Organic vegetable production weed control strategies: Integrating precision cultivation,weed biology and OMRI herbicides

Final Report for ENE09-111

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2009: $89,211.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2013
Region: Northeast
State: New Jersey
Project Leader:
Dr. John Grande
Rutgers University
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Project Information

Summary:

This project trained agricultural educators and leadership farmers about a systems approach to addressing one of the greatest challenges faced by organic farmers: controlling weeds on small-scale organic vegetable farms. Hands-on training using multiple strategies based on weed biology and ecology was the signature approach to developing effective educational outreach. The hands-on training component was held at 2 different locations to address a wider geographic impact: Rutgers University Snyder Research and Extension Farm and University of Delaware Carvel Research and Education Center [Dr. Mark VanGessel]. A total of 65 agricultural educators and leadership farmers were trained at the New Jersey and Delaware locations. The hands-on training program was evaluated through a survey to assess the effectiveness at enhancing skills and knowledge levels of the participants. Nine categories of training including tractor and manual cultivation, weed biology, cover cropping, cultural techniques, mulching, flaming and spraying were evaluated for training impact by participants. Respondents rated the overall average training impact of the 9 categories as 1.9, with 1.0 being the greatest impact and 5.0 the least impact. Respondents to a post-training follow-up survey reported training a total of 142 farmers representing 709 acres of production and 55 agricultural professional in the year following the project’s hands-on training program. Additionally, the respondents reported $97 per acre enhancement to production through either increased yields or reduced inputs.

An additional hands-on training program was held at the Rutgers University Snyder Research Farm in 2012 in conjunction with the Northeastern Weed Science Society Student Weed Contest. Sixty-five undergraduate and graduate Weed Science students from 8 Universities participated. The students were surveyed on the impact of the hands-on training program including 9 different weed control strategies for organic farmers. The overall rating of program impact was 3.98 with 5 equaling the highest impact and 0 the least impact.

A web based training program [http://www.mworks.com/SARE/index.html] including videos, PowerPoint presentations, and descriptions and photos of the 9 organic weed control strategies was developed to provide a readily accessible educational site expanding on topics included in the hands-on training. The website includes a managed forum/blog for interested educators and farmers to exchange ideas addressing organic vegetable weed control. The website resource center features additional references addressing the components of the program. Over the first 2 months of operation the website generated 167 visitors with 1137 page views.

A second web-based training program was developed during the course of this project to expand upon a previous Northeast SARE project directed at farmer acquisition, modification and utilization of backpack sprayers for economical, precision spray application to vegetable crops. [http://snyderfarm.rutgers.edu/snyder-backpack-sprayers.html]. The web-based educational program consists of video as well as PowerPoint presentations addressing multiple aspects of selection, modifications, calibrations and operation of backpack sprayers addressing the specific needs of applying nonselective herbicides approved for organic crop production. To date there have been 3538 visitors to the site acquiring information on the selection, modification and use of backpack sprayers.

Performance Target:

Forty agricultural professional educators [Cooperative Extension, NRCS, crop consultants] will be trained with 25 attending training at Rutgers University -- Snyder Research Farm -- and 15 at University of Delaware Research and Education Center. 140 farmers trained by 25 agricultural educators will be surveyed obtaining farm-level impact [including economic] of educational program. This survey will be accomplished by providing a survey document to trainers to utilize at farmer training programs. Follow-up contact with the "engaged" agricultural trainers will occur at four month intervals for 16 months tracking their educational outreach to farmers in relation to performance targets. A follow-up meeting of 10 “engaged" educators will be held in year three reviewing performance targets and enhancing program content. If performance targets are less than anticipated additional contacts will be made with educators informing them of upcoming venues available for farmer training.

 

Introduction:

Small-Scale organic vegetable farmers have been surveyed on many occasions, and these surveys have indicated clearly that controlling weeds in organic cropping systems is one of the greatest challenges farmers face. A Michigan State University survey of 112 organic farmers indicated the most important issue common among the farmers was their efforts to successfully control weeds.

Controlling weeds in organic farming systems requires a systems approach with no single methodology providing successful weed control. This project addressed a hands-on training program for agricultural educators and farmer-leaders in an effort to multiply the training knowledge amongst larger numbers of organic vegetable farmers through outreach programs.

Since the program relied on hands-on training it was imperative that it be offered at sites capable of conducting hands-on training programs, having available appropriate equipment and farmland, as well as personnel with the expertise to develop the training systems. The program was held at Rutgers University – Snyder Research and Extension Farm and the University of Delaware -Carvel Agricultural Research Center. Both of these sites had vegetable production capabilities and offered the above noted criteria to conduct hands-on training.

As part of the development of the hands-on training program, a meeting was held with a varied group of small-scale organic farmers to determine program content that needed to be addressed. One of the key points common among the farmers was their interest in low-cost methodologies of controlling weeds in organic vegetable crops.

Taking the systems approach to organic weed control noted above, the project's hands-on trainings addressed diverse areas of expertise including mechanical cultivation (both hand-operated in tractor operated implements), mulching techniques using organic and inorganic mulches, cover cropping, weed biology basics, utilization of flaming, and organic approved herbicides and precision application techniques. Low-cost methodologies, as outlined during the farmer survey, became a key focal point of the training program. A copy of the training guide and resource handout is included as attachment below to provide further information on the topics covered addressing a systems approach to organic weed control.

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand
  • Dr. Ed Beste
  • Ed Dager
  • Mark Van Gessel

Milestones

Milestone #1 (click to expand/collapse)
Accomplishments:

Publications

Milestone 1. Core group of agricultural educators representing several organizations including Cooperative Extension, NRCS, NOFA and Departments of Agriculture participate in a preliminary planning meeting assessing scope and methodology of a hands-on training program they will be attending at a future date. Project leader, team members and key individuals query participants for program development.

The project was initiated in the second half of 2009 with a preliminary planning meeting focused on development of training plots in 2009 in preparation for the professional development training program offered in 2010. Lead coordinators from New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland met with a diverse group of participants who provided advice on practical farmer-oriented training content. Specifically, invited organic farmers discussed the economics of small-scale organic vegetable farming and the need to overview and train in the use of effective low-cost vegetable weed control tools. There was consensus at the meeting that the training focus should include two subsets of training objectives: 1] Low-cost hand-operated weed control tools and 2] Tractor mounted weed control tools primarily focused on mechanical cultivation. Training on other more capital intensive methodologies would also be included, but to a lesser extent than were originally projected.

The planned long-term weed control field plots were established in New Jersey and Delaware in 2009 and maintained in 2010 in preparation for hands-on trainings to be held in the fall of 2010. The plots included stale seedbed, continuous tillage, and mulching variations. Additional field plots were also established in 2010 in both states for use during the hands-on field training of the agricultural professionals. These new field plots addressed the following objectives:

1] Provide crops of various growth stages and planting spacing to allow participants to train and operate various tractor-mounted cultivating devices under real-world farming conditions. This portion of the project was developed to complement the SARE video project – Vegetable Farmers and Their Weed Control Machines.

2] Provide crops of various growth stages to allow participants to view demonstrations and operate an array of hand-operated weed control vegetable tools such as; wheel hoes, hand hoes , propane flamers.

3] Provide weed biology plots for program participants to integrate information developed in– SARE project ENE06-099, Ecologically based weed management: A manual and training program for farm advisors.

4] Provide field plots of various vegetables incorporating various mulching techniques approved for organic vegetable production. Hands-on mulching demonstrations and the long-term weed control effects of various mulching strategies.

5] Provide field plots to demonstrate effectiveness of various OMRI bio herbicides such as acetic acid, clove oil etc. in backpack sprayers with varying nozzle designs. Program participants were afforded the opportunity to operate backpack sprayer equipment under farmer-type field conditions. This portion of the project incorporated information from previous SARE project; ENE-96-096 Matching Small Farm Crop Sprayer Application Technology with OMRI and Traditional Agricultural Products

6] Provide a reference document to program participants including information regarding acquisition and basic economics of the concepts and equipment utilized in the training program.

Additional accomplishments in 2009 and 2010:

A] Survey of organic farmers at the 2010 Northeast Organic Farming Association – New Jersey conference supported prioritization of weed control strategies as critical to organic vegetable farming economic success.

B] An array of equipment was acquired for inclusion in the hands-on training program such as; tractor mounted cultivating equipment, hand-operated cultivating equipment, backpack propane flaming devices and backpack sprayers and mulching equipment.

C] An array of materials was acquired for inclusion in the hands-on training program such as: OMRI approved herbicides, mulching materials including straw, compost, and plastic mulching of different light reflecting characteristics.

D] A training manual was developed for program participants including information regarding equipment and supplies as well farmer oriented technical material addressing organic vegetable weed control concepts.

Milestone 2. Project leader, team members and key individuals along with the core group of participants recruit 50 agricultural educators to attend a northern or southern training program. Simultaneously training program logistics and content are being developed.

Sixty Five participants were recruited to attend the New Jersey and Delaware hands-on training programs through the efforts of the organizing committee. Participants represented a cross-section of potential outreach educators and included University Cooperative Extension Agents, State Department of Agriculture, US Department of Agriculture, organic farming organizations [NOFA-New Jersey], as well as leadership organic farmers.

Milestone 3. 25 participants attend first training program. Participants are assessed through a questionnaire survey on their baseline knowledge and educational abilities related to integrated approaches to controlling weeds in organic vegetable production systems. The participants become engaged in hands-on training. The participants are assessed through the questionnaire survey on their post program knowledge and willingness to engage farmers in educational outreach programs. 17 participants through survey results express willingness to develop farmer training programs impacting 75 farmers. 21 participants through survey results altered their views on the complexity and need for an integrated approach to organic weed control programs.

Sixty five individuals participated in Fall 2010 field training programs held at Rutgers University Snyder Farm (44 participants) and the University of Delaware Carvel Agricultural Research Center (21 participants). Program participants included University Cooperative Extension, USDA – Natural Resources Conservation Service, Northeast Organic Farming Association-New Jersey, New Jersey Department of Agriculture – Organic Certification Program, Rodale Institute. Several organic vegetable farmers attended the training session to add farmer perspective into weed management programs. Hector Perez from Jersey Farm Produce Inc. provided agricultural engineering technical assistance related to precision cultivation. Program participants were asked to fill out a survey questionnaire prior to the training program and after the training program detailing the impact of the training program on their knowledge of weed control systems in organic vegetable production.

Of the 9 training modules included in the 2010 program the most effective components included; precision cultivation with tractor mounted implements, mulching techniques, precision cultivation with hand implements, and basic weed biology. Additionally as reported the questionnaire survey indicated a strong impact from the hands-on training program with a average impact rating of 1.9 on a scale of 1 to 5 with 1 indicating the highest impact. A follow-up survey of the 44 participants of the hands-on training program at Rutgers University was conducted in 2011. Highlights from the 8 responses received included: a reported total of 142 farmers representing 709 acres of production were trained in the year following the hands-on training program. These same individuals also trained an additional 55 agricultural professionals. An example of training activities conducted by participants is a farmer workshop about hand tools for weed control and backpack sprayer calibration sponsored by an Extension educator in Mercer County, NJ. Additionally, the participants reported a $97 per acre economic enhancement to farmers’ vegetable production activities due to increased yield or reduced inputs.

Milestone 4. 25 participants attend second training program. Participants are assessed through a questionnaire survey on their baseline knowledge and educational abilities related to integrated approaches to controlling weeds in organic vegetable systems. Program content is altered based upon results of initial program. Participants are assessed through the questionnaire survey on their post program knowledge and willingness to engage farmers in educational outreach programs. Twenty-three Participants through survey results altered their views on the complexity and need for an integrated approach to organic weed control programs.

In lieu of conducting a second field-based training in New Jersey and Delaware, the project received approval to develop follow-up educational outreach about organic weed control strategies through a web-based educational program that includes a blog for exchange of ideas as well as a resource center with information about the weed management strategies discussed and demonstrated in the field training.. The web-based training programs were developed with a specific goal of enhancing the educational outreach described in the original project proposal milestones. The web-based training programs were not originally included but as a project progressed web-based educational outreach was determined to be a good method for providing training content to agricultural educators as well as organic farmers. With web-based educational outreach program, impact could be measured by conducting analytics of the website. The website became operational in 2013 and as noted over its first 2 months of operation had 167 visitors perusing through 1137 web pages that address the 9 components of the hands-on training program.

Milestone 5. A core group of 38 participants utilizing an integrated approach to educating farmers on weed control programs for organic vegetable production. A group of 77 farmers are trained and surveyed by program participants.

The survey of program participants reported a total of 142 farmers representing 709 acres of production receive training from the participants.

Milestone 6. 50 participants are engaged by project leader through follow up contacts requesting additional feedback and survey documentation. 28 participants respond through survey providing additional 75 farmers trained and surveyed. Farmers’ survey results indicate 65 farmers have developed more effective weed control strategies resulting in improved crop production and profitability.

Project follow-up yielded lower response rate than anticipated, but those responding indicated strong follow-up actions in regards to offering training to both farmers and other agricultural professionals. Follow-up responses did not provide enough detail to document farmer adoption that occurred as a result of the training participants’ efforts.

Performance Target Outcomes

Performance target outcome for service providers narrative:

Outcomes

The project included performance targets for recruiting and training 40 agricultural educators including University, State, Federal and leadership farmers interested in expanding their weed control knowledge base addressing small-scale organic vegetable farmers; and these project participants would provide training to 140 farmers.

Two training programs were held at The Rutgers University Snyder Research and Extension Farm and the University of Delaware Carvel Agricultural Research Center in 2010. A total of 65 participants from the University Agricultural Extension Services, State Departments of Agriculture, Organic Crop Production Organizations, Organic Leadership Farmers and USDA Agricultural Staff received training. The two training programs required development of demonstration plots at the University research farms and acquisition of equipment such as tractor mounted cultivating equipment, hand-operated cultivating equipment, backpack propane flaming devices and backpack sprayers and mulching equipment; and materials as OMRI approved herbicides, and multiple types of organic and non-organic mulching materials.

A follow-up survey in 2011 of the 44 participants of the hands-on training program conducted at Rutgers University, with 8 responders, found that a total of 142 farmers representing 709 acres of production were trained in the year following the hands-on training program. These same individuals also trained an additional 55 agricultural professionals. Additionally the participants reported an average of $97 per acre economic enhancement to the farmers due to either increased yield or reduced inputs.

The survey also indicated that of the 9 training modules included in the 2010 program, the most effective components were: precision cultivation with tractor mounted implements, mulching techniques, precision cultivation with hand implements, and basic weed biology. The complete results from the survey responses are reported below.

Overall the survey indicated the hands-on training component provided effective training for agricultural professionals. Survey questions and response results:

1] Please estimate the number of farmers you have interacted with sharing information gained in the hands-on training program. Total: 142

2] Please estimate the number of agricultural professionals you have interacted with sharing information gained in the hands-on training program. Total: 55

3] Please rate the educational impact each of the areas covered in the training program: Rankings: 1 = High Impact and 5 = the Minimal Impact

Number reported is the Average of respondents answers;

a- Utilization of Stale Seedbed Techniques to Reduce Weed Competition: 2.3

b- Precision Cultivation with Tractor Mounted Implements: 1.7

c- Precision Cultivation with Hand-Operated Implements Such As Wheel Hoes and Hand Hoes: 1.8

d- Basic Weed Biology Including Weed Seed Dormancy and Emergence and Perennial Weed Population Dynamics: 1.8

e- Influence of Cover Cropping Practices on Weed Control: 1.8

f- Influence of Continuous Tillage on Reducing Weed Seed Populations: 2.0

g- Effectiveness and Application Techniques [Backpack Sprayers] of OMRI/NOP Approved Herbicides: 1.8

h- Mulching Techniques - Plastic, Straw and Other Materials to Suppress Weed Competition: 1.7

i- Utilization of Flaming for Weed Control: 2.2

4] Please estimate the average dollar value per acre realized by farmers you interacted with utilizing the training program content. Total: $97.5

5] Please estimate the total acres represented by the farmers you have interacted with utilizing the training. Total: 709

Additional Outcomes:

A new project component was added in 2012; this included a hands-on training program for 65 undergraduate and graduate weed science students from 8 universities conducted in cooperation with the Northeastern Weed Science Society Student Weed Contest. The students were surveyed after the hands-on training program on the 9 different weed control strategies noted above for organic vegetable farmers. A rating scale of 0 to 5 was utilized for the survey document with 5 equaling high educational impact and 0 equaling minimal educational impact. 19 students responded to the survey questionnaire with an average educational impact rating of 3.98 indicating hands-on training provided successful educational impact.

In 2012 the project was approved to change the outreach educational component /impact to a web-based methodology in an effort to reach more educators [http://www.mworks.com/SARE/index.html]. The website includes on- farm equipment operational videos providing a readily accessible educational component expanding on topics included in the hands-on training. The website also has a managed forum/blog for interested educators and farmers to exchange ideas addressing organic vegetable weed control. The website also includes a “resource center” featuring additional references addressing the components of the program. Over the first 2 months of operation the website generated 167 visitors with 1137 page views.

A second web-based training program was developed during the course of this project to expand upon a previous Northeast SARE project directed at farmer acquisition, modification and utilization of backpack sprayers as an economical method for precision spray application of organic and non-organic products to vegetable crops. This topic was also one of the training components in the current project. . The web-based educational program [http://snyderfarm.rutgers.edu/snyder-backpack-sprayers.html] consists of video and PowerPoint presentations about aspects of selection, modification, calibration and operation of backpack sprayers to apply nonselective herbicides approved for organic crop production. To date there have been 3538 visitors with 12,000+ page views to the site acquiring information on the selection, modification and use of backpack sprayers. In addition, there were 46 downloaded Speaker PowerPoint presentations including speaker notes likely utilized by agricultural educators to expand the outreach of the program. There is no data on the number of farmers reached with the PowerPoint presentation package since downloads are anonymous. There were 383 downloaded handouts related to backpack sprayer calibration and modification to improve the accuracy of the sprayer. It is unknown as to the percentage of these downloads for specific on farm use or for agricultural educators again due to anonymity of downloads.

Additional Project Outcomes

Project outcomes:

Milestone 1. Core group of agricultural educators representing several organizations including Cooperative Extension, NRCS, NOFA and Departments of Agriculture participate in a preliminary planning meeting assessing scope and methodology of a hands-on training program they will be attending at a future date. Project leader, team members and key individuals query participants for program development.

The project was initiated in the second half of 2009 with a preliminary planning meeting focused on development of training plots in 2009 in preparation for the professional development training program offered in 2010. Lead coordinators from New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland met with a diverse group of participants who provided advice on practical farmer-oriented training content. Specifically, invited organic farmers discussed the economics of small-scale organic vegetable farming and the need to overview and train in the use of effective low-cost vegetable weed control tools. There was consensus at the meeting that the training focus should include two subsets of training objectives: 1] Low-cost hand-operated weed control tools and 2] Tractor mounted weed control tools primarily focused on mechanical cultivation. Training on other more capital intensive methodologies would also be included, but to a lesser extent than were originally projected.

The planned long-term weed control field plots were established in New Jersey and Delaware in 2009 and maintained in 2010 in preparation for hands-on trainings to be held in the fall of 2010. The plots included stale seedbed, continuous tillage, and mulching variations. Additional field plots were also established in 2010 in both states for use during the hands-on field training of the agricultural professionals. These new field plots addressed the following objectives:

1] Provide crops of various growth stages and planting spacing to allow participants to train and operate various tractor-mounted cultivating devices under real-world farming conditions. This portion of the project was developed to complement the SARE video project – Vegetable Farmers and Their Weed Control Machines.

2] Provide crops of various growth stages to allow participants to view demonstrations and operate an array of hand-operated weed control vegetable tools such as; wheel hoes, hand hoes , propane flamers.

3] Provide weed biology plots for program participants to integrate information developed in– SARE project ENE06-099, Ecologically based weed management: A manual and training program for farm advisors.

4] Provide field plots of various vegetables incorporating various mulching techniques approved for organic vegetable production. Hands-on mulching demonstrations and the long-term weed control effects of various mulching strategies.

5] Provide field plots to demonstrate effectiveness of various OMRI bio herbicides such as acetic acid, clove oil etc. in backpack sprayers with varying nozzle designs. Program participants were afforded the opportunity to operate backpack sprayer equipment under farmer-type field conditions. This portion of the project incorporated information from previous SARE project; ENE-96-096 Matching Small Farm Crop Sprayer Application Technology with OMRI and Traditional Agricultural Products

6] Provide a reference document to program participants including information regarding acquisition and basic economics of the concepts and equipment utilized in the training program.

Additional accomplishments in 2009 and 2010:

A] Survey of organic farmers at the 2010 Northeast Organic Farming Association – New Jersey conference supported prioritization of weed control strategies as critical to organic vegetable farming economic success.

B] An array of equipment was acquired for inclusion in the hands-on training program such as; tractor mounted cultivating equipment, hand-operated cultivating equipment, backpack propane flaming devices and backpack sprayers and mulching equipment.

C] An array of materials was acquired for inclusion in the hands-on training program such as: OMRI approved herbicides, mulching materials including straw, compost, and plastic mulching of different light reflecting characteristics.

D] A training manual was developed for program participants including information regarding equipment and supplies as well farmer oriented technical material addressing organic vegetable weed control concepts.

Milestone 2. Project leader, team members and key individuals along with the core group of participants recruit 50 agricultural educators to attend a northern or southern training program. Simultaneously training program logistics and content are being developed.

Sixty Five participants were recruited to attend the New Jersey and Delaware hands-on training programs through the efforts of the organizing committee. Participants represented a cross-section of potential outreach educators and included University Cooperative Extension Agents, State Department of Agriculture, US Department of Agriculture, organic farming organizations [NOFA-New Jersey], as well as leadership organic farmers.

Milestone 3. 25 participants attend first training program. Participants are assessed through a questionnaire survey on their baseline knowledge and educational abilities related to integrated approaches to controlling weeds in organic vegetable production systems. The participants become engaged in hands-on training. The participants are assessed through the questionnaire survey on their post program knowledge and willingness to engage farmers in educational outreach programs. 17 participants through survey results express willingness to develop farmer training programs impacting 75 farmers. 21 participants through survey results altered their views on the complexity and need for an integrated approach to organic weed control programs.

Sixty five individuals participated in Fall 2010 field training programs held at Rutgers University Snyder Farm (44 participants) and the University of Delaware Carvel Agricultural Research Center (21 participants). Program participants included University Cooperative Extension, USDA – Natural Resources Conservation Service, Northeast Organic Farming Association-New Jersey, New Jersey Department of Agriculture – Organic Certification Program, Rodale Institute. Several organic vegetable farmers attended the training session to add farmer perspective into weed management programs. Hector Perez from Jersey Farm Produce Inc. provided agricultural engineering technical assistance related to precision cultivation. Program participants were asked to fill out a survey questionnaire prior to the training program and after the training program detailing the impact of the training program on their knowledge of weed control systems in organic vegetable production.

Of the 9 training modules included in the 2010 program the most effective components included; precision cultivation with tractor mounted implements, mulching techniques, precision cultivation with hand implements, and basic weed biology. Additionally as reported the questionnaire survey indicated a strong impact from the hands-on training program with a average impact rating of 1.9 on a scale of 1 to 5 with 1 indicating the highest impact. A follow-up survey of the 44 participants of the hands-on training program at Rutgers University was conducted in 2011. Highlights from the 8 responses received included: a reported total of 142 farmers representing 709 acres of production were trained in the year following the hands-on training program. These same individuals also trained an additional 55 agricultural professionals. An example of training activities conducted by participants is a farmer workshop about hand tools for weed control and backpack sprayer calibration sponsored by an Extension educator in Mercer County, NJ. Additionally, the participants reported a $97 per acre economic enhancement to farmers’ vegetable production activities due to increased yield or reduced inputs.

Milestone 4. 25 participants attend second training program. Participants are assessed through a questionnaire survey on their baseline knowledge and educational abilities related to integrated approaches to controlling weeds in organic vegetable systems. Program content is altered based upon results of initial program. Participants are assessed through the questionnaire survey on their post program knowledge and willingness to engage farmers in educational outreach programs. Twenty-three Participants through survey results altered their views on the complexity and need for an integrated approach to organic weed control programs.

In lieu of conducting a second field-based training in New Jersey and Delaware, the project received approval to develop follow-up educational outreach about organic weed control strategies through a web-based educational program that includes a blog for exchange of ideas as well as a resource center with information about the weed management strategies discussed and demonstrated in the field training.. The web-based training programs were developed with a specific goal of enhancing the educational outreach described in the original project proposal milestones. The web-based training programs were not originally included but as a project progressed web-based educational outreach was determined to be a good method for providing training content to agricultural educators as well as organic farmers. With web-based educational outreach program, impact could be measured by conducting analytics of the website. The website became operational in 2013 and as noted over its first 2 months of operation had 167 visitors perusing through 1137 web pages that address the 9 components of the hands-on training program.

Milestone 5. A core group of 38 participants utilizing an integrated approach to educating farmers on weed control programs for organic vegetable production. A group of 77 farmers are trained and surveyed by program participants.

The survey of program participants reported a total of 142 farmers representing 709 acres of production receive training from the participants.

Milestone 6. 50 participants are engaged by project leader through follow up contacts requesting additional feedback and survey documentation. 28 participants respond through survey providing additional 75 farmers trained and surveyed. Farmers’ survey results indicate 65 farmers have developed more effective weed control strategies resulting in improved crop production and profitability.

Project follow-up yielded lower response rate than anticipated, but those responding indicated strong follow-up actions in regards to offering training to both farmers and other agricultural professionals. Follow-up responses did not provide enough detail to document farmer adoption that occurred as a result of the training participants’ efforts.

Assessment of Project Approach and Areas of Further Study:

Future Recommendations

Hands-on training has proven to be a very effective tool to train agricultural educators and leadership farmers. It is imperative to utilize farming situations to provide an understanding of the need for a systems approach to controlling weeds in organic vegetable production. Hands-on training requires an extraordinary amount of resources and time to effectively develop the training materials.

Recommendations would include:
1 – utilize the concept of this project to further develop vegetable cropping weed systems over a multiyear timeframe for farmers and educators to observe with on farm demonstrations.
2-memorialize the on farm demonstrations with professional video documentation over the entire length of the project from initial weed management systems prior to planting through harvesting and continued weed management after harvest.
3 – integrating multiple approaches to successful organic weed control is only accomplished through an extraordinary amount of trial and error in reliance upon successful experience farmers input coupled with sound academic/commercial resources. The amount of resources required predicates the importance of recruiting a large and committed group to be educated to defray the cost of the project.
4 – continue to expand on web-based educational outreach initiated with this project.

Information Products

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.