ACES

IPM EXHIBITIONS ARE AN EFFECTIVE EDUCATIONAL TOOL FOR ORGANIC PRODUCERS

A success Story for PPA110: Commercial Horticulture
By Ayanava Majumdar from Cooperative Extension Systems on 2012-01-31
Co-authors: Christopher M. Becker, Lloyd D. Chapman, Willie E. Datcher, Gerald J. McQueen, James D. Miles

Situation: The total vegetable production in Alabama is worth about $20 million with production acres exceeding 18,000 acres. Foliar insect pests are one of the major problems in vegetable production system (chance of crop loss 100% if unmanaged). Although organic vegetable production is small in Alabama (305 acres in 2008), it is a rapidly growing industry. Insect pests threaten the success of vegetable crops in an organic production system and producers need continuous training in integrated pest management tactics. Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is a threshold-based decision management system that allows the use of various pest control tactics like mechanical, cultural, biological, botanical, and chemical for improving profitability and sustainability of crop producers. In order to learn and interact with university and industry personnel, most organic producers participate in major trade shows such as the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group Conference held annually in January. It is possible to reach thousands of producers through IPM exhibitions and this report summarizes Extension findings from three years of surveys done at SSAWG conferences indicating effectiveness of exhibitions as part of an educational campaign.

 

Inputs:   The IPM exhibition has evolved from its basic format in 2010 to modern professional format in 2012.

Photo 1: IPM Exhibit at the 2010 SSAWG Conference showing the initial display format.
IPM Exhibit at the 2010 SSAWG Conference showing the initial display format.
 
Photo 2: IPM Exhibit at the 2011 SSAWG Conference showing a professional format and many publications.
IPM Exhibit at the 2011 SSAWG Conference showing a professional format and many publications.
The exhibit consists of a display panel highlighting major organic pest management projects completed in Alabama, 12 to 14 Extension bulletins printed in sufficient numbers for distribution, and insect collection related to major vegetables crops. Participants directly consult with Dr. Majumdar during the two-day event and there are often repeat visitors who want in-depth information. About 1200 producers, industry, community leaders and consultants visit the SSAWG conference every year. All publications are distributed free of cost to the producers that stop by the exhibit. The author also conducts one survey every year during the Alabama State meeting where 50 to 80 producers participate to discuss issues related to organic farming practices. The feedback from this survey provides critical information regarding usefulness of IPM exhibition at this conference. Number of IPM publications taken by growers from the exhibit is also tracked (indirect survey) in order to understand pest management priorities and interests of the participants in general.
Photo 3: IPM Exhibit at the 2012 SSAWG Conference had an inviting presentation and over 14 Extension publications.
IPM Exhibit at the 2012 SSAWG Conference had an inviting presentation and over 14 Extension publications.

 

Outputs & Outcomes:

Below are some relevant findings about IPM resource usage and critical issues (changing needs) that have been tracked over the years through direct and indirect producer surveys at the SSAWG conferences from 2010-2012. Table 1 summarizes IPM survey data by year strongly suggesting the success of the IPM exhibitions. A hyphen in any column in Table 1 indicates missing data. Responses from practicing farmers were only considered for this report. The vegetable IPM program was redesigned and implemented in 2009; the IPM exhibition at SSAWG was a great way to communicate with hundreds of organic producers who may not have attended a regional Extension meeting. Various USDA-NIFA grants (OAREI, SARE) are currently funding the organic campaign in Alabama.

Overall findings:

·         About 1,200 producers attend the SSAWG conference every year. Results below may have been influenced by the change in meeting location from Chattanooga to Little Rock, AR.

·         Organic producers are consistently participating in SSAWG meeting in large numbers. They are eager to provide written feedback which determines the changing needs of organic producers.

·         More new or beginning farmers are coming to the SSAWG meeting from Alabama to network and for training purposes. Many of the new farmers are not aware of ACES IPM resources for organic producers.

·         27% more Alabama organic and naturally grown producers are attending the Regional Extension meeting that three years before. Producers are often able to recall what the training was about.

·         There has been a significant increase (20 to 30%) in grower’s awareness of the vegetable IPM projects over the past three years. The slight decrease in IPM program awareness could be due to a significant rise in the number of new or beginning farmers attending the SSAWG conference.

·         About 36% participants in the producer survey are subscribed to the Alabama IPM Communicator newsletter. The newsletter was started in 2010 and currently has about 600 subscribers that include organic producers, conventional farmers, industry personnel, gardeners, and crop consultants.

·         The number of Alabama farmers in the survey that have seen the IPM exhibit has doubled in two years. About 70% producers surveyed have seen the IPM exhibit in 2012 and many of them interacted with Dr. Majumdar.

·         In three years, about 178 farmers have physically stopped by and interacted with Dr. Majumdar at the IPM exhibit. Now, there is a strong demand from producers for an in-depth IPM workshop at SSAWG conference in 2013. Thus, the exhibition has contributed significantly to organic producer’s awareness of the IPM initiatives.

·         Organic producers were highly receptive to IPM information (76% indicated they will use current year IPM information). One year post survey indicated that 12-23% growers ACTUALLY ADOPTED the IPM recommendation after visiting the IPM exhibit and interacting with Dr. Majumdar.

·         IPM recommendations that have been adopted by producers (or existing practices were improved) include trap cropping, use of row covers and net houses, botanical and microbial insecticides, correct application techniques for insecticides and pesticide rotation, and natural enemy conservation techniques. Individual adoption rates for IPM practices have not been shown in this report.

·         In three years, about 1300 handouts/bulletins have been provided to hundreds of farmers who stopped by the IPM exhibit. The circulation of Extension bulletins increased by 92% in 2012 conference compared to 2011 indicating a constant demand for IPM information and relevancy of the information provided to growers through the exhibitions.

·         Evidence suggests continuation of IPM exhibition at SSAWG and other major conferences to reach a wider population of organic producers and low resource farmers.

·         Comments from participants who have seen the Alabama vegetable IPM exhibition: “I am excited to look at the Alabama SARE website.”; “This is my first time attending the conference. Just trying to come into this.”; “Thank you doing this (social network)! Facebook is a good way to get the word out!”

Table 1. Comparison of findings from IPM surveys conducted at the SSAWG Conferences from 2010 to 2012.

 

2012 conference

2011 conference

2010 conference

Meeting location

Little Rock, AR

Chattanooga, TN

Chattanooga, TN

Number of AL farmers reached

50

65

80

IPM surveys completed (n)

21

35

24

Survey return rate

42%

22%

31%

Audience breakup

Naturally grown = 71%

Certified organic = 14%

Community/urban gardens = 15%

Industry representative = 0

Crop consultant = 0

Naturally grown = 66%

Certified organic = 7%

Community/urban gardens = 26%

Industry representative = 0

Crop consultant = 1%

-

No. of AL counties represented

12

13

15

Total acres

263 acres

220 acres

363 acres

Area per farm

13.8 acres/farm

7 acres/farm

-

Total years in farming

99

-

-

New producers

23%

-

-

Use of ACES IPM website

30%

68%

56%

Major insect pests

Squash bugs, stink bugs

Squash bugs, stink bugs, leaffooted bugs, harlequin bugs, squash vine borers

-

Minor insect pests

Worms, squash vine borers, leaffooted bugs, cucumber beetles, flea beetles, aphids, grasshoppers

Fire ants, aphids, Japanese beetles, flea beetles, Colorado potato beetles

-

Overall use of Social Network sites

53%

53%

-

Support for Alabama Vegetable IPM on Facebook

68%

-

-

Percent of growers confident in IPM

20%

15%

-

Percent of growers not confident in IPM

80%

85%

-

Growers attending past Extension meetings

27%

(Locations: Marengo, Colbert, Marshall, Mobile, and Conecuh Counties)

-

-

Grower’s awareness about the Alabama IPM program

23%

35%

0%

Grower’s awareness about the Alabama IPM Communicator newsletter

36%

16%

0%

Growers stopping by the Alabama IPM Exhibit in current year

70%

29%

-

Growers who saw the IPM exhibit the year before

29%

27%

-

Number of producers from various states who actually interacted with Dr. Majumdar about IPM issues

64

60

54

Grower’s immediate perception regarding the usefulness of IPM information

76%

45%

-

After one year, number of producers who used one or more of the recommended IPM tactics

12%

 

 

Number of copies of handouts distribute at the IPM exhibit in 2 days

660

344

319

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