Overcoming Roadblocks to IPM Adoption in Washington Pears

Progress report for GW23-245

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2023: $29,096.00
Projected End Date: 04/30/2025
Grant Recipient: Washington State University
Region: Western
State: Washington
Graduate Student:
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Louis Nottingham
Washington State University
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Project Information

Summary:

Pear psylla (Cacopsylla pyricola) is the most economically destructive pest to the pear industry in Washington State, where about 42% of the nation’s pears are grown. In the Wenatchee Valley, WA, the second largest pear growing region in the United States, pear psylla has historically been managed using multiple broad-spectrum insecticide sprays. Insecticide resistance has resulted in increased spray frequency, which in turn kills off natural enemies that provide much needed biological control. The result has been a steady increase in psylla pest pressure over the decades, leading to the current state of growers spraying, on average, 15 conventional insecticides per season, at a cost of around $1,500 per acre. In contrast, the largest pear growing region in the U.S., Hood River, OR, sprays less frequently with primarily selective materials, costing closer to $500/acre, and has far lower pest pressure. The goal of this project is to help the Wenatchee growing region adopt integrated pest management (IPM) techniques through Extension and outreach activities. First, we have documented the current perceptions of pear psylla IPM in the Wenatchee Valley through industry wide surveys and intensive interviews with key industry stakeholders. We are currently establishing educational programs to facilitate the implementation of a recently developed pear IPM program. In 2024, we will resurvey the industry to document progress toward IPM adoption. In addition to facilitating pear IPM in the Wenatchee Valley, this project will help us more broadly understand why roadblocks to IPM adoption occur, and how to best overcome them.

Project Objectives:

Research Objectives

Research Objective 1: Determine baseline perspectives and practices for Pear IPM in each of the major pear growing regions of the Pacific Northwest.

Research Objective 2: Perform Extension and outreach activities to promote adoption of WSU’s Pear IPM recommendations.

Research Objective 3: Document changes in the adoption of pear IPM.

Educational Objectives

Educational Objective 1: Update cooperators and pear stakeholders with insect monitoring results.

Educational Objective 2: Engage the pear industry by demonstrating IPM in the real world.

Educational Objective 3: Make IPM technology accessible to all pear stakeholders.

Educational Objective 4: Reach underserved pear stakeholders through breaking down language barriers.

Educational Objective 5: Present research to scientific audiences and publish peer-reviewed papers.

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand/collapse or show everyone's info
  • Jake Carson - Producer
  • Shawn Cox - Producer
  • Louis Nottingham (Researcher)
  • Robert Orpet (Researcher)
  • Sam Parker - Producer
  • Molly Sayles

Research

Materials and methods:

Research Objectives and Methods

  • Project Sites – 8 paired sites have already been chosen as part of an ongoing insect monitoring project led by PI Nottingham to test the efficacy of IPM vs conventional management. The sites are located in the Wenatchee Valley between Wenatchee and Leavenworth, WA. All are approximately 5-acre pear blocks that are either following conventional (the recommendations of the field consultant) or IPM (the Nottingham lab’s phenology based IPM guidelines).

 

  • Feasibility – The cooperators are already familiar with PI Nottingham’s lab and have agreed to participate in the interviews and allow monitoring of their sites. Members of the Nottingham lab are experienced in interviewing growers and monitoring insects in orchards (Orpet et al. 2019, 2020). Agricultural sociologist Dr. Jessica Goldberger (Washington State University, Department of Crop and Soil Science) aided in creating the interviews and survey and will help with analysis of the sociological data.

 

  • Objective 1: Determine baseline perspectives and practices for Pear IPM in each of the major pear growing regions of the Pacific Northwest
    1. Conduct an industry wide survey (focused, mainly quantitative/ordinal responses) across 5 regions to understand what level of IPM is being practiced in each region.
      1. At least 30 respondents from Wenatchee, and 50 from outside Wenatchee.
      2. The survey will be distributed online to maximize the number of respondents, with paper copies available if needed.
    2. Conduct detailed interviews (qualitative, allows for more expansive responses) with key stakeholders from area where IPM is not commonly practiced (Wenatchee, WA) and where it is common (Hood River, OR).
      1. At least 18 Wenatchee interviews and 10 interviews in other regions
      2. Interviews will last about an hour and will be recorded and transcribed for data analysis.

 

  • Objective 2: Perform Extension and outreach activities to promote adoption of WSU’s Pear IPM recommendations.
  1. Write and distribute weekly reports (via newsletters and WSU’s Pear IPM webpage) with commercial pest and beneficial insect scouting data and IPM recommendations from WSU Pear Entomology Lab (led by researchers Nottingham and Orpet).
  2. Conduct two field day workshops per season – one to teach IPM programs (prior to season start) and one to demonstrate IPM program results (near harvest).
  3. Create web content including YouTube videos to demonstrate IPM outcomes, scouting techniques, how to use online tools such as the pear psylla phenology model.
  4. Bring a tablet to the field to help stakeholders access online guidelines.

 

  • Objective 3: Document changes in the adoption of pear IPM
  1. Conduct an industry wide survey (focused, mainly quantitative/ordinal responses) across 5 regions to understand what level of IPM is being practiced in each region.
  2. Add questions specific to this project to improve Extension and research in the future
  3. Conduct detailed follow-up interviews (qualitative, allows for more expansive responses) of at key stakeholders from areas where IPM is uncommon (Wenatchee, WA) and where it is more common (Hood River, OR).
  4. Interviews will be similar to those in Objective 1 for comparison in responses between years.
  5. Measure changes in perspective and pest management practices based on differences in Obj 3 responses from Obj 1.
  6. For analysis, open-ended interview questions will be coded for common themes and quantitative survey questions will be compared.
  7. Outline future research and extension directions to facilitate adoption of pear IPM.

 

  • Measurable Milestones:
  1. Collect 100 responses from the industry-wide pear survey (by Dec 2023)
  2. Interview 18 Wenatchee Valley pear decision-makers (by Dec 2023)
  3. Interview at least 6 pear decision-makers each from other pear-growing regions in the PNW (by Dec 2023)
  4. Follow-up interview with the same 18 Wenatchee Valley participants (by Dec 2024)
  5. Follow-up interview with participants from other pear-growing regions (By Dec 2024)
  6. Increase field day attendance by 25% annually
  7. Increase newsletter recipients by 50% (By Oct 2025)
Research results and discussion:

Objective 1: Determine baseline perspectives and practices for Pear IPM in each of the major pear growing regions of the Pacific Northwest

Eleven pear stakeholders (6 growers, 5 crop consultants) that scouted for approximately 2,309 acres of pear from the Wenatchee Valley were interviewed. 80% said that conventional pear psylla management is not effective and that the status quo of management needs to change. 60% also indicated that they believe biological control to be effective and important for pear psylla management. When asked why conventional broad spectrum management is the norm for pears despite the understanding of its ineffectiveness, responses centered around the lack of trust in the research, the perceived risk of changing the program, and the need for an area-wide effort in order for IPM to work. 

Interviews of pear stakeholders from other major PNW pear-growing regions (e.g., Hood River) are currently underway (6 completed) and results will be covered in final report.

Objective 2: Perform Extension and outreach activities to promote adoption of WSU’s Pear IPM recommendations.

Extension events, newsletters and presentations were done to promote the pear IPM guidelines (see Education and Outreach results). We plan to start video content summer of 2024. 

Objective 3: Document changes in the adoption of pear IPM

In 2023 and 2024 we distributed an online survey to pear stakeholders to gauge their use of pear psylla IPM and any changes between years. Both surveys reached 43 respondents that accounted for about 7,000 acres of pear. For those who tried the IPM management program, in 2023 they reported that 384 acres had improved and in 2024 that 517 acres had improved compared to conventional management. Those who stated that they plan to continue to use the IPM guidelines cited trust in the research and cost-effectiveness as reasons. Reasoning for not trying the guidelines were client/grower pushback and the belief that it is not effective. 

References: 

Orpet, RJ, JR Goldberger, DW Crowder, VP Jones. 2019. Field evidence and grower perceptions on the roles of an omnivore, European earwig, in apple orchards. Biological Control 132: 189–198.

Orpet, RJ, VP Jones, EH Beers, JP Reganold, JR Goldberger, DW Crowder. 2020. Perceptions and outcomes of conventional vs. organic apple orchard management. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment 289: 106723.

Rogers, E. M. 1962. Diffusion of innovations. New York, Free Press of Glencoe.

Participation Summary
18 Producers participating in research

Research Outcomes

Recommendations for sustainable agricultural production and future research:

Interviews with Wenatchee Valley stakeholders up to this point indicate that the majority of interviewees believe that conventional (broad-spectrum based) pear psylla management is not effective and more integrated management strategies should be pursued. However, they are resistant to fully adopt pear IPM. From social science research regarding the Diffusion of Innovations (Rogers 1962) and from the interviewees themselves, it appears that there are certain aspects of IPM that should be addressed to potentially increase adoption. Stakeholders indicate that they prefer easy to follow management  recommendations and some feel that IPM can be too complex and requires extra resources, such as scouting and decision aid systems. It is therefore important that IPM guidelines are easy to follow and scouting is demonstrated, aspects which are addressed through our weekly newsletters and interactive field days. A lack of trust in the research also contributes to non-adoption. Farmers often trust their peers when it comes to management recommendations more than researchers. Having the farmers who are trialing IPM share their experiences with their peers may be even more valuable than Extension talks and may relay IPM's effectiveness to growers from sources that they trust. The IPM grower panels that we host provide a space for stakeholders to hear how IPM is going for those trying it. The understanding of barriers to pear IPM adoption in the Wenatchee Valley will help research and Extension provide support to stakeholders and ultimately reduce the widespread use of broad spectrum management in the region. 

Education and Outreach

1 On-farm demonstrations
42 Published press articles, newsletters
1 Webinars / talks / presentations
1 Workshop field days
6 Other educational activities: Stakeholder discussion groups

Participation Summary:

95 Farmers participated
102 Ag professionals participated
Education and outreach methods and analyses:

Educational Objective 1: Update cooperators and pear stakeholders with insect monitoring results.

  • Weekly newsletters (called Pear Entomology Weekly) were sent to pear stakeholders that contained up-to-date insect and natural enemy counts from major pear growing regions - the Wenatchee Valley and Yakima WA. We have exceeded the original scope of the newsletter to include data from Hood River, OR.

Educational Objective 2: Engage the pear industry by demonstrating IPM in the real world.

  • One field day dedicated to pear psylla IPM was held in July 2024. It hosted 30 pear stakeholders from various regions in WA and consisted of research updates and on-farm demonstrations of scouting and biocontrol releases. 
  • Eight events were held that included  2 panels of growers who are trying IPM and 6 discussion groups for stakeholders to share management ideas throughout the season. 

Educational Objective 3: Make IPM technology accessible to all pear stakeholders.

  • Weekly newsletters include data from the pear psylla phenology model that predict pest populations in the coming weeks and management guidelines. 

Educational Objective 4: Reach underserved pear stakeholders through breaking down language barriers.

  • We plan to produce educational materials in Spanish in the summer of 2024. 

Educational Objective 5: Present research to scientific audiences and publish peer-reviewed papers.

  • Results of the insect monitoring project were presented at the Entomological Society of America Conference in National Harbor, MD in Nov 2023, at the Orchard Pest Management and Disease Conference in Portland, OR in Jan 2024 and at the Pacific Branch Entomological Society of America Conference in Waikoloa, HI in April 2024. 

 

Education and outreach results:

Educational Objective 1: Update cooperators and pear stakeholders with insect monitoring results.

  • Pear Entomology Weekly newsletter subscribers increased from 2022-2023 by over 100 recipients. 
  • Surveys after the events indicate that the monthly discussion groups resulted in "a great deal" of learning for the majority and that most attendees will change their management after the events. 

Educational Objective 2: Engage the pear industry by demonstrating IPM in the real world.

  • A survey distributed at the end of the field day indicated that the majority of respondents felt that the event was valuable. Some of the common comments were that it was easier to understand than other field days and that the scouting demonstration was useful. Feedback was also given that the audience is not very tech-savvy and thus things like QR codes are not useful. 

 

7 Farmers intend/plan to change their practice(s)
8 Farmers changed or adopted a practice

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.