|A success Story for PPA110: Commercial Horticulture
By Ayanava Majumdar from Cooperative Extension Systems on 2012-01-03
Co-authors: Christopher M. Becker, Lloyd D. Chapman, Willie E. Datcher, William T. East, Gary D. Gray, Neil G. Kelly, James D. Miles, Michael D. Reeves, Eddie J. Wheeler
Situation: Vegetables in Alabama are worth over $17 to 20 million with production acres exceeding 18,000 acres total. Organic vegetable production is small industry at present in Alabama but it is on the rise. Majority of the vegetables produced in Alabama is for the fresh market and consumed locally. Insect pests are one of the major problems in vegetable production system. Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is a threshold-based decision management system that balances use of insecticidal and alternative pest control tactics for improving profitability and sustainability of farmers. In order to develop an effective integrated pest management campaign, the ACES Commercial Horticulture and Home Grounds Team members conducted IPM ‘needs assessment surveys’ across the state to document the urgent needs of the vegetable producers that attended regional Extension meetings. Those 2008/2009 surveys provided ACES critical baseline data that indicated, among other things, IPM adoption rate among vegetable farmers to be about 40% with low confidence in university recommendations. Several barriers prevented IPM adoption among farmers. Growers did not what resources exist for help. Since 2009, Dr. Majumdar and the Regional Extension Agents (REAs) have been tracking program outputs and outcomes in order to objectively measure progress. We use a mixed methods and utilization focused formative evaluations for program monitoring and development. Continuous program monitoring and evaluations were lacking prior to the start of this IPM campaign.
Inputs: Vegetable IPM Extension and research projects were funded by several USDA-NIFA, Alabama Department of Agriculture & Industries, and industry funds exceeding $60,000 that were used over three years with great success. Small as well as large IPM demonstration plots
showcasing specific IPM tactics like trap cropping, pheromone insect monitoring system, insecticide rotation and new insecticides were established throughout Alabama in 5 locations every year. Ten Regional Extension Agents from the Commercial Horticulture and Home Grounds Teams participated in the insect monitoring project, establishment/maintenance of demonstration plots, and organized several regional meetings for information dissemination to producers. The Team members on this project also participated in some major IPM exhibitions at large grower conferences to raise awareness for the IPM project.
|Trap crop demonstration, Brewton Field Day, Brewton, AL 2011|
Activities (Outputs): Ten REAs participated in on-farm demonstration project on pheromone-based trapping, trap cropping, and crop scouting systems that involved training the cooperating producer. In 2009-2011, over 26,000 insects have been collected and identified with information directly transmitted to vegetable producers via electronic and social media. The REAs also organized several well-attended regional (multi-county) Extension meetings where commercial vegetable producers were trained hands-on in IPM techniques and the meeting quality was constantly monitored
. Extension meetings were modified with audience input resulting in increasing quality of the training sessions over the past three years (for example, meeting format changed from short presentation to in-depth IPM workshops that resulted in higher satisfaction of participants).
|Every Extension event is evaluated and results shared with Regional Extension Agents for program improvement|
Besides Extension meetings with producers, IPM information was disseminated via Extension bulletins, ‘THE IPM COMMUNICATOR’ newsletter (18 issues per year) with over 600 subscribers (archived in ACES online store, https://store.aces.edu/ListItems.aspx?CategoryID=180), one vegetable entomology project website (www.aces.edu/go/87), YouTube channel with IPM videos (channel ‘IPM News’, http://www.youtube.com/user/IPMNews), and Facebook channel (‘Alabama Vegetable IPM’, www.Facebook.com) with 107 subscribers. E-newsletter subscribers include 60% farmers, 15% crop advisors, 10% industry personnel, 10% Master Gardeners, and 5% others. Dr. Majumdar is also a contributing author to the Southeastern U.S. Vegetable Crop Handbook published by Vance Publishing (http://www.thegrower.com/south-east-vegetable-guide) and thousands of copies of the book are provided each year to the needy producers. The Home Garden Vegetable Production IPM Guide has also been updated by Dr. Majumdar due to a high demand from Master Gardeners and home owners for a reliable source of information about general use pesticides and organic vegetable production. Results of the insect monitoring program have been published in two articles in the Vegetable Grower and the Alabama Gardener magazines plus nine newspaper articles that have reached to over 533,000 readers.
|Winter vegetable IPM meetings are held each year to provide research updates to producers statewide|
Long-term outcomes/impacts of IPM program: Here is a point-wise description of vegetable IPM program outcomes/impacts from 2009 to 2011. Some figures may change slightly as more evaluation data becomes available after compilation and analysis.
Professional development of ACES personnel (IPM training): Extension Agents and Specialists have also been trained in vegetable IPM technology via the annual IPM Web Conference organized in April every year which is a unique statewide virtual conference bringing in-state as well as out-of-state experts.
Professional development of ACES personnel (evaluation training): Two evaluation training events (4 hr total) have been conducted by Dr. Majumdar where Regional Extension Agents and Extension Specialists were provided hands-on evaluation training. The training workshops focused on the use of Logic model, basic evaluation principles and practices, Kirkpatrick's four levels, and stakeholder analysis. Participants are currently using the evaluation practices and indicated high satisfaction from the training.
Enhancing local engagement of ACES (impacts)
· There has been over 650% increase in participation at Extension meetings and doubling in the number of regional IPM workshops by ACES. Survey return rates have improved from 39% to over 57% (range 35-87%). New partnerships of the PI with nonprofit agencies and industry groups are also encouraging additional IPM training events. Dr. Majumdar is also partnering with Tuskegee University in developing and implementing IPM program reaching to low resource farmers.
· Audience characteristics have changed dramatically over the past three years indicating interest from a more diverse group of farmers. New and beginning farmers now constitute about 7% of total participants along with a major rise of natural grown farmers (29%) at IPM events, including field days. Conventional vegetable producers constitute about 26% of audience at present (from 73% in 2009). Crop consultants and industry constitute about 7% audience (doubled in three years).
· Overall quality of IPM workshops judged by farmers has improved 16% in three years (currently at 87% satisfaction level). The average changes in the level of IPM knowledge and confidence are 49% and 55%, respectively (based on pre/posttests).
· IPM adoption rates for insect monitoring/crop scouting practices, trap cropping, and new insecticides are 74%, 59%, and 80%, respectively (specific tactics are easier to measure in surveys).
· Awareness or use of the IPM newsletter has increased 32% in three years. Newsletter quality/impact assessment survey (n = 58) indicated that 44% respondents read the entire newsletter; about 53% respondents read the newsletter for 15 minutes while 22% read it for over 30 minutes. Overall, about 53% respondents indicated that they used the IPM recommendations from the newsletter and six case studies (voluntary disclosure by respondents) suggested profits ranging from $500-1,000.
· About 55% producers in Extension meetings indicated that they use the ACES Vegetable Entomology Website for pest management information. Over 93% newsletter subscribers support continuation of the publication and website. The newsletter archive has recently been moved to the ACES online store for permanence.
· Use of the Southeastern U.S. Vegetable Crop Handbook and Home Garden IPM (annually updated publications) has reached to 75% in three years; vegetable producers are increasingly calling the Extension offices for assistance regarding insect pest identification and management issues suggesting increase in confidence in IPM information provided by this program.
· The Facebook page has over 100 subscribers at present and younger farmers are joining the list for information very rapidly. The bi-monthly IPM contest on Facebook provides high interaction of researchers with page subscribers which promotes additional membership in summer months. The YouTube channel (IPMNews) receives about 42 hits per month, primarily from needy producers.
· In 2009 and 2010, Dr. Majumdar’s IPM exhibit has reached to 1,800 producers through grower conferences including the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group Annual Conferences, Alabama Fruit and Vegetable Annual Conference, and the Alabama Sustainable Agriculture Network’s Farm & Food Forum.
· New Extension resources (print and electronic) mentioned above has reduced some barriers to IPM adoption among vegetable producers. For example, barriers such as lack of awareness and difficulty in accessing IPM information have been reduced by 16% and 13%, respectively. Among the Certified Crop Advisors, lack of program awareness and low availability of reliable data have been reduced 33% with slight increase in the confidence in IPM recommendations. Interestingly, higher cost of inputs like organic and conventional insecticides is an increasing concern for producers and crop advisors.
· Overall IPM adoption has increased from 40% to 63% in three years. The average savings to farmers adopting the recommended IPM practices is about $246 per acre.
Enhancing & diversifying ACES fiscal resources/synergistic partnerships
· Sponsorship for entomology research and Extension projects through federal/state grants, pesticide firms and commodity group funding has also helped to expand the IPM program to new and unexpected audiences (e.g., backyard vegetable producers, pesticide distributors, crop advisors, etc.). The vegetable IPM program has recently been awarded two major USDA-NIFA grants to continue baseline programming and expand resources to sustainable agriculture and organic crop production.
· New partnerships of IPM program with nonprofit agencies, farmer cooperatives and active participation on producer boards has increased visibility of ACES. These are very encouraging trends for the IPM team and it is expected that the impacts of the vegetable IPM program will keep rising with increasing participation of producers in future years.
Recognition for ACES: Dr. Majumdar was recently awarded the 2012 Southern Region IPM Future Leader Award in recognition of ACES vegetable IPM program and its significant impact on producers statewide.