country, strives to improve the health of individuals and communities by developing the health-care workforce. First- and second-year UT medical students serve as camp counselors, and the campers also will interact with physicians and faculty members.

The students will begin Thursday morning after the welcoming ceremonies with a tools of the trade session where they will learn to use medical instruments such as blood pressure cuffs and stethoscopes. Lessons will continue for two days with opportunities to tour a gross anatomy lab, make a cast and more.

CampMed, which began in 1998, is a competitive program that requires students to submit a letter of recommendation, a nomination from a science or math teacher or counselor, and a personal essay to be chosen to participate.

University finalizing 2018 operating budget

As it awaits a final budget from the state of Ohio, The University of Toledo plans to shift the adoption of its 2018 operating budget until July 6.

UT leadership will ask the Board of Trustees during its regularly scheduled meeting on June 19 to adopt a one-month budget to bridge the gap between the end of the current fiscal year on June 30 and the adoption of the new budget.

Following approval of the state of Ohio biennium budget before July 1, UT will present its budget for the 2017-18 to the board at a special meeting scheduled for 8 a.m. on Thursday, July 6, in the Driscoll Alumni Center Schmakel Room.

“The state provides important funding sources for the University and given the unforeseen state revenue issues and a number of provisions in the pending state budget that could affect UT, it is important that we have all the details before we present a fiscal year budget to our board,” said Larry Kelley, executive vice president for finance and administration, and chief financial officer. “It has been at least 12 years since we have seen this level of uncertainty stretching into mid-June.”

During the last 18 months, the University has made strides in reducing costs and generating new income, Kelley said. UT is positioned well to adopt an operating budget that puts the institution in line to meet opportunities and challenges in the coming year.

121 employees to participate in voluntary separation program

A total of 121 University of Toledo employees are participating in the Voluntary Separation Incentive Program that will provide the institution more flexibility as it finalizes its operating budget for the 2017-18 academic year.

Of the approximately 230 faculty members and 250 staffers who met the requirements for the program, there were 121 employees who applied and were confirmed eligible to separate from the University as of June 30.

“These individuals provided great service to the institution throughout their careers, and we thank them both for their tenure with UT and their willingness to participate in this program to better position the institution’s finances in the coming years,” said Larry Kelley, executive vice president for finance and administration, and chief financial officer.

The employees will receive an incentive equivalent to one-half of their base salary on a one-time basis in exchange for their voluntary separation from the University. 

In the first year the University anticipates a savings of $4.8 million from the voluntary separation program, which will grow to $8.4 million the following year without the incentive payment. The voluntary separation program combined with the elimination of funding for positions that have been vacant for nine months or longer will result in total first-year savings estimated at $9.3 million, Kelley said.

The Voluntary Separation Incentive Program was one of a number of budget initiatives to reduce costs and generate new revenue. UT also is experiencing growth in enrollment, adopting a new parking system, instituting fees for recreation center memberships, reducing cell phone stipends, and adopting a new winter break schedule.

Professor, students on team selected to participate in $5 million national solar competition

A University of Toledo physics professor and students are members of a Toledo team awarded $60,000 from the U.S. Department of Energy to participate in a $5 million prize competition called the Solar in Your Community Challenge.

The team, which is named Glass City Community Solar, aims to expand solar electricity access to low- and moderate-income residents. It’s comprised of community partners, including UT, Vistula Management Co., the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority and the city of Toledo.

UT senior Evan Nichols was interviewed by NBC 24 about the Solar in Your Community Challenge.

Glass City Community Solar is one of 35 teams nationally to be selected to receive seed funds from the U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative to support project planning and to raise awareness. All teams will compete for $1 million in prizes, which will be awarded by judges based on each project or program’s innovation, impact and replicability.

Over the next 18 months, Glass City Community Solar will demonstrate innovative financing for commercial solar installations.

“It is extremely exciting for us to be able to have a hand in a project that has so much potential to benefit families by reducing electric bills, as well as educating the Toledo community about the use of renewable energy,” said UT student Blaine Luszcak, who is co-president of the UT student group called Building Ohio’s Sustainable Energy Future.

Glass City Community Solar will develop 300- to 750-kilowatt photovoltaic systems on rooftops and vacant lots to serve low- and moderate-income housing across the metro Toledo area. The cost savings will reduce electricity expenses and also support residents interested in pursuing education and training in the solar energy field.

“Our students will benefit tremendously from these real-world photovoltaic projects as they create an extended learning lab that will result in several large, operational photovoltaic power systems,” Dr. Randy Ellingson, UT professor of physics, said.

“We are thrilled that our team was selected to join the challenge,” said John Kiely, president of Vistula Management Co. and the team leader of Glass City Community Solar. “Our projects will benefit the people of Lucas County, and bring The University of Toledo’s leadership and passion for photovoltaic technology to real-world applications that benefit the people in our community that need it most.”

Find more information about the competition at solarinyourcommunity.org.

Eclipse photo by UT alumnus featured on new stamp; ‘Mr. Eclipse’ to give talk June 15

March 7, 1970, was on Fred Espenak’s radar for years.

“I was an amateur astronomer as a teenager, and I thought wow, it’s not that often a total eclipse crosses some part of the United States, so this may be my chance of a lifetime to see one,” the UT alumnus recalled.

Fred Espenak took the solar eclipse photo featured on the new Forever stamp in Jalu, Libya, March 29, 2006.

At 16, he convinced his parents to let him borrow the family car and drove 600 miles from his home in Staten Island, N.Y., to Windsor, N.C.

“When the eclipse took place, I thought I was prepared because I had read magazine articles and books about it. I had my telescope set up to take some pictures,” Espenak said. “But when that shadow of the moon hit and we were plunged into this eerie twilight, it was so phenomenal and all-encompassing that when it was over, I thought: Oh, this can’t be once-in-a-lifetime; that went way too quickly; I’ve got to see another one.

“And the next one was in Canada two years later. That was the start of my very long career of chasing eclipses around the world.”

Planes, trains and automobiles have taken Espenak to 27 total eclipses on seven continents.

“The one in 1995 in India was unique. It was a short eclipse; it was only about 40 seconds long,” he said.

Yet it was momentous.

“It happened to be the eclipse trip that I met my wife on. She was on the trip to see her first total eclipse,” Espenak said. “It turns out, back in the States, Patricia lived about a six-hour drive from me, but we had to travel halfway around the world to run into each other.”

Fred Espenak’s photos are featured on the U.S. Postal Service’s stamp to commemorate the Aug. 21 total solar eclipse. It is the first U.S. stamp that uses thermochromic ink; with the touch of a finger, the image changes from the total solar eclipse to the full moon.

Together, the retired astrophysicist from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center and the retired chemistry teacher operate the Bifrost Astronomical Observatory in Portal, Ariz., and continue their quest to experience total eclipses.

Next up: The Great American Total Eclipse Monday, Aug. 21. The sensational sky show that stars the moon passing between the sun and Earth will be visible in the contiguous United States for the first time since 1979 — weather permitting.

“The track of the moon’s shadow will cut diagonally across the nation from Oregon to South Carolina through 14 states. Inside the 70-mile-wide path of totality, the moon will completely cover the sun as the landscape is plunged into an unsettling twilight, and the sun’s glorious corona is revealed for more than two minutes,” Espenak explained.

He may be in Casper, Wyo., to watch the awe-inspiring event.

“There’s a big astronomy conference there called AstroCon 2017, and they invited me to speak four years ago. I think that’s the longest lead time I’ve had for a speaking invitation,” Espenak said. “Casper is right in the eclipse path.

“But I don’t know where I’m going to be on eclipse day because it depends on what the forecast is one or two days before the eclipse. If the forecast is good for Casper, I’ll stay there. But if it’s not promising, I’m going to drive Sunday because I can get 600 or 800 miles east or west of Casper on the day before the eclipse.”

No passing fancy, but a passing obsession with astronomical objects led to Espenak’s nickname: Mr. Eclipse.

Fred Espenak operates the Bifrost Astronomical Observatory in Portal, Ariz.

That memorable moniker and his international reputation as an eclipse expert helped land an ultra-cool gig with the U.S. Postal Service. While working on two books, “Eclipse Bulletin: Total Solar Eclipse 2017” and “Road Atlas for the Total Solar Eclipse 2017,” his phone rang.

“I got a call over a year ago that they were considering a commemorative stamp for the eclipse, and they wanted to know if I would act as a consultant on the technical information for the map on the back of the sheet and a description of the eclipse path,” Espenak said. “They also said they were looking for some photographs to possibly use as the stamp, and I said I would submit some images.”

Millions have seen his work; Espenak’s photos have been published in National Geographic, Nature and Newsweek. Check out mreclipse.com.

“It turned out the U.S. Postal Service decided to use two of my images for this new stamp with thermochromic ink. Other countries have used this technology, but it’s the first time in the United States. When you rub the stamp, a second image appears from the warmth of your finger. You’ll see the total eclipse of the sun and, with the touch of your finger, you’ll see the full moon,” he said.

To commemorate the Aug. 21 event, the Total Eclipse of the Sun Forever stamp will be released Tuesday, June 20, during a ceremony at the University of Wyoming in Laramie. Espenak and his wife will be there.

Patricia Totten Espenak and Fred Espenak

“I’m honored to have my photographs on a stamp. But more importantly, the stamp will spread the news about America’s Great Eclipse to many more people,” he said. “And what a fantastic opportunity. For a lot of people, this is the chance of a lifetime to see a total eclipse.”

Meanwhile, he is giving talks around the country to preview the celestial spectacle.

Espenak will return to his alma mater to speak Thursday, June 15, at 6:30 p.m. in Memorial Field House Room 2100.

“Fred Espenak is another great example of a ‘rocket scientist’ who has really lived up to that name,” said Dr. Karen Bjorkman, dean of the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics; Distinguished University Professor of Astronomy; and Helen Luedtke Brooks Endowed Professor of Astronomy. “He has made solid contributions to NASA science missions for many years, and is also doing a wonderful job of sharing his passion for and knowledge of eclipses with the public both on national and international stages. We’re really proud that he is an alumnus of The University of Toledo’s Department of Physics and Astronomy.”

During the free, public talk funded by the Helen Luedtke Brooks Endowed Professorship in Astronomy, the 1976 UT graduate who received a master of science degree in physics will discuss eclipses and share his eyewitness accounts around the globe through video and photos.

And he’ll offer two words of advice: road trip.

“I’m going to show people what they can expect to see in Toledo and how to watch it using safe eye protection, but I’m also going to encourage people to start making plans for a car trip to the eclipse path of totality because that’s where you have to be to see the total phase of the eclipse, and it’s worth the drive.

“It’s something you remember your entire life because it’s so unusual from anything you’ve seen before,” Espenak said. “The bright sun is completely gone in the sky, and you see this very strange-looking black disc, which is the unilluminated side of the moon, and it’s surrounded by this gossamer, feathery halo that’s the sun’s corona, which is two million degrees. It’s the only time you can see something that’s two million degrees with the naked eye. It’s such a stunning, overwhelming experience: The temperature drops probably 10 degrees as you go into totality, so you feel a chill in the air; animals react strangely; birds quiet down as if they’re going to roost at night.

“And it’s only for a few minutes. When it’s over, you really have a desire to see it again.”

UTMC to host summer disaster preparedness training series

The University of Toledo Medical Center will host a four-part training series that will focus on disaster preparedness training beginning Wednesday, July 19, at the Jacobs Interprofessional Immersive Simulation Center on Health Science Campus.

The series, which is supported by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security — Federal Emergency Management Agency funds, will be led by Texas A&M Extension Service disaster preparedness experts and is free for all UTMC employees and UT students, faculty and staff.

“I am passionate about this facility and value the importance of excellent disaster preparedness training,” said Erin Konecki, UTMC nurse and organizer of the series. “I believe that you can only be prepared for what you practice. This is why I, with the strong support of many UT faculty and staff, have arranged for this invaluable, all-hazards approach training to be brought right to our doorstep. When, not if, disaster comes knocking at our door, UT and UTMC will be ready to respond.”

The classes provide continuing medical education for physicians and continuing education for nurses and emergency medical technicians.

The courses are:

• MGT 319 Medical Countermeasures: Points of Dispensing, Planning and Response from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday, July 19, and Thursday, July 20;

• MGT 341 Disaster Preparedness for Hospitals and Health-Care Organizations Within the Community Infrastructure from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday, July 27, and Friday, July 28;

• PER 341 Medical Management of Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosive Events from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 16, and Thursday, Aug. 17; and

• PER 320 Personal Protective Measures for Biological Events from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 24.

Participants are encouraged to donate $10 for each course to help with food expenses.  

To register, contact Konecki at erin.berry2@utoledo.edu or 419.266.4059.

For additional information about the courses, visit https://teex.org/Pages/default.aspx.

UT scientist named Top 40 Under 40 by Greenhouse Product News

When asked how she first became interested in plants and nature, Dr. Jennifer Boldt attributed her passion to her family.

“For most of my life, my parents owned and operated a greenhouse and garden center in Florida. I have literally grown up surrounded by plants. My sister and I would help out in the afternoons after school and during the summers. I have fond memories of helping my parents and grandparents transplant seedlings,” she recalled.

Dr. Jennifer Boldt, adjunct research assistant professor of environmental sciences, was named one of the Top 40 Under 40 by Greenhouse Product News.

“My sister and I thought it was great because we got to spend time with [family] and nobody minded that we got dirty. As we got older, we assumed more and more responsibility in both the production and retail aspects of the business. We saw all the hard work, dedication and passion that our parents had for growing beautiful plants, helping customers find the right plants for their gardens and landscapes, and providing a sense of community for their employees and customers,” Boldt continued. “My dad was a very patient teacher and cultivated our interest in learning how plants grow. As I got older, I decided that this could be a career path for me, too.

“I studied horticulture and business administration as an undergraduate, and had planned to one day take over the family business. However, I discovered research and have taken a slightly different career path, but I am still very much involved in the horticulture industry and enjoy it immensely.”

Boldt was recently named one of the Top 40 Under 40 by Greenhouse Product News. She is a research horticulturalist with the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service, housed in Wolfe Hall. She and her colleagues utilize space in the Wolfe Hall greenhouse and at the Toledo Botanical Garden. The Wolfe Hall greenhouse also is utilized by members of the departments of Biological Sciences and Environmental Sciences.

In addition, Boldt is as an adjunct research assistant professor in environmental sciences at UT.

Listed among Boldt’s accomplishments in Greenhouse Product News was her research program that studied how different factors and practices influenced the growth and development of greenhouse crops.

“The Agricultural Research Service is the chief in-house scientific research agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It has more than 90 research locations and 690 research projects, but our group is the only one whose project is focused specifically on the production of greenhouse-grown ornamentals. This includes primarily flowering plants, like what you would plant in a home garden or in container planters, but also vegetables and culinary herbs. Our research looks at how light, temperature, carbon dioxide concentration, fertilizers, and the growing medium influence how quickly a plant grows, how quickly it flowers, how it looks (its architecture), and/or how well it is able to tolerate stress,” Boldt explained.

“For instance, one project looks at what growing conditions optimize a plant’s photosynthetic rate. We have developed models and incorporated them into a software tool that growers can use to see how adding supplemental lighting or increasing and/or decreasing the greenhouse temperature will affect plant growth. They can compare the predicted change in plant growth to the costs associated with changing the greenhouse environment and determine if it is worthwhile from an economic perspective. We want to provide information and recommendations to growers that can help increase their productivity and profitability, while at the same time reduce the quantity of inputs — water, fertilizer, energy, etc. — required to successfully grow plants in greenhouses and other controlled environments.”

Though her work may seem complicated to outsiders, Boldt enjoys her day-to-day research.

“There never is a typical day, which keeps things interesting. Most of my time is spent in the office, planning upcoming research, analyzing data from experiments, writing manuscripts, reviewing manuscripts, and checking in with our fabulous greenhouse and lab technicians to see how plant care, data collection and laboratory analyses are going. I have ongoing research collaborations with a few Agricultural Research Service and university researchers, so there are planning and update meetings that occur. When we have ongoing plant trials, I routinely check in on the plants — like a doctor making rounds at a hospital — to see how they are growing.

“I do enjoy the days when I get to spend some time in the greenhouse; we lease greenhouse space at the Toledo Botanical Garden and conduct many of our research trials there,” she said.

As for her colleagues, Boldt said, “I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the great team of scientists, postdocs, technicians and undergraduate students that work daily to accomplish the research goals of our group. Current members include Mona-Lisa Banks, Douglas Sturtz, Cindy Carnicom and Mitchell Caris. We also had two terrific UT undergraduate students in spring semester — Amy Towell and Maithili Kulkarni.”

There was another member of the horticulture industry that Boldt was especially pleased to be recognized alongside: her twin sister, Jessica Boldt.

“It was a wonderful surprise. We are very close and have very similar interests. Our undergraduate degrees are the same, and we even had the same adviser for our master’s degrees. We have cheered on each other’s accomplishments, and so it’s very special to be nominated by different individuals and selected for this recognition together in the same year,” Boldt said. “We found out that we both had been selected when someone emailed me instead of Jessica to congratulate her. We had a good laugh, since we get mistaken for the other all the time, even though we now live in different states.

“In case you can’t tell, I’m very proud of Jessica,” she said and then laughed.

The two share the same passion for horticulture and the large role that it plays in society.

“On a basic level, plants are a source of food, fiber and fuel. They provide vitamins and nutrients. Many contain compounds that have medicinal uses. Plants improve the air quality. Trees, shrubs and green roofs lower the energy costs of homes and buildings. Exposure to plants and nature reduces our stress levels. Gardening is therapeutic and provides a way to stay active. There are so many benefits that plants provide that positively impact our well-being,” Boldt explained.

“Have you seen how someone’s face lights up when you give her or him a basket of fresh-picked strawberries or a bouquet of beautiful flowers? There is joy in planting bulbs in the fall and watching them emerge from the ground the following spring. Without waxing poetic too much, we need to feed and nourish the body, mind and soul, and horticulture allows us to do that. Also, career opportunities abound in horticulture — plant breeding, greenhouse flower and vegetable production, public garden management, teaching, research, education, and marketing, to name a few.”

She beamed as she looked at the pink petunias lined up in the greenhouse at Toledo Botanical Garden.

“From my little corner of horticulture, it’s very satisfying to not just advance our understanding of plants, but also provide practical recommendations to growers so that they can continue to be successful.”