Greenhouse IPM Scout School: Grower Input to Create the Curriculum

Progress report for ONE21-396

Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2021: $20,614.00
Projected End Date: 07/31/2022
Grant Recipient: New York Integrated Pest Management, Cornell University
Region: Northeast
State: New York
Project Leader:
Dr. Elizabeth Lamb
New York Integrated Pest Management, Cornell University
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Project Information

Project Objectives:

This proposal seeks to create a curriculum of topics based on the needs of the industry to use in a Greenhouse IPM Scout School Certificate Program. For each topic, we will design live webinar-based presentations and associated hands-on activities, discussion sessions, and resource lists to provide grower-approved training combined with current active learning techniques. For the program as a whole we will determine the best platform for delivering the information and interacting synchronously and asynchronously with students across the Northeast region.


Curriculum and program development is the first step to reach the ultimate objective: Trained IPM scouts available to work in the Northeast greenhouse industry.  The certificate training would be available to existing greenhouse employees or students planning on entering the industry. As scouting is the basis of effective pest management, having trained scouts available will improve the efficacy of pest management and reduce unnecessary pesticide applications, with the potential to positively affect the environment and human health.


Greenhouse production in the Northeast is a significant industry. In 8 northeastern states, the greenhouse, nursery, and floriculture industry had a value of $1,775 million in direct sales and $2,931 million in economic impact (Farm Credit East 2020). In addition, NY and ME are in the top 10 states for greenhouse vegetable production (HortiDaily 2019). Due to the aesthetic demands of the crops, pesticides are often the primary pest management method. In a set of 6 program states (none in the Northeast but with several having similar sales values to NYS), 1,122,600 lbs of pesticide were applied to floriculture crops in 2009 (USDA NASS 2011). For those states, 34% of growers applied pesticides on a preventative schedule and only 51% used scouting data to determine pesticide use. There is clearly a need for scouting training in order to limit pesticide use to necessary applications, reducing economic, environmental and health risks in the industry.

A 2019 survey of 220 NY greenhouse growers (Lamb, unpublished) found that 84% scout on a regular basis and 88% encourage their staff to report issues seen while doing other tasks but only 43% have a designated scout. Sixty-two percent of those with employees train them in scouting, fewer than are trained in watering or sanitation practices. When asked if they would like additional training, 62% said they would like to learn more about disease/insect identification and 37% more about creating IPM plans, both supported by training in IPM scouting. They would also like additional training for their staff – 31% for disease/insect identification and 24% for creating an IPM plan.

In order to meet the need for training, we intend to institute a Greenhouse IPM Scout School certificate program to train scouts for the greenhouse industry in the northeast.  This NE-SARE Partnership grant would support the initial steps in that process - 1) development of a curriculum of topics that are relevant to the industry, 2) identifying and creating digital, hard copy and human resources to support the curriculum, and 3) creating a system for presenting the information that allows us to reach students in a wide geographic area (with both synchronous and asynchronous timing), and give them real-time access to in-person resources through discussion sessions, and scouting experience in a local greenhouse environment with hands-on activities. We will involve growers in this process as they will have essential knowledge on what the curriculum should include and are potential employers for the eventual graduates of the program.

We believe there is a window of opportunity for this educational program. Current conditions have forced growers and educators to connect through new and expanded on-line and active learning methodologies which extend our reach both in distance and in time and provide an opportunity to fill an expressed need for more training in scouting and IPM. The green industry is poised to expand, with the pandemic-fueled 42% increased time spent in gardening (Axiom, 2020), and employees trained in IPM scouting methods will be needed and appreciated.



Click linked name(s) to expand/collapse or show everyone's info
  • Mark Adams - Producer
  • Stephanie Burnett (Educator)
  • Lori King - Producer
  • Scott and Will Longfellow - Producer
  • Mary McKellar - Technical Advisor
  • Elise Schillo-Lobdell - Technical Advisor
  • Margaret Skinner (Researcher)
  • Cheryl Sullivan (Researcher)


Materials and methods:

Teaching format: As background for the methods described as part of this project, an explanation of the intended format for the IPM Scout School certificate may be useful, as it affects curriculum development.  In order to attract students from a wide geographic area and to include students whose work or educational schedules would prevent them from attending a 1-2 day training session in a specific location, the preferred teaching method is a series of 1-1.5 hour webinars to cover the topics, presented by in-person experts.  These webinars could include video, demonstrations and lectures as determined by the curriculum designed as part of this project.


To provide a hands-on practice component, an activity will be created to support each webinar.  The intent is to identify a greenhouse operation that each student would collaborate with for these activities – for example, practice in using hand lenses and digital cameras as scouting tools.  A discussion session following the activity would allow students to explore issues they found with each other and with the course providers and presenters.  An active learning specialist will help us find the appropriate platform to allow this type of discussion with both synchronous and asynchronous students (based on their time-zone location).


Target population: The Greenhouse IPM Scout School is intended for current greenhouse workers who would benefit from additional training in scouting, those seeking employment in the greenhouse industry for whom a certificate in IPM scouting would be an advantage, and current students as an enhancement to their college/university training.


Steps in creating an IPM Scout School curriculum:

  1. Identification of topics

Working with a current scout (Lobdell) and based on the project leaders’ and collaborators’ knowledge and experience, a series of topics – designed to fit into the webinar series described above – will be chosen.  Those already identified include (with potential descriptors):

  • The mechanics of scouting – where to look, when to look, sampling plans
  • Scouting equipment – how to use a hand lens, binocular magnifier, sticky cards, digital camera and lenses
  • Resources and record keeping – scouting forms, digital and hard copy resources, how to send samples for diagnosis, who to ask and how to ask for help
  • Common insects and diseases of greenhouse crops – signs and symptoms, differences on different plant species,
  • Communicating with growers and owners – describing scouting results, suggesting management options,

The active learning specialist (McKellar) on the project will assist us, and the identified speakers, in making the webinars interactive to encourage students to be involved in the topics.


  1. Identification of resources (including human resources) for each topic

There are many on-line and hard copy materials on scouting practices that can be used or adapted for the curriculum.  While descriptions of insects and disease pests are common, information on communicating with growers and owners may be less available.  For each topic, we will identify resources that currently exist and also find the gaps in information that we want to include. Part of the curriculum development process will be to fill the gaps as needed. University faculty, Cooperative Extension educators, and industry reps are essential resources for scouts, and we will compile a current listing of them for the Northeast as part of this project, realizing that if we have students from farther afield, we may need to adapt the lists accordingly.


  1. Creation of active learning hands-on activities

The hands-on portion of the curriculum is one aspect that we hope will set this scout school apart from others.  Actual practice in aspects of the curriculum will make students more confident in their ability to handle the role of scout.  Combining the activity with question/answer discussion sessions with other students and course presenters will provide a way to reinforce what works and options for those things that don’t.  The plan for activities is that they will take place in a cooperating greenhouse for the most real-world experience.  However, we will also have options for students for whom we can’t identify cooperators that will still give them hands-on practice (such as scouting in a local park).


  1. Planning for format/platform

Cornell supports both Zoom and the Moodle open source course management system.  Zoom is one of the most commonly used video conferencing systems and Moodle provides teaching tools and collaborative learning environments.  McKellar will assist us in determining if these are the best platforms to use and how to integrate them into the curriculum.


  1. Grower input

Growers (Adams, Longfellow, King) will participate in 3 on-line advisory meetings (September, January/February and June to fit their time availability) to provide input on the curriculum and the project. 


The project leaders and cooperators, including Lobdell, will create a proposed set of topics for growers to evaluate and add to/subtract from at the first grower advisory meeting, as well as discuss what resources are needed for each and proposed methods for presenting information and the hands-on activities.  Project leaders and cooperators will use grower input to flesh out the topics with outlines, suggested speakers, intended student outcomes, and possible hands-on activities.  They will then meet on-line with McKellar to review each topic and expand on their possible active learning components and evaluate course management platforms.


At the second grower advisory meeting, we will present the expanded topics for their review. Input on changes, additional resources, order/timing of presentations, or any additional information collected as part of that meeting will be incorporated by the project leaders and cooperators into the final curriculum.


At the third grower advisory meeting, we will demonstrate the final curriculum, including the course management system.


Future plans: Because time and funding beyond the scope of the NE-SARE Partnership grants are necessary to pilot and evaluate the Greenhouse IPM Scout School (see Outreach section), we will apply for additional grants to complete the process. Aspects of the curriculum may be useful in other training situations, such as NYS IPM’s IPM In-depth Hands-on Greenhouse Training and the Tri-State Greenhouse IPM Workshop (VT, NH, ME).

Research results and discussion:


Committee meetings (virtual, usually 1 hour) – 8.12.21, 9.16.21, 12.6.21, 12.10.21, 1.10.22

Grower advisory meeting (virtual, 1 hour) – 9.24.21


Identification of topics

We started the project with a general list of what we thought a scout should know as described above. To determine how the topics would fit into the curriculum, we had to decide on the number and length of webinars (see teaching format described above).  Based on experience with the Cornell Small Farms courses, we chose 6 sessions of 1.5 hours each.  There is always more information needed than can be fit into any set of webinars so some will necessarily be provided through other aspects of the course. 

The draft version of the webinar series arranged by topics was presented to the advisory committee at the September 24 meeting. Since then, we have been refining the topics, and adding what students will know after the class, what students will be able to do, an agenda for the class, creating discussion board topics and assignments, and discussing other pieces of the certificate program, including a Q&A board, a photo gallery, and modules with questions as a review on the pest identification topics. This will be presented to the advisory committee at the next meeting. class outline by topic 1-24-22


Identification of resources

To date, we have started collecting written/electronic resources.  We will need to curry this list to the essentials and start a list of suggested speakers and other human resources.


Creation of active learning activities

We have discussed some potential activities, as described on the class outline. In addition, Mary McKellar created some example online activities related to the topics covered (


Planning for format/platform

Several learning platforms were suggested and discussed, including Teachable, Moodle, Canvas and Brightspace (a comparison of Teachable and Moodle was prepared by Mary McKellar  The one we choose will need flexibility; methods for asynchronous student interaction, including the ability to post pictures and video; the possibility of to maintaining information as resource after class is over; backstopping and support; and availability to people outside of a university. Canvas (at Cornell) is not available to non-students, and Teachable has limitations for student interaction.  We are now looking at Moodle (with Mary McKellar) and Brightspace (with Stephanie Burnett as it is used at University of Maine) and will present examples of each to the growers at the next advisory committee meeting.


Grower input

The grower advisory committee of Sue Adams (for Mark Adams), Lori King, and Scott Longfellow attended the virtual advisory committee meeting.  The draft topic list was provided in advance, and we went over it with them with plenty of time for discussion.  In general, they liked the proposed topics but had many good suggestions.  These were incorporated in the following versions of the topics and teaching plan which will be presented at the next advisory committee meeting.


In addition, we decided to do a grower survey to determine what the current baseline information on who scouts, what information a scout should have, whether a grower would hire an independent scout or pay for, and give time off to, an employee to attend a scouting school.  The survey was sent out via greenhouse grower listservs in New York and Vermont. Fifty-seven growers responded. Fifty percent have all employees look for and report pest issues and only 8% hire an independent scout. The majority want scouts to be able to find and identify all types of pests and other problems (23% - multiple answers could be chosen). The other most common answers were ‘find information on pests and their management’ (19%), ‘provide management suggestions’ (17%) and ‘communicate well’ (17%). Only 13% would hire an independent scout, although 39% said ‘maybe’.  Suggested rates of payment varied a lot, from $12-$40/hour, with some listing a whole season price. Eighty percent would give an employee time off to attend a scouting school and 86% would pay for them to attend (no specific price was included in the question).  Scout school survey

Research conclusions:

We are on schedule to complete our project plan as provided in the grant.

Participation Summary
4 Farmers participating in research

Education & Outreach Activities and Participation Summary

Participation Summary:

Education/outreach description:

The current project is the first step in creating a training program.  Therefore, the majority of the outreach will, by necessity, follow the creation of the IPM Scout School and certificate program, for which this curriculum is created, and occur after the completion of this project. Information from this project will be shared with grower cooperators (Adams, Longfellow and King) as described in the plan of work.


We do have an outreach plan for the training program, once created. The intended audience is existing greenhouse employees who wish to gain experience in scouting as well as those wishing to work in the industry for whom a scouting certificate would be a benefit. The training program will be advertised widely throughout the Northeast, based on the experience and connections of the project leaders and cooperators.  For example, Lamb has a greenhouse IPM listserv that reaches at least 500 growers and industry personnel in NYS and Sullivan and Skinner have run a very popular grower training program in Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine for many years, with an associated email list.  In addition, we have connections with colleges and universities in the Northeast and can work with them to advertise the program to current students with an interest in working in the greenhouse industry.  We also have worked with state-based grower organizations who will help advertise the program to their members.


The objective of the outreach plan is to document increases in knowledge gain by scout school participants and their intent to, and ultimate success in, applying the knowledge gained to increase the use of scouting as an IPM practice in greenhouse production. In the longer term, participants of this program will be surveyed to meet the goal of documenting the benefits of adoption of this IPM practice.


Logic model category

Performance indicators (projected numbers (for fall and spring training))

Method to collect data


Number receiving training

Count participants in webinars, number participating in school and receiving certificates


Number and type of educational/outreach activities conducted

Count number of activities


Number of new or improved resources, including archived webinars

Count number of resources

Short-term outcomes

Number who learn new IPM information (100)



Pre/post tests as part of webinars, possible through Zoom


Survey participants at end of webinars, possible through Zoom


Student evaluation as part of certificate program at beginning and end of training


Count collaborations and evaluate whether they are continuing (direct conversation)

Medium-term outcomes

Number who intend to use knowledge gained (75)

Survey questions at end of webinars, possible through Zoom


Survey webinar participants and students after end of scout school (email)

Long-term outcomes

Number who report an increase in their ability to scout for pests (50)

Survey webinar participants and students after end of scout school (email)

Number of students who report employment as a scout or benefit of certificate in gaining employment (25)

Survey students after end of scout school (email with phone follow up if necessary)


Secondary survey after 3-6 months (email/phone)


Project Outcomes

1 Grant applied for that built upon this project
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.