25 agricultural service providers will teach at least 600 New England farmers (growing on at least 10,000 acres) to accurately and safely apply manure, fertilizer, and/or pesticides through practical calibration education and appropriately-scaled precision agriculture. At least 450 of the farmers reached will improve their calibration and application
Pesticides and nutrients are a major expense on New England farms, and their application brings associated health and safety risks. Improved accuracy will prevent over-application, which can result in financial loss, adverse environmental effects, and potential crop damage. Regulatory requirements, including new licensing requirements, new label instructions, worker protection standards (WPS) and manure spreading restrictions heighten the need for farmers to be well-skilled at calibrating their application equipment and understanding personal protection equipment (PPE). Since many new pesticides are manufactured to be used at ultra-low rates, accuracy of measurement and delivery is very critical.
The number of new and small farmers in New England continues to grow, and many of these farmers lack formal on-farm training. Equipment calibration expertise is also limited among agricultural service providers, and training opportunities in the region have been limited. This project will expand the pool of agricultural service providers with the knowledge and skills to calibrate pesticide and nutrient application equipment,who will then be well prepared to teach and advice farmers in need of support.
The cornerstone of this project is to give agricultural service providers hands-on practice operating and calibrating the nutrient and pesticide application equipment. Two, 2-day trainings will be given, one focusing on nutrient application equipment the other on pesticide application equipment. Webinars will provide the theoretical background to support the hands-on activities. Three webinars will be offered each year, some prior to the hands-on training, some afterwards. Educational resources to support participants’ activities will include a compilation of print, electronic, and video resources, calibration kits, and personal protective equipment. The participants will then be able to offer a variety of educational programs to farmers, from one-on-one or small group calibration to larger group discussion or lecture. The final aspect of this project is follow-up and assistance, which will be the activity in the third and final year of the project. In the third year, the project director will track participants’ delivery of this material to farmers (the final beneficiaries) and will provide suggestions and guidance for educational programs.
1. 200 New England agricultural service providers receive recruitment information: project description and link to application form.
Web site, including registration information, has been launched: https://extension.umaine.edu/agriculture/equipment-calibration/ In 2018, project information was sent to UMaine Extension ag staff (52 contacts) and New England Extension Directors, Ag Program Leaders, NRCS State Conservationists, and NRCS field operations directors (32 contacts), with the request that the state leaders share the information with their staff. This was shared widely within Maine NRCS, but otherwise we do not know how many individual program staff received this information.
2. 45 service providers submit applications to attend one or both aspects of the training (nutrients or pesticides)
13 service providers submitted applications for the nutrient application portion of the training. (Extension—8, NRCS—3, Soil and Water Conservation District—1, non-profit—1. From ME (6), NH (2), VT (2), CT (1), MA (2)) Two applicants were only interested in the sprayer calibration portion of the training. Two others were unable to attend due to other obligations. The full project includes another phase of recruiting.
3. 25 service providers are accepted into the project for nutrient application equipment calibration.
13 service providers were accepted into the project for nutrient application equipment calibration. Two were only interested in the pesticide portion of the training, and two were unable to participate for other reasons. Recruiting continued through mid-April.
4. 25 service providers attend two webinars about the basics of nutrient application equipment calibration.
The following webinars were offered, with attendance indicated:
Calibrating Fertigation Equipment, April 19, 2018, Chuck Schuster and Andrew Ristvey, University of Maryland Extension (8 students, 2 organizers)
Calibrating Manure and Fertilizer Spreaders, April 25, 2018, Rick Kersbergen and Caragh Fitzgerald, University of Maine Cooperative Extension (6 students, 2 organizers)
5. 25 service providers attend a 2-day hands-on training to practice calibrating and adjusting nutrient application equipment. Attendees develop a realistic action plan for delivering nutrient calibration education and provide topic suggestions for the final webinar about nutrient application equipment. Standard evaluation questions and tools are given to participants.
A 2-day training was held May 2 and 3 in Durham, NH at the UNH research farm. 9 participants from four states (ME–5, NH–2, VT–1, CT–1) attended. They were primarily from Extension (5), with other particiants from NRCS (2), Soil and Water Conservation (1), and a non-profit (1). See the attached annotated agenda for the specific material that we covered. Our focus was on understanding and using ways to measure and change nutrient delivery. Students received hands-on training, tools for conducting calibrations (including tarps, catch pans, buckets, scales, and clipboards), worksheets for use with farmers, and evaluation questions. We talked as a group and individually about outreach plans, although written plans were not developed. Specific topics were
Review project expectations
Review project support
IN the FIELD
Box manure spreader (hands-on, using volume calculations and weight, collection on tarps)
Liquid manure spreader (hands-on, using collection on tarps)
Corn planter (hands-on)
Fertigation (extensive discussion, examination of equipment)
Drop spreader (if not already done) (discussion and example calculations)
Wagtail spreader (hands-on, using catch pans)
Spin spreader (discussion, examination of equipment, process similar to wagtail spreader)
Liquid fertilizer (discussion, examination of equipment, process similar to corn planter)
Chest (spin) spreader (discussion, process similar to human-powered drop spreader)
6. 25 service providers receive calibration kits and resources for programming (slide sets, access to handouts, verification surveys)
Calibration kits were distributed to participants, one per state, plus an extra for Maine. These included: catch pans, buckets, tarps, hanging scales, gloves, and clipboards. Students also received handouts to be used for programs (fact sheets, calculation sheets, verification questions).
7. 25 service providers attend the final webinar about calibrating nutrient application equipment (topic determined in spring training). Project leaders review action plans, answer questions, and find or share additional informational resources identified.
This was not completed as planned. We planned to do a delayed followup in 2019. However, this got lost in the planning and conducting of the sprayer calibration program and so did not happen.
8. 25 service providers are surveyed to collect information about the farmer trainings outlined in their action plans, any additional trainings, and results of farmer trainings.
Survey conducted in December 2018/early January 2019, with 7 of 9 participants responding. Results showed the following activities were conducted by participants:
15 On-farm demonstrations
1 Webinars / talks / presentations.
As a result of one-on-one or small-group consultations, 20 farmers reported changes in knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness.
One participant had a calibration program scheduled, but both the original site and backup site fell through.
One participant noted that additional followup through the season would be helpful. This is a gap we know we need to work on.
9. If additional participants are needed due to the delayed start of the pesticide calibration portion, 200 New England agricultural service providers will receive recruitment information, and an appropriate number will be selected for a total of 25.
Since attendance in that first round was less than we had hoped, we did more direct recruitment in January/February 2019. As before, recruitment emails were sent to 32 New England Extension Directors, Ag Program Leaders, NRCS State Conservationists, and NRCS field operations directors for distribution. 52 UMaine Extension ag staff were also contacted directly. In addition, we reviewed staff lists for different organizations in order to compile a long list of individuals to target. Emails were sent directly to ag programming staff with crop responsibilities at all the New England land grants (118 contacts), departments of ag (44 contacts), non-profits (29 contacts), and certified crop advisors (175 contacts). From this, at least 450 contacts were made in 2019. Anecdotally, it appears that personal contacts were most effective at recruiting–either one of the team members recruiting someone directly or another colleague specifically suggesting the program to them.
10. 25 service providers attend two webinars about the basics of pesticide equipment calibration.
The following webinars were conducted:
3/15 Backpack sprayer calibration
4/4 . Boom sprayer calibration
4/25. Airblast sprayer calibration
11. 25 service providers attend a 2-day hands-on training about calibrating and adjusting pesticide application equipment. Attendees develop a realistic action plan for delivering pesticide calibration education and provide topic suggestions for the final webinar about nutrient application equipment. Standard evaluation questions and tools are given to participants.
The hands-on training was offered May 8-9, 2019, in Durham, NH. 17 participants from 4 states (ME–12, NH–3, VT–1, DE–1) attended. One additional participant had to cancel at the last minute due to travel complications. They were primarily from Extension (14), with other participants from NRCS (1), industry (1), and a non-profit (1). See the agenda below for the schedule of the two days. Students received hands-on training, tools for conducting calibrations (including measuring cups, stopwatches, tools to make adjustments, tools for cleaning nozzles, safety equipment (gloves, chemical-resistant aprons), digital flow meters) worksheets for use with farmers, and evaluation questions. We talked as a group and individually about outreach plans, although written plans were not developed. The agenda for the two days was:
Wednesday, May 8
- 12-1. Lunch, discuss materials, tools, introduce planning and reporting templates.
- 1-4:30 Calibrate airblast sprayers
- Check in at hotel. Clean up/dry off.
- 5:45, meet in hotel lobby and walk to dinner (6PM reservation).
Thursday, May 9
- Continental breakfast at hotel.
- Check out.
- 8-10 Boom sprayers
- 10-12 Backpack sprayers
- 12-1:30 lunch and next steps
12. 25 service providers receive calibration kits, resources for programming (slide sets, access to handouts, verification surveys).
13. 25 service providers attend the final webinar about calibrating pesticide application equipment (topic determined in spring training). Project leaders review action plans (2018 and 2019 trainees), answer questions, and find or share additional informational resources identified.
All three webinars were conducted prior to the in-person training. Training ideas and questions were discussed at the in-person training.
14. 25 or more service providers (all individuals who participated in one or both project trainings) are surveyed at the end of year 2 to collect information about the farmer trainings outlined in their action plans, any additional trainings, and results of farmer trainings.
Surveys conducted October, 2019 and early January, 2020. See section below “Performance Target Outcomes” for the results of these surveys.
15. 25 or more service providers (all individuals who participated in one or both project trainings) receive email updates from project leaders to share progress to date, successful techniques from other trainees, and any new training materials or information. Service providers will submit year 3 training plans. Project leaders review action plans.
We have done this informally, through discussions at the trainings and emails connected with data collection.
16. 25 or more service providers receive focused follow-up from project leaders in the form of email, phone calls, and support for program design and delivery, if momentum is waning (this will be ongoing through the season). 25 or more service providers (all individuals who participated in one or both project trainings) are surveyed at the end of year 3 to collect information about the farmer trainings outlined in their action plans, any additional trainings, and results of farmer trainings.
This has worked well in Maine, where most participants and 2 of the project leaders are from. I would not say we have done focused followup throroughly across the participants. This is an area to work on for the 2020 season.
Milestone Activities and Participation Summary
Educational activities and events conducted by the project team:
Beneficiaries who participated in the project’s educational activities and events:
The 23 participating service providers increased their ability to calibrate
manure spreaders (liquid and box spreaders)
ground-driven fertilizer delivery systems (such as corn and potato planters, drop spreaders)
planter delivering liquid fertilizer
wag-tail and spin spreaders
fertilizer injectors for high tunnels (management tips, not standard calibration, due to the way these tools are used in tunnels)
This was confirmed by observation of the participants as they conducted the hands-on training.
The farmers listed received one-on-one or small group training and learning was confirmed with individual conversations.
Performance Target Outcomes
Performance Target Outcomes - Service Providers
25 agricultural service providers will teach at least 600 New England farmers (growing on at least 10,000 acres) to accurately and safely apply manure, fertilizer, and/or pesticides through practical calibration education and appropriately-scaled precision agriculture.
52,877 acres. Commodities: potatoes, wild blueberries, vegetables, tree fruit, small fruit, hay/pasture, corn.
- 13 Consultations
- 3 Published press articles/newsletters
- 12 Webinars/talks/presentations
- 10 Workshops/field days
- 1 Exhibit at Maine Farm Days
Surveys were sent to 21 participants in the sprayer calibration training. These surveys requested information about their activities, farmer participation, and verified changes made on the farms. 14 of the participants responded to at least one survey. 11 of these reported conducting at least one educational activity, and the other 3 described plans for 2020.
Performance Target Outcomes - Farmers
The changes made by farmers were verified by survey, direct communication, or observation. Changes included performing calibration after the program, changing tips, and using water-sensitive paper.