The Conservation Biological Control Short Course

Final report for ENE15-137

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2015: $97,097.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2018
Region: Northeast
State: Oregon
Project Leader:
Eric Mader
The Xerces Society
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Project Information

Summary:

Native insects that prey upon crop pests are an overlooked resource. Although vast numbers of such beneficial insects are at work on farms across the world, they are eclipsed in farmer education by a smaller diversity of pest species. Yet, as a large body of research now demonstrates, farmers as diverse as apple growers, Christmas tree farmers, and soybean producers across the country are already benefiting from natural pest control.

The Conservation Biological Control Short Course synthesized that body of research and offered realistic solutions for enhancing beneficial insect populations on farms. This project, the outgrowth of a six-year research initiative conducted by the Xerces Society and university research partners, presented conservation biological control as an easy-to-adopt framework for multiple crop systems. Specific course topics included beneficial insect biology, designing habitat for beneficial insects, pesticide risk mitigation, securing financial support through USDA programs, and real-world case studies.

During the project, we collaborated with IPM specialists, university researchers, state and county extension personnel, NRCS conservation planners, Soil and Water Conservation District technicians, crop consultants, farmer organizations, and sustainable agriculture organizations to offer a short course in each state of the Northeast SARE region. We partnered with local farmers, research stations, and agricultural organizations to get course participants out on farms whenever possible to demonstrate the concepts we taught. Qualitative and quantitative post-course feedback received from participants was incorporated on an ongoing basis.

We conducted 16 Conservation Biological Control Short Course in the Northeast SARE region that were attended by a total of 452 participants, including 147 agricultural support staff and 72 farmers. With increased knowledge of conservation biological control practices, course participants are improving the skills and capacity of farmers, and assisting them in implementing conservation biological control management practices and on-farm habitat. Of the attendees who completed our day-of-course evaluations, 78% (211 of 270) reported increased knowledge of farm practices to promote beneficial insects, and 81% of participants (218 of 270) reported increased knowledge in the concept of conservation biocontrol, as compared with other pest control approaches.

After attending a short course, 100% of agricultural support staff (20 of 20) who completed a follow up survey reported taking targeted action(s) to educate/advise farmers, including assisting farmers, clients, or land managers in implementing beneficial insect conservation practices; advising on incorporating beneficial insect conservation measures into how farms or land is managed; incorporating beneficial insect conservation in education or outreach programs; and encouraging or assisting with enrollment in NRCS conservation programs for beneficial insects.

Agricultural support staff reported that they advised 2,029 farms, totaling 2,418 acres, on conservation biocontrol practices. On these farms, they helped change farm management practices to protect beneficial insects on 2,032 acres and advised in the creation of 109 acres of habitat for beneficial insects, such as insectary strips and hedgerows. In addition, they reported that 21 of the farms they worked with enrolled in NRCS conservation programs for beneficial insects.

Five farmers managing 293 acres also responded to the follow-up survey and reported using information learned to provide 36.5 additional acres of habitat resources for beneficial insects, incorporate beneficial insect conservation measures into their pest management decisions for 62 acres of cropland, and one farmer enrolled in NRCS programs for beneficial insects.

Performance Target:

Through this 3-year project, 120 educators and farm agency professionals in 12 Northeastern states who participate in the Conservation Biological Control Short Course will teach or advise 480 farmers managing a total of 2,400 acres about recommended conservation biological control strategies including habitat creation or enhancement and pesticide risk mitigation.

Introduction:

Wild predator and parasitoid insects play a central role in terrestrial ecosystems and in the past were the primary means of pest control on farms. With the advent of chemical insecticides, however, the contribution of beneficial insects has largely been overlooked. Insecticides alone have not solved the problem of crop pests. Despite ongoing insecticide use, both the absolute value and the overall proportion of crop losses due to pests in the U.S. have increased.

It is widely recognized that pest control provided by beneficial insects remains significant. In one of the first economic studies of its kind, scientists at Cornell University found that the value of native beneficial insects for crop pest control in the U.S. is estimated to be at least $4.5 billion annually.

While native beneficial insects contribute enormously to agriculture, insecticide use and loss of habitat has led to declining beneficial insect numbers on farms. To investigate the possibility of reversing this trend and achieving economically meaningful levels of pest control, the Xerces Society partnered with UC Berkeley on a six-year study of beneficial insect habitat management practices. Investigators examined changes in pest and beneficial insect populations on farms where specific conservation practices were adopted versus farms that did not provide habitat and found that the restoration of native habitat supported significantly more beneficial insects and harbored fewer pests than weedy, highly disturbed field edges.

To verify that these practices were broadly applicable, we compared findings with leading conservation biocontrol and pest management researchers at diverse institutions including Dr. John Tooker and Dr. David Biddinger at Pennsylvania State University, Dr. Rufus Isaacs at Michigan State University, Dr. Glynn Tillman at USDA-ARS in Georgia, and others. Along with parallel findings, these and other researchers also provided guidance on other farm issues that impact beneficial insect populations such as best management practices for pesticides.

The concept of providing habitat for native insects that attack pests is referred to as conservation biological control. Conservation biological control increases numbers of wild beneficial insects by providing the habitat they need to thrive. Because farms are often subject to farm practices like pesticide use, tillage, and mowing of field borders that affect habitat for beneficial insects, they don’t have enough alternative food sources and shelter to support large numbers of beneficial insects. For example, many insect predators and parasitoids feed on wildflower pollen and nectar when prey are scarce or simply as an alternative food source.

To address this need for habitat, researchers working across regions and crop systems have independently identified simple engineered habitats and management practices that consistently enhance natural pest control. These strategies include the establishment of native plant field borders, flowering hedgerows, in-field insectary strips, and beetle banks; cover cropping; conservation tillage; and pesticide risk mitigation.

Conservation biological control offers multiple, high value benefits that align with other sustainable agriculture priorities, such as reducing the need for insecticides, contributing to soil and water protection, and supporting other wildlife, such as pollinators and songbirds. Although these benefits are widely recognized, conservation biological control has historically been limited by a lack of practical information on implementation. This project addressed that barrier by providing training to agricultural service providers in all Northeast states.

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand
  • Kelly Gill
  • Thelma Heidel-Baker
  • Jennifer Hopwood

Educational Approach

Educational approach:

This short course model built upon a previous, highly successful SARE PDP project conducted by the Xerces Society for Northeast SARE (the “Pollinator Conservation Short Course”). Based upon numerous participant requests from that earlier project, we developed this complementary program to train agricultural professionals on how to conserve predator and parasitoid insects for natural pest control.

This full-day training was made up of modules on:

  1. Introduction to ecological pest control
  2. Beneficial insect biology and identification
  3. Farm practices and pesticide risk mitigation
  4. Assessing baseline farm conditions for beneficial insects
  5. Designing and restoring habitat enhancements
  6. Accessing technical and financial resources through USDA conservation programs

Our teaching format consisted of a multimedia lecture and was supported by a participant toolkit that includes farm and habitat management guidelines, insect identification guides, and relevant Extension, NRCS, and Xerces Society publications.The toolkit contained the following publications:

Course publications and lecture modules were developed in consultation with scientific advisors at land grant universities across the U.S. and are based upon the latest peer-reviewed research. The curriculum was reviewed for practicality and clarity by farm audiences (in a shortened form) at various conferences and feedback was incorporated into the course content.

This standard curriculum was supplemented by presentations from experts based in each state. These included academic researchers, NRCS technical staff, Extension educators, IPM specialists, and others. Since many of these speakers regularly work in the field and provide guidance to landowners on conducting conservation biological control related research, they were able to share practical information with course participants that helped them envision how conservation practices that support beneficial insects would work on their farms.

Wherever possible, courses included an outdoor field component to conduct a beneficial insect habitat assessment using the Habitat Assessment Guide (HAG) tool. The HAG is a farmscape-level scoring tool that helps participants identify priority habitat features for beneficial insects, as well as the farm practices that impact their populations. Using the HAG, participants developed first-hand experience identifying gaps in habitat resources (e.g. lack of egg-laying sites) and recognizing priorities for conservation planning (e.g. adoption of conservation tillage). We found that this exercise gave course participants greater confidence in their ability to quickly evaluate baseline farm conditions for beneficial insects even when their knowledge of the insects themselves was limited.

In 2017, we also developed a series of three scouting guides to help short course participants gain hands-on skills in scouting for beneficial insects on the farm (see Information Products). The guides Beneficial Insects for Natural Pest Control: Flower Scouting, Foliage Scouting and Soil Scouting were designed to help agricultural service providers and farmers assess the presence of predatory organisms where they hunt or rest—in soils, on vegetation, or on flowers. During the field portion of the short courses, participants had an opportunity to practice the recommended scouting methods and gain valuable information on scouting for beneficial insects while an expert was available.

With this training model, participant knowledge was developed from basic concepts (e.g. learning common groups of beneficial insects) to an advanced understanding of how to incorporate beneficial insects into whole farm planning (e.g. how to design insectary plantings, create beetle banks, and reduce pesticide impacts on beneficials).

Milestones

Milestone #1 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

Audiences in first four states receives course announcements; September 2015.

Audiences in next four states receive course announcements; September 2016.

Audiences in final four states receives course announcements, September 2017

Proposed Completion Date:
December 15, 2018
Status:
Completed
Date Completed:
December 15, 2018
Accomplishments:

Course announcements for 16 short courses in 12 states were distributed. In 2015, we sent out the announcement for our first conservation biological control short course in the region, in Rhode Island.

In 2016, we sent out course announcements for a second Rhode Island short course, for two courses in Massachusetts, and for courses in New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, and Vermont.

In 2017, we sent out course announcements for courses in Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, New Jersey, and West Virginia.

In 2018, we sent out course announcements for courses in New Jersey, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts.

 

Milestone #2 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

120 providers attend one of four Year 1 short courses; 108 indicate intention to change, November 2015–January 2016.

120 providers attend one of four Year 2 short courses; 108 indicate intention to change, November 2016–January 2017.

120 providers attend one of four Year 3 short courses; 108 indicate intention to change, November 2017–January 2018

Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
360
Actual number of farmer beneficiaries who participated:
72
Actual number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who participated:
147
Proposed Completion Date:
December 15, 2018
Status:
Completed
Date Completed:
December 15, 2018
Accomplishments:

We conducted 16 short courses in the Northeast SARE region that were attended by a total of 452 participants, including 147 agricultural support staff and 72 farmers. The primary audiences at all of these events were staff from the USDA NRCS, Soil and Water Conservation Districts, Extension, and sustainable agricultural organizations, as well as a number of individual farmers. Other course participants included homeowners, botanists, gardeners, naturalists, beekeepers, and non-governmental conservation organization staff. While agricultural support staff were in attendance at all courses, participation by this segment of our audience varied greatly between states and was low during 2016 in particular. In 2017, we refocused our efforts to recruit more agricultural support staff to these training courses. In 2017 and 2018, 35% (79 of 217) of course participants were agricultural support staff.

In 2015, we held our first Conservation Biological Control Short Course in Kingston, Rhode Island. In 2016, we held a second course in Rhode Island as well as courses in Dighton, Massachusetts; Craftsbury Common, Vermont; Framingham, Massachusetts; Landisville, Pennsylvania; Keene, New Hampshire; and Olivebridge, New York. In 2017, we held courses in Bloomfield, Connecticut; Annapolis, Maryland; Mt. Clare, West Virginia; Unity, Maine; and Dover, Delaware. Finally in 2018, we held a courses in Bordentown, New Jersey and North Easton, Massachusetts, and we held a second course in Keene, New Hampshire. Brief synopses of all short courses can be found here: Summary of Xerces Conservation Biological Control Short Courses in Northeast.

Xerces Society Farm Bill Conservation Planner Eric Venturini, guest speaker at the 2018 New Hampshire short course, presented on beneficial insect conservation in hoop houses. Photo by Thelma Heidel-Baker, the Xerces Society

Day-of-Course Evaluation Results

In assessing the day-of-course evaluations, 60% (270 out of 452) of short course participants from 15 short courses completed the day-of-course evaluations and had their data included in this assessment. For one course held in 2016, which had 50 participants, evaluation forms were not completed by any attendees; therefore, this course is excluded from this assessment.

Of the agricultural support staff who responded to the day-of-course evaluation, 72% (78 of 108) said that the Conservation Biological Control Short Course changed how they would advise farmers about farm management practices to support beneficial insects. Of this same group, 58% (63 of 108) said they would incorporate beneficial insect habitat enhancement into existing trainings on federal conservation programs. In total, these agricultural support staff estimated that they interact with 5,772 farmers annually.

While the short course specifically targets agricultural support staff, a number of farmers attended each event. Among these farmers, 87% (58 of 67) indicated that attending the short course changed how they would support beneficial insects on their farms. In addition, 75% (50 of 67) of responding farmers also said they would take steps to provide additional habitat resources on their farms for beneficial insects, and 55% (37 of 67) reported that they intended to adjust their management practices where possible for beneficial insects. Collectively, these farmers reported that they manage approximately 3,363 acres of land.

 

Milestone #3 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

120 providers receive follow-up emails 6 months post Year 1 workshops reminding them that we are here to help them as they apply course content in their work and that we will be checking in more formally one year after the short course, May 2016—July 2016.

Milestone 8. 120 providers receive follow-up emails 6 months post Year 2 workshops reminding them that we are here to help them as they apply course content in their work and that we will be checking in more formally one year after the short course. (May 2017 – July 2017)

13. 120 providers receive follow-up emails 6 months post Year 3 workshops reminding them that we are here to help them as they apply course content in their work and that we will be checking in more formally one year after the short course. (May 2018 – July 2018)

Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
360
Proposed Completion Date:
March 15, 2019
Status:
Completed
Date Completed:
May 5, 2019
Accomplishments:

We provided follow-up emails to all course participants after completion of each training course. These emails provided additional resources, provided answers to any unanswered questions during the course, and provided instructor(s) contact information as a reminder that we are available for help as they implement the course content. Emails were sent to 403 course participants.

Milestone #4 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

42 providers complete Year 1 follow-up survey, November 2016–February 2017.

42 providers complete Year 2 follow-up survey, November 2017–February 2018

42 providers complete Year 3 follow-up survey, November 2018–February 2018

Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
126
Actual number of farmer beneficiaries who participated:
5
Actual number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who participated:
20
Proposed Completion Date:
March 31, 2019
Status:
Completed
Date Completed:
May 5, 2019
Accomplishments:

Follow-up surveys were distributed to 428 course participants from the 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018 conservation biocontrol short courses. The first survey was distributed in December 2016 to the 32 attendees of the 2015 Rhode Island short course and received two responses. In October 2017, we distributed the survey to the 190 people who attended the seven 2016 short courses and received an additional 21 responses. In August 2018, we distributed the survey to 181 participants from 6 courses (all 2017 courses and the New Jersey course in early 2018), and we received an additional 24 responses. In June 2019, we distributed a final survey to 21 Conservation Biological Control Short Course attendees from the New Hampshire course held in late 2018, and received 4 responses. We have received 51 responses in total for all surveys conducted. Results are presented below.

 

Milestone #5 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

40 providers (from year 1 workshops) incorporate content into work with 160 farmers managing at least 800 acres, November 2015–October 2016.

40 providers (from year 2 workshops) incorporate content into work with 160 farmers managing at least 800 acres, November 2016–October 2017.

40 providers (from year 3 workshops) incorporate content into work with 160 farmers managing at least 800 acres, November 2017–October 2018

Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
120
Actual number of farmer beneficiaries who participated:
2029
Actual number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who participated:
20
Proposed Completion Date:
March 31, 2019
Status:
Completed
Date Completed:
May 5, 2019
Accomplishments:

Starting in late 2016, we began conducting one-year post-course follow-up surveys to gauge how past participants were using the information gained from the short courses. In 2017 we adjusted our follow-up survey window to 3-6 months post-course to try and increase the survey response rate.

We distributed surveys to 428 people who attended one of the 16 Northeast SARE Conservation Biocontrol Short Courses held in 2015, 2016, 2017, or 2018.

The survey respondents have gone on to use the course information in a variety of ways. Of the 51 respondents, 20 agricultural support staff completed the survey. They reported using the short course information in the following ways: assisted farmers, clients, or land managers in implementing beneficial insect conservation practices (11 of 20, 55%); advised on incorporating beneficial insect conservation measures into how farms or land is managed (13 of 20, 65%); included beneficial insect conservation in education or outreach programs (8 of 20, 40%); and encouraged or assisted with enrollment in NRCS conservation programs for beneficial insects (9 of 20, 45%).

The five farmers who responded to the survey indicated that they had used short course information in the following ways: provided additional habitat resources for beneficial insects, such as wildflower plants, flowering cover crops, etc. (3 of 5, 60%); incorporated beneficial insect conservation measures into how their farm or land is managed (2 of 5, 40%); considered pesticide impacts on beneficial insects in pest management decisions (2 of 5, 40%); and enrolled in Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) programs for beneficial insects (1 of 5, 20%).

The survey respondents also reported on the direct actions that they have taken as a result of course attendance. Agricultural support staff reported that 21 of the farms they work with enrolled in NRCS conservation programs for beneficial insects. They also reported that they advised 2,029 farms, totaling 2,418 acres, on conservation biocontrol practices (Note: not all survey respondents reported on the number of farms and/or farm acres). Within these farms, they advised in the creation of 109 acres of habitat (insectary strips, hedgerows, etc.) for beneficial insects, and helped change farm pesticide management practices to protect beneficial insects on 2,032 acres. The farmers and landowners who responded to the follow-up survey reported to have created 36.5 acres of beneficial insect habitat, and changed their pest management practices to conserve beneficial insects on 62 acres of cropland. They also altered their farming practices (reduced tillage, flowering cover crops) on 37.5 acres to support beneficial insects. These respondents grow a variety of crops including cut flowers, wildflowers, herbs, hay, pasture, fruit, perennial plants, and diverse vegetables.

In addition to agricultural service providers and farmers, our survey included responses from 26 other attendees who did not identify themselves as either agricultural service providers or farmers/landowners. These participants included Master Gardeners, naturalists, researchers, educators, and beekeepers. While these individuals may not have been our target audience, they too incorporated and implemented the knowledge gained from the course in multiple ways. For example, these respondents reported to have created 23.75 acres of beneficial insect habitat and changed their pest management practices to conserve beneficial insects on 136.59 acres of land. They also altered their farming practices (reduced tillage, flowering cover crops) on 142.59 acres to support beneficial insects.

 

 

Milestone Activities and Participation Summary

Educational activities and events conducted by the project team:

4 Curricula, factsheets or educational tools
16 Workshop field days

Beneficiaries who participated in the project’s educational activities and events:

2 Extension
117 NRCS
19 Researchers
28 Ag service providers (other or unspecified)
72 Farmers/ranchers
214 Others
147 Number of agricultural educator or service providers reached through education and outreach activities

Learning Outcomes

103 Agricultural service providers reported changes in knowledge, skills and/or attitudes as a result of their participation.
64 Farmers reported changes in knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness as a result of their participation
77 Ag service providers intend to use knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness learned through this project in their educational activities and services for farmers
Key areas in which the service providers (and farmers if indicated above) reported a change in knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness::

On the day of the course, we provided a course evaluation to participants. Using this form, we gathered information to measure the participants’ knowledge of course topics, track participants’ backgrounds and skills, and document their future intentions. To measure learning outcomes, we asked attendees to rate their skill or knowledge in specific topic areas before and after the workshop, using a seven point scale.

Of the 60% of attendees (270 out of 452) who completed the day-of-course evaluations, 78% (211 of 270) reported increased knowledge of farm practices to promote beneficial insects, and 81% of participants (218 of 270) reported increased knowledge in the concept of conservation biocontrol, as compared with other pest control approaches.

Of the 108 people completing the day-of-course evaluation who identified themselves as agricultural service providers, 95% (103 of 108) reported increased skill and knowledge after the short course in one or more topic areas. 71% (77 of 108) of these service providers indicated that they intended to use the course information to advise farmers about farm management practices that support beneficial insects.

Among farmers responding to the day-of-course evaluation, 96% (64 of 67) reported increased skill and knowledge after the short course in one or more topic areas. Also, 87% (58 of 67) of these farmers indicated that attending the workshop changed what they intended to do to support beneficial insects on their land.

Performance Target Outcomes

Performance Target Outcomes - Service Providers

Target #1

Target: number of service providers who will take action to educate/advise farmers:
120
Target: actions the service providers will take:

Through this 3-year project, 120 educators and farm agency professionals in 12 Northeastern states who participate in the Conservation Biological Control Short Course will teach or advise 480 farmers managing a total of 2,400 acres about recommended conservation biological control strategies including habitat creation or enhancement and pesticide risk mitigation.

Target: number of farmers the service providers will educate/advise:
480
Target: amount of production these farmers manage:

2,400 acres

Verified: number of service providers who reported taking actions to educate/advice farmers:
20
Verified: number of farmers the service providers reported educating/advising through their actions:
2029
Verified: amount of production these farmers manage:

2418

Activities for farmers conducted by service providers:
  • 10 In our follow-up survey, we asked course participants about the different ways they have put into practice the information gained from attending the short courses. Of the survey respondents, 8 of 20 (40%) agricultural service providers said they had incorporated information on beneficial insect conservation into their education or outreach programs, and 2 of 20 (10%) agricultural service providers had used the course information in written publications (technical guides, newsletters, etc.) We did not collect data on the number of publications written or number of education programs delivered.
20 Total number of agricultural service provider participants who used knowledge and skills learned through this project (or incorporated project materials) in their educational activities, services, information products and/or tools for farmers
2029 Farmers reached through participant's programs
Performance target outcome for service providers narrative:

The Xerces Society used two assessment tools for the Conservation Biological Control Short Course.

On the day of the short course, we provided a course evaluation questionnaire to all participants. With this form, we gathered information to measure the participants’ knowledge of course topics, to track participants’ backgrounds and skills, and to document their future intentions. After each course, we contacted participants and requested their participation in a follow-up survey. (Note: Initially, we sent out this survey to participants one year after the course; in 2018, we began sending out the survey 3 to 6 months after the short courses.) The goal of this survey was to find out whether participants had successfully applied what they learned during the Conservation Biological Control Short Course.

We sent our follow-up survey to 428 course attendees and received 51 responses (12% response rate). Of the 51 respondents, 20 agricultural support staff completed the survey and 100% (20 of 20) reported taking targeted action(s) to educate/advise farmers. The actions they reported included assisting farmers, clients, or land managers in implementing beneficial insect conservation practices (11 of 20, 55%); advising on incorporating beneficial insect conservation measures into how farms or land is managed (13 of 20, 65%); including beneficial insect conservation in education or outreach programs (8 of 20, 40%); and encouraging or assisting with enrollment in NRCS conservation programs for beneficial insects (9 of 20, 45%).

Agricultural support staff reported that they advised 2,029 farms, totaling 2,418 acres, on conservation biocontrol practices (note: not all survey respondents reported on the number of farms and/or farm acres). On these farms, they advised in the creation of 109 acres of habitat (insectary strips, hedgerows, etc.) for beneficial insects, and helped change farm management practices to protect beneficial insects on 2,032 acres. Agricultural support staff also reported that 21 of the farms they worked with enrolled in NRCS conservation programs for beneficial insects.

One significant barrier we faced was the low response rate to our follow-up survey. This resulted in very limited data on the verified actions attendees took following the short course. To try and increase our response rate, in 2018 we adjusted the timing of our survey to be sent out 3-6 months after each course, rather than a year afterwards. Overall, this change did not result in an increased response rate as we had anticipated, despite sending out multiple reminders to participants about completing the online survey. Even though 100% of agricultural support staff who completed the follow-up survey reported taking actions to educate and advise farmers on beneficial insect conservation following the short course, the total number of agricultural support staff who took actions (20) was far below our target outcome (120).

Interestingly, even with the low response rate, we exceeded our target outcome for the number of farmers these agricultural support staff reached through their educational activities and services (2,029 reached versus target of 480). We also met our target value for the total size of the farms managed by farmers receiving guidance from the agricultural support staff (2,418 acres versus our 2,400-acre target). This suggests that the impacts resulting from each agricultural support staff who participated in a conservation biological control short course could be quite significant.

Performance Target Outcomes - Farmers

Target #1

Verified: number of farmers who made a change/adopted a practice:

5
Verified: size/scale of farms these farmers manage:

293 acres. The number of farmers and number of acres reflects the verified results of the farmers we reached directly through the short courses.
Performance target outcome for farmers narrative:

As part of our post-course follow-up surveys to gauge how past participants are using the information gained from the short course, we surveyed 428 people who attended one of 16 Northeast SARE Conservation Biocontrol Short Courses held in 2015, 2016, 2017, and early 2018. Of those 428 people, 51 responded, and 5 of them self-identified as farmers.

100% of the farmers (5 of 5) responding to the follow-up survey indicated that they found the information gained from the course to be very useful to their farms and the management practices they use, and reported that they had used short course information in the following ways: provided additional habitat resources for beneficial insects, such as wildflower plants, flowering cover crops, etc. (3 of 5, 60%); incorporated beneficial insect conservation measures into how their farm or land is managed (2 of 5, 40%); considered pesticide impacts on beneficial insects in pest management decisions (2 of 5, 40%); and enrolled in Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) programs for beneficial insects (1 of 5, 20%).

These farmers manage a total of 293 acres, and grow a variety of crops including flowers, herbs, hay, pasture, fruit, perennial plants, wildflowers, and diverse vegetables. They reported to have created 36.5 acres of beneficial insect habitat and changed their pest management practices to conserve beneficial insects on 62 acres of cropland. They also altered their farming practices (reduced tillage, flowering cover crops) on 37.5 acres to support beneficial insects.

Additional Project Outcomes

12 New working collaborations
Success stories:

In December 2018, we partnered with Amanda Littleton at the Cheshire County Conservation District to offer a second conservation biocontrol short course in New Hampshire. This partnership was a result of a long-standing relationship Xerces has had with the Cheshire County Conservation District to offer beneficial insect conservation technical trainings, and reflects the strong interest in beneficial insect conservation in this area. The course was offered at the Cheshire County Department of Corrections in Keene, New Hampshire. The course was promoted to ag support staff (primarily NRCS and conservation district staff) in a five state area (CT, MA, ME, NH and VT), as well as to farmers in the region. There was a fantastic turnout for the course, and the course venue was packed. The enthusiasm and interest in conservation biocontrol was very evident throughout the course, and participants were very engaged. Numerous discussions on how to practically apply the course concepts on working farms took place. We anticipate many further educational and training opportunities to result in the region from this course.

At all of our short courses, participants have told us how valuable they found the information and resources they received. A small assortment of feedback from short course attendees is below.

I loved the case studies and real-world examples. – Ag support staff from New Hampshire short course (December 2018)

Excellent workshop and presenter. – Ag support staff from New Hampshire short course (December 2018)

The materials provided were excellent. The course was probably not for me as a home gardener but as a volunteer for a local community farm in Kingston, I was able to pass on information and hopefully we will be able to implement some of the practices on the farm – Home gardener who attended the New York short course (November 2016)

I got many ideas I can turn into projects to educate others – Ag support staff who attended the Connecticut short course (June 2017)

Workshop fulfilled my expectations and went beyond – Connecticut short course participant (June 2017)

Incredible to learn of resources that provide assistant [sic] for our property—from NRCS to Xerces– Farmer who attended the Maine short course (November 2017)

Assessment of Project Approach and Areas of Further Study:

The Xerces Society short course model of training farmers and agricultural professionals has been very successful and well received whenever and wherever the courses have been offered. Several factors contribute toward this success. These include 1) the practical, real-world applicability of the course content and recommendations, 2) diverse methods of learning incorporated into each course (lecture, hands-on activities, field visits whenever possible, and take-home resources), 3) flexibility built into the course to adapt course content to the needs of a particular state/region, and 4) high-quality course instructors.

The Xerces Society’s short course model using the train-the-trainer approach has been successful in instructing thousands of people on practical insect conservation strategies and creating thousands of acres of on-the-ground habitat through our pollinator short courses and conservation biological control short courses. We look forward to continuing this important outreach and training model through our soil life short course series.

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.