Boxwood Blight Insight Group (BBIG) is a team of scientists working together on a USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture – Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI) project, in partnership with stakeholders and international collaborators. This transdisciplinary team and its partners aim to safeguard boxwood—the USA’s #1 evergreen ornamental shrub crop—from blight disease, thus saving an iconic plant featured in American landscapes since 1653.
The first epidemics of this destructive disease in the United States were reported in North Carolina and Connecticut, followed by Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island and Virginia in 2011. As of September 1, 2020, this disease has spread via contaminated nursery stocks to twenty-two other states plus the District of Columbia, leading to tremendous economic losses and negative social impacts. The affected states are mostly situated along the East and West Coasts as well as the shorelines of the Great Lakes; they account for 95% of the US boxwood production according to the 2014 National Agricultural Statistical Service.
EBTS members Lynn Batdorf and Bennett Saunders both sit on the Advisory Panel and in addition Bennett is also a Major Stakeholder Collaborator. Matthew Cromey of the Royal Horticultural Society, in the UK, is a Key International Stakeholder.
The project is taking a systems approach to boxwood blight mitigation through focused science and application studies, stakeholder partnerships and international collaborations.
- To prevent blighted plant materials from entering the nursery trade
- To better manage the disease at sites of contamination
- To build resilience into boxwood production and gardening
- To ensure all recommendations are economically viable
- To put research into practice – helping stakeholders and the next generation of scientists and educators to achieve sustainable boxwood production and gardening