Final Report for LNE08-275

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2008: $158,403.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2012
Region: Northeast
State: Maine
Project Leader:
Dr. Eric Sideman
Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association
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Project Information

Summary:

The major objective of this project was to update our 2005 Resource Guide for Organic Insect and Disease Management by producing a second edition. The new edition has new chapters on four more crop families, new chapters on several additional materials used for insect and disease management, and also includes updated information in all of the existing chapters about changed EPA and National Organic Program regulations and improved management practices. A key to our approach this time was to work with farmers through farm visits and group meetings to assess which pests and diseases are important to them, and get their perspective on the efficacy of both cultural practices and materials recommended in the first edition of the Guide. We visited and/or interviewed farmers and hosted small group meetings of farmers and crop advisors who have been using the first edition of the Guide as a reference. In addition to assessing recommendations made in the first edition, we were also able to obtain suggestions from growers about the format of the new edition of the Guide. The new edition of the Guide is available both in hard copy for sale at http://calsbookstore-lamp.cit.cornell.edu/catalog/ or as a free pdf at http://web.pppmb.cals.cornell.edu/resourceguide/.

Free hard copies were provided to all of the farmers who we met with during our initial meetings, advisors who helped us, and crop advisors that we identified as working significantly with organic producers.

Introduction:

Ideally, organic farming practices should include an exemplary integrated approach to pest management, i.e., IPM (Integrated Pest Management) to the highest standard. In fact, the National Organic Program mandated this when they wrote the Rule and said growers ” MUST use management practices to prevent crop pests…”, and listed numerous cultural practices as options. Furthermore, the NOP allows growers to turn to pesticides ONLY when the myriad cultural practices fail. Still, many certified organic farmers use an approach that merely substitutes an approved pesticide for a material used in conventional pest management rather than employing an integrated approach. This issue prompted us to write the Resource Guide for Insect and Disease Management in 2005 (a project supported by a SARE grant beginning in 2002). This resource met the demand of growers and agricultural educators for scientifically reliable and easily accessible information that integrates preventative cultural practices with low impact materials for rescue treatments for insect and disease management.

In the early years after publication, the first edition of the Resource Guide to Organic Insect and Disease Management was a great success. In fact, it was ranked as the number one bestseller on the Cornell online bookstore, and we received an award for “Outstanding New Extension Publication” from the NYS Association of County Agriculture Agents in 2006. Clearly, there was demand for more information and our Guide helped meet that. The first edition of the Guide addressed pest and disease issues of five crop families and discussed thirteen different materials commonly used in organic production for pest and disease management. As our surveys after publication of the first edition demonstrated, the demand for more information is still there. The second edition adds four more crop family chapters, and four more material fact sheets. In addition, we took the opportunity to update the book to come in line with new regulations and research, as well as grower reports on efficacy of cultural and material recommendations we made.

Performance Target:

Performance Targets from the Original Proposal
Of the 20 farmers involved with trainings and assessment of the Resource Guide, 10 will refine their production practices to eliminate or reduce pesticide use. Of the 100 farmers and educators who receive free copies of the revised Resource Guide, 25 will adopt or recommend new cultural practices that reduce pesticide use, and an additional 25 will change a pesticide material to one with less negative impact on the agroecosystem.

These Performance Targets are easily met. We met with 48 growers, talked with numerous more, and worked with 10 agricultural educators across the Northeast to assess the first edition of the Resource Guide. Through meetings and follow-up discussions we identified new and underserved pests and diseases. These issues are all addressed in the second edition of the Guide with many cultural practices described that will avoid a quick adoption, or an advisor recommendation of a pesticide. Discussions at meetings where the new recommendations from the new edition of the Guide were presented (Maine Department of Agricultural Trades Show, 2011 and 2012; Common Ground Fair, 2012; NOFA Vermont’s Advance Pest Management Course, 2011; University of New Hampshire Extension Organic Meetings, 2011; MOFGA’s Grower Meetings, 2011 & 2012) has already revealed that more than 25 growers will change practices to ones with less negative impact on the agroecosystem. Many more presentations at conferences and meetings will allow us to promote the recommendations from the new edition of the Guide, including the MOFGA’s Farmer to Farmer Conference (Northport, Maine, November, 2013) and the New England Vegetable and Fruit Conference (Manchester, NH, December, 2013). At that time we will assess the adoption of the recommendations in the 2013 growing season, and discuss options for future production.

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand
  • Abby Seaman
  • Tony Shelton
  • Christine Smart

Research

Materials and methods:

The project began by assessing the success and deficiencies of the first edition of the Guide. We did this by meeting with growers and educators who we knew used the Guide on a regular basis. We worked with farmers through farm visits and group meetings. Our most important questions were: 1) which important pests and diseases did we neglect to include in the first edition? 2) which crops that were not included in the first edition are most important? 3) which materials not included in the first edition may be of interest? 4) which recommendations of cultural practices made in the first edition were effective and which not? 5) did the reports of efficacy of materials in the first edition reflect what actually happens on the farm? and 6) was the format of the first edition user friendly?

We designed a survey to use when interviewing farmers individually and at farmer meetings. The form served us well and enabled us to summarize pest and disease problems that growers consider significant, and address these issues in the new edition of the Guide.

Research results and discussion:

Milestones Presented in the Original Proposal:
– 20 farmers will provide feedback during on farm visits or at meetings on successes and failures implementing cultural practices recommended in the initial Resource Guide.
– Of these 20 farmers, 5 will report innovative new techniques that can be incorporated into the Guide, and 10 will verify efficacy of materials or suggest new materials for inclusion
– Of the 20 farmers visited or interviewed, 10 will adopt practices that reduce pesticide use or change to materials with less negative impact.

We visited 10 farms and met with 48 growers at five different grower meetings in 2009 (University of New Hampshire Extension Organic Producer meetings on January 22, 2009 in Littleton, NH and January 23 in Portsmouth, NH; the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Certified Growers meetings held January 27, 2009 in Unity, ME and February 3, 2009 in Freeport, ME; and the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture (PASA) Conference “Farming for the Future” in State College, PA on February 6, 2009). In addition, at the farm visits during the growing season of 2009, investigators had in-depth discussions with farmers about significant pest and disease problems, what works and what does not, and suggestions for improvement in the format of the Resource Guide.

The ten colleagues that we chose to be advisors for this project are people we (the authors) work with regularly. They include the following persons: Jude Boucher (University of Connecticut), Brian Caldwell (Cornell University), Daniel Gilrein (Cornell University), Wendy Sue Harper (NOFA Vermont, but no longer there), Ruth Hazzard (University of Massachusetts), Margaret Tuttle McGrath (Cornell University), Elsa Sanchez (Pennsylvania State University), Michael Seagraves (North Central Agricultural Research Laboratory), Becky Sideman (University of New Hampshire), and Kim Stoner (Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station). We designed a survey and received completed copies from them addressing the same questions noted above about the first edition of the Guide. The advisors also helped identify the farmers that we visited.

One setback that occurred in the early years of the project was that Emily Brown Rosen decided to take a job at the National Organic Program at the USDA, and so she had to leave this project. The search to find a replacement for such a thoughtful, talented and experienced person was long and hard, but in the end we found an equally qualified person, Abby Seaman. This, along with an extended leave of absence by one of the authors due to a serious health issue, set us back significantly in time, and we have never caught up.

Eric Sideman and Abby Seaman took the lead in doing the research and writing the chapters. Chris Smart and Tony Shelton primarily served as technical experts providing a great deal of information, reviewing and adding to the drafts and making the connections with scientists for the most current research. All of the authors kept records and took photographs of pests and diseases during the growing seasons of the project.

The information presented in the chapters is based on the authors many years of experience advising growers and on information gleaned from resources cited at the end of each chapter. Efficacy data of pest control materials is summarized in text and with graphs based on data from trials reported in Arthropod Management Tests (Entomology Society of America), Plant Disease Management Reports (American Phytopathological Society), other peer reviewed sources, and research done by the authors.

Based on information from the growers and advisors we added four new crop family chapters to the Guide; Allium crops, Brassica crops, Chenopod crops, and Umbelliferous crops. In each of these chapters we present means of identification of the pest organism, its biology and ecology, cultural means of managing the pest, and lastly materials shown effective as rescue treatments if the cultural management practices should fail. Quite a few of the pests included in these chapters were rare or not even found in the Northeast at the time of the publication of the first edition of the Guide. For example, the garlic bloat nematode was essentially unknown five years ago and now is a major impediment to garlic production, and a section in the Allium chapter will help growers manage this new problem.

Similarly, we added four new chapters discussing materials identified by the growers and the advisors as most important of those not included in the first edition: hydrogen peroxide, Streptomyces lydicus, Sulfur, and Trichoderma and related genera of beneficial fungi. In each of these chapters we present a description of the material, explain how it works, discuss the types of pests it controls, note OMRI listed products, discuss NOP and EPA regulations, discuss the effect on the environment and human health, and report efficacy based on replicated field trials. Efficacy reporting is an important strength of our publication because it is not comprehensively treated in other publications aimed at organic producers. The efficacy reports will greatly help growers decide whether or not some new products on the market are worth the cost.

In addition to writing the new chapters, the existing chapters have been updated with major changes that have happened since the first edition was published. For example, rotenone was recommended in the first edition for some pest problems. Rotenone is no longer an EPA registered insecticide. We now have an updated rotenone chapter that stresses this and gives solid information as to why this change developed. Another major change is the changing NOP policy for inert ingredients. The existing chapters were also updated to include the many new pests that have appeared and or become important in the region over the past five years. For example, the swede midge has become a serious problem for cruciferous plants and was not even mentioned in the first edition.

The four authors work regularly as farm advisors with organic producers in the Northeast. During farm visits and at workshops they will be able to continue the discussion of organic pest management. We will all be able to spread further the implementation of an integrated approach to pest management put forward in the Resource Guide. The milestone of 10 of the farmers adopting practices that reduce pesticide use or change to materials with less negative impact is just the beginning of the impact of the new edition of the Guide. The new edition for sure, as the first edition, will help growers choose pest management practices based on success while reducing pesticide use.

Participation Summary

Education

Educational approach:

The key tangible of this project is the second edition of the Resource Guide to Organic Insect and Disease Management (see pdf included with this report, and a hard copy will be mailed separately). We have been presenting previews of the book at various meetings over the past few years such as The Maine Department of Agricultural Trades Show, 2011 and 2012 (50 attendees each); MOFGA’s Common Ground Fair, 2012 (100 attendees); NOFA Vermont’s Advance Pest Management Course, 2011, which I coordinated for them (40 attendees); University of New Hampshire Extension Organic Meetings, 2011 (35 attendees); MOFGA’s Organic Farming Course, 2011 & 2012 (25 attendees each). In the coming year we are already set in the programs to introduce the new book, and present highlights of organic integrated pest management at our talks at major grower meetings, including the 2013 Maine Department of Agricultural Trades Show (January 8, 2013 in Augusta, Maine), University of New Hampshire, NH Department of Agriculture’s and NOFA-NH’s organic farmer meetings (February 21 and 23, 2013 in Concord and Lancaster, NH), MOFGA’s 2013 Farmer to Farmer Conference (November 2-3, 2013 in Northport, Maine), and the New England Vegetable and Fruit Conference (December 10-12, 2013 in Manchester, NH).

The new edition of the Guide is available both in hard copy for sale at http://calsbookstore-lamp.cit.cornell.edu/catalog/ or as a free pdf at http://web.pppmb.cals.cornell.edu/resourceguide/. Free hard copies were provided to many of the beneficiaries, including the farmers who we met with during our initial meetings, our project advisors, and crop advisors that we identified as working significantly with organic producers.

Additional Project Outcomes

Project outcomes:

Impacts of Results/Outcomes

The most direct impact will be on the farmers who worked with us to produce the new edition of the Guide (about 50 growers met with us to help shape this second edition). They continue to be the most involved of the growers and, since they regularly attend MOFGA, NOFA and Extension meetings, are the first to hear about new approaches to pest management and are willing and able to share with other farmers. They will all receive a free copy of the Guide.

We assume that this updated edition of the Guide with more crop families covered and more materials described, and with up to date information on organic regulations, will be ever as popular as the first edition. The Cornell book store reports that 2,500 hard copies of the first edition were sold, and countless numbers of growers have gone to the Cornell website that is home for a free downloadable pdf version of the Guide. Furthermore, I send out a Pest Report once a week during the growing season discussing current and arriving pests, and I use bits from the Guide for my pieces. This goes to over 400 growers each week. The Pest Report is the most appreciated work I do, and it is a great way to get the information gathered for the Resource Guide to many more growers at critical moments.

Our secondary audience is made up of crop advisors across the Northeast. Those that served as advisors for this project, as well as those that we authors identify as working significantly with organic producers, will receive free copies of the Guide. As with the first edition, we assume we will again hear comments such as, “this is my primary resource for organic pest management recommendations. It is the first place I turn when I get a call from an organic grower with a pest question for which I don’t have an answer off the top of my head” (Becky Sideman, personal communication). Rather then having to convert conventional pesticide recommendations, Extension educators and other crop advisors can turn to a research based resource specifically aimed at organic growers. This impact is a great benefit to organic producers aiming to do an integrated approach to pest management rather than substitution of materials. We plan to survey our advisors to get a measurement of this after completion of the next growing season.

Economic Analysis

The economic costs/benefits are clear but not practically measurable. It would be a complicated calculation that would vary from year to year depending on pest pressure. The factors that contribute to an economic analysis of the cost/benefit of an integrated pest management approach would include 1) the success of cultural practices and whether pesticides were avoided because of the success, 2) the cost of the cultural practices versus the cost of particular pesticides, 3) whether “passed-on”, long-term costs such as pesticide impact on the ecological balance of the farm are included or not, 4) whether more effective pesticides were chosen because of the information provided, and whether the potentially extra cost of these is offset by their better efficacy, 5) whether well-advertised pesticides with minimal efficacy were avoided because of information provided, and thus money not wasted, 6) whether the farmer’s health was improved because of reduced pesticide use, and 7) whether the farm becomes a more balanced system because of use of crop rotation and sanitation, etc. rather than rescue treatments. These questions would be very interesting to answer and this would be a project very worthwhile supporting (see Areas Needing Additional Study below).

Farmer Adoption

After the next growing season we will send a survey out to the beneficiaries, including the growers and farm advisors, that will help us ascertain how well the new techniques recommended in the Guide are being adopted, whether they are useful, and to get a general response to the project. The authors make farm visits as part of their regular jobs and will be using this direct farmer contact as part of the verification process. In addition, we can use the numerous questions about pests that we get by email and phone as an opening to discuss adoption of practices recommended in the Guide and we can then get feedback. At the end of the next growing season we will supply SARE with a report focusing on how well farmers adopted the recommendations in the Guide and assess the effectiveness.

Assessment of Project Approach and Areas of Further Study:

Areas needing additional study

Appendix E in the Guide addresses additional organic research needs. It identifies pest management techniques and materials that lack good efficacy data. In addition, it identifies materials that we feel show potential for efficacy and that should be targeted for additional study.

After doing this work and identifying practices that integrate both cultural techniques for managing pests with pest control materials, we recognize the assumption is that pesticide use will be reduced, and that this will lead to more sustainable farming. An interesting project would be an analysis of whether this is true. It could look at both economic, agronomic and environmental aspect of farm sustainability while addressing the following questions:
1) How much is pesticide use actually reduced because of the adoption of cultural practices for managing particular pests?
2) What is the cost of the cultural practices versus the cost of pesticides for particular pests?
3) Are “passed-on”, long-term costs, such as pesticide impact on the ecological balance of the farm, included or not in the economic balance sheet?
4) If more effective pesticides are chosen because of the information provided in the Guide is the cost of these really offset by their better efficacy?
5) Are well-advertised pesticides with minimal efficacy actually avoided because the grower is given information?
6) Is the farmer’s health improved because of reduced pesticide use, and how does this get entered into the economic balance sheet of the farm?
7) Does the farm becomes a more balanced system because of use of crop rotation, sanitation, etc., rather than rescue treatments?

Similar to most projects, we finished with the conclusion that more research is needed

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.